Coyote Gulch named to the Top 25 Water Conservation Blogs

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I’ve been blushing since I received the email yesterday. It’s great to be recognized for my work. Thanks. Here’s the link to Coyote Gulch’s conservation RSS feed and the link to the conservation category as well.

From email from Seametrics (Charles Sipe):

I wanted to let you know that Coyote Gulch was named to The Top 25 Water Conservation Blogs at based on your great water conservation content and recommendations from other water conservation blogs.

We are Seametrics, a water flow measurement company that helps farmers, water utilities departments, and manufacturers to reduce water consumption. Water conservation is an important part of our company mission.

More conservation coverage here.

Runoff news: Horsetooth Reservoir to fill for the first time since 2004

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

“We do think Horsetooth is going to continue to rise,” said U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Kara Lamb. “We’re going to get pretty close to full.” With the sustained runoff season this year because of the mountains’ uncommonly tremendous snowpack and a steady march of rainstorms across the mountains recently, the Bureau of Reclamation has stopped taking water deliveries from the Colorado River through the Adams Tunnel, she said Thursday.

The snowmelt and rain have allowed junior water rights for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project east of the Continental Divide to come into priority, allowing local reservoirs to fill…,/p>

Farmers who have rights to Horsetooth Reservoir water haven’t been taking much of it because recent rainfall has prevented them from needing it, she said…

Carter Lake near Loveland already filled once this year, but the Bureau of Reclamation drew it down and now it’s starting to fill again, she said.

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Meeting with members of the Valley-wide water group, the Rio Grande Roundtable, on Tuesday, Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten described the unexpected turn of events on the river. “It’s kind of a strange situation. It’s kind of a strange year,” Cotten said.

For the last several years the Valley’s rivers that satisfy the Rio Grande Compact have peaked earlier than usual, so this year when the snowpack registered below normal, less water was expected, Cotten explained. “We thought we weren’t going to have that much water. Here it comes now,” Cotten said. He said just in the last 24 hours (before the Tuesday meeting) rains had bumped up the rivers in the Valley…

One of the places his office had to “go from here” was to increase the annual forecasted flow on both the Rio Grande and Conejos River systems, which means more water must now be delivered downstream during the irrigation season to meet Rio Grande Compact obligations. And that means higher curtailments on ditch diversions for irrigators. The annual forecasted flow for the Rio Grande at Del Norte is now 535,000 acre feet, of which the state will owe 138,900 acre feet, or 22 percent, to downstream states, according to Cotten…

To reach Colorado’s new obligation to downstream states through the Rio Grande Compact, 22 percent of the flows during the rest of the irrigation season will have to be sent downriver. “So we have got a 22 percent curtailment on the Rio Grande right now,” he said.

The curtailment on the Conejos River system is even higher. The forecasted annual flows on the Conejos increased to an estimated 254,000 acre feet, of which 72,000 acre feet would be required downstream to meet the Rio Grande Compact. That equates to a 40-percent curtailment, Cotten said…

Cotten said the gauging station on Sangre de Cristo Creek by Fort Garland is registering significantly lower than average flows – “still very significantly below average.” The gauging station on Saguache Creek is also reflecting “significantly lower than average” flows. “We haven’t gotten anywhere close to our average on Saguache Creek,” Cotten said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain:

Flow levels on the Arkansas River are beginning to decline within the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area and advisories have been lifted for two sections of river, The Numbers and the Royal Gorge. An advisory remains for Pine Creek. Flows below Buena Vista were at 2,600 cubic feet per second Friday and dropping after several weeks of high runoff.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Wagon Wheel Ranch above Creede flips the switch on their shiny new 310 kw generation plant

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The $1.3 million project at the Humphreys family’s Wagon Wheel Ranch will supply electricity to the grid through the San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative and, state leaders hope, spur more development of small-scale hydropower. Project leader and family member Ruth Brown oversaw the project and thanked a long list of government officials, engineers, contractors and family members during a ceremony at the ranch, which sits roughly 12 miles south of town…

[Project leader and family member Ruth Brown] said picking up the larger project became possible when state lawmakers passed a renewable energy standard in 2006. Because of that bill, the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association can claim renewable energy credits when the ranch’s power comes on the grid. She also was aided by a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture…

[Gary Boring, who supervised the construction for Moltz Constructors of Cody, Wyo] said one of the biggest challenges for his company, which works on dams and hydropower projects throughout the West, was developing the siphon that draws water from the reservoir’s surface then sends it down a 650-foot penstock to the generator. “This really hasn’t been done before,” Boring said. “That’s been one of the big challenges on the job is keeping that siphon going and keeping air out of the penstock.”

Despite heavy winters in the area, Boring said a bubbler system would keep the intake from icing over. He said the only limitations on the project would come in the form of a poor water year.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Aurora: Homestake Reservoir will be closed to the public and drained this fall for three year maintenance project

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Here’s the release from Aurora Water (Greg Baker):

The Homestake Dam and Reservoir in Eagle and Pitkin Counties, Colorado, will be undergoing scheduled maintenance in 2012 and 2013 that will impact recreational users of the facilities. The work involves regular, but necessary maintenance to help safeguard a valuable resource and ensure its viability for years to come. Homestake Reservoir, completed in 1968, is operated jointly by Colorado Springs Utilities and Aurora Water under the Homestake Water Project. To ensure the public’s safety during construction activity, access to the reservoir and the dam will be restricted during this maintenance period.

“We understand that this area is a popular recreational amenity, and we ask for your patience and understanding as we work as expeditiously as possible,” stated Greg Baker, spokesperson for the Homestake Project. “The construction season in the mountains is short, so we will make every attempt to be efficient with our time.”

Starting in September 2011, admittance to Homestake Reservoir will be closed below the East Fork Trailhead, just prior to the dam access road on Homestake Road. The top five feet of the dam crest will be removed to accommodate the large equipment needed for this project. Upon completion of the maintenance work in late 2013, the dam crest will be restored to its original height.

The bridge on Homestake Road immediately beyond the turnoff from Highway 24 will be replaced between October and December 2011. A temporary bridge will be in place to accommodate local traffic. Traffic will be directed to this detour, so it is recommended that visitors watch for traffic signs and be alert.

In 2012, the reservoir will be drained to accommodate repairs to the gate and intake structure for the Homestake Tunnel, which carries the water from Homestake to Turquoise Lake in Lake County. Natural flows to Homestake Creek will be maintained during this time. The U.S. Forest Service, in cooperation with a variety of partner groups, will be performing restoration and enhancement work, including fish habitat improvement, hazard tree removal, and campsite rehabilitation along Homestake Creek downstream from the reservoir.

From 2012 to 2013, milling and paving will occur on the dam’s asphalt face. Asphalt faced dams, while common in Europe, are unique in the U.S. Since the facing was first installed in 1968, it is almost 45 years of age and is due for a replacement.

Water collection in the reservoir will begin again in April 2013, though how long it will take to refill Homestake will depend on snowpack and runoff conditions. Restoration work around the dam should be completed in 2014, with full public access being restored by spring of that year.

Both Colorado Springs Utilities and Aurora Water will carefully monitor their other water sources to ensure that adequate supplies are available to meet customer demand. Aurora Water will maximize its storage in the Arkansas and South Platte basins, as well as utilize its recently completed Prairie Waters system. Colorado Springs Utilities does not anticipate impacts to its ability to deliver water to customers during the construction phase. During construction, and as needed, Colorado Springs Utilities will bring its share of Homestake Reservoir storage through the Homestake Tunnel to East Slope storage facilities.

Updates and notices on the Homestake Dam and Reservoir maintenance and repair project will be posted on websites of both Aurora Water ( or Colorado Springs Utilities (

More coverage from the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

The reservoir will be drained for repairs to the gate and intake structure for the Homestake Tunnel, which carries the water from the reservoir to Turquoise Lake in Lake County. Contractors will replace the asphalt facing on the dam, which is 45 years old. “Homestake has an asphalt faced dam which is unusual here but very common in Europe,” Baker said. “It makes it a little more difficult to find qualified contractors for.” While this work is done, the U.S. Forest Service will work on fish habitat improvements, removal of hazardous trees and campsite rehabilitation in the area…

The total cost of construction of the renovations is $35.5 million, with Aurora paying $17.5 million over four years and Colorado Springs paying the second half. Money to fund the project will come out of Aurora Water’s operating budget…

While Homestake is offline, the city will continue collecting water from Prairie Waters, the drought-hardening project that came online last year. “Now that we have Prairie Waters online, it’s about the equivalent of what we take out of Homestake,” Baker said.

More Homestake Reservoir coverage here and here.

Boulder: The city has embarked on an $8.1 million 18 month project for wastewater treatment plant imprvovements

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

The project, which is now underway, will upgrade several critical components of the plant at 75th Street and Jay Road that turns the city’s raw sewage into water that’s clean enough to discharge into Boulder Creek. The work will include three separate projects.

One will convert the facility to use an ultra-violet sterilizer instead of chlorine gas. “The gas chlorine system is the single greatest danger at the wastewater treatment plant,” said Douglas Sullivan, the city’s utilities project manager…

Sullivan said upgrading the system to no longer rely on the chemical is the department’s “No. 1 priority.” The total cost of the new system is about $3.5 million…

A second project will upgrade the headworks at the plant. Headworks carry all of the raw sewage into the plant. The headworks contain screening devices that remove large debris from the sewage, and system that remove grit and rags. Those systems are now about 30 years old, and need to be replaced…

The third project will upgrade two large, cylindrical tanks that act as the stomachs of the wastewater plant. Known as the digester tanks, the devices heat and mix sewage to create solid waste “cake” that is sent to agricultural lands in east Adams County. The $1.6 million of upgrades will install a new mixing system that will help meet federal safety standards.

More wastewater coverage here.

Drought news: Federal disaster dough available throughout southeastern Colorado

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From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat:

“I’m grateful the USDA is making assistance available to more affected Colorado farmers and ranchers,” [Colorado Senator Mark Udall] said. “This will help our agricultural producers offset some of the heavy losses they’ve experienced because of the drought and spring freezes.”

Counties designated agricultural disaster areas due to drought this year: Bent, Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Kiowa, Las Animas, Prowers and Pueblo counties, including surrounding Alamosa, Baca, Cheyenne, Costilla, Crowley, El Paso, Gunnison, Lake, Lincoln, Otero, Park, Pitkin, Saguache and Teller counties.

Because of their proximity to and possible losses due to primary drought designations in New Mexico, Archuleta, Baca, Conejos, Costilla and Las Animas counties also became eligible for drought-related assistance.

Additional resources were made available to counties affected by the spring freezes that occurred April 28 through May 1: Fremont County was designated as a primary county, but eligibility extends to the surrounding counties of Chaffee, Custer, El Paso, Park, Pueblo, Saguache and Teller.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

“Drought impacts are resulting in the loss of native grass, mixed forage, cool season grasses and alfalfa throughout the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado,” Hickenlooper wrote in the letter. “Losses are greatest to cool season grasses reaching 75 percent. The availability of surface water has resulted in many producers having to abandon alfalfa irrigation completely.”

A second letter sought disaster assistance for Delta, Montrose and Mesa counties on the Western Slope, where fruit producers were stung by a freeze in late April and early May. Some producers there suffered losses of 95 percent of their apples and other fruits.

Brighton: City council raises water rates

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From the Brighton Standard Blade (Kevin Denke):

City council members gave their unanimous, albeit begrudging, initial approval July 5 to an ordinance that will increase fixed water rates as well as consumptive water user rates. Under the proposed changes, the fixed water charge would change from $6.36 to $7.86 a month, the sewer charge would go from $2.15 a month to $5.40 a month. A new $1.75 storm drainage charge would also be added. In regards to water consumption rates, a water user would see an increase from $3.78 per 1,000 gallons of water to $3.93 per 1,000 gallons of water and an increase from $3.77 per 1,000 gallons to $3.92 per 1,000 in the sewer utility charge…

City utilities director Jim Landeck took city councilors on a visual tour of the city’s aging infrastructure that prompted the proposed increases. He said much of the water and sewer pipelines in the older area of Brighton have more than began to show their age, bursting at a moment’s notice and leaving residents without water during emergency repairs. Landeck pegged some pipes as close to 100 years old. “These pipelines that have been in the ground now for almost 100 years are showing considerable signs of corrosion,” Landeck said…

The proposed increases, which the city says are the first substantial water and sewer rate increases in 13 years, brought concern from city council members including Ward 2 councilman Rex Bell. He said he worried about the impact it would have on residents of his ward but he worried more about the long-term effect of doing nothing…

The ordinance is scheduled for final consideration at the July 19 city council meeting with the fixed rate changes to take place after Aug. 1. Water consumption rates would take effect Oct. 1.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline hydroelectric generation project update: Aaron Million switches federal agencies and anticipates cutting the environmental review time from 7 years to 2.5

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million said Friday he is terminating the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental re-view of the Regional Watershed Supply Project and transferring that review to another federal agency that regulates hydro-power projects. The agency switch could reduce the environmental review and permitting time for the project from more than seven years to about two and a half years, he said…

Million envisions the pipeline generating more than 1,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power as it tumbles from Laramie to Fort Collins – the primary reason the federal agency conducting the environmental review of the project had to be switched, Million said. He said he plans to submit a permit application for the pipeline to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, next week and officially terminate the Army Corps’ review of the project at the same time…

FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said Friday she did not know what conversations Million has had with the agency about the feasibility of FERC reviewing the pipeline proposal. She said she does not know if it is possible for FERC to complete its environmental review of the pipeline in two and a half years. “There is no way to know at this point,” she said. “We have nothing before us. We have nothing to look at.”

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

“We’ll be able to move a lot of the work from the Corps study over. The project and analysis will remain the same,” Million said. “The time line will shorten dramatically.” The Corps process would have taken at least five more years, even though the study began in 2008. Million said he expects the FERC process for his proposal to be done in a short time because of the groundwork that already has been done.

Million is following a model chosen by Utah in 2008 for a $1 billion pipeline from Lake Powell to serve water users in that state. Utah applied through the FERC to address the hydropower aspects of its pipeline, but concerns of other federal agencies are addressed through the process. The entire process is expected to be completed in 2012, according to the Utah Division of Water Resources website. Million’s proposed pipeline would generate about 70 megawatts of power in-line, and has the potential for 500 to 1,000 megawatts of pump-back storage generation, he said…

Million’s project faced opposition under the Corps proposal from some counties in Wyoming and regional environmental groups. They plan to oppose a FERC proposal, as well.

From email from Western Resource Advocates (Peter Roessmann):

Aaron Million, proponent of the Regional Watershed Supply Project, or “Million Project” has announced that he will switch permitting agencies from the Army Corps of Engineers to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), in hopes of expediting the permitting process. The FERC environmental review, however, should be just as rigorous as the Corps’ review – this is essential for protecting all stakeholders’ interests in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.

Western Resource Advocates has the following statements:

– “The FERC environmental review is not just switching horses in mid-stream, it starts the NEPA process over again. Stakeholders in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado deserve the opportunity to weigh in on the “new” form of the project. We expect whatever agency takes a close look at the proposal will reveal Million’s empty promise that the project could generate hydroelectric power—it will be net power user.”

– “Today, the Million project is no closer to delivering water to Coloradoans than it was two years ago. It’s time for water providers to focus on real solutions that can meet Colorado’s future water needs. This is yet another example of why the proposal is not-ready-for-prime-time, and why Colorado should not establish a “task force” to pursue a similar project.”

– “Million is now taking FERC on the same snipe hunt he’s led the Corps on for two years. Coloradoans should be outraged at this wasteful use of limited resources.”

From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

Million has been touting the pipeline for many years , but it’s not clear if the project is viable financially, or if it could deliver as much water as promised. Several regional and state groups have taken early looks at the proposal, but as yet, nobody has stepped forth to fully claim and embrace the long-distance pipeline. In making the switch, Million may be aiming at presenting the pipeline as an energy project, but conservation advocates pointed up that, even with a hydropower component, the pipeline would use more energy than it produces.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Wiggins: The town has attracted interest from 26 contractors for the upgrade to the finished water supply system

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

…26 contractors came to town Wednesday to attend a pre-bid meeting and find out specifications, Tim Holbrook of Industrial Facilities Engineering, which is overseeing the project, told the Wiggins Town Council that night. Plans for the project were finally approved by the USDA and other agencies, and the project can begin construction, he said. The construction will have four components and contractors can bid on one, more or all of them, Holbrook said. Those include a new membrane treatment system, a 7.3 mile pipeline, two 20-acre augmentation ponds and two new water supply wells…

Contractors can ask questions until July 22, and bids are due Aug. 3 at 1 p.m. Holbrook said he expects even more contractors to bid before the period is over…

Meanwhile, work continues on changing the water rights the town owns from agricultural use to municipal use. A first step is to obtain approval of the change from the Weldon Valley Ditch Co., of which the water rights is a part, and that is underway, Holbrook said. Wiggins must also receive approval from the Colorado State Engineer`s Office, and that is expected in the next few months, he said. That will allow the town to start pumping water when construction is done, even if there are still water court proceedings.

More Wiggins coverage here and here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Aspen to drill test bore to assess geothermal potential

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From The Aspen Times (Andre Salvali):

Lauren McDonell, environmental initiatives program manager for the city of Aspen, explained the plan to four [Aspen’s Open Space and Trails Board] members before their vote and said that geothermal energy could be another way for the community to reduce its carbon footprint. “If we’re sitting on top of a clean, renewable, carbon-free source of energy, I think we have a responsibility to explore it,” she said. “It could help us decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, and help us address climate change in Aspen. So it’s kind of an exciting opportunity.”[…]

The city likely will start the test well in late September, drilling up to 1,000 feet below the surface of the parking lot. If answers can be obtained at a shallower depth, the city won’t need to drill any deeper, she said. The nearby Roaring Fork River won’t be affected, McDonell said. The parking lot is located within the Prockter Open Space, which is why permission from the city’s Open Space and Trails Board was needed. The test site is simply that, McDonell said, explaining that it’s unlikely to be used as a production area should the city move forward with a geothermal energy project. However, it could be used for future monitoring and tests…

The project is expected to take 30 to 45 days, McDonell said. Noise from the test site will be kept at or below 55 decibels, the limit stipulated in a city ordinance based on the time of day and area of town…

According to a city news release, the test site lies just west of old silver mine workings. The project won’t disturb any heavy metal deposits in the area. “We wanted to pick a site that is city-owned and as close to old mine workings as possible without being in them,” consultant John Kaufman said in a prepared statement. “We are looking to find out the temperature of the water, the water chemistry, like if it is hard water or alkaline and we hope not to find heavy metals in the water,” he said, adding that historical evidence suggests Aspen miners more than a century ago encountered hot water as they worked.

More coverage from Andrew Travers writing for the Aspen Daily News. From the article:

The board voted 4-0 for the drilling project, following a brief presentation by Lauren McDonnell of the city’s Canary Initiative, which is spearheading the initiative…

Board member Charlie Eckart asked how many truckloads of dirt and rocks would be produced from drilling. Just one every three to four days during drilling, McDonnell said. All the board members encouraged her to continue communicating proactively with neighbors about noise and other impacts from the test.

The city held a neighborhood meeting on Monday seeking feedback on the geothermal project from adjacent homeowners. Twelve neighbors attended that meeting. None attended Thursday’s meeting to oppose or support the project…

McDonnell will now begin searching for a drilling company to do the work. The contract for drilling will be subject to City Council approval later this summer. Drilling is scheduled to take place in mid- to late-September, McDonnell told the open space board. The parking lot will be closed up to 45 days during drilling and the subsequent testing of the hole…

Based on a 2008 geothermal feasibility study, the temperature of local underground water ranges in temperature from 90 to 140 degrees. To heat or cool buildings with geothermal energy, 100-degree water is required. To generate electricity, the city would need water of at least 220 degrees.

More coverage from Andrew Travers writing for the Aspen Daily News. From the article:

The potential of tapping local renewable energy sources like geothermal has drawn support from the city’s Canary Initiative, which aims to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent before 2050. Geothermal energy taps the consistent temperatures below ground to heat or cool interiors above ground. “We’re excited that if we find the geothermal potential we’re talking about, it could be enough for heating and cooling buildings in Aspen with a local clean energy source,” said Lauren McDonnell, director of the Canary program…

If the Prockter test site is successful, McDonnell said, the city would drill a second test well on another public site before actually tapping any geothermal energy…

The city’s hopes for geothermal resources are based largely on historical accounts from 19th century silver miners in Aspen. “The miners encountered very hot, uncomfortable conditions in the mines here,” Kaufman said. That anecdotal evidence led the city to conduct a feasibility study for local geothermal in 2008, which found the temperature of underground water in Aspen ranged from 90 to 140 degrees. Drilling for geothermal, however, will avoid the vast network of mining tunnels below Aspen, Kaufman said, because they are not structurally sound.

More geothermal coverage here and here.