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.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 1,800 cfs in the Blue River below Green Mountain Dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Tomorrow, Thursday June 30, we will be increasing the releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We will be bumping up to 1800 cfs. This change will be made in two stages; the first increase of about 150 cfs will be in the morning. The second increase of another 150 cfs will be in the afternoon. The 1800 cfs release will most likely be in place through the 4th of July holiday weekend.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

With the high temperatures the last few days, nightly inflows to Lake Estes have been up and down. Peaks to Lake Estes continue to fluctuate between 900-1300 cfs. As a result, we are adjusting the release from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson Canyon about every other day. Late tonight, June 29, releases to the canyon will jump up from 650 cfs to 790 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

USGS: ‘Simulating the Potential Effects of Climate Change in Two Colorado Basins and at Two Colorado Ski Areas’

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Here’s the link to the report from the United States Geological Survey (William Battaglin/Lauren Hay/Steve Markstrom). Here’s the abstract:

The mountainous areas of Colorado are used for tourism and recreation, and they provide water storage and supply for municipalities, industries, and agriculture. Recent studies suggest that water supply and tourist industries such as skiing are at risk from climate change. In this study, a distributed-parameter watershed model, the Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System (PRMS), is used to identify the potential effects of future climate on hydrologic conditions for two Colorado basins, the East River at Almont and the Yampa River at Steamboat Springs, and at the subbasin scale for two ski areas within those basins.

Climate-change input files for PRMS were generated by modifying daily PRMS precipitation and temperature inputs with mean monthly climate-change fields of precipitation and temperature derived from five general circulation model (GCM) simulations using one current and three future carbon emission scenarios. All GCM simulations of mean daily minimum and maximum air temperature for the East and Yampa River basins indicate a relatively steady increase of up to several degrees Celsius from baseline conditions by 2094. GCM simulations of precipi- tation in the two basins indicate little change or trend in precipitation, but there is a large range associated with these projections. PRMS projections of basin mean daily streamflow vary by scenario but indicate a central tendency toward slight decreases, with a large range associated with these projections.

Decreases in water content or changes in the spatial extent of snowpack in the East and Yampa River basins are important because of potential adverse effects on water supply and recreational activities. PRMS projections of each future scenario indicate a central tendency for decreases in basin mean snow-covered area and snowpack water equivalent, with the range in the projected decreases increasing with time. However, when examined on a monthly basis, the projected decreases are most dramatic during fall and spring. Presumably, ski area locations are picked because of a tendency to receive snow and keep snowpack relative to the sur- rounding area. This effect of ski area location within the basin was examined by comparing projections of March snow-covered area and snowpack water equiv- alent for the entire basin with more local projections for the portion of the basin that represents the ski area in the PRMS models. These projections indicate a steady decrease in March snow-covered area for the basins but only small changes in March snow-covered area at both ski areas for the three future sce- narios until around 2050. After 2050, larger decreases are possible, but there is a large range in the projections of future scenarios. The rates of decrease for snow- pack water equivalent and precipitation that falls as snow are similar at the basin and subbasin scale in both basins. Results from this modeling effort show that there is a wide range of possible outcomes for future snowpack conditions in Colorado. The results also highlight the differences between projections for entire basins and projections for local areas or subbasins within those basins.

More USGS coverage here.

Energy policy hydroelectric: Aspen’s proposed generation plant update — city utilities is asking council for $1.02 million budget increase

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From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

The original project budget in 2007 was $6.19 million. An analysis of city records shows that increases in the budget for the pipeline makes up $1.19 million of the difference between the 2007 budget at the current requested budget authority.

The pipeline, which was mostly constructed last summer, would feed up to 52-cubic-feet per second of water into a hydroelectric generator located in the proposed “energy center” under the Castle Creek Bridge. The pipeline was originally budgeted for $1.9 million, meaning it’s cost have risen by about one-third. The city is also installing the pipeline as a precautionary measure, as it can serve as an “emergency drainline” to empty the reservoir should it ever get too full. Thomas Reservoir stores water for the municipal consumption and is located above the water treatment plant on Doolittle Drive, near the Aspen Valley Hospital.

The cost of the pipeline increased because of challenges encountered during construction, city utilities director David Hornbacher said. The alignment had to be rerouted numerous times to get around utility lines the city didn’t know were there, and the work had to be modified as required by a state permit, he said…

While most of the hydro plant’s budget overruns to date have been driven by hard costs, the big variable in ongoing expenditures is the federal permitting process.

The city recently said it would withdraw its controversial “conduit exemption” application in favor of going for the more standard small project license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The conduit exemption — which would have required a less-stringent environmental review — was based on the premise that the plant would be part of the municipal water system because it would be attached to the pipe ostensibly put in to drain Thomas Reservoir.

The FERC license requires an environmental assessment, requiring more time and money than the city had originally planned. The formal license application is expected to be submitted this summer.

More coverage from Andre Salvali writing for The Aspen Times. From the article:

“I’ve been in Aspen long enough to know the truism, ‘to delay is to deny,’ ” Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said, in reference to one speaker’s idea that the city should switch gears and explore other ways of tackling the project.

“I think there are opponents of this project who absolutely, under no circumstance, want to see it happen. The strategy in Aspen has traditionally been, ‘Well, we’ll get a new council in two years and we’ll get a new outcome.’ And we have had things in Aspen that should have been done 30 or 40 years ago because of the strategy of delay.”

Ireland and others were participating in “Hydropower in Aspen” at the Aspen Institute’s Paepcke Building. The presentation and panel discussion, which allowed questions from the audience, was hosted by the Western Rivers Institute, a Carbondale-based nonprofit that advocates healthy rivers and ecologically responsible development of hydropower…

Earlier in the forum, Ireland said the city’s plans respect the ecosystems of Castle and Maroon creeks. He said the renewable-energy project will be another way in which Aspen sets an example for other communities by working to reduce the carbon footprint and its dependency on coal-generated power.

More hydroelectric 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 via the Colorado Climate Center. Here’s a preview:

of the major
reservoirs in
the UCRB
have experienced rapid storage
Daily inflows into Flaming
Gorge, Blue
Mesa, and
Powell are
all well
above their averages
this time of year.
Inflows into
have dipped below their
Powell has
increases in
now at 80 of
average. It is
that Lake Powell’s elevation
will continue to
July — projected
levels would
October 2001.

Runoff news: The north and south forks of the St. Vrain River are closed to tubing

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From the Longmont Times-Call:

The closure will took effect at 8 a.m Tuesday, and encompasses the North Saint Vrain River from Apple Valley Road at County Road 71 through the Town of Lyons, and the South Saint Vrain from Old South St. Vrain Road to the confluence with the North Saint Vrain to the Lyons eastern town limit…The closure includes watercraft such as rafts, belly boats, and inner tubes from floating in the river. Violations of the closure are a class 2 petty offense and can result in a $50.00 fine. There is a specific exemption for kayaks and whitewater canoes, which are permitted.

Southern Delivery System update: Crews are busy constructing the outlet works from Pueblo Dam

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Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through for the before and after construction photos. Here’s a excerpt:

A 75-foot hole is being dug down to bedrock in the narrow shale arroyo below where the North Outlet Works will be installed later this year. Much of the work is within the federal security boundary that protects the dam, so workers are under 24-hour surveillance by armed guards. To the south, water is gushing mightily out of all three outlets on the face of the dam. The workers are protected by a coffer dam made from more than 300 giant bags, each filled with 2 tons of sand. It seems safe enough, although work already is about 35 feet below the water level and getting deeper. Soon, a ramp will be built to get equipment in and out. For now, if the coffer dam should fail, a 220-ton crane is standing by to pluck out the track hoe and loader in the hole. For the workers, it would mean a mad dash for a ladder that leads to safety…

“We found a buffalo skull,” said MWH engineer Greg Minnick, when asked whether anything unusual has been encountered. “Other than that, just a lot of wet dirt.”[…]

The digging at the base of the dam should be complete by early July. About 6,000 cubic yards of material will have been removed. About 350 to 400 truckloads of concrete will be placed in the hole to form an apron about 30 feet from the dam. The rest of the area will be back-filled. Minnick said about 15 to 16 trucks a day will come to the site, pouring in the early morning hours to take advantage of lower temperatures. That work should be finished in August. After that, a stainless steel sleeve will be placed inside the dam outlet. It will connect to a Y-shaped pipe that will supply both the river — at the same rate as the old outlet did — and the Juniper Pump Station to be built about one-quarter mile to the northeast. The first section of pipe from the North Outlet Works will taper out to a maximum of 90 inches in diameter, separating into a 48-inch line that will supply Pueblo West with up to 18 million gallons of water daily, and a 66-inch line that will deliver up to 78 million gallons daily to El Paso County. Part of that pipe will have to be installed through the rocky formations at the base of the dam, and engineers are now working on a design and work plan to do that without causing vibrations that could disturb the dam, Tunnah said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Steamboat Springs: $1.1 million sanitary sewer project on schedule

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From Steamboat Today:

The more than $1.1 million project to replace century-old clay sanitary sewer pipes with new pipes, while also installing a new storm sewer from 10th Street to Fourth Street, started May 16 and is expected to be complete Aug. 1. “We’re pretty much right on schedule with the whole project,” Steamboat Public Works Director Philo Shelton said. “Obviously, we’ve had a good run of weather.” Shelton said Native Excavating crews have reached Sixth Street. The project is being done two blocks at a time…

The project is being paid for through an $11.9 million loan, bonds issued by the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, to fund infrastructure projects during the next two to three years. Shelton said other projects include a water main replacement at 13th Street that will take place this fall and construction of a 1 million gallon water storage tank for the west side of Steamboat next year. The bonds will be repaid through revenue from the city’s utility fund, which includes a multiyear increase to water and sewer rates that the City Council approved in September, Steamboat Finance Director Deb Hinsvark said.

More wastewater coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Reclamation and Northern Water are curtailing releases from Granby Reservoir to top it off

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

It is starting to look like we may have seen the peak of snow melt run-off inflow into the Three Lakes Area. As a result today, June 28, we and Northern Water have agreed to begin curtailing releases from Granby Dam to the Colorado River.

Earlier today, releases from the dam were as high as 2200 cfs. Starting this afternoon, we will cut releases back by 200 cfs a day until the release from the dam reaches about 1000 cfs. The reduced releases will speed the filling of Lake Granby.

Click here to view the cool video — shot by Tonya Bina who writes for the Sky-Hi Daily News — of the spill at Granby Reservoir from last week.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Forecasts are showing that snow melt run-off inflows into Lake Estes from the Big Thompson River are likely to drop off tonight. As a result, we’ll be cutting back our releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson Canyon by about 40 cfs later tonight.

Around midnight tonight, June 28, releases from the dam to the canyon will drop to about 650 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Pitkin County: Hope Mine restoration project update

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From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

Hints of possible success poked through the landscape this spring, where three cameras are snapping photos every three hours while there’s daylight, capturing what will become time-lapse footage of native grasses taking hold in the challenging landscape. Or not. Though pockets of green dot the expansive tailings pile now, it’s too early to predict any lasting success, according to the man keeping close tabs on the vegetation’s progress. “The next question is how these seedlings will survive in the next few months, over the heat of the summer,” said Morgan Williams, executive director of the Flux Farm Foundation. The organization has an interest in a broader application of the methods used at the Hope Mine — advancing the viability of agriculture in the West…

On the flat area atop the tailings pile, thick grass has filled in among dandelions. The steepest slopes of the pile are showing the least amount of new growth, but other areas are greener, and 42 test plots on a more gently sloping area of the mine waste are producing even more telling results. Revegetating the tailings pile involved the placement of biodegradable netting to hold the application in place; it was covered by a seed mix, compost, biochar, hydromulch and naturally occurring mycorrhizal fungi, which help plant roots take in nutrients, particularly in sterile soils. Most of the pile received the same treatment, but in the 7-by-7-foot test plots, each delineated with orange flags poking upward among the grasses, the mix of components is varied. The idea is to identify the optimal mixture, Williams explained. Already, some plots are faring better than others. On test plots that received no application of the growth mixture, the difference is startling. They are essentially bare…

So far, Williams has noted a considerable difference in the condition of the test plots that contain biochar versus those that don’t. On a recent afternoon, with the sun baking the southwest-facing slope, the soil temperature in one test plot treated with biochar was 58 degrees. It’s moisture level stood at 12 percent. Six feet away, on a plot that had not received any application, the soil temperature was 79 degrees and the moisture content was 3 percent. While the monitoring of the Hope Mine reclamation is ongoing, Williams is already a believer in biochar, joining Denver-based soil scientist Andrew Harley in a business venture, Biochar Solutions Inc. Harley was a consultant on the Hope Mine project…

The public will have a chance to see the reclamation project on July 23, during a field trip to the Hope Mine hosted by For the Forest and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. The cost is $15 for ACES members and $20 for non-members. Go to www.aspennature.org/programs/summer-fall/adults to register and for more information.

More restoration coverage here.

Brighton: New Metro Wastewater Reclamation District wastewater treatment plant update

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From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

The site is just west of U.S. 85 and Weld County Road 2 and was purchased by the district this year for $12 million. Officials say the new plant will treat between 22 million and 26 million gallons of water per day for at least a decade when it opens in the fall of 2015. Construction is set to start next spring.

The new plant will eliminate seven lift stations in seven neighborhoods and the need for complicated and expensive repairs to existing plants.

More wastewater coverage here.

Runoff news: Elk River expected to peak (again) Thursday

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From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

The National Weather Service is predicting that the higher temperatures forecast for Steamboat Springs this week will cause rivers to rise again, bringing the Elk River near Milner above flood stage during its peak later in the week. The Elk was running at just under its flood stage of 7.5 feet at about noon Sunday, and it briefly rose above it to 7.64 feet early Saturday. Hydrologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association have forecast the river to peak at about 8 feet early Thursday. Their forecast is weather dependent and is not as dependable as a short-term prediction…

Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said Sunday that rivers and streams in the area should flow steadily around their current levels this week until they begin a slow, gradual decline heading into July. The Elk was flowing at 5,370 cubic feet per second Sunday afternoon, well below its peak of 7,000 cfs a couple of weeks ago. However, hydrologists at the National Weather Service are forecasting that the flow could increase to 7,810 cfs briefly when the river is forecast to reach a peak of 8 feet early Friday near Milner. After that, the Elk and the Yampa are expected to gradually recede…

He said the Yampa is peaking between 11:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. and isn’t expected to rise above its action stage of 7 feet this week. The river is forecast to peak in Steamboat at 6.6 feet at about midnight Thursday…

The continued elevated river flows of the Yampa in town caused the Routt County Sheriff’s Office to forbid recreational floating in single-chamber inflatable boats — which includes inner tubes — until July.

From The Greeley Tribune:

The flood advisory for the Poudre River issued by the National Weather Service in Denver remains in effect as water levels rise. The advisory notes that temperatures will climb above seasonal norms, prompting very high flows on the Poudre through next week. A flow between 3,500 and 4,500 cubic feet per second in Greeley could cause flooding in some areas. Last year’s flooding topped out at 4,770 cfs. Greeley’s river depths hit just over 7.5 feet this morning [June 25] with the river topping out at 1,880 cfs at 7:30 a.m.

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From the Canyon Courier (Vicky Gits):

Despite statewide reports of snowpack levels well above average for 2011, the Upper Bear Creek Watershed is flowing at about half of average this year due to an unfavorable snow pattern that affected the east slope of Mount Evans. “We have never, ever been this out of whack with the rest of the state before,” said Gerry Schulte, general manager of the Evergreen Metro District for 29 years.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado and Cotter, Corp don’t agree on cleanup at the Schwartzwalder Mine in the Ralston Creek watershed

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Cotter has filed a lawsuit challenging the state order…

State mining regulators “continue to coordinate closely with CDPHE in reviewing and monitoring on-site activities, as well as ensuring environmental protections are in place to protect drinking water supplies,” Pineda said. “Cotter has submitted a proposal to install a bypass that would divert ground and surface water around the mine, and the company is continuing to provide DRMS with information needed to fully review this proposal.”

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Meanwhile, Cotter has received permission to use an impoundment pond that the state of Colorado claims leaks, according to a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

The tailings impoundment at Cotter is about 157 acres and includes two retention areas. One is closed and contains about 2 million cubic yards of material. The second area is open and receiving materials related to the mill demolition, including the 90,000 gallons of sludge. It contains about 2 million cubic yards of material and is about half full, according to the health department. Cotter’s vice president for milling operations, John Hamrick, said the sludge is about 95 percent kerosene, used to process uranium. Before the sludge is moved to the impoundment, it will be mixed with another material. “It’s like kitty litter,” Hamrick said Monday. “It becomes a solid.”

Eventually, new sludge and solvents dumped into the leaky impoundment will be neutralized, health department spokeswoman Jeannine Natterman said. “More contamination is not going into that (Cañon City) area.” Hamrick said Cotter disputes the health department’s assessment of the impoundment. “We disagree with the state, that the impoundments are leaking,” he said…

Toxic plumes have been detected moving underground toward Cañon City and the Arkansas River. Most recently, officials disclosed that the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene has been detected in groundwater at concentrations up to 360 times federal health limits.
“It has been confirmed that no trichlroethylene has gotten into Lincoln Park (neighborhood in Cañon City),” Natterman said. Cotter officials “are still poking holes, taking samples” to characterize that plume, she said. “Cotter is responsible for all the sampling and analysis. All data have to be quality-controlled by us.”

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge Task Force is meeting Wednesday in Silverthorne

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The meeting is being organized by Peak Facilitation Group and the Keystone Center under a Colorado Water Conservation Board grant requested by the Arkansas Basin and Metro roundtables. The task force would study whether a plan by Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million would be a viable solution to Colorado’s projected municipal water gap. Million proposes building a pipeline more than 575 miles down the Interstate 80 corridor, with reservoirs near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs…

“We’ll do everything we can to collaborate with a state task force,” [Aaron] Million said Monday.

A competing plan has been suggested by the South Metro Water Authority, but is still in the study phase. It is a collaboration among communities in Colorado and Wyoming being led by Frank Jaeger, manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District.

The project already has met opposition from Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited and the Colorado River District. “I believe that moving forward with a stakeholder dialogue at this time makes no sense,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the district said in a May memo. “It will divert attention and resources from more realistic solutions.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project coverage here.

Drought news: Governor Hickenlooper is asking for more federal dough for Colorado’s dryest counties

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Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office (Eric Brown/Megan Castle):

Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter today to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting drought assistance for nine additional counties.

“As the drought situation in southern Colorado continues to worsen, I am forced to request secretarial disaster designation for nine additional counties,” the governor’s letter said.

Bent, Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Kiowa, Las Animas, Prowers and Pueblo counties have asked Hickenlooper to seek the federal assistance and be declared primary drought disaster areas. The declaration, if approved, would allow farmers and ranchers to apply for emergency loans if they are unable to obtain credit elsewhere.

The letter also requests disaster assistance for apple producers in Fremont County which lost 60 percent of their crop due to freezes occurring April 28 through May 1, 2011.

Also today, Secretary Vilsack approved Gov. Hickenlooper’s June 16 request for drought disaster relief for Baca, Crowley and Otero counties.

More drought coverage from Anthony A. Mestas writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

On Monday, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., announced that farmers and ranchers will receive emergency assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture…

The declaration allows farmers and ranchers to apply for emergency loans if they are unable to obtain credit elsewhere. Drought designation also enables ranchers who cannot find pasture for their cattle to sell all or part of their herds without having to pay capital gains taxes for five years, giving them time to replenish their herds when pasture is available…

Bent, Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Kiowa, Las Animas, Prowers and Pueblo counties have asked Hickenlooper to seek the federal assistance and be declared primary drought disaster areas. The declaration, if approved, would allow farmers and ranchers to apply for emergency loans if they are unable to obtain credit elsewhere. The letter also requests disaster assistance for apple producers in Fremont County, who lost 60 percent of their crop due to freezes occurring April 28 through May 1…

Udall said ranchers in several Southeastern Colorado counties also are eligible for emergency grazing through Sept. 30 on land set aside through the Conservation Reserve Program.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 690 cfs in the Big Thompson River below Olympus Dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We’re anticipating that we’ll see high inflows again tonight into Lake Estes as the heat continues. Last night, inflows got to about 1200 cfs.

Consequently, we are bumping up releases from Olympus Dam on Lake Estes to the Big Thompson Canyon. We are bumping up in two steps. The first will be tonight/tomorrow morning at midnight. We’ll go up to 600 cfs–an increase of about 100 cfs. An hour later, at 1 a.m., we’ll go up another 90 cfs.

The resulting flow at the top of the canyon will be around 690 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: 838 cfs in the Fryingpan River below Ruedi Dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

With the heat, we saw inflows into Ruedi bump up last night to what they were a couple weeks ago, back around 1300 cfs. With the reservoir nearing full and more snow still to come, we are bumping releases up another 100 cfs today.

As usual, the changes are being made in 50 cfs increments. The first change was at noon. The second change will be in about an hour around 6 p.m. After both changes are complete, there should be about 838 cfs by the Ruedi gage below Ruedi Dam. This includes about 65 cfs coming down the Rocky Fork.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Yuma: No drinking water violations in more than ten years

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From the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

Yuma tests for bacterial infections each month, while other items are tested once per year, and yet others every three years. The schedule stays that way unless a problem arises, then more frequent testing is done as steps are made to rectify the situation. “We’re in really good shape here in regards to our drinking water,” Strait said earlier this week…

Yuma has not had a drinking water violation in well over 10 years. Yuma’s drinking water report did show that there was at least one water well close to the arsenic standard of 10 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency changed the standard from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion several years ago. Eckley and Sterling are among the municipalities that have spent big dollars having to upgrade their water systems because they were out of compliance with the new standard. It also is why Yuma had to shut off its Fairgrounds Well — it consistently tested at 11-12 parts per billion. The Hansen Well at the south end of town comes close to the standard, but so far has stayed just below it at nine parts per billion.

The city of Yuma purchased two new wells a few years ago from farmers on the edge of town, so the city’s water supply actually is more than it was before the Fairgrounds Well was shut off. The town could afford to shut off one more well, but would have to take more drastic and expensive measures if more wells tested above the standard…

With this being an agricultural area, Yuma officials also closely watch for nitrate levels. However, that has not even been close to a problem. The latest round of tests showed Yuma’s wells in the range of 2.9 to 3.7 parts per million in nitrate, well below the health standard of 10 parts per million…

Sanderson noted before the interview was done that the City of Yuma maintains 1 million gallons of water storage, two square miles or 33 linear miles of water pipe, 150-some fire hydrants and 200-some valves, all while utility customers enjoy a water rate that is 60 percent below the state average.

More Republican River basin coverage here.

Telluride: Cornet Creek flood mitigation will help but not prevent flooding

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From The Telluride Watch (Thomas Wirth):

People need to realize, [Karen Guglielmone] said, that in the event of a major event, “pretty much the entire town is in the Cornet Creek floodplain.”

Guglielmone, who is the town’s project manager, went on to update council on the work completed to mitigate flood damage potential since the 2007 “event.” The long list included repair and replacement of culverts and bridges, channel and bank work and repair within the creek, streetscape improvements, ongoing maintenance to keep the creek and culverts free of excessive sediment and debris, and continuing work with San Miguel County to establish emergency response protocols.

Future priorities would look much the same, Guglielmone said, including the replacement of the Cornet Creek Pedestrian Bridge and engineering studies. The suggested studies would focus on a structural analysis of the Cornet Aspen Street berm, a debris cachement system and the feasibility of an early warning system. Of the three, council was most critical of the EWS.

Guglielmone explained that, while EWS systems are improving, there is still the chance of them falling prey to the “cry wolf” syndrome, where false alerts lead to people ignoring alerts altogether. Council as a group seemed to agree that the five minutes of warning that such a system might provide was probably not worth the effort and expense…

Regardless of maintenance and preventative measures, flooding is by its very nature destructive and unpredictable. Town Attorney Kevin Geiger pointed out that no government entity could warranty private property owners against the effects of a flood. Whatever work is done, he said, Cornet Creek would “not be able to handle the bigger events that have and will overwhelm the creek.”

“Risk never goes away,” Guglielmone agreed. The reduction of those risks is a priority of the Public Works Department, she explained. Individual flood insurance, proper zoning, structures such as culverts, bridges and berms, and contingency and response plans are all tools used to reduce the effects of flooding.

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here.

Flaming Gorge Task Force is meeting Wednesday in Silverthorne

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From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Denver Post:

Officials representing Colorado river basins meet Wednesday to consider forming a task force that would study proposals to build a water pipeline from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir to serve Colorado cities.

Some conservationists say it’s a waste of time.

Western Resource Advocates and other groups say no one knows if Colorado River compacts allow the state to divert as much water as some have proposed. Until they do, there’s no sense spending time and money to study plans to tap the reservoir, they say…

Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District, notes multistate compacts limit how much water Colorado can use from the river basin. “We have no idea whether or not Colorado River water is available for this project under the 1922 and 1948 compacts,” he wrote in a memo addressing Million’s proposal.

“This proposal may burst through the ceiling of what is left to develop statewide” in Colorado, said Bart Miller, water program director for Western Resource Advocates…

Last month, independent reviewers contracted by water officials concluded that a task force to review potential Flaming Gorge diversions would be valuable. Public documents show $45,000 was requested for that study. Representatives of Colorado’s river basin roundtables are meeting Wednesday in Silverthorne to decide whether to form the task force. Agricultural, environmental and recreational interests have been invited to attend.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project coverage here.

Colorado State’s Public Lands History Center to Create Online Exhibit of Agricultural Water Use Along Poudre River

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Here’s the release from Colorado State Universtity (Kimberly Sorensen):

The Public Lands History Center at Colorado State University received funding from the Colorado Agricultural Research Station to create an educational website that will describe the history of agricultural water organizations along the Cache La Poudre River. The website will incorporate primary sources from the CSU Morgan Library’s Water Resources Archive.

Using information and sources gathered from local experts, agricultural and water-related organizations and archives, the website will offer detailed historical information and research pertaining to the shift of water from rural-agricultural to urban and industrial uses in northern Colorado.

“This educational website has the potential to elevate the quality of debate about local water use by improving community understanding of the historical and ongoing interdependence of agricultural and urban communities in the region,” said Maren Bzdek, website project manager.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, irrigation development on the Cache La Poudre River was a model for the development of legal administration of water rights in the American West and contributed to Colorado’s prominence in the advancement of agricultural water rights and regulation. More recently, northern Colorado has been recognized as a main location for negotiations associated with the pressure of urbanization on agricultural water supplies, drought and water quality problems and the search for the most equitable and efficient technologies, organizational forms and conservation practices.

In addition to primary documents obtained from CSU’s Morgan Library, the website will also include historical narratives, biographical sketches, timelines, bibliographies and maps. The Public Lands History Center hopes that the development of this website will raise historical literacy about the complex connections between agriculture, urban-industrial development and population growth in this semi-arid region.

For more information about CSU’s Public Lands History Center, visit www.publiclands.colostate.edu.

McPhee and Jackson reservoirs end of May status report

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From the Cortez Journal:

Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 9,977 acre-feet with a 9,977 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 9,296 acre-feet average (1971-2000) end-of-month content. At Jackson Gulch, a daily maximum/minimum of 42/0 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Mancos River, and 51 acre feet were released for municipal purposes.

McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 366,023, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 354,188 average (1986-2000) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 17,380 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 35,094 acre-feet were released for transbasin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 1,001/51 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here. More San Juan River basin coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: The project is morphing into a hydropower project, Aaron Million hopes to attract collaborators

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Entrepreneur Aaron Million on Friday also invited collaboration on his $3 billion project. But skepticism, environmental issues and uncertainty surround it.

A south-metro group [Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project] simultaneously is pressing ahead in a rival effort to sustain future growth by diverting water from the Green River-fed Flaming Gorge reservoir in Wyoming — before the water flows into the heavily subscribed Colorado River Basin. Colorado government officials and water authorities have called for a stakeholder dialogue to explore the overall concept more carefully…

Million welcomed the interest. “When we started this project, nobody had ever considered the Flaming Gorge options,” he said. “We’ll do everything we can to facilitate that discussion.” The Million Conservation Resources Group received offers of “several hundred million dollars of equity capital” to build a pipeline, Million said. He declined to give details…

He likely will pursue permitting through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission instead, he said, due to the emerging “alternative energy” dimension. Million said elevation changes between Wyoming and Colorado enable generation of 70 megawatts of power and that this could be increased to 500 to 1,000 megawatts…

FERC’s review process is more structured, Million said, with firm deadlines that could help him meet a 2 1/2-year timetable for securing permits…

“This is an expensive and technically complicated wild goose chase,” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, senior analyst at Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates, an environmental-policy group.
“As an entire pipeline, this would be a net consumer of energy” because diverted water would have to be pumped across the Continental Divide, Tellinghuisen said.

Launching a stakeholder dialogue now “makes no sense” and “will divert resources and attention from more realistic solutions,” Colorado River District manager Eric Kuhn said in a memo to state round-table members…

“The reality is we’ve overdelivered [ed. under the Colorado River Compact] to the lower- basin states since 1922,” Million said. “Those surplus waters that actually belong to the upper basin have been used to generate economic development in the lower-basin states.”

More coverage from Wyoma Groenenberg writing for the Wyoming Business Report. From the article:

There also has been opposition to moving water out of Flaming Gorge. Opponents have argued that the reservoir provides recreational opportunities and increases the amount of tourism dollars spent in the area. Others along the Wyoming I-80 corridor also have expressed opposition.

For example, in 2009, the City of Laramie opposed construction of the project and recommended that “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Wyoming Board of Control withhold any and all permits and approvals for the proposed project,” a resolution of the Laramie City Council shows.

The resolution continues saying that “250,000 acre-feet of water from the Green River upstream of Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Sweetwater County across the state of Wyoming, including a portion of Albany County [and] entails utilizing Lake Hattie in Albany County,” which could facilitate the influx of invasive water species, noxious weeds, hurt Wyoming’s fishing and agricultural industries, and more.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project coverage here.

Manitou Springs: Council has voted to put level one drought restrictions in place

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Here’s the release from the City of Manitou Springs:

Current Water Supply Conditions:

Due to the very dry conditions last fall and winter, current flows in French Creek will not support “normal” summer water demands. At this time (June 22, 2011), the City Council has voted to mandate Level One water restrictions. The City will continue to monitor daily water demands and the flow levels in French Creek.

Basis for potential water restrictions explained:

The watershed for Manitou Springs is located on the east area of Pikes Peak. Our reservoir gets its water from French creek. Manitou Springs has very senior “direct flow” rights to French Creek, but unfortunately a junior right for storage. As a result, we are virtually never allowed to store water. It is somewhat difficult to understand that we have a reservoir but cannot store the water but it simply means that if our reservoir goes down as a result of heavy water usage, we cannot refill it with French Creek. Instead we would have to work a complicated exchange process which consists of virtually taking water from the Pueblo Reservoir that the City has been allocated through the FryArk project, and exchanging it for water coming from French Creek into our reservoir. In simple words, we cannot refill the reservoir easily and if it is drawn down 1 foot we may need many months to recapture the loss. The decision to recommend water restrictions is made by Public Works and the City’s Water Consultant. Together, they determine how much water is coming into the reservoir from French Creek and how much water is going into the treatment plant. If the French Creek flow is less than the system water demand, then water stored in Manitou Reservoir would have to be used to meet system demands; this condition would trigger the decision to recommend water restrictions to the City Council. The City Council then has the right to declare the existence of a water shortage and announce the imposition of one of the following 4 restriction levels.

LEVEL ONE: Outdoor watering at properties with even-numbered addresses shall be restricted to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and outdoor watering at properties with odd-numbered addresses shall be restricted to Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. During a Level One restriction, outdoor watering is permitted for a maximum of two hours on a day on which watering is permitted, and such watering is permitted only between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. or between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Unrestricted hand watering and drip irrigation are permitted at any time.

LEVEL TWO: Outdoor watering of properties with even-numbered addresses shall be restricted to Tuesdays and Saturdays and outdoor watering at properties with odd-numbered addresses shall be restricted to Wednesdays and Sundays. During a period of Level Two restricted water use, outdoor watering is permitted for a maximum of two hours on a day on which watering is permitted and such watering is permitted only between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. or between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Unrestricted drip irrigation is permitted at any time.

LEVEL THREE: Outdoor watering of properties with even-numbered addresses shall be restricted to Tuesdays and outdoor watering at properties with odd-numbered addresses shall be restricted to Fridays. During a period of Level Three restricted water use, outdoor watering is permitted for a maximum of two hours on a day on which watering is permitted and such watering is permitted only between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. or between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Unrestricted drip irrigation is permitted at any time. No applications for residential water taps will be accepted during a period of Level Three restricted water use.

LEVEL FOUR: Outdoor watering is permitted only on the third Saturday of each month between the hours of 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.; the filling or refilling of ornamental pools, hot tubs, and swimming pools is prohibited. No applications for residential water taps will be accepted during a period of Level Four restricted water use.

Historically, the City has never been at LEVEL FOUR water restrictions but was at LEVEL ONE for 3 months from May to July in 2002 then jumped to LEVEL THREE for 9 months from August 2002 until April 2003. We then went back to LEVEL TWO for 2 months and then to LEVEL ONE from July to December 2003. The last restriction was LEVEL ONE from May to September 2006.

More conservation coverage here.

Southern Delivery System update: Project managers are looking for ways to accelerate development to take advantage of low prices in the supply chain

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Utilities staff and construction personnel are analyzing different scenarios to see whether hiring more workers or buying more materials now could save money or time during the next few years. Building materials, such as steel, are cheaper now, thanks to the recession. “If — and this is a big if — you could get some savings on materials and construction, then that’s what they’ll come back and say,” said City Council President Scott Hente, who chairs the Utilities board. “If you can do things cheaper, I’m all for it.”

Speeding up SDS construction could lessen rate hikes for ratepayers, though it’s far from certain, said SDS spokeswoman Janet Rummel. As it stands, water rates are expected to increase by 12 percent yearly until 2016 for the project’s first phase, which includes a 62-pipeline and the hookup into Pueblo Reservoir…

Still, Utilities officials are already finding ways to cut millions off the price tag, Rummel said. Utilities is about to sign a contract with McCarthy Building Companies Inc. and Carollo Engineers to build SDS’s water treatment plant, at a price much lower than what Utilities originally estimated. “They identified millions in possible construction cost savings, if they design it in a certain way,” Rummel said…

Utilities’ study will be presented to the Utilities board at its July 20 meeting. The 1 p.m. meeting, on the fifth floor of the south tower of Plaza of the Rockies, 111 S. Tejon St., is open to the public.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Conservation: Denver Water is considering a program to increase landscaping that is appropriate to the area’s semi-arid environment

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Denver Water authorities this week revealed they’re considering paying residents to rip out lawns and replace them with landscapes better suited to the semi-arid environment…

Castle Rock residents today use 84 gallons of water per person per day on average, down 8 percent from the 92 gallon average in 2003. Water use in Douglas County overall decreased by 32 percent from 215 gallons per person per day to 146, according to state data. The growing push for water conservation has nudged Castle Rock ahead of Denver, where utilities officials this week pegged household-only water consumption at 86 gallons per person per day, down from 104 in 2000. (In Europe and Australia, municipal water use has been reduced to 40 gallons per person per day.)

More conservation coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 550 cfs in the Big Thompson River below Olympus Dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Just a quick update: with the 90+ degree heat, we’ve seen increases in nightly snow melt run-off into Lake Estes. As a result, we upped releases from Olympus Dam to the lower Big Thompson River again last night, by 50 cfs. Today, there should be about 550 cfs flowing at the top of the canyon.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: 746 cfs in the river below Ruedi Reservoir

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

A quick update for you this morning: With the 90+ degree heat, we are seeing snow melt run-off inflows pick up into Ruedi Reservoir again at night. With Ruedi almost full, this means we have to increase releases to the lower Fryingpan River again. Today, Sunday, releases from the dam will bump up twice in 50 cfs intervals each time. The first happened already at 6 a.m., bringing our releases up from 581 cfs to 631 cfs. The second change will be at noon, raising releases from around 631 cfs to about 681 cfs. With the Rocky Fork still running steadily at about 65 cfs, the gage below Ruedi Dam will wind up reading 746 cfs by this afternoon.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

How should Colorado balance consumptive and non-consumptive needs in the Yampa River Basin?

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Here’s a guest column written by Janet Sheridan that’s running in The Denver Post. From the article:

Recreationalists talk about the adventure and renewal found on the river: bald eagles soaring overhead, canyons opening before a camera, serenity and peace seeping into one’s soul; a river that drifts in calm ox-bows between Hayden and Craig, then plunges into heart-stopping rapids in the remote canyons of Dinosaur National Monument.

Outspoken recreational user Kent Vertrees understands we need to use the water of the Yampa, but asks, “Should we dam, de-water, and divert every big river in our state? Shouldn’t we retain the one natural system left?”

Conservationists like Luke Schafer of the Colorado Environmental Coalition want to preserve the river as habitat: “The Yampa is a wild Western river most Coloradans couldn’t find on a map. Yet it is a major migration corridor that nourishes the waterfowl gliding above it, the fish thriving within it, and the plants lining its banks.

“I see the Yampa as an artery that nurtures everything it touches,” Luke continues, “and I believe it’s an artery in good shape — no need of bypass surgery.”

More Yampa River coverage from Scott Scott Willoughby writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Buchanan and the clan of more than 20 river-runners arguably were more excited than most at the prospect of seeing the last free-flowing major tributary of the Colorado River system at flood stage. Coordinated by Steamboat-based Yampa River Awareness Project (YRAP) board members Tierney and Kent Vertrees, the group of advocates, educators, public officials and filmmakers had set out on a five-day mission to document the unique resources and values of the wild and free-flowing river in an effort to protect it.

Hydrology, wildlife, recreation and park experts among the group pointed out that the basin is not only capable of carrying so much water, but stood to benefit from it. In a river historically dependent upon a thorough spring flush, they say, such opportunities for natural change deserve to be preserved.
“It’s just that ‘wildness’ that gives the Yampa such a different character from other rivers in the Colorado basin,” Vertrees said. “And as the last major river in the system to really retain that wild character, it needs to be kept intact.”

Motivated by a string of proposed “water grabs” capable of altering the hydrograph, YRAP firmed its resolve in 2007 after the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District laid out plans for a prospective new reservoir pulling water from the Yampa River upstream of Dinosaur National Monument and pumping it back across the Continental Divide.

A similar diversion concept pumping Yampa water eastward through 250 miles of pipelines and tunnels was identified in the recently released Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) report to satisfy future Colorado water demand.

More Yampa River basin coverage here and here.

Pueblo County has allocated $350,000 for Fountain Creek projects

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The money will come from a $2.2 million payment to Pueblo County from Colorado Springs in lieu of dredging Fountain Creek. Colorado Springs agreed to the dredging as a condition of Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System. “This is not a commitment by Pueblo County to spend the remaining $1.9 million,” said County Commissioner Jeff Chostner. “This is only a demonstration project.”[…]

The money will help pay for an in-stream dredging system that will remove sediment from Fountain Creek in a demonstration project. If the project is successful, more of the devices would be installed along the creek through Pueblo to preserve the effectiveness of levees…

Sediment collectors in Fountain Creek would remove the sediment while allowing particles suspended in water, which are beneficial to agriculture, to continue to the Arkansas River. The total cost of the sediment collection system demonstration project will be $835,000, said Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District…

The site for the collector, at an out-of-service railroad bridge near the confluence of Fountain Creek at the Arkansas River, is being prepared. The collector will installed in mid-July.

Meanwhile, here’s an update on the water quality study of Fountain Creek from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

[Del Nimmo, a research associate at Colorado State University-Pueblo] updated the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District on water quality studies that CSU-Pueblo has been conducting for more than five years. While there are practical applications, like improving the fishing, the main thrust of the studies has been to measure water quality, especially in light of changes that will be caused by the Southern Delivery System, Nimmo said. “If you don’t have an emphasis on water quality, it seems to us we’ve missed the mark if we want to have some semblance of improving Fountain Creek,” Nimmo said. “It’s an effluent-driven stream and likely to be more so with the development of SDS.”[…]

Nimmo, along with CSU-Pueblo biology Professor Scott Herrmann, explained that fish habitat on Fountain Creek could be expanded with the creation of deeper pools, wetlands and trees to control temperatures. They found large brown trout, some up to seven years old, in Upper Fountain Creek, above the confluence with Monument Creek in Colorado Springs, and said the fish could spread farther downstream if the right conditions are maintained.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Colorado Water 2012: The Rio Grande Reservoir hits the century mark in 2012

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

The Rio Grande Reservoir will celebrate its 100th anniversary in conjunction with the Colorado Water 2012, and a display on the history of area reservoirs will be circulated in local libraries, city halls, visitor centers and colleges.

Other possible promotions next year include: regular informative newspaper articles and possibly a special insert; radio spots; tours of projects such as reservoirs and the Closed Basin; and a student art project on the subject of water.

The Colorado Water 2012 began small, as a way to commemorate legislation and organizations that were celebrating anniversaries in 2012, but it has grown to encompass all of the river basins in the state. The Colorado Foundation for Water Education is spearheading the celebration.

Goals for Colorado Water 2012 include: raising awareness of water as a valuable and limited resource in the state; increasing support for management and protection of Colorado’s water and waterways; showcasing water projects; educating Coloradans about water.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 2,500 cfs in the Upper Colorado River below Granby Dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We are still on track with the release plan from Granby Dam to the Colorado River. Today [June 24], the combined release from the dam is in the mid-2200 cfs and continues to go up. We will cap the release at 2500 cfs.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

With the warm temperatures today [June 24], we anticipate that we will see a spike in snow melt run-off inflows into Lake Estes late tonight. As a result, later tonight, we will increase releases from Olympus Dam to 500 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson 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 from the Colorado Climate Center.

S.1047 — Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel Act of 2011: Senator Udall introduces bill that would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to take over operation of the relief well permanently

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Concern about a potential blowout in the tunnel, located north of Leadville, was raised in early 2008 when high groundwater levels were suspected of building pressure from millions of gallons of contaminated water behind bulkheads in the tunnel and possibly leaking into surrounding areas.

Since then, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall has tried to get approval for legislation that would give the Bureau of Reclamation authority to continue operating a relief well and to take steps toward a long-term solution.

The Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel Act would clarify that the Bureau of Reclamation has the authority to treat the water diverted into the tunnel and — if necessary — to expand on site to treat additional water. The bureau is also required to maintain the structural integrity of the tunnel to be safe over the long haul.

Previously, Reclamation claimed it lacked specific authority to treat water behind the blockages in the tunnel, a federal facility built to drain mines as a way to improve production in World War II and the Korean War…

Reclamation and the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees mine drainage mitigation at a nearby Superfund site in California Gulch, have been unable to reach a long-term solution.

More Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: The COGCC has requested a voluntary assessment of Colorado’s rules from the State Review of Oil & Natural Gas Environmental Regulations

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From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Denver Post:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission earlier this month sent STRONGER written responses to questions about its rules. On Thursday, commission staff took questions in person from STRONGER reviewers Lori Wrotenbery of the Oil and Gas Conservation Division of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, environmental scientist Wilma Subra and Jim Collins of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and STRONGER observers.

They asked about the breadth of Colorado’s data on water wells and aquifers, philosophies on casing wells, how regulators handle odor complaints, and other issues.

STRONGER’s final report is expected later this year. It will be up to the commission to decide what to do with the findings, but the public could weigh in if the commission decides to change its rules.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency has selected a site in the Raton Basin for a study of the effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. Here’s a report from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

The site in the Raton Basin of southern Colorado will be used in a retrospective case study, which will examine hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” impacts on drinking water in an area where drilling has already occurred. Four other sites – in North Dakota, Texas, and two in Pennsylvania — will be part of the retrospective study.

Two areas – in Pennsylvania and Louisiana – will be used as prospective case studies, in which the EPA will monitor the hydraulic fracturing process throughout the life of a well. There’s great anticipation building over the ongoing EPA study, which seeks to definitively answer key questions about whether or how fracking can contaminate groundwater.

More on the EPA study from the Associated Press via UpstreamOnline.com. From the article:

The Agency will study the future effects of the hydraulic fracturing process in the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana’s DeSoto Parish and Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale in Washington County.

Washington county will also be subject to a retrospective case study which will look at areas where hydraulic fracturing has already occurred for any effect on drinking water resources.

It will be studied alongside Pennsylvania counties Bradford and Susquehanna in the Marcellus Shale, along with North Dakota’s Kildeer and Dunn counties in the Bakken Shale, Texas’ Wise and Denton counties in the Barnett Shale and Colorado’s Las Animas County in the Raton basin.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Berthoud: The town is contracting for treated water from the Little Thompson Water District until November 2013, intents are to bypass Berthoud Reservoir in the supply chain

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Madeline Novey):

Last July, consistent with the past three years especially, summer algae growth in Berthoud Reservoir made the town’s water both look and taste like dirt, residents and restaurant owners said. As a result, Berthoud did an examination of its water from algae to zebra mussels. Hart said the town spent upward of $100,000 last summer to install a new carbon filtration system at the plant to improve taste and odor. After last summer’s water-quality debacle, Berthoud hired consultants to evaluate the treatment facility. Berthoud trustees later voted to close the plant and put about $1 million into cleaning and updating equipment, Hart said. The plant shut down in February. The same month, the town entered into a 21-month contract with the Little Thompson Water District to buy water…

In the future, Berthoud will go out to bid on construction of a new pipeline that would pump water directly from Carter Lake or Welch Reservoir to the water treatment plant, bypassing Berthoud Reservoir. Until then, the town’s contract with Little Thompson Water District is good through November 2013, with an option to renew, Hart said. Berthoud has a final design for the reservoir bypass that will connect with the pipeline in place today, Hart said. Next steps include bringing out a testing firm to collect soil samples and determine an exact route for the new pipeline.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Energy Fuels plans to spend $1 million over the next 18 months in preparation to process uranium at the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

The company currently holds the leases on two idle mines: The Whirlwind, about four miles south of Gateway, and the Energy Queen, just outside of La Sal, Utah. It is trying to acquire another mining property in the region, but no more details of that purchase were made available. If Energy Fuels can get both mines online and humming at top production, it’s estimated that they could produce about 450 tons of uranium-bearing rock per day. Both mines are already permitted. “We’re just looking at adding resource is all we’re doing,” said Gary Steele, a vice president at Energy Fuels. “We’re looking at picking up more mining opportunities.”[…]

“Historically, Colorado and Utah were home to the most important uranium producing districts in the World,” Stephen P. Antony, President and CEO of Energy Fuels, said in press release. “These areas still contain significant quantities of uranium and vanadium that can be produced competitively and economically. The Colorado Plateau can again be a major uranium-producing area of worldwide significance.”[…]

The Whirlwind Mine was developed by Pioneer Uravan between 1976 and 1981, and later passed through Umetco and Cotter Corporation’s holdings. Energy Fuels bought the claims and infrastructure in 2006, and production ceased because of falling spot prices. Energy Fuels completed permitting on the mine in 2009, and it’s ready for production, according to the company’s website.

The Energy Queen, formerly called the Hecla Shaft, was initially a Union Carbide/Hecla Mining joint venture. Energy Fuels bought it in 2006. The Energy Queen is just north of an active uranium and copper district known as Lisbon Valley. It’s three miles outside of La Sal, Utah.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Runoff/snowpack news: 2,570 cfs at the Avondale gage on the Arkansas River as streamflow drops

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Arkansas River flows through Pueblo and at Avondale dropped from more than 3,000 cubic feet per second at the beginning of the week to about 2,500 cfs Thursday. Flows at Parkdale, west of the Royal Gorge, were 3,500 cfs Monday and dropped to 2,400 cfs by Thursday. At Granite, north of Buena Vista, flows dipped below 2,000 cfs Wednesday night. Releases by the Bureau of Reclamation from Turquoise and Twin Lakes in Lake County are playing a role in the river levels. The releases are being driven by municipal exchanges that total about 425 cfs, and do not affect Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water, said Linda Hopkins of the Pueblo Reclamation office…

The Boustead Tunnel, which brings water from the Fryingpan River into Turquoise Lake, has been flowing near capacity all week. So far, about 42,000 acre-feet of water has been brought over, nearly half of the projected total. In the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, high-water advisories remain in effect for Pine Creek and the Numbers, near Buena Vista, but not for the Royal Gorge…

Snotel sites operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service show that much of the snow below 10,000 feet elevation has melted, but there is still snowpack at higher elevations.

From the Boulder Weekly (Tom Winter):

Colorado’s epic winter has left the state poised for a big water year, and with cool temperatures the norm late into spring, the season has been primed for excellence. The average snowpack across Colorado has been measured at 248 percent of average, with some areas along the Continental Divide clocking in at 359 percent of average. That’s a huge amount of snow, and with a delayed summer (more than eight inches of snow fell Sunday night at the top of now-closed Loveland Ski Area), the snow has been stacking up instead of melting. But melt it will, and the potential has whitewater enthusiasts drooling…

“The middle Eagle section’s normally only open two weeks,” says [John Seelig, owner of Lakota Guides in Eagle County]. “It’s been open a month, and we are anticipating another month.”

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Right-hand lanes of Interstate 70 are open again in both directions west of Fruita as the swollen Colorado River has receded, state highway officials said…The river is currently moving approximately two inches below the bridge near Skipper’s Island.

Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Aaron Million says that the regulatory gauntlet will not stop him from building the pipeline

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Million asked the Army Corps in April to halt its environmental review of the project for 60 days because the project may focus on hydropower, not just supplying water for Colorado agriculture and municipal needs. The 60 days officially runs out on July 2, but because of the Fourth of July holiday, he has until July 5 to inform the Army Corps of his intentions…

The Army Corps’ environmental review of the project was expected to continue through 2018, but Million said Thursday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which permits hydropower projects, may be the appropriate agency to conduct the environmental review of the project because of its new focus on hydropower. FERC, he said, could fast-track the permitting of the project and approve it in about two and a half years…

Million said he and his water team will decide next week whether to formally apply for a permit for the project through FERC…

Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, said the task force is necessary because the state needs to have a role in the development of a Flaming Gorge pipeline. “This is a very large project with repercussions that are interstate and that are East Slope-West Slope,” Waskom said, adding that the task force will allow environmentalists and Western Slope interests to have their voices heard about a Flaming Gorge pipeline from the very beginning…

Waskom said the task force will provide a way to encourage the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Inter-Basin Compact Committee, which includes the state’s river basin roundtables that allow local interests’ voices to be heard on water policy, to take some ownership over a Flaming Gorge pipeline project. Million said he supports the task force and will attend the Silverthorne meeting if he can…

Randy Ray, Interim Director of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley, said the district has committed interest in both the Regional Watershed Supply Project and the Parker district version of the Flaming Gorge pipeline. “Someone will build it,” Ray said. “Myself and the board of directors are interested in these projects and we’re watching them at a distance to see how they unfold.”

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project: The Upper Colorado River benefits from the seventh spill in Lake Granby history

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina). Click through for the cool video footage of the spill that Ms. Bina shot yesterday. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

This is the seventh year that water has gone over the Granby spillway because of abundant runoff, according to Dana Strongin, spokesperson for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The last time was 14 years ago. Before the dam spillway was built in 1965, water would cascade over the cliff rocks into the pool of Colorado River water below.

Although that stretch of the Colorado River directly below the Granby Dam may pose some flood risks, it is now receiving long-awaited flushing flows deemed necessary to river health. Flushing flows remove sediment and make it easier for fish to spawn. They also rejuvenate the riparian areas adjacent to the river. Such areas are important since 90 percent of Colorado’s wildlife live in or near water…

Silt had accumulated at the river bed to a point that made it difficult to even wade in it, [Jon Ewert, DOW aquatics biologist based in Hot Sulphur Springs] said. Such conditions can choke life in the river. “From what I’ve seen on that section of river before this flow, it had some of the most impaired habitat on the Colorado in Grand County,” he said.

That Upper Colorado section can go years with average flows around 150 cfs, according to the state Division of Water Resources website. From a prescription set by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 1961 having to do with the management of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, flows on the Colorado River in that section from May to July must be at a minimum of 75 cfs, and in late summer a minimum of 40 cfs…

On Wednesday, June 22, flows at the gauge below Granby dam were at a healthy flushing rate of about 1,800 cfs, which included flows coming out from the bottom of the dam.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Runoff news: Flood advisories in effect for the Colorado River, Cache La Poudre, Elk River and rivers in Jackson County

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From NorthernColorado5.com:

Damage to the Glenwood Canyon bike trail from continued flooding will keep riders in the 2011 Bicycle Tour of Colorado from pedaling into Glenwood Springs on Thursday.

Meanwhile, flood advisories remain in effect for minor flooding in Colorado. The National Weather Service says river levels will begin to increase and could affect more areas by week’s end.

H.R. 2018: The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 passes out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

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From the Colorado Independent (Virginia Chamlee):

“This is not about the state versus the EPA. This is about clean water versus dirty water, plain and simple,” says Earthjustice senior legislative counsel Joan Mulhern, in a press release.

Among those to vote against the bill was Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., who offered a failed amendment that would have exempted water that are sources of public drinking water and provided flood protection for communities.

More H.R. 2018: The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: 1,200 cfs in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The current elevation of Blue Mesa Reservoir is 7498.2 feet, leaving about 20 feet or 183,000 ac-ft of storage left to fill. Hydrologic conditions have continued to change, causing inflows to Blue Mesa Reservoir to lag behind predictions. Observed inflow rates have been dropping over the last few days and the forecast shows this trend to continue. The result will be an actual June runoff volume short of the forecasted inflow. Consequently, to improve the likelihood of a complete fill of Blue Mesa Reservoir this runoff season, Reclamation will again decrease releases from the Aspinall Unit. Over the next several days, releases will be slowly decreased by 100 to 200 cfs per day until flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge reach about 1,200 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 1,500 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

After a brief maintenance stint on one of the hydro-electric generating units at Green Mountain Power Plant, releases from the dam to the Lower Blue River are back on the rise.

Starting this morning at 11 a.m. (June 22), we increased releases from 750 cfs to 900. Later this evening around 8 p.m., we will increase again to about 1100 cfs.

Shortly after midnight tonight, we will bump up to 1300 cfs. And tomorrow morning (June 23) around 5 a.m., we will increase one more time to 1500 cfs.

The 1500 cfs release rate will stay in place until further notice.

Meanwhile, the reservoir is filling pretty steadily at about a foot a day. We’ve got a lot of melting snow pack to still pass on downstream, but are storing what we can, balancing inflows, outflows, and the various demands served by the reservoir.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.