The Colorado River District Launches 2013 Water Resources Grant Program #CORiver


From email from the Colorado River Water Conservancy District (Martha Moore):

As of December 1st, the Colorado River District is accepting grant applications for projects that protect, enhance or develop water resources within its 15-county region. The Colorado River District includes all watersheds of the Colorado River within western Colorado, except those that drain to the San Juan River or to the Dolores River upstream of the Mesa County line.

Projects eligible for the grant program must achieve one or more of the following objectives:

¨ develop a new water supply
¨ improve an existing system
¨ improve instream water quality
¨ increase water use efficiency
¨ reduce sediment loading
¨ implement a watershed management action
¨ control tamarisk
¨ protect pre-1922 Colorado River Compact water rights

Previous successfully grant-funded projects have included the construction of new water storage, the enlargement of existing water storage or diversion facilities, rehabilitation of non-functioning or restricted water storage / delivery / diversion structures, implementation of water efficiency improvements and watershed enhancements. Such projects that utilize water rights that are senior to 1922 will be given additional ranking priority over similar projects that do not. Each project will be ranked based upon its own merits in accordance with published ranking criteria.

Successful grantees can receive up to a maximum of $150,000 (or approximately 25% of the total project cost; in the case of smaller projects, this percentage may be slightly higher) for their project. The total amount available for the 2013 competitive grant program is $250,000. The application deadline is Jan. 31, 2013.

To access the Water Resources Grant Program application, guidelines and policies, please visit For additional information please contact Dave Kanzer, P.E., or Alesha Frederick; Colorado River District, PO Box 1120, Glenwood Springs, CO 80601; 970-945-8522; or

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Custer County: The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District is pushing its augmentation plan


From The Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

Once again, Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board chairman Bob Senderhauf urged the county commissioners to move forward with bringing a water augmentation plan to Custer County. Such discussion ensued during a regular county commissioner’s meeting earlier this month…

…the commissioners have met in Salida with the UAWCD board. During one meeting, UAWCD board chairman Bob Senderhauf asked the county commissioners to consider signing a memorandum of understanding with the UAWCD outlining the details regarding how the two entities should proceed with bringing a proposed water augmentation plan to water court. That has yet to occur.

During the recent commissioners meeting, Senderhauf said that the UAWCD continued to pursue the building of reservoirs in the county as part of a blanket water augmentation plan, and those reservoirs would help to keep Custer County water in Custer County.

More Custer County coverage here and here.

Forecast news: Will there be a change in the dry and warm Colorado weather starting next weekend? #CODrought #COwx


From the National Weather Service Pueblo Office:

After a long stretch of extremely dry and very warm weather, there are some signs that our area may finally see some winter weather by next weekend or early next week. A front will bring cooler weather and possibly some light precipitation on Thursday, setting the stage for a second, much stronger storm system by late in the weekend. It is too early to say for sure how this storm will develop, and whether it will bring any significant precipitation to the area, but it does look increasingly likely that we will return to more seasonable conditions by next weekend or early next week. Stay tuned!

Snowpack news: ‘Do we know what this winter is going to do? No’ — Nolan Doesken #CODrought


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Heather McGregor):

The weather patterns of this year and the two preceding years have only been seen once before in recorded weather data, in the 1950s. And the outcome that time was a prolonged drought lasting for three years, Doesken said. But one set of precedent years doesn’t make for a secure prediction now, [State Climatologist Nolan Doesken] said…

Snowpack in the Colorado River watershed, from Grand Junction to the Continental Divide, is at 41 percent of average for Nov. 30, according to data on the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service website. In the state’s eight major river basins, snowpack ranges from a low of 27 percent in the Arkansas to 52 percent in the Platte.

Reservoir storage is also below normal for late fall, at the end of a year that has already been extremely dry. Ruedi Reservoir on the Fryingpan River is 44 feet below its high water mark and holding 63 percent of capacity, said Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Green Mountain Reservoir on the Blue River is 53 feet below its high water mark and holding just 44 percent of capacity, she said. At both reservoirs, releases are greater than the estimated inflow, so reservoir levels continue to inch downward…

But in the one known example of two La Niña years followed by a “No Niño,” huge snowfall occurred in December 1951, but 1953 through 1956 were very dry years.

“There are lots of uncertainties,” Doesken said. “We don’t know for sure, but there is a nagging concern with the storm track missing southern California and not delivering much of anything to Colorado. We could be looking at a second dry year for northern Colorado, and a third dry year for southern Colorado.”

Crystal River: Momentum building for Wild and Scenic designation


Here’s an analysis of efforts to protect the Crystal River under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for The Aspen Daily News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Thirty-nine miles of the Crystal River are already “eligible” for designation under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Now four organizations are building local support to determine if much of the river is also “suitable” for protection under the act.

Passed in 1968, the act allows local and regional communities to develop a federally backed management plan designed to preserve and protect a free-flowing river such as the Crystal River, which runs from the back of the Maroon Bells to the lower Roaring Fork River through Crystal, Marble, Redstone and Carbondale.

Wild and Scenic status, which ultimately requires an act of Congress to obtain, prevents a federal agency from approving, or funding, a new dam or reservoir on a Wild and Scenic-designated river.

And that’s one big reason why Pitkin County, the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA) and American Rivers are exploring Wild and Scenic status for the Crystal — because it would likely block a potential dam and reservoir from being built at Placita, an old coal town between Marble and Redstone.

The West Divide Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River District are fighting to retain conditional water rights that could allow for a dam across the Crystal and a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir.

The river district says such a reservoir could put more water in the often parched lower Crystal River in the fall and could also provide hydropower…

Chuck Wanner, a former Fort Collins city council member, said at the meetings that it took 10 years to get sections of the Cache La Poudre River on the Eastern Slope designated under Wild and Scenic.

Today, that’s the only river in the state that carries the designation and no river in the vast Colorado River basin is officially Wild and Scenic.

When asked about that via email, Ely of Pitkin County said he thought Colorado had only one designated river because of the “lack of information as to the benefits and restrictions of the designation, and the time and dedication it takes to get it through Congress.”

Another reason may be that once a river is designated Wild and Scenic, the federal government becomes a stakeholder on the river and has a chance to review potential changes to it, such as any new water rights. Some may feel that Colorado water law is complicated enough already.

And then there is the fact that designation eliminates the possibility of federal funding for future water projects, which can dampen the enthusiasm of most cities, counties and water districts.

Whatever the reasons for scarcity in Colorado, Pitkin County is ready to lead a Wild and Scenic process for the Crystal River.

“I think the Crystal has the potential to be a nice clean straightforward effort because there are no out-of-basin uses yet,” Ely wrote. “If there is interest in going forward, we’re happy to be the laboring oar and do that work.”[…]

While today only the Cache la Poudre River has stretches that are designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the BLM is preparing a suitability study on a number of area river stretches.

A final EIS is expected to be released in early 2013 by the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office followed by a record of decision in 2014 for the following rivers and river sections:

• Abrams Creek

• Battlement Creek

• Colorado River — State Bridge to Dotsero

• Colorado River — Glenwood Canyon to approximately 1-mile east of No Name Creek

• Deep Creek — From the BLM/Forest Service land boundary to the Deep Creek ditch diversion

• Deep Creek — From the Deep Creek ditch diversion to the BLM/private land boundary

• Eagle River

• Egeria Creek

• Hack Creek

• Mitchell Creek

• No Name Creek

• Rock Creek

• Thompson Creek

• East Middle Fork Parachute Creek Complex

• East Fork Parachute Creek Complex

For more information on regarding Wild and Scenic suitability on these rivers, search for “Colorado River Valley Draft Resource Management Plan,” which will lead you to a BLM website that contains the draft EIS document.

The BLM is also reviewing a number of stretches on major rivers in Colorado, either for eligibility or suitability, including:

• Animas River

• Dolores River

• San Miguel River

• Gunnison River

• Colorado River

• Blue River

In all, according to Deanna Masteron, a public affairs specialist with the BLM in Lakewood, the BLM is currently analyzing more than 100 segments in Colorado through various land-use plans. The Forest Service also has the ability to analyze rivers for Wild and Scenic designation.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here and here.