Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 60 cfs in the Blue River below the dam


From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We have a couple of changes up at Green Mountain Dam.

First, yesterday, April 18, we closed the road across the dam. We are in the process of replacing the bridge at the top of the dam. It is being brought up to current Department of Transportation codes. This section of the road will be closed through mid-May.

It is important to note that , despite the road closure, local business in Heeney are still open and can be reached by driving around the reservoir the other way (coming from the south). This is also the only way to access the road that drops down alongside Green Mountain Dam for fishing and kayaking access in the lower Blue River.

Second, we scaled releases from the dam to the Lower Blue back by about 15 cfs today. Some demands for water dropped off slightly, resulting in a lower release rate. We are now releasing about 60 cfs from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue.

Your Colorado Water Blog: Nutrient pollution will be the hot topic at the Animas Watershed Partnership meeting on Monday


Here’s a new blog post about Monday’s meeting, from the San Juan Watershed Group running on Your Colorado Water Blog. From the post:

By the time the Animas reaches the New Mexico border, its water is already out of compliance with New Mexico water quality standards for total phosphorus, E. coli bacteria, sediment, and turbidity. When it reaches Aztec, impairment for nutrients and indicators of eutrophication are added to the mix. The New Mexico Environment Department added a whopping seven water quality impairments on New Mexico stretches of the Animas to its 2012 303(d) list of impaired waters .

While this might tempt some groups to point a finger of blame upstream, the Animas Watershed Partnership (AWP) is taking a different approach. The AWP started as an offshoot of the Farmington, New Mexico based San Juan Watershed Group, and was formed to specifically address the problems of nutrient pollution in the Animas across state and tribal boundaries. The AWP steering committee is comprised of both government and citizen members from three jurisdictions – Colorado, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and New Mexico – and it alternates its meetings between Durango, Ignacio and Farmington in order to give equal voice to the concerns of all stakeholders.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Oil and gas task force makes recommendations related to state and local regulatory jurisdiction


Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office (Eric Brown):

A task force created by Gov. John Hickenlooper to clarify and better coordinate the regulatory jurisdiction between state and local government has finished its work and made recommendations in a letter to the governor and General Assembly.

“The Task Force does not make recommendations for new laws, but instead recommends a collaborative process through which issues can be resolved without litigation or new legislation,” the task force letter says. “The Task Force determined that whether there is sufficient reason to amend (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) rules on substantive issues listed in the Executive Order, such as those impacting landowners, should be resolved on an issue-by-issue basis through a robust stakeholder process.”

Hickenlooper created the task force by Executive Order on Feb. 29, 2012. The group was asked to deliver a report no later than today to the governor, Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives and President of the Colorado Senate.

“The task force has provided a roadmap for how best to deal with issues of local control,” Hickenlooper said. “We very much appreciate the task force members’ time and commitment to finding collaborative solutions.”

The task force recommended:

• Encouraging local governments to designate a Local Government Designee (LGD) and to participate in the COGCC’s LGD program. Encourage LGDs to communicate industry proposals and issues with local elected officials and the public as soon as possible. However, if there is no LGD, then the municipal or county clerk may be the contact for a local jurisdiction. Providing strong encouragement to oil and gas operators to engage local government officials and the public as early in the COGCC permitting process as possible to solicit input. Initial outreach to the LGDs should occur before the application for permit to drill is filed with the COGCC. Issues to be addressed will vary on site-by-site basis.
• Informing LGDs of opportunity to request additional 10 days to review permits and to request assistance from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). COGCC shall inform LGDs if formal consultation with CDPHE or CPW is to occur on a drilling permit application.
• Taking actions to ensure that the two new LGD liaisons at COGCC will be effective in working with local governments, oil and gas operators, and the public.
• Providing for a mutual understanding of oil and gas industry and local government practices by facilitating distribution of accurate information. Local governments, oil and gas operators, and COGCC should collaborate to, for example, identify the potential development impacts, duration of drilling operations, and proposed mitigation to protect public health, safety, welfare and the environment.
• Formalizing and promote opportunities for technical training of LGDs and other training/briefings for the general public. This should include annual training for new LGDs and periodic work sessions for LGDs or local government entities, based on need.
• Providing general education presentations in community forums, covering the entire state periodically.
• Local governments and operators should consider using an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and/or Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), as appropriate, to address issues of local concern (e.g. standard conditions of approval, public outreach, etc.).
• Promoting opportunity for COGCC staff to obtain information regarding local government process and requirements, as appropriate. Local governments are encouraged to notify COGCC early in the process of developing local regulations.

The Task Force convened on March 9 and met once per week through April 12, in addition to two additional subcommittee working sessions. At the meetings, the Task Force was briefed on the COGCC’s Local Government Designee program, the COGCC inspection program, and received an overview of COGCC’s permitting process and regulatory timelines. Members learned about the legal underpinnings for Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) and Intergovernmental Agreements (IGA) between the state and local jurisdictions with regard to inspection authority. The Task Force also heard policy perspectives from Gunnison County, a local jurisdiction that recently entered into an MOU and has a pending IGA with the State, as well as from LGDs in jurisdictions where oil and gas activity has long been established.

Finally, the Task Force received more than 1,600 public comments.

All meetings of the Task Force were publicly noticed and streamed on the internet. All documents considered or generated by the Task Force were posted on a dedicated web page and available for the public to download and review.

“The Task Force discussed jurisdictional issues regarding substantive regulations but determined that drawing bright lines between state and local jurisdictional authority was neither realistic nor productive,” the task force letter says. “A more constructive approach will result from collaboration and coordination as outlined above. Through these processes, and the protocols that give them structure, questions around jurisdictional regulatory schemes will most effectively be resolved.”

The task force members were: Mike King, Chair, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources; Diana Allen, Member, Lakewood City Council (on behalf of Colorado Municipal League); Brian Bagley, Attorney, Longmont (on behalf of Colorado Senate President); Reeves Brown, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Local Affairs; Stan Dempsey, President, Colorado Petroleum Association; Barbara Green, Attorney, Denver (on behalf of Colorado Conservation Voters); Jack Hilbert, Commissioner, Douglas County Board of County Commissioners (on behalf of Colorado Counties Inc.); Tommy Holton, Mayor, Fort Lupton and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner; Tisha Conoly Schuller, Chief Executive Officer, Colorado Oil and Gas Association; Casey Shpall, Deputy Attorney General; Andy Spielman, Attorney, Denver and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner; and Ken Wonstolen, Attorney, Denver (on behalf of Colorado House of Representatives Speaker).

More coverage from the Denver Business Journal. From the article:

In the final report, the panel did not call for new laws or changes to old ones to clarify how energy operations should be regulated in the state, but rather recommended “a collaborative process through which issues can be resolved without litigation or new legislation.”

Hickenlooper, in accepting the recommendations, said the task force “has provided a roadmap for how best to deal with issues of local control.” His statement did not indicate whether he agrees with the recommendations.

State leaders and the energy industry have been debating what role local governments should have in regulating oil and gas operations in Colorado.

Traditionally, the state regulates what happens at or under well sites, including drilling and hydraulic fracturing, using rules overseen by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). And cities and counties generally set land-use rules focused on off-site impacts of drilling, such as noise, dust and traffic.

More coverage from Kristen Wyatt writing for the Associated Press via The Denver Post. From the article:

“A more constructive approach will result from collaboration and coordination,” the task force of energy companies, local governments and environmental activists concluded. The task force was set up about a month and a half ago after several rival bills regarding energy zoning failed in the state Legislature.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

‘How close to no-growth edicts are we in places like southeast-metro Denver and other locales?’ — Bart Taylor (ColoradoBiz)


Here’s an in-depth look at business’ role in the world of water supplies, from Bart Taylor writing for Colorado Biz. From the article:

When real-estate reawakens, as it will, water will replace finance as a significant barrier to growth in Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona, and other locales in the West. No-growth is real-estate’s ‘nuclear option’. How close to no-growth edicts are we in places like southeast-metro Denver and other locales? Don’t believe water can impact development? Developers of Sterling Ranch, or the Canyons, both in Douglas County, may disagree.

On the western slope in Colorado, and in communities along the River throughout the Basin, business that relies on steady, regular flows for their livelihood are attuned to the major fight developing over the future of the River. New alliances are forming to join the battle, like Protect the Flows, a coalition of business and environmental interests in western Colorado. They generally oppose new appropriations from the River, though Upper Basin interests may be entitled to more. Who’s right? Business, or, well, business that needs the water?

What impact can new corporate sustainability initiatives have on reducing demand and extending current supply? Should water replace energy conservation as the compelling ‘green’ initiative for business? If so, how?

Without a sustainable water plan – one that business supports – can the West promote its otherwise brilliant future? Or will industry rule out Colorado and the West and locate elsewhere?

Longmont: City council approves drafting an ordinance for oil and gas regulations for a May 8 vote


From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

…Tuesday night [the council] voted 6-1 to have its draft oil and gas regulations prepared for an ordinance. The regulations ban drilling from residential zones but don’t go quite as far in restricting companies as earlier rules did…

The rules stepped back from areas that the city feared might be pre-empted by the state. For example, disposal facilities would be limited to heavy industrial zones instead of banned outright, while closed-loop systems for disposal (a commonly-used alternative to open waste pits) would be recommended instead of required. The one holdout was Councilwoman Sarah Levison, who said the city should make a bigger push. She gave the example of setbacks, where the state currently requires a 150 foot separation between wells and occupied buildings, or 350 feet in urban areas…

she also suggested that the city ban disposal facilities from inside an urban renewal area. Heavy industrial zones are common in the Southwest Urban Renewal Authority, she said, where the city is committed to removing blight. Levison’s proposal will be studied by city staff, but has not yet been added to the regulations.

The regulations set up both minimum and recommended standards. Companies wanting faster approval for their drilling permits can get it by adopting all the recommended standards. As one example, the minimum standards follow the state’s setback rules but the recommended standards set a 750 foot distance from occupied buildings.

Currently, no oil and gas permits are being accepted by the city until after June 16, when a moratorium expires.

The discussion came on the same day that Boulder County extended its own moratorium to Feb. 4. The county moratorium does not bind the city…

An online copy of the draft regulations may be found at

Meanwhile, here’s a recap of the inaugural Niobrara Shale Conference being held in Denver, from Jason Shueh writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

In the open panel discussion with attendees and mineral rights owners — many from Weld and Douglas counties — Cristy Koeneke, vice president of the National Association of Royalty Owners, said to be careful before signing anything when oil and gas companies come requesting a lease and offering a signing bonus. “What the companies do, what land men do, is they waive the bonus money at the mineral owner and say ‘Here, look at this hand and don’t watch this one,’ ” Koeneke said…

Koeneke was joined on the panel by association board member Michelle Smith and Niobrara News owners Joél and John Lambe — all mineral rights property owners.

“One of the things we would really like to see is better education between the mineral rights owners and oil and gas companies,” Smith said. Smith encouraged mineral rights owners to organize themselves with better networks of communication and in areas where there is a high amount of oil and gas production, like Weld, to hold monthly town hall meetings with land spokesmen from the oil and gas companies. “This would allow the mineral rights owners the ability to meet with the companies face to face so they have the opportunity to discuss issues that are of concern to them,” Smith said.

Also, Commerce City is still working on their proposed regulations. Here’s a report from Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Oil and gas companies would be barred from drilling at or near Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge or Barr Lake State Park, under proposed restrictions being considered by city officials.

Other limits on oil and gas extraction would call for increased setbacks for drilling rigs, noise mitigation requirements, limits on hours of operation and a water quality monitoring program. The proposals are part of a package of restrictions the city is mulling in an effort to lighten the impact of hydraulic fracturing in the community, said city spokeswoman Michelle Halstead…

The City Council Monday night once again held off on voting on a six-month ban on oil and gas drilling in the city to give staff members time to finish their work.

More coverage from the Denver Business Journal. From the article:

Commerce City will host two public meetings in May to gather public input on changes to the land use code. The open-house meetings will be held at the Recreation Center on May 15 and Second Creek Elementary School on May 16.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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


Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the precipitation summary for March and April, so far. Here’s the link to the webinar summaries.

Summit County ‘State of the River’ meeting scheduled for May 8


From the Colorado Division of Water Resources via the Summit Daily News:

Jointly sponsored by the Colorado River District and the Blue River Watershed Group, the evening begins with water administration and project updates for the BLue River Basin, followed by a discussion of current snowpack and runoff predictions.

Bob Steger from Denver Water and Ron Thomasson from the Bureau of Reclamation will report on Dillon and Green Mountain Reservoir operations and how those operations will affect water-based recreation opportunities.

Summit County manager Gary Martinez will provide an update on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, while George Sibley commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Colorado River District with an historical perspective of the District, as well as Summit County’s water struggles and achievements over the years.

Scott Hummer, now the project manager for the Colorado Water TRust, will discuss the organization and its mission to protect and restore streamflows throughout Colorado.

The Blue River Watershed Group will highlight developments with collaborative restoration efforts. It will also be a chance to shake hands with Summit County’s new water commissioner, Troy Wineland.

More Blue River watershed coverage here and here.

2012 Colorado November election: Initiatives 3 and 45 clear the single subject requirement for the ballot


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

One of the ballot measures would apply the public trust doctrine to water in Colorado, declaring that unappropriated water in natural streams is public property, dedicated to the use of the people of the state. The public trust ballot measure would also clarify once and for all the public’s right to access streams and rivers. The second measure would put limits on diversions to protect the public’s interest in water, potentially prohibiting diversions “that would irreparably harm the public ownership interest in water.”

Upon review, the Colorado Supreme Court decided that the two measures are “single subject” measures sufficient to be placed on the 2012 General election ballot. Backers of the measures now must gather the required number of certifiied signatures to get the measures on the November ballot.

The public trust doctrine is rooted in ancient Roman law established by Emperor Justinian, essentially declaring that the waters of the state are a public resource. Most frequently, it’s been applied to ensure access to beaches, but also extends to other natural resources. This principle became the law in England under the Magna Carta and later part of common law in in the U.S. The legal principle was later subverted in dry western states, as private users came to dominate the allocation and distribution of water…

The public trust doctrine proposed for Colorado would boldly challenge existing water law by declaring that “The public’s estate in water in Colorado has a legal authority superior to rules and terms of property and contract law.”

More 2012 Colorado November election coverage here.

Water Availability Task Force meeting recap: The weather could get cooler and wetter over the summer



From the Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

Snowpack across the state, which fills rivers and reservoirs, is remarkably low, thanks to unusually warm and dry conditions in March. The entire state is dry, but the Colorado River Basin has its lowest snowpack recorded in the last 45 years. A presentation [ed. at the CWCB’s Water Availability Task Force] by State Climatologist Nolan Doeskin showed that while Eagle County’s average temperatures in March weren’t as higher as those seen in Denver, they were still four to six degrees higher than normal. That was enough to start snowpack melting about a month before it usually peaks…

Klaus Wolter, of the Boulder-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the models so far show the prospect of a cooler, drier late spring and early summer. The current “La Nina” weather pattern — fueled by cooler-than-normal water in the Pacific Ocean near the equator — has seen alternating wet and dry months, Wolter said, meaning May could be dry…

But the models also show more moisture coming in July, August and September, especially if an “El Nino” pattern — warmer-than-normal water in the equatorial Pacific — develops. Wolter put the odds of that happening at perhaps 40 percent…

While a cooler, wetter summer might help take some pressure off local water systems, it won’t put an appreciable amount of water back into the streams. That means there’s a real chance that outdoor watering will be restricted.

I live tweeted the meeting hash code #cwcbwatf.

Southern Delivery System: Did Colorado Springs violate their federal permit when they abolished their stormwater enterprise?


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to protect water in the Lower Arkansas Valley instructed its water attorney to investigate whether Colorado Springs violated a federal permit when it abolished its stormwater enterprise. “This is irresponsible behavior by Colorado Springs. They owe the rest of the area a service,” said Melissa Esquibel, who represents Pueblo County on the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board. “It’s unconscionable.”[…]

The board approved Esquibel’s motion to have Peter Nichols investigate whether Colorado Springs is in violation of a record of decision by the federal Bureau of Reclamation for SDS. The federal permit makes the assumption that Colorado Springs would have a certain level of funding annually under the former enterprise. Instead, Colorado Springs has spent about $1.2 million annually since voters instructed City Council to disband it in 2009. Stormwater funding is listed at $1.9 million this year, according to a budget comparison of Front Range cities distributed at the meeting. Colorado Springs spends $4.63 per capita on stormwater funding, less than 10 percent of the Front Range average. Pueblo is at half the average, at $25.81 per capita…

Last month, Colorado Springs Attorney Chris Melcher said Colorado Springs is obligated to spend $13 million-$15 million annually for stormwater improvements. At a Fountain Creek meeting last month, Councilwoman Brandy Williams said the council is working on a plan of how to come up with the money.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Colorado Water 2012: Acequia culture dates back a thousand years


Here’s the next installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series written by Lauren Krizansky. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

During the eighth century, the Moors brought the acequia – an Arabic word pronounced a-TH-equia – system to Spain under Hakam II’s reign. When the Spanish conquered South America centuries later, they introduced the system in similar landscapes eventually as far north as the American Southwest. In the late 1500s, the Spanish explorers found the northern New Mexico Pueblo Indians had independently developed a similar ditch irrigation system, which they improved with their horses and advanced tools.

Gravity and velocity pull the water through the land and are the two main system elements. Acequias move water through the crop fields and usually continue to flow back into larger bodies of water. The success of the system depends on the community and, if possible, the leadership of an acequia manager known as an acequiero in Spain or a mayordomo in the southwest. The ditches must be cleaned in the spring to remove eroded soil and organic materials and water must be delegated through land use, land size and water availability. Constant maintenance and surveillance is a necessity during peak irrigation months.

Acequias do not only preserve history, they preserve the land that, in turn, preserves the people. If the acequia is still a primarily earthen system, it seeps water back into the ground and follows the land’s natural contours. Since acequia maintenance requires hands, not machines, the community must work together to sustain the irrigation channels.

The ancient irrigation practice, however, is struggling to survive for many reasons in the Valley and abroad. Drought makes the systems obsolete and technology replaces manual labors. The children raised on the waters are interested in other things because reporting time spent as a mayordomo on a resume does not open gates in the modern world. In spite of the challenges, there are local efforts to give the modern world an opportunity to conserve an international history.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.