It will be standing room only at the Northern Water board meeting Thursday #ColoradoRiver

Snowpack news: Upper Rio Grande River Basin snowpack = 62% of avg #codrought

Click here to view today’s Basin High/Low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Down in New Mexico they watch inflows from Colorado closely:

Reclamation’s Fiscal Year Budget Request is more than $1 Billion

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Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan DuBray):

President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request released today identifies a total of $1.050 billion for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, continuing the President’s commitment to be prudent with taxpayer dollars while setting consistent spending priorities for Reclamation. The budget request for the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier and second-largest producer of hydroelectric power includes the proposed transition of the Central Utah Project Completion Act (CUPCA) into the bureau’s budget, instead of the departmental budget. On a comparable basis to include CUPCA funding, this amounts to a decrease of $26.8 million below the FY2012 enacted level and $33.4 million below the initial 2013 Continuing Resolution, P.L. 112-175.

“The Reclamation budget announced today reflects this administration’s commitment to creating and sustaining jobs, while striving to meet water delivery requirements in the West,” Commissioner Michael L. Connor said. “The FY 2014 budget reflects many difficult budget choices, with cost-cutting actions, in order to fund the highest priority requirements—promoting efficient water deliveries and power generation, while also actively implementing critical river restoration programs. We’re proud also to have funding in this budget to support our goals of strengthening tribal nations by implementing water rights settlements.”

The proposal for Reclamation’s Water and Related Resources account of $791.1 million includes $373.3 million for resource management and development activities. This funding provides for planning, construction, water conservation activities, management of Reclamation lands, including recreation, and actions to address the impacts of Reclamation projects on fish and wildlife. The request also emphasizes reliable water delivery and power generation by requesting $417.8 million to fund operation, maintenance and rehabilitation activities at Reclamation facilities, including dam safety.

The budget emphasizes Reclamation’s core mission to address the water needs of a growing population in an environmentally responsible and cost-efficient manner; and to assist states, tribes and local entities in solving water resource issues. It also emphasizes the operation and maintenance of Reclamation facilities in a safe, efficient, economic and reliable manner—ensuring systems and safety measures are in place to protect the public and Reclamation facilities.

Reclamation’s funding request addresses administration, departmental and bureau priorities, including America’s Great Outdoors Initiative through ecosystem restoration, renewable energy, water conservation and the WaterSMART Program, strengthening tribal nations and youth recruitment activities.

The budget request proposes to transition the CUPCA Program into the Bureau of Reclamation as part of broader administration efforts to implement good government solutions, ensure consistent treatment of federal water projects, consolidate activities when possible and reduce duplication and overlap. The FY 2014 CUPCA budget is $3.5 million.

Specifics of the budget request include:

America’s Great Outdoors Initiative – Reclamation has a responsibility to focus on the protection and restoration of the aquatic and riparian environments affected by its operations. Highlights of Reclamation’s AGO ecosystem restoration activities, many of which support Endangered Species Act (ESA) recovery programs, include:

  • $152.5 million for the Central Valley Project (CVP). Within this total, $14 million and an additional $2 million in the CVP Restoration Fund is for the Trinity River Restoration program; and $38.2 million continues court ordered actions for drainage services in the West San Joaquin Division, San Luis Unit.
  • $27.8 million Lower Colorado River Operations Program, of which $18.2 million is for the Multi-Species Conservation Program to provide long-term ESA compliance for river operations.
  • $26 million for activities consistent with the settlement of Natural Resources Defense Council v. Rodgers as authorized by the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act to restore and maintain fish populations, and restore and avoid adverse water impacts.
  • $21.2 million for ESA recovery implementation programs, including $10.1 million to implement the Platte River Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program and $8.5 million for the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin Endangered Fish Recovery Programs.
  • $18 million for the Klamath Project, which supports studies and initiatives to improve water supplies to meet the competing demands of agricultural, tribal, wildlife refuge and environmental needs along with facilities operations and maintenance activities.
  • $37 million for the California Bay-Delta Restoration Fund activities aligned with the Interim Federal Action Plan issued Dec. 22, 2009— including $25.5 million to address the degraded Bay-Delta ecosystem; $9.9 million for smarter water supply and use and $1.7 million for a renewed federal-state partnership.
  • $53.3 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund to continue funding a variety of activities to restore fish and wildlife habitat and populations in the CVP service area of California.
  • $25.9 million for the Middle Rio Grande Project, of which $10.2 million is targeted to support environmental activities developed through the Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program.
  • $18 million for the Columbia and Snake River Salmon Recovery Project for implementation of the biological opinions for the Federal Columbia River Power System.
  • WaterSMART Program – The FY 2014 budget for Reclamation proposes $35.4 million for the WaterSMART Program – Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow — to assist communities in stretching water supplies and improving water management. The WaterSMART Program components include: WaterSMART Grants funded at $12 million; the Basin Studies Program funded at $4.7 million; the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program funded at $14 million; a new external water resources grants program — the Shared Investment Water Innovation Program — funded at $1 million; the Water Conservation Field Services Program, funded at $3.4 million; and the Cooperative Watershed Management Program, funded at $250,000.

    Strengthening tribal nations – The total budget for Reclamation’s implementation of Indian Water Rights Settlements in 2014 is $99.7 million in current funding. Of this amount, Reclamation is proposing establishment of an Indian Water Rights Settlements account of $78.7 million to ensure continuity in the construction of five of the authorized projects and to highlight and enhance transparency in use of these funds.

    This includes $18.2 million to continue implementation of the four settlements authorized in the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. These settlements will deliver clean water to the Taos Pueblo of New Mexico, the Pueblos of New Mexico named in the Aamodt case, the Crow Tribe of Montana and the White Mountain Apache Tribe of Arizona. The budget also includes $60.5 million for the ongoing Navajo-Gallup Water Supply project (Title X of Public Law 111-11). Additionally, $60 million in new permanent authority is available in 2014 for the Indian water rights settlements.

    The budget also requests $21 million in the Water and Related Resources Account for on-going settlement operation and maintenance functions including the Ak Chin Indian Water Rights Settlement Act, San Carlos Apache Tribe Water Settlement Act, Colorado Ute Settlement Act Animas-La Plata Project and Nez Perce/Snake River Water Rights Act which is part of the Columbia and Snake River Recovery Project.

    Other project highlights include –

  • $40 million for rural water projects to undertake the design and construction of five projects and operation and maintenance of tribal features for two projects intended to deliver potable water supplies to specific rural communities and tribes located primarily in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.
  • A total of $15.4 million is provided for the Yakima River Basin. This includes $7.4 million to operate and maintain existing project facilities and $8 million for the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, which will continue funding grants to implement conservation measures and monitor the effects of those measures on the river diversions.
  • $88.1 million for the Dam Safety Program to continue dam safety risk management and risk reduction activities throughout Reclamation’s inventory of dams. Corrective actions are planned to start or continue at a number of facilities. A major focus continues to be modifications at Folsom Dam (California).
  • $27.8 million for site security to continue Reclamation’s ongoing site-security program that includes physical security upgrades at key facilities, guards and patrols, anti-terrorism program activities and security risk assessments.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation, throughout the 17 western states, is committed to helping meet the many water challenges of the West. A driving force behind bureau initiatives is resolution of water issues that will benefit future generations and providing leadership on the path to sustainable water supplies.

    Colorado Springs Utilities plans to spend $6 million on efforts to mitigate the Waldo Canyon burn scar

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    From the USDA Blog (Mike Stearly):

    The U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Springs (Colo.) Utilities recently announced a new 5-year partnership to help restore the areas burned by the devastating Waldo Canyon Fire that tore through part of the west side of the city in 2012.

    Through the partnership, Colorado Springs Utilities will invest approximately $6 million in support of the watershed health goals and activities over the next five to 10 years. The Forest Service will complete on-the-ground project planning and treatment in areas that complement Colorado Springs Utilities investments.

    During an event at the Flying W Ranch – a 60-year-old tourist attraction destroyed in the fire – Harris Sherman, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, met with Congressman Doug Lamborn, U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennett, and representatives from the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, El Paso County Commissioners and the city of Colorado Springs.

    “This partnership will ensure improved water quality for the residents of Colorado Springs,” Sherman said. “Collaborating on watershed restoration will have a long-term positive impact on forest and watershed health and allows us to accomplish more on-the-ground projects.”

    The innovative partnership between Colorado Springs Utilities and the Forest Service is preserving and protecting crucial watersheds that provide water to Colorado’s second largest city. The signing of the agreement establishes work to reduce wildfire risk, restore burned areas, minimize erosion impacts and coordinates pre-suppression wildland fire efforts.

    “This agreement … solidifies a critical partnership with the Forest Service, a partnership that has benefited our water supply and community for decades,” said Gary Bostrom, chief water services officer for Colorado Springs Utilities. “Our ongoing relationship with the Forest Service will help us channel customer rate dollars in the most efficient way possible to protect our most vital resource and the forest that surrounds it.”

    The human-caused Waldo Canyon fire started June 23, 2012, and left a scar of more than 18,000 acres, cost millions of dollars to fight, caused the evacuation of 32,000 people, destroyed 346 homes and killed two people. The fire has since been labeled the largest, most expensive and destructive fire in Colorado’s history.

    More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here and here.

    Drought/snowpack news: Snowfall totals from the recent storm disappoint, more storms on the way #codrought #cowx

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jeff Tucker/Tracy Harmon):

    The winds and snow started in the San Luis Valley just after dawn Tuesday. Wind gusts reached as high as 36 mph. Volunteer spotters reported 4.1 inches of snow in Creede, 1.5 inches in Alamosa, 1.4 inches near Monte Vista and 1.5 inches near Villa Grove in Saguache County…

    Monarch Mountain reported 8 inches of new snow while Salida residents reported 6 inches. Nathrop weather spotters reported 7 inches of snow. Custer County residents reported 3 to 4 inches of snow. Light snow fell throughout the day in Canon City but there was no measurable accumulation.

    From the National Weather Service Pueblo office:

    Wednesday will be a less windier day, but still chilly across southeastern Colorado. Expect a few mountains snow showers through the day with light accumulations expected. Temperatures will be in the mid 30s’ and low 40’s across the San Luis Valley, eastern plains, and I-25 corridor. Expect teens and 20’s in the higher elevations. By the end of the week..temperatures will rebound into the 50s and 60s once again.

    From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

    The low pressure system that brought the unsettled weather of late will exit the area early this morning, although scattered snow showers will linger over the mountains of Colorado today. Another disturbance seen off the Pacific Northwest Coast will push through Thursday and Thursday night bringing another round of precipitation, including several inches of mountain snowfall. Temperatures will be well below normal the next two days, with freeze warnings for central and southern sections of the region where the growing season has already begun. An extended period of unsettled weather is expected Saturday through early next week, with rain, snow, and windy conditions at times.

    Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Region #ColoradoRiver

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    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary from the Colorado Climate Center. Click here for all the summaries.

    Parachute Creek spill: ‘We don’t know the extent of this thing yet’ — Todd Hartman #ColoradoRiver

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    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

    Work crews at the site of a hydrocarbon leak have found evidence that unknown hydrocarbons are present in ground water on both sides of Parachute Creek. According to an update provided by the state, new evidence of hydrocarbons has appeared in a monitoring well on the south side of the creek, although test results to identify the compounds were not available as of Monday evening…

    A leak from a pipeline, storage tank or other equipment in the area is believed to have caused the plume, although the precise source of the hydrocarbon leak has yet to be found, according to Williams.

    Early reports from the plume site, about four miles up the creek from the town of Parachute, had put the size of the plume at 200 feet by 70 feet by 14 feet deep. Some unofficial reports have expanded the estimate to nearly twice that size, but a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources said on Monday that any estimate at this point would be sheer guesswork. “We don’t know the extent of this thing yet,” said Todd Hartman, public information officer for the DNR and the commission.

    According to reports, water samples from several wells have shown benzene in the water at levels ranging from 1,900 parts per billion to 18,000 parts per billion…

    In addition to the new wells, according to Hartman’s statement, Williams has begun digging a series of trenches “designed to lower the ground water level and remove liquid hydrocarbons and contaminated water from near the stream’s edge.”[…]

    Hartman also reported the appearance of a form of diesel fuel or diesel oil, known as “diesel range organics” or DRO, attached to the absorbent “booms” deployed by Williams in case hydrocarbons are spotted in the creek. According to Hartman’s report, samples taken on March 9, one upstream of the site and the other adjacent to the site, both showed the presence of the diesel-like substance. But, the report continued, “subsequent sampling at the March 9 locations have not revealed DRO, nor has DRO been detected in any other surface water sampling locations throughout the investigation.”

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    State environmental overseers on Monday concluded that no benzene has seeped into the creek. The creek flows into the Colorado River. The Williams energy company runs a gas-processing plant along the creek. However, benzene at elevated levels, far above state limits, is being detected in groundwater. And state authorities said “diesel range organics” at levels from 213 to 349 parts per million have been detected in spongy boom material that was laid out across the creek over a 10-day period. The source of the spill has not been identified. “We know that, within 10 feet of Parachute Creek, groundwater monitoring wells are showing high levels of benzene contamination and in some cases hydrocarbon liquids,” state natural resources spokesman Todd Hartman said. “Our understanding of the groundwater and water level data is that, at this point, it’s a losing stream, meaning the creek recharges the groundwater. But we are still taking measures to move contamination away from the creek.”[…]

    Williams’ former environmental supervisor Doug Parce, directly involved in the early days of the response, said the diesel most likely comes from road runoff. Williams’ crews “are going to keep doing whatever we can” to protect the creek, Parce said. “We’re not just going to sit back and watch things develop … We’ve determined that the flow vector is from the creek into the groundwater, not the other way around.”

    From KDVR.com (Eli Stokols):

    On Tuesday, for the first time since the leak was initially detected, harmful compounds known as “Diesel Range Organics” were detected in a sample taken from the creek itself, which flows directly into the Colorado River — although that sample, inexplicably, was found upstream from the epicenter of the hydrocarbon leak itself. That upstream location showed the chemicals at 3.3 parts per million, just below the 5 parts per million state health limit. Tuesday’s samples of surface water from Parachute Creek closer to the spill site and downstream from it tested negative for chemicals.

    So far, groundwater contamination has been detected within 10 feet of the creek itself closer to the leaking pipeline. “It is too close for comfort and it makes us nervous,” Matt Lepore, the director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, told FOX31 Denver. “We are seeing contamination in some of the bore-holes we’ve done within 10 feet of the creek. So everyone’s still on very high alert. “We’re trying to move quickly and that’s a bit of a relative term. We got to poke holes in the ground with drill rigs and take samples.”[…]

    “There’s 30 million people downstream from Parachute who use the water of the Colorado River,” said Dave Devanney, who lives nearby in Battlement Mesa and is part of a citizens group that’s raising concerns about oil and gas development in the area…

    According to Bob Arrington, a retired engineer, the 30-inch pipeline where the leak most likely occurred runs beneath the creek, which could explain the contamination on both sides of the creek. “It could have been leaking for years,” Arrington told FOX31 Denver.

    Lepore concedes that a gradual, long-term leak may be causing the hydrocarbon leak. “The operators who have the pipelines are transporting through the pipelines what is, for them, valuable product; and they monitor those flow lines and they monitor that pressure,” Lepore said…

    The ongoing environmental contamination here comes just as the state legislature, now entering its final 30-day stretch, takes up a series of Democratic bills dealing with the oil and gas industry. One of them, House Bill 1267, would increase the fines that can be imposed on companies like Williams Energy, which is responsible for the leaking pipeline in Parachute. Currently, the state caps the fines that can be imposed for environmental mishaps at $1,000 per day and caps the total fine at $10,000 — those fines are the lowest in the country and haven’t been updated for decades. H.B. 1267, sponsored by Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette,would increase the maximum daily fine to $15,000, set a minimum daily fine of $5,000 for violations that adversely impact public health, safety or welfare and remove any cap on the total amount of fines that can be imposed as a result of any one incident…

    Devanney, who’s well aware of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s background as a geologist and what he views as a governing bias that favors the oil industry, hopes the Parachute situation puts more pressure on him to sign the measure into law. “He is an oil and gas guy, and that’s a concern. Everyone else in the state seems to march to the same drum as ‘Gov. Frackenlooper’,” Devanney said. “Hopefully this will be a wake-up call…

    Just Tuesday, the House gave final approval to House Bill 1269, also sponsored by Foote, to clarify that the COGCC’s primary mission is to protect public health and the environment, not to maximize energy development of the state’s mineral resources. The legislation, which now heads to the Senate, also requires commissioners to disclose their financial ties to the oil and gas industry they’re charged with regulating and to tighten recusal rules in cases of conflict of interest.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating whether its regulations are being followed regarding protection of workers who have responded to a liquid hydrocarbons spill near Parachute. The federal agency is trying to determine if any employees involved with the response and cleanup have been exposed to any hazardous materials, said Herb Gibson, director of OSHA’s Denver area office. He said it hasn’t drawn any conclusions, and the investigation probably will last a few months. He said he can’t say what triggered the investigation, but that it pertains to Williams and any other employers involved with the response.

    Some 6,000 gallons of hydrocarbons have been recovered in a pipeline corridor near Parachute Creek that contains lines serving Williams’ nearby natural gas processing plant. Williams and contractors have been involved in vacuuming out fluids, digging interceptor trenches, sampling water and other activities.

    Williams spokesman Tom Droege said it’s his understanding “that OSHA did perform a routine inspection on our site last week.” “We fully accommodated the agency with the site visit and provided the information they requested,” he said. “We follow all safety standards as required by OSHA,” said Droege, who said he’s not aware of any violation in connection with the leak response.

    When the investigation began to focus on a high-odor leak hot spot near a valve set, Williams halted work until it could bring in special monitoring and protective equipment, Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said at the time.

    Leslie Robinson, chair of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said she’s heard from workers who said they weren’t provided respirators earlier, and learned later that they were working around dangerous benzene that had been detected in groundwater tests. “I’m just glad that OSHA’s getting involved. In these incidents I think (companies) should assume that they’re dealing with dangerous chemicals and hand out respirators and protective gear from the start and not after testing is done,” she said.

    On Tuesday, state officials said two more monitoring wells across the creek from the investigation site, on its south side, showed groundwater impacts, after the first impacts to a well across the creek were reported Monday. The two wells, adjacent to the creek, showed benzene levels of 3,300 to 2,600 parts per billion. The federal drinking water standard for benzene is 5 or less ppb. Three other wells about 50 feet from the creek’s south side showed no benzene, but a well 200 feet east of the creek had a benzene level of 1,200 ppb.

    Also, for the first time since March 9, creek sampling showed diesel-range organics in the water. But as on March 9, DROs also were found in an upstream sample, suggesting a possible intermittent source separate from the hydrocarbons leak, such as stormwater contamination. Sampling 800 feet upstream of the investigation area, on the other side of a road bridge, showed DROs at 3.3 parts per million. Two locations in the investigation areas produced readings of 3.1 and 1.4 ppm. Samples from three sites downstream showed no DROs.

    Kirby Wynn, Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison, said there’s no drinking water standard for DROs, although there can be for individual compounds within the range of such organics.

    More Parachute Creek spill coverage here.