Drought news: Governor Hickenlooper adds Weld County to the drought disaster list #CODrought

Poudre Canyon monsoon flooding photo gallery, July 6, 2012 #Monsoon

Aspinall Unit operations update: 500 cfs in Black Canyon

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The Gunnison Basin is finally receiving some measurable precipitation from the monsoonal conditions. In order to take advantage of it and conserve storage in the Aspinall Unit, Reclamation will be decreasing releases from Crystal Reservoir by 100 cfs this afternoon. Following the change, flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge will be about 500 cfs. With the current flow forecast, the target flow of 900 cfs at the Whitewater gage should be maintained or exceeded through this weekend and beginning of next week. However, releases will likely increase again next week as the monsoonal flow dissipates.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 370 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We continue to make adjustments to our releases based on the cooperative efforts of the larger water operators’ community on the Upper Colorado River. Currently, we are releasing about 370 cfs from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. There could be additional changes over the weekend.

San Juan Mountains: Acid rock drainage predated mining activity by millennia, mining made it worse

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From The Telluride Watch (Peter Shelton):

The report, titled “Natural Acid Rock Drainage Associated with Hydrothermally Altered Terrane in Colorado,” was recently given an award by the Geological Society of America as the best environmental publication of 2011. The report identifies a number of high-country streams in Colorado, including Red Mountain Creek, where surface water is acidic and has high concentrations of metals upstream of historic mining.

“Of course, the mining made it much, much worse,” commented Don Paulson, a former chemistry professor who is now curator of the Ouray County Historical Museum. Paulson has followed efforts to identify sources of stream pollution and the remedial measures undertaken to improve water quality in the Uncompahgre River and its tributaries.

There was a big push to clean up the water affected by mine waste (and the role it plays in the inability of high country waterways to support aquatic life) in the 1980s. At that time the Colorado Department of Health (now Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) first sued under the Superfund Act, then negotiated with Idarado Mining and its parent company, Newmont Mining, substantial cleanups on both the Telluride and Ouray sides of the mountain. The Telluride side saw improvements to the water quality of the Upper San Miguel River. But the acid pH and the levels of zinc and other minerals in Red Mountain Creek has not changed significantly despite Idarado’s remediation in the area of the Treasury Tunnel.

More water pollution coverage here.

Drought/runoff news: How senior will the Arkansas River call go? #CODrought

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Carie Canterbury):

In light of June’s low river readings, Bob Hartzman, supervisor for the Cañon City Water department, had expressed concern June 26 about the city possibly having to dip into stored reserves in the Fry Pan/Arkansas Water Storage project if users downstream put in a call for more water…

Hartzman said he spoke to District 12 Water Commissioner Brian Sutton about the possibility on June 27. “He was fairly certain that the river call wouldn’t go to the 1861,” he said. “That was based on data and information that he’s seen and that he’s aware of for the entire river, not just our neighborhood here.”[…]

“Even if a call came in today, we have a backup plan,” Hartzman said. “We still have a water source we can call upon to get us by, but if it came to that, we’d probably go to level two restrictions.” The city has about 315 million gallons of water in storage, Hartzman said, and for the month of June, city water customers used 265 gallons of water…

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the Arkansas River running into Cañon City at 397 cubic feet per second as of Wednesday, compared to 318 cfs on June 29.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

Denver Water: Waterton Canyon closed today to allow firefighters access to control Mill Gulch Fire #CODrought

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From email from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

In the interest of public safety, Waterton Canyon will be closed to public access Friday, July 6, to allow the U.S. Forest Service to work the Mill Gulch Fire, a small three-acre fire, on U.S. Forest Service land in Douglas County.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, lightning sparked the fire around 4 p.m. today, approximately 4.5 miles from the bottom of the canyon on a ridge. Local jurisdictions responded with hand crews, engines and helicopters to help contain the fire. The U.S. Forest Service expects to have the fire contained by morning. The canyon will remain closed all day Friday as crews work to ensure the fire is mitigated.

The canyon is expected to be open this weekend, but further details will be provided Friday afternoon.

For question on the fire, please contact Cathleen Thompson, U.S. Forest Service, at 707-853-4243.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

2012 Colorado November election: Progressive 15 opposes Initiatives 3 and 45

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Here’s the release from the Progressive 15 via The Fort Morgan Times:

Progressive 15 has issued a resolution opposing two initiatives dealing with water. The group’s board of directors has issued a statement that Progressive 15 opposes both 2011-2012 Initiative No. 3 and Initiative No. 45 as unwise, unnecessary, disruptive to the fair and responsible allocation and stewardship of Colorado’s scarce water resources and an unwarranted taking of vested property interests.

The resolution says that:

Water frequently does not naturally exist where and when it is needed in sufficient quantities to sustain human settlement and enterprise in Colorado.

As a scarce natural resource, water in Colorado requires a system of allocation, ownership, and enforcement to meet the needs of Colorado’s citizens and the natural environment.

The Colorado Water Congress supports Colorado’s system of prior appropriation as a fair and orderly system for allocating Colorado’s scarce water resources.

Colorado’s prior appropriation system has proven itself both successful and flexible in addressing the public’s changing demands, beneficial uses, and values regarding Colorado water resources (including instream flow water rights).

These two state constitutional amendment initiatives that would reject Colorado’s historical reliance on the prior appropriation doctrine for water allocation and replace it with an undefined public trust doctrine and certain public control mandates.

The adoption of either of these initiatives would undermine the constitutional foundation for Colorado’s prior appropriation system and result in a takings of private and public water rights that currently meet essential agricultural, commercial, environmental, industrial, and municipal needs.

The adoption of either of these initiatives would create great uncertainty in providing a secure water supply for agricultural, commercial, environmental, industrial, and municipal purposes.

These initiatives are masquerading as a measure to protect the public’s control of water, it would prevent farmers, cities, families and businesses from making beneficial use of water rights that have vested in them over the past 150 years under Colorado’s statues and constitution.

More 2012 Colorado November election coverage here.

Drought news: Northern Colorado officials are examining removal of streamside vegetation to increase supplies #CODrought

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Estimates show that trees and shrubs lining the South Platte Basin’s rivers and irrigation ditches — salt cedars, Russian olives, cottonwoods and others — collectively consume hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water each year, although comprehensive studies on the issue in the South Platte Basin are few, and also outdated, some say.

Some experts believe the amount of water consumed by those plants — called phreatophytes — could be rivaling or even surpassing the more than 600,000 acre feet of water that, according to Colorado Department of Natural Resources, were delivered to all of the South Platte Basin’s municipalities in 2010.

And in a year like 2012 — one in which rainfall is at a record-low, some farmers’ irrigation ditches are running dry, and cities are having to watch their supplies closely — many agree some of that water could be going to a more beneficial use than quenching the thirst of vegetation along banks in the South Platte Basin, some of which isn’t native to the area in the first place…

Additionally, some question how much water users would actually benefit in the long run if that vegetation was eradicated. Water officials and environmentalists agree that some kind of vegetation would be needed in place of the removed plants, since root systems are necessary for keeping the river’s banks from eroding, and vegetation would also be needed to provide habitats for wildlife in those areas.

It’s also not clear who would legally be entitled to the water that’s salvaged through eradicating phreatophytes. In recent decades, the state’s water courts have denied requests from individuals wanting to clear their property of trees and shrubs and stake claim to the water that’s saved…

“This issue is certainly on a lot of peoples’ radars right now … but there’s still a lot we don’t know,” said Harold Evans, chairman of the city of Greeley Water and Sewer Board, who also serves on the South Platte Roundtable. “I think we’re all in favor of finding ways to make water more available to users. We just need to learn more about this and see what’s feasible.”[…]

In recent years, the South Platte Roundtable — made up of water officials and experts in the region who convene to discuss ways of solving the water-supply gap — has spearheaded efforts to attain about $250,000 to eradicate the Russian olives and salt cedars along the South Platte River near Brush.

More invasive species coverage here. More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System update: Next Pueblo County DA promises to continue lawsuit over the project water quality permit

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Jeff Chostner, who beat District Attorney Bill Thiebaut in the June 26 Democratic primary, said he will pursue a lawsuit now under appeal by the state and Colorado Springs. “It would not be judicially efficient to drop it,” Chostner said Thursday. “We will have the expertise to handle the case within our office.”[…]

“Assuming that it’s not resolved by the end of Bill’s term, we will continue with the case,” Chostner said.

Would he take the case to the state Supreme Court if the appeal goes in the state’s favor? “Let’s handle that one when the contingency arises,” Chostner said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Drought/precipitation news: With the coming of the monsoon comes possible flooding in the burn areas #CODrought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“The recent Waldo Canyon Fire on the Pike National Forest has changed the watersheds within the burned area and increased the potential for flooding and mudflows that could impact several communities adjacent to and downstream from the forest,” the Forest Service said in a press release. When heavy rains fall in a burned area, there are often mudflows, but the effects of the Waldo Canyon fire are being evaluated. The fire started June 23, has burned more than 18,000 acres, destroyed 347 homes and was about 90 percent contained Thursday…

On Thursday evening, the El Paso County Sheriff’s office hosted a meeting with landowners who might be subject to mud flows following the burn. The county is advising residents in affected areas to monitor weather reports closely and to take safety precautions if flooding is imminent.