Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Reclamation is moving water from Grand Lake to Shadow Mountain Reservoir to test the effects on Grand Lake clarity

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Even though we finally have the snow melt run-off behind us, we are still releasing water from Granby Dam to the Colorado River. Currently, we are releasing about 500 cubic feet per second. The reservoir is still pretty full, dropping slowly. Today, it is at a water level elevation of 8278 feet above sea level–about two feet below full.

The current release of 500 cfs will continue most likely through September and possibly into October.

The reason for the longer-than-most-years release is two-fold. First, we just have a lot of water this year. The heavy snow pack is still melting out from the highest mountain elevations, albeit much more slowly than in June and July.

Second, and most significantly, with all the snow melt and then the rain we had this summer, there just is not a lot of demand for water from the east slope. Plus, east slope storage is close to full. Without a call for or a place to store C-BT water, we cannot import it from the west to the east slope.

Additionally, this is the time of year we adjust how we run the C-BT west slope system as part of our on-going work to improve clarity in Grand Lake. For the past four years we have experimented with different operations. This year, we are attempting to maintain a steady flow from Grand Lake to Shadow Mountain Reservoir. Usually, the flow is in the opposite direction because we are diverting more water to the east slope.

I have received several questions over the past few days regarding the west slope collection system. Please feel free to contact me directly with any additional questions. More C-BT information is also available by visiting Northern Water on-line, or by visiting Reclamation’s website.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Most of you have probably noticed that Pinewood has not gotten as high this summer as it has in previous years. I’ve had a couple inquiries so I thought it was a good time to send out an e-mail update.

The reason for Pinewood’s elevation fluctuation is because it is a forebay for the Flatiron hydro-electric power plant ; it’s the water storage above a power plant. Water is stored in the reservoir to build up “head,” or energy, then run downhill to produce that energy at the plant below . Because we are only generating with one of the two units and because we have had so much water move through the system this year, Pinewood’s fluctuations this summer have been slightly different than in other summers: it isn’t getting as high as most are used to seeing.

We’re going to try and get the water elevation at Pinewood back up for this weekend, however. Right now, Pinewood’s water surface elevation is on the decline. Its current elevation is about 6567 feet–about 13 feet below full–and it will probably go down another three feet or so. The good news is the decline will stop later today and the reservoir will begin to rise again. The elevation climb will continue well into the coming weekend…

If you’d like more information on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project of which Pinewood is a part, please visit us on-line.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As snow melt run-off has declined in the Blue River basin, we’ve been cutting back our releases from Green Mountain Dam to the lower Blue River. Releases have dropping over the last week.

The most recent change was this morning, calling for another reduction. By early evening, releases from the dam should be around 950 cfs. Additional changes will depend on weather and water demands.

The reservoir elevation has remained very close to full. It is currently at about 7948 feet, two feet down from full.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

More Grand Lake clarity coverage here. Check out this article from November, 2007 written by Tonya Bina for the Sky-Hi Daily News. I think it’s cool that the deep link still works.

Restoration: Trout Unlimited’s West Denver Chapter to tackle stream reach in Clear Creek near Mayhem Gulch

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From The Denver Post (Daniel Smith):

The Canyon Reach project, with multiple funding sources, will begin near Jefferson County Open Space Park’s Mayhem Gulch, then continue upstream to near the paved turnout just below the junction of Colorado 119 and U.S. 6.

The project, which will require heavy construction equipment, should help correct some of the problems. Some of the natural rocks in the creek will be moved to create “better winter habitat, deeper holes and feeding lanes and just places for fish to survive the winter,” he said. Edwards said 15 elements will be used, including cross vanes, U-shaped large rock structures that create turbulence that constricts stream flow and deepens the channel to create spawning beds and wintering pools. A J-hook structure in stream beds also will create deep habitat in curves and protect banks from erosion. A toe-wood structure, a newer concept, uses tree trunks, layered with willows and blankets of organic material, that will help streamside riparian growth in the rocky stream. The project’s $264,000 price tag will be covered by a $168,700 grant from the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Fishing is Fun program, $60,000 from the Jefferson County Conservation Trust Fund, and $20,000 from the Water Conservation Board.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter, Corp. wants to stop testing inactive leaky and toxic impoundment pond

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

“As you are aware, the pool of water in the impoundment has diminished by evaporation to the extent that only the addition of base material has maintained the pool and consequently the head,” [Radiation Safety Officer Jim Cain] said in the letter. “In addition, introduction of base material to the pool has become inefficient and we have no means to improve the delivery.”

Steve Tarlton, of CDPHE, said the pH monitoring was necessary when the pond was in active use, but it is no longer operating. “Since they started dewatering the ponds, maintaining the pH is not critical,” he said. “The pH issue has gone away. We don’t want them to add water to the pond if they don’t have to. It makes sense to stop monitoring.”

CDPHE officials are looking at the monitoring issue in conjunction with the company’s dewatering plan and they expect to make a decision in the next few weeks.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.

USDA and EPA Create New Partnership to Improve Drinking Water Systems and Develop Workforce in Rural Communities

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Here’s the release from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a national partnership to improve rural drinking water and wastewater systems. Across the country, small water and sewage treatment facilities with limited funding and resources often face challenges due to rising costs and aging equipment and pipes. Today’s agreement will target federal resources and provide training to support communities that need assistance most.

“The agreement we are announcing today represents an exciting partnership between USDA and EPA that will greatly enhance our investments in water systems and also develop a skilled workforce to oversee them,” said USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator Jonathan Adelstein. “By working together, our agencies will strengthen their capacity to provide rural residents with safe, clean, well-managed water and wastewater systems for years to come.”

“EPA and USDA have joined forces to leverage our expertise and resources to improve drinking water and wastewater systems in small towns across the country,” said EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, Nancy Stoner. “A critical part of this agreement is to ensure that we have a well trained, professional workforce available to replace workers when they leave or retire.”

Under the agreement, EPA and USDA will work together to promote jobs by targeting specific audiences, providing training for new water careers and coordinating outreach efforts that will bring greater public visibility to the workforce needs of the industry, and develop a new generation of trained water professionals. EPA and USDA will also facilitate the exchange of successful recruitment and training strategies among stakeholders including states and water industries.

In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack is working to coordinate USDA programs across the government and encourage public-private partnerships to improve economic conditions and create jobs in rural communities. Today’s agreement is an example of how government can work together across federal agencies to utilize resources that will help rebuild and revitalize America’s rural communities.

Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken significant steps to promote prosperity and improve the lives of rural Americans. For instance, the Administration has set goals to modernize infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, provide improved water service to 1.8 million rural residents, expand educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and provide affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are, self-sustaining, and thriving economically.

USDA, through its rural development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural development has an existing portfolio of more than $153 billion in loans and loan guarantees to improve the quality of life through economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers.

For more information about the EPA-USDA agreement visit: http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/index.cfm

Information about USDA’s Water and Environmental Programs for rural communities: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/UWEP_HomePage.html

Information on EPA’s programs and tools for small water systems: http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/index.cfm

More water treatment coverage here.

Drought news: Federal grazing relief extended for Colorado counties affected by drought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Grazing and haying on Conservation Reserve Program acreage was extended for a month. That means grazing or haying on the land will extend to Oct. 31 without further payment reduction. Producers must contact local Farm Service Agency offices to sign up and gain permission to graze. More than 2.2 million acres have been enrolled in CRP in Colorado, yielding $74 million in revenue to farmers and ranchers. Because of drought conditions, the land was opened for use this year, along with a 25 percent reduction in payments. As a second condition designed to help livestock producers, FSA will allow producers nationwide to utilize harvested hay from expiring CRP acres when those acres are being prepared for fall seeded crops.

Prior to this modification, all mechanically harvested hay was required to be destroyed. This change enables livestock producers to feed the hay that is mechanically harvested to their own livestock or to sell or donate hay. Consistent with existing policy for managed or emergency haying and grazing of eligible CRP acres, rental payments will be reduced by 25 percent for those using this option.

“We are eager to do all we can in the face of this drought crisis across the southern plains,” said FSA Administrator Bruce Nelson. “This has been one of the worst dry and hot spells since the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s.”

Here’s a primer about Colorado droughts from John F. Henz and William J. Badini writing for HDR Hydro-Meteorological Services. Here’s an excerpt:

Stephen Long, a U.S. Army lieutenant who passed through Colorado in 1822, giving his name to the most visible peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, wrote off the entire block of real estate that included Kansas, eastern Colorado and the Texas panhandle as “the great American desert.’’ His assessment was much the same as Pike, who preceded him, even as to the limiting factor of the plains:

The Great Plains region is almost wholly unfit for cultivation, and of course inhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence. Although tracts of fertile land considerably exten- sive are occasionally met with, yet the scarcity of wood and water, almost uniformly prevalent, will prove an insuperable obstacle in the way of settling the country.

If we are to plan water supplies of Colorado’s future, a good place to start is in the understanding of Colorado drought: its history, its cycles, how we measure it, where it comes from and how we might plan for its occurrence in the future. The Drought of 1999-2002 in Colorado has provided a rude awakening to drought’s impacts on mod- ern life. A mandate to respond has been sounded. The time for decisive but meaningful action requires that we humbly appreciate and understand nature’s power.

Denver Water’s Chips Barry to be memorialized August 12

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From email from Denver Water (Lori Peck):

Montclair Pump Station will be renamed the Hamlet J. “Chips” Barry III Pump Station

WHAT: Denver Water Board members, employees, local officials, Montclair neighborhood residents and the family of Chips Barry will honor Denver Water’s former manager at a ceremony to rename the Montclair Pump Station. This event will include tribute speeches and an unveiling of the new sign. Montclair Pump Station is in the Barry family neighborhood and is part of the recycled water system put into service during Barry’s tenure as manager of Denver Water.

WHEN: Friday, Aug.12, 8 a.m.

WHERE: Montclair Pump Station; 1100 Quebec St.; Denver, CO 80230

NOTE: Due to space constraints, this event is limited to invitees and members of the news media.

HISTORY: Chips Barry was the manager of Denver Water for 19 years. He had planned to retire last summer, but was killed in an accident May 2, 2010. During his tenure at Denver Water, the utility implemented a conservation program that is nationally and internationally recognized as a model of success, built a recycled water distribution system, invested millions of dollars in improvements at its treatment facilities, monitored recovery from several devastating wildfires in Denver Water’s watershed and led the work to recover from one of the worst droughts in the city’s history.

More Denver Water coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: 162 cfs in the river below Ruedi Reservoir

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As inflows to Ruedi Reservoir continue to drop off, we continue to match outflow to inflow. As a result, we’ll be decreasing our release at 5 p.m. today [August 8] by 30 cfs.

The resulting release from the dam to the Fryingpan should be about 156 cfs. With the Rocky Fork contributing 6 cfs, flows past the Ruedi gage should be about 162 cfs. The reservoir remains basically full–only about three feet down.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.