San Juan River Habitat Restoration Project part of America’s Great Outdoors Rivers Initiative


Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Justyn Hock):

Today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar highlighted nine of 51 total projects, one in each state and the District of Columbia, that serve as models of the America’s Great Outdoors River Initiative to conserve and restore key rivers across the nation, expand outdoor recreational opportunities and support jobs in local communities.
Included in this list is the San Juan River in Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Region.

“The San Juan River Habitat Restoration Project, as part of America’s Great Outdoors Rivers Initiative, will greatly assist Reclamation and all of its federal, tribal, states and non-governmental partners in the San Juan River Basin to continue the significant gains being made towards eventual recovery of endangered species of fish,” said Western Colorado Area Manager Ed Warner.

The goals of the Rivers Initiative include protecting and restoring America’s rivers for people and wildlife and enhancing river recreation that support jobs in tourism and outdoor recreation.

Of the 51 projects, nearly half expand recreational fishing and boating while others improve signage, maps, access points and other tools to enhance recreational use of rivers. Twelve projects engage youth in projects while 12 projects also support the America’s Great Outdoors Urban Initiative, to enhance parks and other outdoor recreational facilities and provide outdoor education to young people in cities.

“Across the country, we are working hand in hand with states, tribes, local communities and other partners to revitalize our nation’s rivers and expand the opportunities for people to fish, boat, and otherwise connect with the natural world,” Salazar said. “These on-going projects demonstrate how the federal government can be an effective conservation partner for community-led efforts to improve our environment and the quality of life of residents while creating jobs in the outdoor recreation economy.”

Reclamation will serve as lead on four of these projects: the Red Bluff Fish Passage Improvement Project on the Sacramento River in California; the Yankee Fork (of the Salmon River) Off-Channel Habitat Restoration in Idaho; the Colorado River Heritage Greenway Park and Trails in Nevada and the San Juan River Habitat Restoration in New Mexico. Reclamation will co-lead a project in Nebraska with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Platte River Restoration and Recreation Project.

Salazar unveiled the America’s Great Outdoors Rivers Initiative in January as part of President Obama’s overall America’s Great Outdoors initiative to work with communities across the country to establish a 21st century conservation ethic, reconnect people, especially young people, to the natural world, and promote the outdoor recreation economy.

Here’s the project description from the Department of Interior website:

The San Juan River is home to the endangered Colorado Pikeminnow and Razorback sucker. The San Juan Recovery Program assists in recovery of endangered species for over 300 water development projects in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. In addition, actions taken under this program will provide benefits to other native fishes in the San Juan Basin and prevent them from becoming endangered in the future.

Recovery actions involve restoring and managing stream flows and habitat, boosting wild populations with hatchery-raised endangered fish, and reducing negative interactions with non-native fish species. For this project, bulldozers and excavators were used to construct secondary channels and backwaters and remove non-native vegetation.

While species recovery and water development are the primary benefits of these recovery activities, in-stream flow protection and habitat restoration will also likely result in healthier riverine and riparian environments in national parks, on tribal lands, and on other public and private lands enjoyed by outdoor recreationists and nature enthusiasts.

More San Juan River Basin coverage here.

Edwards: Eagle River Valley State of the River public meeting tomorrow


Here’s the release from the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):

for water management in the Eagle River Valley – a place where life is sustained by the Eagle River and its tributaries.

The National Integrated Drought Information System has declared a severe drought in Eagle County and an extreme drought in part of the Colorado River Basin. As of May 24, snowpack levels in the basin stood at 11 percent of average.

The public can learn more about current drought conditions, water supply, and streamflow forecasts at the annual Eagle River Valley State of the River public meeting set for 5:30-8 p.m. May 30 at the Berry Creek Middle School auditorium in Edwards. The event is free and is hosted by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Colorado River District, and the Eagle River Watershed Council.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a casual reception with light dinner snacks and soft drinks. The evening program begins at 6 p.m. with Mage Hultstrand from the Natural Resources Conservation Service presenting about this winter’s record low snowpack, current river conditions, and streamflow forecasts.

John Mark Seelig with Lakota Guides, John Packer with Fly Fishing Outfitters, and Linn Brooks with Eagle River Water and Sanitation District will discuss plans to mitigate drought impacts locally from a rafting, fishing, and public water system provider perspective. Kendall Bakich with Colorado Parks and Wildlife will address the possibility of voluntary fishing closures being instituted locally.

The meeting also will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Colorado River District, which was formed in 1937 to protect Western Colorado water against diversions across the mountains to the Front Range. Chris Treese will talk about the Colorado River District’s 75-year history, the statewide Water 2012 celebration, and update the public on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which was signed in February by Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, Eagle Park Reservoir Company, and Eagle County.

The program concludes with an update on Eagle River Valley waterways – Gore Creek, Eagle River, and the Colorado River. Brooks, Melissa Macdonald with Eagle River Watershed Council, and Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney will participate in a panel discussion about recent and planned initiatives that aim to improve water quality and stream health in the Eagle River Valley.

For more information, contact Eagle River Water & Sanitation District at 970-477-5457 or the Eagle River Watershed Council at 970-827-5406.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

Runoff/snowpack/drought news: ‘We really live on snowpack, that’s what it comes down to’ — Richard Ferguson


From the Associated Press (Thomas Peipert) via The Denver Post:

The first impact has been an early paddling season and lower flowing rivers. “We really live on snowpack. That’s what it comes down to,” said Richard Ferguson, a trip coordinator for the Poudre Paddlers Canoe and Kayak Club, which serves northern Colorado.

He said low river flows already have forced him to cancel one trip scheduled in July on the Yampa River. A group outing that had been planned for Memorial Day had to be moved. “A light snowpack means that the peak is very early,” Ferguson said. “What happens is the season just disappears very quickly. What you have, essentially, is no water to paddle in.”

Although he still plans to hit the rapids just about every other week for the time being, Ferguson predicts there won’t be any paddling on the Poudre River by midsummer…

Mage Skordahl, the NRCS’s assistant snow survey supervisor, said the snowpack peaked around March 12, a month ahead of average, and current conditions match those recorded during the record-setting drought of 2002, one of the toughest years for river guides in the state…

Jon Donaldson, co-owner of River Runners, a rafting guide company based in Buena Vista, said, “We’re going ahead full bore like there won’t be an effect.” High water last season — especially in the Royal Gorge area near Cañon City — closed parts of the popular Arkansas River because they were too dangerous to navigate. Donaldson predicts those same sections will remain open the entire season this year, which means the possibility of more trips — and more business.

From the Aspen Daily News (Dorothy Atkins):

Local fishing outfitters are counting on an active monsoon season and a surplus of water from Ruedi Reservoir to keep the stock healthy. [Jarrod Hollinger, owner of the fly-fishing guide company, Aspen Outfitting Co.] is advising locals to follow fishing protocol to protect the stock. Use rubber nets, barbless hooks and be sure to only have fish out of the water for under 30 seconds, said Hollinger…

Low-water levels are going to be a boon for the recreational fishing industry in June and July when the river usually peaks. During those months, high-stream flows typically push fishermen upstream where the flows aren’t as powerful. At lower stream flow levels, there are more options available to fishermen, and tourists opt to fish rather than raft.

From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

As of [Orchard City trustee Jimmie Boyd’s] report last week, Little Gem and Park reservoirs were full and spilling, and most Grand Mesa reservoirs still had ice cover. The town is expected to have 160 to 170 acre-feet of reservoir water available. Orchard City’s water utility used 120 to 125 acre-feet in 2002, Boyd said. That will leave some 40 acre-feet for the town to rent to valley irrigators.

From the Colorado River District via the Delta County Independent:

However, unlike 2012, Colorado reservoirs this year are relatively in good shape, although Green Mountain, Ruedi, Taylor Park, and Aspinall Unit reservoirs on the Western Slope stand a good chance of not filling.

Those assessments of the state of water reserves was delivered to the Colorado River District board of directors meeting in April.

The report included the following points:

• Wolford Mountain Reservoir has already filled.

• The net effect is that water storage in 2012 puts water users in a better position than 2002, although supplies will have to be closely gauged and steps taken to mitigate anticipated shortages.

• Entities holding contracts in Ruedi Reservoir will be receiving a letter asking if they have excess water to pledge in a pool for use by irrigators if needed this year.

• The Colorado River District itself will be dedicating water it holds in Ruedi, as well as supplies in Wolford Mountain Reservoir to the pool.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: The Southeastern board and other agencies are implementing plans to bolster flows in the Arkansas mainstem over the summer


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is operating its exchange right to move some of the water in Lake Pueblo up to Turquoise and Twin Lakes in order to boost flows through the summer. “To my knowledge, this is the first time the exchange has been used, since it’s a fairly junior water right,” said Jim Broderick, the district. Rafting companies are encouraged by the move, hoping it will keep flows stable in the river stable during July and early August…

The upper reservoirs in Lake County were drawn down during winter months with the expectation downriver in the spring. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will provide about 900 acre-feet of water to cover evaporation and transit loss, said Division Engineer Steve Witte. Water will be released at key times during the summer in blocks up to 100 cubic feet per second, Witte said.

Meanwhile, here’s a profile of three Southeastern board members with family roots on the board, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

…three members of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District are following in their father’s footsteps more than 50 years after the district was formed.

“People think I have the same knowledge about water as my father, but there’s no way I could ever start to wear his boots,” said Tom Goodwin, choking with emotion. Goodwin also is on the board of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, which his father, Denzel Goodwin, helped launch in 1979. Denzel Goodwin, who died last year, was a firebrand for Fremont County cattle and water issues from the 1950s, and Tom says he would come home from every meeting and discuss everything with his wife, Marcheta…

Two of Goodwin’s peers now on the Southeastern board also had fathers on the board: David Simpson, whose father, Lee Simpson, served from 1981-2009; and Ann Nichols, whose father, Sid Nichols, was a charter member from 1958 until his death in 1973…

[Nichols] also followed in her father’s footsteps professionally, working in the financial end of the water business for Colorado Springs during the purchase of Foxley Farms assets in Crowley County. She retired after working for 25 years as finance director for Colorado Springs. Now a financial consultant, she is treasurer of the Southeastern board and a member of the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority board…

Simpson learned water working side-by-side with his father for 37 years in forming and running the St. Charles Mesa Water District east of Pueblo. When his father retired in 1999, Simpson became manager of the district.

More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.