CWCB: July 2011 Drought Update

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Click here to download the presentations from last week’s meeting. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a map of Colorado precipitation for July 1-11, 2011 from the historians at the Colorado Climate Center.

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

The next scheduled meeting for the Water Availability Task Force is August 17, 2011 at the Colorado Division of Wildlife Headquarters, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO.

Wastewater: Colorado Springs Utilities is using a UV array to disinfect effluent prior to releases into Fountain Creek

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (John Schroyer)

[Colorado Springs Utilities] had been using UV to help purify wastewater at its J.D. Phillips treatment plant, on the north side of Colorado Springs, since the plant was built in 2007. And the 540-bulb UV purification system there has been working “extremely well,” said plant superintendent William Hoyt.

So Utilities took the next step and built an even bigger UV array in its Las Vegas Street plant, almost twice the size of the one at the Phillips plant. The new 972-bulb system at the plant near Interstate 25 and South Nevada Avenue took a year to construct. The system began operating on Jan. 5, and since then, UV lights have treated an average of 30 million gallons of Colorado Springs wastewater per day, all of which leaves the plant cleaner than ever before. “What we’re putting into the creek, it has less bacteria in it than the creek does,” said Dean Cohrs, the plant’s interim operations supervisor. Specifically, the UV system kills far more E. coli, as per the new regulations, than chemicals ever did…

One of the biggest benefits of the UV purification process for both plants is that it’s astonishingly simple. Water flows into one of three channels at the end of the treatment process, churns in chambers illuminated by five-foot-long ultraviolet lightbulbs, and after a few seconds, is pumped out…

…the enterprise spent just under $13 million for the new UV array, which officials say is well worth the cost because it’s quicker, more environmentally friendly, and safer for employees.

More wastewater coverage here.

Reclamation is taking bids for four ponds to serve the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

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From NBC11News.com (Cecile Juliette):

Sheer, who works for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, says by Federal Law, the organization is required to protect and recover endangered species. Through the recovery program, biologists are trying to build ponds to aid the recovery of these fish. They are raised from hatchlins at the hatchery, then once they reach a certain size, they will be moved to the ponds at Horsethief Canyon, where their health and numbers will be monitored. Scheer says many of these fish are found only through the river system of Colorado, and serve many environmental roles. He says the health of these fish reflects the health of the river. Fish Culturist Mike Gross says his relatives have told stories about the Pikeminnow and Razorback. He says his uncle would go down to the river and pitchfork large Pikeminnows, then feed them to his pigs. They were also a staple for hungry families.

He says the Upper Colorado Recovery Program, and the 24 Road Hatchery have already had success. “Since this facility came online, we have stocked well over a quarter million Razorback Suckers into the Colorado Riverand it’s tributaries.”

Brent Uilenberg with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says, “The goal is to have the 4 Colorado River fish species that are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act de-listed by 2023.” The contract to build the ponds at Horsethief Canyon is open to bidders. It was first offered to HUD contractors, then open to all bidders. The hatchery is operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and runs on nearly 100 percent recycled water provided by Ute Water.

More endangered species coverage here and here.

Rio Grande Roundtable meeting recap: Flaming Gorge pipeline could take the pressure off the San Luis Valley

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

…the Flaming Gorge proposal and others like it that would bring water into Colorado from other areas could significantly affect the San Luis Valley because the Valley would not be such a target for water export schemes if other sources could be found.

Valley water expert Steve Vandiver recently reported to the water group, the Rio Grande Roundtable, that a task force is looking into the Flaming Gorge proposal as a future water source for Colorado…

He said this would be a fairly aggressive, expensive project, which is one of two or three projects that would bring outside water to the Front Range. The Flaming Gorge project has been estimated at $2-4 billion for construction, possibly through a private/public venture. The customers of such an expensive venture would have to be municipalities who could afford the water, Vandiver said. He said he understood the estimated output from the Flaming Gorge could be 175,000-300,000 acre feet of water annually…

Vandiver said it is important for the Valley water users to have “a place at the table” in discussions about future water sources such as the Flaming Gorge proposal to prevent ag land here from becoming a target for water acquisition, as it has on the Front Range. If one of these proposals [CWCB new supply concepts] such as the Flaming Gorge does not pan out, the “easy pickings” for water acquisition will be agricultural land with water rights, Vandiver said. “There’s a bigger picture this roundtable needs to be involved in and needs to consider,” Vandiver said. “Think about what our role in that could and should be.”[…]

He said IBCC statewide funds will help pay for the Flaming Gorge task force, but he and Smith believe it might be a good move for the Rio Grande Basin roundtable to put in some money from its account as well. Smith will talk to the roundtable group in August about funding somewhere in the range of $5,000 from the basin to help with the task force.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: 2,800 cfs in the Gunnison River through Black Canyon and the Gunnison Gorge

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From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

After 2 weeks of steady inflow to the Aspinall Unit the forecast has finally come true – inflows to the Unit actually decreased over this past weekend. Blue Mesa Reservoir has filled to within 0.2 feet of full but the decrease in the side inflows has caused the elevation in Crystal Reservoir to drop significantly. Therefore releases at Crystal Reservoir will be decreased by a total of 600 cfs over the next 3 days. Flows will decrease 200 cfs a day, starting today, July 18th, and ending on Wednesday, July 20th. This should bring flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon down to 2800 cfs by early Wednesday.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 2,550 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The releases out of Green Mountain dam to the lower Blue River will be lowered to 2,550 CFS after 4 PM today [July 18].

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Runoff news: Horsetooth Reservoir is almost full

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

“Everybody’s just jazzed,” said Glen Werth, owner of Inlet Bay Marina on Horsetooth Reservoir. “The water levels are fabulous. Our rental business is fantastic. We have a lot of big boats, big groups.”

Brimming with water, Horsetooth Reservoir is expected to completely fill this week for the first time since 2004. “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.”

On Friday, Horsetooth Reservoir’s surface elevation was 5,425.25 feet above sea level, lower than its peak in 2010, when it hit 5,427 feet, said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservation District. Horsetooth Reservoir’s full pool level is 5,430 feet. “By the end of next week, we will have Horsetooth full,” Werner said Friday.

The reservoirs are full here mostly because of the long, sustained runoff season from an abnormally large snowpack in the mountains. Werner said Northern Water’s forecasters say this year’s robust runoff is a “once-in-a-lifetime” event. “We’re smiling,” Werner said. “This is almost an ideal runoff year. We talk about this all the time and it never happens.” The runoff from the mountain snowmelt is expected to extend into August, which is nearly unheard of, he said.

Recent rains mean irrigators haven’t had to take water from the reservoir, allowing it to continue to rise. The Bureau of Reclamation has stopped taking water deliveries from the Colorado River through the Adams Tunnel, Lamb said.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Janice Kurbjin):

A sustained high water season on rivers in and around Summit County is coming to a close, and that means less juggling for local outfitters. “It was a challenge, for sure,” Arkansas Valley Adventures owner Duke Bradford said. AVA, like other companies, transferred trips based on flows to put ages and abilities on appropriate stretches. Someone who booked a Brown’s Canyon trip in the Arkansas River Valley may have gotten short notice that they’d now be running the more consistent Blue River, though it still ran quickly, about an hour north in Silverthorne…

“If you came to run whitewater, it’ll go down as one of the best whitewater seasons ever,” Bradford said, explaining that cooler temperatures helped sustain what many thought would be a sharp, severe spike in flows. Then, when the snowpack expired, rain and downstream water calls came. The high water lasted about six weeks…,/p>

Performance Tours and AVA have been back on the Numbers and Royal Gorge for about five days. And other trips are mostly back to normal minimum ages, with the exception of a still-high Clear Creek.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Flaming Gorge pipeline hydroelectric generation project environmental review terminated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last Thursday

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said its environmental review of entrepreneur Aaron Million’s 550-mile water pipeline project was dead in the water before Million could terminate the study himself. Million said Friday he terminated the environmental review of his Regional Watershed Supply Project, but the Army Corps on Thursday canceled the $3 million review itself after Million re-purposed the project, said Rena Brand, the Army Corps’ regulatory official overseeing the review.

How much of the Army Corps’ work was wasted is unknown, Brand said. “It is unclear how information we’ve gathered and analyzed would be used,” she said…

Brand said Million did not respond “in an appropriate manner” by his July 5 deadline, despite telling the Coloradoan in June that he planned to do so. “We had a phone call from one of his team members the day before the deadline asking for more time,” Brand said. The Corps specifically asked Million to let them know by the deadline how he intended to resume the EIS, he said…

Million said Monday his team asked for several more days in order to finalize the permit application with FERC…

“I think the Corps recognized that this is a project that is not ripe for primetime,” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, a water policy analyst for pipeline critic Western Resource Advocates in Boulder. “FERC hopefully will see the same.”

From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:

The Army Corps had canceled the $3 million review itself on Thursday after Million changed the project’s purpose, Rena Brand, the Army Corps’ official overseeing the review, told The Fort Collins Coloradoan. The Corps spent two years on the Million-financed Environmental Impact Study of the 550-mile pipeline, which would take about 250,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, pump it over the Continental Divide and deliver it via Fort Collins to Colorado’s Front Range…

Million had asked the Army Corps in April to suspend the environmental review for 60 days to give him time to decide the project’s future. Brand said Million did not respond ‘‘in an appropriate manner’’ by his July 5 deadline. “We had a phone call from one of his team members the day before the deadline asking for more time,” Brand said. Without a response, Brand said, the Army Corps told Million on Thursday it had terminated the study because the project’s purpose is “uncertain.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.