Arkansas Valley Conduit update: Source water quality problems would be improved by the conduit

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Besides providing a reliable amount of water, the Arkansas Valley Conduit would improve water quality for the 40 communities that have indicated an interest in the project.

Salinity and radiation in local water supplies exceed federal drinking standards. The levels have created regulatory pressure from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to find sources of better water, said Signe Snortland, who heads the Bureau of Reclamation team evaluating the conduit.

Meetings were held last week in Salida, Pueblo, La Junta and Lamar on the draft environmental impact statement.

Of the conduit participants, 14 are in violation of radiation standards.

Meanwhile, Reclamation has cut a contract with Vine Laboratories in Denver to do the geological work. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

The Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $715,000 contract to Vine Laboratories of Denver to conduct geologic investigations, including drilling, testing and sampling of unconsolidated material and bedrock necessary for design of the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit project. The contract will provide some preliminary data describing geological conditions and other variables.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

2014 Colorado November Election: A plan is forming to ask voters for a commission to reform the state constitution

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

“We’re going to go for the tough one. We’re going to go for the fix,” said Brenda Morrison, a member of Colorado’s Future, in a presentation Friday to Action 22, a group of Southeast Colorado county leaders.

The ballot initiative would not target any specific part of the constitution.

Instead, it would set up a panel that would meet every decade or so to recommend changes to the voters.

The specifics have not been decided yet, including how the panel would be appointed, what its power would be or even what it would be named.

The most often-criticized parts of the constitution include the Gallagher Amendment, which limits residential property taxes but can burden businesses; the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits taxes and requires refunds if the state collects too much; and Amendment 23, which forces spending on K-12 schools to increase with the inflation rate.

More 2014 Colorado November Election coverage

Aspinall Unit update: 400 cfs in the Black Canyon

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From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

With the recent rains, flows in the Gunnison River at the Whitewater gage are well above the September baseflow target of 890 cfs. Short term forecasts predict flows will stay above 1000 cfs while the baseflow target for October drops down to 790 cfs. Considering all this, releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced on Saturday, September 29th, with the intention of maintaining 400 cfs in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon (down from the current flow of 480 cfs).

In the next couple weeks, decreasing irrigation demands will result in less diversion into the Gunnison Tunnel which may necessitate changes at Crystal Dam. Releases may be reduced further in light of the lower Whitewater gage baseflow target for October if rainfall and tributary flows continue to support flows in the lower mainstem of the Gunnison River.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.

Restoration: CPW reintroduces cutthroats to Woods Lake

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):

Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocked the lake with 250 cutthroat trout last week as part of an ongoing project to restore the species to its native habitat. Transporting the fish was done via horseback and truck from a small stream on the Uncompahgre Plateau the same day. The cutthroat will take around two years to create a sustainable population in their new home, according to CPW. The reintroduction plan ultimately calls for more than 2,000 fish to be stocked into the lake and its surrounding tributaries — the next stocking is planned for the spring of 2013. “We’ll do [the spring relocation] to give us multiple age classes of fish and to provide good genetic diversity,” said Dan Kowalski, an aquatic researcher with Parks and Wildlife in Montrose, in a release.

The 24-acre lake is located off of Forest Service Road 618 west of Telluride and was chosen for a number of reasons — mainly its pristine condition and remote location. But its natural barriers also prevent non-native species from gaining access…

In Colorado, there are three species of cutthroat trout in different regions of the state. Colorado River cutthroat trout live in drainages west of the continental divide, Greenback cutthroat trout are in the South Platte and Arkansas River drainages, and the Rio Grande cutthroat trout are found in streams draining into the San Luis Valley, according to Parks and Wildlife.

Efforts to restore the species have been ongoing since the early 1970s, when Greenback trout was listed as endangered. Greenbacks currently have a lesser-threatened classification.

According to Parks and Wildlife, another cutthroat restoration project is ongoing in the upper Hermosa Creek drainage near the Durango Mountain Resort in San Juan County. When that project is completed in about five years, more than 20 miles of Hermosa Creek and feeder streams will be home to native cutthroats.

More restoration coverage here and here.

Long-term assurance for interruptible supplies for cities proposed legislature’s water resources review committee

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A proposal that would expedite partnerships between ditch companies and cities was proposed to state legislators this week.

It aims at modifying the state’s interruptible supply law to provide long-term assurance of drought-year water supply, preserving water court scrutiny and protecting agriculture water rights that are used in temporary transfers.

“We are not proposing specific legislation,” Gerry Knapp, Aurora Water’s manager for the Arkansas River and Colorado River operations, told the legislature’s water resources review committee this week. “But if the drought continues, several municipalities will be needing to use an interruptible supply.”

Aurora was the first and only Colorado city to use the interruptible supply law on a large scale, leasing water from the Rocky Ford High Line Canal in 2004-05. A joint water decree application was filed in water court and an agreement was signed to preserve the opportunity.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Funding running out for the Fountain Creek Watershed Greenway and Flood Control District — mill levy vote needed?

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Efforts to fund a district devoted to improving Fountain Creek have to be stepped up, Pueblo County commissioner Jeff Chostner said Friday. “I’m trying to push this, because this district has such potential,” Chostner told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board. “I’m trying to start the discussion because I feel like we’re treading water.”

Chostner, who won the Democratic primary for district attorney and faces no competition in the November election, will likely leave the Fountain Creek board in January. That’s given him a sense of urgency in working toward his goal, announced earlier this year, of developing a mill levy proposal to take to voters.

The district faces the prospect of operating in the red by the end of next year if more funding cannot be found.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Wiggins: New water treatment plant ready to go but the town still needs approvals for supply pipeline

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did send a letter making comments on three proposals to take the pipeline through the town flood levee but wanted clarification on some details like elevations, sections and sketches, said Tim Holbrook of Industrial Facilities Engineering, the firm that is overseeing the Wiggins water project.

Wiggins is replacing its current water supply after the current water levels in town wells has fallen over the years, and because the water is under a health advisory from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

During a weekly meeting of the Wiggins Board of Trustees, Holbrook said he will write up what the corps needs over the next few days and send it to Wiggins officials. After that, it will take a while to get a reply, but it is not certain how long.

More Wiggins coverage here and here.