Big Thompson Flood: July 31, 1976

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The night of July 31, 1976 I was holed up in Steamboat Springs. I had been backpacking with Mrs. Gulch in the Flattops Wilderness for a week or so — drizzle in between downpours during the Colorado monsoon season – and bailed out for the usual, hot shower, cold beer and someone else’s cooking.

I called Denver to check in. My mother asked, “Johnny, are you anywhere near the Big Thompson Canyon?”

“Nope,” I said.

She added, “There’s been a terrible flood.”

Click here for my post from a while back with the link to a 9News (Chris Gallegos) piece about the 30th memorial service.

Drought/precipitation news: Horsestooth Reservoir levels dropping, marina prepares to close

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Water levels are dropping so fast that owners of about 300 boats docked at the Inlet Bay Marina at Horsetooth Reservoir will have to remove their vessels earlier than normal…

The reservoir was 34 feet below capacity Monday and could drop another 16 feet by the end of August, said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Water levels are decreasing from a few inches to a foot daily as farmers and cities draw on their allotments from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

Water levels are about 5 percent below average as farmers and cities contend with the ongoing drought, Werner said. The effects of the High Park Fire on the Poudre River also have led the city of Greeley to use more reservoir water than it normally would this time of year.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

The 3.05 inches Steamboat measured so far this month is nearly double the city’s historic average of 1.61 inches of rain for July…

The Yampa River, bolstered by the recent storms and continued release of water from Stagecoach Reservoir, was flowing at 117 cubic feet per second under the Fifth Street Bridge on Sunday afternoon. The recent abundance of rainfall also has spurred some Northwest Colorado fire officials to call for easing the Stage 2 fire restrictions that have been in place in Routt County since late last month.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 315 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Upper Colorado River Basin has received more rain. As a result, contributions from Green Mountain have been curtailed by another 50 cfs. That means the release to the lower Blue River below Green Mountain Dam is now about 315 cfs.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here and here.

Save the Poudre/Poudre Waterkeeper plans ‘Restore the Corridor’ effort to improve river ecological health through Fort Collins

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

It plans to do that through a campaign called “Restore the Corridor” and dogged activism when reviewing development proposals, working to restore wildlife habitat and promoting recreational opportunities, said executive director Gary Wockner.

The group doesn’t expect to be the only “voice” for the river when it comes to determining what happens around it, said Mark Easter, Save the Poudre board of directors chairman. But somebody has to speak out when it comes to guarding the river’s health, he said, adding many community groups have an interest in what happens along the Poudre…

But critics worry the nonprofit will use its political muscle to sink all development projects along the river. Save the Poudre last month filed two appeals of projects that were approved through Fort Collins’ planning process…

“(Wockner) is saying ‘no’ to everything, across the board,” [Gino Campana, owner of Bellisimo Inc.] said. “I believe there is not a solution we can engineer to satisfy Save the Poudre.” Conceptual plans for the project call for restoring riparian forest along sections of the property closest to the river. It’s the type of work city officials and Save the Poudre say they support, Campana said.

“We should be on the same side of the table,” he said. “He wants to be on the other side.”

Wockner declined to comment on Campana’s project until its development plans are formally submitted. The only item being contested at the moment is the density issue and its potential impact on wildlife, he said…

The Save the Poudre Coalition formed about six years ago to battle the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, and Glade Reservoir. Glade would be built north of Ted’s Place and draw water from the Poudre…

Save the Poudre has a right to express its opinion and take action on any topic, [Jim Reidhead, a longtime local businessman and community activist] said. It is skilled at following legal processes such as appeals in making its case. But it appears to be determined to obstruct any type of development or water-storage project on the river, especially if it might promote growth.

More Cache la Poudre watershed coverage here.

Windy Gap Firming Project: Grand County 1041 permitting process underway #coriver

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Kirk Klancke):

The county is negotiating enhancements to help the degradation that we are already experiencing in the Colorado River below the Windy Gap reservoir but without additional mitigation for the new project, the enhancements will not solve all of the issues facing the river. We need to make sure that our elected officials here in Grand County require all of the mitigation needed to protect the Upper Colorado River below Windy Gap from the new Windy Gap Firming project.

This is our best opportunity as individuals to influence the permit process. This influence can be exercised through letters or emails to the commissioners or by attending the public hearings in the commissioners’ board room on Aug. 1 and 2…

This is your chance to influence the future of the headwaters of the Colorado River. If you were wondering what you could do to help, this is your best opportunity. Please write your letter and come to the hearing to speak.

Update: Here’s the release from Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Trout Unlimited today urged the Board of County Commissioners of Grand County (BOCC) to deny a permit for the Windy Gap Firming Project unless the BOCC is willing to include protective measures to keep the Upper Colorado River and its gold-medal trout fishery alive.

“The Upper Colorado River is under severe stress from multiple impacts, from drought to diversions,” said Kirk Klancke, president of Trout Unlimited’s Headwaters chapter. “This is the last best opportunity for Grand County officials to push for stronger protections to ensure that the Windy Gap project doesn’t destroy the health of our rivers.”

He added, “Without stronger protections, this river faces a long, slow decline—and so do our communities, ranches and recreation economy. That’s just not acceptable. I want my grandchildren to be able to fish here and enjoy this river, as I have. I want our local businesses to thrive. I know that many other Grand County citizens feel the same way.”

The BOCC will soon decide whether to issue a 1041 permit for Northern Colorado Water Conservation District’s Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP) and, if so, under what conditions. The BOCC is currently accepting public, written comments and has scheduled a two-day hearing in Hot Sulphur Springs that will include public testimony on August 1-2.

At present, Northern’s Windy Gap diversion is taking about 60 percent of flows out of the Upper Colorado and pumping it through the Continental Divide to Front Range communities. The proposed expansion of the project would take another 15-20 percent of flows, putting the river at a dangerous tipping point for aquatic life and ecosystem health. State studies show that the Upper Colorado below Windy Gap Reservoir has suffered a sharp decline since the construction of the reservoir , including an almost total loss of once-plentiful stoneflies and mottled sculpin—key aquatic species that make up an important link in the food chain for trout and other fish. The studies point to the reservoir’s contribution of silt combined with a lack of healthy flows, which has caused a spike in water temperatures, algae, sediment and other negative impacts on river and fishery health.

“Under present plans, expanding Windy Gap would make a bad situation worse because it would increase periods of low flows and significantly reduce runoff, which is critical to clean the river of excess silt and sediment contributed by Windy Gap Reservoir,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for TU’s Colorado Water Project.

According to a recent Colorado Parks and Wildlife report, construction of a bypass around Windy Gap reservoir and maintenance of adequate runoff are essential. “Without a bypass, it’s hard to see how the river can remain healthy when even more flows will be taken out,” said Whiting. “Grand County must press Northern to build the bypass.”

TU called on the BOCC to include several requirements in the permit, including:

– Northern should stop Windy Gap pumping when stream temperatures approach State acute and chronic standards.
– Northern should be required to not only study a bypass channel around the Windy Gap Reservoir, but also build it if the study determines that a bypass is beneficial.
– Northern must work with Grand County to monitor spring river flows and provide an adequate flushing flow to prevent sediment from collecting in the river bed and smothering aquatic habitat.
– Northern must fund a robust stream monitoring program that can accurately track the health of the aquatic species in the river and react to any declines that can’t be explained by normal fluctuation.

Trout Unlimited will present testimony at the BOCC public hearings in Hot Sulphur Springs on Aug. 1-2.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Controlling pondweed in Dillon Reservoir

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From the Summit Daily News (Dr. Joanne Stolen):

Pondweeds are the subject of my current peeve. These submerged water plants can be both good and bad. They provide food and hiding places for young fish but, when overly abundant, allow too many of them to escape the larger predatory fish. Worst of all, in shallow waters, they rot under the ice in winter and may completely use up the oxygen, causing most fish to suffocate. The species that seems to be overly abundant along the shores of Dillon Reservoir currently is curly leaf pondweed. The scientific name is “potamogeton crispus.”[…]

Habitat manipulation such as draw-downs and dredging can also be used to manage curly leaf pondweed. Fall drawdown can kill the plants, exposing them to freezing temperatures and drying out. Dredging can be used as a control by increasing the water depth. In deep water, the plants will not receive enough light to survive. There are some chemical controls. There are a small number of aquatic herbicides that can be used to control curly leaf pondweed. Formulations of diquat (Reward) and endothall (Aquathall K) can be used in small areas and will usually knock down curly leaf pondweed within two weeks. The time for treatment is in spring or early summer when natives are still dormant and temperatures are low enough. Fluridone usually has to be applied to an entire lake and requires 30 days to knock down curly leaf pondweed. I doubt whether chemical controls would be appropriate for a reservoir. In any case if you are out and about in your boat on the reservoir, grab a few handfuls. It pulls out easily.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

Illegal Stocking Hits Miramonte Trout Fishery: Rotenone to the rescue

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Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is planning to take action to eradicate smallmouth bass at Miramonte Reservoir where they’ve become established after being stocked illegally.

The agency will utilize an organic pesticide to kill all the fish in the reservoir and then rebuild this renowned trout fishery that attracts anglers from throughout the West. The operation is tentatively scheduled to occur in late summer or fall of 2013.

In the meantime, Parks and Wildlife is implementing an emergency order that removes all bag and possession limits on smallmouth bass at Miramonte Reservoir.

“Killing all the fish in the reservoir lake is something we wish we didn’t have to do, but we know we must,” said Renzo DelPiccolo, area wildlife manager in Montrose. “People who illegally move fish into lakes, ponds and rivers are not only committing a criminal act, they are endangering native species, stealing a resource and recreational opportunity from thousands of anglers and negatively impacting the local community.”

Miramonte Reservoir is located in San Miguel County about 10 miles south of Norwood in western Colorado. The reservoir is one of the most productive still-water trout fisheries in the state and people travel from throughout the West to catch the rainbow and brown trout that regularly grow to quality size. The lake is also a popular destination for crayfish enthusiasts. Miramonte accounts for about 20,000 angler days every year which contribute $1.5 million to the economy of San Miguel County.

Miramonte is a very productive reservoir, allowing Parks and Wildlife to stock thousands of fingerling trout every year. The trout grow quickly and reach quality size within two years.

“This reservoir is managed as a put and grow trout fishery and that management strategy will not change,” explained John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for the southwest region for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Under this management strategy we can provide an excellent angling opportunity at a low cost to anglers.”

Smallmouth bass, which are a warm-water predator fish, were illegally stocked in the reservoir sometime before 2011 and reproduction has been documented. A recent survey showed that in one year smallmouth bass have increased in abundance from 5 percent to 44 percent of the fish in the reservoir.

“The bass are now a top predator in the lake. They compete with trout for food and space, and consume trout and crayfish,” Alves said. “If left alone, the bass could eventually devastate Miramonte as a trout fishery. Furthermore the habitat, prey base and water temperature will not support a quality bass fishery in the long term. So, once an illegally stocked fish population has become established, the only recourse is to start over by using a fish pesticide to kill all the fish in a lake.”

In addition to impacting a renowned sport fishery, the smallmouth bass also pose a threat to native fish downstream. An agreement between the state of Colorado, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and neighboring states restricts stocking of non-native warm water fish without a permit because of the danger they pose to native and endangered fish.

Miramonte Reservoir is located above the San Miguel and Dolores rivers which support important populations of three native fish species that biologists are working to protect: the roundtail chub, the bluehead sucker and the flannelmouth sucker. These native fish are found only in desert rivers of the western United States. Changes in the river system such as dams, pollution, water withdrawals and competition from non-native species have caused these fish to decline in range and numbers.

“Native species are needed to help maintain the natural health and balance of any ecosystem. If a species is lost, that affects the health of other plants and animals, and changes a natural ecosystem forever,” Alves said.

CPW aims to maintain healthy native fish populations not only for the benefit of native ecosystems and the people of Colorado, but also to prevent unwanted federal management of these species under the Endangered Species Act.

“Illegal stocking carries serious consequences that can have long-lasting negative effects on local communities,” DelPiccolo said.

Draining and treating a reservoir is also expensive and takes money away from other important aquatic habitat projects. The Miramonte operation will cost more than $100,000, not including staff time. The reservoir will be drawn down to a small pool and the chemical Rotenone will be applied to the remaining water and feeder streams to kill all the fish. Rotenone breaks down quickly in the environment and poses no threat to vegetation or non-aquatic species. Biologists will restock the lake with fish as soon as the pesticide has dissipated.

Anyone who has information about illegal fish stocking at Miramonte Reservoir or at any other water in Colorado should contact the Parks and Wildlife office in Montrose at 970-252-6000, or call Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. Tips can be made anonymously and cash rewards are possible.

For more information about fisheries management in Colorado and aquatic nuisance species, see: http://wildlife.state.co.us/FISHING/Pages/Fishing.aspx.

More restoration coverage here and here.

Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility Construction Completed

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Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation:

The Bureau of Reclamation in cooperation with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service have completed construction of a complex of grow-out ponds at the Horsethief Canyon Native Fish facility located just outside of Fruita, Colo. The ponds were constructed as part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the San Juan River Basin Recovery Program, to hold and rear endangered Colorado River fish.

A total of 22 ponds were constructed by Kissner General Contractors Inc., of Cedaredge, Colo., at a total cost of $5.3 million which was funded by the recovery programs to rear endangered razorback sucker, and Colorado pikeminnow, as well as bonytail and humpback chub in the future.

The ponds range in size from 0.1 to 0.5 acres with a combined total of approximately 6.2 acres of ponds each between five and six feet deep and lined with a geo-membrane fabric to reduce seepage. This will allow the ponds to be drained, maintain water levels during operation, and provide an area for the fish to be concentrated when the time comes to be relocated. All design work on the ponds was completed by Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office. In the coming months, Reclamation will complete mitigation and re-vegetation of the site.

The need for the grow-out ponds was initially identified as an essential component of the recovery programs to ensure the successful reproduction of the endangered Colorado River fish and genetic monitoring efforts. Without the grow-out ponds, production of endangered fishes of optimal size and numbers for stocking cannot be ensured and certain research in the area of genetics and propagation will be hampered.

The FWS currently produces approximately 28,000 razorbacks suckers annually at the Ouray National Fish Hatchery, Grand Valley Unit in Grand Junction, Colo. Approximately 75 percent of these fish are taken to private ponds leased by the Service and the remainder of the fish are kept at the hatchery. The Service has an annual goal of releasing a minimum of 15,000 fish, at an approximate length of 300 millimeters (11.8 inches), back to the rivers.

The Horsethief Canyon Native Fish Facility will reduce, if not eliminate, the need for leasing private ponds. Also, since the facility will be operated and maintained by the Service, the facility will provide greater numbers of fish to be returned to the river.

The configuration of the ponds is shown on Figure 1. The ponds were constructed at an elevation that will prevent overtopping up to the 100-year flood event. The facility will be fenced to prevent river otters from entering the ponds and to preclude entry by the public.

Meanwhile, here’s a report about the current state of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Program from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

Issuing a “sufficient progress” memo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that, “with continued cooperation by all Recovery Program participants, the Recovery Program will continue to make significant strides toward recovery of the four endangered fishes.”

But flows are a significant concern, especially in dry years.

“The Recovery Program still struggles to meet flow recommendations in drought years. The Service emphasizes the importance of meeting the flow recommendation,” according to the memo, which also says that the Colorado Water Conservation Board has not yet provided a required depletion accounting report.

Specifically, the CWCB is behind on accounting for depletions in the Yampa River, and needs to “address projected future depletions and whether or not additional instream flow filings or other flow protections mechanisms should be considered.”

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Pure Cycle is divesting itself of 10% of the farms purchased from High Plains A & M — ‘… won’t affect farm operations’ — Mark Harding

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’re selling a small percentage of our portfolio, but it won’t affect our farm operations,” said Mark Harding, Pure Cycle president.

Pure Cycle bought 65 farms on the Fort Lyon Canal from High Plains A&M in 2006 after High Plains had acquired about 22 percent of the shares on the Arkansas Valley’s largest canal.

High Plains lost a water court challenge, which was upheld by the state Supreme Court, to converting the shares to municipal use because it was speculative.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

High Park Fire: The NRCS, et al., have started restoration efforts above Horsetooth Reservoir

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From the Longmont Times-Call (Pamela Dickman):

All told Thursday and Friday, the team planted 1,120 pounds of grass seed across 40 acres and covered it with 105 bales of agricultural straw and wood chips — a layered approach to protecting the nearby glistening waters from the ash and debris of the High Park Fire…

The ash and debris have already blackened much of the Poudre River, so Fort Collins, Greeley and the Tri-Districts (North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland and East Larimer County water districts) have instead been pulling water for their customers from Horsetooth Reservoir. The waters of Horsetooth remain clean, but the threat of fire pollution is real. When rains fall, the now barren Soldier Canyon could mirror a slip-and-slide, sending debris from the fire right into Horsetooth Reservoir — and the water supplies for Fort Collins, Greeley and the Tri-Districts.

From The Denver Post (Erin Udall):

By dropping a mix of seed and straw mulch on the area, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) officials hope to trigger plant growth and create a filter that will keep debris, erosion and sediment runoff from getting into the reservoir…

“Think of the Poudre (River) as the hose, and Horsetooth (Reservoir) as the bucket,” [NRCS district conservationist Todd Boldt] said, explaining that the river provides drinking water for more than 300,000 people in the area. “They rely on the hose, but when they can’t, they turn to the bucket. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain Horsetooth.”

Here’s the release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Todd Boldt):

Helicopters are hovering near Horsetooth Reservoir for a responsive, cooperative project to protect the reservoir’s water quality in the wake of the High Park Fire.

Helicopters are dropping an erosion control seed mix and straw mulching materials on about 40 acres that suffered the most soil burn severity within the 400-acre burn area in the Soldier Creek drainage, which sits in Lory State Park on the west side of Horsetooth Reservoir.

The helicopters, from contractor Western States Reclamation, will apply a seed mix of native species. The seeds are large, with the expectation that they will break through the fire-caused debris and establish roots without requiring much moisture. Helicopters will also drop straw mulch, then a layer of wood straw on top, to retain moisture, shelter the seed from the wind and provide soil erosion protection.

Experts expect the project to trigger plant growth in the Solider Creek area, creating a filter to prevent debris, erosion and sedimentation runoff into Horsetooth Reservoir, a key water source for area cities.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing much of the technical and financial support for this $91,320 project, which is part of its Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Other sponsors are Northern Water, the cities of Greeley and Fort Collins, and the Tri-Districts (the North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland, and East Larimer County water districts).

The helicopters, which are staged within Lory State Park, first took off Thursday morning and will likely finish Saturday.

More restoration coverage here and here.

‘A water tour also can sharpen your math skills’ — Chris Woodka

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Check out Chris Woodka’s recount of his recent tour with the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The article is running as part of The Pueblo Chieftain’s excellent Colorado Water 2012 series Written in Water. Here’s an excerpt:

In my roughly 25 years of covering water issues, I have been on several water tours, which are routinely sponsored by water providers in the summer months because you can drive to the sites where water development means the most at a time when those sites do not happen to be covered in several feet of snow…

But last week, I joined the Pueblo Board of Water Works mountain tour as a guest. I was happy to just ride the bus, chipping in with a question now and then, but fully participating in the tour. I’d never done this.

I didn’t take a single note, and this column will be all that I’m going to write about the tour.

The second phase of the Hermosa Creek restoration project is underway — Brookies are in their gun sights

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Rotenone, derived from the root of a tropical plant, is registered by the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide. It degrades quickly, leaves no residue and is no threat to humans or other wildlife.

“We did the first treatment last summer,” Joe Lewandowski, a parks and wildlife spokesman, said Thursday. “Then in June they went back to electroshock, which found fish that can live in little water.”

The Rotenone applied this week will catch all survivors, Lewandowski said.

In late summer or in the fall, native Colorado River cutthroat will be stocked in that section of the stream, Lewandowski said.

More Hermosa Creek coverage here and here.

2012 Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference: Water 2012 — October 9-11

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Click here to go to the Colorado Watershed Assembly’s conferences webpage for all the skinny on the conference.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Fry-Ark fiftieth birthday party August 18

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

Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District invite the public to celebrate the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project’s 50th Anniversary at Lake Pueblo State Park on Sat., Aug. 18. The event is located at Lake Pueblo State Park Visitor’s Center from 9 a.m.to 2 p.m.

Reclamation, the District and Colorado State Parks and Wildlife are offering free pontoon boat tours around Pueblo Reservoir and free tours of the fish hatchery located below Pueblo Dam. There will also be historical displays and several guest speakers.

Signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is a multipurpose trans-basin water diversion and delivery project serving southeastern Colorado.

The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project provides:

– Water for more than 720,000 people
– Irrigation for 265,000 acres
– The largest hydro-electric power plant in the state
– World renowned recreation opportunities from the Fryingpan River to the Arkansas River

For more information on the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and the 50th Anniversary Celebration, visit our website at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao/pueblo/pueblo.html.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

CWCB: Statewide Drought Conference September 19-20

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

2012 is proving to be a hot and dry year for much of the nation and Colorado. Currently, drought dominates the headlines as we see firsthand the impact of this natural disaster, and Colorado is doing something about it. The CWCB State Drought Conference: Building a Drought Resilient Economy through Innovation is just weeks away. We are excited to put forth a conference agenda that will help communities and business address drought concerns in new and efficient ways. The draft agenda is available on the CWCB webpage and very soon we will be announcing our keynote speakers.

As you will see, the conference promises to highlight the latest innovations in Drought Mitigation & Planning.

Please REGISTER TODAY! Space is limited.

For those traveling from out of town, the CWCB has reserved hotel rooms for the September 19-20 2012 CWCB Statewide Drought Conference that are within walking distance from the History Colorado Center. Please visit the CWCB website for hotel information. Please note that you must reserve your room by August 18, 2012 to ensure the group rate and availability.

Colorado River Basin: ‘Agriculture and recreation depend on healthy instream flows’ — State Sen. Steve King

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Here’s a guest column about the Colorado River written by State Senator Steve King, running in the Grand Junction Free Press. Here’s an excerpt:

The only thing certain when dealing with water issues in the west is there are a wide variety of competing voices and opinions. For the most part, the [Colorado River Water Conservancy District] has made sure Western Slope interests aren’t neglected when competing with those of our Front Range neighbors; simply put, the CRCD has acted as a fair broker.

They have worked to build consensus among different parties on a multitude of issues during their existence. Time and again the CRCD has made sure the West Slope was not on the losing end of proposals to store and divert water to the Front Range. Specifically, the CRCD has helped resolve many disagreements between Denver Water and Western Slope water users.

More than ever, the West Slope is relying on the CRCD to do its job fairly and accurately as it addresses the many challenges ahead. As the ski industry can attest, this year’s snowpack was very low, adding pressure to our already strained river basin. All reports project 2012 as a dry year for Colorado; these reports, coupled with projections of future population growth in the west, make sensible water policy that much more important.

It’s no secret the strain on the Colorado will only become more severe as time goes on. We need proactive and innovative solutions to plan for possible future water scarcity now — failure to do so could result in the inability to maintain our current quality of life, as we prepare to meet the challenges of western population growth.

Increasingly, there have been proposals for enormous water diversion projects to satisfy the needs of the Front Range and Southern California. It is not only in the best interest of the Western Slope, but of Colorado in general, to actively pursue and advocate for conservation, flexible transfers, and water-sharing agreements first. Big diversion projects are too expensive and can best be summarized as robbing Peter to pay Paul, with the West Slope playing the role of Peter.

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

[Katie Steele] was one of several community leaders who spoke Wednesday, July 25, at Hawthorne Park in honor of Colorado River Day. The event was held to commemorate the day in 1921 when federal legislation was passed to rename the river from the “Grand” to the “Colorado.”

Grand Junction was one of five cities within four of the seven Colorado River basin states where residents gathered to celebrate the river’s contribution to the West’s economy and culture. Community leaders also talked about the need for Washington policymakers to consider the river’s economic impact on the region when making decisions regarding the river’s future.

About 50 people attended the midday event where Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, former GJ Mayor Tom Kenyon, and GJ councilman Bennett Boeschenstein spoke about water concerns as drought and expanding populations strain a dwindling resource. Tom Kleinschnitz, president of Adventure Bound River Expeditions also spoke to the group, representing those whose businesses depend directly on the Colorado River.

Boeschenstein spoke about the Greenbelt movement begun in the 1970s where local visionaries like retired Judge William Ela, and the late Jim Robb imagined a cleaned-up riverfront, as well as a trail where people could walk and enjoy the scenery along the river…

The event was co-sponsored by Colorado Environmental Coalition in Grand Junction and Protect The Flows, an organization formed about a year ago to represent the interests of more than 500 businesses across the seven river basin states who rely on the Colorado River for economic viability.

According to Protect the Flows, the Colorado River is a $26 billion recreation resource that employs a quarter-million Americans.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Clear Creek Watershed Festival September 15

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Click here to go to the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation website for all the skinny on the celebration. Here’s an excerpt:

Join us for our fourth annual family-oriented event to learn about the Clear Creek Watershed. Lots of fun & entry is FREE!

• fishing • gold panning • face painting • food • live music

• 30 environmental education PASSPORT STATIONS with engaging activities

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here and here.

Will water limit business investment and growth in the West?

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From ColoradoBiz (Bart Taylor):

…as the gap between supply and demand from the Colorado River grows – its forecast by the Bureau to be 4 to 6 million acre-feet by mid-century, roughly one-third its entire annual volume – the long-term implication is inarguable: change is coming to the Southwest U.S. Have water today? You may not in the future – and for some the near-future. We may not be “running out,” but a radically new supply regime could transform our economy – with new water have’s-and-have not’s, new means to regulate ownership and distribution, new projects and infrastructure, and profoundly, new industry that displaces water-intensive business that simply can’t operate in the West…

Water prices are rising. Circle of Blue, a global water information resource, reports an 18 percent rise in 30 major U.S cities since 2010 – and a 7 percent increase last year alone. In south metro-Denver, in the suburbs of Phoenix and Las Vegas, in Albuquerque, they’re certain to rise more for consumers and business.

At the same time businesses are refining they way they assess water-related risk. The value of water – or the lack of it – is increasingly quantified. For businesses looking to expand or relocate here, the prospect of rising water costs and supply shortfalls may add up to trouble for economic developers in the West…

Water delivery and wastewater management in the United States is a decidedly local affair. A dizzying maze of water districts, associations, and civic authorities manage a network of over 55,000 water utilities and about 16,000 wastewater facilities. In Colorado alone, around 300 separate entities deliver water to residents and businesses.

But can the interests of local utilities dovetail with those of regional planners? Northern Water in Fort Collins, Colo., has a bright future, serving thousands of users in northeastern Colorado via a huge system of water assets including the Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects. Less than a hundred miles south, along I-25, the water future of communities like Castle Rock and Parker is far less certain – some would argue in crisis. Is there incentive for Northern to act in Parker’s interest? The governor of the state might say yes; residents of Ft. Collins, not so much. ‘Local control’ may hamper collective planning throughout the Southwest.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Colorado River Basin: Say hello to ’90 by 20′

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From email from 90by20.org via the Colorado Watershed Assembly:

Western Resource Advocates and the Colorado Environmental Coalition, in collaboration with other groups across the CO River Basin, have just launched a drought awareness/urban water conservation campaign called “90 by 20.”

Ultimately, the campaign is about connecting this year’s drought to more than just personal inconveniences like watering restrictions – we’re trying to

tee up larger issues of how drought affects river flows, tourism economies, our quality of life in the West, and the like. As a way to deal with future droughts, climate change, and the existing supply/demand imbalance on the CO River, we’re also asking residents to work to reduce their per capita water use to 90 gpcd by 2020 and select utilities in the Denver Metro area, Las Vegas Valley, and Sun Corridor to adopt a goal of the same (combined residential use to 90 gpcd by 2020). We believe a renewed focus on water efficiency will be proven to be more cost-effective, flexible, and beneficial to the Basin than ‘traditional’ approaches to water supply.

There’s a website (of course) that has some good information and a nice policy brief on the importance of the CO River to the Basin as a whole. There’s also a calculator for people to compute their own per capita use – and the ability to tweet it.

More conservation coverage here.

Delta County: 50th anniversary celebration of Paonia Reservoir August 6

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Click here for a historical look at the reservoir from Kathy Browning writing for the Delta County Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

To celebrate Paonia Reservoir’s 50th anniversary there will be a day full of interesting activities Monday, Aug. 6, during the Delta County Fair and Rodeo. The event coincides with the 2012 Year of Water in Colorado. Participating agencies include the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, the North Fork Conservancy District, the Colorado River Water Conservancy District and the Fire Mountain Canal and Reservoir Company, the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Join them to “Reflect on the Past and Focus on the Future” of the Paonia Reservoir.

Hop on one of the buses at Heritage Hall at the Delta County Fairgrounds for Tours of the North Fork Aug. 6, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Yvon Gros will welcome visitors to the beautiful Leroux Creek Vineyards on Rogers Mesa. Tour organic farms at The Ela Family Farms and Kropp Brothers. Campbell and Sons, a Midway cattle ranch, will be another stop. Learn where your food comes from and how water use has changed over the years. Another tour will take visitors to the West Elk Mine in Somerset.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.

Parker Water and Sanitation: ‘To cut from the budget without understanding what they’re doing is short-sighted’ — Mary Spencer

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Mary Spencer, who was elected to the board of directors in 2006, sent a resignation letter to district manager Frank Jaeger June 29 that highlighted her growing frustration with the board…

When reached by phone July 16, Spencer said she became tired of her colleagues blaming past boards for a range of issues. Dissenters and “two sitting board members have made a disastrous decision to destroy not only the district but the reputations of past board members,” the letter said…

During the interview, Spencer also sharply criticized a recent decision to fire the water provider’s longtime lobbyists, whom she says have helped kill legislation that would have cost the district, and therefore ratepayers, millions of dollars. Spencer said the $48,000 that was paid annually to the lobbyists was well worth it. She also bemoaned the recent firing of Floyd Ciruli, a public relations specialist and political analyst who was contracted by the PWSD…

Spencer, whose term was set to expire in May 2014, said the decision to leave was difficult because she still believes in the district’s mission, but it was “not worth the stress” to deal with the fallout from the attempted board recall in 2009 and subsequent conduct that has had a “detrimental” affect on the water district.

More Parker coverage here and here.

‘The supply and the demand scenarios over the next 50 years, they’re not looking good’ — Molly Mugglestone

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From the Public News Service (Kathleen Ryan):

The problem, says Molly Mugglestone, a coordinator for Protect the Flows, is that western growth and drought are putting undue demands on the river’s water. “The supply and the demand scenarios over the next 50 years, they’re not looking good. We’re putting strain on the river, and it’s challenged in terms of being able to provide for what we need in the future.”[…]

“Spending taxpayer dollars on massive projects is not necessarily the right way to go. There’s other things that we need to be doing first before we start spending those types of taxpayer dollars on these massive projects.” She says some of those ideas include using drought-tolerant plants in city landscaping, which can save up to 65 percent of municipal irrigation demands – and using pool covers on outdoor facilities, which can save an average of 16,000 gallons per pool each year.

From KREX (Courtney Griffin):

Many fiscal conservatives and conservationists met Wednesday to figure out how to be more efficient, and how to act on ideas as quick as possible. “We support solutions that again that look at conservation and efficiency. Things like better urban conservation, better agricultural efficiency and water banking, and some of those creative ideas that people are coming up with to try and solve those imbalances,” said Molly Mugglestone, Protect the Flows, project coordinator.

From KKCO (Andie Adams):

“It seems like there’s just such an emphasis on increasing supplies, rather than decreasing demand,” said Kate Graham, a public lands organizer for the Colorado Environmental Coalition…

“They’re doing basin study right now at the Department of Interior, so my group, Protect the Flows, has been really active in trying to influence the basin study with some of those things like urban conservation,” said Protect the Flows project coordinator Molly Mugglestone.

The group is gathering signatures on a bi-partisan letter that outlines solutions to the river’s issues that can be implemented on the municipal or individual level. “Our goal is to get 10,000 signatures, and then the letter will go to the Department of Interior, Secretary Salazar, and the governors in the seven Colorado River states,” said Mugglestone. The main point of the letter is efficiency.

“We need to administer the river very carefully and make sure that it’s not over-appropriated,” said Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, who spoke at the event.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Aspinall Unit operations update: Black Canyon streamflow between 500 and 600 cfs

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From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Flows in the Gunnison River at the Whitewater gage continue to fluctuate with the periodic rainfall. Reclamation intends to meet the flow target of 900 cfs at the Whitewater gage through the end of July. The target will drop to 890 cfs starting August 1st. Releases from Crystal Dam will continue to cause flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon to fluctuate between 500 cfs and 600 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

2012 Colorado November election: Proponents of Initiatives 3 and 45 withdraw them from ballot

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Organizers said that, as of this week, they were able to collect about 30,000 signatures, with about 86,000 needed for ballot certification. With an Aug. 6 deadline looming, the backers said they didn’t think there was enough time left to gather the needed support.

The state’s entrenched water establishment, and even most environmental organizations, opposed the measures, and exaggerated potential impacts of the public trust doctrine, claiming the changes would threaten Colorado’s antiquated water appropriation scheme.

Backers of the measures claimed that a 100-[day] delay by the Colorado Supreme Court in approving the initiatives cost them precious time needed to gather the signatures. The delay came after the state’s water establishment filed a procedural lawsuit, challenging the sufficiency of the ballot titles. The Supreme Court dragged its feet on a relatively minor naming issue, initially taking the case January 19, but not issuing a ruling until April 16.

“That DELAY of ca.100 days of “decision rendering time” by the Colorado Supreme Court was the fatal element in the defeat of this petition collecting process . . . for, after the Supreme Court ruled, the initiative petition forms then needed to be approved by the Secretary of State’s staff (required by statute) – a process that took another two weeks – and then, the petitions could be printed for circulation,” backer Richard Hamilton wrote in an email announcing the decision to withdraw the initiatives.

More Initiatives 3 and 45 coverage here.

Drought news: Secretary Vilsack opens up CRP acreage for grazing #CODrought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

Vilsack is waiving restrictions on the federal Conservation Reserve Program to allow ranchers to graze livestock or cut hay on land otherwise set aside for recovery and enrolled in the federal conservation program. The CRP pays ranchers and farmers to leave land out of production. The secretary issued similar rule changes in the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Federal Crop Insurance Program…

As for crop insurance, Vilsack is asking insurers to give farmers a 30-day extension on unpaid insurance premiums and, in return, USDA will give a grace period to insurance companies in collecting those premiums.

The federal department has designated 1,297 counties in 29 states suffering disaster conditions, making all of those farmers and growers eligible for lowinterest emergency loans.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Kirk Webb):

…it’s OK to fish the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, but I encourage anglers to get an early start in the mornings and to be off the water by 3 p.m. to minimize any possible negative impact to the fish. Generally speaking, the rivers are at their coldest at 6 a.m. and are at their warmest at 6 p.m.

When handling trout, take the time to fully revive them prior to release and to keep the fish in the water as much as possible. This also means that I discourage the use of taking the obligatory “grip and grin” fish pictures.

Quiet water on the edges of the main flow is the ideal water type to revive and resuscitate fish to let them “catch their breath” again, ensuring an ethical release. I also try to fish with the heaviest leader and tippet that I can get away with to land fish as quickly as possible, which is a practice that all should do, regardless of water temperatures or time of year.

Don’t overlook the middle and upper Roaring Fork River either, where high water temperatures are not an issue. The cold water of the Fryingpan River empties into the Roaring Fork River in Basalt, which aids in regulating and cooling the warmer waters of the Roaring Fork, acting much like a swamp cooler for the river.

Reclamation Announces Planned Test Release from Lake Nighthorse

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Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Marc Miller):

Reclamation’s Four Corners Construction Office will conduct a test flow release on July 23, from Lake Nighthorse, to continue evaluating the performance of the improvements constructed in Basin Creek to facilitate downstream water flow.

The flow release test will continue for approximately one week depending on results, as part of the required testing and commissioning for the Animas-La Plata Project prior to the project’s transition to operational status. Released flows will range from 15 to 150 cubic-feet-per-second with the total release of water from Lake Nighthorse not to exceed 500 acre-feet. All flows released from the reservoir will pass through fish nets that ensure no escapement of live fish or eggs to the Animas River that could potentially impact endangered fish in the San Juan River.

The Basin Creek improvements consist of a series of channel improvements and small check dams, or drop structures, and were constructed as part of the Animas-La Plata Project. The purpose of the improvements is to convey water released from Ridges Basin Dam down Basin Creek to the Animas River.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.

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

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Here are the summaries from yesterday’s webinar. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 365 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

At about 7 this morning, July 25, we cut back releases to around 365 cfs. The flow in the lower Blue River below Green Mountain Dam will remain at 365 cfs until the next change.

There has been some recent rain in the upper Colorado River Basin and the river’s flows are up slightly. As a result, we cut back on Green Mountain’s contributions to the river system. We, the State, and other reservoir operators will continue responding to Colorado River flows as best we can throughout this water year. So please be aware that there will likely be additional changes.

Colorado Water 2012: Rio Grande Basin is in a severe drought #CODrought

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Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series. Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi describes the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s efforts during the current drought. Here’s an excerpt:

While the winter did bring some improvements to the area, it is still quite dry and the 24-month accumulation for precipitation shows that the area is tracking well below normal accumulation for the last two years. A shortage of roughly five inches may not seem like a lot, but in a region where an average year brings just over seven inches that adds up to a noticeable deficit.

These conditions have largely been attributed to La Niña conditions in the equatorial region of the eastern Pacific Ocean. La Niña, is a cooling of sea surface temperatures that influences weather patterns in the southwestern United States, often resulting in drier conditions. Currently, sea surface temperatures have warmed and are now classified as neutral. Continued warming and a full transition to El Niño (a warming of sea surface temperatures) could occur in the second half of 2012. El Niño conditions would favor more moisture for the state.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Happy Colorado River Day

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Today is Colorado River Day and the group is buying lunch in downtown Denver (and elsewhere). The event is for, “Celebrating the river that supplies drinking water for 36 million Americans, irrigates 15% of our nation’s crops, and facilitates recreation that supports a quarter million jobs and contributes $26 billion to our economy.”

From National Geographic (Jennifer Pitt):

If you live somewhere in the United States, there’s a pretty good chance you have ingested Colorado River water, likely in the form of winter-harvest lettuce from southern Arizona or California. There are many reasons to celebrate the Colorado River, and fresh, baby romaine leaves in February is just one of them. Also rafting the Grand Canyon, bathing your baby in San Diego, bird-watching in the Sonoran Desert, fountain-gazing on the Strip in Las Vegas, and watching the cattle roam high mountain pastures in the Rocky Mountains.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Drought news: Ag Commissioner John Salazar, et al., tour Northwest Colorado to learn about drought effects #CODrought

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From the Craig Daily Press (Jerry Martin):

The group included John Salazar, state agriculture commissioner; John Stulp, policy advisor on water; Al White, former Colorado Senator in District 8 and current director of the state tourism office; and representatives from other state and federal agencies.

The officials made three stops along the tour to meet with local ranchers and agriculture officials.

For White, a Hayden resident, the tour was mostly about showing his colleagues at the state capital what life has been like for ranchers and farmers in the Yampa Valley…

While the conversation at each stop touched on the effects the drought already has had this summer — such as ranchers deciding to liquidate their herds and hay their fields months earlier than normal — both ranchers and state officials voiced concerns about how the effects of the drought could extend into winter and spring…

Aside from voicing concerns, local ranchers also had the opportunity to tell state officials how government can help, a crucial part of the tour, said Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi, drought and climate change technical specialist for the Colorado Water Conservation Board and one of the tour’s organizers…

Additionally, local ranchers and agriculture representatives told state officials they could help with irrigation, installment of water tanks, development of new springs and ponds, requests for water from the Colorado Water Trust, and arranging water releases from area reservoirs.

Hutchins-Cabibi said she thought the tour was successful. “(Visiting state officials) certainly felt like they got a really good gauge for what was going on on the ground, and where they could help and where they couldn’t help,” she said.

From The Denver Post (Roxana Hegeman):

…cattlemen throughout the middle and western part of the U.S. also are selling animals they can’t graze or afford to buy feed for. Beef from the animals now flooding livestock auctions will start showing up in grocery stores in November and December, temporarily driving down meat prices. But then prices are expected to rise sharply by January in the wake of dwindling supplies and smaller livestock herds…

It is likely to take the beef industry years to recover. Cows have a nine-month gestation period, and it can take up to two years after calves are born for them to grow big enough for slaughter. The time needed to repair drought-damaged pastures will only extend that timetable because ranchers must have grass for grazing before they can add animals…

Beef prices were already falling after rising 10 percent last year amid the drought in the Southwest. They peaked at an average of $5.09 per pound in January, and then came down to about $4.93 per pound in June. They are expected to increase again, but it’s not clear by how much. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had predicted a 2.5 to 3.5 percent increase in beef prices for the year, but that was before the drought spread and cattle selloffs mounted.

Here’s a release from the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union:

“USDA Secretary Vilsack and Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet responded swiftly to a call from the RMFU Board for urgent moves to address the economic disaster for farmers threatened by a historic nationwide drought, but the measures proposed are not addressing the immediate problem, according to RMFU President Kent Peppler, a Mead, Colo., farmer.

“When your house is on fire, it’s great to have insurance, but what you need is firefighters,” Peppler observed. “Senate Bill 3384, which is apparently stalled in the Senate, extends disaster relief programs in the 2008 Farm Bill and reduces the delay in getting payments to struggling farmers, but it won’t help people who are looking at losing their farms in the coming weeks because they can’t feed their stock and their crops are withering in the drought.”

Senators Udall and Bennet called on Secretary Vilsack to utilize all available resources to assist farmers and ranchers who are currently facing drought conditions in Colorado, and the Secretary responded by directing his department to administer conservation and crop insurance programs “with flexibility” to get assistance to farmers and ranchers quickly.

“Our senators for Colorado have demonstrated again that they are thoughtful and conscientious representatives of family farmers and ranchers,” Peppler said, “and we appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s swift response to the drought. But what is needed is a declared emergency disaster relief program, defined broadly enough to help producers not eligible for conservation programs or crop insurance. That means no quibbling over offsets, no political posturing on either side of the aisle, and no delays getting assistance to farmers and ranchers facing losses they may never recover from. For many of them, five or six months from now might as well be never. Corporate agriculture and tax dodge ‘farmers’ may be able to weather this drought, but the families who fire up a tractor every morning are looking at going under, some of them for the last time.”

The Aspen Skiing Company and Snowmass Water and Sanitation agree on deal for storage to extend snow-making season

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From the Aspen Daily News:

“In the past, the Aspen Skiing Co. has paid the district to pump water from Snowmass Creek up the hill for its snowmaking facilities,” said Kit Hamby, Snowmass Water and Sanitation district manager. “Now, we can store water at Ziegler during runoff periods and then make that water available for snowmaking beyond the traditional November and December period. The agreement is a great improvement for the district’s whole water system, and it benefits the health of Snowmass Creek.”

Through past agreements, water can only be pulled out of Snowmass Creek for snowmaking until December 31. Now, all snowmaking water will come from Ziegler Reservoir instead of directly out of Snowmass Creek, allowing snowmaking to be extended past that period. Water is stored at Ziegler Reservoir through a gravity feed from East Snowmass Creek.

“Decoupling snowmaking from Snowmass Creek has been a holy grail of our environmental work at Aspen Skiing Co. for 15 years,” said Auden Schendler, SkiCo’s vice president of sustainability. “This project moves us towards that goal. It will also help us make snow more efficiently and more effectively, using less water and less energy than ever. It’s an environmental victory from any angle.”

The agreement stipulates that the SkiCo will pay the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District $1.25 million down and $100,000 a year for 20 years for a total cost of $3.25 million. The district will use the money to pay down Colorado Water Conservation loans that were made for the purchase and construction of Ziegler Reservoir.

The agreement highlights one of the major benefits Ziegler Reservoir offers. Now, the district has a water management tool that allows it to take water out at high rates for system recovery or snowmaking, and allows the district to store water during high flow periods and use water when the streams are at their lowest.

In the past, water was drawn from Snowmass Creek when temperatures were the coldest and was limited because those are also times that water in the creek is at its lowest. Now, snowmaking can be operationally enhanced because the water will be drawn from Ziegler Reservoir during those coldest times. Making snow during the coldest times makes the snow lighter, creates better coverage with less water, and saves electrical costs because compressors don’t have to be used as much.

From The Aspen Times (Jill Beathard):

Previously, Skico pumped water from Snowmass Creek to make snow and could draw from the creek only until Dec. 31. The $3.25 million deal will allow Skico to make snow past that date as well as decrease the impact to the creek. “This is what we’ve been pushing for in the past,” said Kit Hamby, Water and Sanitation District manager. “The ski company has operated using direct flows from Snowmass Creek. (It would) drop that creek 5 or 6 (cubic feet per second).”

In the early winter, when Skico usually makes snow, the creek is at its lowest, so that would mean about half the flow. “We don’t want to impact the stream, as well,” Hamby said.

Water is stored in Ziegler through a gravity feed from East Snowmass Creek. Skico can access the water at any time during the ski season as long as it was stored as of Dec. 31. “Essentially you’re taking water out of the reservoir that’s stored during runoff and using it when the creek would be low,” Hamby said.

Also, snowmaking is most necessary during the driest times of year, and lower temperatures are more optimal for snowmaking because they make the snow lighter and allow for better coverage with less water.

More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here and here.

Supporters of the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) rally in Fort Lupton

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From KUNC (Kirk Siegler):

“This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue, this is a Colorado issue,” said Fort Lupton Mayor Tom Holton. The rally under the blistering sun took place at the Fort Lupton Historic site – an adobe replica of a fur-trading post along the South Platte River between Denver and Greeley…

Saving farms is one of the main arguments put forth by cities and districts like Left Hand backing the estimated $400 million NISP project. The idea being that if these cities and districts had their own water supplies, they wouldn’t have to buy up all the farmers’ water…

“There is no water left in our rivers and that’s what we have to come to grips with and find a new path forward,” [Gary Wockner] says…

Backers of NISP say other proposals floated by environmentalists such as water leasing from farms still won’t meet the region’s long-term needs.

From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

The Army Corps delivered its latest assessment in a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who wanted to know when the impact statement would be completed. That’s a sign that Hickenlooper and the cities and towns that would benefit from NISP want the project done…

Northern Water is a chief proponent of NISP, which calls for the Cache La Poudre to be diverted during high-flow periods to fill two proposed reservoirs, Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and Galenton Reservoir east of Ault. The latest cost of the project is at $490 million. At least 15 northern Colorado water providers also back NISP, believing it will sustain them during times of drought…

However, a comprehensive review of NISP was expected to attract a similar review by the Corps, [Brian Werner] said. “We’ve never been held to a hard and fast deadline,” he said. “What I am hearing from the 15 communities and the governor, is ‘Hey, let’s get this thing done.’ “

From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

“The current drought throughout Northern Colorado has brought home a stark reality – we need more water storage and soon,” Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway has said. “Without it our children and grandchildren’s future will be at risk.”[…]

Meanwhile, Weld County farmers have struggled to maintain their crops during the drought. Crop insurance claims are up, people in the industry say, despite overflowing groundwater wells that remain shut off to Weld farmers.

The project “would provide the water storage we need to support Northern Colorado’s growing communities and provide protection to economies and families when the weather turns dry,” Rep. Cory Gardner said in a statement.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ashley Keesis-Wood):

During the July 16 work session, the [Windsor] town board spent some time refreshing itself on a topic that hasn’t gotten a lot of traction in the last couple of years: the status of the Northern Integrated Supply Project…

Windsor has been a player in Northern Water since its formation and is currently a 8.25 percent shareholder in the project…

The project will cost an estimated $500 million, and that cost will be borne by participants in the project, in proportion to the amount of water they’re requesting from NISP. Windsor’s share of water is 3,300 acre-feet, which comes to about $40 million. There are, Brouwer said, multiple ways to fund the project, including special bond financing, loans or upfront payment…

In short, [Carl Brouwer] said he hopes the project will be producing water by 2018. “Glade would be built and completed by then, and we’d be completely finished with all construction by 2022 or 2023,” Brouwer said. “We can postpone a phase or two as needed, depending on the financial capacity of the partners involved.”

Thus far, Windsor has contributed about $933,000 to the project. Once the project is online, Windsor and other participants will enter into allotment contracts where the shares of water become tangible assets that can be bought and sold within the boundaries of the Northern Water district…

The 3,300 acre-feet that Windsor is in for in NISP is enough water to basically double Windsor’s water allotment from the Colorado Big Thompson Project and its other water sources, allowing the town’s population to essentially double, as well.

Board member Don Thompson asked whether there were negative implications from buying town water from other sources. “We’re paying other entities to treat the water we already own,” said Dennis Wagner, engineering director. “We’re not buying water from other entities.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Dust Bowl: ‘…greatest man-made ecological disaster in U.S. history’ — Ken Burns

Click here to watch the trailer from Ken Burns new production The Dust Bowl, from the Huffington Post.

More education coverage here.

The Colorado River District is on board with the Chatfield Reallocation Project

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Here’s a letter from Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River Water Conservancy District, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (Thanks to Mark Shively, Douglas County Water Authority, for sending it along in email.):

On behalf of the Colorado River Water Conservation District (River District), I am writing to express the District’s support for the proposed Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Project as described in the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement (FR/EIS) for the Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Study recently released for public comment.

The River District is the principal water policy and planning agency for the Colorado River Basin within the State of Colorado. The District is a public water policy agency chartered by the Colorado General Assembly in 1937 to be “the appropriate agency for the conservation, use and development of the water resources of the Colorado River and its principal tributaries in Colorado.” The River District provides legal, technical, and political representation regarding Colorado River issues for our constituents.

The River District has actively monitored the development of the Chatfield Reallocation Project since its inception. We believe this is a much needed and appropriate water supply opportunity for Colorado water providers.

The U.S. ACOE determined that Chatfield Reservoir can safely store an additional 20,600 acre feet of water without jeopardizing the reservoir’s original and authorized flood control purposes. This water is critically needed by various Colorado Front Range water providers. This reallocated storage space will allow several communities in the southern Denver metro area to more efficiently and effectively use existing water supplies and will reduce their current over-reliance on non-renewable groundwater supplies.

With this letter, the River District joins Colorado’s Congressional delegation, the Colorado General Assembly, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and others in support of this commonsense solution to additional water storage for consumptive use in Colorado. We support the Tentatively Recommended Plan in the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement on the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project and request that our letter be included in the record of public comments on this draft FR/EIS.

Additionally, we respectfully encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete its final review of the project and issue a Record of Decision in a timely manner so that requisite mitigation work can begin and additional consumptive use water can be stored in Chatfield Reservoir.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP): The Corps of Engineers delays supplemental draft EIS until the fall of 2013

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Here’s a release from Save The Pourdre/Poudre Waterkeeper (Gary Wockner):

On Friday, July 20, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed Save The Poudre that the next draft of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) and its Glade Reservoir would not be released to the public for at least another year — “Fall of 2013.” The information came in a letter from the Corps that was written to Governor Hickenlooper. The letter cites “concerns regarding cumulative impacts to the Cache la Poudre River.” The letter goes on to say, “The size of the proposals, types of analysis, and the amount of interest they have generated has resulted in substantial reviews.”

“This is great news for the Poudre River,” said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Poudre. “This river-destroying scheme has now been delayed for 5 years with no end in sight.”

Save the Poudre has been relentlessly bird-dogging NISP. Over the last 18 months, Save the Poudre has sent the Corp 17 letters, reports, and documents demonstrating the need for more analysis in the NISP EIS, some of that specifically regarding cumulative impacts of NISP with other proposed projects in the basin.

While the next draft of the EIS may be released in the Fall of 2013, NISP has a vast array of hurdles to jump after that. For example:
1. The next draft of the EIS (called the “Supplement Draft” EIS) allows for another public comment period.
2. After that public comment period, the Corps must again consider those comments and re-analyze any significant concerns.
3. After that analysis, the Corps will release a “Final” EIS, which also allows for yet another public comment period and re-analysis of significant concerns.
4. Then NISP must apply for and receive several additional state and federal permits, which may have significant analysis involved, including from the State of Colorado Water Quality Control Division and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
5. Assuming all of those hurdles can be jumped, the Corps will then issue a “Record of Decision” (ROD).
6. After the ROD is released, then anyone can formally challenge the project in court, which could take years to resolve.

As one example of a similar process, the Animas-La Plata dam/reservoir project in southwest Colorado was recently completed after 40 years of permitting and court challenges. As another example, the “Two Forks” dam and reservoir proposal west of Denver on the South Platte River was never completed because it was denied by another federal agency because the project would have irrevocably harmed the river as opposed to alternatives such as increasing water conservation in the Denver metro area.

At a recent public meeting (as reported in Windsor Now), the spokesperson for NISP said he expected NISP to be completed in the year 2022, 10 years from now.

“Ten years is extreme optimism,” responded Gary Wockner. “Our mission is to protect and restore the Poudre River and NISP violates our mission. NISP participants need to invest in alternatives now — such as the “Healthy Rivers Alternative” which focuses on water conservation and efficiency — rather than throwing away more ratepayers’ money on NISP.”

More coverage from Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Werner said a recent decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to delay issuing its environmental impact statement for at least another year — sometime in fall 2013 — is not a sign the project is in trouble.
“We are at the mercy of the process, we’ve never been tied to a deadline,” Werner said The Army Corps delivered its latest assessment in a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who wanted to know when the impact statement would be completed. That’s a sign that Hickenlooper and the cities and towns that would benefit from NISP want the project done…

…a comprehensive review of NISP was expected to attract a similar review by the Corps, Werner said. “We’ve never been held to a hard and fast deadline,” he said. “What I am hearing from the 15 communities and the governor, is ‘Hey, let’s get this thing done.’ “

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Drought news: The current drought is really taking its toll on the Arkansas River Basin #CODrought

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From KCUR (Frank Morris):

High in the Rocky Mountains, about 10 miles north of Leadville, Colo., the Arkansas River starts as a trickle running off some of the tallest peaks in the continental United States.

In a normal year, “you would see snowcapped peaks and water rushing down,” says Garry Hanks, a retired high school teacher who now serves as a deputy water commissioner in southeast Colorado.

But this year there’s hardly even a dribble of water coming down from the mountains. And the drought intensifies just downstream…

The drought has resulted in withered cornstalks and cracked land near Lamar, Colo.

“You can see by the cracks in the ground how dry it is,” [Dale Mauch] says, as he points to a withered cornstalk. The Fort Lyon Canal, which four generations of his family have relied on for irrigation, dried up last month.

“This is the first time that we went to zero before the Fourth of July,” Mauch says. “That’s just something [that] … in 152 years has never happened.”

From the Summit Daily News:

Colorado is experiencing a severe drought in many parts of the state. Due to the drought conditions in Summit County, the flow in the Blue River continues to decline, and while the Breckenridge water supply is not in as dire straits as others, the town feels it is important to apply mandatory water restrictions to all Breckenridge water users, including out-of-town users.

2012 Colorado November election: Initiatives 3 and 45 withdrawn, supporters hope to regroup for 2014

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Practically everyone in the water business will breathe a sigh of relief now that Initiatives 3 and 45 have been pulled from the November ballot. The organization behind the attempt to get Coloradans to reject Prior Appropriation cannot get the required signatures. Here’s a report from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal. From the article:

Supporters of the initiatives “have withdrawn No. 3 and 45,” spokesman Rich Coolidge said. “They are not going to be submitting signatures.”[…]

Richard Hamilton, who worked on drafting the initiatives, said Monday that supporters decided it “would be a near impossibility” to get the needed number of signatures. But he said that supporters will continue work on them, hoping to submit similar proposals for the 2014 ballot.

More Initiatives 3 and 45 coverage here.

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

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Click here for the summaries from last week’s webinar. Click on the thumbnail graphics for the July month to date precipitation summary and the current U.S. Drought Monitor.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

July rainfall through the middle of the month was well above average at many mountain weather stations, with Dillon, for example, reporting 1.94 inches through July 17, more than twice the average .92 inches. Estes Park and Georgetown both reported about triple their average rainfall amounts for the period, but drought conditions still persist across much of the state…

Thanks to the rain, drought conditions were downgraded from exceptional to extreme in southwest Jackson and northwest Grand counties, but even with the monsoon precipitation extreme drought conditions persisted across north-central and northeast Colorado.

Here’s why: In between rainstorms, temperatures remained well above average, resulting high rates of evapotranspiration, continuing to decrease soil moisture. In the hardest-hit areas, about 45,000 acres of crops, mainly wheat, have completely failed. Some farmers in northeast Colorado have abandoned alfalfa fields to save water from corn.

Many dryland crops in northeast Colorado are extremely stressed or have already withered, including millet, considered to be a drought resistant crop. Any millet that did sprout on the plains is now dying. There are numerous reports of ranchers selling off livestock, to an extent not seen since the summer of 2002. Rangeland conditions improved slightly in some areas but pastures are still in critical condition…

Temperatures since June have been running about 6 degrees above average along the Front Range and 3 degrees above average in the rest of the state, and Denver has already hit the 100-degree mark 11 times this year. For the sake of comparison, the city has reached 100 degrees 71 times total in the 140-year climate record dating back to 1872.

The Morgan County Commissioners are supporting the Chatfield Reallocation Project

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The goal of the Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Project is to clean silt out of existing water storage at Chatfield Reservoir and expand its capacity. Overall, it is expected to mean the reservoir could hold an extra 20,600 acre feet of water or more, said Morgan County Commissioner Laura Teague during Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Morgan County Commissioners. That would prevent that amount of water from running out of Colorado, and save it for use in the state, she said…

Water providers who contract and pay for the use of the water storage have agreed to pay for the needed mitigation of environmental impacts and modification of recreational facilities…

The commissioners approved a resolution to support the project, and it will be delivered to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the record of public comments on the project…

The Town of Wiggins Board of Trustees approved a similar letter last week.

More South Platte River basin coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek: Runoff from Waldo Canyon Fire could affect stormwater flows for years

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District heard a report on the potential flood, mudflows and landslide impacts that could follow the Waldo Canyon Fire, which burned near Colorado Springs from June 26 to July 10. A small storm event could send up to 12 times as much water down canyons and into Fountain Creek, while larger storms such as a 10-year event might bring five times as much water because vegetation has been stripped away and soils hardened…

Jamie Prochno, an engineer and community assistance coordinator for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, told the Fountain Creek board that residents near the burn and even those downstream should consider flood insurance…

The Fountain Creek board is planning to play a role in Waldo recovery efforts. Its technical advisory committee and citizens advisory group have begun discussions about what that should be. The district was formed in 2009 by the state Legislature to sort out Fountain Creek issues between Pueblo and El Paso counties.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Drought news: Low streamflow below Pueblo Dam raises concern for the fishery #CODrought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Releases of native water from the dam dropped to minimal levels earlier this week as drought continues to strain water resources on the Arkansas River. Flows in the river have stayed above the level needed to keep fish alive because of releases from storage accounts, however. “We’re seeing a lot of fry (young fish) in the river,” said Dan Prenzlow, regional manager for wildlife with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We’re monitoring the temperature below the dam.”

While the state has some water in storage at Lake Pueblo, much of it has been exchanged upstream to assist in keeping recreation flows at acceptable levels between Twin Lakes and Lake Pueblo. If conditions worsen, there may be voluntary or even mandatory restrictions on fishing, Prenzlow said…

Summer river levels through Pueblo have not reached the low points seen in 2002, but are at the lowest point since then…

While native flows in the river were cut out by diversions to Bessemer Ditch, the state fish hatchery and the Pueblo Board of Water Works, there was water in the river because some ditch companies were releasing water from storage accounts.

Meawhile, the Town of Gardner has imposed “indoor uses” only water restrictions as of July 1. Here’s a report from Carol Dunn writing for the Huerfano World Journal. From the article:

The letter, from the County Commissioners and signed by John Galusha, informed water customers that they are on “indoor use only” water restrictions as of July 1, 2012. And indoor use means just that: no watering of gardens, lawns or livestock is permitted using water delivered through Gardner Water & Sanitation Department meters. The letter states that if water users violate the restriction, their meter will be disconnected. The letter was prompted by a complicated water situation in Gardner. The town does not have an adjudicated source of municipal water, so it uses wells for this purpose. Unfortunately, those wells are junior water rights and, by the letter of Colorado Water Law, are not a legal use of water.

Gardner area residents breathed a collective sigh of relief in 2009 when a Rule 14 well augmentation plan was filed by the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District Water Activity Enterprise. The plan brought the out-of-priority use of the wells into compliance using substitute water leased on the Martin Ditch. However, there are a few snags in the plan. The plan is temporary until a permanent source of water can be purchased and an official water court case filed. The current augmentation water is only leased. The enterprise does not own a reservoir to store the water when it is in priority. As Dawson puts it, “We would not have this problem if we had augmentation water in storage that we could release.”

Further, the water rights being leased, #4 and #11, are not high enough in priority this year to withstand the short water conditions caused by the drought. When the water rights go out of priority, then the plan is not in compliance, and the wells used to provide water to Gardner are no longer legal. The Colorado State Water Engineer’s Office could shut down the wells at that point, but it has chosen not to do so at this time, allowing restricted use.

From the Tri-Lakes Tribune (Lisa Collacott):

Residents of Palmer Lake and anyone who has driven by the lake knows there is not much left of the lake. The reason for the lack of water in the lake is plain and simple: drought. “We are having the hottest summer on record since 1895, according to CNN,” said Michael Maddox, water trustee for the town of Palmer Lake.

CNN has reported that two-thirds of the United States is experiencing the worst drought in a half-century. Approximately 61 percent of land in the lower 48 states has been experiencing drought conditions, with 1,300 counties across the nation being declared drought disaster zones. Colorado State University climatologists have reported that 98 percent of the state is facing drought conditions.

From Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is announcing a public fish salvage at Barr Lake State Park beginning Monday, July 23. Due to high irrigation demand created by severe drought, the water level in Barr Lake will be drained to a conservation level of 442 acre feet to meet the needs of its intended agricultural use.

The public salvage is being announced in order to optimize use of the fishery resource as outlined:

–A valid Colorado fishing license is required in accordance with state statutes.

–A state parks pass is required ($7 Daily Pass or $70 Annual Pass).

–All legal fishing methods are allowed.

–Bag, possession and size limits are suspended for Barr Lake only until this emergency public salvage is lifted.

The end date of the public salvage effort will be announced by Park Manager Michelle Seubert or Area Wildlife Manager Liza Hunholz.

2012 Colorado November election: The Colorado Water Congress is stepping up its opposition to Initiatives 3 and 45

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From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

“We’re opposed to them,” said Dan Pfeiffer, director of regional government affairs for Xcel Energy Inc., the state’s largest utility. “They would basically remove our water rights and could raise our costs if we can’t use our water [to generate electricity].”

Xcel is a member of the Colorado Water Congress, whose 350 members include river conservancy districts, environmental groups, cities and towns, water districts, agriculture and other business.

More coverage from John Stroud writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

The Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC), whose members include Garfield, Mesa, Rio Blanco, Moffat and Routt counties, voted unanimously to support the River District in its previously stated opposition to Initiatives 3 and 45. Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, who chairs the AGNC board, said the measures would have “massive negative impacts” throughout Colorado. They are also too punitive and would likely result in decades of litigation, he said. “It would be difficult for anyone to understand the consequences and long-term damage to the economic well-being of Colorado,” Samson said in a press release sent out Thursday by AGNC, which has its offices in Rifle…

Routt County Commissioner and AGNC Vice Chairman Doug Monger stated, “All Coloradans must be overprotective of their water rights and cast suspicion on any attempt to throw the true and tested historic Colorado water law into the trash.”

More Initiatives 3 and 45 coverage here.

Cañon City: Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site de-commissioning roadmap unveiled

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

About 130 people attended a public meeting Thursday evening to weigh-in on the plan. The audience was reassured by Dr. Chris Urbina, Colorado Department of Health executive director, that the cleanup is, “a long-term commitment.”[…]

Cotter Corp’s decision to close leaves, “Lots of problems to deal with but a whole lot has been accomplished,” said Steve Tarlton, radioactive program manager for the state. The remaining cleanup work — most notably onsite ground water and soil cleanup — must satisfy three different authorities including the 1988 court-ordered remedial action plan, Cotter’s state Radioactive Materials License and the federal Environmental Protection Agency Superfund program…

The process of decommissioning the mill will start with outlining a conceptual site model consisting of separate operable units that need to be cleaned up. Currently, operable unit 1 is defined as the mill site and the adjacent Shadow Hills Golf Course while operable unit 2 is the portion of the Lincoln Park neighborhood just north of the mill where contaminated groundwater exists…

Once site characterization is complete, a feasibility study will be done to outline a complete remedial action plan and possible alternatives. Following that, state and EPA officials will select a preferred remedy for cleanup called a record of decision.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund coverage here and here.

Colorado Water 2012: It’s the twentieth anniversary of the Summitville Mine disaster

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Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series written by Cindy Medina with Alamosa Riverkeeper. Click through and read the whole thing, here’s an excerpt:

In 1992, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emergency response unit found a mountain decimated with a massive open scar, pools of murky green water, and snake-like black pipes lying throughout the site. In contrast, the untouched snow-capped San Juan Mountains surrounded the catastrophe. Later, downstream fishermen and farmers reported fish, victims of the cyanide spill at the mine site, floating in the Alamosa River and in their private reservoirs. How would the governmental agencies and the local residents respond to such an environmental catastrophe with a remediation cost that eventually would exceed $220 million?

The degree of environmental irresponsibility displayed by a Canadian mining company was counterbalanced by the degree of commitment and dedication by local residents, federal and state agencies to this environmental tragedy. In 2002, a settlement was reached with Robert Friedland for $28.5 million, with $5 million exclusively designated for the use “to restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent of” the injured natural resources. This natural resource damage settlement looks small compared to Friedland’s current status of a billionaire who works out of Vancouver, Singapore, and Magnolia as reported by author Walter Isaacson.

But the settlement proved significant to agencies and organizations for its leverage potency for additional monies for projects designed to restore the watershed.

More Summitville Superfund site coverage here and here.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 540 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

After yesterday’s Colorado River coordination call, we made adjustments to the release from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We are now releasing about 540 cfs.

As you all likely are aware, flows in the Colorado River continue to decline. In response, we have bumped our releases up another 50 cfs from 490 to 540 cfs.

The reservoir is currently at a water level elevation of 7920 feet above sea level, about 30 vertical feet down, or roughly 65% full.

It’s likely the 540 cfs will remain in place through the weekend.

More Blue River watershed coverage here.

Drought news: Keep up on the drought in your area using Water Watch from the USGS #CODrought

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Here’s the link to the Colorado Map. Click on the thumbnail graphic for today’s map.

More USGS coverage here.

Senator Bennet sponsors bill that would set up protection for the Hermosa Creek watershed

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Here’s the release from Senator Bennet’s office:

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced a bill to protect more than 100,000 acres of the Hermosa Creek Watershed, an area in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango. The bill would establish a long-term management plan for the land based on recommendations from the Hermosa Creek River Protection Workgroup, which includes local water officials, conservationists, sportsmen, mountain bikers, off-road-vehicle users, outfitters, property owners, grazing permit holders and other interested citizens.

“The Hermosa Creek Watershed represents some of the best Colorado has to offer. It deserves to be protected for our outdoor recreation economy, and for future generations of Coloradans and Americans to enjoy,” Bennet said. “This bill originated from a local effort that took into account the varied interests of the community. Their collaborative approach set the tone early for a public process that led to a strong bill.”

The bill, which is cosponsored by Senator Mark Udall, would designate roughly 108,000 acres of San Juan National Forest land as the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Area. Much of the land would remain open to all historic uses of the forest under the bill, including mountain biking, motorized recreation, selective timber harvesting and grazing.

In accordance with the consensus recommendations of the Hermosa Creek Workgroup, roughly 38,000 acres of the watershed would be set aside as wilderness, to be managed in accordance with The Wilderness Act of 1964. No roads or mineral development are permitted in wilderness areas; while hunting, fishing, horseback riding and non-mechanized recreation are allowed. The Wilderness Act also contains several provisions to provide for active land management in wilderness areas as necessary to control wildfires, insect infestations and disease outbreaks.

Finally, per request of the Durango City Council, the bill would protect Animas Mountain and Perins Peak near Durango from future federal mineral leasing.

Supporters of the bill include the La Plata County Commission, the San Juan County Commission, the International Mountain Biking Association, and the Durango Herald editorial board among others.

“We commend you for respecting the hard work of the Hermosa Creek Workgroup. We support the legislation, and stand ready to help in whatever way to see it enacted into law,” said the La Plata County Commissioners.

“The residents of Durango support Senator Bennet’s legislation to protect Hermosa Creek in a way that respects the variety of interests in our community. We especially appreciate the inclusion in this bill of a provision the City of Durango formally requested to put our cherished local icons Animas Mountain and Perins Peak off limits to oil and gas development,” said Durango City Council Member Christina Rinderle.

Last year, Bennet wrote an op-ed in the Durango Herald, outlining his plans to seek feedback from interested Coloradans to build on the framework the workgroup set for the bill.

Thanks to those rabble-rousers at the Colorado Environmental Coalition (@CoEnviroCo) for the heads up.

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

Fraser River: ‘Eisenhower Reach’ dedicated July 14

Eisenhower fishing “little boy falls” in 1955 in Maine.
Eisenhower fishing “little boy falls” in 1955 in Maine.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Tulley):

President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, who vacationed and fished in the Fraser Valley, will receive recognition across the state and this will help to preserve the history of the valley, [Fraser Mayor Peggy Smith] said.

Thanks were given by the speakers at the event to the sponsors of the state resolution which created the Eisenhower Reach, state Rep. Randy Baumgardner and state Sen. Jeanne Nicholson. The resolution passed through both the Senate and House of Representatives without a single nay vote, according to Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited…

The dedication was lighthearted and fun, but the elephant in the room seemed to be the Moffat Firming Project. Denver Water’s Moffat Firming Project has been in the works since 2003, and the approval process is nearing completion, according to Klancke…

Trout Unlimited is not totally opposed to supplying more water to the Denver area; however, they are asking for certain mitigation efforts to be undertaken if the Moffat Project is approved…

The proposed mitigations Trout Unlimited wants to see as part of the deal include:

• Management of water supply to ensure adequate flows with seasonal flushing to clear out sediment and to keep the temperature of the river cool;

• Funding to deepen the river channels and add streamside plants for shade;

• Intensive monitoring of the river and aquatic life in order to prevent and respond to negative changes in trout and other aquatic species;

• And a bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir to help restore the Colorado River’s flow and overall health below the Windy Gap Dam (to offset reduced flows from Windy Gap diversions).

More Fraser River coverage here and here.