Secretary Salazar will be honored today in Manassa


From the Associated Press via

The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado are thanking Salazar Saturday during the Pioneer Day parade in Manassa. The groups say as Interior secretary, Salazar has tried to balance clean energy development in the San Luis Valley with protection of land and water.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.

Runoff news: Lake Powell will peak at 75% of capacity this summer, Lake Mead to rise 51 feet over the season


From the Arizona Republic (Shaun McKinnon):

The huge reservoir near Page, which shrank to one-third of capacity during the decadelong drought, will peak for the summer at 75 percent full, more than enough water to help Arizona and Nevada escape forced shortages this year.

Lake Mead, the river’s other major reservoir, will also recover some of its losses as federal officials shift water that has accumulated in Lake Powell downstream into Mead. By the end of the year, Lake Mead is projected to rise 51 feet above the record low level it reached last November…

Lake Powell is expected to reach its summer peak in the next seven to 14 days, said Rick Clayton, hydraulic engineer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Salt Lake City. The reservoir’s elevation, about 3,661 feet above sea level, will be its highest since November 2001, when Powell began losing water to the drought…

At the same time, water is being released through Glen Canyon Dam at the highest rate possible without opening the floodgates as the bureau moves water downstream into Lake Mead to begin equalizing water levels at the two reservoirs. The water flowing downstream is in addition to what is usually released for use by Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico and will keep Lake Mead above levels that would trigger rationing on the lower river under a 2007 drought plan.

“This has been a great water year,” Clayton said…

By the end of the year, Mead and Powell are projected to hold between them 31.3 million acre-feet, about 6.6 million acre-feet more than the same time a year earlier.

Aurora hopes to settle lawsuit over the Lake Pueblo excess capacity contract with the Bureau of Reclamation


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

That’s why it has negotiated an agreement with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher said Friday. The Lower Ark board approved the agreement this week and Aurora City Council is expected to follow suit. “Our motivation was to close out the litigation that is still pending before the federal court,” Pifher said. “You never know what the court might decide to do, and we certainly didn’t want the lawsuit started again.”

The Lower Ark sued Reclamation in 2007 after the bureau issued a 40-year contract to store and exchange water at Lake Pueblo that allows Aurora to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to remove water from the Arkansas River basin. Aurora entered the case on Reclamation’s side…

Aurora had the potential to spill this year when Lake Pueblo reached high levels in spring and a heavy runoff was looming. No spill occurred because runoff was late, agricultural accounts were drawn down earlier than usual and the Army Corps of Engineers waived flood control storage provisions. Still, since March, Aurora has provided 5,000 acre-feet of water at low rates to Lower Arkansas Valley irrigators on the High Line and Holbrook ditches. “This water comes at a time when we were in great need for supplemental water for irrigation,” said Bob Barnhart, superintendent of the Holbrook Canal. “With the drought the way that it is in Southeastern Colorado this has been a great help to us to keep our corn and alfalfa growing and healthy.” It has also allowed increased recreational use on Holbrook Reservoir in Otero County, he said.

The water has also helped the High Line Canal during the drought, said Dan Henrichs, superintendent, who noted in a presentation to the Colorado Water Workshop that farmers were able to buy water from Aurora for about 3 percent of the price they sold it to Aurora under a 2004-05 lease.

More Aurora coverage here and here.

Colorado Water Workshop recap: The Colorado River Cooperative agreement was a hot topic Friday


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Central characters of the agreement Friday dissected its creation for the Colorado Water Workshop at Western State College…

Barbara Green, attorney for the Northwestern Colorado Council of Governments traced the history of the conflict back to the 1970s. It was a time when some cities in the Denver metro area were growing at a rate of 10-15 percent and a strong environmental movement was developing as well-educated liberals moved into the state. Energy development also was focusing attention on water supplies in the Colorado River basin. “We were watching the beginning of a train wreck,” Green said.

At the same time, the federal Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972, and more local control was given to communities by the state Legislature in 1974 with the passage of HB1041. By the 1980s, Western Slope opposition had grown and united diverse interests like miners, ranchers and “hippie types,” Green said. “I call it fear and loathing in the ’80s. . . . There were bumper stickers that said, ‘Dam the Denver Water Board’ . . . People brought their guns to meetings,” Green said. “These were very strange bedfellows, galvanized by the Denver Water Board.”[…]

Peter Fleming, attorney for the Colorado River Conservation District, said the Western Slope also is interested in resolving the Blue River decrees. The river’s headwaters are largely claimed by Denver and other Front Range users. “Some of the most expensive water in the state is at the headwaters of the Blue River,” Fleming said, explaining that it sells for $30,000-$35,000 an acre-foot

The other major issue is the Shoshone Power Plant near Glenwood Springs, which can gobble up the Colorado River with its diversions during low flows. A complicated regimen of flow compliance — called by some a “virtual call” would help assure water stays in the river…

The agreement also affects others who wish to do business with Denver Water or divert from the Western Slope, said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water. “There is some precedent being set, but I don’t think that’s bad as long as we can remain flexible,” Pifher said. “There is some risk for third parties who weren’t a part of the agreement.”[…]

“Aaron Million doesn’t call me any more,” [Denver Water’s David Little] quipped, in response to a question about whether the state should ask the Fort Collins’ entrepreneur to build a pipeline from the Mississippi River instead of within the Colorado River basin.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here

Denver Water exec says it will be 50 years before someone moves Yampa, Green or Gunnison water out of basin


That’s the picture according to David Little, Denver Water’s chief planning wonk, according to a tweet the Colorado River District:

#DenverWater does not foresee ‘any water diversions from Green, Yampa, White or Gunnison in the next 50 yrs’ Dave Little ColoWater workshop

That’ll surprise a lot of folks.

More Yampa River basin coverage here. More Green River basin coverage here. More Gunnison River basin coverage here.