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.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Aspen plans to draw down Thomas Reservoir this summer for construction of new outlet and penstock

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From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

Beginning in July, the city will empty the reservoir, which stores water for the municipal water treatment plant on Doolittle Drive. It will remain dry for about three months, said Dave Hornbacher, the city’s deputy director of utilities and environmental initiatives…

Most of the $2.3 million 42-inch pipeline, running from the reservoir to the site of the proposed plant, was constructed last summer and fall. Crews still need to install the final 200 feet of pipe leading up to the earthen dam. They will then bore through the dam, build an intake structure and hook up the pipe. The state of Colorado’s Division of Water Resources granted a permit for the work this spring. That permit also requires the city to upgrade a spillway on the east side of the reservoir, so there will be even more capacity to release water form the reservoir in case levels rise too high.

The pipeline is a crucial part of the city’s proposed hydroelectric plant. Voters in 2007 approved $5.5 million in bonds — with a maximum repayment of $10.7 million — to build the plant, which would be located under the Castle Creek Bridge. The pipeline would feed up to 52 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water into a turbine, generating up to 8 percent of the municipal utility’s electricity needs.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Dolores River watershed: Montezuma Valley Irrigation shareholders decline the opportunity to lease water for lower Dolores River conservation efforts

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From the Cortez Journal (Reid Wright):

Stockholders turned out in droves, lining up out the door of the Lewis-Arriola Community Center. A total of 19,566 votes were cast, with 6,052, or 31 percent, votes for the proposed agreement and 13,514, or 69 percent, votes against…

MVI General Manager Don Magnuson told the stockholders before the vote the money could be used to encase MVI canals in pipe – thus reducing the amount of water lost to leaks. Prime candidates were the Garnett Ridge, Goodland Lateral, Big Corkscew, Lower Corkscrew and Lower Arickaree canals. A previous irrigation pipe project saves an estimated 1,500 acre-feet in water annually, Magnuson said. “We’ve got a lot of canals out there that need major work,” he said.

Magnuson told shareholders the impact on their water claims could range from no impact – since shareholders often do not use their entire allocation in a year – to two acre-inches per share annually, even in a time of drought. But after the drought of 2002, which left reservoir levels precariously low, MVIC shareholders – comprising mostly farmers and ranchers – expressed a reluctance to part with their water during a May 5 meeting. They also feared any revenues gained from the agreement would be lost to bureaucracy or loan debt.

The company holds senior water rights in McPhee, Narraguinnep and Groundhog reservoirs, and manages irrigation water for much of Montezuma and Dolores counties.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here.

Runoff/snowpack news: Many eyes are on the Yampa River

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From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

He has been looking at river water depth information available on the National Weather Service in Grand Junction website. On Tuesday, the site showed that the Yampa River was running at about 4.75 feet through Steamboat Springs. The forecast calls for it to remain at that level or lower through Sunday…

Flood stage for the Yampa is 7.5 feet. The moderate flood stage is 8.5 feet, and the major stage is 9.5 feet. The Elk River has gotten above 7 feet but has not yet reached the first flood stage of 7.5 feet. Like the Yampa, the Elk is expected to remain at its current level of 6.6 feet or lower through Sunday…

Earlier this month, the Tower measuring site at 10,500 feet on the summit of Buffalo Pass hit an all-time record, not just for that location but for Colorado. The snowpack held the equivalent of 72.6 inches of water, and that number has grown. But has it peaked? There was 74.2 inches of water measured at the site Saturday and Sunday. On Tuesday, it was measured at 73.9 inches.

Meanwhile Denver Water has started releasing from Dillon Reservoir in anticipation of the runoff. Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

As of May 20, the reservoir was at an elevation 8997.73 feet, about 20 feet below full and one of the lowest levels on record for this date. In On this date in 1995, after another big winter, the reservoir was about two feet lower, at 8995.26 feet. Despite the precautionary drawdown that year, Summit County still experienced some significant flooding around Father’s Day, when Valley Brook Road, in Breckenridge, washed out, and high water inundated some basements and septic systems in the Blue River area, south of Breckenridge.

No surprise, some of the lowest reservoir levels recorded have come after big droughts. In March of 2003, the water level was all the way down to 8960.86 feet, about 57 feet below full pool. And the lowest reading Steger found in his records was on April 29, 1978, when the reservoir dropped all the way to 8,952.73 feet after the 1976-’77 drought that spurred Colorado ski resorts to ramp up snowmaking.

As of May 19, the snowpack in the Blue River Basin was at an extraordinary 221 percent of average. Assistant county manager Thad Noll said local officials are prepping for high water and keeping an eye on some of the usual creekside spots, including neighborhoods alongside North Tenmile Creek in Frisco, and especially the Upper Blue.

Energy policy — nuclear: Senator Bennet urges caution in developing uranium resources at the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

“I support careful EPA oversight of the entire permitting process and any subsequent operation of this mill,” [Senator Bennet’s] letter to Jim Martin, the EPA’s regional administrator, reads. “Any and all EPA analysis needs to ensure a safe, environmentally responsible and balanced approach to the potential development of this natural resource.”

“It’s a voice that equals hundreds or thousands of smaller voices,” said San Miguel County Commissioner Joan May. “They’ll listen when he speaks.”

Earlier this winter, the CDPHE issued a radioactive materials license, effectively permitting the project, to be built 60 miles west of Telluride just outside of Paradox, Colo.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Storage update: The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District allocation to agriculture is 60,000 acre-feet

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District allocated nearly 60,000 acre-feet of water to agriculture at its meeting Thursday. The water will supplement flows on 150,000 acres of farmland and could save crops later in the season. Much of the Lower Arkansas Valley remains in a drought that began 9 months ago. The board also allocated almost 18,000 acre-feet of agricultural return flows, which mostly will be used for well augmentation. The water comes with a caution: The snowpack may melt too fast to capture the anticipated water. So, only 80 percent will be allocated, with the rest arriving in midsummer, when the picture becomes clearer…

With municipal water storage accounts near the brim, however, the cities have asked for only about 60 percent of the water they could have. The Pueblo Board of Water Works did not take a Fry-Ark allocation this year, and is actually leasing some of the water it has to farmers. Colorado Springs also is passing on some of the water it could claim. Even in the Lower Arkansas Valley, one of the driest parts of the state, municipal and domestic water providers only requested about two-thirds of the water to which they are entitled.

More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.