The Bureau of Land management is constructing a fish barrier in East Parachute Creek to isolate Colorado River cutthroats

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

BLM is also working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Trout Unlimited to install a fish barrier in East Fork Parachute Creek as part of an effort to maintain native Colorado River cutthroat trout in this drainage.

The Colorado River cutthroats on the Roan Plateau are considered some of the most genetically pure, but non-native brook trout introduced many years ago into the East Fork Parachute Creek are threatening that drainage’s cutthroat population.

“If we don’t take action now, we expect the cutthroat to be completely gone from the East Fork in one to three years,” said BLM West Slope Fisheries Biologist Tom Fresques.

The concrete fish barrier will be installed near the confluence with Third Water Gulch. It will prevent brook trout from moving upstream, which will allow biologists to begin reclaiming the cutthroat population upstream of the barrier.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Releases from Elkhead Reservoir for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program will have the Yampa running 1,000 cfs at Maybell

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From the Craig Daily Press:

“A relatively high volume of water will be released (about 350 cubic-feet-per-second) from Elkhead for four days to support a sustained flow of about 1,000 cfs in the Yampa River at Maybell, downstream of Craig,” Fish and Wildlife officials announced in the release. “The released water will take about 24 hours to reach Maybell, and flows will return to pre-release levels at Maybell by Aug. 24.

“All releases will be made through the dam outlets that are screened to prevent the escapement of nonnative fish.”

The reservoir level is expected to drop 3 feet during the release period and stabilize by the middle of next week, according to the release. There will be no affects to boat or angler access to the reservoir.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board voted 13-1 against expansion of federal wilderness areas in the Arkansas River basin

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

At issue is a bill by Diana DeGette, D-Colo., to create additional Colorado wilderness areas, as well as wild lands and wilderness study designations approved by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. The federal legislation has been reintroduced several times without success.

The [Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District] believes any of those actions could prevent water development. “Development of storage or enlargement of existing storage and other beneficial uses of water on streams that are included in these wilderness designations, such as Grape, Badger or Beaver Creeks, will be precluded as a consequence,” Upper Ark chairman Glenn Everett said.

The Southeastern District still has conditional decrees for canals that could serve hydroelectric power generation. The canals haven’t been built, but could be in the future, explained Bob Hamilton, engineering supervisor for the district.

Most board members agreed, except for Reed Dils. “In my mind, considering what’s going to happen to the legislation, we should do nothing at all,” Dils said. “I support wilderness legislation.”

More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Various restoration and flood control projects require substitute water supply plans to be filed with the state engineer

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Substitute water supply plans, which cover impacts from changes of water use that last less than five years, already have been filed on two of three projects that have begun on Fountain Creek. The plans are filed with the Division of Water Resources and can be forerunners of eventual court decrees, as uses continue over longer periods of time…

“We’re pleased (project sponsors) recognize there is a water rights component that needs to be addressed,” Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte said. Plans have been filed on the Clear Spring Ranch and Pueblo North Side wetlands restoration projects. The sediment collector project also would need a plan if it continues beyond a year.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update: Pilot project underway to determine how fallowed land will be affected

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From the Lamar Tribune Democrat (Bette McFarren):

Four hundred acres of the 1,200 acres enrolled in the program will be fallowed. Five hundred acre-feet of water would be sold yearly to Fountain, Security and Widefield at a cost of $500 an acre-foot. The water is to be stored in Pueblo Reservoir.

The area designated for fallowing may be rotated or kept the same for the entire three-year period. Most farmers are electing to rotate the area to be fallowed, said [Heath Kuntz of Adaptive Resources Inc.], in order to do maintenance work on the land. Many intend to laser-level the ground while it is dried up. A cover crop must be planted to prevent wind erosion, but may not be irrigated. Weed control is also required. The pilot program seeks to involve as many farming scenarios as possible. “Better now with 500 acres than later with 5,000 acres involved,” said [Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District] General Manager Jay Winner…

A great deal of oversight is planned for the project. So far, State Engineer Dick Wolfe seems to be favorable to the plan, said Winner. The plan will be managed with administrative tools, not water court. The governor likes the Rule 10 engineering plan, which is the basic tool for measuring the water on the farms. The ISAM plan is agreeable to most parties involved, with modifications as the pilot program plays out. The pilot program should be ready for state approval by December.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: El Paso County Q&A over Niobrara shale play draws around 100 people

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From KRDO.com (Joe Dominguez):

State and local elected leaders called the meeting educational for the public. Many of the questions from the public focused on contamination and making sure companies aren’t polluting the water and ground. “That’s why I think people are concerned,” said State Representative Marsha Looper. “When you have no water then you have no life, no economy.”[…]

It’s not just county land that’s ripe for fracking. Most of Colorado is in the Niobrara shale area. Doug Flanders, with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said because Colorado now sits where a western interior seaway was 90 million years ago it is now prime real estate for oil and gas companies to find new sources of domestic oil. The Banning Lewis Ranch is another area that could be home to drilling in the future. City of Colorado Springs leaders have been in talks with the oil and gas company that is buying the foreclosed property. Mayor Steve Bach said last week it is a real possibility that the land will eventually be used simply for drilling and fracking.

State Representative Looper has posted the handouts from the meeting on her website. The handouts are a great resource for anyone interested in hydraulic fracturing and the Niobrara shale play.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: $3 million funding study should be included in this year’s omnibus funding bill from the U.S. Congress

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The study’s nearly $3 million in funding for next year received support in committee, and should be part of an anticipated omnibus funding bill later this year, lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District on Thursday. “We should receive just under $3 million unless there are across-the-board cuts,” Arbogast said…

The Southeastern board is the primary sponsor of the conduit, and has combined the EIS for the conduit with a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo on behalf of both conduit participants and other members of the Southeastern district.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Lamar pipeline: Around 75 people attend first public meeting with the developer GP Resources, LLC in Lamar

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From the Lamar Ledger (Lola Shrimplin):

Representatives of Otero, Bent and Prowers Counties, Lamar city officials, representatives from Kansas and concerned area residents filled the multipurpose room at the Lamar Community Center on Tuesday night to listen to Karl Nyquist with C & A companies, discuss his plans for a pipeline to take water from Lamar to Elbert County.

Calling the proposal a “win-win,” [Carl Nyquist] said the proposal would create jobs for Prowers County, while providing water for Front Range communities. “How we stumbled into water, is I came down here about 10 years ago and bought a farm, believe it or not,” Nyquist said. About 15 years ago, water tap fees were increasing rapidly and Nyquist said he began doing research and began purchasing land with water rights, the first of which was the West farm, east of Lamar…

The pipeline would run from Prowers County, into Kiowa, Cheyenne, Lincoln and into El Paso County.

An abandoned gas line easement has been purchased and the line will be put in its place, Nyquist said.A water treatment plant would provide diversification of jobs in Prowers County away from agriculture, Nyquist said, which would be a benefit. The jobs would be long term-permanent jobs, he said. Nyquist said there would be 63 sustainable jobs associated with the project and seven with the gravel pit.

Meanwhile, 300 or so attended a public meeting in Elbert County to hear about the proposed pipeline. Here’s a report from Ashley Dieterle writing for the Castle Rock News. From the article:

The meeting drew so much interest, some people had to sit on the floor of the school’s gymnasium.

Before the project can begin, the Elbert Board of County Commissioners must approve an amendment to the Elbert and Highway 86 Metropolitan District’s service plan.

Since Nyquist and his team first showed up on the board’s agenda on July 13 many people in the county have voiced concern. At the July 27 board meeting at the Elbert County Fairgrounds, more than 300 people attended, many of whom voiced their concerns about the project moving too fast. During that meeting Nyquist requested a 30-day extension in order to educate people in the county about the project.

“We would like the extension to be able to utilize this meeting and hear the comments from the public,” he said. “We believe it is a very important issue for Elbert County and we want to hear more from the public. We have heard very reasonable concerns, and we need to address those concerns.”

Questions are being raised the cost of construction and operations for the project. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Commissioners from Bent and Otero County raised questions at last week’s meeting, concerned about similar projects that might affect their own counties.

Prowers County commissioners, who have talked with Nyquist about his plans for a gravel pit just outside Lamar, were caught off-guard because they were not told it would become a reservoir to feed a proposed treatment plant for the pipeline. Prowers County would have land-use authority under 1974’s HB1041, which allows counties to regulate statewide projects. Eagle County used that law to delay development of the Homestake II project by Colorado Springs and Aurora. Pueblo County applied conditions to the Southern Delivery System under the same law. Because of the role of commissioners as a quasi-judicial body in the 1041 process, they are restricted in what they can say about the project.

Bent County commissioners questioned Nyquist’s estimates of brine disposal based on the experience the city of Las Animas has had in dealing with reverse-osmosis. Nyquist claimed only 3 to 5 percent of the water would be lost to brine, which would then be injected into deep wells. Las Animas has far greater losses in its process.

Bent County Commissioner Bill Long also questioned the claim that GP Water’s treatment plant would increase the tax base as promised just because a private company is building it. “What if it sells to a water district?” Long asked. Nyquist said those types of questions would be addressed in 1041 negotiations.

Finally, Chris Woodka reports on the opposition to the pipeline from farmers in the lower Arkansas Valley in today’s Chieftain. From the article:

“It took us by surprise. This is my grandfather’s farm,” said Diane Gass, whose family irrigates 360 acres on the Granada Ditch. “This is my heritage, which is the reason I become so emotional at the meeting. We’re not going to go down without a fight.” The meeting she refers to was called last week by GP Water to explain to local residents its proposal to pump water from a treatment plant near Lamar to El Paso, Elbert and other Front Range counties. Another public meeting will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Lamar Community Building…

While the pipeline would be slightly larger than needed to move the water historically used to irrigate 4,000 acres, there won’t be any push to buy up more rights, [Karl Nyquist, one of three principal partners in the project] said. “We’ll only take the water we own,” Nyquist said. “We’re working hard not to affect anyone on the ditches.”

Nyquist insisted the project will keep farm land viable, but didn’t entirely rule out the possibility that GP might purchase more rights in the future. “Never say never,” he said…

[Diane Gass’] farm produces wheat and hay. Much of the hay this year has been sold to Texas, where drought conditions are threatening the cattle industry. “What happens here could have a domino effect,” she said.

The larger issues are those affecting the towns near farms, something she didn’t think much about when she lived in Lamar. “When I saw a hail cloud living in town, I worried about my roof. Now I see one and think, ‘There goes my profit,’ ” she said. “When you’re talking about water to drink in these cities, nobody asks, ‘What are you going to eat?’ They just don’t think about it.”

More Lamar Pipeline coverage here.

Colorado Water Trust: CCC Ditch Project Materials Harvest Underway

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From email from the Colorado Water Trust:

The CCC Ditch is located near Naturita on the San Miguel River. The San Miguel River is one of Colorado’s last free flowing rivers and is one of the few naturally functioning riparian ecosystems remaining in the Western United States. We have been working in partnership with the CCC Ditch Company, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, the Bureau of Land Management, and other interested parties to create a diversion structure that is more sensitive to fish passage issues and is safer for recreation. Better diversion management will also prevent the late-season dewatering that occurs at the diversion structure.

The funding for this project is now in place and FlyWater inc., the project contractor, is currently at the site harvesting rock and other materials needed for construction. This project would not have come to fruition, however, had it not been for Jeff Crane from the Colorado Watershed Assembly, who is one of the state’s best builder of stakeholder groups.

Follow along on our website or on Facebook. We will post pictures and provide updates as the project moves forward.

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works approves lease agreement for the Donala Water and Sanitiation District

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The 20-year lease agreement calls for either trading or selling up to 250 acre-feet of water annually to Donala, so the water district can meet terms of a proposed court settlement with the state of Colorado in a Water Court case. The Pueblo water board would receive a one-time payment of $7,500 and from $12,000 to $96,000 annually, depending on how much water is traded or sold. The rate also escalates over time, depending on general rate increases approved by the water board…

Under the agreement, the Pueblo water board would receive $50 per acre-foot, plus a 10 percent gain in the amount of water leased in a contract exchange of its water in Turquoise Lake for Donala water in Lake Pueblo. The 10 percent gain comes because there would be no transit loss in moving water in a paper trade. Alternately, the Pueblo water board would receive $385 per acre-foot if it sells water to Donala, according to the proposed agreement…

The ranch will provide part of the water supply for Donala’s 2,700 customers, who now rely primarily on dwindling groundwater reserves from the Denver basin aquifers. In a Water Court case in March, Pueblo District Judge Dennis Maes sided with the state engineer’s opinion that Donala would need to make winter releases to augment the Arkansas River, primarily to meet the in-stream flow requirements of Willow Creek under a decree held by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Donala chose to seek augmentation water from Turquoise Lake, but had no way of getting an account in the reservoir, said Dana Duthie, Donala manager…

Several board members wanted to make sure the water would stay within the Arkansas River basin, since Donala has a small portion of undeveloped land in the South Platte River basin. “It’s in their contract with Colorado Springs and in the (Water Court) decree that they can’t use the water outside the Arkansas basin,” Executive Director Alan Hamel said.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.