Grand County: Nearly 400 students participate in ‘Watershed Week’

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

The nonprofit Grand County Water Information Network coordinated with teachers to bring all sixth- through eighth-grade students on field trips to the rivers, to water treatment plants, to diversion system tours, on ranches or at the molybdenum mine…

Watershed Week “reinforces that responsibility at a young age when students are being introduced to scientific principles,” [said Alex Brooks]. East Grand sixth-graders learned about timely issues such as human impacts on the watershed through water diversions in the Grand Lake area. A representative of the Northern Water Colorado Conservancy District shared information with classes, as well as a member of the Grand Lake Area Historical Society, who talked about Grand Lake’s pre-diversion history. Students also learned how the mountain pine beetle epidemic affects the watershed…

West Grand sixth-graders learned how the Climax molybdenum mine has a responsibility to return clean water to the river. The class also conducted snowpack measurements and learned about the mountain pine beetle. East Grand seventh-graders toured the Fraser Ponds and learned about fish stocking from the Colorado Division of Wildlife and about riparian habitats. West Grand seventh-graders toured Muddy Creek, sampled bug life in the stream, learned about ranch irrigation, and learned of healthy soils from the Bureau of Land Management. And eighth graders from East Grand learned how chemistry is used in wastewater treatment at the Granby and Tabernash treatment plants. The classes also did water quality sampling on the Fraser River. At West Grand, eighth graders toured the Hot Sulphur water treatment plant and did water sampling on the Blue and Colorado rivers. They also learned about the water used at the Climax Mine.

More education coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Horsetooth and Carter reservoirs on the rise

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Northern Water is ending the non-charge program on Wednesday, May 11–tomorrow morning. As a result, the pump up to Carter Lake will go back on and inflows to Horsetooth Reservoir will pick up. The delivery of water through the concrete chute at the mouth of the Big Thompson Canyon will also end.

By tomorrow afternoon, upwards of 220 cfs will be flowing into Horsetooth Reservoir. Both it and Carter Lake are expected to begin rising again.

Meanwhile, the warm days over the weekend have generated a little melting snow coming into Lake Estes up in Estes Park. As a result, we have been bumping up releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River. Tonight, May 10, at midnight, releases will bump up again to about 200 cfs.

We are also updating our webpages as we move into the spring run-off season. When you visit us on-line, be sure to check the menu on the left side of the page for updates on other features around Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado Area Office. We are also tracking snow pack and reservoir levels.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Snowpack/runoff news: The Rio Grande Roundtable gets the bad news about water year 2011 runoff

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Referring to the Rio Grande and Conejos River systems, [Division of Water Resources Division 3 Division Engineer Craig Cotten] said, “We are looking at about a 75 percent of average year on both systems, roughly.”

Cotten said he is maintaining the same streamflow forecast in May as he had in April for both the Rio Grande and Conejos. He said although the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has bumped up its estimated streamflow forecast, he is maintaining a more cautious prediction. His office is looking at a preliminary annual flow on the Rio Grande at Del Norte of 480,000 acre feet, the same as predicted last month…

Of the 480,000 acre feet forecast, the Rio Grande would owe 121,000 acre feet to downstream states as obligated by the interstate Rio Grande Compact. Colorado is able to deliver much of that during the wintertime, Cotten said, so only about 10 percent of that obligation would have to be sent downstream during the irrigation season. However, because the system is seeing some return flows right now to help with the compact obligation, the current curtailment of ditches on the Rio Grande is only 6 percent, he added.

Cotten said his office is keeping the same forecast numbers for the Conejos River system as last month, although the NRCS forecast went up slightly there as well. He is looking at 240,000 acre feet annual flow on the Conejos, with 69,000 acre feet of that required to be sent downstream, or a delivery obligation of 16 percent during the irrigation season. The Conejos system is not seeing the same return flows to the rivers as the Rio Grande, so the curtailment right now is 16 percent…

Cotten also reported on the status of the Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs in New Mexico that hold the water for the Rio Grande Compact. Credit water from Colorado and New Mexico is stored in those reservoirs, for example. The reservoirs hold more than two million acre feet but right now contain a fraction of that. “They are dropping significantly every day,” Cotten said. He said there’s a good possibility that all the storage water in Elephant Butte/Caballo will be used up this year so that all that will be left will be credit water and San Juan/Chama water to keep the system going. Most of the credit water is New Mexico’s, he added.

Runoff news: Larimer and Boulder counties on flood watch

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From the Berthoud Recorder:

Flash Flood Watch issued by NWS for foothills portion of Larimer County. Snowmelting with additional rainfall on top of what has already fallen could lead to flooding issues later today. An additional 1″-1.5″ of liquid equivalent is possible through today…

Flash Flood Watch issued by NWS for foothills portion of Boulder County. Snowmelting with additional rainfall in the Fourmile burn area could lead to flooding issues later today. An additional 1″-1.50″ of liquid equivalent is possible through today.

From the Windsor Beacon (David Persons):

State officials have notified area municipalities that it’s possible the Poudre could run as fast as 6,000 cfs. That’s about 22 percent more water and would equal the volume of the April 30-May 1, 1999, flood, widely recognized as a major 10-year event for the town.

Buena Vista: PaddleFest May 27 — 29

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From The Mountain Mail:

Hosted by Colorado Kayak Supply, the weekend celebrates the start of the summer paddling season. Additional events include water education, fun competitions, the Buena Vista Pro/Am Rodeo, beer gardens, live music, and movie premieres. Water events include free stand up paddle board and kayak demonstrations, competitions for youths and adults, and high caliber educational on-water courses. Competitions and river demonstrations will be at South Main Square. Flat water paddling events will use the town lake in McPhelemy Park…

More information is at

More whitewater coverage here.

Colorado River basin: Wildlife Commission hears water plan concerns

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife:

Colorado Wildlife Commissioners heard a day of presentations and testimony Friday as they continued to evaluate draft plans to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife resources submitted by proponents of two major transmountain diversion projects.

The public hearing came midway through the Commission’s 60-day review of mitigation and enhancement plans pertaining to Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System project and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming project. The meeting was held at the Hampton Inn and Suites on Highway 50 in Salida.

Wildlife Commission Chairman Tim Glenn said he was encouraged that Denver and Northern had incorporated additional changes to their draft plans based on public input during the past several months.

“Denver Water and Northern have listened to the concerns about impacts to fish and wildlife in the Upper Colorado River system and improved their plans in response,” Glenn said. “I think everyone’s focus is the health of these rivers and we look forward to continuing these discussions through staff during the next month.”

Ken Kehmeier, a senior aquatic biologist with the Division, presented staff’s analysis of Denver’s and Northern’s plans for mitigating impacts from the proposed projects as well as enhancing existing conditions on the impacted streams and rivers.

Following staff and public testimony, Commissioners asked for additional information about whether the mitigation plans were sufficient to protect cool water temperatures in the headwaters of the Colorado and Fraser River systems.

They questioned whether flushing flows would be adequate to rejuvenate cobble beds important for trout spawning and trout forage that have been degraded by previous water development. Commissioners said that they would like to see additional funding to help restore healthy river conditions and a legally binding agreement to ensure restoration would occur. They also suggested the Division should have an integral role in developing and managing restoration projects through the adaptive management process known as Learning by Doing.

Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project is designed to firm up the yield from its existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by enlarging Boulder’s Gross Reservoir and diverting additional water from the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue rivers.

Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project is proposing to firm up the yield from its existing water rights in the Upper Colorado River by diverting additional water to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Loveland.

In addition to the Commission’s fish and wildlife mitigation plan process, Denver Water recently announced it had reached a complex legal settlement with Grand County and 33 other groups regarding longstanding concerns about the health of the Colorado River that includes funding for aquatic habitat and development of the Learn by Doing process.

The Wildlife Commission is scheduled to make a final recommendation on the adequacy of the mitigation plans at its June meeting in Grand Junction.

“Healthy river systems are critically important to the future of this state,” Glenn said. “The Commission’s review of these projects has been lengthy and we greatly appreciate all of the input we have received on how we can best fix the river. Water projects like this have to be done right if we’re going to have healthy wildlife and a healthy tourism economy.”

Additional information regarding the Wildlife Commission’s review, including links to DOW staff evaluations of the mitigation and enhancement plans being offered by Denver Water and Northern, can be found on the Division’s web site at:

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

The commission dedicated the day solely to public commentary on two controversial transmountain water diversion projects proposed for Colorado River headwaters, and river advocates crammed the docket with impassioned pleas for assurance that the projects won’t decimate fragile fisheries such as the Fraser River, Williams Fork, Blue River and the Upper Colorado itself. They came away with none…

Representatives from Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Colorado River Landowners and Western Resource Advocates expressed concerns over the proposals by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to annually draw thousands of acre-feet more water from Windy Gap Reservoir for Front Range storage and by Denver Water to increase diversions through the Moffat Tunnel to an enlarged Gross Reservoir near Boulder…

“I see dead brown trout on the bank every year in August because the water temperatures are too high,” said rancher Ron Jones, whose Fraser River frontage merits Gold Medal designation. “If they want to take the water, then they should put the money into doing what it takes to protect the rivers.”

It’s an interesting perspective — putting the health of the rivers ahead of the perceived need for more water elsewhere. There is some money on the table dedicated to enhancement of a portion of the Colorado, but consensus holds that it’s not nearly enough. And as currently proposed, many mitigation measures are conditional upon the volume of water already diverted and stored in East Slope reservoirs, not necessarily what’s happening in the rivers it’s being drawn from.

The Wildlife Commission, meanwhile, finds itself in the compromising position of attempting to address flaws it has identified in the proposals and finding a way to enforce its stance in the next month. After that, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will have 60 days to affirm or modify the commission’s recommendation as the state’s official position.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Arkansas River basin: The Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board and Aurora Water reach agreement for a 5,000 acre-foot water swap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jeff Tucker):

The resolution, approved unanimously by the board, will allow the district to trade up to 5,000 acre-feet of water owned by the district in Twin Lakes Reservoir to Aurora for up to 5,000 acre-feet it owns and stores in Lake Pueblo…

Prior to the vote, board member Chuck Green noted that such an agreement isn’t anything new. The Pueblo Board of Water Works had a similar agreement with Aurora dating back to 1992. The metro board’s new agreement will actually replace the water works’ agreement, which expires in 2012. Pueblo West attorney Tom Mullans also noted that Aurora will pay an assessment for the number of shares of Twin Lakes water that gets traded to the metro district. Normally, Pueblo West would pay that money, which would have left the district on the hook for up to $100,000 annually, said District Manager Jack Johnston…

The metro board took a number of other water-related actions Tuesday, unanimously approving a $206,466 contract with CH2M Hill Engineers, Inc., to design a pump station to connect the Southern Delivery System to the metro district’s water treatment and distribution systems. The board also unanimously approved a resolution to participate with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s environmental analysis for its proposed excess-capacity master contract. The district’s share of the cost would be about $172,000 during the course of the study.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: A new report commissioned by The Arkansas and Metro roundtables recommends a task force to study the proposed project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The report recommends three possible ways to structure a Flaming Gorge task force:

– A stand-alone task force would build on the work of the CWCB and relate to work being done by the Interbasin Compact Committee, but remain independent to provide full attention to Flaming Gorge proposals.

– An IBCC-based task force would allow a wide selection of interests and experts to evaluate Flaming Gorge plans, as well as bring new perspectives into the discussion.

– A CWCB-based task force would focus more direct statewide attention on the project and provide more authority to conclusions reached during the discussions.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The scope of the task force was presented to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable at its meeting Wednesday by consultants Mike Hughes and Heather Bergman…

About 80 water leaders across the state were interviewed for the report, which was funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board at the request of the Arkansas and Metro basin roundtables. Under the $40,000 grant, the consultants identified the need to form a task force. They also will organize the makeup of the task force and set the first meeting, probably in late June. The approach they are leaning toward is forming a free-standing committee, since the respondents disagreed over whether the CWCB or Interbasin Compact Committee should lead the discussion.

The committee would number 17 and be a mix of state officials and various interest groups from both sides of the Continental Divide. The committee probably won’t include the proponents of two versions of a Flaming Gorge pipeline, Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million and Parker Water and Sanitation Manager Frank Jaeger, leader of the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition. It also would not have federal regulatory agencies as members. “Those people need to be in the room, but not at the table,” Bergman said…

“I think Frank Jaeger and Aaron Million need to be on the board,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which has supported Million’s plan as a way to take pressure off farm water in the state. “You have three people building the same project.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.