Flaming Gorge pipeline: The ‘Green with Envy’ tour releases new trailer, you have to attend a tour session to see the whole film

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Here’s the link to the Green with Envy webpage. Here’s the link to the trailer.

Here’s the current schedule:

Laramie, Wyoming
Monday, March 19, 7 p.m.
University of Wyoming
Education Auditorium
1000 E. University Ave.

Cheyenne, Wyoming
Tuesday, March 20, 7 p.m.
Cheyenne Depot Museum
121 W. 15th St.

Casper, Wyoming
Wednesday, March 21, 7 p.m.
Izaac Walton Building
4205 Fort Caspar Rd.

Fort Collins, Colorado
Thursday, March 22, 6 p.m.
Avogadros Number
605 South Mason St.

Park City, Utah
Thursday, April 5, 7 p.m.
Hotel Park City
2001 Park Ave.

Durango, Colorado
Saturday, April 7, 7 p.m.
Durango Art Center
802 E. 2nd Ave.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

Congratulations to Loren Otto the Colorado BLM volunteer of the year

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (Denise Adamic):

The Bureau of Land Management honored Loren Otto with the 2011 Volunteer of the Year Award on Wednesday.

This award recognizes individual volunteers or volunteer organizations for their outstanding contributions to public lands management throughout the year.

“Volunteers are some of our greatest resources,” said BLM Colorado State Director Helen Hankins. “We are truly grateful for their time and commitment to managing the natural landscapes we enjoy in Colorado.”

Otto devoted more than 350 hours to the San Luis Valley Field Office including time spent on the Kerber Creek Restoration Project. During the past two years, Otto’s primary focus has been setting up and monitoring nearly 20 rain gauges throughout the San Luis Valley. The information the BLM gathers from these rain gauges is a valuable tool in evaluating range condition, monitoring stream health, and assessing locations for revegetation efforts. In addition to the many hours he dedicated to monitoring, Otto worked in the Kerber Creek drainage area plotting locations of a series of historic photos and taking new photos of the same areas to help depict the progress of this monumental restoration project.

“Loren is an outstanding volunteer,” said Andrew Archuleta, BLM San Luis Valley Field Manager. “He has a great attitude and is continuously looking for ways to contribute to the management of public lands in the Valley.”

The Kerber Creek Watershed is located in the northern San Juan Mountains, northwest of Villa Grove. The watershed has been significantly degraded from historic mining activity. Several miles of stream bank have been devoid of vegetation due to the metal concentrations in the soil, and much of Kerber Creek has been devoid of aquatic life.

Thanks to Otto and dozens of other volunteers, the Kerber Creek Restoration Project received the BLM Hardrock Mineral Environmental Award in 2010 and several other local and national awards.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

Colorado River basin: Watershed Movie trailer

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The film (still in production) Watershed Movie formerly known as The River Red has posted a new trailer on their Facebook page here. They’ve finished recording the narration (by Robert Redford) and are well on their way to a release date.

The film hopes to raise awareness for the effort to restore the Colorado River Delta. The Colorado River has not reached the Sea of Cortez since the late 1990s and there is a movement to reverse that.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: Deliveries through the Gunnison Tunnel to start on Monday, spring has sprung

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

For those that work in an office all day and haven’t noticed, it has become quite warm outside. It appears spring has arrived and with that, it is time for the Gunnison Tunnel to start diverting water. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (UVWUA) plans to start tunnel diversions on Monday, March 19th. Initially diversions will start at 200 cfs. At this same time the UVWUA will need to complete some repair work on the apron of the diversion dam. This will require flows in the Gunnison River be reduced to approximately 400 cfs so that no water is spilling over the diversion dam. Work on the dam apron will be completed by the end of Tuesday, March 20th. At this time, Crystal Dam will increase releases by 100 cfs while the Gunnison Tunnel continues diverting 200 cfs. The resulting flow in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 500 cfs.

Gunnison Tunnel diversions may increase later in the week of the 19th and releases at Crystal will be increased accordingly to maintain the 500 cfs flow in the Gunnison River.

Under the current forecast, Reclamation plans to operate the Aspinall Unit to allow the Black Canyon of the Gunnison one day peak flow target of approximately 2,200 cfs to be met; the timing of which is unknown at this time.

As a reminder, the April Aspinall Operations Meeting will be held in Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office, Grand Junction location, on April 26th beginning at 1:00 p.m.

Please contact Dan Crabtree or Erik Knight at the Bureau of Reclamation with questions regarding this operation.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Snowpack news: Statewide snowpack down to 74% of average, South Platte = 79%, Upper Colorado = 71%

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the current snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

…an average year on the Poudre may seem like a dream for optimists because the mid-March mountain snowpack is far below average – 81 percent of average across the South Platte Basin as of Wednesday morning, according to U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service data. Temperatures have been high and the skies have been blue in the mountains – all elements that have conspired to shave 10 inches off the snowpack in the mountains of Northern Colorado and southern Wyoming over the last several days, said meteorologist Mike Weiland, who specializes in hydrology at the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, Wyo…

Northern Colorado’s strongest snowstorms often come in March and April, said Boulder NWS meteorologist Bernie Meier, but this year could be different, especially over the next couple of weeks. Warm, dry weather both at high and low elevations are expected to hang around through Sunday, he said, with a possible chance for snow in the mountains early next week. “Most of the models now keep that system to the south and move it off to the east,” Meier said. “After that, it looks like another dry pattern through the later part of next week.”[…]

The spring runoff forecast for the Poudre and other rivers in Northern Colorado isn’t much better. The NWS’ March 6 water supply outlook for April through September calls for stream flows to be well below average all across the region. The Poudre’s flow is expected to be 13 percent below average for that period, with the Big Thompson expected to run 19 percent below average. The North Platte through North Park is expected to run 45 percent below average. That’s not all: “The forecast is for above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation in general,” Weiland said. “The chances of building up snowpack aren’t as good as one would hope.”

Recall election in the works for the Cherokee Metropolitan District

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From KRDO.com:

The recall process began at the end of 2011 and petitions were approved on Feb. 14, 2012. Cherokee Water customers will vote on May 22nd to recall President Dave Hammers and Directors Bill Beahan and Jan Cederberg. Cederberg said the three protested the recall petitions in front of El Paso County Clerk and Recorder, Wayne Williams. She said many voters were not told about the recall when asked to sign the petition. “We have witnesses that were told if they signed, their water rates wouldn’t go up,” she said.

Steve Hasbrouck, current water board member and member of the citizens group, said the recall petition was deemed sufficient with ample signatures above the 300 signature threshold and was certified by Waybe Williams, the court appointed DEO and Clerk and Recorder for El Paso County on March 12, 2012. He said all protests by Hammers, Cederberg and Beahan were deemed irrelevant by Williams, so the recall moved forward.

The group behind the recall blames the three board members for the district having less water and higher rates. “The charges against us include secret meetings, bonding issues and getting rid of previous management, which isn’t true,” said Cederberg…

Cederberg blames the district’s financial and water situation on the former board members who were recalled in 2010 and said it’s the same people trying to recall her now. “People need to look at all the facts. Look at the people in the concerned citizens group, they’re former board members. They are the reason we’re in this mess,” she said.

More coverage from the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Once again, there’s trouble on the east side of Colorado Springs, with voters submitting sufficient numbers of signatures to hold a recall election for three Cherokee Metropolitan District board members: Jan Cederberg, David Hammers and William E. Beahan…

The election is set for May 22, despite protests by those being recalled.

More Cherokee Metropolitan District coverage here and here.

Don’t suck the Colorado River dry billboard part of grassroots campaign to protect the Upper Colorado River

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Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Schofield):

A coalition of river advocates has unveiled a billboard on I-70 that highlights the threat to the upper Colorado River from massive water diversions to the Front Range—diversions that are sucking the life out of the upper Colorado and degrading irreplaceable mountain areas where many Coloradans love to fish, hunt, and recreate.

The billboard is part of a larger grassroots campaign that is rallying Coloradans to help protect this popular western slope recreation destination.

The billboard, in the foothills of Golden near the 470 exit, shows a state flag image being drained of water and warns, “Don’t Suck the Upper Colorado River Dry.” The message will reach an estimated 180,000 people each day who travel this major east-west corridor.

“Coloradans need to know that the health of the upper Colorado and Fraser rivers is jeopardized by these water diversions,” said Sinjin Eberle, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We’re asking our state leaders to step up and finish the job of protecting these special places.”

For years, large-scale water diversions to Denver and the Front Range have severely depleted and at times nearly sucked dry entire stretches of the upper Colorado River and its tributaries, including the Fraser River. The low flows and higher temperatures have caused dramatic declines in fish and other benchmarks of aquatic health. Low flows have also contributed to the spread of smothering silt and choking algae.

River advocates warn that the proposed expansions of the Moffat Tunnel and Windy Gap diversion projects could push the upper Colorado ecosystem to the brink of collapse unless environmental mitigation plans for the projects contain stronger flow protections for the rivers. Those proposals are currently in the final stages of permitting and under review by federal regulators.

The billboard is aimed at the tens of thousands of Front Range residents who travel up I-70 each week to hike, ski, fish, raft and play on the West Slope. Outdoor recreation is a $10 billion a year business in the state, supporting 107,000 jobs and generating nearly $500 million in state tax revenues. Many towns in the Fraser and upper Colorado River valleys depend heavily on outdoor tourism for their economic health.

“It’s important that Front Range residents understand the seriousness of these diversion impacts and show their support for healthy rivers,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “We can meet our water needs while preserving our rivers, but that will only happen with stronger protections for the Upper Colorado.”

Gov. Hickenlooper and other state leaders have a responsibility to protect these rivers and the state recreation economy that depends on them, said Peternell.
A 2011 state study that showed stronger measures were needed to keep the upper Colorado system healthy. Moreover, in a recent letter citing that study, the EPA called for a “more robust monitoring and mitigation plan” for the Windy Gap proposal.

The groups are calling on state and federal officials to support stronger protection measures for the upper Colorado, including higher spring flushing flows and a monitoring plan for the river.

“We’re asking Gov. Hickenlooper to speak up for the Colorado River,” said Peternell. “He has an opportunity to be a hero for the river.”

In response to the campaign, thousands of Coloradans have raised their voices for river protection. The Defend the Colorado website features a “Voices of the River” gallery profiling Fraser Valley residents and visitors who speak eloquently about their concern for the river. Moreover, thousands of Coloradans and more than 400 businesses have signed petitions asking state leaders to protect the rivers and state tourism.

“These are special places,” said Jon Kahn, owner of Confluence Kayaks in Denver. “Many Coloradans live here because of our state’s magnificent rivers and recreation opportunities. That quality of life is at risk unless our leaders act.”

To learn more about diversion impacts on the river and how you can raise your voice to help, go to www.defendthecolorado.org

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

From all the feel-good language about a global solution and Front Range-West Slope collaboration, you’d never know that there’s a bitter war being waged over what’s left of the Colorado River. A coalition of river advocates hopes to cast a spotlight on the fight with a new billboard going up along I-70, where mountain-bound travelers will see the bold message, “Don’t Suck the Upper Colorado River Dry.”[…]

At issue is a pair of planned new diversions, based on existing water rights, by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District that would further deplete the Colorado River’s native flows.

Northern’s Windy Gap firming project would divert water through the Colorado-Big Thompson system to a proposed new reservoir on the northern Front Range, southwest of Loveland.

Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project would produce 18,000 acre-feet of new supply by expanding Gross Reservoir, near Boulder.

Both projects are under review, and Colorado has developed mitigation plans that address at least some of the potential impacts. The state’s water establishment claims the mitigation plans will not only protect the Colorado River from new impacts, but actually improve existing conditions. Environmental advocates are skeptical, and are asking for additional specific mitigation and monitoring, and recently got some backing from the EPA, which pointed out weaknesses in the proposed mitigation plans…

River advocates warn that the proposed expansions of the Moffat Tunnel and Windy Gap diversion projects could push the upper Colorado ecosystem to the brink of collapse unless environmental mitigation plans for the projects contain stronger flow protections for the rivers. Those proposals are currently in the final stages of permitting and under review by federal regulators.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper, et al., request new comment period for the Windy Gap Firming Project

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Here’s the release from Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper (Gary Wockner):

Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper (STP) [ed. link not safe to open at work] has contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to request that federal agency open up a new public comment period for the Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP) Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). Citing regulations in the Clean Water Act, STP believes that the FEIS omits important information, contains significant new information, and thus additional public scrutiny is both warranted and essential. Save the Poudre also asked the Corps to “supplement” the FEIS and conduct additional scientific analyses.

Save the Poudre’s letter to the Corps is here (link to letter).

“This extremely controversial project could have significant impacts to the Poudre River, and the Final Environmental Impact Statement contains significant new information,” said Gary Wockner of Save the Poudre. “We request that the Corps open up a new public comment period – we believe it is essential and in the public’s interest to increase the public’s scrutiny of this project.”

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commented on the WGFP FEIS, pointing out errors and highlighting missing scientific information and inconsistent conclusions. In its letter to the Corps, Save the Poudre requested that the Corps address EPA’s concerns. Further, Save the Poudre requested that the Corps address the concerns that EPA stated in its original comment letter on the Draft EIS in 2008 which still have not been addressed in the FEIS over 3 years later.

Save the Poudre also requested that the Corps address the issue of water used for fracking. Recent news reports reveal that several WGFP cities are selling what they call “excess” water for fracking, and one WGFP city, Greeley, which is also in the Poudre River basin, made $1.6 million selling water for drilling and fracking in 2011. In the 1,472 pages of the WGFP FEIS, water for drilling and fracking is not discussed.

“Should we be draining the Colorado River so that sprawling Front Range cities can make millions of dollars selling water for fracking?” asked Gary Wockner. “At a minimum, the FEIS for WGFP needs to address and analyze this new industrial use of water – fracking – in its ‘Purpose and Need’ section of the document.”

In order for the project to move forward, federal law mandates that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issue a Clean Water Act section 404 permit for the project — that permit requires the Corps to ensure that there is no alternative to WGFP that would cause less damage to Colorado’s rivers and wetlands. The Corps is also a cooperating agency that assisted the Bureau of Reclamation in the preparation of the FEIS.

More coverage from the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Community activists along the northern Front Range say they want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start a comment period for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap firming project, based on what they say are omissions, and significant new information on potential impacts to the Colorado River…

The main feature of the project is the proposed new 90,000-acre-foot Chimney Hollow Reservoir that would be located southwest of Loveland and just west of Carter Lake…

The Corps of Engineers is a cooperating agency — with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation — on the Windy Gap project. The project requires a Clean Water Act wetlands fill and discharge permit, so that’s why Save The Poudre is asking the Corps for a public comment period. Last month, the EPA’s formal comments on the project also pointed out errors and ommissions and highlighted missing scientific information and inconsistent conclusions.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

Arkansas Basin Roundtable green lights funding request for Mt. Pisgah Reservoir outlet works rehabilitation

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The reservoir, built in 1907, was purchased in 1927 by the Catlin Canal Co., which irrigates farms near Rocky Ford. Also known as Wright’s Reservoir, it is used by water districts in the Canon City area, the town of Rocky Ford and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “A state engineer’s inspection last year found the 80-year-old outlet works is decrepit and can’t be trusted,” said Allen Frantz, a Catlin Canal board member. “If we don’t do something about the problems with the reservoir, the state will restrict how much water we can store.”[…]

In other action, the roundtable approved a grant request of $35,000 for continued study of groundwater in the Upper Black Squirrel Creek basin in El Paso County. So far, about $200,000 has been committed to the study, which could lead to groundwater storage in an area of high growth and new exploration that could lead to oil and gas drilling.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Colorado Water 2012: Justice Greg Hobbs — ‘Love the water well, because it’s everything’

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Water law is much more than a code in a courtroom,” Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs said Wednesday. “It’s how people and communities adopt their customs around our most precious resource.”

More than 150 years ago, Congress and courts decided water would not be tied to streamside use and could be moved away from rivers. Agriculture was the primary reason. There are inherent dangers in changing the use of water from the farms that have grown from those principles, said Hobbs, whose son Dan farms in Pueblo County. “If you dry up the land, you get not only noxious weeds, but a noxious economy,” he said.

Hobbs spoke to students and community members as part of a Colorado State University-Pueblo series of lectures as part of Colorado Water 2012…

His topics were wide-ranging, however, giving the audience a taste of how state water law developed as Colorado was settled. He talked about recent Supreme Court decisions — Hobbs writes the water opinions — and made a careful disclaimer that he could not speak about current cases the court may hear.

Still, he had opinions about how the state should approach water law in general. “We need a flexible water law. We need a stable water law. If you want to sell your water, it’s quantified,” Hobbs said. The tendency of cities to want to “monopolize” the resource has to be balanced against the actual need and reasonable projections of growth, he said…

He talked about his experience as a young lawyer in the attorney general’s office defending the state against John Huston’s attempt to claim all of the state’s nontributary groundwater. That case resulted in major legislative changes about how groundwater is defined and opened the way for underground storage. As a justice, he and his colleagues upheld Pueblo District Court Chief Judge Dennis Maes’ ruling that High Plains A&M made speculative claims when it tried to change its shares on the Fort Lyon Canal to broader uses in 2004. The court also limited the reach of Pagosa Springs in two cases within the past five years.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.