Rocky Mountain National Park: The Lily Lake Dam Project will start turning dirt September 4


From The Estes Park Trail (John Cordsen):

“…the only option available to the park is to repair the dam, ” said park superintendent Vaughn Baker during his May report to the Estes Park board of trustees.

The work was required after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation rated the Lily Lake Dam, located in Rocky Mountain National Park, as a high-hazard dam. This study was released in 2010. Failure of the dam was not imminent, which gave park staff time to evaluate long-term solutions, which ultimately became one option because of the legal requirements to maintain the water rights.

The Lily Lake Dam is situated at the headwaters of Fish Creek, which flows into Lake Estes in Estes Park. Fish Creek is about 5 miles in length and the elevation difference between Lily Lake and Lake Estes is about 1,500 feet. If the dam were to fail, the ensuing floodwaters could result in the loss of life and property along Fish Creek…

Repair to the Lily Lake Dam will be done in a manner to retain the lake and its features in a manner similar to what currently exists. The repair work may last through the end of November. During the repair work, a roughly 500-foot area of the Lily Lake Trail across the dam will be closed…

The repairs will involve the removal of surface vegetation on the downstream face of the dam, stripping and salvage of topsoil, regrading the downstream face of the dam and the area around the toe of the dam, placement of filter fabric (geotextile), filter gravel and another layer of filter fabric and installation of articulated concrete blocks (ACB).

More infrastructure coverage here and here.

Summit County: Happy 20th Anniversary to the Clinton Ditch Company


From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Clinton is celebrating its 20th anniversary and its many successes.

“Summit County has a long tradition of appropriating and acquiring water resources to meet the current and future needs of its citizens, business and commerce,” said Gary Martinez, Summit County Manager, “Clinton Reservoir is a key in these efforts … and it was a brilliant move to acquire this fabulous resource back in 1992.”

The historic deal took years of negotiations and involved many parties both locally and throughout the state of Colorado. Climax Molybdenum Company built the dam in 1977 as part of their mining operations. The reservoir capacity is 4,447 acre feet and its water source is Clinton Creek. The water is retained by a rockfill dam approximately 170 feet high and 1,500 feet long. The water in the reservoir is used primarily for municipal, irrigation and snowmaking purposes.

“Clinton Reservoir provides a reliable source of water supply to local private and government entities in an over-appropriated basin,” said Raul Passerini , Resource Engineering Inc. “Also, due to its location high in the basin (at 11,050 feet), releases from the Reservoir for downstream uses help maintain healthy streamflows within Tenmile Creek. During the spring, the reservoir is refilled during periods of peak snowmelt. This helps reduce the potential for downstream flooding near Copper Mountain and the Town of Frisco.”[…]

In addition to the Shareholders and Climax, the other major entity that played a significant role in the development of Clinton Gulch Reservoir is the Denver Water Board. Denver agreed to operate Dillon Reservoir to guarantee the needed yield of Clinton Gulch Reservoir and to use certain components of its facilities to deliver the Clinton water throughout Summit and Grand Counties.

More Blue River watershed coverage here and here.

Shale gas plays: ‘We need to approach it like we have one shot at this to do it right’ — Matt Lepore


From The Durango Herald (Emery Cowan):

“Shale oil and shale gas are game-changers for energy balance in this world,” Lepore said. “But we need to approach it like we have one shot at this to do it right.”

The commission is the furthest ahead in work to create revised setback distances for natural-gas and oil wells. A stakeholder group that includes representatives from industry, an environmental group, local government and state government has met for the last seven months about the issue. The group has yet to make much tangible progress on the issue, however, and it still is seeking proposals.

The group is aiming to adopt a proposal by Sept. 14 that could be approved by commissioners later this year and implemented early next year. Lepore admitted it was an aggressive schedule. “We’ve spent seven months talking to stakeholders, it’s time to get something out there,” he said.

Current COGCC setback rules require drilling operations to be 150 feet from the property owner’s structure in all but high-density areas, where the setback is 350 feet.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Yampa River: Late summer cooler temperatures along with leased releases from Stagecoach opens up things for anglers


From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife fisheries biologist Billy Atkinson confirmed Friday afternoon that his staff would begin taking down the signs that warn river users about the ban and fishing would resume Saturday morning on the stretch of the Yampa from the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area downstream through city limits.

He urged anglers to fish conservatively and with conservation in mind.

Atkinson said he made the decision after consulting with reservoir managers and water districts upstream from Steamboat and in light of the fact daily high temperatures have moderated. Fishing in town is by flies and lures only, and all fish must be returned unharmed to the water.

More coverage from Michael Schrantz writing for Steamboat Today. From the article:

District 6 State Water Engineer Erin Light said her department will start to protect a 26 cubic feet per second Colorado Water Trust release from Stagecoach Reservoir that has been in the river since June 28 on its way to Tri-State Generation, which operates the power plant in Craig.

Similar to the process that is happening on the Elk River, Water Commissioner Brian Romig will be checking to make sure senior rights holders on the Yampa are diverting the correct amount of water. If head gates do not have a measuring device or the device is not working properly, the gates will be shut.

Light said because this is only the second time the Yampa has been in this situation — the first was in 2002 — there are head gates that are not in compliance with the laws governing measuring devices. “They’ve been of the mind, ‘If I don’t need it, I won’t put it in,’” she said.

Light said senior rights holders on the Elk have responded quickly when shut off. “Some have installed measuring devices,” she said. “We have people turning back on.”[…]

“We’re not adding any water to the system. We’re protecting water already in the system,” Light said about the Yampa. “This additional 26 cfs (for the Colorado Water Trust) has been in the system for other people to use. The person who has contracted the water wants it now.”

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and <a href="

10th Circuit decision could affect river compacts between states


Here’s a guest column, written by James M. Oliver, that’s running in The Salt Lake Tribune. A recent decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has the potential to affect the compacts that allocate water between states. Here’s an excerpt:

Last September, in a case involving Oklahoma and Texas (Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann), the 10th Circuit reread language in the Red River Compact — a compact among Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas — to mean that water-sharing among the signatories was voluntary, not mandatory. This begs the question, why did the states negotiate the complex agreement at all?

Here is the problem for Utah.

The decision turned on a provision common, in various wordings, to many of the nation’s interstate water compacts, including the one governing the Colorado. The provision says that when one state gives another the right to tap its water, it does not give up the right to enforce state laws on the waterway or impose its environmental standards or anything else — other than the water itself.

This kind of “we mean what we say and nothing more” language is in almost every major contract ever written. But, amazingly, the 10th Circuit’s three-judge panel read it to say that Oklahoma does not have to allow Texas the water guaranteed to it in the Red River Compact at all.

No act of legal revisionism by any court in the country has so much potential to generate economic disruption. If the Supreme Court declines to review, the ruling will become law in the 10th Circuit, covering Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Kansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

More water law coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting recap: Concern that Colorado does not have the ‘courage’ to build projects


Here’s a recap of the recent Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

“I’m left with the feeling that other states have the courage to embark on water projects. We don’t have that,” said Mike Gibson, president of Colorado Water Congress and manager of the San Luis Valley Conservancy District.

The task force reviewed projects that other Western states have undertaken — including California’s state water project, started in late 1950s, and a $19 billion project to manage demands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta; Arizona’s water bank program and Central Arizona Project; and Utah’s proposal to build a $1 billion Lake Powell pipeline similar to the Flaming Gorge proposal…

…the state lacks a water plan and unlike other states, has no way to centrally plan projects or allocate water.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here and <a href="