Drought news: USDA emergency assistance now available for southeastern Colorado farmers

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From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat:

Emergency assistance is available to farmers and ranchers in southeastern Colorado counties that have been hard-hit by drought. The assistance is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As requested by Gov. John Hickenlooper, the USDA has declared a drought-related disaster in Baca, Crowley and Otero counties. As a result, farmers in those three counties — as well as the surrounding counties of Bent, El Paso, Kiowa, Las Animas, Lincoln, Prowers and Pueblo — are eligible to be considered for the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program and Service Agency emergency loans.

Wastewater: UV disinfection system for the Englewood-Littleton plant placed on hold

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From the Littleton Independent (Tom Munds):

Littleton’s city council hired consultant CH2M HILL to do an independent evaluation of the immediate need for a UV system. The CH2M HILL report to the joint city council meeting stated the plant will eventually have to install a UV system but it doesn’t have to be done right now because the current process meets all federal and state treatment standards. The plant on South Platte River Drive provides wastewater treatment for 300,000 regional customers. It is jointly owned by the two cities so the ultimate decision to proceed with any capital project rests with the two city councils…

Paul Swaim, CH2M HILL vice president of global technology for water treatment, said future regulations probably will mandate installation of a UV process. However, he said based on evaluation of plant data from January 2009 until March 2011, the current system provides wastewater treatment that meets the 2014 standards for ammonia removal and treatment for E.coli. However, even though the current process is very complex, there appears to be a low risk of compliance failure. CH2M Hill representative Larry Schimmoller, global technology leader, water reuse, said ammonia removal is particularly complex because, at a later treatment stage, a small amount of ammonia must be mixed with chlorine to provide disinfection. Then another chemical must be added to remove the chlorine before the treated water is returned to the river. He said while the current system meets ammonia removal limits and requirement for treatment for E.coli, installation of UV disinfection would create provide a less complex treatment system and eliminates the need for chlorine use. Both men said the UV system is effective and they reported 13 of the 15 wastewater treatment plants in Colorado surveyed used UV disinfection.

More wastewater coverage here.

Runoff news: Grand County streamflows may peak again this weekend but at a lower flow than the recent peak

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

Grand County Emergency Manager Trevor Denney is breathing a cautioned sigh of relief that flooding in Grand County so far this year hasn’t caused feared property damage or safety emergencies. Warmer temperatures into the weekend created a second peak in flows, but no more spikes are expected, Denney said, barring any unanticipated heavy rains.

The Fraser River is bank full, and in a few areas has jumped out of its banks, but damage has been limited to landscaping and grass…

High flows will continue in Grand County rivers with the Colorado River at Kremmling nearly reaching the 10,000 cfs mark from the weekend’s warmer temperatures, according to measurements collected by the U.S. Geological Survey. Increased flows out of the Granby and Williams Fork reservoirs have been adding to high Colorado River flows…

The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District is releasing more water from the Granby Dam into the Colorado River. Combined releases from the dam reached around 2,200 cfs starting late last week, said Kara Lamb of the Bureau of Reclamation. System operators now plan to cut back releases out of Granby by 200 cfs per day until releases are at 1,000 cfs, she said. Granby reservoir is not yet full as water managers have been reserving storage for remaining high-elevation snowpack. But many say the upper Colorado drainage has reached its peak inflows. It’s expected the reservoir will fill by mid-July.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Mike Wiggins):

The high and swift Colorado River washed away a portion of the Riverfront Trail in Grand Junction, the latest victim of a record runoff that has stuck landowners and communities across western Colorado with expensive cleanup work…

The heat will continue to melt what little snow remains at the highest elevations and push the river levels higher, although the Colorado hit its peak earlier this month, according to Chris Cuoco, senior forecaster with the Weather Service. The Colorado River at Cameo in De Beque Canyon was at 12.6 feet early Tuesday evening and is expected to rise to 12.8 feet by Thursday morning. Flood stage is 12.5 feet.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott Condon):

Recent warm weather increased the flow of water from the upper Fryingpan River into the reservoir to about 1,300 cubic feet per second (cfs). The reclamation bureau reacted by increasing releases from the dam by 100 cfs on Monday. That bumped up the total release below the dam to 838 cfs, including Rocky Fork Creek. As of Monday evening, Ruedi was within 5,000 acre feet of filling, Lamb said. That is about 4 vertical feet from being full. Ruedi’s capacity is 102,000 acre feet.

Conservation: Denver Water’s ‘Use only what you need’ campaign has resulted in a 20% drop in consumption

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From the Huffington Post (Ryan Grenoble):

The current campaign — which gave rise to the billboards, bus signage, and installations — was launched in 2006 with a goal of 22% reduction in water use by the end of 2016. As of 2011, the campaign has reduced water use 20%. The campaign has cost an average of about $920,000 each year, for a total of $5.5 million over the past 6 years. “We serve 1.3 million people in Denver and the surrounding suburbs, and believe we have identified media vehicles and nontraditional approaches that are cost-effective, far-reaching and yield lasting impact,” said Stacy Chesney, a spokeswoman for Denver Water, told the HuffPost. “Our goal is to create a conservation culture where water is more highly utilized, where waste is frowned upon and where our citizens become ambassadors for water conservation.”

More conservation coverage here.

Flaming Gorge Task Force to be formed to study feasibility of bringing water from the Green River to Colorado’s Front Range

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The task force does not mean the state will endorse the project, or determine which of two competing plans would move ahead.

A committee met Wednesday to determine if the state has a role in simply considering the project. Although members were divided about whether the project is needed, they agreed a task force would sort out issues. “Something’s going to happen to bring more water to Colorado,” said Betty Konarski, a former Monument mayor who is representing El Paso County water users. “It’s either going to happen to you or you’re going to be part of the conversation.”

The group decided to ask the state’s nine basin roundtables, formed in 2005 to feed into the Interbasin Compact Committee, to select representatives to a task force to get grass-roots input. The committee would provide recommendations to the IBCC and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The committee also would include environmental and recreation representatives and some state water officials…

Many West Slope interests and environmental groups oppose the project because it could diminish Colorado’s allotment of water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. “We think it’s premature to talk about a big new diversion,” said Dan Birch, representing the Colorado River District…

Consultants recommended the task force start with looking at interest within Colorado for the project in the first phase. In a second phase, the task force would look at threshold issues of hydrology, legality or financing that would be barriers to the project. Finally, in the third phase, questions of design and mitigation, as well as comparison to other projects would be addressed.

The task force would apparently be free to determine its own agenda, however. A grant to fund the task force will be requested next month, and roundtables will begin considering whether to participate.

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

The yet-to-be-named task force likely would meet for the first time late in the fall, said Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Any development of a significant project like this is going to take dialogue,” he said. “This is the first step for that dialogue to take place.”[…]

The idea of the task force is to answer one question: Does the state resolve the environmental problems with a Flaming Gorge pipeline and its conflicts with Western Slope water interests in a public deliberation process, or should the Army Corps of Engineers or other federal agency answer those questions in an environmental assessment of the project? said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University…

[Aaron] Million was invited to the meeting, but did not attend. He could not be reached for comment. Waskom said it was probably a smart strategy on Million’s part to avoid the meeting to avoid being a lightning rod.

At the meeting, Western Slope water interests said they are concerned that a Flaming Gorge pipeline may not be legal and it could deplete however much water is available in the Colorado River Basin to be used for agriculture and urban growth. “This task force feels like the beginning of a big push for a big trans-Continental Divide diversion to happen,” said Rio Blanco County Commissioner Kai Turner.

“A project proponent can’t go out there in this day and age, identify a project and just go do it,” said Dan Birch of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which opposes Million’s project. He added that the decision process about such a pipeline needs to involve water interests from across Colorado…

“Million’s pipeline is a big, bad idea and a huge distraction for the state,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “Instead of pouring precious time and resources into studying this pipedream, Colorado should focus on the many pragmatic, cost-effective and truly collaborative ideas closer to home that could meet future water needs while protecting our environment.”

From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

In making the decision Wednesday, Colorado water officials said the group could help sort out issues and concerns. The task force wouldn’t necessarily endorse any project and would include representatives of environmental, recreation and agricultural interests.

Some conservationists and Western Slope water officials had questioned forming a task force when it’s not clear how much water is available under multistate compacts to divert.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: Reclamation is turning back releases to meet a mid-July target flow of 2,100 cfs

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

As the runoff continues to subside, Reclamation believes it is necessary to further reduce flows in the Gunnison River below the Aspinall Unit. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center is showing inflow to Blue Mesa continuing to drop from the current level of around 5,000 cfs to 2,100 cfs by mid July. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users, who had reduced diversions through the Gunnison Tunnel a week ago because the Uncompahgre River was filling their needs, are now in need of filling the Tunnel. To facilitate the filling of Blue Mesa Reservoir, Reclamation will not be matching their increased diversions, which will take place starting on Thursday, June 30th, with increased releases from the Aspinall Unit. This will result in a flow reduction in the Gunnison River of approximately 200 cfs bringing flows in the Canyon and Gorge to around 1,100 cfs as measured at the gage below the Gunnison Tunnel. We know this is inconsistent with information previously provided, but hydrologic conditions are constantly changing and we must react to current circumstances and forecasts.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: The Boustead Tunnel is running full and Ruedi should fill over the holiday weekend so Reclamation is bumping releases to the Fryingpan River

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The heat, the lingering snow pack and the resulting nightly inflow peaks to Ruedi Reservoir could make for an interesting holiday weekend.

We anticipate that over the July 4th weekend, we will finish the fill at Ruedi. However, inflows at night are not ebbing off. Instead, the heat is bringing more of the high mountain snow pack on downstream. While we are diverting a full Boustead Tunnel to Turquoise Reservoir near Leadville for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a significant amount of snow melt run-off is still coming into Ruedi, peaking at night around 1300 cfs.

Consequently, to try and stay ahead of the peaks while we still have some space in the reservoir, today we bumped releases up another 50 cfs. After this afternoon, the gage below the dam will read about 883 cfs. However, once the reservoir fills, we will have to send on downstream whatever nightly inflow peaks the reservoir receives.

We are coordinating with the Town of Basalt and local responders just in case we have releases over 950 cfs.

More Fryingpan-Arkasas Project coverage here.