Chris Woodka: Washing away the elephant in the room


The Pueblo Chieftain’s excellent reporter, Chris Woodka, tackles the topic of population growth in this column. Click through and read the whole column. Here’s an excerpt:

Sometimes, a newcomer to the discussions the state is having about water will meekly raise a hand or boldly stand and say something stupid like: “You know, there is only so much water available here in Colorado. Why don’t we talk about limiting growth?”

And the water intelligentsia just roll their eyes and hold their noses as if the interloper had made the mistake of publicly using one of the low-flow toilets on display in the exhibition room across the hall.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Reclamation to collect soil and rock samples along proposed pipeline routes


Update: Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Bureau of Reclamation will be taking samples of rock and earth as part of an Environmental Impact Study for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and a master storage contract for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District….

A Reclamation crew will use a truck-mounted, heavy duty drill rig to sample ground on about 1,600 parcels up to 120 feet deep. While most are on public rights of way, some are on private property, and Reclamation will contact landowners and provide a right-of-entry form, said Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for Reclamation.

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Reclamation drill crews will begin geotechnical investigations from Pueblo to Lamar, Colo. in early May. The drill crews will be collecting soil and rock samples along the possible routes of the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit, a water project being evaluated by Reclamation.

The investigations are part of the surveying research Reclamation is conducting for its preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement. This environmental document will evaluate three proposed federal actions: the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit; an interconnection between the north and south outlets works of Pueblo Reservoir; and a possible long-term excess capacity Master Contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.

Drilling for geotechnical surveying is performed by Reclamation’s Great Plains Regional Geology and Exploration crew. The crew operates a truck mounted CME-85 rig for drilling up to 120 feet below the ground surface to collect samples of rock and earth. The samples are then tested for standard physical properties that will help determine design requirements for the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

While most of the 1600 parcels to be surveyed are in public right-of-ways, some may be on private land. In those cases, Reclamation will contact property owners and provide them with an explanatory letter and a Right of Entry form.

To learn more about the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit, proposed Master Contract, and the related environmental review process, please visit: Media is invited to contact Kara Lamb, Reclamation Public Information Officer, for follow-up questions at (970) 062-4326 or

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Reclamation Releases a Record of Decision for Aspinall Unit Operations


Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Steve McCall/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office announced today the release of the Record of Decision for the Aspinall Unit Operations Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The ROD outlines how Reclamation will operate the Aspinall Unit, consisting of Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal dams and reservoirs on the Gunnison River, to avoid jeopardy to downstream endangered fish species while continuing to meet the congressionally authorized purposes of the unit.

“This record of decision is a culmination of an extraordinary effort by a diverse group of interests and a major step in ongoing efforts to recover the Colorado River endangered fish,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, Anne Castle. “The careful attention that has been given to meeting the goals of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, as well as working within the constraints imposed by flood control and meeting existing water rights, ensures that the operations under the ROD are sustainable and appropriate.”

The operations outlined in the ROD will provide higher spring flows and protect the base flows in the Gunnison River. In addition to avoiding jeopardy, the goal of the operational modifications is to assist in the recovery of the endangered fish species, while continuing to meet the needs of agriculture, recreation, and sport fisheries.

The ROD is available on Reclamation’s web site in Environmental Documents). If you have questions, please contact Steve McCall at 970-248-0638 or Dan Crabtree at 970-248-0652.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Sand Creek: Suncor hopes to contain plume of pollution permanently by fall


From the Commerce City Sentinel (Ben Wiebesiek):

[John Gallagher, vice president of refining for Suncor Energy] said the company built a 1000-foot trenching system on Metro Waste Water’s property in the area. “One of the trenches is a blocking wall, essential blocks all liquid hydrocarbons underground. The second, in front of that, is a collector trench, which has a number of sumps in it to take liquid materials up,” Gallagher said.

“We have also built on the same property, between Sand Creek and that wall, what we call a soil vapor extraction system where we’re taking hydrocarbon vapors up out of the soil and burning them in a gasoline engine.” Gallagher said the trenching system on the waste water treatment facility property is now 100 percent complete. Gallagher anticipates the completion of the vapor extraction system April 30. “We have 90 percent of a 2,100-foot trenching system on Suncor’s property to protect our boundaries,” Gallagher said. “If you think about it very simplistically, our overall strategy is to move off of the river, which is done, move up to the trenching system and then back onto our own property over the next several months.”

Gallagher admitted there were still trace levels of benzene going into Sand Creek. “This is within the parts per billion range,” he said. “And we are working diligently to reduce that, get it back to drinking-water quality.”

The permanent protection system will be complete by last summer, early fall, Gallagher said. “We should be seeing some very dramatic results. Right now, we’re seeing some results, some improvement, but the permanent system needs to be in play before we see everything go our way,” Gallagher said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Granby: Grand County ‘State of the River’ meeting tomorrow


From the Colorado River District (Martha Moore) via the Sky-Hi Daily News:

It was just 12 months ago that most of Grand County was under a flood watch. Today, water managers are watching for a developing drought that could exceed historical proportions.

To help understand this epic flip-flop and anticipated low flows, the Colorado River District will host their annual “Grand County State of the River” meeting on Wednesday, May 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Grand County Library, 55 Zero Street, Granby.

Water professionals representing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Northern Water, Denver Water, the Colorado River District and others will be on hand to present information on anticipated reservoir operations, forecasted river conditions and the potential impacts.

This summer may see some of the lowest river and stream levels since the drought of 2002.

“The River District needs the public’s input, understanding, and cooperation as we work with the water management organizations to get through this season,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn.

Presenters will educate the public on the constraints of their water resources, the demands they must meet and the complex interrelationship of Colorado’s water supplies and demands and overarching water rights system.

These meetings are open to the general public and will be of special interest to anyone involved in irrigated agriculture, water supply issues, water-based recreation or aquatic habitats.

For more information, contact Martha Moore, Colorado River District, 970-945-8522, ext. 226 or

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

2012 Colorado legislation: SB12-132 (Issue Air & Water Quality Permits Within 12 Months) defeated by the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources committee


From the Denver Business Journal (Ed Sealover):

Senate Bill 132, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, would have required the state to approve or reject such permits within 12 months. The Senate passed it 30-5 on May 2 after Grantham said some companies have had to wait for years to find out if they were getting permits and have delayed expansions. But Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, told the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources committee Monday that CDPHE officials pledged to work with industry leaders to address problems that have delayed permits. A department official said the same to committee members.

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Snowpack/drought/runoff news: Upper Colorado River basin snowpack now at 14% of average, statewide = 16%




Click on the thumbnail graphics for the statewide snowpack map, the Upper Colorado River Basin High/Low graph and the South Platte Basin High/Low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Showers late Sunday night and throughout the day Monday deposited about 0.30 inches of rain in the Pueblo area, and more could be in store for the next month. “Certainly there is some short-term relief,” said Randy Gray, of the National Weather Service station at Pueblo Memorial Airport. “Until the end of the month, it looks like we’re in a good position to get more.” The weather system that produced rain in Pueblo covered most of the eastern part of the state, leaving anywhere from half an inch at Fort Collins to nearly an inch near Trinidad. Snowfall was reported in the mountains…The rainfall was the most Pueblo had seen since the beginning of April, when 0.45 inches was recorded. Still, this is the time of year when more showers are expected. Overall, April was dry, just 57 percent of average.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

More than 0.6 of an inch of rain fell in most areas of [Fort Collins] y during the storm – more than the city has received since Feb. 4, said Wendy Ryan, a researcher at the Colorado Climate Center at CSU. Colorado State University climatologist Nolan Doesken said the rainfall dumped about a week’s worth of precipitation on the area in one evening. “The amount of precipitation we received (Sunday into Monday) is about what we normally get in a week-to-10-day period in an average May,” Doesken said. “It’s a week’s worth of precipitation. It’s wonderful. It’ll make things green.”[…]

Scientists who determine drought conditions in the region likely will keep the Fort Collins area listed under severe drought conditions until another wet storm moves through, he said. Ryan said only 1.79 inches of precipitation have fallen in Fort Collins since Jan. 1, putting the city 3.18 inches below normal for the year…

A chance for rain and thunderstorms in northeast Colorado will return to the forecast toward the end of the week with a cold front coming out of the northwest, meteorologist Julie Soper of DayWeaether in Cheyenne, Wyo., said.

The May 1 Basin Outlook Report (NRCS) is hot off the press: Read it and weep


Click here to download your own copy. Thanks to Mage Skordahl (Natural Resources Conservation Service) for sending the link along in email. She certainly picked an interesting year to take over the snow survey reporting.

Click on the thumbnail graphic for the May 1 streamflow forecast map for Colorado. The map mirrors the snowpack map except for four sub-basins along the southern border of Colorado. Here’s a preview of the report:

As we head into the high water demand season, the prospects for improved runoff conditions continue to diminish. The continuation of dry conditions in April resulted in significant reductions in streamflow forecasts for the second month in a row. Most of those decreases ranged from 5 to 20 percentage points. The highest forecasts in the state, which are still calling for less than 50 percent of average volumes, are in the Upper Rio Grande River basin and in the rivers in the southwest corner of the state. The majority of the state’s streams and rivers are expected to produce only 20 to 40 percent of average volumes. The lowest runoff volumes are expected in northern Colorado, where streamflows are expected to be 15 to 30 percent of average. With much of the meager snowpack already melted we can only hope for abnormally wet conditions for the remainder of this spring and into the summer to alleviate shortages.

Data from the storm over the weekend and yesterday is not reflected in the report. In 2010 there were two separate peaks in the South Platte basin in May. Last year we saw three peaks during May. One of my colleagues tells me, “You sound like a farmer.” I guess it’s a glass half-full way of thinking. I have talked to one farmer who is not planting part of his place this year fearing the lack of ditch water late in the season for finishing corn.