Roaring Fork watershed: ‘The payback on it is long-term, as it is for all hydro projects’ — Mark O’Meara (City of Carbondale)

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

O’Meara, who has been Carbondale’s utility director for five years, is working with outside consultants, the federal government and other entities and agencies to investigate the potential for drawing hydroelectric power from South Nettle Creek. Nettle Creek, fed by a spring that rises on the lower northwestern slopes of Mount Sopris, has been the town’s main source of drinking water for more than 100 years. The town also has well fields along the Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers that supplement Nettle Creek if the creek’s flows drop below a certain level, or if demand rises beyond the creek’s capacity.

The idea of generating hydroelectric power from Nettle Creek has been discussed for decades, O’Meara said, but this is the closest the town has gotten to making it happen.“There’s a whole bunch of players,” O’Meara said, including the Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE), CLEER (Clean Energy Economy for the Region), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)…

“The payback on it is long-term,” he said, “as it is for all hydro projects. Green energy is very expensive. It’s as simple as that.”

…according to an SGM report, the allowed uses for Carbondale’s Nettle Creek water right do not currently include hydroelectric generation. Instead, the town’s water rights are decreed as being for municipal purposes, such as water service to homes, for treatment of sewage and for fire protection. It may be necessary to go through the state’s water courts to add power production to that water decree as an allowed use, the SGM report stated.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Whitewater sports help drive the Colorado economy

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From the Summit Daily News (Neal Schwieterman):

In the rural Colorado we all love, it is often difficult to make a living. Many of us know ranchers and farmers whose spouses work “regular” jobs to keep the family afloat in the agricultural life style. Even when we work “regular” jobs, our pay is well below Front Range rates. So how do we make a rural economy work? Diversify. The more veins feeding the aorta, the quicker it fills. On the Western Slope, few of us want to make it rich, but we sure would like our children to be able to return after college and make a go of it.

Recreational rafting does not drive the economy, but is another feeder vein. The Taylor River accounts for two-thirds of the boating user days in the Gunnison Basin. The $4 million in economic activity this generates helps fill restaurants and rental houses and keeps energetic ski area workers employed off season. In the Colorado Basin, including the Blue, Eagle and Roaring Fork rivers, direct spending totals over $12 million, generating a total of over $31 million in economic activity. Of that, boating on the Blue River contributed over $750,000 in direct spending and nearly $2 million in economic impact. These numbers from the Colorado River Outfitters Association 2001 report do not include economic activity generated from fishing, pleasure boating on reservoirs or “private boaters,” who like the sport enough to purchase the gear to raft, kayak or canoe rivers on their own. They are not confined to the commercially run sections of rivers.

More whitewater coverage here.

Drought/runoff/snowpack news: The San Miguel/Dolores/Animas and San Juan basins have melted out

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Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current U.S. Drought Monitor map, the Basin High/Low graph for the San Miguel/Dolores/Animas and San Juan basins and the current statewide snowpack map. Snowpack across Colorado is in single digits. All of the state is in one stage of drought or another except parts of the South Platte basin which are merely abnormally dry.

From the Associated Press via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The U.S. Drought Monitor says severe drought conditions covered about a quarter of Colorado at the end of May, encompassing nearly every place north and west of Salida. A pocket of that area is even worse, with severe drought conditions.

The rest of the state is either abnormally dry or in a moderate drought. The Drought Monitor says a severe drought means crop or pasture losses are possible and water shortages are common. An extreme drought means major crop and pasture losses are possible and water shortages could become widespread.

The National Weather Service predicts June temperatures will be above normal and rainfall will be below normal statewide…

The Poudre River, seeing some of its most dismal spring flows ever recorded, was running at 569 cubic feet per second on Friday at the gauge at the mouth of Poudre Canyon. The average flow for the date is about 2,000 cubic feet per second.

March through May was the driest spring on record in Boulder, with 3.01 inches of moisture. The average is 7.85 inches…Boulder Creek was flowing at a rate of 100 cubic feet per second Thursday. The creek’s average flow this time of year is 400 to 500 cubic feet per second.