NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin


Here’s are the presentations from this week’s webinar, from the Colorado Climate Center. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the precipitation rundown.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Wyoming residents and water wonks may have the final say


From the North Forty News (Jeff Thomas):

State compacts dating from 1922 and 1948 entitle Colorado to water in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, but “I don’t have the legal ability to go up there and administer those rights,” said Dick Wolfe, Colorado’s state engineer and director of the Colorado Division of Water.

While that ability may seem like just one of the many intricacies involved in a proposed 500-mile pipeline to bring water from southwestern Wyoming to a thirsty Colorado Front Range, it’s a key point that could be decided by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who has already expressed opposition to the project. “He is opposed to the pipeline,” confirmed Renny MacKay, communication director for the governor’s office. MacKay said in a recent interview the governor said he opposes trans-basin diversions in general, and in particular, “I don’t think that Aaron Million’s project is well thought out.”[…]

For Wolfe, being able to administer such water rights is not a trivial matter. The whole project hinges upon Colorado’s ability to take more water out of the Colorado River, which it is entitled to do under an interstate compact with fellow headwater states, Wyoming and New Mexico, and downstream states, such as California and Nevada. As much as 250,000 acre feet of water could be brought to the Front Range by the project, about enough for 1 million new residents with current usage. However, the state engineer’s office also has to protect the rights of other users that draw water from the Colorado, such as the senior rights for the Colorado-Big Thompson project, which already supplies water to much of northeastern Colorado. “The point of diversion doesn’t have to be in the state of use,” Wolfe noted. “But then we have to deal with how to administer that right, and how that diversion gets counted under the compact.”[…]

At a minimum, Wolfe said, the state engineers from both Wyoming and Colorado need to put new rules in place that would allow him to shut down the headgate for the pipeline when it is not in priority — when there’s not enough water in the Colorado to comply with the compact. While both offices noted there is a high degree of cooperation between the headwater states regarding the compact, this is fairly new ground and legislative action may be required.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Reclamation Requests Comments on a Proposed Hydropower Project at Ridgway Dam


Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Steve McCall/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation has released a draft environmental assessment for a proposed hydropower project at Ridgway Dam in Ouray County, Colo., to the public for review and comment.

The project, proposed by the Tri-County Water Conservancy District, would generate electricity using existing water releases from Ridgway Dam throughout the year. Ridgway Dam is a feature of the Dallas Creek Project, which is a federal Reclamation project designed to provide irrigation and drinking water to Montrose, Delta, and Ouray counties in western Colorado.

The draft environmental assessment is available online at under environmental documents or by contacting Steve McCall with Reclamation at (970) 248-0638 or

Reclamation will consider all comments received prior to preparing a final environmental assessment. Comments can be submitted to the email address above or to: Carol DeAngelis, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 2764 Compass Drive, Suite 106, Grand Junction, CO 81506. Comments are due by November 1, 2011.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here and here.

Contract Awarded for Equipment to Support On-Going Fish Studies


Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamtion (Lisa Iams):

The Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $3 million five-year contract to Biomark Inc., of Boise, Idaho, for passive integrated transponders (PIT) and related equipment to conduct on-going fish studies throughout the 17 Western states associated with numerous river habitat restoration and endangered fish recovery programs.
“This contract provides another tool to enhance real-time, scientific knowledge about fish behavior that we rely upon to inform our river restoration activities,” Commissioner Michael L. Connor said today. “River restoration work is an important cornerstone of Reclamation’s efforts throughout the West to ensure the sustainability and health of water resources – a key element of the administration’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative.”

The use of PIT tags provides a reliable and effective means of identifying and monitoring individual fish utilizing radio frequency identification technology. Once researchers have implanted a PIT tag, (essentially a small microchip) inside an individual fish, it can easily be tracked and monitored utilizing readers and antennae devices. This provides valuable data for biologists to use in accurately calculating population estimates, recording life-cycle information, and gathering survival and recruitment data.

This is the same technology used to identify and track lost pets including dogs and cats. Because each tag contains a unique electronic number, specific individual data can be gathered over time that is vital to the habitat restoration and species recovery programs Reclamation is involved in. Among the programs that will receive PIT equipment through this contract are: the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, San Juan River Basin Recovery Program, Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program, Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program, Columbia/Snake Salmon Recovery Program, Trinity River Restoration Program, San Joaquin River Restoration Program, Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program, Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, and the Gila River Basin Native Fishes Conservation Program.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Eagle River watershed: Brush Creek restoration success, more macro and micro-organisms, more trout, better water quality


From The Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz):

“What we needed and have now is a self-sustaining ecosystem,” said Brynly Marsh, the Adam’s Rib Golf Course superintendent. “We needed things like spawning beds, places for little fish to hide from the bigger ones and deeper pools.” Brush Creek now has more macro and micro-organisms. In this case, macro-organisms are basically insects, or any living thing that can be seen by the naked eye. Micro-organisms are living things that can’t be seen by the naked eye. When all those organisms flourish, so do fish. “The hawks and eagles are also happier,” Cranston said.

When the improvement project started, part of the problem was cattle grazing that harmed the riparian habitat. The first step was to end the grazing along the 3.6 miles of Brush Creek owned by Adam’s Rib before Flywater even came into the picture…

With the cattle gone and Flywater on board, Adam’s Rib developers set to work on their stretch of Brush Creek. They built a total of 66 “structures” in the last two fall seasons. A “structure” is a stream enhancement, which could refer to a reinforced bank or man-made pools, among other things…

The main goal of the in-stream structures is to slow the creek down and create pools for fish to congregate. Boulders were purchased from local excavators to make the structures, so the rock is basically native, Cranston said. Some of the structures are reinforced banks to stave off erosion. Others are more like shallow dams that cover the width of the creek and some entail a grouping of rocks to make a small pool. As many as three structures can be found in one short stretch of the creek.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

Kirk Klancke honored by Field and Stream Magazine as a ‘2011 Hero of Conservation’


From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

Klancke is featured this month in Field & Stream as one of the magazine’s “2011 Heroes of Conservation,” which highlights individuals involved in grassroots projects to preserve the land, water and wildlife vital to sportsman’s pursuits. Selections are based on factors including leadership, commitment, project growth and results, according to statements from Field & Stream.

Along with five additional honorees, Klancke will be celebrated at a Field & Stream gala event in Washington D.C. on Oct. 11, where he will be presented with a $5,000 conservation grant. He said plans to give the grant to the Grand County chapter of Trout Unlimited with the goal of better educating Denver/Front Range citizens about the Moffat and Windy Gap firming projects, which seek to pull more water out of Grand County rivers…

“The whole award-thing is humbling,” Klancke said. “But it’s not about me; the battle is to save this river.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

The Lower Dolorado Working Group plan ‘A Way Forward’ hopes to head off endangered status for native fish in the river


From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

Calling their plan “A Way Forward,” the group is taking the suggestions offered in a recently completed scientific report to find a way to increase habitat and successful reproduction of the flannelmouth sucker, bluehead sucker and roundtail chub. The overarching goal is to create a healthy, thriving water source in Southwest Colorado that is protected by local stakeholders, not federal designation. “The work that the Lower Dolores group and its legislative committee has been doing pointed to a need to give the fish some help,” said Marsha Porter-Norton, group facilitator. “We commissioned a group of scientists to study these native fish and tell us what actions we could take. They said that yes, we should pursue this now.”[…]

Enhancing the health of the fish is necessary to the protection of the river itself and the multiple-use nature of the waters, said Mike Preston, manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District and member of the working group. “In recent years there has been a great deal more focus on these native fish species,” Preston said. “The concern about these fish centers on the fact that though they are not a listed (species), they are considered a sensitive species. What would be problematic would be if those species got listed as threatened or endangered. We would potentially lose control of the river with a listing, and that would be putting everyone’s water supply at risk if that occurred.”[…]

Preston said the immediate focus of the group is on what actions can be taken within the framework of spill management to impact the health of the native species.

“The discussion has come to a pretty good consensus on most of the issues and really the outstanding issue is the flows,” he said. “In the past the releases were really aimed at rafting and supporting trout fishing 10 to 11 miles below the dam. What we have to figure out is what is going to benefit the native fish. They have become a greater priority, and we need to determine how to manage flows if our objective is to protect native species, as well as allowing opportunities for trout fishing and rafting.”

Preston said a wide range of stakeholders have been pulled together to work on the project, including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife, Dolores Water Conservancy District, Trout Unlimited, American Whitewater, the San Juan Citizens Alliance and The Nature Conservancy.

More Dolores River basin watershed here.

10th Circuit Court of Appeals hear Pueblo District Attorney’s appeal of decision over Fountain Creek pollution case exclusion


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewicz):

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments [September 14] on Thiebaut’s contention that a lower court judge should not have thrown out Thiebaut’s lawsuit against Colorado Springs Utilities. The 10th Judicial District covers Pueblo County.

Senior U.S. District Judge Walker Miller concluded in 2007 that Colorado district attorneys do not have authority under state law to use the federal Clean Water Act to sue in federal court. That is what Thiebaut did in 2005 when he sued Colorado Springs. The appeals court will decide whether it will reinstate Thiebaut’s lawsuit…

An attorney for the city argued Wednesday that Miller’s decision should not be overturned. “We urge you to sustain a very thorough and thoughtful order by Judge Miller,” attorney David Robbins told the appellate judges. Robbins said “all the issues were resolved” in a lawsuit against Colorado Springs Utilities by the Sierra Club environmental organization that was very similar to Thiebaut’s lawsuit.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

South Platte River basin ‘Happy Meadows Restoration Project’ included private dam removal


From the Pikes Peak Courier View (Norma Engelberg):

“When we realized the scope of the problem, the project morphed,” said CUSP Operations Director Jonathan Bruno. “There was this interesting (river) diversion downstream on private land that was creating a huge sedimentary plume upstream.” Negotiations with the Sportsmen’s Paradise Homeowners Association began in 2007 and, after four years, the small dam was finally removed Sept. 12…

The dam wasn’t the only issue, however. The river is also impacted by runoff from the 2002 Hayman Fire and by road runoff. “You can see the (alluvial) fans on the side of the river from the roads,” Bruno said. “We’ll be rebuilding vegetative buffers between the road and the river.”[…]

The river improvement project has three goals: improve the physical river channel and trout habitat; restore riparian habitat at Happy Meadows Campground; and provide findings and techniques that can be used on other impaired stream segments…

As part of the work to remove the dam, planners had to replace the diversion with something that wouldn’t allow sediment build up. “They (the homeowners association) still have water rights,” Bruno said. “The new diversion allows water to go to a big pond without backing up sediment.” The preliminary work also involved stockpiling native rocks and local timbers…

After dam removal, crews quickly moved in to begin narrowing the river channel to 45-60 feet — it had been reaching up to 120 feet wide in some places.

More restoration coverage here.

The Responsible Bathroom Water Conservation Tour, a marketing campaign from American Standard, will hit Pueblo this week


From The Pueblo Chieftain:

The Responsible Bathroom Water Conservation Tour, a marketing campaign by American Standard, will roll through Pueblo this week. The goal of the tour is to encourage water savings by installing modern bathroom fixtures. The mobile marketing campaign will be in Pueblo from 7 to 9 a.m. Thursday at Pueblo Winnelson, 300 Ilex St.

More conservation coverage coverage here.

South Platte basin groundwater irrigators are looking to the state legislature for some relief for strict augmentation requirements for wells


High water tables and free river for much of the past couple of years have farmers crying foul over the shut down of 440 wells in the South Platte alluvium in 2006. The State Engineer shut the wells down to protect senior rights holders when the irrigators failed to acquire sufficient augmentation water under current rules. Here’s a report from Eric Brown writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The affected wells have remained shut off since 2006 because those wells either don’t have augmentation plans — a way of later adding water to the South Platte River to make up for the depletions caused by well pumping — or they don’t have the water supply to fulfill their augmentation plans.

When the wells were ordered to be shut off a few years ago, augmentation requirements also became more stringent — requiring well pumpers to have augmentation plans in place that could meet the needs of a drought year. As noted by Randy Ray, executive director with the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District (CCWCD), many farmers can’t afford to have such a stringent plan in place. “It definitely puts them in a tough spot,” he said. The shutdown or curtailed wells lie within the augmentation subdistricts of the CCWCD…

Because of the hardships endured by the farmers, ag producers in the area — as well as various farmers organizations, such as the Weld County and Colorado farm bureaus — are asking for legislative changes. They’re specifically asking that the Colorado Division of Water Resources — also referred to as the Office of the State Engineer — be given more flexibility in controlling those wells — certainly during times like these, when the South Platte River Basin is full and senior water right holders aren’t at risk of being deprived of their water.

Giving the state engineer’s office more flexibility was a topic of discussion at the Colorado Farm Bureau’s Mid-Summer Meeting in Greeley back in July, and the Weld County Farm Bureau recently listed it as one of its top issues to bring up at the Colorado Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting in November. At the November meeting, the CFB will vote to adopt a set of policies, which will later be looked at by the CFB Board of Directors…

Gege Ellzey, president of the Weld County Farm Bureau, noted that the local bureau has brought up various water issues to the Annual Meeting before, but the issue concerning the state engineer’s office will be the only one concerning water this year. She said the water issues brought up in previous years have been Weld County-specific, and the policy of giving the state engineer’s office more flexibility would be more of a statewide issue — and hopefully looked at more closely by the CFB.

More coverage of the events in 2006 here. More South Platte River basin coverage here.