Final Preliminary Alternatives Development Report on Grand Lake Now Available

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Bureau of Reclamation has finalized its Colorado-Big Thompson Project West Slope Collection Preliminary Alternatives Development Report that addresses concerns of water clarity at Colorado’s Grand Lake. The report is available at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

“The Department of the Interior is prioritizing efforts to improve water quality conditions in Grand Lake,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. “The Bureau of Reclamation, Interior’s water management agency, is committed to protecting the aesthetic values of Grand Lake and maintaining a secure water supply for its customers. We recognize the problem and are working hard with state and local leaders to understand the causes and find appropriate solutions.”

Grand Lake is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project’s West Slope collection system, which diverts water under the Continental Divide to Colorado’s East Slope and Front Range. A proposed state of Colorado water standard for the lake is scheduled to take effect in 2015. The Preliminary Alternatives Development Report is the first step toward improving water quality in Grand Lake in an effort to meet this state standard and improve this resource for its many uses. Four alternatives are considered in the report ranging from ceasing pumping during the summer season to building a bypass for project water to be delivered to the East Slope. The viability of each alternative is evaluated for a number of measures.

Reclamation continues to collaborate with water and power customers, stakeholders in and around Grand County, citizens groups around Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir, recreation managers at affected water bodies and other local, state and federal agencies.

The final Alternatives Development Report has been provided directly to stakeholders and posted to Reclamation’s website for the general public. Next steps include the Technical Review, which begins this fall and completes in fall 2013, and will examine the technical and financial feasibility of the alternatives presented in the Alternatives Development Report.

To download the report in PDF, please visit www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Drought news: The latest US Drought Monitor shows Colorado in D2, D3 or D4 stages

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the current U.S. Drought Monitor map.

Here are the summaries from this week’s NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin.

Here’s the August 15 Drought Update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Meanwhile, the City of Thornton has declared State 2 mandatory drought restrictions:

Judge reverses the decision by the Douglas Count Board of County Commissioners to approve the Sterling Ranch planned development

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From the Castle Rock News Press (Rhonda Moore):

Douglas County District Court Judge Paul King on Aug. 22 issued an order in favor of the Chatfield Community Association, granting its request to reverse the decision by the board of county commissioners to approve the Sterling Ranch planned development and water appeal. James Kreutz served as county attorney in the 1990s and said the key to the judge’s order was clarity in state law. “The board wanted to approve (Sterling Ranch) and tried to figure out a way to get around the state statute that requires a showing of availability of water in quality and quantity,” Kreutz said. “And it didn’t work.”

King’s decision came more than a year after the board approved Harold Smethills’ request to subdivide more than 3,400 acres in the Chatfield Valley and gain an appeal to the county’s water regulations…

“The Board has no authority to approve the application without the Applicant demonstrating the adequacy of the water supply,” King wrote in his order. “The Water Appeal cannot be used to thwart the requirements of the development permit approval process.”[…]

Smethills, who this month announced two deals with Aurora Water that paved the way for the first plat filings for Sterling Ranch, remains committed to the development.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Colorado River Basin: Is a Colorado River Compact call imminent?

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Here’s an article about the potential for a call on the Colorado River by the Lower Basin States, written by John McClow running in the Grand Junction Free Press. Here’s an excerpt:

A glance at a map discloses that the sources of the Colorado River lie in the mountains of the Upper Basin, with about 70% of the river’s total flow originating in Colorado. The Upper Basin is currently experiencing a protracted drought that began in 2000 and has continued through 2012 (despite a very wet year in 2011). Because of the drought, attention has become focused on the language in the compact directing that the Upper Basin states “will not cause the flow of the river at Lee Ferry to be depleted below an aggregate of 75 million acre-feet for any period of 10 consecutive years.” That averages out to the 7.5 million acre-feet per year apportioned to the Lower Basin. In addition, the Upper Basin provides one-half of the 1.5 million acre-feet per year promised to Mexico in a 1944 treaty. How does the Upper Basin accomplish that, given the variability in river flows?[…]

The drought of the past 12 years has raised concern that a compact call is a real possibility. Presently, the 30-year average inflow into Lake Powell is 10.83 million acre-feet per year. Since 1999, when the reservoir was full, inflows to Lake Powell have met or exceeded that average only in 2005 (105%), 2008 (102%), and 2011 (142%). The 2002 inflow totaled only 25% of the average and in 2005, storage fell below 9 million acre-feet. As the Colorado River Basin continues to experience the worst drought in over a century, with low inflows and depleted reservoirs, is a compact call imminent?

Probably not. In May 2005, the Secretary of the Interior initiated a process to develop strategies to address the drought. Many stakeholders participated, led by representatives of the seven Colorado River Basin states. The result was the adoption of interim guidelines for the operation of Lake Powell and Lake Mead that coordinate operations to minimize shortages in the Lower Basin and avoid the risk of curtailment in the Upper Basin.

From Tuscon News Now:

In the Southwest, the drought is most noticeable in reservoir levels…

Even though Arizona has experience a fairly wet monsoon this year CLIMAS says “One reason for these {ongoing drought} classifications is that many of the region’s important reservoirs are low. The most probable inflow volume into Lake Powell for the 2012 water year is projected to be 5.15 million acre-feet, or 48 percent of average. If this comes to pass, Colorado River streamflows will go down as the third lowest on record.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

SDS: ‘It seems like Colorado Springs Utilities and city officials are doing a lot of talking’ — Jay Winner

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has made a formal request to the Bureau of Reclamation to reopen environmental studies for the Southern Delivery System because the 2008 study assumed a Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise was in place…

“It seems like Colorado Springs Utilities and city officials are doing a lot of talking,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district Wednesday. Forming a regional task force isn’t enough, he said. “They talk as if this could be done by the end of the year, but that’s not going to happen. While they meet with a task force, we’re the ones who suffer.”

Last week’s letter identified broad concerns about the repeal of the stormwater enterprise, while this week’s letter from Peter Nichols, attorney for the district, deals with more specific points related to SDS documents. The letter points out that the $15 million annually generated by the former stormwater enterprise would have been sufficient to cover the nearly $500 million in backlog of stormwater projects and maintenance identified in Colorado Springs. “Reclamation has a continuing duty to analyze significant changes in conditions that affect the environment and that call into question the original decision,” the letter stated.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.