Colorado Water 2012: The Custer County Library District is planning a special water display from May 15 – 25

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From The Wet Mountain Tribune:

From May 15 through May 25, the West Custer County Library District will be hosting a water display and film to commemorate the 75th anniversary of legislation regarding management of Colorado’s water resources. Partnering with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Custer Conservation District, and the CSU Extension office, the Library is participating in Governor Hickenlooper’s “Year of Water” project.

Library director Marty Frick explains that “Colorado Water 2012” is the governor’s idea for celebrating the creation of water organizations from the three-quarter century old legislation. In a state almost entirely defined as desert or semi desert, water is precious—perhaps one of the most controversial assets the state has. Hickenlooper partnered with the Supreme Court, Colorado Art Institute and libraries across the state to create the travelling eight-foot long triptych accompanied with the film, “The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?”

In addition to statewide information about water and The West, the display will have local information provided by NRCS, the Conservation District, and the CSU Extension office.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 16, Custer Conservation District Manager Carol Franta and CSU Extension Agent Robin Young will present the River Trailer Education Program at the Custer County Schools. The River Trailer travels to schools and events to teach children and adults about watersheds, the water cycle, water conservation, and stream bank restoration. It’s a very effective hands-on tool, popular with young and old alike.

A free showing of “The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry?” is scheduled for Wednesday, May 23, at 5 p.m. in the community room adjacent to the library, 209 Main St. in Westcliffe. The 80 minute movie will inform viewers about water reuse, consequences of urban growth, water policy and solutions such as desalination, rainwater harvesting and green construction.

Stop by the library to see the water display during regular library hours, Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Call 783-9138 for more information.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

‘It just speaks to how increasingly difficult it is to get a project like this put on line’ — Janet Rummel (Colorado Springs Utilities)

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Even with recent good news regarding interest rates, SDS is going to cost ratepayers about $1.6 billion, including interest. Complications, of course, could drive the cost higher. And quite a few have been popping up lately.

A contrary court ruling. A competing reservoir plan. Skirmishes over access to engineer the 60-mile line from Pueblo Reservoir. Unresolved deals for real estate and trenching.

Utilities thought it was home-free last year after negotiating a long-term storage deal in Pueblo Reservoir with the federal government. It’s already installed 20 miles of pipe and acquired 63 percent of the roughly 300 parcels it needs. So what could go wrong?

Plenty, apparently.

“It just speaks to how increasingly difficult it is to get a project like this put on line,” Utilities spokeswoman Janet Rummel says. “At this time, we believe we can continue to manage these risks within the approved budget.”

More coverage from Chris Vanderveen writing for 9News.com. From the article:

The Southern Delivery System will, when completed in 2016, bring 78 million gallons of water a day from the Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs.

Major construction began on the 60-mile pipeline last year.

“Colorado Springs Utilities has been planning on the Southern Delivery System since really the late 80s,” SDS spokesperson Janet Rummel said. “It’s really going to help insulate us from a drought like we saw in 2002.”

It’s impossible not to notice the massive project in Pueblo West. Construction crews are feverishly digging trenches to house the pipeline. It’s often grueling work, requiring crews to dig into land that is flush with rock…

What is clear is that the project is providing much-needed relief for a construction industry that has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Jared Nessler works for HCP Constructors and is based out of Pueblo West. “We started working on SDS early in 2011,” he said. This job, he said, is right in his backyard.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

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

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary. Click here for the summaries from the Colorado Climate Center.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Habitat Work to Improve Arkansas River Below Leadville

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjin):

This summer, fish habitat enhancement work is slated to begin on public parts of the upper Arkansas River below the Highway 24 bridge. Biologists and engineers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife will take a hard look at what natural resource impacts are evident due to high metal content. It should set the stage for restoration alternatives to be developed.

The project continues the federal and state work to restore the California Gulch Superfund site, an 18-square mile area where historic mining activities discharged heavy metals and acid into California Gulch at the headwaters of the Arkansas River. Heavy metals make it hard for fish to sustain healthy populations.

Currently, trout can live in the river because of earlier mine cleanup efforts.

“The planning for this project has been going on for many years and people in the area (say they are) are excited to see it moving forward,” said Greg Policky, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the area. “By this summer we hope to be in the river and physically manipulating the habitat to restore the environment for aquatic life in that section. Over the next few years, we hope anglers will start to see the benefits.”

Improvements will be centered on an 11-mile stretch of the river from California Gulch downstream to Twobit Gulch.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

American Water Works Association: Drinking Water Week — May 6 – 12

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Click here to go to the AWWA webpage. They write:

For more than 30 years, the American Water Works Association and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week – a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together to recognize the vital role water plays in our daily lives. Join AWWA in celebrating the essential by celebrating water.

From The Fort Morgan Times:

The City of Fort Morgan is joining with the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and water professionals across North America to celebrate Drinking Water Week May 6-12 and to highlight the importance of investing in water infrastructure.

“We all agree that water is an essential element in our daily lives, but for North Americans, water service is a convenience that we too often take for granted,” said Mitch Church, city water distribution superintendent. “Those buried pipes deliver the water that is vital to our quality of life and economic vitality. They are among our most valuable community assets, and we need to assure they are in good working order for the next generation.”

Much of the drinking water infrastructure in Fort Morgan was constructed by previous generations during the early 1900s, the 1920s and during the post-World War II boom. Many of the water mains from all three eras must be replaced or repaired in the next 25 years.

In fact, according to a recent AWWA study titled “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge,” the cost of repairing and expanding U.S. drinking water infrastructure will top $1 trillion in the next 25 years. That figure will rise to $1.7 trillion by 2050.

The City of Fort Morgan has more than $5 million in water distribution infrastructure upgrades planned in the next five years.

Addressing these issues will be costly, but not insurmountable, according to the “Buried No Longer” report. Facing them head-on by proactively investing in tap water systems is a smart, safe, common sense investment that will pay off for generations to come.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Parker: The quest for a sustainable water supply leads to political fallout over Rueter-Hess Reservoir and water rights purchases

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Tracy Hutchins, who served on Parker Town Council for eight years, has turned her attention to what she believes is negligence by the water district’s top authorities. She is decrying, among other dealings, the $7.7 million investment in farms and water rights in the Sterling area because she says the district has no way to transport the water back to Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a $105 million project that PWSD officials say is vital for storing water for Douglas County’s future. Instead of relying on underground aquifers that are rapidly being depleted, Parker Water planned Rueter-Hess as a mechanism to store water from wet years for use during times of drought. PWSD customers voted in 2004 to approve a bond issue that would use tap fees from ongoing development to pay for the reservoir construction. Hutchins says many Parker residents don’t know that when the real estate market crashed, the ratepayers were suddenly on the hook for the tab, which now stands at $97 million.

“In the bond election, we said we would use all means and methods necessary, including a tax increase in the event we could not make payments,” said Jim Nikkel, project manager and assistant district manager for PWSD. The quasi-governmental agency raised its mill levy for the 2011 tax year. Nikkel says water rate increases offset rising utility costs and don’t pay for the reservoir debt.

Hutchins says poor planning has saddled Parker’s water customers with debt, and the reservoir, which was officially opened in March, has only a puddle of water in it.

More Parker coverage here and here.

Routt County: The Board of Commissioner’s pony up $1 million in tax dough for two conservation easements

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From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

The first property is Elkhead Ranch, where 1,560 acres of agricultural land will be conserved in the foothills of the Elkhead Mountains about 16 miles north of Hayden. The ranch is visible from Routt County Road 56.

The second is the Agner Mountain Ranch, where 1,337 acres of conserved agricultural land and wildlife habitat will be added to the 1,237 acres already under easement. The southern two-thirds of the ranch is typified by rolling hills covered in a mix of gambel oak and sagebrush. Calf Creek runs through the valley below, and Buck Mountain is a nearby landmark.

The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust will hold the conservation easements.

Funding for the county’s purchase of development rights program comes from 1.5 mills of voter-approved property taxes that were renewed most recently in 2006. The purchase of development rights program is intended to give landowners an economically attractive alternative to selling land for development by instead compensating them for the development rights they agree to put under a conservation easement. By giving up those future development rights, the owners typically donate more than half of the appraised value of the land.

More Yampa River basin coverage here.

A report from Protect the Flows pegs the Colorado River recreation industry at $26 billion and a quarter of a million jobs

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Thanks to U.S. Senator Mark Udall for the link. Here’s the report from Udall’s Scribd page.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Matthew Berger):

The study, commissioned by Protect the Flows, a coalition of recreation and tourism businesses, also found that the river produces $26 billion in economic output, generated primarily by the recreation and tourism industries. By far the largest share of that total, $9.6 billion, occurs in Colorado.

The 234,000 jobs that the study, through surveys and economic modelling, found the river supports would place it ahead of companies like General Motors, Boeing and Disney. “That’s a pretty conservative number,” noted Protect the Flows’ Molly Mugglestone. “These are direct jobs we’re talking about.” They do not include the less direct economic benefits the river provides to farmers, ranchers, cities and power companies, nor to river users in Mexico. In order to ensure the river continues to be able to support those jobs, a summit of business and government leaders met Friday in Denver to discuss the report’s findings.

“You don’t have to spend much time around rivers to understand their importance,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Boulder. “The cynics might scoff at nonconsumptive uses…but it’s tough to know the value of something until it’s gone,” he said, referring to water that is left in rivers rather than withdrawn for irrigation or other consumptive uses.

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

Southwick Associates Inc. developed the report by first conducting a telephone survey of people in all Colorado River basin states except California from Jan. 24 to Feb. 12 to estimate how many people hike, fish, raft, camp, picnic or otherwise play on the river system and how often. President Rob Southwick said California was excluded because only a small part of the state uses the river for recreation. Then, researchers matched the survey results with data on spending on travel and equipment for outdoor activities to estimate economic impacts. The study estimates that business activity from recreation focused on the river system supports about 234,000 jobs in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming and generates more than $1.6 billion in federal taxes annually and $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenues.

The figure of $17 billion in direct spending from river recreation would likely be higher if visits from outside the region were included, said Sarah Sidwell, manager of Tag-A-Long Expeditions in Moab, Utah. Sidwell said 40 percent of customers for her rafting and off-road business are international. “Our stake in this is huge,” Sidwell said of keeping the river system healthy. “We need to have a flowing river in order for me to have a job and 100 part-time employees to have jobs.”

Rhett Bain, owner of Reel Deal Anglers in Jackson, Wyo., said a seasonal guide for his business earns about $30,000 in 90 days including tips.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Rifle: Council approval of a $25.5 million loan application for new water treatment plant is drawing a lot of attention

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From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

The city has decided to pursue a $25.5 million loan from the Colorado Water and Power Authority to fund the proposed plant, and to ask city voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to help keep water rates from more than doubling. The issue has been appealed by Rifle resident and former Silt mayor John Steele, who turned in a petition signed by 300 people in support of his action. At the Tuesday meeting, City Manager John Hier and Louis Meyer, a professional engineer with Schmueser Gordon Meyer, the city’s design consultant on the project, detailed the history and problems with the Graham Mesa water treatment plant and the smaller Divide Creek plant.

The Graham Mesa plant was built in 1982 and uses technology from the 1970s, Meyer said. That has led to a lack of replacement parts and “fabricating” different solutions to keep the plant operating and meet water quality standards, Hier said. Meyer said the plant has a 4.5 million gallons per day treatment capacity, and the city’s peak demand in 2009 was 4.41 million gallons a day. “You don’t want to ever push a plant that close to the limit,” Meyer said. “You get all kinds of operating problems because it’s such an old plant.”

Meanwhile, some Rifle citizens want a say in the new plant at the polls so they’ve delivered enough petition signatures to force a vote. Here’s a report from Jenny Lavey writing for the Rifle Citizen Telegram. From the article:

John Steele, a 12-year Rifle resident and former mayor of Silt, submitted a petition to place a question on this November’s general election ballot regarding city council’s recent approval of a $25.5 million loan for construction of a new water treatment plant. The petition was submitted to City Clerk Lisa Cain on Monday, April 30, and requests council either rescind or review their decision authorizing the loan amount, which in turn would increase the rate of Rifle water users to repay the loan.

Additionally, the loan would require a public vote for a half-cent sales tax hike for the city to be able to keep up with operation costs of the new plant. “It was phenomenally hard work, but very enlightening,” Steele said of gathering the signatures.

Cain must now verify every signature on the petition is that of a Rifle resident and registered voter, then notify Steele of by mail if his petition was accepted or denied. As of press time, Cain said she was reviewing the petition in accordance with the city charter and state statutes.

Legally, Steele had to collect at least 265 signatures of registered voters living in Rifle city limits by April 30. The petition had to be received by Cain 10 days after publication of the ordinance, which was done on April 20, according to Steele.

More water treatment coverage here.

BLM takes cues from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission with proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure

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

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced today new hydraulic fracturing regulations for oil and gas development on BLM-administered public lands. The rules include chemical disclosure regulations similar to those developed and implemented in Colorado. “We are pleased that the Bureau of Land Management modeled its disclosure requirements for fracturing fluids after the Colorado rule, which is the most protective and transparent in the country as it requires the disclosure of the chemicals as well as their purpose and concentrations,” Hickenlooper said. The federal rules affect activity on BLM lands, but the Colorado regulations still apply. Like the Colorado rule that took effect April 1, 2012:

· The BLM rule will require disclosure of fracturing fluids, including each chemical and additive trade name and purpose, as well as the concentration of each ingredient.

· Limited trade secret protection is provided.

· The BLM rule requires mechanical integrity testing and cement bond logs to ensure well integrity, as well as reporting on volume of fracturing fluids, proppants, chemicals and water, pressures, volume of recovered flowback fluid and methods used for managing and disposing of the flowback fluids.

Here’s the release from the U.S. Deparment of Interior (Adam Fetcher/Megan Crandall):

In support of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, and the Obama administration’s goal of continuing to expand responsible oil and gas production, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the release of a proposed rule to require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on public and Indian lands, with appropriate protections for proprietary information.

Currently, there is no specific requirement for operators to disclose these chemicals on federal and Indian lands, where approximately 90 percent of the wells drilled use hydraulic fracturing to greatly increase the volume of oil and gas available for production. The proposed rule would require public disclosure of chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing after fracturing operations have been completed.

This common-sense measure, which builds on the preliminary input received from the public, industry, tribal representatives, and other stakeholders, supports the continued development of America’s abundant oil and gas resources on federal and Indian lands by taking steps to ensure public confidence in well stimulation techniques and technologies, including hydraulic fracturing. It is also in line with steps that some states have already taken, requiring operators to disclose the chemicals they use in activities on state lands.

The draft rule, which can be viewed here along with economic analysis and an appendix, also contains two additional, commonsense measures to ensure development continues safely and responsibly:

Improving assurances on well-bore integrity to verify that fluids used in wells during fracturing operations are not escaping; and
Confirming that oil and gas operators have a water management plan in place for handling fracturing fluids that flow back to the surface.
Already, technological advancements like hydraulic fracturing have allowed development of previously uneconomic natural gas and oil deposits. In fact, since 2008, U.S. oil and natural gas production has increased each year. In 2011, U.S. crude oil production reached its highest level in 8 years, and U.S. natural gas production grew in 2011 as well – the largest year-over-year volumetric increase in history – easily eclipsing the previous all-time production record set in 1973. Overall, oil imports have been falling since 2005, and oil import dependence declined from 57 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2011 – the lowest level since 1995.

During the first three years of the Obama Administration combined, federal oil production has increased by 13 percent and total natural gas production from onshore public lands has increased by six percent, compared with totals from 2006-2008. This proposed rule will strengthen the requirements for hydraulic fracturing performed on federal and Indian lands in order to build public confidence and protect the health of American communities, while ensuring continued access to the important resources that make up our energy economy.

“As the President has made clear, this administration’s energy strategy is an all-out effort to boost American production of every available source of energy,” said Secretary Salazar. “As we continue to offer millions of acres of America’s public lands for oil and gas development, it is critical that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place. The proposed rule will modernize our management of well stimulation activities – including hydraulic fracturing – to make sure that fracturing operations conducted on public and Indian lands follow common-sense industry best practices.”

The measures contained in the draft rule are consistent with the goals first outlined by Secretary Salazar in November 2010 during a forum on hydraulic fracturing on public lands to examine best practices to ensure that natural gas on federal and Indian lands is developed in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

In developing the proposed rule, Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sought feedback from a wide range of sources, governments, industry, members of the public and other interested stakeholders.

Under the Department’s unique relationship with Indian tribes, BLM began formal tribal consultations in January 2012 – including outreach, communication and substantive discussions – with tribal governments about the proposed rule’s ongoing development, in the spirit of trust, respect and shared responsibility in providing tribal governments an expanded role in informing federal policy that impacts Indian lands. Consultation with tribal leaders remains ongoing and will continue throughout the rulemaking process.

Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, a 60-day public comment period will begin, during which the public, governments, industry and other stakeholders are encouraged to provide their input.

“The BLM recognizes the importance of all domestic energy sources to the welfare and security of this nation,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “The proposed rule will move our nation forward as we ensure responsible development while protecting public land resources.”

Current BLM regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands are more than 30 years old and were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities.

The proposed rule seeks to maximize flexibility, minimize duplication and complement ongoing efforts in some states to regulate fracturing activities by providing a consistent standard across all federal and Indian lands and making reported information easily accessible to the public. For instance, the BLM is working closely with the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Commission in an effort to integrate the disclosure called for in the proposed rule with the existing program known as FracFocus.

Also in line with President Obama’s April 13 Executive Order to coordinate the efforts of federal agencies responsible for overseeing domestic natural gas development, the proposed rule released today received important interagency feedback.

Recent technology and operational improvements in extracting unconventional oil and gas resources have increased drilling activities across the country. The sharp rise in domestic production has improved U.S. energy security and created jobs, and as with any resource the administration is committed to ensuring that we continue to leverage these resources on federal and Indian lands safely and responsibly.

The proposed rule would apply to BLM-managed mineral estate, including 700 million subsurface acres of federal estate and 56 million subsurface acres of Indian mineral estate.

More coverage from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The proposal would update hydraulic fracturing rules that are more than 30 years old and don’t address modern-day fracturing activity. It also includes rules designed to ensure fracturing fluids don’t escape along well bores, and are properly handled upon their return to the surface…

The BLM measure would include a trade-secret exemption, as in the case of Colorado’s. And as with Colorado’s rule, disclosure wouldn’t have to occur until after fracturing takes place.

Critics say advance disclosure is needed in order to know what chemicals to test for to compare groundwater conditions before and after fracking.

“Communities shouldn’t have to wait for that information until after the deed is done. We hope the agency will strengthen this proposal before it becomes final,” Amy Mall, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

Barry Russell, president and chief executive officer of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said in a release, “BLM’s proposed regulations, which would mandate one-size-fits-all regulations on well construction and hydraulic fracturing operations on these lands, are redundant. They will undoubtedly insert an unnecessary layer of rigidity into the permitting and development process.”

The proposal is subject to a 60-day public comment period.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum recap: Dick Bratton’s keynote focused on water politics in Colorado

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone) via Leadville Herald-Democrat:

Bratton’s talk focused on water politics in Colorado, which he summarized as “how to influence water decisions.” Because water management affects all Coloradans, Bratton said, “it becomes important for an informed public to understand the consequences of water use, which persons and entities might affect its use and how to influence their decisions.

“If you work in water, then your success could be determined by how well you utilize politics to your advantage.” Bratton emphasized the “chain of interrelationships” of multiple interests in the “limited supply of water available for increasing beneficial uses in Colorado.” The likely consequence of this is that competing interests will more readily enter into voluntary agreements to save time and money and avoid the uncertainty of litigation.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Snowpack/drought/runoff news: The South Platte Basin is sitting at 32% of average, statewide = 20%

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Statewide snowpack as of May 1 was 19 percent of the 30-year average, according to a report released by the Natural Resources Conservation Services office in Colorado late Thursday afternoon.

That ties for the state’s worst snowpack on record for May 1.

Only May 1, 2002, — a historic drought year for the state — was as bad.

At 21 percent of average, the Colorado River Basin’s snowpack on May 1 of this year was at a record low.

While the Colorado River flows from the mountains in the opposite direction of Greeley and Weld County, the river makes up a sizeable portion of the water that goes into the Colorado-Big Thompson River Project — which transports Colorado River water from the Western Slope and flows to more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land and to about 850,000 people in eight northern Colorado counties.

This year’s May 1 report showed the South Platte River Basin’s snowpack — which accounts for the rest of the water supply in northern Colorado — was at 25 percent of average. That’s the third-worst mark on record for the basin on May 1.

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone) via the Leadville Herald Democrat:

Summer precipitation would be good news for state water managers and firefighters, but even Doesken acknowledged, “More than a week out, weather projections get really difficult.” Nonetheless, Doesken said data indicate the currently dominant La Niña weather pattern may be giving way to a wetter (for Colorado) El Niño pattern. Doesken presented data from around the state that shows below-average precipitation, which he described as “unsettling.”

March 2012, he added, is one of the three warmest and driest Marches on record in Colorado, similar to March 1910. Doesken said the Arkansas Basin has been “chronically dry since the wet summer of 2010.” Walsenburg, for example, “has large, Dust Bowl-type (precipitation) deficits.” With dwindling snowpack, Doesken said, conditions are similar to 2002.

Snowpack measurements at the Fremont Pass Snowpack Telemetry, or SNOTEL, station are slightly better than 2002 readings, he said. Unfortunately, Doesken said, snowpack at the Porphyry Creek SNOTEL station just west of Monarch Pass has already melted out, just as it did in 2002.

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I get alerts from the USGS when the Clear Creek at Golden gage exceeds 200 cfs. We’re seeing a bit of a meltout this weekend.

From the current Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District newsletter (Brian Werner):

Dry weather is a normal part of life in Colorado, and while we enjoy the abundant sunshine and humidity-free days, our arid climate brings risks. Farmers worry about crops getting enough moisture. Cities impose watering restrictions. Tap fees grow more costly.

This year, our snowpack is in many places lower than in 2002, the year of Colorado’s last significant drought. That’s when Colorado suffered the quadruple whammy of low snowpack, well below average stream runoff, lack of precipitation and high temperatures.

This is just part of life in Colorado. At the same time, the economic health of Colorado’s farmers, ranchers, businesses and citizens depends on a reliable water supply.

The current dry year has attention focused once again on water supplies and an opinion piece by Rep. Cory Gardner reiterates the need for storage to carry us through the dry years.

From The Aspen Times (Andre Salvail) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Typically, the 12,095-foot [Independence Pass} opens the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, which falls this year on May 24. Thanks to the below-average snowpack this year, which high daytime temperatures had melted by Tuesday, CDOT plans to open the pass by 11 a.m. on May 11. CDOT maintenance patrol supervisor Don Poole said there was a huge difference between clearing the road this year and last year, when his crews worked feverishly through late May to open the road on the afternoon of May 26, just in time for the traditional Memorial Day weekend start. “The difference between the two years was amazing,” Poole said. “It’s clear on both sides all the way to the top. We’re just taking advantage of the good weather and time we have to get some other maintenance done up there, mainly cleaning the ditches, fixing signs, repairing the potholes, getting some other stuff done.”[…]

“About the deepest we got into this year was 12 feet,” Poole said. He said the weather atop the pass has been good but breezy in recent days.

Colorado River District news: Work is ongoing to acquire water for a drought pool in Ruedi Reservoir

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You can download a copy of the newsletter here. Thanks to Jim Pokrandt (Colorado River District) for sending it along in email.

The newsletter is dominated by drought news about conditions in the Upper Colorado River basin and the need for conservation. Here’s an excerpt:

A dry year always highlights the importance of the Shoshone Hydro Plant in Glenwood Canyon and the non-consumptive flows it pulls down the river with its senior water right. In recent years, the nearly century old plant has often been offline for maintenance issues and not calling for water.

If Shoshone is not calling for water in the warm months when flows are naturally declining, the effects reach across the rafting industry, municipal water use and irrigation needs.

In recent summers, water users and reservoir owners, including the Colorado River District, the Bureau of Reclamation and Denver Water, have cooperated with a Shoshone Protocol to make the river flow as if the Shoshone Plant were operating with near its 1,250 cubic feet a second water right. The Shoshone outlook for this summer is uncertain. Currently, the plant is not operating at full capacity.

Another important effect of the Shoshone plant calling for water is that it usually holds off the Cameo water rights call by the Grand Valley irrigators. A Cameo call often rebounds up the Roaring Fork River and other tributaries as well as up the mainstem.

The board of directors voted unanimously to support the National Ski Areas Association lawsuit agains the U.S. Forest Service. Here’s the lowdown from the newsletter:

The Colorado ski industry is contesting a federal directive that water rights used in conjunction with ski area permits be assigned to the U.S. Forest Service. The National Ski Areas Association believes this usurps private property rights and has filed suit against the Forest Service.

The Colorado River District Board of Directors passed a resolution to support the ski areas’ case.

It says:

WHEREAS, permit holders that utilize federal lands have filed for and developed Colorado state water rights for the benefit and advancement of their use of the permitted lands; and

WHEREAS, these water rights have been obtained through expenditure of significant funds and are private property rights under Colorado law; and

WHEREAS, the United States Forest Service has recently issued interim directives regarding use and assignment of
water and water rights associated with federal permits for ski area operators; and

WHEREAS, these directives limit the use and assignment of privately developed and privately owned water rights; and

WHEREAS, these directives are likely to discourage private investment in ski areas and associated economic recreational activities;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RE- SOLVED that the Colorado River Water Conservation District opposes any federal requirement that holders of land use permits assign their privately owned water rights to the United States or otherwise restricts the transfer of their water rights for the benefit of the United States in order for the permittee to obtain, modify or renew federal permits.

Legal counsel was instructed to pre- pareafilingofa“friendofthecourt”brief in the case.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.