Runoff news: The snowmelt flooding risk is dropping across Colorado

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From the Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

A cool, wet May has turned into a sunny, but not hot, June. Even downvalley temperatures have gone into the 80s only a few times, and nights have been relatively cool. That’s kept the annual snowmelt running at a decent, but not destructive pace…

This spring has been a pleasant change from last year in Vail, when less snow melted faster, causing flooding in town. With last year in mind, combined with the knowlege that temperatures can, and do, climb into the 90s in Vail some summers, Miller said firefighters are doing daily checks of parts of Gore Creek…

Minor flooding is forecast for the Colorado River at Dotsero for Friday, due primarily to the fact that Granby Reservoir is going to release water so it can continue to accept melting snow.

From Steamboat Today (Jack Weinstein):

The Weather Service’s office predicts the Elk River near Milner will exceed the 7.5 foot flood stage and reach 7.9 feet by 6 a.m. Friday. It previously was forecast to reach the moderate flood stage of 8.5 feet. The Yampa River at the Fifth Street Bridge downtown is expected to reach 6.6 feet, down from the earlier prediction of 6.7 feet. Flood stage at that location also is 7.5 feet…

Aldis Strautins, a hydrologist with the Weather Service’s office in Grand Junction, said area rivers and streams could run high through the month because of snowpack in the surrounding mountains. The Tower measuring site at 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass was reporting 138 inches of snow containing 67.5 inches of water Monday. Strautins said the day’s historical snow water equivalent average for that site is 29.2 inches.

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

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From the Colorado Independent (Virginia Chamlee):

Rep. Jon Mica, R-FL, has introduced the “Clean Water for Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011″ (.pdf), a bill that aims to “amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to preserve the authority of each State to make determinations relating to the State’s water quality standards, and for other purposes.” In other words, Mica’s bill would rewrite the Clean Water Act — removing the EPA’s authority to object to state-approved permits and revise state water quality standards.

The bill would also limit the agency’s authority to veto dredge-and-fill permits, which some conservationists argue could be a threat to public health.

Among its provisions, the bill would remove the EPA’s authority to object to state-approved permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which was put in place to manage discharges of pollutants into waterways. The EPA would also lose the ability to revise state water quality standards, an especially controversial measure considering the agency’s much-touted numeric nutrient criteria, a set of standards that aim to enhance pollution regulations in Florida waterways. The criteria are revered by environmentalists and abhorred by state lawmakers and industry heads who’d prefer not to increase costs simply for the sake of the environment.

More coverage from Stacy Detwiller writing for American Rivers. From the article:

Specifically, the bill attacks the shared responsibility between the states and the federal agencies for clean water. This careful balance allows states to take most of the responsibility for clean water programs, but ensures that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sufficient oversight to make sure citizens in all states have similar access to clean and safe water. As an example, the bill removes the EPA’s authority to object to state-approved permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which was put in place to manage discharges of pollutants into our water. The EPA would also lose its ability to revise state water quality standards when those standards fail to protect clean water without approval from the states.

The bill also takes away EPA’s authority to veto dredge and fill permits [PDF] issued by the Army Corps of Engineers when a proposed activity would discharge dredge or fill materials into our rivers, lakes, and streams. Activities like mountaintop removal mining, for instance, where the tops of mountains are blown off to expose coal seams and the surrounding valleys and streams are filled with discarded rubble, would no longer be subject to veto by the EPA. This veto authority is scarcely used – it has only been employed 13 times. But when EPA does use this authority, it’s to stop projects that harm people and clean water.

Here’s the GovTrack link.

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

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update: Caitlin Canal shareholders queue up to lease 500 acre-feet of water in pilot program to run in 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The pilot project would sell 500 acre-feet of water through a lease agreement to the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority. Under the agreement, water would be delivered to Lake Pueblo, where it could be used for exchanges or for direct use through the Fountain Valley Conduit. Fountain has made a firm commitment to take water, but other members of the El Paso County group including Donala and Security are interested in participating as well, said Curtis Mitchell, conservation and supply manager for Fountain. Water would sell at $500 per acre-foot, allowing the shareholders to retain ownership of the water right.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Conservation: Lawn irrigation analysis kits available for rent

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“If you don’t know how to program your sprinkler system, one of the studies I’ve seen shows a net gain of water used,” Perry Cabot, an education outreach coordinator for CSU, told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board Wednesday.

Instead, water systems that can be programmed could be used to prevent applying more water than necessary to lawns, Cabot said. CSU has a kit available through Pueblo County Cooperative Extension (583-6566) that allows sprinkler system owners to measure how much water their sprinklers apply to the lawn in a cycle. The Lawn Irrigation System Analysis kits can be rented for $10 under the pilot program. Using the measurement information, consumers can go online and tap into a program that will provide an optimum watering schedule based on local weather patterns.

Cabot, along with Anne Casey of the state Extension program, obtained a $46,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to take the lawn watering analysis a step further.

More conservation coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: 2,100 cfs in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Blue Mesa Reservoir has filled to about elevation 7491 ft leaving 28 ft or 242,000 ac-ft to fill. At the current rate of inflow and outflow, it would take over a month to fill the reservoir. As a result, after assessing the latest April through July forecast and the current runoff rates into the Aspinall Unit, Reclamation has decided to further reduce releases from the Aspinall Unit in order to slightly accelerate the fill of Blue Mesa Reservoir. This release reduction will begin on Friday, June 17th, continue through the weekend, and result in a Gunnison River flow of about 2,100 cfs through the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson update: Granby Reservoir is spilling, 920 cfs total into the Upper Colorado River

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Just a quick note to say we’re up to about 950 cfs out of Granby Dam. We are releasing about 430 cfs through the dam. The remaining 520 cfs is coming over the spillway.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

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

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From The Durango Herald (Karen Frantz):

U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, want to ensure the rules protect so-called good Samaritan groups willing to participate in cleanup efforts. Specifically, the senators are asking the EPA for clarification about whether groups would need to get a Clean Water Act permit for cleanup projects to avoid liability, as well as other questions about the extent to which groups are protected…

Animas River Stakeholders Group member Peter Butler said the letter asks the right questions. “If EPA answers the questions thoroughly, it will hopefully end the debate as to whether or not an amendment to the Clean Water Act is necessary to limit liability enough for Good Samaritans to feel comfortable to clean up draining mines,” he said in an e-mail.

He also said it was significant that Boxer signed the letter because her staff had not been supportive of the need for good Samaritan legislation in the past and she chairs the committee such a bill would go through.

More water pollution coverage here.

More Good Samaritan exemption coverage here.

Snowpack news: The current snow water equivalent for the South Platte River Basin is near the daily maximum but it has dropped to under 10 inches

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Here’s the link to the National Resource Conservation Service webpage where you can select a graph of the Basin Hi/Low Snowpack Summary for your basin of interest.