Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 300 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Earlier this week, we increased the releases from Green Mountain from 200 cfs to 300 cfs. The change was made in four installments of 25 cfs increases: two on Monday and two on Tuesday. Because the Shoshone Power Plant maintenance work is diminished, the lower release from Green Mountain is not necessary. As a result, we will be releasing around 300 cfs through the Holidays.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Aspen files preliminary paperwork with FERC for the proposed Castle Creek hydroelectric generation plant

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The filing is the first step in a formal review process that eventually could enable the town to produce about 8 percent of its needed electricity from a clean and local source — but the project is not without controversy, as some critics claim that the power generated by the facility isn’t worth the potential harm it could cause to Castle and Maroon creeks by reducing stream flows.

For the town, the Castle Creek project is a key component in providing renewable energy sources to the Aspen community. According to the town’s website, the energy center will not only provide power, but serve as a renewable energy model, education center and museum, reducing CO2 emissions by about 5,000 tons. The turbine and generator convert the force of water falling from 325 feet, from the Thomas Reservoir, into electric power. The water will travel a 42 inch penstock (pipe) which will supply the plant with approximately 52 cubic feet per second of head and double as an emergency drain line for the Thomas Reservoir if the reservoir walls are breached. The electricity will be placed on the City of Aspen electric grid to power the Water Treatment campus, and may potentially produce hydrogen for fuel cells and hydrogen vehicles.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Taylor McKinnon: ‘Burning fossil fuels to pump river water across 500 miles to feed urban sprawl is a ludicrous idea — and that’s what the public told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week’

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Here’s a release from the Center for Biological Diversity (Taylor McKinnon/McCrystie Adams):

More than 5,000 public comments were sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week opposing the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline, which would pump more than 250,000 acre-feet of water annually over 500 miles from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Colorado’s Front Range. The project would suck massive amounts of water out of the Green and Colorado rivers in Utah, unleashing disastrous impacts on those river ecosystems, four species of endangered fish — the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail chub — and human communities dependent on those rivers. The commission is currently evaluating whether to grant a preliminary permit for the project.

“Burning fossil fuels to pump river water across 500 miles to feed urban sprawl is a ludicrous idea — and that’s what the public told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s hard to imagine a worse proposal for the already over-allocated Colorado River system that’s beset by a warming climate, declining flows and disappearing native fish populations.”

This week’s public comments come on the heels of formal intervention in the commission’s process filed last week by the Colorado River Protection Coalition — a coalition of 10 conservation groups, including the Center. The coalition asserts that the Flaming Gorge Pipeline is unlikely to be permitted because it would likely violate the Endangered Species Act and adversely affect four national wildlife refuges; part of the project would be located in a U.S. Forest Service roadless area. The coalition also argued that the permit should be denied because the applicant, Wyco, failed to meet several requirements during a previous attempt at permitting a nearly identical project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The new batch of comments this week came from online action alerts created by the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice.

“The opposition to this project is amazing,” said McCrystie Adams of Earthjustice. “The pipeline would devastate the Green River and severely harm the Colorado River downstream — the public is strongly speaking out against this pipeline scheme.”

Wyco previously sought a permit for the pipeline from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In July 2011 the Corps terminated its review of the project because Wyco missed multiple deadlines and did not provide information requested by the Corps. A few months later, Wyco redesigned the project to include some incidental hydropower components and requested review through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Despite the modifications, the project remains an energy hog — at least nine air-polluting, natural gas-fired pumping stations would be required to pump the water uphill across Wyoming and over the Continental Divide. Wyco’s president has acknowledged that pumping the water uphill would use more energy than the project would create through hydropower.

Since its inception, the Flaming Gorge Pipeline has met with opposition in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. The water would go to the Front Range of Colorado, which is projected to double in population in the next 50 years. Colorado is already a parched state with severely depleted rivers, while the majority of the water in Colorado’s cities is used to keep lawns green for three months in the hot, dry summer across sprawling suburban landscapes.

The coalition’s intervention comments can be downloaded here.

More coverage from Kathy Gilbert writing for the Green River Start. From the article:

The coalition contends that the project cost could reach as much as $9 billion and that Million has failed to demonstrate a need for the water with customers committed to paying for it if it could be delivered.

They also say preventing that much water from flowing into the Green River would hurt wetlands, birds, fish and the recreation economies of surrounding communities.

The coalition believes the pipeline is extremely unlikely to be permitted because it would likely violate the Endangered Species Act, would adversely affect four national wildlife refuges and part of the project would be located in a U.S. Forest Service roadless area…

“The water in the Green River is essential for the operation of many of Sweetwater County’s major industries including four trona mines and the Jim Bridger Power Plant,” the county’s letter states. The power plant relies on a constant stream of water piped from the Green River for use in its four cooling towers.

The county asserts that the Regional Watershed Supply Project and the effects it would have on the water supply in the Green River, would “dramatically impact Sweetwater County’s industrial base.”

The county also states 38,769 or the county’s 43,806 population rely on the river to provide potable water and fire suppression supplies.

Finally, the county suggests its tourism industry would be impacted because the Flaming Gorge Reservoir is the basis of a multi-million dollar tourism industry…

In the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s filing, they’re intervening with the purpose of ensuring its interests, including the protection of all Wyoming wildlife, is considered during the FERC process.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

A beautiful snow in the Denver Metro area — eight inches at Gulch Manor

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Using the tried and true method of sticking a ruler in the snow in the backyard at Gulch Manor this morning I measured eight inches and it was still snowing lightly. Beautiful snow.

Check out this photo slidshow from 9News.com.

U.S. Senators Bennet and Udall, et al., pen letter to the USFS asking them to suspend new rule that would tie water rights to the land at ski areas

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From the Colorado Independent (Troy Hooper/Scot Kersgaard):

“Our interest is in maintaining the ability to provide ski areas with water into the future and to protect the public’s interest by making sure that communities, often small rural communities, that are linked to ski areas can rely on that into the future,” Jim Pena, acting deputy chief for the national forest system, told the Colorado Independent on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, along with John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and James Risch, R-Idaho, penned a Dec. 1 letter to the Forest Service asking it to suspend a new clause in the permitting process that essentially transfers water rights — potentially worth tens of millions of dollars — after 2004 from joint ownership between ski resorts and the federal government to just the latter. “Without going into the merits of the water clause itself, it is apparent to us that a careful review of the practical implications of the clause to ski area operations and the changes that would occur under this new clause would prove beneficial to all parties involved,” the letter states.

The water wrangling harkens back to the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986, which originally conceded the water rights to the federal government. Then in 2004, the National Ski Areas Association lobbied the Bush administration to amend the law so resorts obtained a stake in water rights within ski area boundaries. But when the Forest Service tried to convey water rights under the 2004 joint-ownership policy, its lawyers discovered that state laws wouldn’t allow it. Thus, after working with the ski industry for nearly a year to clarify the intent of the 2004 joint-ownership clause, the Forest Service recently implemented a new interim directive that federal officials believe clarified ambiguities in its water policy. The directive is only valid for 18 months and, foresters said, it can be modified if there is evidence that demonstrates financial harm to the resorts.

More water law coverage here.