Major improvements get underway in Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam


Here’s the release from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Heavy equipment operators will be placing large rocks and boulders in the Arkansas River the next couple of months as part of a habitat improvement project below Pueblo Dam. Work is set to begin Feb. 11.

“There will be a temporary inconvenience to anglers in the first three miles below the dam during construction, but the long-term impact will improve fishing,” said Doug Krieger, a senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“Anglers may encounter front-end loaders and heavy equipment during the construction portion of the project, but the long-term implications are that there will be more structures that hold fish,” said Krieger.

The work is part of Phase II of a project that originally began in 2004. Since completion of Phase I in 2005, the Arkansas River through Pueblo has gained a reputation as a premier fishing location.

The Phase II portion of the project consists of improving fish habitat structures along approximately seven miles of the river from the dam to Dutch Clark Stadium. Sixty percent of the work will be modifications to existing structures that were installed in 2004 and 2005. The remaining 40 percent will be the installation of additional rock and log structures. Approximately 3,000 additional boulders will be added.

A hiking trail and bike path runs along the entire stretch of river through the city, making it accessible by foot. There are several access points where anglers can park right next to the river.

Because Pueblo Reservoir creates clear, cool water and stable outflows from November until the middle of March, anglers have an opportunity to enjoy stream fishing during times of the year when most streams are locked in winter conditions.

The project will significantly increase available fishable water through the city of Pueblo, thereby providing more angling opportunity, less crowding and greater angler satisfaction.

Partners in the project include the City of Pueblo, The Pueblo Conservancy District, The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Trout Unlimited, Xcel Energy, the Packard Foundation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

CWCB: Next Water Availability Task Force meeting, February 14 #codrought #cowx


From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

The next Water Availability Task Force meeting is on Thursday, February 14 from 9:30a-12noon & will be held at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Headquarters, 6060 Broadway, Denver in the Bighorn Room.

The agenda will be posted at the CWCB website in the next few days.

More CWCB coverage here.

Forecast news: Winter storm winding down across Colorado #codrought #cowx

Snowpack/drought news: San Miguel, Animas, Dolores, San Juan slightly ahead of last year #codrought #cowx



Click on the thumbnail graphics for the current statewide snowpack map and the latest U.S. Drought Monitor Map. The storms over the weekend are not reflected in the snowpack map. There may be an update today from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Individually, the San Juan and Dolores watersheds were showing average snowpack yesterday.

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):

As of Feb. 1, the snowpack in the San Juan/Animas/Dolores and San Miguel basins of southwestern Colorado was around 88 percent of normal. While snow levels might not be drastically far from average, state hydrologists say a significant amount of new snow would be needed to end the ongoing drought. The next two months will be crucial in terms of snowfall because a full third of yearly snowfall in Colorado typically falls between January and March.

“We really just have February and March left — during those months we receive around 20 percent of the snowpack, and so to recover in that amount of time could be difficult,” said Mage Hultstrand, assistant snow supervisor with the Colorado Snow Survey. “The snow we received [in late January] is really good, but we still have a ways to go to reach average conditions. After last year’s below average [snowpack], the storage in our reservoirs has dropped significantly. So this is kind of a vital year in terms of replenishing those.”

This year’s snowpack is slightly higher than it was in early February last year, according to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Both this year and last year’s snowpack are far below the previous two years, which saw above average snowfall…

Last year, a month-long string of storms gave the snowpack a boost in February, but the skies dried up in March and snowpack hit a plateau. Warm, dry temperatures that followed in the spring led to rapid melting, and by June 1 the snowpack was completely gone. Snowpack in the mountains typically hangs on until July.

Data from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that all of San Miguel County is classified as experiencing severe drought — which has been unchanged since last summer.

Snowfall data shows there was little or no snowpack in the region until mid-November, and the next major storm did not blow in until mid-December. However, since then the snowpack has grown steadily.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ryan Maye Handy):

At Monday’s informal Colorado Springs City Council meeting, Utilities will propose a plan to help the city grapple with the persistent drought that, it believes, will continue to plague Colorado into the summer months. Utilities will present water restriction guidelines to council, along with an overview of the drought and water situation in El Paso County and suggestions on how to get residents to cut down on water use. If the plans are eventually adopted by the council, the water restrictions should go into effect on April 1. Utilities officials are seeking approval in early March.

“We have been here before,” said Utilities spokeswoman Patrice Lehermeier on Friday. “It was not as drastic as we are now seeing.”

The phenomenal amount of snowfall and precipitation in 2011 carried Colorado through 2012 without water restrictions being imposed in El Paso County, said Lehermeier. But, the reserve moisture and water that allowed Colorado Springs homeowners to water their lawns regularly last summeris no longer there. Instead, the city has started 2013 in greater need of precipitation.

To balance the unusually high amount of water used in Colorado Springs last summer — and to create a decent reserve of water for public safety concerns, such as firefighting — Utilities has come up with two main alternatives for homeowners. Starting on April 1, pending council approval, restrictions may include two day or three day per week watering restrictions, or a drought surcharge for those whose water use surpasses the restrictions.

Last summer, the city consumed the highest amount of water — 28.7 billion gallons — since 2001, Utilities statistics show. In 2012, the average annual temperature was the highest it had been since 1895…

Colorado is among a handful of Western states that could be hard-hit by the dwindling water supply this year, according to January stream flow forecasts from the Natural Resource Conservation Service. January got off to slow start, precipitation-wise, and snowpack levels are the fourth lowest they have been in 32 years, according to the report updated monthly.

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Arkansas River basin snowpack ended January at 63 percent of average, second lowest among Colorado river basins. Only the South Platte basin recorded a lower snowpack percentage, 54 percent, according to data compiled by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From the Leadville Herald-Democrat (Marcia Martinek):

Some unusual weather in January was noted by Charles Kuster, the Herald’s weather guru, starting with a string of low daily minimum temperatures. Between Dec. 28, 2012, and Jan. 22, 2013, there were 26 days in a row when the low daily minimum temperatures were below zero, Kuster said. This was the second-longest stretch in his 29 years here charting weather statistics. The longest was between Jan. 10 and Feb. 7, 2008, when there was a 29-day stretch. The winter of 2007-2008 had 82 days when the temperature was zero or lower; the average here is about 60 days.

For seven days in a row, Dec. 28, 2012, to Jan. 3, the minimum lows were -10 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, setting a record, according to Kuster. The lowest temperature experienced here in an average year is -22 to -26 below zero although this is actually around -20 for those who live within Leadville city limits, Kuster said. He lives in Lake County.

Snow measured 8.9 inches in January, Kuster said. The average snowfall for January is 17 inches, so we’re at about 50 percent of normal. “When a year starts with an El Niño, there’s never normal snowfall,” Kuster said. His unofficial prediction is for below normal precipitation in February, March and April.

“I’m hoping I’m wrong,” he said.

The Greeley Tribune editorial staff comes out in favor of NISP


From The Greeley Tribune via the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):

We agree with Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar when he said last week that a combination of conservation and new water storage are needed to solve an impending catastrophe for farmers and

Salazar was referring to a projected 600,000 acre-foot water shortage that is expected to hit Colorado by the
year 2050.

Speaking at last week’s Colorado Farm Show, Salazar said municipal users, including those of us who apply a
vast amount of water to our Kentucky bluegrass, must get smarter about water consumption. He also said
farmers and ranchers must take better advantage of technology to do a better job of conserving water. And he
said, too, that water-storage projects (can you say Northern Integrated Supply Project?) must be part of the
state’s 50-year water plan.

We agree on all three accounts.

Salazar’s message hits home with extra impact this winter. Statewide snowpack is sitting at 67 percent of
average, and many of the state’s reservoirs already range from near empty to two-thirds full. Unless the final
three months of the winter provide bountiful snow, Colorado could very well be facing the reality of a water
shortage starting this summer.

Salazar pointed out that Coloradans consume about 120 gallons of water every day. Australians, by
comparison, use 36 gallons per day. That stark difference points out that more can, and must, be done to
conserve the water we use on an everyday basis. Those who grow crops certainly must be participants in that,
and we know from previous coverage that some Weld County farmers already are converting to drip irrigation
systems, which save a considerable amount of water compared to the conventional flood irrigation. Residential
water users must do a better job of embracing xeriscaping and reducing other household water consumption,
and we know that Greeley has been among the state’s leaders in securing significant water savings over the
past few years.

But we must do more.

And that includes building more water storage. The NISP project in northern Colorado is one of the most
responsible, common-sense water storage projects this state has seen in decades. It has to win the approval
of federal regulatory agencies, but we would expect that to happen within a few years and hopefully
construction can start soon thereafter.

Salazar said “massive cooperation” must occur for the state to meet its future water needs. We would agree,
and if we don’t, we’re likely to encounter a massive water problem.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

The January Colorado River District board meeting summary is hot off the press #coriver


Click here to read the summary. Thanks to Jim Pokrandt for sending it along in email.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.