Drought/precipitation news: Denver records hottest July ever, previous record set in 1934 during the dust bowl

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Click on the thumbnail graphics for the U.S. Drought Monitor maps for the last three weeks. It appears that the monsoon is alleviating the Colorado drought.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

July ended up being the hottest ever for Denver, breaking the previous record by 1.1 degrees, based on statistics going back to 1872. The average temperature for the months was 78.9 degrees, topping the Dust Bowl-era record of 77.8 degrees set in 1934…

And while the monsoon delivered plenty of moisture in the mountains, mostly west of the Continental Divide, Denver stayed very dry, officially reporting only .48 inches of rain, less than 25 percent of the average 2.16 inches for the month.

Republican River Compliance pipeline dedication August 16

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From the Republican River Water Conservation District (Deb Daniel) via The Yuma Pioneer :

The Republican River Water Conservation District will be hosting the public dedication ceremony of the Compact Compliance Pipeline on Thursday, August 16, beginning at 7 p.m.

The location of the ceremony will be at the outfall structure near Yuma County Road SS east of Laird.

On July 14, 2011, during a quarterly meeting, the RRWCD Board voted to build the pipeline in an effort to assist Colorado in complying with the Republican River Compact. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on August 29, 2011, near the pipeline collection tank location.

GEI Consultants, an engineering firm from Denver, has designed the pipeline, and Garney Construction, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, was selected as the general contractor. Construction of the pipeline started in early September 2011.

Funding for the compact compliance pipeline has been provided through a loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and from water use fees paid by well owners throughout the Republican River Basin in Colorado.

Speakers during the ceremony include: Congressman Cory Gardner, John Stulp, Special Advisor to Governor Hickenlooper on Water Issues, Dick Wolfe, State Engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources and Dennis Coryell, Chairman of the Republican River Water Conservation District.

The ceremony will conclude with opening the main-line valve and delivering water into the North Fork of the Republican River.

Everyone is welcome to attend. Transportation to the ceremony will be provided by the District. If you wish to attend the ceremony, please notify the District so ensure seating.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: 195 cfs in the river below Ruedi Dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

After the coordination call [yesterday], it was determined that the afternoon rainstorms are no longer contributing much to the Colorado River Basin. As a result, we have bumped releases from Ruedi Dam to the Fryingpan River back up to 195 cfs.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

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

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

After the coordination call [yesterday], it was determined that the afternoon rainstorms are no longer contributing much to the Colorado River Basin. As a result, we have spent the day bumping releases from Green Mountain Dam to the lower Blue River back up.

We bumped up by 60 cfs earlier this afternoon and are increasing releases another 65 cfs this evening. The resulting flow in the lower Blue River will be around 365 cfs.

I appreciate you all being patient with our changes this summer. We, like other reservoir operators, are doing our best to chase what inflows there are to keep our rivers in the Colorado River Basin in good stead during this very hot and dry season.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

Colorado Water 2012: Historical look at reservoir construction and operations in the San Luis Valley

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Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series. Melvin and Camille Getz recap the recent “100 Years of San Luis Valley Reservoirs” event in the Valley. Here’s an excerpt:

The San Luis Valley, inhospitable in many ways such as climate (cold winters, windy springs) and elevation averaging 7500’ with surrounding mountains isolating it from the rest of Colorado, was blessed with rich soil and seemingly unlimited water over 100 years ago. Melting mountain snow rushed down into the valley in spring, filling rivers, streams and irrigation ditches that had been constructed all across the valley. There was no way to control the water. It was used when it was available, which was not usually when farmers needed it most; then the severe drought of the 1890s affecting all the other communities dependent on the Rio Grande as much as the San Luis Valley caused an international crisis. The United States government, hoping to avoid a lawsuit from Mexico, imposed an embargo on reservoir construction.

With its removal, the floodgates of hope and ambition opened to initiate an amazing number of projects on the upper Rio Grande or its tributaries. Although sites had been located and water rights secured earlier, in 1907 engineering plans were drawn, financing arranged which was all private — no government money involved — workers hired, and the construction began. By 1914 nine major storage projects had been completed and were in operation.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Reclamation’s EIS incorporated Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise which is now defunct

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“As I view it, there were firm commitments made on stormwater and the (SDS) contract requires that the environmental commitments are met,” Mike Connor, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation said Wednesday, meeting with the editorial board of The Pueblo Chieftain.

In the SDS environmental impact statement, Reclamation states a stormwater enterprise is in place for Colorado Springs. The EIS laid the foundation for the 2010 contract for the project. The contract also incorporates all environmental conditions of Pueblo County’s 1041 landuse permit and state water quality measures. Connor’s goal is to assure the conditions are being met before 2016, when SDS is scheduled to go online. The $1 billion project would pipe water from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West. Because Colorado Springs abolished its stormwater enterprise in 2009, no fees have been collected for the past three years. Meanwhile, Colorado Springs faces a $500 million backlog of stormwater projects and should be paying up to $15 million annually, according to City Attorney Chris Melcher.

“A plan is not enough,” Connor said. “We need to make sure the resources are there.”

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs is not alone in needing to fund stormwater improvements. El Paso County faces similar problems. Here’s a report from Scott Harrison writing for KRDO.com. From the article:

Andre Brackin, the El Paso County Engineer, said the area, specifically the communities of Security and Widefield, have only a few drainage channels for runoff to drain into Fountain Creek.

Those communities were established in the 1950s and have grown since then, said Brackin. He estimated that addressing the area’s stormwater needs would cost $10 million — an amount the county can’t afford…

The lack of funds means the county also can’t afford to clear vegetation and rubbish out of the few existing drainage channels, such as the one along Widefield Boulevard…

Ultimately, said Brackin, local leaders must consider enacting some type of regional fee or tax to pay for stormwater improvements. He said the county has a backlog of as much as $100 million in needed improvements.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Windy Gap Firming Project: Chimney Hollow Reservoir site tour August 23

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From Larimer County via the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

By popular demand, Larimer County Natural Resources and Northern Water has planned another field trip to the Chimney Hollow Open Space in the Blue Mountain Conservation Area, which is not currently open to the public.

The next tour will be offered at 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, Aug. 23.

The field trip will include an easy, round-trip walk of 0.5 mile for the whole group. After learning about the Windy Gap Firming Project’s proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir and the Chimney Hollow property, the group will split up, and one group will have an opportunity to hike farther, and the other group will receive a historical interpretive tour of the property.

The tour is free, but space is limited. Register at larimer.org/naturalresources/registration.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.