Ridgway Reservoir: Tri-State hopes to start on the hydropower generation facilities in June

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From The Watch (Peter Shelton):

On the heels of a new Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment released Feb. 25 by the Bureau of Reclamation, Mike Berry came before the Ouray Board of County Commissioners Tuesday with an update. Berry is general manager of Tri-County Water Conservancy District, which manages the dam and is building the power-generating facility at the base of the dam. Power wholesaler Tri-State Generation and Transmission will receive its permit to begin construction of the interconnection station and transmission lines when BuRec’s final EA is approved. Berry reported that Tri-State hopes to begin construction in June and finish the substation by November or December of this year.

“We hope to have the small generator up and running for this next winter,” Berry told the board. “It should be ready for Aspen’s PPA [Power Purchase Agreement].” The City of Aspen has contracted to purchase the wintertime output from the dam over 20 years. Tri-State, the wholesale electric supplier for San Miguel Power Association and the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, has agreed to purchase, for 10 years, the higher summertime output.

“Aspen probably won’t see any of those actual electrons,” Berry said. “They will most likely go to [the City of] Delta, which shares the same wholesaler, an outfit with the acronym MEAN out of Nebraska.”

Tri-County WCD is installing two generators, a smaller 800kV one that should run efficiently on the low, 30-60 cubic-feet-per-second flows in winter, and a bigger 7.2 megawatt one to run on summertime release levels. Together, they will provide enough juice to run 2,000 homes and take the equivalent, in greenhouse gases, of more than 4,000 cars off the road. The big generator should be ready for testing by April 2014, Berry said.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Monarch Mountain nets four feet of snow in four days, latest storm not included #codrought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

February ended with a flurry of powder at Monarch Mountain where 4 feet of snow fell in four days and readied the slopes for March Madness. Snowfall at Monarch continues to be plentiful with 16 inches of new snow falling in the first two days of this week. The resort boasts a 65-inch base and has had a total of 230 inches of snowfall — the equivalent of 19 feet — so far this season.

Snow totals from the National Weather Service Boulder office.

Kerber Creek restoration project update: 4,000 feet of stream bank restored

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From the Valley Courier (Trevor Klein):

Today, the Kerber Creek Restoration Project unites 16 partners in the effort to restore the Kerber Creek watershed, including the BLM; USFS; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Natural Resources Conservation Service; Trout Unlimited; CDPHE; the Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative; and the Bonanza Stakeholders’ Group, which represents the interests of Kerber Creek watershed private landowners. Since 2008, the Office of Surface Mining’s Western Hardrock Watershed Team/AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America Program (OSM/VISTA) has provided a full-time staff member to serve as the project’s watershed coordinator.

This partnership has allowed the project to treat more than 60 acres of mine waste deposits, to restore more than 4,000 feet of stream bank, and to raise more than $2 million in grant funding. The project has also enhanced the aquatic ecosystem of the main stem of Kerber Creek, encouraging the brook trout population that returned as a result of the 1990s cleanup efforts and even attracting brown trout from San Luis Creek, into which Kerber Creek ultimately flows. Furthermore, the partnership has helped to ensure that these improvements remain protected by beginning the process to acquire minimum in-stream flow rights for almost the entire length of Kerber Creek and two of its major tributaries. In recognition of these impressive achievements, the Kerber Creek Restoration Project has received six major awards at the regional, state, and national levels.

These accomplishments could not have been achieved without the help of numerous volunteers, who have contributed more than 13,000 hours to the project over the past six years. Brady and Jane Farrell, heavily involved members of the Bonanza Stakeholders Group, summarized their experience with the project in October, 2011:

“All in all, we believe this project has been a success in every way. We owe a huge debt of thanks to this project, its staff and to the members and volunteers of the various agencies that have worked with us to clean up and improve Kerber Creek… We feel lucky to be part of the Kerber Creek Stakeholders group.”

While the restoration of the Kerber Creek watershed is far from over, the project serves as a reminder of the importance of collaboration, persistence, and patience to the conservation and preservation of Colorado’s water resources. Over the past six years, the Kerber Creek Restoration Project has attempted to narrow the gap between an ecosystem degraded by the environmental effects of human activities and an ecosystem created and sustained by natural processes. Though the methods may differ, the principles remain the same; strong, lasting partnerships, the involvement of all interested stakeholders, and data-driven initiatives are required to ensure that Colorado’s water resources are protected for present and future generations.

More Upper Rio Grande River Basin coverage here and here.

Pitkin County is opposing the diligence claim for two dams in the Crystal River watershed as speculative

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Here’s an in-depth report from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Pitkin County wants a water court judge to rule that the planning period for a project that includes a dam on the upper Crystal River, and one on North Thompson Creek in the Thompson-Divide area, has lapsed since planning began in the late 1950s. The West Divide “conditional water rights continue to be water rights in search of a project,” the county told the court in its Feb. 22 motion. “The project is no closer to being funded and built in 2013 than it was in 1957” and the project remains “speculative,” according to the motion.

The county’s motion was filed in Division 5 water court in Glenwood Springs. Judge James Boyd is overseeing the case, which is set for trial in August. The county and other groups are opposing a diligence filing on the conditional water rights for the West Divide project held by the Colorado River District and the West Divide Water Conservancy District. The rights date to 1958.

More Crystal River Watershed coverage here and here.

Avon: Denver Water’s Bill Bates to discuss the relationship between water users on the Front Range and the Western Slope, March 11

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From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

The Watershed Council would like to invite you to join us for the fourth and final H2Know High Country Speaker Series!

We will welcome Bill Bates of Denver Water to discuss the relationship between water users on the Front Range and the Western Slope. Mr. Bates currently oversees the protection and development of water rights associated with Denver Water’s collection system. Prior to this, Bill supervised the water supply operations and reporting for the Denver Water collection system.

This High Country Speaker Series / Water Wise Wednesday is presented by the Eagle River Watershed Council, Walking Mountains Science Center and the Eagle Valley Library District…

Monday
March 11th
5:30-7:00 pm
Walking Mountains Science Center
Avon, CO

More education coverage here.

The latest monthly briefing from Western Water Assessment is hot off the press #codrought

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Click here to read the briefing. Click through for the graphics and detail. Here’s an excerpt:

Highlights

  • February precipitation was mainly below-average for the region, with the driest conditions across Utah; eastern Colorado and central Wyoming saw above-average precipitation.
  • Snowpacks are now below-average in nearly every basin across the region after a dry February caused the snowpacks in Utah and western Wyoming to lose ground compared to average conditions
  • The March 1 spring-summer streamflow forecasts for the region call for well-below-average (<70%) runoff in nearly all basins, reflecting both the low snowpacks and the unusually low soil moisture last fall
  • The NOAA CPC seasonal climate outlooks show a dry “tilt” for spring and early summer precipitation for most of our region, though the one-month outlook for March has no tilt. In contrast, the “SWcast” for April–June shows a wet tilt over Colorado and eastern Utah.
  • Fort Morgan: City Council hopes to score some grant money to study stormwater needs

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    From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

    The Fort Morgan City Council on Tuesday directed city staff to seek out grants to cover the cost of a study for how to implement a stormwater fee.
    “The recommendation from the (Stormwater) Ad Hoc Committee was to assess a fee to address stormwater issues,” Wells said. But he said that staff were not sure yet what fee would need to be to cover everything it would need to cover, or if that was what the council wanted.

    “If we do this, we want to make sure we do it the right way,” he said, suggesting a study. He said that some Colorado municipalities had put in place stormwater fees without studies, leading to questions from the people paying fees and even ballot issues eliminating the fees…

    The third option, which was the one that was recommended by the committee, would be to create a stormwater utility and assess a monthly fee to city residents. Wells explained that a big issue with this was how the money would be allocated in the budget between a new enterprise fund and where it used to come out of the general fund…

    The council did direct Wells and staff to find out more about the costs of study for stormwater fees, as well as seek grants to pay for that type of study. Wells did say that a stormwater fee study likely would cost between $30,000 to $50,000, but that grants may be available to cover about half of that cost.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.

    Julesburg: Final installment of the state’s Drought Summit webinars series March 19

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain:

    The final installment of the state’s Drought Summit webinars series will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 19 from Julesburg.

    The Internet seminar will focus on range management issues and management considerations for livestock producers. A Colorado State University pest management specialist will discuss grasshoppers.

    For more information, call 970-345-2287.

    Colorado lifts storage restriction at Cucharas Reservoir

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    From DailyMarkets.com:

    Two Rivers Water & Farming Company (www.2riverswater.com) announced today the storage restriction on the Cucharas Reservoir has been removed. The storage restriction had been on the Reservoir since July 1988. Two Rivers Water and Farming Company was able to complete the restoration with a loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Removal of the restriction is the first step in fulfilling the Colorado State Engineers Dam Safety Office compliance plan for the Reservoir. The restored reservoir can now hold up to 10,000 AF of water. Two Rivers expects to completely rebuild the reservoir in the near future and restore its full storage capacity. The Cucharas Reservoir has an absolute right to store 31,956 AF of water and a conditional right to store 34,404 AF when rebuilt.

    Two Rivers currently has the right to store in excess of 70,000 AF in four separate reservoirs and is in the process of developing as much as 25,000 AF of additional storage capacity on the Arkansas River. The storage is part of a rotational farm-fallowing program being developed by Two Rivers to expand its vegetable farm production and more efficiently use water amongst water users in Pueblo County, Colorado. Two Rivers is currently in discussions with Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs Utilities, as representatives of the Recovery of Yield Group, whereby the parties would collaboratively develop reservoir space and develop lease agreements to permit the use of return flows for irrigation and augmentation purposes.

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    Broomfield: Discussion of irrigation techniques and sprinkler systems Saturday

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    From the Broomfield Enterprise (Mike McNulty):

    The beauty of the Rocky Mountains is undeniable, especially when viewed from the plains. Unfortunately, these beautiful mountains create a rain shadow effect that limits the amount of precipitation the Front Range receives. Last year was a dry year, and despite the recent round of snows, this year could be another. We are already behind in moisture when compared to normal, and there is a possibility that some form of water restriction will be implemented this growing season.

    The Colorado Water Institute, an affiliate of Colorado State University, estimates that more than 50 percent of residential water consumption is used for landscape irrigation. With good water conservation practices and efficient use of this precious commodity, homeowners can drastically reduce this percentage while sustaining gardens and turf…

    As part of the Gardening Recycling Energy Environment Nature Program Series presented by Broomfield’s Parks and Environmental Services departments, a discussion of irrigation techniques and sprinkler systems will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Broomfield Recycling Center, 225 Commerce St. The program is free.

    More water conservation tips can be found at ext.colostate.edu/drought/eff_landscape.html.

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    More conservation coverage here.