Aspinall Unit update: Estimated target of 6,800 cfs high flow regime in the Gunnison Gorge and Black Canyon

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Here’s the high-flow regime planned for the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge this week from email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Reclamation will be operating the Aspinall Unit to allow the one day Black Canyon water right peak target flow of 6,800 cfs to be met during the next two weeks. Releases from Crystal Reservoir will ramp up from the current release of 3,500 cfs beginning Friday, June 3rd. Crystal Reservoir should begin to spill sometime Saturday June 4th. While spilling, natural fluctuations will be seen in the river system making it difficult to predict and control downstream flows. However, below is a table showing estimated flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge below the Gunnison Tunnel. These flows should reach a peak of about 6,800 cfs on June 8th and return to about 3,200 cfs around June 13th. During this operation, combined flows of the mainstem Gunnison, North Fork and other tributaries may result in flows of around 13,000 cfs in the Delta area. Again, this schedule is an estimate and may be modified due to changing hydrologic conditions in the Gunnison basin. Further updates will be conveyed as changes occur…

Date: Flow below Gunnison Tunnel (cfs)
June 3: 3,000
June 4: 3,500
June 5: 4,500
June 6: 5,500
June 7: 6,900
June 8: 6,900
June 9: 5,900
June 10: 5,000
June 11: 4,300
June 12: 3,750
June 13: 3,150

Here’s an article from a couple of years ago explaining the high flow regime, from Mark Jaffe writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The stronger flow is intended to mimic natural spring runoff, removing sediment and algae and helping to break down riffles and whisk away vegetation encroaching on the riverbank, Dale said…

“This has been one of the longest, most complex water-right battles in Colorado,” said Drew Peternell, an attorney for the sportsmen’s group Trout Unlimited. To win that right, the concerns of hydropower agencies, ranchers and farmers — and downstream towns fearful of flooding — had to be addressed.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.

Mesa State College: The Water Center at Mesa State is now in operation

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Say hello to the Water Center at Mesa State. Thanks to Hannah Holm for the link. From the website:

The Mission of the Water Center at Mesa State College is to perform and facilitate interdisciplinary and collaborative research, education, outreach, and dialogue to provide citizens, scholars, and policy makers with the information they need to address the water issues facing the region. The Water Center will foster communication and collaboration among the college, agencies, local governments, industry and non-profits with water expertise and stakeholder interest among the many water-relevant disciplines. The geographic focus of the Water Center will be the Colorado River and its tributaries in Western Colorado and the Upper Colorado Basin.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Garfield County: Septage disposal is a problem for county pumpers

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Garfield County and from Pitkin and Eagle counties and the tiny hamlet of Marble, which is in Gunnison County but located at the upper end of the Crystal River valley south of Carbondale. In recent months, Maynard continued, South Canyon has been reducing the amount of septage it will accept…

Garfield County normally operates three treatment ponds at the county landfill near Rifle, where trucks could regularly deliver material gathered from residential and commercial septic systems. But two of those treatment ponds were recently shut down at the state’s request, due to concerns that the ponds were leaking into the soils surrounding the county landfill site. The one pond still in operation has filled up and can no longer accommodate further deliveries of septage, according to Garfield County public works director Betsy Suerth. That means septic tank service companies must truck tons of the stuff to landfill locations as far away as Delta County or Denver, according to Warren and Maynard.

Trucking septage loads to distant facilities is a hassle and expensive, said Maynard. She said it can involve trip costs of up to $150 per hour that must be passed on to the customer. “That’s more than some of them will pay to have their septic pumped,” she noted. “That makes it very expensive to pump out a septic tank,” said Warren. “When some people get problems, they just pump it out themselves, onto a field or something.”[…]

He said unincorporated areas of Garfield County have some 5,000 septic systems in operation, as well as 20 or more drilling rigs with associated septic tanks and innumerable portable toilets in a variety of locations, all being regularly pumped out. Rada estimated that Pitkin County has as many as 3,000 septic systems, the waste from which comes to Garfield County facilities.

More wastewater coverage here.

Runoff news: Dust on snow events leave less mass than in 2010

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From The Denver Post (Jason Blevins):

Beyond the expected deluge, there is widespread worry about just how big the runoff could be. Lengthy stretches of hot temperatures could yield a tempest of whitewater that will swamp entire riverside regions. A healthy weather mix of cool and cloudy with warm and clear could stagger the surge, prolonging the season and keeping rivers roiling deep into July, August or even September. While no one knows what’s to come, at least one factor that has plagued Colorado’s runoff in recent years seems to not be playing as prominent a role this spring. For the last decade, windblown dust from the Colorado Plateau has painted Colorado’s peaks a reddish hue, absorbing sunshine and hastening snowmelt. This year is no different, with snow watchers counting nine significant dust events in Colorado. But unlike recent years, the density of the dust seems less this season…

But the lack of deeply darkened layers doesn’t necessarily exclude a deluge, warns Chris Landry, the executive director of Silverton’s Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies who has studied the impact of desert dust on Colorado’s snowpack since 2003. Dust layers merge as the snow settles and melts, creating incrementally darkening layers of snow that, once exposed to sunlight, accelerate the melt, Landry said. When warmth and sunshine reache that final layer, especially if it’s resting atop lots of water-laden snow, expect a deluge. Landry has recorded nine dust events across the state this spring but with “substantially less dust,” he said, especially in the northern and central ranges of the state. And “while every year is different,” Landry said, “there is an inevitability that at some point that final consolidated dust layer will come into play.”

From (Dann Cianca):

The Loma boat launch ramp was crowded on Memorial Day as rafters and kayakers hit the Colorado River. The flow of the river is quite high, however and those waiting to launch watched as large pieces of trees floated by in the rapid, silty water…The National Weather Service has issued a flood advisory for the stretch of river along the Utah/Colorado border as the river is at bankfull and could go higher in the next few days.

From (Jeffrey Wolf):

The National Weather Service is predicting that by Wednesday or Thursday, the runoff in north-central Colorado will begin in earnest. Its latest report indicates, “Drainages most susceptible to snowmelt flooding this spring include the Cache La Poudre, Big Thompson and Laramie Rivers in Larimer County; the North Platte, Illinois and Michigan Rivers in Jackson County; the Blue River in Summit County; the Colorado River in Grand County; and Clear Creek in Clear Creek County.”

From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

Areas along the Green and Colorado rivers in eastern Utah are under a flood advisory. Forecasters say about two inches of rain have fallen since Friday. More than a foot of snow fell in higher elevations.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

A spike in temperatures forecast for later this week could launch what is expected to be a massive spring runoff on the Poudre River. The result could be flooding in areas with a history of problems during times of high water, including the McConnell Subdivision and County Road 5 near Timnath, said Erik Nilsson, emergency manager for Larimer County. Historically, runoff on the Poudre hits its peak around Father’s Day. This year, given that snowpack in the mountains is more than double of average for the time of year, the peak may come later, Nilsson said…

Flood stage at the mouth of Poudre Canyon is 7.5 feet or about 5,000 cubic feet per second, or cfs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Through Fort Collins, flood stage is 12 feet or 10,500 cfs. As of Monday afternoon, the river was running at 4.13 feet at the canyon mouth and about the same in Fort Collins.

Restoration: Should there be a ‘Good Samaritan’ exemption to the Clean Water Act?

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

But as bad as the damage is, community watershed groups, mining companies and even state agencies contend they cannot embark on cleanups for fear of incurring legal liability. Under the Clean Water Act, parties who get involved at abandoned mines and accidentally make matters worse — even over the short term — could be vulnerable to federal prosecution for polluting waterways without a permit.

Obama administration officials two years ago promised to break gridlock on this issue, spurring a legislative fix to enable “good Samaritan” cleanups and devoting “significant resources” for watershed restoration. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week acknowledged there is still gridlock and that more must be done to deal with tens of thousands of leaking abandoned mines nationwide…

State records show:

• Colorado’s 7,300 abandoned mine sites contain about 17,000 point sources of pollution, such as open mine shafts and tunnels.

• At least 150 abandoned mines “significantly affect” surface water directly. Storm and snowmelt water running over slag heaps at another 300 abandoned mines measurably harms surface and groundwater.

• The abandoned mines are scattered widely — including Jamestown west of Boulder and the headwaters of the Mancos River in the southwestern corner of the state.

More water pollution coverage here.

More Good Samaritan exemption coverage here.

Conservation: The Pipe Springs Ranch near Springfield wins the 2011 Leopold Conservation Award

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From the Ag Journal Online:

The Wisconsin-based conservation organization Sand County Foundation, in partnership with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Agricultural Land Trust, Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. and Peabody Energy; is proud to name Pipe Springs Ranch of Springfield, Colo. as the recipient of the 2011 Leopold Conservation Award in Colorado.

“The McEndree siblings and their families have a strong connection to, and a great sense of responsibility for, the natural resources that are in their care,” said Brent Haglund, president, Sand County Foundation. “Their commitment to pass these values on to the next generation, through a remarkable amount of agricultural education and outreach, is truly exceptional.”

Siblings Jo Ann McEndree, Kaye Kasza, Steve McEndree and Cathy Tebay are fourth generation ranchers who are committed to leaving a sustainable operation for their descendants. A large part of their land stewardship involved placing pipelines to distribute water across their 14,737- acre ranch. As a result, they created smaller pastures and were able to plant two windbreaks to offer protection for both livestock and wildlife. This allows for shorter grazing periods, which increases the productivity of the soil and plants. This has also resulted in an increase in wildlife. A herd of deer makes its home on the ranch, along with a few elk, foxes and the occasional bear. The population of songbirds and pheasants has also increased dramatically.
Future plans for the ranch include more water lines and fencing to create even smaller pastures, and shorter, more intense grazing periods. By purchasing temporary fencing materials the family will be able to split a section into quarters for grazing purposes. The 4-5 days of grazing per year in each quarter section allow for adequate regrowth of natural grasses during the remainder of the year.

The $10,000 Leopold Conservation Award will be presented to Pipe Springs Ranch on June 21 at the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s Annual Convention in Steamboat Springs.

More conservation coverage here.

Yampa River Festival recap: The sun showed up off and on on Saturday

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From Steamboat Today ( Luke Graham):

The Yampa River Festival featured a bit of everything Saturday. The day began off the water with 5- and 1-kilometer running races. There was a stand-up paddleboard race at Fetcher Pond, the cult-like raft race, the crowd-pleasing Crazy River Dog contest, an inner tube rodeo, and finally the kayak rodeo, where vintage crafts were the main show. The raft race, which began at Fetcher Pond and ended at the D-Hole in front of the Depot Art Center, featured competitor of all stripes. There were serious rafters, first-timers and people dressed in only their underwear…

The stand-up paddleboard race was a new event. Todd Givnish, who organized it, said he wasn’t expecting much. But by 12:45 p.m., people already were lining up to give the burgeoning sport of paddleboarding a try…

As one of the only events on the calm waters of Fetcher Pond, the paddleboard event brought out newbies and experienced paddlers for a timed race. Racers had to paddle the length of the pond and navigate around designated markers…

The Paddling Life Pro Invitational starts at 11 a.m. Monday with an extreme kayak race on Class IV-V Fish Creek followed by kayak rodeos at the D-Hole from noon to 5 p.m.

More Yampa River basin coverage here.

Runoff/snowpack news: The Yampa River is likely to reach flood stage the week of June 4, Clear Creek is coming up some

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Here’s the link to the gage reading Yampa River below Soda Creek at Steamboat from the USGS via the Colorado Division of Water Resources. Here’s a report from Tom Ross writing for Steamboat Today. From the article:

“We see a big warmup as a ridge of high pressure settles over Colorado next week and we’re projecting a strong chance that the Yampa there exceeds flood stage by next week,” Greg Smith said. “Temperatures could be 10 degrees above average, and if that forecast verifies, we could see a lot of rivers off to the races.”[…]

Mike Chamberlain, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said he foresees daily highs in the range of 75 to 77 degrees settling in by the middle of the coming week. He cautioned that the forecast could change, particularly if a southeast flow brings more clouds to Northwest Colorado than currently anticipated. Smith said a change of 4 to 5 degrees in temperature could significantly change the rate of snowmelt…

Strautins said that given the amount of snowpack held this late into the year, it’s not unreasonable to think Steamboat might set a new record for the peak flow. NOAA’s forecast for the Yampa River in Steamboat assigns a 90 percent change that the river will exceed 5,200 cfs, a 75 percent chance that it will exceed 5,500 cfs, and a 50 percent chance that it will exceed 6,000 cfs. The chances of peak flows exceeding 7,000 cfs are 25 percent, and there remains a 10 percent chance the river could exceed 8,000 cfs. The U.S. Geological Survey and NOAA differ on the all-time peak flow in the Yampa. The latter puts it at 5,870 cfs, but the USGS shows the Yampa peaking as high as 6,820 cfs (a gauge height of just 6.64 feet) on June 14, 1921. It’s almost a certainty that the channel of the river in the town stretch has changed during the intervening 90 years. The highest peak in recent years was 5,310 cfs (7.65 feet) on June 3, 1997…

The snowpack at the Tower measuring site at 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass actually increased at times during the week that just ended. The snow depth jumped from 178 inches on May 20 to 194 inches the next day after a 16-inch snowstorm, according to automated gauges operate by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The snowpack there gave up 23 inches of depth due to settling and possible melting by May 25, then added a fresh 8 inches on May 26. The 79.3 inches of water stored there is 171 percent of average. At the base of Buffalo Pass at Dry Lake Campground, the 27.8 inches of water is 772 percent of the typical 3.6 inches of water for this date. That measurement is influenced by the fact that snow at Dry Lake’s 8,400-foot elevation is usually all but melted by this date.

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Meanwhile Clear Creek is coming up some since yesterday. Here’s the link to the stream gage Clear Creek at Golden. Flows are still under the median for this date by 70-80cfs.

From (Lori Obert/Will Ripley):

9NEWS meteorologist Marty Coniglio says the flooding threat this week is very high and flood-prone areas, including Clear Creek, could be at-risk…

“It’s probably a good idea to get together with your neighbors and start making a plan,” Coniglio said. “Because we’re going to start seeing water running very high and it’s going to happen fast by the end of the week.”

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

Metro temperatures could soar to the 90s by midweek…

Western Colorado has a 40 percent to 50 percent chance of above-average temperatures through August, according to the Climate Prediction Center. The Front Range, southeast plains and northern mountains has a 33.3 percent to 40 percent of above average readings, while the outlook for northeast Colorado is still uncertain. Whether Colorado receives more or less rain over the next three months is still undetermined, however.

Colorado-Big Thompson update: Flows in the Big Thompson below Olympus dam 450cfs

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

I just happened to be awake when our hydrologic engineer sent out the water order [early Monday morning]. So, please be aware we are bumping releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River upwards of 200 cfs. The resulting flow below the dam through the upper part of the canyon will be about 450 cfs.

Sunday was the first day it really started to warm up. As a result, some of the snow pack is melting. This made inflows to Lake Estes via the Big Thompson River start to rise. Travel times typically have snow run-off hit Estes after midnight. As a result we are bypassing, sending on down, that native flow. Most likely, we will probably curtail releases during the day on Memorial Day. But if the weather holds and we have more sun and pleasant temperatures, it is also likely releases will bump up again about 24-hours from now following a pattern similar to what we are seeing tonight. It all depends on how warm the holiday winds up being.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: Ed Quillen tries to piece together the facts around the state Attorney Regulation Council’s ruling about Scott McInnis’ plagiarized articles

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Click through and read the whole column from Ed Quillen writing for the The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

McInnis blamed his researcher, retired water engineer Rolly Fischer of Glenwood Springs, and even faxed a confessional letter for Fischer to sign, which Fischer didn’t. Now the state Attorney Regulation Council has decided McInnis can keep his law license because at some point he advised the Hasan Foundation that he was getting some help from Fischer, even though he was supposed to be doing the work himself. You’d think he could have pointed that out in the summer of 2010, when it might have mattered.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Runoff news: Garfield County is starting to prepare for possible runoff flooding

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Most officials contacted for this story now predict that peak runoff, which normally would be happening in late May, will not arrive until the latter part of June. “The water’s peak should have been about a week ago,” said Tanny McGinnis, spokeswoman for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. Now she expects it to fall in the middle of June…

She said free sandbags are available at the county’s road and bridge facility near the Garfield County Regional Airport, where they were delivered a week ago…

In general, however, she said the county is expecting to get some warning from its neighboring counties upriver once the snow begins to melt in earnest. “The high water will hit Routt County and Eagle County before it gets to us,” she predicted. “We’ll have several hours of notice, at least.” The confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, she said, “are the areas they’re really keeping an eye on right now,” because the confluence area has been known to flood in the past…

Estimates of the snowpack in the mountains above the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys range as high as 400 percent of normal, according to recent news reports. But such numbers can be deceptive, according to Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service in Colorado. He explained that the “percent of normal” statistics relate to comparisons of the current snow depth to the average depth of the snow at a certain point in time. But as time passes, the average historical snow depth decreases sharply, so that in a year such as this one, the percent of normal increases to really high values simply because it’s being compared to a much lower number that is more typical for late May. But, he said, “That’s still a lot of water, a lot of snow.”

From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

“In spring, creeks and streams can be particularly dangerous as flows are often higher and faster than they are during the summer months and the water temperature is just above freezing,” said county emergency manager Joel Cochran…

“The rivers are deceptively dangerous this time of year,” said Sheriff John Minor. “During spring runoff, there is an incredible amount of debris in the water, and some of it is just under the surface” he said.

From the National Weather Service via the Cortez Journal:

Spring snow melt has caused high flows on many rivers and creeks in western Colorado and eastern Utah. However, cooler weather this spring has delayed the snow melt and kept copious amounts of snow at higher elevations especially in northwest and west central Colorado, as well as in northeast Utah. Therefore, river flows have not yet peaked. At higher flows, river banks can quickly become saturated and unstable. Caution is urged near waterways, as river banks can erode or collapse unexpectedly. Do not let children play near high flowing rivers, creeks, and canals.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Armstrong):

The weather should start clearing Monday as the jet stream dips down over California, causing it to bow above Colorado, pulling warm dry conditions into the mountains, according to the Weather Service’s La Niña guru Mike Baker. Grand County could see temperatures start to warm up pretty fast with nighttime temperatures remaining above freezing for most of the week, Baker said. This is good if you’re a river raft guide, but maybe not so great if you’re a town manager worried about flooding…

As La Niña weakens in coming weeks, the jet stream should begin moving north, Baker said, leaving Colorado out of its path.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

“We’re looking at all-time-high flows,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water. “Our minimum (estimate) would be an all-time record.” That means plenty of water for farmers and residents, the danger of possible flooding and both highs and lows for outdoor recreation…

Water and safety officials are worried about flooding if record snowpack disappears quickly, along with rain runoff. The snowpack is at 254 percent of average for this time of year, when snow typically already is melting…

Both Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir will be full by the end of June.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The Poudre River is expected to remain low for most of the next week with almost no risk of flooding, but after that, all bets are off. “The next few days are fine because the temperatures are going to remain cool,” said hydrologist Treste Huse of the National Weather Service in Boulder.

From the Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

“If we can get through the Fourth of July we’ll be really pleased,” said Lisa Reeder, operations manager for Eagle-based Timberline Tours. “This year we’re pretty much guaranteed to get there, and we could see good water on the Eagle until Aug. 1.”

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Carie Canterbury):

The Natural Resources Conservation Service reported May 1, snowpack statewide was 135 percent of average, the highest since 1995, and the snowpack in the Colorado River basin was 151 percent of average, the highest since 1993…

John Van Oort, district 14 and 15 water commissioner for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said the snowpack started to make its way downhill a couple of weeks ago, but stopped because it turned cold again. He said only Mother Nature knows when the frigid water will make its way down to the Arkansas River.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Pat Ferrier):

Snowpack near the top of Poudre Canyon is more than 2½ times greater than last year when water ran higher and faster than it had in almost two decades…

A delayed, steady runoff – like manna from heaven – can sustain a rafting season well into August, and sometimes until Labor Day, said Pat Legel, owner of A Wanderlust Adventure, celebrating its 30th year of rafting the Poudre. Current conditions are similar to 1995 when spring was cool and rain fell 60 out of 61 days, Legel said…

Conservation: Northern Water is offering landscaping and irrigation seminars through July 27

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From The Greeley Tribune:

In its second year, the series will focus on water efficiency. That includes irrigation scheduling and budgeting, selecting grass types and plants, and the seven principles of Xeriscape. The sessions are open to homeowners and professionals and will be conducted in Northern Water’s Conservation Gardens at the district’s headquarters north of Berthoud…

The 90-minute seminars will start Wednesday and continue every Wednesday through July 27, with the exception of July 6. Each will be offered at 3 p.m.. and some are repeated at 6:30 p.m. While walk-ins are welcome, registration is available [by email] at or by calling (970) 622-2220. Those attending will be given handouts and have the possibility of winning a rain gauge.

More conservation coverage here.

Animas River watershed: Acid mine drainage mitigation has caused water quality to deteriorate due to increased metal loading in the river

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From The Durango Telegraph (Will Sands):

“Unfortunately, it’s not looking so good for the Animas,” said Bill Simon, coordinator of the stakeholders. “We were making really good progress through remediation efforts. However, the metal loading in Cement Creek has radically increased in the last five years. The loading has overcome the gains we’ve made, and the pollution is back to where we were when we started off.” Simon explained that pollution levels between Silverton and Baker’s Bridge are as bad as they have been since 1990. Last fall, the stakeholders conducted a fish survey at the Animas River’s confluence with Cascade Creek. In just a few years, three species of fish had disappeared from the section, and only hardy brook trout remained. “I assume that we can expect these impacts to find their way to Durango as well,” Simon said.

Ironically, the culprit behind this pollution was an attempt to fix mine drainage. In 2004, Sunnyside Mining heeded a court decree and plugged its American Tunnel at the head of Cement Creek. However, the tainted water backed up, found its way to other openings and is now leaching out into the creek and running downstream to the Animas. “The water’s now coming out of a bunch of other mines, and it’s nasty,” said Simon. “The new discharges are leaching presumably because of the bulkhead that was placed in the Sunnyside Mine.”

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

Whitewater news: Still waiting for runoff

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From The Denver Post (Jason Blevins):

That record-breaking snowpack — with the Colorado, Yampa and White river basins nearing 200 percent of their 30-year average and several others near 150 percent — harbors both a blessing and a curse for Colorado’s commercial rafting outfitters, who last year hosted more than 507,000 paddlers. When the weather warms, that initial surge of cascading snowmelt will certainly close stretches of steep and swollen rivers for commercial rafting and elevate the difficulty of traditionally mellower stretches. But that same bountiful snowpack also promises raging rafting deep into summer…

The last time the Eagle River ran deep into summer, in 2008 with the Colorado River Basin 146 percent of average in early June, the upper portion of the river hosted more than 4,300 commercial rafters. Last year, with a sudden early surge stealing all the flows and whittling the Colorado River basin to 57 percent of average in early June, the upper Eagle saw fewer than 1,100 commercial rafters.

More whitewater news here.

Good luck Bill Jackson

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I didn’t get a chance to meet Mr. Jackson in person but his articles have been cited on Coyote Gulch (both the current weblog and in the archives) nearly a hundred times over the years. He is moving on and I’ll miss his work. Here’s his goodbye from The Greeley Tribune. He writes:

The big events come to mind easily — the farmer protests and tractorcades of the 1980s when interest rates were sky high and commodity prices bottomed out; the attempt by sugar beet farmers to buy the bankrupt Great Western Sugar Co.; the day Kenny Monfort called and said he’d just sold Monfort of Colorado, and would I like to come up to his office and discuss the sale (ya think?); the rumors leading up to the final announcement by the city of Thornton that bought some 100 farms in northern Weld and Larimer counties for the water on those farms; the purchase of the Western Sugar Co. by a farmer-owned cooperative from Tate & Lyle that had outbid farmers.

Then there were the drought years of the early 2000s and the shutdown of irrigation wells along the South Platte River that remains a point of contention for many yet today.

And there’s the ongoing process of trying to build more water storage, which will be critical to the future of agriculture in northern Colorado — and which, it feels like at times, has been going on for centuries.

While those events are important, the most important part of my job over the years has been the people — the farmers and ranchers of Weld and northern Colorado, who have been the stewards of the land since the start of agriculture in the area. Those are way too numerous to name because as sure as the crops come up in the spring and are harvested in the summer and fall, way too many would be skipped.

Good luck to y’all. Vaya con dios.

Drought news: Southeastern Colorado still in drought

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From the Associated Press (Sheila V Kumar) via The Durango Herald:

Mark Svoboda, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, said about 30 percent of Colorado has been classified as experiencing severe drought conditions. Seven percent of Colorado has been experiencing extreme drought conditions: Baca, eastern Las Animas, most of Bent and Prowers, parts of Otero, Crowley and Kiowa counties. “An extreme drought means these conditions happen about once every 20 years. One way to equate it is if I had 100 years of data, in 95 of those 100 years (we) are better off than we are now,” Svoboda said…

Bruce Fickenscher, a range and livestock agent for the southeast area, said rain gauges scattered around counties indicate there has been less than 2 inches of rain in the area since October. The little bit of green growth they saw has since died and withered away. “Range conditions for pastures are way past serious. Livestock has started to leave because there are no range grasses to speak of. And hay is becoming very hard to find,” Fickenscher said.

Estes Park: Historic Fall River hydroelectric plant open May 31

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The Historic Fall River Hydroplant, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built by F. O. Stanley to provide electric power to the Stanley Hotel when it opened in 1909. It not only provided electric power to the Stanley Hotel, but was the exclusive source of electricity for the Town of Estes Park until the 1940s. Visit the Hydroplant to learn the details of its fascinating story. Located at 1754 Fish Hatchery Road, it will open for the season on Tuesday, May 31. Hours are 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. daily except Mondays. Admission is free. Private tours are available for a small fee by calling 970-577-3762. For more information, visit

More hydroelectric coverage here.

Colorado Division of Water Resources: Third meeting for Division 1 Well Measurement Rules set for May 31

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From email from the DWR (Jonathan Hernandez):

The Greeley meeting has been set for May 31, 2011 at 6pm:

Greeley – May 31st, 6pm
Island Grove – 4-H Building
525 N 15th Ave (Approx.)
Greeley, CO

More groundwater coverage here.

Arkansas River basin: The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District approves funds for water quality study

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The U.S. Geological Survey monitors the entire Arkansas River in Colorado from Leadville to the Kansas state line through a series of stream gauges and testing stations. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board voted [May 18] to continue funding of a water quality station below John Martin Reservoir and seven stream gauge stations for $31,500. The USGS picks up $18,100 of the cost.

The major water quality issue on the Arkansas River remains salinity, which increases from less than 100 parts per million at Granite, near the headwaters in Lake County, to more than 3,000 ppm at the state line, said David Mau of the Pueblo USGS office. “We also have 120 wells to monitor groundwater levels and look at changes in the aquifer,” Mau said. “That gives us information as there are changes in water and land use.”

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

San Juan Basin: ‘My water comes from the San Juan Mountains’ water curriculum in use for third to fifth graders

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From The Durango Herald (Emery Cowan):

The program, designed for third- through fifth-graders, is called “My Water Comes From the San Juan Mountains” and includes a storybook, lesson plans and activity kit. The project was a collaboration between the Mountain Studies Institute, San Juan Public Lands, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Fort Lewis College. The books and activity kits were introduced into classrooms last August, said Randy Boyer, executive director of the San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which helped get the curriculum into schools. In all, teachers in 15 elementary schools from Pagosa Springs to Dove Creek were given the book, lesson plans and a tub of the supplies needed to produce about 30 hands-on experiments for students. The experiments allow students to explore topics such as life in local creeks, how water runs through the San Juan Mountains and the dynamics of the Animas River, said Marcie Demmy Bidwell, executive director of Mountain Studies Institute…

One of the most effective resources in the kit was a relief map of the San Juan Mountains that students could pour water on to simulate rainfall and the way water runs through the mountains, [Linda Wilkinson a teacher at Park Elementary School] said.

More education coverage here.

Sanchez Reservoir: The Rio Grande Basin roundtable approves $95,000 for improvements

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

The mechanism that keeps the water flowing when it should and contains it when it shouldn’t is a tower only accessible by a cable and gondola across the water. Although a tramway engineer inspected the cable and said it was safe, he and the folks who operate it would like to see some improvements for safety purposes.

As part of a first rehabilitation phase, the Sanchez Ditch & Reservoir Company sought funding this month from the Rio Grande Roundtable to perform a gondola and tramway feasibility study, make operational and safety repairs and install an automated hydraulic system. The district requested $10,000 from local basin funds and $85,000 from state water funds, which will go before the Colorado Water Conservation Board for ultimate approval. The reservoir company is putting $33,160 of its own money into the project as well…

He described the 150-foot-high tower in the reservoir that controls, through a series of valves and gates, the flows in and out of the reservoir. The tower was designed in 1910. Robinson said the system currently is labor intensive, and the reservoir company would like to make upgrades that would make it more efficient. For example, if the company had an automated system, adjustments to water levels could be made without physically going to the tower. Cutting down the trips back and forth to the tower would decrease the safety risks of using the cable and tramway system, he added…

The budget for this phase includes: $6,160 for cylinder repair/upgrades; $4,600 for gondola/tramway evaluation; $22,400 for gondola repairs/upgrade; $10,000 for feasibility study; $40,000 for the hydraulic system; $25,000 for solar system for alternative power to the generator that is currently used for power; $5,000 for vandalism prevention; $9,600 for supervision/administration; and $5,400 for contingency.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.

USGS: You can follow your favorite stream gages via text messaging

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I’ve been watching Clear Creek at Golden and the Cache la Poudre at Fort Collins via the text message service, USGS Water Alert. You choose a threshold for either gage height or flow in cubic feet per second along with a frequency for notification. Notification is via text message or email.

The USGS also runs an online application Water Watch. If you select by state, say Colorado, you can mouse over your favorite gage and read the current stats. The application shows a graphical representation of all reporting gages across the state as well.

Click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right for a screen shot from this morning. The dots represent current streamflow as compared to average at the location. The legend is at the bottom.

Update: The state website is now back up.

The state’s website is not responding this morning so I’ll point you to it when the link will work.

Wow, Flood DSS is also down. That can’t be good if you’re depending on it for information to use for flood response or emergency response this weekend.

The outage is widespread. The governor’s and state legislature’s websites are not reachable .

Runoff news: The upper Colorado River could be running at 9,000 cfs by the second week in June, McPhee Reservoir to spill this weekend

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Armstrong):

But this is only the start of what is setting up to be a historic season on the river — unlike anything seen since the 1980s. The betting types are beginning to cast their wagers on when and at what level the river will peak this year. Some are saying that, with the right combination of dam releases and warm weather, the flow past the Kremmling gauge could double yet again in the next few weeks, possibly even breaking the 13,600 cfs record set in 1984. Even conservative betters are estimating that the Upper Colorado will be running at around 9,000 cfs by the second week in June.

Meanwhile, Larimer County is gearing up for flooding at Laporte according to Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Fears of flash flooding of the Cache La Poudre River near Laporte has prompted the Larimer County sheriff to call for a public meeting to map out a strategy. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the Cache La Poudre Elementary School, 3511 West County Road 54G, in Laporte.

Sheriff Justin Smith said a similar meeting may be held in the Big Thompson River area. On July 31, 1976, the Big Thompson flash flooded, killing 139 people.

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From the Cortez Journal (Reid Wright):

After being postponed for fish spawning and dreary weather, Dolores Water Conservancy District Manager Mike Preston said the water release will begin gradually below the McPhee Reservoir and should reach 1,000 cubic feet per second by Friday afternoon…

After this weekend, the water district plans to reduce the flow to a navigable 800 cfs. Depending on water supply, the 800 cfs could last until June 6 or beyond, Preston said. Recent high-altitude snowstorms provided enough water for a release for recreational boating on the Lower Dolores River…

“Last year, because of all the monsoon rains, people weren’t irrigating as heavily,” Preston has said. “We ended up about 25,000 acre-feet in the reservoir higher than the previous year, and that’s what we’re going to spill. Water managers are always trying to hold on to as much carry-over storage as possible.”

Energy policy — nuclear: Denver District Judge Brian Whitney rejects motions to dismiss the Sheep Mountain Alliance’s lawsuit over the proposed Piñon Ridge mill

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Denver District Judge Brian Whitney sided with the Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance, which contends the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) may have violated various state and federal laws in issuing a permit for the mill. The lawsuit can now move forward. The state and the project developer, Toronto-based Energy Fuels, had argued that the court had no role in reviewing the radioactive materials license for the proposed mill or jurisdiction in the case.

“For too long, state radiation regulators and the uranium industry has had a cozy relationship that has caused long-term contamination to continue unabated here on the Western Slope and on the Front Range,” said Hilary White, executive director of Sheep Mountain Alliance.

“That questionable relationship continues today as both Energy Fuels and the state try to argue Colorado residents have no seat at the table in trying to protect our clean air and water from uranium mining and milling. Thankfully, the court has rejected those arguments.”[…]

In his ruling on Wednesday, Whitney wrote that Sheep Mountain Alliance “members’ property interests, monetary interests, recreational interests, agricultural interests, and ecological interests are adversely affected by the issuance of the license” and that their “interests are those of an organization whose members are or will be injured, not an organization with mere interest in a problem.”

More coverage from Katie Klinsporn writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

In early February, SMA filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in the wake of the agency’s decision to grant a radioactive materials permit to Canadian company Energy Fuels. The suit argued that Colorado regulators violated state and federal laws when they issued the license, which allows Energy Fuels to move forward on plans to build and operate a uranium mill in the remote and beautiful Paradox Valley near the Utah border. The CDPHE and Energy Fuels both shot back, filing motions urging the court to dismiss SMA’s suit, alleging that the environmental organization lacks standing in the case…

The judge determined that Sheep Mountain Alliance has legal standing in the matter and has properly established that the property, monetary, recreational, agricultural, and ecological interests of its members are affected by the issuance of the license. “To dismiss at this juncture would deny [SMA] the opportunity to present the Court with their evidence concerning improper procedure for review and would prevent the Court the opportunity to fashion appropriate relief if [SMA’s] claims have merit,” the filing reads…

“It’s good that we’re going to get a review of the decision and the decision-making process by someone other than the folks who wrote the permit,” said Travis Stills, the Durango attorney representing SMA. “This [judicial review] will be the first outside look into whether or not they actually did what they said, which is to protect health, protect the water and protect the air.” Stills said one of the biggest takeaways from the ruling is that “there’s a lot of time and effort wasted by the state trying to tell its citizens that they have no business in reviewing its actions.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Front Range runoff watch: The runoff has not started on Clear Creek

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Clear Creek is still running at less than 50% of the historic mean as of this morning. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a screen shot from the USGS gage earlier today.

San Luis Valley: Southern Colorado Farms has reapplied for a permit with the Colorado Water Conservation Board for operation of their hail cannon

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Southern Colorado Farms, which has used the program for 15 years on its ground northwest of town, has reapplied for a permit with the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The farm uses the cannons to pelt storm clouds with sound waves. In a cloud in which hailstorms have yet to form, the practice prevents them from forming. But if the clouds coming over the farm are already latent with hailstones, the cannons aren’t able to break them down, said Amy Kunugi, the farm’s general manager. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” she told 14 people who attended the permit hearing.

The cannons are a way to protect the farm given that crop insurance for lettuce and spinach are not available, she said. Since their last permit hearing five years ago, the farm has recorded its use of the cannons and set up a system of rain and hail gauges on the property During that span, the farm deployed the cannons an average of 11 times per year, with a high of 22 times in 2007 and a low of once last year.

Opponents and skeptics of the hail cannon plan raised concerns that there wasn’t enough monitoring downwind of the farm to know the full impact of the use of cannons.

More coverage here. (Scroll down.)

Conservation: President Obama’s ‘Americas Great Outdoors Initiative’ initial projects include the San Luis Valley, Yampa Valley and a trail system from the northeastern metro area to Rocky Mountain National Park

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

“For me the valley is a very sacred place,” said [U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar], who was raised in Manassa, where his family homesteaded about 150 years ago.

The San Luis Valley, the Yampa Valley in Northwestern Colorado and a network of trails and greenbelts envisioned to stretch from the northeastern portion of the Denver metro area to Rocky Mountain National Park will be the first three projects under President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

“It’s an honor for Colorado to have the first three projects around America’s Great Outdoors be in Colorado, and especially I’m especially proud to recognize that there are going to be projects like this — just as powerful and just as wonderful — all over the country,” Hickenlooper said. “This becomes a gateway and a pathway to national treasures.”[…]

Architects of the Denver metro greenway project under America’s Great Outdoors envision bison herds on the former munitions site to welcome visitors to the state as they drive from Denver International Airport into the city.

The Yampa Valley project aims to conserve the lands and waters of the Yampa River basin to preserve working ranches and farms and wildlife habitats and to promote outdoor recreation and tourism.

The San Luis Valley project is similar. Its objective is to protect the area’s natural heritage and the lifestyle that spawns. Keeping alive wildlife habitats, wetlands and agriculture, restoring the Rio Grande corridor and promoting tourism and recreation in the area through conservation easements and efforts of federal and state agencies in conjunction with farmers, ranchers and other property owners is the goal.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

This morning Salazar said the federal government has committed $350,000 to the Denver Metro Greenway Project to link trail systems and wildlife refuges in the Denver area with Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Denver Metro Greenway Project and the two others announced today will be “the flagships of President Obama’s Great Outdoors America Initiative,” Salazar said, describing the vision as “a network of trails” building on existing trails connect areas…

The projects announced [May 26] are:

Denver Metro Greenway Project: This project will create an uninterrupted network of trails between Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge in Arvada, Rocky
Flats National Wildlife Refuge near Golden and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Yampa River Basin Project: This project will use conservation easements, stewardship projects and other tools to preserve working ranches and farms and wildlife habitat while promoting outdoor recreation and tourism in northwest Colorado.

San Luis Valley Project: This project will work to conserve healthy lands and waters and promote tourism in the San Luis Valley and the Rio Grande River Corridor, focusing on the conservation of the ranching community and protection of wildlife and wetlands resources.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The Rocky Mountain Greenway Project might include a new shuttle bus linking the Regional Transportation District bus route to Lyons with Estes Park. Riders then could take another shuttle into the national park, Salazar staffers and park officials said. A commission created to guide that project also will explore linking park hiking trails to the Front Range via trails through the Arapaho National Forest and existing city and county open space. Rocky Mountain National Park officials have been working at “improving our connection to the Front Range, especially the underserved inner-city kids,” said park spokesman Rick Frost. A bus-link test program could be started by next summer, he said.

Hickenlooper cited Great Outdoors Colorado as an example of the state’s emerging forte as a center of ideas and innovation. “What happens when you do that right is that those ideas go forward and get taken up,” Hickenlooper said, adding that people’s ability to connect with nature remains “a basic core value of America.”

More coverage from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

The trail system he proposed will be called the Denver Metro Greenway Project, and it will first connect Rocky Mountain Arsenal with Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge in Arvada, Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Denver and the metro area’s many trail systems…

A trail link to Rocky Mountain Arsenal is slated for completion in 2012, and the department is looking for additional funds for other links in the Denver Metro Greenway Project. When the greenway’s trails would connect Rocky Mountain National Park with the metro area hasn’t been determined.

More conservation coverage here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Here are the notes from this week’s webinar, courtesy of the Colorado Climate Center

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Releases from Granby Reservoir are 430cfs

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

It’s that time of year we all start looking for snow to melt, rivers to run and reservoirs to fill. While every year here in Colorado presents an interesting run-off season, this one is shaping up to possibly be more memorable than others.

We’re looking at a significant snow pack average on both sides of the Divide. Despite it being nearly the end of May, snow pack continues to hang on. Typically, snow pack is measured in daily averages. So, as long as that snow doesn’t melt, the daily averages climb. Right now, we’re looking at a snow pack in the Blue River Basin up above Green Mountain Reservoir of around 353% of average.

With that in mind, we’ve been generating power at the plant and moving water out of the reservoir in anticipation of the coming snow melt. Releases from the dam of about 1200 cfs will continue through the Memorial Day weekend. The reservoir is also starting to fill, albeit slowly, at a rate of just about a foot a day.

Moving up the Colorado River into Grand County, we’re seeing snow pack in the Upper Colorado River Basin (above Granby and Willow Creek) of around 286% of average. In anticipation of the snow melt run-off, Northern Water has drawn Willow Creek Reservoir down to almost dead storage and has been adjusting releases so that outflow matches inflow. It’s been fluctuating a little bit, getting as high as 900 cfs. We’re maintaining a fairly steady release out of Granby of around 430 cfs.

If all the C-BT’s west slope storage is combined, the average for this time of year is actually up a little bit at about 104% of average.

To date, we’ve been running a full Adams Tunnel, moving water from Granby and Shadow Mountain reservoirs to the east slope into Horsetooth, Carter, and on downstream. This means that the reservoirs in the middle of the system have been operating pretty normally. Lake Estes, Pinewood, and Flatiron reservoirs are basically full, with some water level elevation fluctuation for hydro-power generation. All three of these reservoirs should operate pretty normally through Memorial Day weekend.

As I’ve mentioned before, Lake Estes is not a regulating reservoir. Flows out of Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding area into the Big Thompson River above the reservoir are largely uncontrolled streams. We have some flexibility at Olympus Dam, which holds back Lake Estes, but we do have to bypass, send on through, native Big Thompson river flows. We continue to balance inflow and outflow there as best we can. Last night, we dropped the releases from Olympus Dam by about 50 cfs. Right now, we are releasing about 250 cfs to the canyon. Flows in the canyon could fluctuate 50 cfs up or down through the weekend.

The pump is on to Carter Lake and its water level elevation is steadily climbing. Today, it is at a water level elevation of about 5754 feet and still going up. We are planning on continuing to pump to Carter into June.

Likewise, Horsetooth Reservoir’s water elevation continues to rise. It’s at an elevation of about 5408. While that elevation is pretty typical for this time of year (we normally start the summer season and Memorial Day weekend somewhere between 5410-5414), it is likely to continue climbing past this weekend and into June.

Meanwhile, the first holiday weekend of the summer season is almost here. I’ve attached a news release Reclamation distributed this week reminding folks to take the proper CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY precautions regarding the invasive quagga and zebra mussels.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Releases are 300cfs to the Arkansas River above Buena Vista are 300cfs

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

It’s that time of year we all start looking for snow to melt, rivers to run and reservoirs to fill. While every year here in Colorado presents an interesting run-off season, this one is shaping up to possibly be more memorable than others.

To date, we’ve been moving water from our upper reservoirs on the Fry-Ark project, Twin Lakes and Turquoise, on down to Pueblo Reservoir. The Fry-Ark release to the Arkansas River above Buena Vista has been around 300 cfs for a few weeks now and looks to stay around that rate through Memorial Day weekend, and possibly longer. We are bypassing, sending on through, any snow melt that comes down Lake Creek and Lake Fork Creek into the reservoirs. But, with the continuing cool weather, rain, and upper elevation snow, that just hasn’t been much, so far.

Meanwhile, snow pack continues to hang on. Typically, snow pack is measured in daily averages. So, as long as that snow doesn’t melt, the daily averages climb. Right now, we’re looking at snow pack in the Arkansas Basin of around 167% of average.

With the snow pack up like it is, and not melting, we’re not doing much importing of Fry-Ark Project water through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Reservoir. But there is a lot of snow up the Fryingpan River Basin. Today, snow pack in that basin is looking to be around 388% of average.

With that snow in mind, we’ve pulled Ruedi Reservoir down in anticipation of the run-off. We’re maintaining a release to the lower Fryingpan River of around 340 cfs (the Rocky Fork is kicking in another 20 or so cfs). We’re hoping to maintain that release into the run-off season.

Meanwhile, the first holiday weekend of the summer season is almost here. I’ve attached a news release Reclamation distributed this week reminding folks to take the proper CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY precautions regarding the invasive quagga and zebra mussels.

As we move into the weekend, the water levels at the Fry-Ark Reservoirs, with the exception of Pueblo, are just slightly below average for this time of year, awaiting that melting snow. Pueblo Res, however, has a storage that is above average for late May. Currently, it’s showing an elevation of about 4874 feet.

Durango: The city is tackling the costs of their share of Animas-La Plata project water

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

[Jack Rogers, the city’s public works director] said the $3 million, 20-year loan the city needs would have an interest rate of about 2.5 percent. It beats the rate the city would get anywhere else, Rogers said. On the recommendation of a consultant, the city of Durango in 2005 asked the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority to reserve a portion of A-LP water in its name. The city has put down $1 million as earnest money. The deposit leaves the city with a bill of $5 million to $5.5 million. A healthy water fund reserve makes it necessary to borrow only $3 million, leaving money for other water projects, participants said. Because the city has only a week’s reserve of water, 1,900 acre-feet of consumable water from the A-LP would be a comfortable backup for emergencies…

A water-rate increase for city residents will be necessary – but not immediately because of money in reserve.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here.

Runoff news: Officials warning of possible localized flooding on the Colorado River

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From the Associated Press via Fox31:

A report by the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center predicts the chances that the river will flood at Cameo in De Beque Canyon at 90 percent, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

From (Matt Vanderveer):

River levels are high and continue to rise and some parts of the Western Slope are still covered with more than 16 feet of snow; and a spate of warm temperatures in June could send water over the banks…

“Plateau Valley communities up on the Grand Mesa; also in the valleys there has been some concern with Rosevale Road,” says [Mesa County Emergency Manager Andy Martsolf]. The County has already started putting up barricades and sandbags in those areas. [Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey] hopes some future celebrations here in Mesa County won’t be affected by flooding…

If you live in low level areas near Plateau Creek, the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers and haven’t already started a planning process for evacuation or how you’re going to protect your property, the Sheriffs Office urges you to start now.

From (Tami Brehse):

Right now the river [Colorado River at Grand Junction] is at about nine feet. It peaked at 14 feet back in 1984, causing serious flooding…

Most predictions say the river is going to fill the banks the first week of June. Peak levels are expected sometime at the end of next month. Snowpack is currently 243% of average.

From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

The state’s spring runoff normally begins in early to mid-May and peaks by the second week of June, but some parts of the high country are still buried by up to 16 feet of snow. National Weather Service hydrologist Treste Huse said a spate of warm temperatures in June could send water over the banks of many rivers and streams in the week ahead. To help residents and others monitor flooding, the U.S. Geological Survey has established its WaterAlert system, which allows those who sign up to set parameters for specific rivers and receive an alert by text or e-mail when the waterway passes that threshold. The site is at […]

Colorado’s statewide snowpack today is at 232 percent, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Snowpack is even higher in the mountains — 261 percent in the Colorado River basin. Meanwhile, runoff is still running late. The Arkansas River near Leadville was running at just 31 percent of normal today, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

AECOM names University of Colorado Boulder winner of water/wastewater design competition

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From Environmental Expert via

AECOM Technology Corporation, a leading provider of professional technical and management support services for government and commercial clients around the world, announced today that a team from the University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder), located in Boulder, Colo., won first prize in AECOM’s 2010-2011 Water/Wastewater Academic Design Competition.

In its eighth year, the annual design competition challenges students from post-secondary institutions in North America to develop solutions to real-life engineering problems, then present and defend their solutions to a panel of water and wastewater industry professionals.

“This year, 15 teams from 10 universities across the United States and Canada entered the competition,” said Rob Andrews, AECOM’s global managing director, Water. “It’s really important for today’s youth to think about real-world issues in the industry.”
Six semi-finalist teams were selected for videoconference interviews and two finalist teams from CU-Boulder and McGill University in Montreal were invited to AECOM’s offices in New York for in-person interviews.

The winning team received a trophy and cash award for its proposed design and cost estimate of an expansion to a surface water treatment plant for removal of conventional contaminants and hardness.

The final judging panel included Keith Mahoney of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Dr. John Fillos from the City College of New York, as well as AECOM’s Bill Clunie, vice president, Water, and Bill Pfrang, technical manager, Water.

More coverage from Beth Potter writing for the Boulder County Business Report. From the article:

The CU student team beat out 14 other teams in a competition to design the expansion of a water treatment plant that removes conventional contaminants and water hardness. Students also gave a cost estimate of their plan in the competition, which was sponsored by global support services provider Los Angeles-based AECOM Technology Corp. Now in its eight year, the competition presents a real-life engineering problem. Students then present and defend their solutions to the problem to a panel of water and wastewater industry professionals. “It’s really important for today’s youth to think about real-world issues in the industry,” said Rob Andrews, AECOM’s global managing director, water.

More education coverage here.

Boulder County is regulating the application of biosolids more closely after complaint last year

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From the Boulder Weekly (Jefferson Dodge):

State regulations prohibit biosolids from being applied to lands where the water table is within five feet of the surface. Over the past couple of years, Licul has identified several farming areas where wetlands and other obvious signs indicate that the water table is higher than the five-foot threshold, and as a result, the use of biosolids has been suspended on hundreds of acres of [Boulder] county open space.

[Boulder County resident Elvis Licul] also pointed out last spring that the depth of the water table can vary by as much as seven feet on his own property between the winter and summer months, so he questioned why water depth is sometimes measured in the winter, when it is lowest. His complaints have prompted state and county officials to begin performing depth measurements in the summer, when irrigation and runoff can raise the water level.

County Water Quality Program Coordinator Mark Williams told Boulder Weekly it is now standard operating procedure to measure water depth in the summer before biosolid application is approved in areas where there is any question whether groundwater approaches the five-foot mark. (In some areas of Colorado, the aquifer can be as deep as 150 feet below the surface.) The same approach is implied, if not explicitly spelled out, in state regulations on biosolid use, which say that no one can apply the human waste in areas where the “annual high groundwater table” is within five feet of the surface.

More water pollution coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline update: The Corps of Engineers has suspended their EIS efforts for 60 days

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ben Neary):

Rena Brand, project manager for the Corps of Engineers in Littleton, said Wednesday that Million wrote to her agency last month asking it to suspend its environmental review of his pipeline proposal. She says Million wants to consider whether his project could generate electricity and, if so, whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should be leading the review. “The alternative energy produced from the project may become a major focus and benefit,” Million wrote in an email to the Corps of Engineers last month. “Discussions with other federal agencies indicate that there may need to be a realignment of the lead federal agency.” The Corps of Engineers responded to Million early this month and agreed to stop work on the study for 60 days. Brand said that, if her agency doesn’t hear back from Million in that time, it will have to decide whether to drop the study entirely…

[Mike Purcell, director of the Wyoming Water Development Commission] said that the longstanding conceptual design of the pipeline project has called for installing small turbines to generate electricity in locations where the water would flow downhill to help defray pumping costs. “That has been a concept for I believe quite a while,” Purcell said. “But if he’s now saying it would generate power over and above the demands of the project, I would find that unlikely.”

More coverage from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal. From the article:

“Mr. Million asked us on April 27 to stop work on the EIS for 60 days, because he’s trying to figure out whether his project may take on a hydropower focus,” [Rena Brand, a project manager with the corps’ local office in Jefferson County] said…

Another group representing water providers in Colorado and Wyoming announced in March 2010 they, too, were interested in studying the proposal. The group included public agencies that serve more than 500,000 in Denver’s southern suburbs and El Paso County, as well as towns and counties in eastern Wyoming, Frank Jaeger, manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, said in 2010.

That group hasn’t contacted the corps to request an environmental study, Brand said.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Releases from Olympus dam increased to 300cfs

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We are starting to see inflows to Lake Estes pick up again–and, as is typical–they pick up at night. As a result, we plan to increase releases from Olympus Dam by 50 cfs tonight [May 25] from 250 to 300 cfs. The change should occur around midnight.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: Still waiting for runoff to start, maybe over the next two weeks

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a look at the gage at Gunnison on the Gunnison River from last evening. Flows are 500 cfs below the median value so the runoff really hasn’t started in earnest yet. Below is an update from email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

It appears the runoff in west-central Colorado may finally begin in earnest during the next couple of weeks. In order to share Reclamation’s tentative plans, we offer the following based on the current hydrology and forecasts. Current tentative plans are for releases from Crystal Reservoir to begin increasing from the present release of 3,500 cfs on Friday June 3rd, continuing to increase until reaching a total release of 7,800 cfs on Wednesday June 8th. This should result in a flow of around 6,800 cfs in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge. Releases would then begin to ramp down on Thursday June 9th with flows eventually stabilizing around 3,000 cfs in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge. This flowrate (3,000 cfs) is likely to continue through July and possibly into August.

Keep in mind these flowrates are targets. Side inflows and other climatic conditions will cause flows to vary beyond those which can be controlled by release changes at the dams. In other words, as Crystal spills, fluctuations in the Black Canyon will occur. In addition, with this tentative peak flow operation, there is a 50% probability of flows exceeding 11,520 cfs at the USGS gage at Delta, Colorado.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Small hydro installations are popping up around the U.S.

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From American City and County (Todd Briggeman, David Egger, Bruce Duncan and Pat Sullivan):

Often hydropower is associated with large-scale projects such as dams and reservoirs or major river diversions. However, small conduit hydropower can be installed potentially anywhere pressure must be reduced in a conveyance system, such as at the headworks of water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plant outfalls or at any pressure-reducing station. Small hydropower projects do not need to be located near a river or dam.

Several communities recently have begun creating energy at existing water facilities. They are locating hydropower turbines at pressure-control facilities to take advantage of energy that would otherwise be lost and channel it to power the facilities or sell it back to the grid. The projects are saving money and improving energy efficiency at water facilities…

The Project 7 Water Authority wholesales potable water to municipalities and rural areas in Colorado’s Uncompahgre River Valley. The authority owns and operates a raw water reservoir, raw water pipeline, water treatment plant, and 30 miles of potable water transmission piping.

For a decade, authority officials knew that they had several potential hydropower opportunities at locations with existing pressure-reducing valves. However, hydraulic constraints and complications with delivering the potential power back to an active grid kept them from creating a renewable energy project until 2007. That was when the authority decided to update its water treatment facilities, and plans called for increasing the raw water-delivery capacity. Additional pressure would be needed for delivery and to meet future plant peak demands, but it would be necessary to dissipate the additional pressure during normal flows, which created the possibility to capture the excess hydraulic energy.

To tap that energy, the system had to be optimized for turbines of two sizes: 60 and 110 kilowatts (kW). The turbine generator units were designed to fit within the new flow-control facility that increases the raw water capacity to the plant. Power generated from the new units is connected and consumed through a net metering agreement with the Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), a rural electric cooperative in Montrose, Colo., which allowed Project 7 to consume the energy within its own facilities. That allowed Project 7 to bypass a complicated connection to the nearby grid while maximizing the value of the recovered energy.

Colorado municipal electric utilities, such as the DMEA, are required to use renewable energy, including hydroelectric power, and energy recycling to account for 10 percent of retail sales by the year 2020. The incentives to comply with that standard, as well as advances in small turbine manufacturing, have made it more feasible to capture energy in raw water delivery networks. Project 7 placed the new turbine-generator units online in November 2009.

Project 7’s renewable energy facility produces approximately 1,400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day of energy. Although the authority does not receive any revenue directly from the energy generation, it is saving approximately $4,000 per month on its electricity bill — 85 percent of total plant-wide electricity costs. Locating the renewable energy project on the existing water treatment plant site allowed the project to become financially viable, not only because there was adequate space for the new turbine-generator units, but also because the power delivery method was greatly simplified. Authority officials expect to fully recover the investment in hydropower within seven to 10 years.

Project 7 Assistant Manager Adam Turner credits some of the project’s success to flexibility and support from the region’s electric utility. “We have some high power demands, especially during the summer months,” he says. “We can run the smaller unit to generate up to 60 kW much of the year and run the larger unit to generate 110 kW in the summer. We got a killer deal by getting credit at the same high rate we’d pay for it, so ours is probably rosier than the average small hydro project picture.”

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

The Water Research Foundation has embarked on a three year project to update their study ‘Residential uses of water’

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Here’s a release from the Water Research Foundation via

The Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) announced that it is updating and expanding its landmark Residential End Uses of Water Study. The original study was published in 1999, and water utilities, industry regulators and government planning agencies have considered it the industry benchmark of single-family home indoor water use. The 1999 study, Residential End Uses of Water (pdf), is available on the WaterRF website.

The goal of the three-year project, which will begin in Spring 2011 and conclude in late 2013, is to investigate water use patterns in residential housing in 28 water utilities markets in the United States and Canada. The 28 water utilities volunteered to participate in the project. The new study will expand on the 1999 report by exploring water use over a more geographically diverse area, monitoring hot water use, examining outdoor water use (e.g., for landscaping) and assessing water conservation efforts in households. The new study also will integrate data from additional reports, in order to present a more comprehensive picture of residential water use.

Under WaterRF’s supervision, the study will be conducted by Aquacraft, Inc., a water engineering and management company, in collaboration with Hazen and Sawyer (an environmental engineering firm), the National Research Center, Veritec Consulting and Dr. Benedykt Dziegielewski, a professor at Southern Illinois University and a national expert on water use analysis.

The total cost of the project is $1.6M, with funding and in-kind services pooled from WaterRF, the Aquacraft research team and a number of the participating water utilities. Other participating water utilities are providing in-kind donations and contributions to the project. “There is no question that economic and environmental changes have had a significant impact on residential water use over the past decade,” said Rob Renner, Executive Director of the Water Research Foundation.

“Given those changes, the time is right to assess how individuals and families use water in order to both improve the delivery of water, identify new technologies to enhance our water systems and, of course, promote water conservation.”

In each market, the utility participants will provide project researchers with historic water consumption data from a representative sample of 1,000 single-family customers. In nine of the 28 markets, researchers will select 100 homes for monitoring of indoor and outdoor water use and 10 homes for examining hot water use.

The researchers also will send a water use survey to these customers. These markets are: Tacoma, WA; Toho, FL Water Authority; City of Fort Collins, CO [ed. emphasis mine]; City of Scottsdale, AZ; Clayton County, GA Water Authority; Denver, CO Water [ed. emphasis mine]; Region of Peel, Ontario, Canada; Region of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; and San Antonio, TX Water System.

In the remaining 19 markets, researchers will survey 5,000 customers on indoor water use. These markets are: Portland, OR Water Bureau; Tampa Bay, FL Water; Aurora, CO Water [ed. emphasis mine]; Austin, TX Water Utility; City of Chicago, IL; City of Henderson, NV; City of Mountain View, CA; City of San Diego, CA; City of Santa Barbara, CA; City of Santa Fe, NM; Cobb County, GA Water System; Colorado Springs, CO Utilities [ed. emphasis mine]; Contra Costa, CA Water District; EPCOR, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Miami-Dade, FL Water & Sewer; Otay, CA Water District; Philadelphia, PA Water Department; Regional Water Authority, CT; and Town of Cary, NC.

The updated Residential End Uses of Water Study will be published in 2013-2014. “Like the initial study, we anticipate that the new report will become a valuable collection of information that will aid water utilities in demand forecasting, planning and conservation programming,” said Renner.

About the Water Research Foundation
Founded in 1966, the Water Research Foundation is an international, 501(c)3 non-profit organization that sponsors research to enable water utilities, public health agencies and other professionals to provide safe and affordable drinking water to the public. With more than 950 subscriber members who provide water to 80 percent of the U.S. population, the Water Research Foundation has funded and managed more than 1,000 projects. For more information, visit

Telluride: The Idarado Mining Company is recalling water rights that it gave the town in 1992

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From the Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

This latest argument is as clear as a river during peak runoff.

Idarado announced last Friday it was recalling water rights it conditionally gave to the Town of Telluride in 1992, and that it would use the water to generate power at the Bridal Veil Power Station, a historic hydroelectric powerplant perched above the tallest waterfall in the state. According to an Idarado press release, the move would not adversely affect the flow in the San Miguel River nor would it diminish the current levels of water over Bridal Veil Falls…

The issue is wholly complex, as most water disputes are. In the wording of the 1992 agreement, it’s stated that Idarado must recall the water for “beneficial” use, meaning the water is applied to a recognized public purpose, such as irrigation or hydroelectricity — exactly what Idarado says it will use the water for. Under water law, the town must give the water back if it deems the request “proper,” which it hasn’t yet determined…

The Bridal Veil Power Station is an uncommon confluence in the channels of groundbreaking utility and improbable beauty and is one of the oldest operating AC generators in the country (behind the Ames hydroelectric station, just up the highway).

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir update: 1200 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This morning, May 24, at 8 a.m., we began increasing releases from Green Mountain Reservoir to the Lower Blue. We increased by 100 cfs making the Lower Blue flow around 1100 cfs. This afternoon, we will bump up another 100 cfs putting 1200 cfs in the river.

The reason for the change is the continuing snow accumulation in the high country upstream of the reservoir. We are near record levels for snowpack and the run-off forecast from the Colorado River Basin center continues to go up. We are doing our best to balance inflows, storage and releases with the competing demands served by the reservoir.

Even with this change in releases, the reservoir storage is still increasing. Currently, it is rising at just about a foot a day.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Snowpack/runoff news: The snow just keeps coming

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From New West (Alan Best):

Normally, snowpack in the Yampa River Basin, where Buffalo Pass is located, would be reduced to 55 percent of its maximum moisture content. This year, the basin was at 154 percent the week before Memorial Day.

“Most of the water remains up high,” says Gillespie. “We get these brief dry periods of three or four days and we will start to see the melt occur, and then we see another storm and we rebuild what has been melted off. The net effect is that we are prolonging what we have out there in the snowpack later into spring. And now we are approaching June. This is definitely much later than we would like to be in terms of melt proceeding.”

Cameron Pass, between Steamboat Springs and Fort Collins, also had a record snowpack in early May, while other regions southward to Vail and Aspen had deep snow but not necessarily records. Southern Colorado, as is common in La Niña years, has had subpar snow, with the Sangre de Cristo Range at just 50 percent of average…

The most significant problem [for Routt County] has been landslides blocking local roads, the result of soil being saturated by the intense rains of May. “Everywhere you go you can see a slope that is sloughing or has slid.”

Eighty miles south, authorities in the Vail area are also tracking mudslides. “I worry about the potential mudslide and flood-prone areas of Eagle County,” says Barry Smith, director of emergency management for Eagle County. “It’s sort of my job.”[…]

“I think it’s one of those ‘duh’ moments,” says Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservation District. “Look at all the water that is going downstream, on both sides of the mountain (Continental Divide).” That is, says Werner, water that could legally stay in Colorado – if it had the necessary dams. “We need to put some more buckets out there, and these are good years to illustrate why we need buckets.”

From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):

Almost 5,000 cubic feet of water per second gushed down from the western mountains [last summer], flooding the [Cache la Poudre] river, making trouble for bridges and roads in its path, enveloping streets and inching dangerously close to homes. It was the first time the river stretched its banks with such gusto since 1999, when the Poudre hit its second-highest flow in Greeley of 6,210 cfs. This year, all predictions are that the river will again hit that high point, especially with the rising snowpack in the mountains. Coupled with the rainfall and high temperatures of a typical Colorado spring, most are expecting a mess this year…

In a typical year, flooding occurs mostly in the month of June when the winter snowpack melts under high heat and is helped along the winding river banks by spring rains. But it’s also hit in early May and lasted through June. “I’d say we’re going to start watching closely around Memorial Day and anticipate peak flows will pass by the end of June,” said Dave Bauer, Weld County’s engineer, who must cover extra ground with the confluence of both the Poudre and South Platte rivers east of Greeley. “Last year the high flows continued through the first two weeks of June.”

South Platte River basin: Chatfield Reservoir expansion would change the character of Chatfield State Park

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“It now appears impacts of this project will be quite severe and cannot be mitigated,” said Polly Reetz, conservation coordinator for the Audubon Society of Greater Denver. The new water that would be stored to sustain 15 south-metro suburbs “wouldn’t be there all the time, and you can’t get trees to grow back if you don’t have water all the time. . . . What you’ll have is a big, weedy mud flats,” Reetz said. “If it is a big mud flat, it’s not going to be nice for recreation or anything else.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper and state water-supply planners support the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project. Some conservationists are also supportive, saying the “reallocation” of Chatfield from flood control to holding up to 40,000 acre- feet of water is less harmful than other projects to supply suburbs.

State environmental overseers acknowledged significant harm — including the reduction of rivers and the creation of mud flats. “One of the identified impacts will be a mud-flats area. We’re working to determine what the best way to mitigate that will be,” said Alex Davis, assistant director of the state Department of Natural Resources.

The project would flood 587 acres of 5,400-acre Chatfield State Park as water levels rise by up to 12 feet. More than 1.6 million people visit the park each year, spending $9.5 million in the process.

More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.

Runoff news: Minor flooding warnings issued by the CWCB

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Officials say parts of Colorado west of the Continental Divide and most of the eastern plains should expect minor flooding as rainfall and warmer temperatures begin to melt the season’s record snowpack. The Colorado Water conservation board said Monday that minor flooding watches have been issued for the western slope down to Montrose County and the eastern plains.

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) update: Supplemental environmental impact statement delayed until 2012

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From email from Save the Poudre (Gary Wockner):

Chandler Peter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed that the permitting processes for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) and other proposed dams and reservoirs on the Poudre River (Halligan and Seaman) have been delayed yet again, now for the third time. The initial release for the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) for NISP was supposed to be in June of 2010, and was initially delayed until the summer of 2011, and then delayed again until the latter part of 2011, and has now been delayed “into 2012” with “no refined ETA for the SDEIS” according to an email from Mr. Peter to Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper today. Additionally, the first draft of the EIS for the new Halligan (Fort Collins) and Seaman (Greeley) dams and reservoirs on the North Fork of the Poudre was slated for the summer of 2011, but then was delayed for a half year after the release of the NISP SDEIS, which will now put them into 2012 or 2013.

More NISP coverage here and here.

2010 Colorado Elections: The state Attorney Regulation and Disciplinary Council finds the Scott McInnis’ water articles plagiarism was not an ethics violation

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Last summer Scott McInnis’s campaign imploded from the news that some of the work he had done for the Hasan Family Foundation was plagiarized. Journalist Jason Salzman ( stayed with his investigation into the candidate’s writings and the rest is Colorado political history. It’s too late for Mr. McInnis to challenge Governor Hickenlooper but he probably welcomes today’s news. Here’s a report from Sara Burnett writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Regulation Counsel John Gleason said new evidence and follow-up interviews with witnesses revealed no “clear and convincing evidence” that McInnis, an attorney, violated disciplinary rules…

Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint with the ARDC, which investigates attorneys for violations of court rules and the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct…

[McInnis researcher Rollie Fischer] told the ARDC that he alone copied Hobbs’ work without crediting him, that he didn’t tell McInnis he had done so, and that he expected McInnis to publish the work as his own.

More coverage from John Tomasic writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

“We’re satisfied that [the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel] did a very thorough investigation of the matter,” Colorado Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro told the Colorado Independent. “They took their time to look closely at the material and deposed two witnesses. We’re glad that they put a period on this story. The public gains in transparency for its having done the investigation.”

More coverage from Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The attorney regulation counsel for the Colorado Supreme Court declined to pursue disciplinary action against McInnis, documents obtained by The Daily Sentinel said. Copies of the same documents also were posted on the

Letters signed by John S. Gleason, who heads the office of attorney regulation, said the incident that shattered McInnis’ attempt for the Republican nomination for governor, was the result of a series of forgotten conversations and emails among the principals, including officials of the Hasan Foundation, which demanded that McInnis repay $300,000 he had been paid for the articles…

While Fischer and the foundation provided contradictory accounts at the time the issue was raised, “a more thorough review of their archived materials demonstrates that both had forgotten several specific communications with Mr. McInnis that had occurred several years before,” Gleason wrote.

More coverage from Gene Davis writing for Law Week Colorado. Here’s an excerpt:

The regulatory counsel interviewed several key witnesses in the incident, including water expert Rolly Fischer, who McInnis says he hired to help research the issue. McInnis blames the plagiarism on research provided to him by Fischer. McInnis and the Hasan Foundation last summer reached a settlement agreement to repay the organization, though McInnis maintained that his only error was trusting Fischer. As part of the attorney regulatory counsel’s investigation, an investigator scoured through handwritten notes and personal e-mails, as well as interviews with witnesses. According to the counsel’s findings, Fischer was responsible for the plagiarism, not McInnis. “Mr. Fischer alone chose to import large sections of text previously written by the Honorable Justice Gregory Hobbs into one of the articles drafted for Mr. McInnis, without credit citation,” states the results of the investigation.

Fischer apparently argued that the use was not plagiarism because he believes the article is part of the “public domain,” according to the investigation, compiled from interviews with Fischer. Fischer had never disclosed to McInnis that he had taken Hobbs’ work, according to the report.

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

McInnis blamed the plagiarism on Rolly Fischer, whom he had enlisted as an assistant for his water writings. Fischer claimed he believed Hobbs’ writings were in the public domain. A review of correspondence between McInnis and Fischer conducted by the Attorney Regulation Counsel found that in 2005 “McInnis had instructed Mr. Fischer not to plagiarize any work in the articles he drafted,” according to the counsel’s letter of findings. It also noted that: Fischer “alone chose large sections of text” from Hobbs’ writings and passed them along to McInnis for publication without attributing it to Hobbs. Fischer did not inform McInnis that he had imported Hobbs’ work for the articles. Fischer expected McInnis to treat the articles as his own without providing any credit to Fischer.

More coverage from (Eli Stokols):

On Monday, McInnis’s defenders viewed the findings as an exoneration and an opportunity to question the journalism of the Denver Post, which broke the story of how McInnis, in 2005, was paid $300,000 by the Hasan Foundation to write a series of articles on water, a job he pawned off on a researcher, Rollie Fischer, who plagiarized portions of the articles from 1983 essays by current Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs…

The Post’s publisher, Dean Singleton, defended the paper’s reporting in a radio interview Monday afternoon and even insinuated that the emails used to clear McInnis’s name might have been forged by McInnis himself. “He didn’t produce them [earlier] because they probably didn’t exist,” Singleton said in an interview on the Caplis and Silverman show.”

More coverage from Jason Salzman writing for Huffpost Denver. From the article:

It turns out that an attorney connected to the Colorado Supreme Court conducted an investigation, at the behest of Colorado Ethics Watch, on whether McInnis’ behavior meets the lawyerly snuff test. His investigation, indeed, cleans up McInnis a bit, but it doesn’t clear his name, unless you believe throwing people under buses is a good idea…

So Gleason clears McInnis of dishonest lawyerly conduct. But does it clear him of slimy, squeezy, mean politican conduct? Does it make his conduct look, ah, gubernatorial, if I can use that word there?[…]

If so, if McInnis thought this would Shyne up his image, McInnis still doesn’t get it. His mistake was throwing his research assistant under the bus. He could have survived the plagiarism, probably. But his handling of it sunk his campaign. He can’t clear his name of those mistakes. That was his problem then, and that’s what he’s going to have to live with.

More coverage from the Colorado Statesman (Ernest Luning). From the article:

In letters sent last week to McInnis’ attorneys and to Colorado Ethics Watch — the liberal watchdog group that filed a complaint over the matter last summer — regulation counsel John S. Gleason said his office’s investigation revealed that “there is no clear and convincing evidence Mr. McInnis knowingly engaged in dishonest conduct.”

The report arrived 10 months after revelations in a Denver Post story threw the state Republican Party into turmoil. In the months that followed, McInnis, a former six-term congressman, lost the Republican nomination for governor to a rookie politician named Dan Maes, but only after another former Republican congressman, Tom Tancredo, tried to force both from the race. When that failed, Tancredo bolted the party and ran under the banner of the previously obscure American Constitution Party, finishing in second place behind Democrat John Hickenlooper…

Gleason also concluded that, “based on our interview with Ms. Hasan and our review of the documents she provided to us, including contemporaneous emails between her and Mr. McInnis, it is also clear Mr. McInnis notified her of his retention of Mr. Fischer as a research assistant.” Not so fast, said the woman who heads the foundation that paid McInnis $300,000 to spread the word on water – and then got a full refund when the plagiarized passages came to light last year. Hasan disputed Gleason’s characterization of the documents she said the foundation provided to investigators. It’s true a previously undisclosed document came to light, said Seeme Hasan, the foundation’s president, in an interview with The Statesman this week. But it wasn’t an email and it didn’t describe Fischer as a “research assistant.”

What the foundation’s attorneys turned over to the OARC was a fax cover sheet that had been buried in boxes of foundation documents for years, she said. It accompanied an article McInnis submitted in June 2005 and included the handwritten note, “I feel very good about the articles and the goal of serving the public interest. On a regular basis I have been assisted by Rolly Fischer, and his confidence that we are reaching our goal is high as well.” Hasan said that was the only mention McInnis made of Fischer in any of their correspondence and hardly qualifies as the kind of disclosure the OARC claims it is. “As far as I’m concerned, it did not say research assistant, it did not say co-author, it did not say he would help me write, it just said assistant,” Hasan said. “That could mean the assistant who faxes his papers.”[…]

After learning of the OARC’s decision, Hasan said she was ready to lay the matter to rest, even though she disagreed with the counsel’s finding. “Our conclusion is unchanged, because we were told that this was all original, and then last summer he acknowledged himself it was not all original,” she said…

“He has paid the foundation back, what’s been done has been done,” Hasan said. “But in my mind, it doesn’t take away what happened. I’m not sitting in his mind — I don’t know what he was thinking — but I am confident that some of the articles he sent to me, he had never even read them, he had never even looked at them. If he had looked at them, he would have been appalled.”[…]

“We’re pleased that there was an investigation that brought out these facts on this issue of public concern,” said Ethics Watch director Luis Toro. “We think that they exercised their discretion and we’re not going to challenge it based on a full investigation.”

More Scott McInnis coverage here. More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Snowpack/runoff news: Slow onset of runoff leads to impressive snowpack totals — South Platte basin = 236% of average

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I’ve been trying to get some perspective on the massive snowpack numbers we’re seeing around most of Colorado this year so I’ve been emailing lately with the National Resources Conservation Service.

Mike Gillespie tells me that, while accurate, the numbers are a percent of average for the snowpack on this date. Since the runoff is so reluctant to come out of the mountains this year the delayed onset skews the snowpack totals.

His recommendation is to look at the current peak as compared with the average peak. I went online to check and the South Platte basin’s current peak as a percent of average peak is a still impressive 146%.

It’s going to be a good year to store water.

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (Scott Kersgaard). Click through for the great photo of the National Park Service plowing up on Trail Ridge Road. Here’s an excerpt:

The skiing is still good at those Colorado resorts still open. The views to the west from Denver are still of freshly snow-packed mountains. Colorado finally has some moisture. All is good, in other words. Perhaps. If it all melts at once, though, Colorado and other Western states could be in for a world of hurt.

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) rally for proponents draws 300 people

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

Fort Morgan, which is one of 15 municipalities and water districts that have helped fund the project thus far, was represented at the rally by Councilmen Jim Powers and Brent Nation. Also there from Fort Morgan were Water Advisory Board member Bill Baker, Water Resources Director Gary Dreessen, Water Treatment Plant Superintendent John Turner, Quality Water District General Manager Mark Kokes and city resident Don Ostwald, as well as Morgan County resident Brad Wind…

Northern Water Conservancy District General Manager Eric Wilkinson kicked things off with some good news for the project, telling the crowd that the latest round of environmental studies “are finding that the impacts of NISP are much less” than previously thought…

“If we are going to (grow the northeast Colorado economy), the only way to sustain it long term is to build water storage,” [Congressman Cory Gardner] said. “That is why NISP is especially important.” The congressman, who spoke at previous rallies for the project when he was in the state legislature, passionately talked about the water that would be stored there helping agricultural communities to thrive while also providing the lifeblood of growing centers. “Construction of NISP will mark when we no longer rely on the past, but create our future,” he told the crowd, adding that the state`s business future depends on “a better water future.”[…]

Agland CEO Mitch Anderson took a darker approach, warning people, “If we don`t do things like this, we need to be prepared to send people around the world to fight the unrest caused by food shortages.”

More NISP coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit update: The communities east of Pueblo are starting to plan for the project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is forging ahead with the 40 communities east of Pueblo that will be part of the conduit — a 130-mile line that will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people. “Some of what we are figuring out is making sure everyone is in the game,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “People are asking valid questions, and we don’t have all the answers. The biggest issue is sitting down to communicate. It’s hard to get people to understand what occurs 50 years in the future.”[…]

The district spent the last few weeks working out agreements with conduit participants to pay the local costs of an environmental impact study being developed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. To gain time to find some answers to questions that were raised, the district postponed a meeting that was to be Tuesday until sometime in June. The $4.6 million study also is looking at a master excess-capacity storage contract for Lake Pueblo that includes some conduit participants and 12 other participants who are not part of the conduit. The study will determine the best route for the conduit, as well as identify impacts to the Arkansas River.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Frisco: Flood preparedness open house Monday

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From the Summit Daily News:

Residents are invited to learn about the impacts of high water and ways to plan and prepare for the spring runoff at an open house set for from 5:30-7 p.m. Monday in the Fremont and Loveland rooms at the Community and Senior Center in Frisco…Information covered at the open house will include sand and sand back information, flood plain maps, current snowpack conditions and stream flow forecasts and how to use the SC Alert system.