Colorado River Cooperative Agreement outstanding issues: Operating the Shoshone power plant and Green Mountain Reservoir


From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Two major issues, the administration of Green Mountain Reservoir and the Shoshone power plant in Glenwood Canyon, remain to be resolved. They are the same issues that parties acknowledged early on would be difficult but not insoluble. “It’s painfully slow,” Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn said, “but we’re making a lot of progress.”[…]

The two issues closest to the Western Slope are joined, with the Green Mountain question needing to be dealt with first, Kuhn said. Agreement on the administration of Green Mountain Reservoir, which was built as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, “fundamentally sets the stage for moving ahead on Shoshone,” Kuhn said. “A lot of issues have arisen over the years on Green Mountain Reservoir” that boil down to making sure the reservoir fills and that the demands of Denver Water and Colorado Springs are met, said Mark Hermundstad, a Grand Junction water attorney who represents several Grand Valley water users…

Colorado River water spins turbines in the Shoshone plant, and downstream users have long counted on Shoshone’s call on the river to make sure water is sent downstream through the Grand Valley rather than diverted eastward. There is a rub, though, and it concerns the times that Shoshone’s turbines are idle and the plant, therefore, is not drawing its 1,250 cubic feet per second of water from the river. The short-term answer is what has become known as the Shoshone outage protocol, in which upstream diverters agree to allow the river to flow as though Shoshone were operating. Part of that formula, however, depends on how Green Mountain Reservoir, which is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, is managed.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

The Aspen Daily News is running a look at the parties suing the city over the proposed hydroelectric generation plant


Here’s a report from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for the Aspen Daily News. Click through and read the whole article for all the detail. Here’s an excerpt:

The city of Aspen, through its Denver-based water attorney, filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit this past fall based on the notion that the plaintiffs don’t have standing to challenge the city’s water rights.

The plaintiffs recently submitted information to the court either detailing their water rights or giving other reasons why they should be allowed to sue the city over its water rights.

In the mix of property owners are two billionaires and two Aspen locals with a history of successfully taking on local governments.

The property owners sued the city in September 2011 in state water court in an effort to strip the city of its right to use water from the creeks for a new hydropower plant.

The city responded three weeks later by telling Judge James Boyd that the property owners don’t have the right to make their claims.

“The complaint does not identify which plaintiffs own water rights, what water rights they may own, or how those are or may be affected with respect to the alleged abandonment of the hydropower component of the subject water rights,” Cindy Covell, the city’s water attorney, told the court in a motion to dismiss the case.

The plaintiffs responded Oct. 24 with a 14-page brief and 155 pages of exhibits documenting their water rights and other interests.

The plaintiffs claim that since the city has not used its hydropower water rights on the two creeks since 1961, it no longer has the right to divert 25 cubic-feet-per-second of water from Castle Creek and 27 cfs from Maroon Creek for hydropower use.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

2012 Colorado legislation: Representative Looper plans legislation that will evaluate the impact of oil and gas operations on water supplies


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Produced water can be used, but it depends on whether it’s tributary or nontributary,” said Kevin Rein, assistant state engineer. “If the water is nontributary, it could be put to use on-site for fracking, well construction or dust suppression. If it is tributary, an augmentation plan is required.”

State Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, says she plans to introduce legislation to determine water quantity and quality impacts of oil and gas exploration. The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission does not track the industry’s water use, but estimates it to be less than 1 percent of total water use.

Water is used for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of deep wells and varies from 1 million to 8 million gallons of one-time use per well. Rein said the Division of Water Resources is working on estimates of how much water is actually used in mining operations, but said the number is “relatively minuscule” compared to agricultural, urban or other industrial totals.

The use of water produced in mining operations has led to controversy in Colorado. A 2009 Colorado Supreme Court decision in Vance v. Wolfe determined that water used in mining is a beneficial use. In the past, mining companies treated it as a waste product. Since the 2009 ruling, a well permit is needed if water produced during drilling is tributary to surface waterways. That means water from other water rights must be obtained for augmentation.

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here.