Here’s are answers to questions about draining Bonny from the State Engineer, from The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl). From the article:
Q: Why weren’t other options considered?
A: Many options were considered, and other steps have been taken to make up for the water shortfall to Kansas. Agencies have reluctantly concluded there are no viable legal or physical options available to bring us into compact compliance that will allow water to be stored in Bonny Reservoir and allow farmers and municipalities to continue pumping their wells…
Q: Why can’t Kansas maintain Bonny Reservoir so water can be released when necessary to its irrigators?
A: We explored many options with Kansas, including ones that would allow the reservoir to remain as a storage facility. Thus far, Kansas has not accepted any of these proposals.
More Republican River basin coverage here and here.
The Hartland Dam Reconstruction project has ignited a blaze of local enthusiasm for a long stretch of recreational river. Excitement for the idea was running high last Thursday during a meeting of about 15 people who see river recreation as the next big thing. Represented at the session were the county (three commissioners, planning, and administration), the City of Delta (community development, parks, recreation), the Bureau of Land Management (Gunnison Gorge NCA manager), Town of Hotchkiss, Trout Unlimited, and the NFRIA Conservation Center of Paonia. The group’s idea is to complete a “concept paper” in two weeks that will outline a vision of a river recreation corridor through Delta County. The paper could lead to a planning grant from GOCO…
[County Commissioner Olen Lund] pointed out that there’s a lot of private ownership along the banks of the river, and private owners aren’t always receptive to river floaters and their sometimes inconsiderate ways. A county-sponsored public meeting of river corridor property owners took place in 2006 at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center. That meeting resulted in a deluge of opposition from landowners against promoting river recreation in the county. The meeting fairly stifled any broad discussion of the concept, until now.
Now, with the Hartland Dam reconstruction project connecting the river to boaters above and below Delta, and with the availability of GOCO money for comprehensive river corridor planning, the Gunnison River recreation idea has re-emerged.
Here’s the release from the Town of Cedaredge via The Delta County Indpendent:
Last March Cedaredge public works director David Smith told the trustees that the wastewater treatment plant exceeded the planning threshold for organic capacity levels three times in the past year, and that now was the time to start planning for a solution.
To that end, the trustees approved JVA Consulting‘s proposal to create planning documents based on the evaluation of the existing wastewater treatment facility and anticipated effluent limits.
McGibbon provided the trustees with an overview regarding the current wastewater needs for the town; an evaluation of the existing treatment facility; organic loading capacities; recommended design alternatives; and future operations of the wastewater treatment plant, including the most cost effective alternatives.
JVA’s recommendation is for the town to build a new mechanical wastewater treatment facility near Surface Creek, with total capital costs projected to be nearly $3.4 million, plus $1.3 million in operational and maintenance costs. McGibbon provided the trustees with a four-year implementation schedule to begin in October, with a startup date for the new facility of December 2015.
[Water Education Program] is a free resource for local schools and teachers located in the San Miguel River Watershed. WEP provides full-day and overnight programs directly related to their classroom curriculum and tied to the Colorado State Standards, explains Telluride Institute’s Watershed Education Program Director Laura Kudo.
“The San Miguel River is one of the last free-flowing rivers in Colorado, and boasts riparian ecosystems that are home to flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world,” Kudo says, describing the WEP experience as one that simply cannot be replicated indoors. “This gets students into the real-life classroom… providing unique hands-on learning opportunities.”
On Monday, all 60 of Telluride’s seventh graders explored their eye-popping, real-life classroom, listening to the barks of resident prairie dogs, seeing the handiwork of dam-building beavers and getting a quick history lesson about the Valley Floor and the San Miguel River from Telluride Open Space Commission and Town Councilmembers Bob Saunders and David Oyster.
“We’re witnessing the return of these prairie dogs’ natural predators,” Saunders told the group, as they stood watching the critters peek up out of their dens and scurry to new holes, referring to the recent emergence of badgers on the Valley Floor, and the raptors drawn to its recently erected Raptor Poles…
The tour features local speakers and experts like State of Colorado Department of Natural Resource’s Camille Price and Idarado Mining Co.’s Joe Smart, Town of Telluride’s Program Manager Lance McDonald and San Miguel County Parks Supervisor Rich Hamilton, as well as the Telluride Institute’s Kudo. The speakers share their knowledge about the area’s natural, cultural, and human history, watershed geography, regional geology, and river ecology, Kudo says, the purpose of which is “to inform the students that live in our Watershed how people and places interact with and shape one another, and why this interdependence is important and relevant to them.”
Water conservation is something every resident needs to understand. It’s simple. It’s smart. Small, everyday decisions can add up to enormous water savings and allow our community to maintain its economic strength and quality of life.
Castle Rock is located in Colorado’s high-plains, semi-arid environment. The Town averages only 8 to 15 inches of precipitation a year. Because of this, every drop counts – whether it’s pumped fresh from a well and delivered to your home, or saved through reduced indoor and outdoor water use.
Helping residents learn tips and techniques of water conservation was a primary goal when Castle Rock Water created CRconserve.com, a website geared at helping residents maximize water conservation habits around their home.
Rick Schultz, water conservation specialist says, “A major component of the Town’s Water Conservation Master Plan is educational outreach. With the generous support of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, through this grant, this new website allows us another way to reach our customers. We can keep our residents updated with all the latest conservation tips, local xeric plants and upcoming classes.”
Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Lisa McClain-Vanderpool):
At a recognition event today, the U.S. EPA, Colorado Springs Utilities and the Colorado Water Conservation Board recognized Gold Hill Mesa builder GJ Gardner Northgate for building the first WaterSense labeled home in the state of Colorado. GJ Gardner joins only 3 other builders nationwide who have done the same.
“This beautiful GJ Gardner home is being celebrated today for meeting high standards for water efficiency and conservation,”said Sadie Hoskie, EPA Region 8 water program director. “The Gold Hill Mesa development is not only a successful example of reusing valuable land, they have set the bar even higher not only by instituting water conservation through WaterSense but by adopting high renewable energy and efficiency standards in the homes they’re building.”
Each WaterSense home is independently inspected and certified by a third party to ensure EPA criteria are met for both water efficiency and performance. This GJ Gardner home is 20% more water efficient and will save a family of four approximately $600 per year in utility costs, or 50,000 gallons of water, compared to a typical home.
“We applaud the innovative builders who are taking such a thoughtful approach to water. These sensible steps will not only save money for homeowners but provide important examples for Coloradans as we understand water is a treasure for the entire state, important for our homes, but also for our farmers, rivers, wildlife, industries and tourism,” said John Stulp, special policy advisor for water to Gov. Hickenlooper. “Such responsible approaches to water help our economy and environment thrive.”
“New homes like this one are a model for our community’s future and help us achieve our long-range conservation goals to ensure a sustainable supply of water, while saving homeowners water, energy and money,” said Jerry Forte, chief executive officer for Colorado Springs Utilities.
Homeowners who invest in a WaterSense labeled home will save water and energy now, pay less for utilities every month, and protect resources for future generations. WaterSense labeled products like showerheads, toilets and bathroom faucets are now available at every cost point.
WaterSense labeled new homes are all about convenience, efficiency and confidence. Hot water will be delivered to the users faster – saving water, energy AND time. Their yards will be healthy, regionally sustainable and easier to maintain and their homes will be filled with WaterSense labeled products that they can be confident have been tested for efficiency and performance.
More coverage from Kelly Werthmann writing for the Colorado Connection. From the article:
Colorado Springs Utilities, in partnership with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, recognized GJ Gardner Northgate for building the first WaterSense labeled home in Colorado. WaterSense homes are labeled as such when they are inspected by a third party and deemed credible to ensure water efficiency and performance. This particular home is in the Gold Hill Mesa development. As with other WaterSense homes, this home uses 20 percent less water than typical new homes. The U.S. EPA established WaterSense to protect the future of the nation’s water resources and promote water-efficient products.
For the past decade, Colorado has been looking at the “gap” in municipal water supplies. The Statewide Water Supply Initiative — first released in 2004 and updated last year — projects a gap of from 190,000 to 630,000 acre-feet per year if the state’s population doubles by 2050, as projections show it will. Until recently, the state had talked about drying up farmland to meet the gap. There is new concern that drying up ag land will diminish the ability to feed more people. Food supply is expected to become a global problem in the next 50 years.
“We need to come up with a solution so that ag water relates the same as municipal water,” said Reeves Brown, a Beulah rancher and member of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board. “We need to protect ag water.”[…]
Colorado State University researchers have developed computer models that can project the economic impact of removing water from agriculture, and the committee explored ways to develop models specific to the Arkansas and South Platte basins…
The group discussed presenting scenarios where the amount of water available for agriculture increases, stays the same or is reduced. Alternately, the models could factor in how the value of agricultural production could rise or fall with various amounts of water available.
The Colorado Department of Local Affairs contributed $1.3 million to the project. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided a $2.1 million grant and a $12.1 million loan. Jan Schmidt, city finance director, said the balance will be paid from reserves.
Moltz Construction, Inc. of Salida received the $11.8 million construction bid…
Mayor Chuck Rose said wastewater service is core to any municipality, and the Salida plant will also serve Poncha Springs. Rose said, “We’re staying ahead of the game” by constructing the new plant before effluent affects the river.
From the Colorado News Agency (Debi Brazzale) via The Sterling Journal Advocate:
Steve Gunderson, director of the state’s Water Quality Control Division, told the legislative Water Resources Review Committee the potential magnitude of the problem. “Nutrients are more toxic than plutonium,” said Gunderson.
The committee took the testimony at a hearing Wednesday [September 12] in accordance with House Joint Resolution 11-1025. The resolution outlines criteria to be studied by the panel in anticipation of rules and regulations to be proposed in March by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission regarding the presence of surplus nutrients.
When combined, nitrogen and phosphorus fuel the production of algae, which is essential for plant and animal health — but too much of which can contaminate waterways, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. An excess of algae upsets the ecological balance for other life forms and requires urgent action, the federal environmental agency maintains. The EPA says the proliferation of such contaminants is a growing concern in the United States, and EPA rulings have encouraged states to adopt measureable standards and to develop mitigation strategies to reduce nutrients.
Gaining ground in controlling nutrients will require mitigation efforts at wastewater-treatment plants, state officials say. One approach involves what’s called Biological Nutrient Removal, or BNR, using naturally occurring micro-organisms to remove the nutrients. BNR, however, cannot remove the nutrients to EPA-recommended levels, according to Gunderson…
[State Representative Jerry Sonnenberg] countered that adopting quantifiable standards might disproportionately affect rural communities where agriculture and the use of fertilizers — containing nitrogen — are integral to their livelihood. “Agriculture uses less fertilizer per acre than most homes do on lawns,” said Sonnenberg. “Do we really want to go down this road and force agriculture to find different ways to grow food that everyone depends on?” Sonnenberg asserts that the nutrients-in-water conversation has been around for years — and that the jury is still out on both the impacts and causes of nutrient proliferation.
“Now they’re talking numbers, and it will be impossible to meet those numbers,” Sonnenberg said. “Let’s not handcuff ourselves with rules and regulations that cannot be met.”
Currently, the city of Aspen adds fluoride to the natural amount already in the water supply to achieve a level of 1 to 1.1 milligrams of fluoride per each liter of water. The debate was sparked by recent recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, federal agencies that want water districts to lower the amount of fluoride to .07 milligrams per liter…
Council members said that they need more time to discuss three possible options the city’s Environmental Health Department outlined. One option is to maintain the status quo; another is to completely stop adding fluoride to the water; the third alternative would be to reduce the amount of fluoride it adds to water to reach the EPA-recommended .07 level.
The council asked environmental health director Lee Cassin if she could return with more information about the issue. Council members asked how difficult and expensive it would be for individuals to filter out the fluoride on their own; how much money the city would save to end the program (the annual cost was an estimated $22,000); and why water plants in Europe have ended fluoridation.
[Sheep Mountain Alliance], a Telluride-based environmental non-profit, has opposed the planned mill — to be located in Paradox Valley, about 60 miles west of Telluride — at nearly every turn. But last week, Sheep Mountain and others agreed to withdraw their objections regarding water use in exchange for the mining company’s adherence to certain environmental and water supply provisions…
Not so fast, though, says Hilary White, SMA’s executive director. “The stipulation between Sheep Mountain Alliance/Living Rivers and Energy Fuels does not provide Energy Fuels with a water right,” she wrote in an email on Wednesday. “The agreement requires Energy Fuels to obtain all necessary conditions including water from McPhee Reservoir to mitigate impacts from withdrawing groundwater in the Paradox Valley. However, it remains to be seen whether or not Energy Fuels is able to purchase Dolores Project Water and satisfy conditions of [Colorado Water Conservation Board] — the remaining objector.”
From the Rocky Mountain Collegian (Tyler Cashion):
“CoCoRaHS is a non-profit science network of people who relay their rain gauge levels to help local scientists all the way up to scientists on the national level,” said Noah Newman, education coordinator for CoCoRaHs…
Lately, CoCoRaHS has been visiting grade schools across the state to encourage students to become volunteers.
“The notion is that we need more data, we need more rain gages, we need more pixels on our map, just like you would want more pixels on your camera,” Newman said. “My plan as the education coordinator is to recruit more schools to our network.
“Right now most of our members are retired senior citizens, so we’re trying to get a younger group to join, but we are open for anyone to become a volunteer.”
According to Newman, CoCoRaHS has invited every school in the state of Colorado to join the program. Newman has even offered to buy the rain gages for these schools.
“Any teacher that is interested is eligible for a free rain gage,” Newman said. “We have handed out around 15 rain gages in Fort Collins so far, and we have schools all over the state already starting to participate.
Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (Mark Salley):
On Tuesday, the Water Quality Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment amended its June 1, 2010 notice of violation/cease and desist order, and required Cotter Corporation to build a bypass pipeline at its Schwartzwalder Mine in Jefferson County to minimize the discharge of uranium-laden water into Ralston Creek.
Schwartzwalder Mine is an underground uranium mine near Golden that opened in about 1953 and was acquired by Cotter in 1966. Cotter operated the mine from 1966 until 2000 when mining operations ceased.
The Water Quality Control Division learned in 2010 that discharge from the mine property contained elevated levels of uranium that exceed surface water standards under the Colorado Water Quality Control Act.
Cotter completed the majority of the corrective actions required by the June order, but discharges of uranium and other mine-related pollutants to groundwater and surface water from the facility have continued.
Water sampling at the site from June 2010 through July 2011 show concentrations of uranium in the groundwater and surface water that continue to cause or contribute to an exceedance of the 30 micrograms per liter stream standard.
The amended order dated Sept. 27 requires Cotter to submit a plan to the department no later than Oct. 7 for the design and construction of the temporary structure (i.e., pipeline) that will divert Ralston Creek steam flows past the Schwartzwalder facility. Construction is to be substantially completed by Jan. 31, 2012.
The amendment to the June 1 order further requires Cotter to evaluate and enhance its groundwater capture and treatment system and to submit a plan and time schedule for the
aggressive removal or containment of all groundwater and surface water pollutant sources at the mine.
Steve Gunderson, director of the state’s Water Quality Control Division, said the department has continued to work closely with the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to regulate the Schwartzwalder facility.
Gunderson said, “While Cotter implemented the majority of the corrective actions required in our June order, pollutants are continuing to reach the creek. This step is necessary to help protect groundwater and surface water.
“As the agency that regulates drinking water for the state, we also continue to work with public drinking water systems that rely on waters from Ralston Creek,” said Gunderson. “Those three providers (Denver Water, City of Arvada, and North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District) continue to serve drinking water to their customers that meets safe drinking water standards. Although drainage from Schwartzwalder has continued to reach the surface waters of Ralston Creek, the drinking water from those systems remains safe for consumption as a result of downstream attenuation at Ralston Reservoir and Blunn Reservoir, and treatment techniques utilized by the public water systems.”
More coverage from Karen Crummy writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
Cotter Corp., which owns the defunct Schwartzwalder Mine in Jefferson County, has until Oct. 7 to submit a design- and-construction plan for a bypass pipeline. That pipeline is to be “substantially completed” by Jan. 31. Additionally, Cotter is required to submit a plan and time schedule for the “aggressive removal or containment of all groundwater and surface water pollutant sources” at the mine…
On Wednesday, the state said the company had “completed the majority of corrective actions” but added the pipeline requirement after it became clear pollutants were still reaching the creek…
Cotter has had numerous problems with the state over the years. Most recently, the company filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Mined Lands Reclamation Board, accusing it of abusing its discretion when it ordered Cotter to pump out and treat the uranium-tainted water in its mine.
If approved, the district would pay $320,000 a year over the next 20 years to cover the loan [ed. from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority], but the improvements could also save the district enough money to soften the annual blow. Right now, the district pays about $360,000 a year to treat and dispose of the solids from the plant. The new improvements could save the district about $215,000 a year, making the annual payment about $115,000 a year. The improvements also will reduce the odor from the plant and protect against potential leaks into the groundwater.
Initial estimates are that, with about 5,000 homes on the district’s sewer lines, the annual payments could mean a $12 to $13 increase in sewer rates per year for those customers.
Meanwhile the district has received five applications for the vacant board seat, according to Jeff Tucker writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Five people have applied for the open seat on the Pueblo West Metropolitan District’s Board of Directors, vacated by Chuck Green… Metro District Manager Jack Johnston said the board won’t take any action until its next official meeting at the soonest. That meeting is Oct. 11
From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via the Colorado Springs Gazette:
Environmentalists who attended a public hearing on the proposal argued the agency’s proposed rules could go further. The meeting was the second of three on the agency’s plan, which includes what would be its first regulations for wells that are hydraulically fractured by blasting water, chemicals and sand underground…
Dozens of people spoke at hearings Tuesday in Pittsburgh and Wednesday in Denver. More planned to speak Thursday in Arlington, Texas…
The new rules would focus on having operators capture and sell natural gas that now escapes into the air.
The EPA estimated its fully implemented proposal could reduce emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds by about 540,000 tons, or 25 percent. It would reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by about 26 percent and reduce hazardous air pollutants, including benzene, by almost 30 percent, the EPA estimates.
In the last two months, RiGHT protected the Rocky River Ranch west of Del Norte, the Howard Lester Ranch outside of Monte Vista and the Clark Ranch south of Alamosa.
These projects are a continuation of the local land trust’s Rio Grande Initiative, an ambitious effort to protect private land along the river corridor through voluntary, incentive-based conservation easements.
Collectively these ranches contain irrigated fields, wet meadows and prime farmland soils. Their protection helps keep land and water dedicated to agriculture, one of the core pieces of our local economy and the way of life we enjoy here in the Valley. These ranches also protect the cottonwoods and willows along the banks of the Rio Grande, which provide vital habitat for migratory songbirds, raptors, waterfowl and waterbirds, mule deer, elk and many other wildlife species. Equally as important, conservation of these lands protects the scenic views that both residents and visitors treasure here in the San Luis Valley…
Funding for these projects came from a variety of resources, including lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Conservation Resource Center and the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife’s San Luis Valley Habitat Partnership Program Committee.
These projects would not be possible without the dedication and generosity of the landowners who are protecting what they love about the San Luis Valley for future generations. “Thanks to their vision and commitment to conservation, we are helping ensure that the San Luis Valley we love today will still be here tomorrow,” commented RiGHT’s Executive Director, Nancy Butler.
While RiGHT works with landowners throughout the entire San Luis Valley, they have a special focus on protecting land and water resources in the Rio Grande corridor through the Rio Grande Initiative. RiGHT began the Initiative in 2007 in partnership with Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy. At the outset, there were 6,000 acres protected between 1986 and 2006.
More Rio Grande River basin coverage here and here.
Here’s the release from Metropolitan State College via The Denver Post:
An anonymous donor has given Metropolitan State College $1 million to establish an interdisciplinary water studies program.
Metro State officials on Tuesday said they’ll embark on creating the One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship — or OWOW — and that new courses next year will explore water issues.
OWOW’s mission will be to develop “urban water stewards” with an understanding of how to conserve critical resources. Students who study hydrology, politics, history, water law and conflict resolution then are to be guided toward internships and other volunteer opportunities to help meet statewide water needs.
The donor previously funded creation of a raindrop-shaped bronze sculpture on campus – meant to depict water cycles from mountains to oceans.
The new program will “bring recognition to Metro State. Part of Metro State’s mission is to help the community solve community related issues. Clearly, water is a huge issue in the West,” said Sandra Haynes, Metro State’s dean of professional studies. “We’ll be helping to create change in the way the Denver community views and uses water.”
More coverage from the Denver Business Journal (Bruce Goldberg):
The center, which is scheduled to offer a minor in water studies in fall 2012, will address Colorado’s growing demand for water and foster public education about it. The center also will implement water-stewardship activities both on campus and off, and connect students to internships, service learning and volunteer opportunities. The center also will help facilitate public education seminars and water-conservation initiatives.
Course topics will include hydrology, water law, history, economics, politics, conflict resolution and negotiation.
More coverage from Melanie Asmar writing for Westword. From the article:
“When we researched the potential for this program, we found that there wasn’t much being done at the undergraduate level to incorporate a variety of disciplines in water education,” says Sandra Haynes, dean of Metro State’s School of Professional Studies in a statement. “Through the interdisciplinary model, our graduates have the potential to make lasting impacts on water issues in our communities across the state.”
Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the Denver Water comparison chart for yearly charges in the Denver Metropolitan area. Here’s the release from Denver Water:
At its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners voted on a water rate increase for 2012 to provide necessary funding for the utility’s capital projects. The new water rates will take effect January 2012 and will help the utility stay on top of needed projects to address its aging infrastructure.
“The increase is about half of what the Board had anticipated last year,” said Angela Bricmont, director of finance. “We looked very closely at our capital plan and found a balance between projects that could wait and projects we had to undertake to avoid putting reliable service at risk. We also implemented additional efficiency measures throughout the organization.”
The water rates for 2012 will reflect a 5.5 percent increase for all customers. The effects of the proposed changes on customer bills will vary depending upon the amount of water the customer uses and whether the customer lives in Denver or is served by a suburban distributor under contract with Denver Water. The more customers use, the more they will pay. Under the current rate proposal, average Denver residential customers would see their bills increase by $19.43 a year — an average of $1.62 per month. Typical suburban residential customers served by Denver Water would see an increase of $34.11 per year — an average of $2.84 per month. Commercial, industrial and government customers also would see a 5.5 percent increase.
Next year, the utility’s major projects include its pipe rehabilitation and replacement program to improve water flow, water quality and pipe integrity in communities; the expansion of its recycled water system, which helps free up drinking water and extend water supplies into the future; the completion of major valve projects at Cheesman and Williams Fork dams; and the protection of the watershed through its From Forests to Faucets Partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.
Denver Water owns and maintains more than 3,000 miles of distribution pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 12 raw water reservoirs, 22 pump stations and four treatment plants. Ongoing rehabilitation and replacement of infrastructure is needed throughout the water distribution system, much of which dates back to post-World War II installation or earlier.
The utility plans to expand its system capacity over the next decade to meet the future needs of its customers by expanding the utility’s recycled water system, enlarging Gross Reservoir by 18,000 acre-feet, developing gravel pits that store reusable water, and exploring ways to work with other water providers to bring more supplies to its system.
Rates for Denver Water customers living inside the city remain among the lowest in the metro area, while rates for Denver Water residential customers in the suburbs would still fall at or below the median among area water providers.
“We are sensitive to the economy and the need to spend our customers’ dollars wisely,” Bricmont said. “We remain committed to organization-wide efficiency, sound financial management and fiscal responsibility. Our AAA bond rating allows us to build projects at lower cost — savings we are able to pass along to our customers.”
The water department is funded through rates and new tap fees, not taxes. Its rates are designed to recover the costs of providing reliable, high-quality water service and to encourage efficiency by charging higher prices for increased water use. A significant portion of Denver Water’s annual costs do not vary with the amount of water sold and include maintenance of the system’s distribution pipes, reservoirs, pump stations and treatment plants. Denver Water also examines and adjusts its capital plan as necessary each year.
Details of the 2012 rates can be found on Denver Water’s website (denverwater.org). Members of the public who have questions about the 2012 water rates may call 303-628-6320.
As we move into fall, we’re seeing some of our late season demands come on downstream of the Big Thompson River. As a result, we’ve been moving some water down from Pinewood, Flatiron and Lake Estes. Each reservoir has seen a slight drop in water elevation.
We have also increased releases from Lake Estes through Oly Dam. Monday night, we bumped releases up 75 cfs. Last night, we bumped up another 50 cfs. Consequently, this morning the Big Thompson through the canyon is flowing at about 200 cfs.
It is possible we could go up another 25 cfs late tonight. But, it is also likely flows will drop back down to below 100 cfs by Saturday morning when it is anticipated delivery of water down the Big T will drop off.
Also from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):
Flows on the Colorado River continue to drop. That means, calls for water along the 15 Mile Reach of critical habitat for the endangered fish are up slightly. As a result we have increased our release from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue. Yesterday around 5 p.m. we released another 50 cfs. That means the Lower Blue is currently around 650 cfs.
Said Mary Spencer, President of the [Parker Water and Sanitation District] Board, “The tap fee income PWSD has received from new development allows us to pay debt and reduce property taxes from 14.925 mills to 10.172 mills in 2012. This translates to a savings on property taxes. The reduction in the mil levy also includes a onetime reduction in the operating portion of the mill levy by 0.925 mills to payback property taxes plus interest that were collected in excess of limits allowed under TABOR. In addition, the Board is presenting to their customers, at the October 17, 2011 budget hearing, that there be no increase in the 2012 wastewater rates and only a 4% increase in water rates. The 4% increase for the average in house use of 6,000 gallons is $1.59 per month…
The Board will consider the proposed budget for approval at the October 17, 2011 Board meeting to be held at 7 PM at the District’s North Water Reclamation Plant located at 18100 E. Woodman Dr., Parker , CO 80134.
The [Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District] plans informational meetings during the next several days for its 3,300 ratepayers, but Manager Jesse Shaffer said information about the deal began to be mailed to customers months ago. As early as Oct. 16 the district’s board may decide to spend between $25 million and $31 million for the JV Ranch and the 3,500 acre feet of Fountain Creek water that go with it. Shaffer said the final purchase price will depend upon how much of that water can be converted to municipal use; it’s now used as agricultural water. A water court case would determine those numbers, but Woodmoor customers would see about $48 a month in additional charges to pay off revenue bonds sold by the district…
…a sustainable future costs money and the general notion of any water district reducing its dependence on disappearing groundwater in favor of annually renewable supplies is good for the entire Pikes Peak region. At some point, our nonrenewable water in the ground will be gone and long before that happens, cities towns and districts have to figure out how to avoid being left high and dry. “The JV Ranch purchase represents the greatest milestone in our district’s quest for renewable water,” Board President Barrie Town said…
Woodmoor customers can hear more details about the proposal at a meeting Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Monument Town Hall, 645 Beacon Lite Road, or on Oct. 8 at 8 a.m. at The Mozaic Restaurant at the Inn at Palmer Divide, 443 S. Highway 105, Palmer Lake.
More Arkansas River basin coverage here. More Denver basin aquifer system coverage here.
Flyfishing for carp in the South Platte is not easy. Sight fishing for actively feeding carp takes a bit of skill, a little luck, clear water and a fundamental understanding of this species’ finicky behavior. Once thought of as only a trash fish, carp have developed a cult-like following on the South Platte, from Chatfield Reservoir to Commerce City. Carp are a challenging species, but the river they inhabit in Denver has problems like few others.
“The South Platte River from Chatfield downstream through the city of Denver and even beyond doesn’t always have adequate flows to provide optimum amounts of water for sport fish,” said Paul Winkle, aquatic biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Even so, populations of fish are thriving. With every new trip to the water, the carp and other species caught by steadfast anglers are proof of the river’s potential as a healthy, sustainable fishery. One reason there is such belief in this section of the South Platte is because of the numbers produced each year at the carp tourney. In addition to the 16 carp landed by different teams (and numerous others that broke off light tippet or spit improperly set hooks), a number of trout also were caught and released, including a 22-inch rainbow…
In addition to a thriving carp population and pockets of healthy trout, anglers have reported increasing numbers of smallmouth bass. During this year’s carp slam, for the second year in a row, another frequently caught species was smallmouth bass. Smalleys can sustain higher water temperatures than other sport fish such as rainbows or browns, and they have a higher chance of survival and natural reproduction.
“The long-term seasonal climate forecast indicates that the return of La Nina conditions will likely result in drier conditions than last year,” said Veva DeHeza of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Below average conditions in the southeastern portion of the state are likely to persist with a chance of normal precipitation in the mountains for the midwinter.” The U.S. Drought Monitor still lists most of the Rio Grande, Pueblo and Baca counties as in extreme drought, with parts of Baca County still in exceptional drought. About 39 percent of the state is in drought. A record low for precipitation was recorded at Walsh in August, and September is on pace as well. Pueblo County has seen its lowest levels for precipitation since 2002, with 6.83 inches recorded so far this year at the airport weather station — roughly 60 percent of average.
Click here for the Colorado Water Conservation Board presentations from last week’s Water Availability Task Force meeting.
More than 100 people attended former EPA environmental engineer Weston Wilson’s Sierra Club-sponsored presentation about the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Saturday at the Fort Collins Brewery…
Wilson, in a 2004 letter to Congress, said the conclusions of an EPA report about fracking were not supported by the evidence. The report claimed that injecting toxic material into the ground during a fracking job presented no risk to the environment. Wilson recently retired from the EPA…
“There’s really no place along the Front Range that’s unsuitable for drilling the Niobrara,” Wilson said. All those wells are going to be fracked, and that could be an issue with water quality and supplies, he said…
About 2 percent of fracked oil wells fail, possibly releasing contaminants into underground water supplies, he said. The challenge for regulators has been that nobody really knows much about those failures because those affected by them are legally bound to keep quiet, he said. “The industry buys out those they contaminate,” he said. “Well, we don’t learn anything from that. When they buy out the person with a nondisclosure agreement, there’s no public information.”
Wilson said he is advocating for making fracking cleaner, adding that fears about the impacts of fracking have encouraged several European countries to ban the practice in addition to New York City banning fracking within its watershed.
From email from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education (Kristin Maharg):
How much water does Colorado need to grow? What is the threat to agriculture? How can water stay on farms while securing a desirable future? Attend a fast-paced tour to find out and network with others!
Join the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and expert speakers at “Future Horizons for Irrigated Agriculture in Northern Colorado” on Monday, October 17. The day will begin and end in Greeley and only costs $50/person thanks to the support of our sponsors!
CFWE first hosted this tour on September 9 and due to the overwhelming response plus the topic’s critical importance, we are able to do the same program again on 10/17. The harvest will be in full swing and we anticipate another sold out tour. So sign up now – registration is only open to CFWE members from now through Thursday.
But meteorologists said the La Nina pattern that started the drought appears to be re-forming, meaning higher-than-normal temperatures and less precipitation in the coming months.
South El Paso County is in a moderate drought, while north El Paso County is considered abnormally dry, according to the weather service. That’s a major improvement over the spring and summer months, when the county was mired in a severe drought.
Moisture levels across the rest of southern Colorado also appear to be improving, though the remote southeast corner of the state continues to experience an exceptional drought.
Extreme drought conditions also still exist south of El Paso County and east of Trinidad.
Here’s the link to the registration page. From email from the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread (Lynn Broadus):
Colorado Regional Freshwater Forum:
Exploring Colorado’s Solutions
to a National Challenge
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
(Continental breakfast available at 8:00 a.m.)
Taping of Rocky Mountain PBS’ Colorado State of Mind
and Reception to Follow
Denver Botanic Garden
1007 York Street – Denver, CO 80206
You are cordially invited to attend the Charting New Water’s Colorado Regional Freshwater Forum on Tuesday, October 18. This one-day meeting will bring together a diverse group of water leaders and experts from Colorado and other parts of the United States to exchange ideas and insights about how Colorado is addressing its most vexing freshwater challenges and the implications for national solutions.
RSVP by Friday, October 7, 2011. Seating is limited and will be held on a first come-first serve basis. I hope you are able to join us!
This year’s ballot, which is mail-in only, will contain a measure from the City of Durango asking residents to approve a $4 million loan to be used to buy 3,800 acre feet annually from the project. City Charter requires a vote of the electorate before assuming debt. The $4 million would be borrowed from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, a state agency established to promote water and power development in Colorado. As such, the city will get a more favorable rate than it would on the open market. The 20-year loan will be at an interest rate of 1.95 percent, making for total repayment of just under $5 million…
The 3,800 acre-feet would supplement the City’s current municipal and agricultural use of about 5,000 acre-feet per year. According to a 2003 study, an additional 3,800 acre-feet is the amount needed to meet the needs of a projected population of 40,000. Currently, the City serves its nearly 17,000 residents plus another couple thousand in adjacent areas for a total of about 19,000 customers, Rogers said. However, if Durango keeps on its current growth rate – 20 percent from 2000-2010, according to U.S. Census data – it could need additional water well before reaching the 40,000 mark. Rogers estimated the City’s water capacity at 25,000 users during the summer. “That’s only 6,000 more. When we reach that number, we’ll need to invest in other supplies,” he said. In addition to concerns over meeting growing demand, Rogers said there is also concern over security. Right now, the City has only a seven-day supply of water in its reservoir on College Mesa. The A-LP purchase would ensure an additional 75 days.
The higher rate will add 51 cents to the average monthly bill for residential users in 2012. That monthly increase then jumps to 56 cents the following year and so on through 2015, according to the rate information provided Monday night. Although those monthly increases are small, council only approved the rate hike on a 4-3 vote. Councilmen Leroy Garcia, Steve Nawrocki, Chris Kaufman and Larry Atencio voted for the measure, saying a rate hike was necessary to provide adequate funding for the city’s wastewater department. President Ray Aguilera along with Councilwomen Vera Ortegon and Judy Weaver voted against the increase. Weaver noted that the wastewater department’s operating fund would still be financially solvent for several years without any increase and that council should postpone raising fees for now.
The district’s board will look at finalizing the purchase of the JV Ranch near Fountain in Southern El Paso County at its Oct. 13 meeting, and has dropped contracts to purchase water rights on the High Line Canal and Excelsior Ditch. Woodmoor still has active contracts on the Holbrook Canal, as well as an application in Division 2 Water Court to exchange water from Holbrook up the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek. A trial in that case has been scheduled for June 2013. Woodmoor announced its intent to purchase the 3,500-acre JV Ranch, which has water rights of 2,500 to 3,500 acre-feet of water per year as well as a 70-acre reservoir. The purchase price will be $25 million to $35 million, depending on the historic average amount of water determined when a water rights change case is filed.
Woodmoor, which serves about 3,200 homes near Monument, has been hunting for water rights since 2009, to find renewable water supplies. It relies on 16 wells in the Denver Basin aquifers, which are being overtapped by new development…
If the JV Ranch can produce the full 3,500 acre-feet annually, it would provide nearly the full amount identified in the 2009 water plan, but [Woodmoor Manager Jessie Shaffer] said the district is looking to strengthen its water holdings…
The district has scheduled three meetings in the next two weeks to explain the JV Ranch purchase to its customers.
In May, I updated you on the latest developments in the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District’s ongoing efforts to acquire renewable water to transition the District away from dependence on the Denver Basin aquifers. That update included a Board decision to enter into a contract to purchase water rights from the JV Ranch, a parcel of land in southern El Paso County.
The Board at its October 13 meeting will consider finalizing the District’s purchase of the JV Ranch and the issuance of bonds to finance the purchase of this important asset. The cost for JV Ranch’s decreed water rights (approximately 3,500 acre-feet annually), land and reservoir will be between $25 million and $31 million, with the final cost dependent upon the outcome of Water Court processes that will change these agricultural water rights to be used in the District’s municipal system. The District is currently in the final stages of the purchase contract and is moving forward on the financing and closing of this purchase—currently scheduled for late October or early November 2011.
This purchase represents the greatest milestone in the District’s Renewable Water Plan. The JV Ranch will provide long-term water security and protect the value of properties in Woodmoor. As you know, acquiring renewable water to meet current and future needs is the District’s highest priority, and the Board and staff continually work to implement the District’s Renewable Water Plan.
Most likely, you are wondering how this purchase will impact your water bill. The Board and staff have been working diligently with the District’s financial and engineering consultants to finance this purchase while limiting the financial impact to customers. The purchase will be financed through revenue-anticipation bonds and repaid through a modest increase in water rates and the implementation of a monthly “Renewable Water Investment Fee.”
The implementation of the Renewable Water Investment Fee and water-rate change are anticipated to begin January 1, 2012. At the same time, property taxes in the District will actually decline as the WWSD mill levy expires on December 31. This mill levy allowed the District to develop water and wastewater infrastructure and fund the District’s portion of expanding the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Plant back in 1996.
[Click here for a brochure about the Renewable Water Plan, which includes a discussion of the January 1 changes in rates and an explanation of how the rates will be computed. Additionally, an interactive calculator for estimating the change in residential rates is available on the District’s web site at http://www.woodmoorwater.com/water/renewable-water-plan.html. For information on commercial rate impacts, please contact me at 719-488-2525 x14.
The District has scheduled three public meetings to discuss the JV Ranch purchase, financial impacts on customer water bills and a general update on the District’s Renewable Water Plan. Please join us at one of the following public presentations.
More Arkansas River basin coverage here. More Denver basin aquifer system coverage here.
Update: I had the wrong date in the original headline.
Here’s the release from Colorado College (Leslie Weddell):
Can a 90-Year-Old Set of Colorado River Laws Work in the 21st Century?
Colorado Supreme Court Justice and Colorado River Legal Scholar to Discuss Implications of the Law of the River
The future of the Colorado River Basin faces mounting challenges, including climate change and an exploding population growth in the West. Although roughly 27 million people rely on the river for water, energy and healthy ecosystems, some expert studies predict that by 2050 the river system will not be able to consistently meet the needs of those dependent upon it.
Can a nearly 90-year-old set of laws weather the turbulence of the 21st century?
The Colorado River Basin is ruled by a compilation of decrees, rights, court decisions and laws that together are referred to as the “Law of the River.” The keystone of these “commandments” is the 1922 Colorado River Compact, an interstate agreement created by the seven basin states with provisions for general water allotments. As municipalities, agriculture and environmental interests jockey for continued water supplies in the face of projected diminished flows, will the Law of the River be able to bend under new stresses or will it break?
This free talk is part the Colorado College State of the Rockies 2011-12 Project Speakers Series, where leading experts and well-known river advocates examine the Colorado River Basin and the complex water use, environmental and economic challenges facing future generations.
Monthly programs are scheduled through January 2012, leading up to a public conference April 8-10 where students will present the 2012 State of the Rockies Report, which examines current water, agricultural and recreational issues in the Basin and highlights how economic, demographic and climate changes will impact what the Colorado River looks like to future generations. Sessions with national experts will also explore the future of the Basin.
At the first presentation in the series Jonathan Waterman and Peter McBride tag-teamed a presentation about their book The Colorado River Flowing Through Conflict. Here’s a report about their recent appearance in Sante Fe, from the Sante Fe New Mexican. From the article:
McBride and Waterman are promoting efforts by the nonprofit Sonoran Institute and Patagonia, the designer of outdoor clothing and gear, to raise awareness of the river’s plight and raise funds to purchase water rights.
Their recently published book, The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict (Westcliffe Publishers, 2011), explores that idea as it showcases McBride’s gorgeous color aerial and underwater photos, and Waterman’s lucid prose. McBride also has produced an accompanying short film, Chasing Water.
McBride is particularly intimate with the river. Growing up on a Colorado cattle ranch, he played in and irrigated with Colorado River water. Only when he worked on the book with Waterman did he realize that the river no longer reaches all the way to the Sea of Cortez as it once did — and that a once-thriving 3,000-square-mile delta is the victim of the dryness.
“The river ran to the delta for 6 million years, and it stopped in the late 1990s,” McBride said during a recent visit to Santa Fe. “I think adding a little bit of water, and there are groups working on that, could bring (the delta) back quickly.”
The rush to drill the Niobrara formation – the same oil and gas boom that required the construction of a paved truck bypass around tiny Grover in remote northern Weld County – is moving into Jackson County. Since September 2010, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has approved 15 drilling permits for companies seeking to tap the Niobrara in Jackson County. Approximately 50 have been approved for the area since 2007 and five more are pending. Many of the approved wells are being drilled by EOG Resources, the Houston company that is one of the biggest players in drilling the Niobrara in Weld County. In 2009, the company drilled the “Jake” well near Grover, which kicked off the rush to explore the Niobrara when the well produced more than 1,500 barrels of oil in one day…
Sportsmen’s groups are concerned new oil and gas development in North Park will contaminate water, fracture wildlife habitat, harm the threatened sage grouse and sully tourism in the region. “My concerns have to do with habitat disruption and potential contamination of surface water before we even get into the potential contamination of groundwater by fracking,” said Barbara Vasquez, a local organizer for the Colorado Wildlife Federation and co-chair of the North Platte Basin Roundtable. “All these wells are fracked, so you have the opportunity for spills of concentrated fracking fluids on site.”[…]
Because of the potential for…spills to pollute rivers and streams, the Colorado Wildlife Federation is urging energy companies and federal land managers to create a comprehensive regional drilling plan and ensure drilling occurs with as little environmental harm as possible, said Colorado Wildlife Federation President John Smeltzer, of Fort Collins.
(“Energy Fuels” or the “Company”) announced today that it has reached a key settlement with two of the Objectors to the Company’s water rights’ application for the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium and Vanadium Mill (the “Mill”). On Wednesday September 21, a settlement agreement was filed in State of Colorado District Court, Water Division 4 (“Water Court”), whereby Energy Fuels settled with Sheep Mountain Alliance (“SMA”) and Living Rivers (“LR”), two regional conservation groups who intervened in the water application as Objectors. In that settlement agreement SMA and LR agreed to withdraw their opposition to the Company’s water rights application in exchange for Energy Fuels implementing certain environmental and water supply protections. The Water Judge quickly approved the settlement agreement as an Order of the Court.
This settlement will lead to the Company obtaining a Final Decreed Conditional Water Right that will provide the water needed to construct and operate the Piñon Ridge Mill. A similar settlement with the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) has already been approved by the Court. The only other remaining Objector, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (“CWCB”), has given preliminary approval for a settlement pending the purchase of upstream water, which is readily available from the watershed.
“This water settlement is a major milestone for Energy Fuels and the Piñon Ridge Mill,” said Steve Antony, President and CEO of Energy Fuels. “In the Western United States water is scarce and highly significant for all projects. By settling with all of the Objectors, we will secure the water needed for the Mill and add flows to the Dolores River for enhanced wildlife and habitat protection.”
Mr. Antony continued, “We were confident of prevailing in Water Court, but we believe this settlement is in the best interests of Energy Fuels. Perhaps more importantly, it shows that Energy Fuels and Sheep Mountain Alliance can reach mutually acceptable agreements that protect the environment.”
Castle Rock officials already have reviewed presentations from three water providers and expect at least one additional proposal. Renew Strategies LLC, headed by former Gov. Bill Owens, would supply Castle Rock with water from the Lost Creek Basin for $23,000 to $24,000 per acre-foot. Stillwater Resources and Investments Inc. would purchase Boxelder Farm water rights and would cost about $21,000 per acre-foot. United Water and Sanitation District would purchase water rights on the South Platte and would cost $23,800 per acre-foot. The infrastructure costs associated with getting the water to Castle Rock could run in the neighborhood of $200 million.
“It’s a big deal, mainly because of the cost to this community,” said Castle Rock Utilities Director Ron Redd. “We can’t roll all that into rates and fees. It’s just too much. Your bills would be too much.” Redd said the town would probably go for a mill levy of between eight and 12 mills. The earliest the town could hold a mill-levy election is April 2012.
From the Associated Press via the Houston Chronicle:
The three-year project would pay farmers to dry up some of their land on a rotating basis and let cities temporarily lease the unused water. “Water is the most valuable thing we have. It’s what I have to have to make a living,” said Lamar-area corn and hay producer Dale Mauch, vice president of the Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Co., which is working on the project…
Proponents aim to sign contracts with about 10 farmers by October for the first year of the project. Each farmer would fallow about 33 acres in 2012 to divert a total 500 acre-feet of water — enough for about 1,000 households — to Pueblo Reservoir…
Project organizers expect to file a plan in December with the state engineer’s office to allow for the farmers’ water to be used by communities in El Paso and Douglas counties. By 2014, 30 to 50 farmers and perhaps six water providers could be signed on, said project consultant Heath Kuntz of Adaptive Resources Inc. A permanent lease-fallowing program would require a trip through water court to resolve issues over farm-to-city water transfers, or perhaps a change in state law…
Participating farmers would receive $500 per acre-foot from municipal water providers. That means that on average, a farmer would receive $945 per acre that is dry for a year, Kuntz estimated. “It’s just like selling another crop. We’re adding a crop to our rotation, and we still own the water. Now I have alfalfa, corn and water to sell,” said John Schweizer, who produces wheat and has about 200 cows in Rocky Ford.
More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company coverage here.
When it comes to water in the west, the rule is “first in use, first in right,” which means those who could prove they put a quantifiable amount of water to beneficial use before their neighbors even arrived were generally granted a water right that says “I get mine before you get yours.” In the early years of the 20th century, the American West was rapidly changing. The lure of California and Arizona with endless days of sunshine had folks from the east packing their bags and heading west. California began to realize its potential as the center of western agriculture as it turned desert scrubland into fertile, well-irrigated farmland. To further this dream, California sought federal assistance to construct the “All American Canal” that would bring Colorado River water to the Imperial Valley on the US/Mexico Border.
Realizing that if California could prove that it needed and was fully utilizing all of this water, it could be granted rights that would constrain future growth in other states upstream; therefore, Colorado, led by local boy Delph Carpenter, proposed the idea of a treaty between all the states that rely on the Colorado River. This treaty intended to apportion the water equitably among the states to ensure that no state would be left high and dry. There are seven states in the Colorado River Basin – Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. A line was drawn in the river at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona and the states were divided into two categories; upper basin and lower basin. Why Lee’s Ferry? Because there are no other major tributaries feeding into the Colorado below that point and because Lee’s Ferry was the only place one could cross the Colorado River for many miles in either direction. Lee’s Ferry lies approximately 16 miles south of present day Lake Powell.
Based upon the best scientific evidence available at the time, the delegates from the seven states agreed that the average annual flow of the Colorado River was 17.5 million acre-feet (i.e., an acre-foot is a unit of measurement specific to the water world and is comprised of 325,851 gallons or enough water to cover one acre of land under one foot of water). Under the 1922 Colorado River Compact, 7.5 million acre-feet (maf) were allotted “in perpetuity” to the three lower basin states – Arizona, Nevada, and California, and the four upper basin states – Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah presumably got the rest. Although the original intent of the agreement was to fairly split the resource among the states involved, concerns have surfaced that it would be impossible for the upper basin states to receive their fair share in the future. Because the upper basin states are the “supply” states, a gauging station was erected at Lee’s Ferry to ensure the lower basin states received their full 75 maf allotment over a 10 year rolling average. Should the compact obligations not be met, a “call” would be placed on the Colorado River where post-1922 water rights would be systematically suspended until the river flow rebounded.
The 1922 Colorado River Compact has been fought over since the day it was signed, yet it has withstood the test of time. This concludes the first part of an e-newsletter series on the 1922 Colorado River Compact, and future newsletters will discuss how this “call” could impact Colorado and the other upper basin states, the implications of the 1948 Upper Colorado River Basin Compact that redistributed water in the upper basin states, and the 1956 Colorado River Storage Project Act that ushered in an era of big dams and water buffalos.
The contract still needs approval from the owner, who would be severing the water rights from a parcel of Morgan County land. However, it is not certain if purchasing the rights will mean the town will be able to use the water for its municipal augmentation plan. Because the water is marked for agricultural purposes, the water court will have to determine if it can be transferred to a municipal use designation.
The Baseline Land and Reservoir Co., which owns the reservoir at Cherryvale and Baseline roads, is slowly draining it in order to put $400,000 worth of work into two century-old, earthen dams.
“It wasn’t that it failed,” said Brad Dallam, assistant city engineer for Lafayette. “It’s just a new modern standard.”
Lafayette counts on the Baseline Reservoir for about half of its drinking water, and the city owns the majority — 68 percent — of the shares in the lake. Others that draw from the reservoir include Boulder, Louisville and the Boulder Valley School District.
Aurora’s sewer water is treated by the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, so when their rates go up, Aurora’s residents feel the effects as well.
New Environmental Protection Agency rules require the reclamation district to remove nitrogen and phosphorous in wastewater before they put the water back into the South Platte river, said Greg Baker, Aurora Water department’s spokesman.
The cost to remove the chemicals is more than $500 million, so the district is charging Aurora Water 8 percent more to treat the wastewater, he said.
Aurora Water is absorbing some of the costs, so residents could see their sewer water bills increase 4.1 percent through 2016. But Aurora City Council members have to make the final approval on the increase in October. The changes would take effect Jan. 1, 2012.
Donala customers are currently staring at a rate increase beginning in January if the Donala board of directors approves it at their Nov. 29 board meeting. Customers can expect to see a 40 percent increase for single family dwellings which comes to about $25, or a 29 percent increase for multi-family dwellings, at on average $18. Customers using 80,000 gallons of water per cycle will see a 60 percent increase. Following these bumps, customers will see smaller increases through 2025…
In November of 2008 Donala purchased the 711 acre Willow Creek Ranch near Leadville. Donala has already initiated conversions of the excess irrigation water which would flow through the Arkansas River. The ranch will be 20 percent of Donala’s total demand and has cost close to $6 million so far. The change of use permit that Donala was seeking, however, was denied by water court Judge Dennis Maes. Therefore Donala must continue negotiations with the state of Colorado. The water district is hoping to have up to 400 acre-feet of water per year. Duthie is confident that water will be flowing from the Willow Creek Ranch by the year’s end…
“We’ll still need more water,” Duthie said. The water district is putting together a reclaimed water project called the Donala Extended Water Supply Study that will look at streambed treatment, reservoir storage and construction of wetlands. Once that is complete and if the project moves forward Donala is looking at a cost of between $7-$19 million.
The city was asked to build a hatch on top of one of the water tanks where chemicals that treat the water could be more easily poured into the tank. That will cost a few thousand dollars. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment inspectors also said an overflow pipe had a gap in it and must be repaired.
Every three years, the Department of Public Health and Environment conducts a sanitary inspection of municipal water-treatment facilities. Recenty, the state health department gave Durango its inspection, and Durango Public Works Director Jack Rogers said he was fairly satisfied with the report card.
“In these inspections, they tell you what you are doing wrong, not what you are doing right,” he said. “The inspectors did not find any problems that would endanger public health. They did find what they called ‘major deficiencies.’ We’ll be able to make the necessary repairs with existing funds in our budget,” Rogers said.
Trout Unlimited will sponsor the Second Annual Frostbite Fish-Off Jan. 20-21 and is looking to expand the reputation of the Arkansas River through Pueblo as a winter fishery.
The river is stocked with fish and negotiated flow programs are aimed at maintaining minimal flows throughout the winter. Typically warmer temperatures than other parts of the state and ease of access make Pueblo a mecca for winter fishing.
The Bureau of Reclamation is hosting two public open houses to introduce and collect comments on a draft Environmental Assessment related to releases from Ruedi and Granby reservoirs. The public comment period opens today and closes on October 24, 2011.
The first open house will be held on Tuesday, October 11, at the Eagle County Community Center, 0020 Eagle County Drive, El Jebel, Colo.
The second open house will be held on Wednesday, October 12, in the Commissioners’ meeting room of the County Building, 308 Byers Ave., Hot Sulphur Springs, Colo. Both meetings will run from 6-8 p.m.
At the request of east and west slope water users of the Colorado River, Reclamation is considering entering into three proposed long-term water contracts that would provide 10,825 acre-feet of water from Ruedi and Granby. The water would be released from the reservoirs to the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River – critical habitat for four endangered fish.
In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, Reclamation is preparing the EA to determine what effects might result from the three proposed contracts. Comments received from the public will help Reclamation refine and finalize the EA.
Reclamation is accepting written comments via e-mail or hard copy through close of business on October 24, 2011. Please send comments to the attention of Lucy Maldonado at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 11056 W. County Road 18E, Loveland, Colo., 80537.
…on the night of Sept. 14. Up to 5 inches of rain had fallen in parts of El Paso County in a short time, creating a wave that crested at 13,000 cubic feet per second at Pinon on the morning of Sept. 15…
…the [Fountain Creek Flood Control and Greenway District’s] responsibility, as defined by the 2009 law that created it, is specifically for land use in the 100-year flood plain between Fountain and Pueblo. “The good news is that in 4-5 years, we will have $50 million,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner. “Every day we get closer to receiving the $50 million, and this board will closer to implementing solutions. . . . Engineers are looking at the best way to slow the water down before it hits you.”
In its 1041 land-use permit issued in 2009, the Pueblo County commissioners put a condition on Colorado Springs to pay the $50 million over a five-year period after SDS is completed in 2016. Of the amount, $300,000 has been paid for a dam study on Fountain Creek, and another $300,000 has been provided for interim district expenses. The board will hear an update on the dam study at its Oct. 28 meeting.
Chostner also mentioned the $75 million Colorado Springs will spend under the 1041 agreement to protect sewer lines from flooding. “This is more reason for the public to support the Fountain Creek district,” Chostner said. “We need the financial muscle on the legal framework that’s already there.”
More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Larry Small, the [Fountain Watershed] district’s executive director, attended the March meeting of the board. He was term-limited as a [Colorado Springs] councilman in April elections. Seven new council members were elected, in addition to Mayor Steve Bach, Colorado Springs’ first strong mayor. The new council apparently appointed Tim Leigh to the Fountain Creek board, with Brandy Williams named as an alternate. So far neither has shown up for a meeting or even talked to Small about the district. While several staff members or representatives for Colorado Springs or Colorado Springs Utilities have attended the meetings or district events since March, the chair reserved for the board member has been empty since April.
H.R. 2842 would provide blanket authorization for installation of small hydropower on all U.S. Bureau of Reclamation canals and conduits. It also would require the Bureau of Reclamation to offer preference to water user organizations for the development of such projects under a federal lease of power privilege. Further, the bill would exempt small canal and conduit projects of less than 1.5 megawatts from the environmental assessment requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act…
Developers already can exempt low-impact hydropower projects through either the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, opponents of the bill have noted. In fact, that was the point Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner of Operations David Murillo made to the House Subcommittee on Water and Power last week. While the Bureau of Reclamation supports much of the bill’s goals, it opposes exempting 1.5-megawatt projects from NEPA reviews. “The department understands the intent of H.R. 2842 to be that conduits and canals are existing man-made structures where environmental impacts associated with construction have already occurred or been mitigated,” he said. “However, the department’s view is that low-impact hydropower, particularly in conduits and canals, can be efficiently developed by utilizing existing environmental review provisions that will not unduly delay project development and ensure environmental health and safety.”[…]
At last week’s hearing, Robert Lynch testified on behalf of the Irrigation and Electrical Districts Association of Arizona and the National Water Resources Association, saying untapped water potential is typified by a Department of Energy report that found 1,400 megawatts of unused capacity in canals and ditches in Colorado where units of less than 5 megawatts could be installed. Lynch said the total of the small units is comparable to the 1,312-megawatts Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River…
Detractors of Tipton’s bill say the environmental reviews for small hydro projects by the Bureau of Reclamation aren’t as onerous as some people have made them out to be, but Chris Treese of the Colorado River Conservation District and Family Farm Alliance maintains development uncertainties can get in the way of districts and developers making timely investment decisions. “Environmental reviews under NEPA are universally time-consuming and expensive,” Treese said. “Even ‘just an Environmental Assessment’ will require considerable time and expense. The river district’s current experience with an EA on a non-construction action has taken over a year and nearly $1 million in outside expenses, not including substantial ‘unbillable’ district time and expense.”[…]
One of the best existing programs for streamlining small-scale hydropower projects can be found in Tipton’s home state of Colorado, Rice said. A memorandum of understanding…between the state and FERC, enacted last year under former Gov. Bill Ritter, authorizes exemptions for conduits and projects under 5 megawatts that are added to existing infrastructure and meet the criteria clearly spelled out in a number of environmental safeguards.
From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):
The next hike — also a weekend campout along the Dolores River for those who choose —will take place Oct. 1, outside of Gateway.
The Gateway hike and FOND (Friends of the Northern Dolores) Fall Fest Star Party, led by CEC’s Dolores River public lands organizer Kate Graham, has become an annual event to introduce people to the Gateway community and landscape.
The camp-out includes Friday and Saturday night stargazing with the Western Colorado Astronomy Club, disc golf Sunday with members of the Grand Valley disc gold club, and a hike Saturday afternoon into Maverick Canyon to see Juanita Arch with members of the Dolores River Coalition…
The Colorado Environmental Coalition has two other non-hiking events planned for October.
Energy analyst Randy Udall and conservation photographer Garth Lenz will give a free presentation Oct. 3 about oil shale and tar sands, and how it can change the landscape. The presentation “Energy in the West” will take place in the Radio Room, 1310 Ute Ave., 7-9 p.m.
Oct. 21 is CEC’s “Harvest Hoedown” with Durango bluegrass band Waiting on Trial performing at the Palisade Brewing Company, 200 Peach St., in Palisade. The $18 tickets, a donation to CEC, includes the music and a couple of drinks. Food will be available for purchase.
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:
Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists have begun salvaging sport fish from Bonny Reservoir in Yuma County in preparation for the draining of the lake over the next two months.
The State Engineer began releasing water from the reservoir on September 21 to satisfy a legal obligation to release all the water to Kansas and Nebraska. The result will most likely be the loss of the entire fishery.
As long as conditions allow, biologists will trap as many fish as possible and relocate sport fish to other public fishing waters. Anglers can continue to remove fish provided the shoreline remains stable and access is safe.
“Right now it looks like it might take as little as 90 days to drain the lake,” said Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Cory Chick. “We encourage anglers to harvest as many fish as possible before the water is gone.”
Under the salvage order signed by Southeast Regional Manager Dan Prenzlow, all legal methods of fishing will be allowed including the use of trotlines, jugs and seines. Commercial angling is prohibited. There are no limits on the number or species of fish anglers can keep, but everyone must have a valid Colorado fishing license to be in possession of fish and must complete an angler survey card available at the reservoir.
Access may be closed to boats and/or anglers if the receding lake creates unstable banks or other hazards.
“I grew up hunting and fishing at Bonny Lake State Park,” Prenzlow said. “This is difficult to watch.”
Bonny Reservoir was created in 1951 when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built a flood control dam on the South Fork of the Republican River. Shortly after the completion of the project in 1951, the former Colorado Division of Game Fish and parks negotiated an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation to manage fish, wildlife and recreational assets of the reservoir and the federal land around the lake.
As a result of draining Bonny, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will transition Bonny from a State Park into a State Wildlife Area beginning Oct. 1, while simultaneously exploring other potential options with a variety of partners. Public hunting access areas will remain open to the public.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is working with Yuma County Commissioners, Three Rivers Alliance, and Yuma County Economic Development Council to determine whether management of 56 acres, including the Visitor Center and Wagon Wheel Campground along with other facilities in Bonny Lake State Park, can be transitioned to Yuma County.
Pending completion of discussions with these local groups, the North Cove and East Beach Campgrounds will remain open in October, although without potable water sources. The Foster Grove campground facilities, however, will be shut down and winterized until a final resolution is reached with Yuma County and local groups. Tables and grills will be removed from isolated picnic sites on the north and south side to be distributed to other Parks and Wildlife areas in critical need of such items.
The eastern Colorado reservoir is being drained to send some 4 billion gallons of water to Nebraska and Kansas under a 1942 agreement among the three states. Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced Friday that it will take about two months to drain Bonny Lake.
Colorado biologists say they’ll trap as many fish as possible and relocate sport fish to other public fishing waters. Anglers can continue to remove fish provided the shoreline remains stable and access is safe.
More Republican River basin coverage here and here.
A total of 98,800 acre feet of water was diverted east via the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project from spring to late August, according to Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for the reclamation bureau. “It’s the second largest diversion in the operating history of the project,” Lamb said…
The record diversion was 110,000 acre feet in 1984, Lamb said. The average diversion over the last decade has been 54,000 acre feet per year. This year’s volume was 83 percent above the average. To put the 98,800 acre feet into perspective — that’s just slightly below the amount of water that Ruedi Reservoir holds when it is full.
The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project uses 17 dams and diversion structures to capture water from streams. The system also taps Hunter Creek in the Roaring Fork River basin. Nine tunnels with a combined length of 27 miles funnel it into the collection system. The water is forced through the Charles H. Boustead Tunnel under the Continental Divide to Turquoise Lake near Leadville. A plumbing system on the east side of the Divide ultimately takes the water to Aurora, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and farms in the Arkansas River Valley…
In the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River basin, the volume of water diverted this year was about 63,000 acre feet, according to the river district. Water has been diverted since 1935 in what’s now known as the Independence Pass Transmountain Division System. That would make it one of the larger, but not the largest, diversion years, according to a previous interview with an official in the company that manages the system. The Independence Pass diversion system usually diverts about 39,000 acre feet annually.
In a letter to Aaron Thompson, area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation based in Grand Island, Nebraka, Wolfe ordered that the release begin as soon as practicable, and in an amount that is the maximum safe and practicable flow through Bonny Dam…
While Colorado is building a pipeline to send water down the North Fork of the Republican River for compact compliance, Kansas has insisted it also meet the compact requirements along the South Fork, which flows from Bonny through the northwest corner of Kansas into Nebraska. The Republican River Water Conservation District has determined the only way Colorado can get into compliance on the South Fork is to drain Bonny Reservoir to eliminate the evaporation that counts against Colorado in computing compact allocations.
More Republican River basin coverage here and here.
Here’s a report from The Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn). Click through and read the whole article — Ms. Klingsporn chronicles the history of the flow right. Here’s an excerpt:
Even during spring runoff, the river normally stays below 1,500 cfs, and in winter months, it drops to less than 100 cfs…
The Colorado Water Conservation Board voted 8 to 1 last week to appropriate an instream flow for the lower San Miguel River. Instream flows require that rivers stay at certain minimum levels year round. The recommended minimum flows for the San Miguel range a low of 80 cfs (from Sept. 1-Feb. 29) to a high of 325 cfs (from April 15-June 14). The decision affects the 17 miles of the river from Calamity Draw to the confluence with the Dolores River…
[April Montgomery, the Dolores/San Juan/San Miguel Basin representative on the CWCB] said she feels that there was ample time for the public to study and understand the process and give input, and she felt the BLM and CDOW recommendations were solid. “The importance of this and I guess the reason that I believe that it will hopefully benefit the San Miguel watershed in the long-run, is it will hopefully postpone delay indefinitely of an endangered species issue on the San Miguel,” she said. She added that she believes it’s a long-term benefit to the local boating and river recreation economy.
More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.