The Telluride Town Council approves Bridal Veil settlement between the town and Idarado


From The Telluride Watch (Samantha Wright):

The agreement shores up Telluride’s ability to develop a new municipal water supply high above town in Bridal Veil Basin, and streamlines its path toward constructing the new Pandora Water Treatment Plant at the foot of Black Bear Pass.

Idarado, meanwhile, gets assurances that enough water from Bridal Veil Basin will continue to flow into the San Miguel River during low-flow winter months to dilute the zinc discharged by the historic Treasury Tunnel, thus enabling the mining company to adhere to strict state-imposed environmental obligations.

Council also unanimously passed on second reading a related ordinance authorizing the conveyance of certain remedial and residual water rights back to Idarado.

Witnessing the occasion were Larry Fisk, the vice president of Idarado Mining Company, and Jay Montgomery, a Boulder-based water rights attorney who for two decades has captained the town’s complicated legal skirmishes with Idarado.

Telluride obtained extensive water rights in Bridal Veil Basin from the Idarado Mining Co. in the 1992 settlement of a lawsuit arising out of the contamination of wells in Town Park. Over the course of years of legal wrangling, the town won the approval to convert those historic industrial water rights to municipal use.

More San Miguel Watershed coverage here and here.

CSU Agricultural Economists Surveying Farmers and Ranchers to Determine Drought Impact #CODrought


Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

Agricultural economists at Colorado State University are surveying farmers and ranchers to better understand the impact of the 2012 drought on Colorado agriculture – and to design effective management tools for dry times ahead.

“The question we ultimately want to address is, ‘How do we improve the resiliency of agriculture and rural communities in Colorado?’ because we expect more drought,” said James Pritchett, associate professor in the CSU Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, who is leading the survey project. “It’s time to make these systems more resilient, so they can adapt to changes ahead.”

Colorado producers may complete the online questionnaire by visiting

The CSU survey project, called “Telling the Story – Drought in Colorado,” is funded with $35,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Pritchett urges farmers and ranchers to complete the questionnaire by Jan. 1 so economists may begin compiling data shortly after the first of the year.

Economists are particularly interested in responses from an estimated 6,000 Colorado farms and ranches with annual income surpassing $100,000. These producers are at the core of the state’s agricultural industry – a leading industry that contributes some $40 billion each year to the Colorado economy, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

“We really want to take the temperature of what this drought has meant to farmers, ranchers and rural communities,” said Pritchett, who is a CSU Extension specialist in farm and ranch management. “That helps us design assistance going into the future.”

Among other issues, the survey asks producers about the likelihood that drought could force them out of farming and ranching. It also asks about tools and strategies producers need to improve management effectiveness in the face of drought.

The survey project is under way against the backdrop of drought that has intensely affected many regional farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Drought Monitor, which provides weekly updates, reports that all of Colorado is suffering from drought conditions, ranging from moderate to exceptional.

This was the case during much of the 2012 growing season, with the most severe known impacts on agricultural sectors that produce dryland crops, such as wheat, or that rely on forage, Pritchett said. The latter group includes cow-calf operations and sheep operations.

Data show the look ahead could be equally grim: Very little snow has accumulated in much of western Colorado, the state’s chief water source; meantime, temperatures have been above average, leading to melting of even low amounts of snowfall.

“There are large deficits in precipitation and snowpack,” the Colorado Climate Center, based at CSU, reported in its Colorado Drought Status Briefing this week. The briefing noted, however, that it is still early in the snow season.

A secondary effect of drought is on the economic vibrancy of rural communities, where farmers and ranchers live and conduct business, and this makes effective management strategies even more important, Pritchett noted. “The ripple effects can last for years,” he said.

Palmer Lake: The town council approves a water rate increase


From the Tri-Lakes Tribune (Lisa Collacott):

Town residents will see a water rate increase of three percent. Residents currently pay a base of $35.92, $3.59 for capital improvements and $11.51 for a loan. With the new rate increase they will pay $37.00 for the base an additional $0.11 for capital improvement bringing that total up to $3.70. However there is no increase to the amount residents pay on the loan.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Fort Morgan water, wastewater and sewer update


Here’s a roundup of water news from The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs). Click through for the detail. Here’s an excerpt:

It takes a lot of work every month for the city to provide Fort Morgan residents and businesses with the water resources they need. November was no exception to that statement. Brent Nation started in early November as the city’s new water resources and utility director, and he dove into the job. Nation’s end-of-month report to the Fort Morgan City Council detailed the many things he accomplished, as well as what happened in the water-related facilities under his purview…

Nation also represented the city at meetings for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which is a water storage project the city has already heavily invested in, even though it has yet to be approved.

More Morgan County coverage here.

‘The main feature of the Trinidad Project is Trinidad Dam’ — Jeris Danielson


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jeris Danielson):

Trinidad Lake, west of Trinidad, is the result of state legislation more than 50 years ago. The Purgatoire River Water Conservancy District was created by the state Legislature on Dec. 2, 1960. The district is capable of contracting with the United States for repayment of the irrigation, municipal and industrial uses of the Trinidad Project and to provide a management entity to oversee the project.

Other responsibilities include: Surveying existing water resources and basin rivers; taking actions necessary to secure an adequate supply of water — present and future; constructing water reservoirs; entering into contracts with other water agencies, (such as the Bureau of Reclamation), organizing special assessment districts, providing for instream flows for fisheries; and other legal responsibilities needed by the district to fulfill its purposes.

On Feb. 10, 1967, the district executed a repayment contract with the United States whereby it assumed a debt of $6.46 million to be repaid over a 70-year period.

The main feature of the Trinidad Project is Trinidad Dam, located several miles west of Trinidad on the Purgatoire River in Las Animas County. The dam, which was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers, is of earth-fill construction — having a height of 208 feet above the stream bed and crest elevation of 6,298 feet.
Trinidad Lake, the reservoir created by the dam, has a total capacity of 125,967 acre-feet, which is allocated to the following uses:

  • Flood control: 51,000 acre-feet
  • Irrigation, municipal and industrial: 20,000 acre-feet
  • Permanent recreation and fishery: 15,967 acre-feet
  • Joint use and sediment pool: 39,000 acre-feet
  • The irrigation and joint use pools are utilized to provide storage for irrigation by 10 project ditches that irrigate up to 19,499 acres in the project area, for municipal use by the city of Trinidad and for recreational use by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. Each of the participating ditches have repayment contracts with the district and make annual payments based upon available water during the year.

    The district retains operational control of all water rights owned by the ditches and allocates water available on an equitable basis to all project acres. Once the reservoir is declared empty by the district board, exercise of the water rights reverts to the respective ditches under normal priority administration.

    Jeris Danielson is general manager of the Purgatoire River Water Conservancy District.

    More Purgatoire River coverage here.

    Gunnison River: New dam will replace the Relief Ditch diversion structure


    Click here (scroll down) for photos and a description of the ongoing work from the Gunnison Gorge Anglers.

    From the Montrose Daily Press (Will Hearst):

    Anyone who has ever rafted down a river likely has encountered a strainer — a potentially dangerous feature, most often a log jam, that lets water through but traps larger, solid items being carried downstream, including boats and bodies.

    For many years, the Relief Ditch Diversion on the Gunnison River just upstream from Austin has consisted of rocks, concrete slabs and vertical steel bars. The purpose of the structure is to divert water to the farming fields east of Delta. But the side effects include a danger to river users, a virtual wall for migrating fish and a lot of work for the Relief Ditch Irrigation Company.

    On Thursday, ground was broken on a new $750,000 dam designed to solve those problems for all involved, including three species of rare fish that call the river home. The catalyst for the project was Trout Unlimited, a coldwater conservation organization, but it also was made possible by the collaboration of the Bureau of Land Management and the Relief Ditch Irrigation Company.

    Follow this link to the removal and replacement of a push-up dam up in Oregon if you want to learn a bit about the dam type.

    More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.