Old Dillon Reservoir enlargement update: Is a Golden Trout fishery in the future?


From the Summit Business Journal (Bob Berwyn):

The enlargement has been in the works for years as a partnership among local water users and the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the public lands around the reservoir. When water starts flowing into the new impoundment, it will help bolster water supplies for the town of Dillon, which depends in large part on stream flows from Straight Creek, running down along I-70 from its source along the Continental Divide. The stream is vulnerable to pollution threats from I-70. During the 2002 drought, Straight Creek flowed at perilously low levels, sending Dillon officials scrambling to develop a backup water plan that included direct diversions from Dillon Reservoir, as well as water-sharing with Silverthorne.

Other local water users will also benefit, and some of the water could go toward helping boost streamflows in dry years. According to a county fact sheet, the water will be used to meet demands from new growth in Summit County and a variety of other purposes, potentially including ball fields and other recreational open space, wetlands restoration, new community facilities and augmentation of well water usage in the Blue River Basin…

For the long-term, Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist Jon Ewert said that, since Old Dillon Reservoir presents a clean slate, he’s considering try to develop a golden trout fishery — the first in the state. Golden trout are native to a drainages in California like the Kern River. They look a bit like cutthroat trout but with more of a golden color…

Ewert said successful establishment of a golden trout fishery could give a little boost to Summit County’s fishing economy, drawing people from as far as Denver to try and catch a new species. Since golden trout aren’t native, they are subject to any special protections, and Ewert envisions a put-and-take fishery, enabling anglers to take their catch home for dinner.
Ewert said there are quite a few challenges associated with establishing the fishery, starting with getting the eggs from California, which isn’t a sure thing. The goldens mostly live in high mountain lakes and biologists have to hike in during spawning season to get the eggs, then pack them out.

More Old Dillon Reservoir coverage here and here.

Aspinall Unit operations update: 640 cfs in Black Canyon


From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Flows at the Whitewater Gage have consistently remained above the 900 cfs target. Consequently, releases from Crystal were reduced yesterday by 50 cfs. In addition, it appears there is a strong possibility of thunderstorms over western Colorado later this week. Therefore, it is likely releases will be further reduced by another 50 to 100 cfs in the next few days. Currently flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge are about 640 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.

Westminster: Colorado Lake and Reservoir Management Association Summer Workshop July 25


Here’s the link to their webpage. Here’s an excerpt:

High quality water features such as lakes and creeks boost property values and provide refuge for wildlife and humans alike. Managing these features is part art and part science. If you want to learn more about managing your water features to optimize water quality and improve aesthetics, join us on July 25th, Westminster City Park Recreation Center, for a comprehensive workshop on lake management. Professionals from various agencies in Colorado will share their experience with recreation management, source water protection,watershed planning and regulatory compliance. A lake management template will be provided to participants to help develop a specific plan for managing their own water features.

Colorado Water 2012: The Gunnison River Basin is home to Colorado’s largest reservoir — Blue Mesa


Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series. Frank Kugel details water operations and facilities in the Gunnison Basin. Here’s an excerpt:

The Gunnison Basin is home to the largest body of water entirely within the state of Colorado, Blue Mesa Reservoir, which has a capacity of 940,000 acre-feet (830,000 acre-feet active capacity). It is the primary storage component of the three reservoirs comprising the Aspinall Unit. Morrow Point Dam is the middle structure and its primary purpose is production of hydropower. Crystal Dam creates a stabilizing reservoir for the variable flows produced by Morrow Point Dam releases. Below Crystal lies the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River National Park…

The Bureau of Reclamation has a number of other storage projects in the basin, in addition to the Aspinall Unit reservoirs, including Taylor Park on the Taylor River, Ridgway on the Uncompahgre River, Silver Jack on the Cimarron River, Crawford on the Smith Fork of the Gunnison, fruit growers on Current Creek and Paonia on Muddy Creek, tributary to the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

One of the first projects developed by the Bureau of Reclamation was the Uncompahgre Project, which provides irrigation water for a variety of crops in the Uncompahgre Valley between Colona and Delta. A key component of the project is the Gunnison Tunnel, a 5.7 mile long tunnel that diverts water from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and discharges it into a series of canals in the Uncompahgre Valley. The tunnel has a 1913 water right for 1300 cfs and supplies some 60% of the irrigation water for the 76,000 acres under the project.

Taylor Park Dam was constructed in 1937 to provide supplemental irrigation for the Uncompahgre Valley. Taylor Park Reservoir has a capacity of 106,230 acre feet. The 1975 Taylor Park Exchange Agreement allows for transfer of storage downstream to Blue Mesa Reservoir to provide the Gunnison Tunnel with a more readily available source of irrigation water. An additional benefit of this exchange was the flexibility to make releases in time and amount that would benefit recreational and agricultural users in the Upper Gunnison basin.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Wildfire can have a negative effect on watersheds #CODrought


From National Geographic (Tasha Eichenseher):

Wildfires scorch soils and create ash and debris that can clog rivers and reservoirs, increasing the cost of water treatment for years to come.

When trees and underbrush burn, there is less organic material left to absorb moisture when it rains. In addition, many plants release a waxy substance when they are incinerated, creating a water-repellent coating on burn areas that heightens the risk of flash floods and contributes to erosion. Storms flush silt and other debris from the fires into rivers, reservoirs, and ultimately into municipal water treatment facilities, slowing the treatment process.

Western water managers learned a harsh lesson ten years ago when the devastating Hayman Fire ripped through Colorado’s forests, severely impacting the extensive forested watersheds that protect rivers and water sources for more than 75 percent of the state’s residents, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The Hayman Fire—the most destructive in the state’s history, possibly until now—destroyed nearly 140,000 acres and 600 structures in 20 days…

In the wake of that 2002 fire, and the 1996 Buffalo Creek fire, Denver Water, the public agency responsible for serving water to 1.3 million people in the Denver metro area, has spent more than $26 million on fire-related restoration, maintenance, and dredging, according to agency spokeswoman Stacy Chesney…

Jennifer Pitt, Colorado River Project director for the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, warns that 2012 is a wake-up call for how we have to adjust to climate change and extreme water supply fluctuations, especially in the Colorado River Basin, where flows are at lower-than-average levels. “We may not always like what Mother Nature has in store,” she writes for Water Currents, a National Geographic blog. “But we’re fools if we don’t figure out how to live with it.”

Drought news: Colorado Parks and Wildlife is monitoring stream temperatures in the Upper Arkansas River #CODrought


Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Michael Seraphin):

The heat wave sweeping Colorado has created a situation where river temperatures on the Upper Arkansas will be regularly monitored for impacts to trout. At the present time, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is taking a position of “cautious optimism.”

The reduction is snowpack last winter means less icy-cold water in the river during what is usually a time of heavy water. The result has produced plenty of insects for forage and provided trout with better opportunities to feed, which means fish are growing well and are in good shape. The flip side is that water that gets too warm can start to stress the fish.

“We are monitoring water temperatures at a number of locations along the river from Salida to Parkdale on a regular basis so we will be able to advise anglers on the best course of action,” said Rob White, park manager of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.

White added that water has been set aside this year to provide adequate flows for whitewater boating and to protect the fishery through July and August.

According to aquatic biologist Greg Policky, his concern from a fishery standpoint is that the water temps are increasing. So far, water temperatures have not reached the same point as 2002. “In that year, we saw water temperatures at Parkdale rise to nearly 80 degrees,” said Policky.

Since mid-June, temperatures on the Arkansas have been moderate, with a 72-degree reading at Lone Pine on June 26.

Anglers on the Arkansas are encouraged to continue fishing, but asked to be careful with the release of their catch. Over-playing fish, and less than delicate release of fish, could be lead to injury – particularly as water temperatures warm.

The amount of rain and the air temperatures in July and August will determine how warm the water may get.

“If there is fish mortality, it happens for a variety of reasons, so seeing a few dead fish on the side of the river is not cause for alarm yet,” said Policky. He added that there are about 4,000 to 4,500 fish for every mile of river, so what anglers do not see is the huge number of live fish beneath the surface.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has issued fishing advisories and asked for voluntary compliance with fishing restrictions on the Yampa and the White Rivers in western Colorado and is considering other requests for voluntary restrictions in other parts of the state, but no restrictions are currently being considered for the Upper Arkansas. If daily monitoring shows the need for restrictions, public notification will occur.

Commerce City: Council approves rules governing hydraulic fracturing 8-0


From The Denver Post (Yesenia Robles):

A crowd of about 20 residents wearing bright blue name tags applauded the 8-0 vote. Councilwoman Jadie Carson was absent at the Monday night meeting…

The rules, which will take effect Aug. 1, will prohibit drilling operations on or near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and Barr Lake State Park, under a new wildlife mitigation plan. The rules also create a new level of regulation, requiring individual agreements that the city will negotiate with each company. Certain elements that will be considered in the so-called extraction agreements, such as noise-mitigation plans, water-quality-control measures, restricted hours of operation and permitted lighting, were not passed as specific city rules. They were thought by some to be overreaching and interfering with state regulations on the industry…

“We believe a layered approach to oil and gas development balances community protections with individual rights,” said Mayor Sean Ford. “In amending our existing rules, the city sought to remain within the regulatory framework of the state and be consistent with the recommendations of Governor Hickenlooper’s oil and gas task force.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

South Platte River Basin: Part of the Weld County corn crop will be lost this season #CODrought


From 9News.com (Dave Delozier):

Thousands of acres of corn that are supposed to be “knee high by the Fourth of July” will most likely be dead by then. “You know there are man hours in there, and there is care that’s been applied to the field, just like fertilizer has and it is difficult to watch it burn up,” says David Eckhardt, a fourth generation Weld County farmer.

Eckhardt planted approximately 1,500 acres of corn this spring. About two weeks ago, farmers in Weld County stopped receiving surface irrigation water from rivers because of the drought conditions. Eckhardt was forced to make the decision to use the limited water he has on some of his fields while letting the corn in others wither and die. He is walking away from approximately one-third of his crop. Nearly 500 acres of corn now sit baking in the sun…

In a statement released to 9News, a spokesperson for Governor Hickenlooper said, “The Governor has explored every angle of allowing wells to pump more than their legally allocated amounts, and the Attorney General has twice said that’s not possible.”

More South Platte River basin coverage here and here.

Wanted: Vision and Leadership to Ensure A Sustainable Water Future for America — Jay Famiglietti


From National Geographic (Jay Famiglietti):

Let’s face facts. We can’t really manage water sustainably now, nor can we predict water availability in the future…It is absolutely essential that we determine how much water we have, as snow, surface water, soil moisture and groundwater; how much water we need, for humans and for the environment; and how these quantities will change with time, as climate and population changes, and as we adapt to a resource-limited future. We need to move forward with core observations and models that can utilize them to answer these questions, to advance prediction and to help prepare for the future.

How can we accomplish this? Since we lack a national water czar, policy or agency in the U. S., much of what I’m writing about here has fallen through the cracks for too long. There’s no one there to take ownership.

Consequently, vision and leadership are sorely needed. We need champions. Our elected officials must embrace this sustainable water challenge through awareness, commitment, and focus.

Research leadership, from our funding agencies through communities of investigators, must also take responsibility for making it happen. Communication of key results and research needs to elected officials and to the general public, though atypical for this group, is becoming increasingly important to heighten awareness

There’s a grand challenge on the table. We must aggressively tackle the frontiers of:

1)Exploration and mapping of Earth’s shallow crustal water environment, including its freshwater bathymetry, soils, hydrogeology, its water quantity and quality and synthesis of available information.

2) Advanced digital water data and information system capabilities for archiving and disseminating these data, with open, easy access to all information. New policies for sharing environmental data across political boundaries are also required.

3)Development of next-generation computer models that readily exploit this new information, as well as capabilities to evolve with rapid advances in computer power and the structure of the internet.

4)Clear pathways to transfer newly developed tools, observations and research results to water managers and practitioners, environmental decision makers, and a plan for communication to the public.