Aspinall Unit operations update: Diversions through the Gunnison Tunnel bumped to 600 cfs #ColoradoRiver


From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

A recent flow measurement by the USGS has shown us that the Gunnison River below the Gunnison Tunnel is currently running around 375 cfs. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users could use more water to keep up with irrigation demands. Therefore, tomorrow morning, April 11th, diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel will increase by 75 cfs or so, leaving 300 cfs in the Gunnison River below the Gunnison Tunnel. There will be no change to Crystal releases. After this increase in diversion, flow in the Gunnison Tunnel should be around 600 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.

CSU Research is Examining Water Savings from Different Farming Strategies during Drought #COdrought


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

A team of Colorado State University agricultural and environmental scientists hopes to pinpoint best management practices in crop production to help conserve water in times of drought, and their project will provide farmers with an online tool to calculate water savings gained from different strategies. The research project is supported with a grant of $883,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Adaptation to Drought Conservation Innovation Grant. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., announced the funding last week. “We are taking a systematic approach to understand how to effectively manage water in the face of scarcity,” said Neil Hansen, associate professor in the CSU Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and project leader. “We want to maximize crop per drop, meaning crop yield per gallon of water. Water is short, and we’ve got to get as much as we can from the little we’ve got.”

The research is unique in its involvement of agricultural businesses and scientists from multiple disciplines. Assisting from the private sector will be Dupont Pioneer, Regenesis Management, Biochar Solutions, John Deere Water and 21st Century Ag Equipment. The project also engages area farmers through the West Greeley Conservation District and the Lower South Platte Irrigation Research Farm.

CSU researchers will conduct field demonstrations to examine how different approaches to soil, crop and irrigation management affect water conservation, yields and system adaptation to drought.

The project will examine water-saving benefits gained with adjustments in:

• Crop management, including use of cover cropping and drought-tolerant crop varieties;
• Soil management, including conservation tillage and soil amendments; and
• Irrigation management, including scheduling and variable rate irrigation, which uses space-based technologies to tailor water application to varying needs within a field.
• The project also will employ sensors to track soil moisture and crop stress.

“Colorado’s agricultural producers have been at the forefront of new conservation technologies that help more efficiently produce food, fiber and fuel for the country largely due to CSU’s leadership in agricultural research,” Bennet said. “This grant will help CSU continue to develop new ways for farmers and ranchers to protect their land, crops and water.”

The researchers will modify an existing online tool to help farmers understand how management practices will improve their water use.

The CSU team also will provide research results to farmers through field days, fact sheets and a web site; the researchers will develop a technical water-management guide for the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. “Ultimately, we want to help producers assess, ‘Am I using my water at maximum productivity?’” Hansen said.

The CSU research team was one of thirteen nationwide to receive federal Conservation Innovation Grants to develop approaches and technologies that will help producers adapt to extreme climate changes that cause drought. The USDA awarded a total of $5.3 million to these research projects. “USDA is working diligently to help American farmers and ranchers rebound from last year’s drought and prepare for future times of climatic extremes,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release.

More education coverage here.

U.S. Representative Scott Tipton’s hydroelectric bill passes the House, Senate companion bill hearing April 23

Here’s the release from Representative Tipton’s office:

Today, the House passed with bipartisan support Rep. Scott Tipton’s (CO-03) legislation to create rural jobs by expanding the production of clean renewable hydropower. The bill passed the House 416-7 this year, a significant increase in bipartisan support from the 2012 vote of 265-154.

By eliminating duplicative environmental analysis on existing man-made Bureau of Reclamation conduits (pipes, ditches, and canals) that have received a full review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), H.R. 678 streamlines the regulatory process and reduces administrative costs for the installation of small hydropower development projects within those conduits. In doing so, the bill encourages increased small hydropower development, which will create new rural jobs in Colorado, add clean, affordable electricity to the grid to power homes and communities, modernize infrastructure, and supply the federal government with additional revenues…

“H.R. 678 is a commonsense piece of legislation to foster clean renewable energy development, create jobs in rural America, and do so without taxpayer cost while returning revenues to the Treasury, and by all measures, should be considered low-hanging fruit for congressional action,” Tipton said. “There has been a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle about the need to pursue an all-of-the-above domestic energy strategy, and hydropower, as the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source, should be at the forefront of any comprehensive national energy policy.”

“Every day, water flows thousands of miles through canals, pipes, and ditches across the country, and every day we miss valuable opportunities to utilize this resource’s full potential,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) an original co-sponsor of H.R. 678. “The greatest barrier to unleashing the next generation of hydropower is not technological; it is regulatory. For that reason, Congressman Tipton and I have been working to remove the obstacles the keep us from expanding one of the most reliable tools in our energy toolbox. ”

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reported that H.R. 678 has no cost to taxpayers, and returns revenues to the treasury. The Interior Department has identified at least 28 Bureau of Reclamation canal sites in Colorado, and 373 nationwide, that could be developed for hydropower purposes.

Tipton amended H.R. 678 on the House floor to address concerns expressed by some of his Democrat colleagues, and at the request of the broad range of irrigation districts, water conservation and conservancy districts, and public utilities most directly impacted by the bill. This amendment removes the NEPA waiver in the bill and instead codifies the application of the Bureau of Reclamation’s categorical exclusion process under the National Environmental Policy Act for small hydropower projects covered by the bill.

This alternative provision would still ensure the streamlining of the approval process for clean renewable energy and help provide certainty for investors and job creators, while providing flexibility to the Bureau to adjust to changing circumstances moving forward.

“By advancing these projects under the Bureau’s categorical exclusion process, we ensure that all of the elements in that process are retained, including agency discretion for examining extraordinary circumstances. In addition, the amendment specifically mentions codifying the categorical exclusion process for small conduit hydropower,” said Tipton.

This approach is supported by Trout Unlimited in its March 19, 2013 letter, which states that “Congress could direct BOR to create a categorical exclusion for small conduit hydropower.” That’s exactly what this amendment does.

“The use of a categorical exclusion for small conduit hydropower development can mean the difference between private investment in a public good with a multitude of benefits, and unreasonable financial costs and lengthy delays that lead to untapped potential, Tipton said. “My hope is that this amendment, which is broadly supported by the diverse range of groups invested in the bill who are committed to ensuring continued environmental protection, will assuage any reservations about this effort to promote clean renewable energy and allow us to move forward united in our support.”

The Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act has been endorsed by the Family Farm Alliance, the National Water Resources Association, and the American Public Power Association, among others.

Sens. John Barrasso (WY), Jim Risch (ID), Mike Enzi (WY) and Mike Crapo (ID), have introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S. 306,), which will receive a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on April 23, 2013.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

A measure that would allow irrigation districts and other organizations to generate electricity from ditches and small pipes passed the U.S. House on Wednesday. The measure by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., passed 416 to 7 with all members of the Colorado delegation voting in favor of the measure.

A companion measure sponsored by Sens. John Barasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, both of Idaho, all Republicans, is awaiting action in the Senate.

A previous version of the bill passed the House last year, 265-154, but no Senate vote was taken last year.

H.R. 678 would encourage increased development of small hydropower projects, create new jobs in rural areas of Colorado, boost the amount of electricity to the grid to power homes and communities, modernize infrastructure and supply the federal government with additional revenues, Tipton said in a statement.

The measure passed the full House after Tipton carried an amendment that included small-conduit hydropower projects on pipes and ditches built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as those that could be approved as categorical exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Similar legislation for projects under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission already has passed the House and also is before the Senate.

The bill “should be considered low-hanging fruit for congressional action,” Tipton said. “There has been a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle about the need to pursue an all-of-the-above domestic energy strategy, and hydropower, as the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source, should be at the forefront of any comprehensive national energy policy.”

Each megawatt of new hydropower generates 5.3 new jobs, according to estimates by the National Hydropower Association. That could mean as many as 1,000 new jobs in Colorado for developers, engineers, attorneys, financiers, concrete workers, plumbers, carpenters, welders and electricians, said Kurt Johnson, president of the Colorado Small Hydro Association.

From The Denver Post (Allison Sherry):

Rep. Scott Tipton’s twice-attempted bill to bring hydropower development to rural areas across the country got almost unanimous support in the full House Wednesday.

In a 416-7 vote, the House approved the measure that will allow small hydropower development projects within existing man-made Bureau of Reclamation conduits — pipelines, ditches and canals. The proposal eliminates duplicative environmental analysis and streamlines the regulatory process to make that development easier…

All seven members of Colorado’s House delegation voted for Tipon’s measure Wednesday.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Source of Parachute Creek spill identified #ColoradoRiver


From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Williams said Wednesday that a failed pressure gauge on a valve for its natural gas liquids pipeline is the source of hydrocarbons contamination near its Parachute Gas Plant, and it estimates that more than 4,000 gallons of leaked fluids have yet to be recovered. The announcement comes six days after the company first publicly revealed the problem with the gauge. But it had said last week that the gauge was thought to have leaked far too little fluid to account for most of the 6,000 gallons of hydrocarbons recovered to date. In a news release Wednesday, Williams said a preliminary analysis of meter data now indicates the gauge leaked from Dec. 20 until the leak was discovered and the gauge removed on Jan. 3. “By the time the leak was stopped … the company estimates up to 241 barrels of natural gas liquids entered the soil at the valve location,” it said.

A barrel is 42 gallons. About 100 barrels, or 4,200 gallons, remain unrecovered from the site. Williams estimates that 80 percent of what leaked vaporized before entering the soil.

High benzene levels have been found in groundwater monitoring wells in the contamination area. Williams on Wednesday reported a detection of dissolved benzene nearly 1,000 feet from the valve site — the farthest such detection reported so far. “The assessment is ongoing into whether the benzene is related to the natural gas liquids released from the broken pressure gauge … .” the company said. “Williams has opened a broader examination of the property in an effort to further determine the area of impact, collect samples for testing and capture additional hydrocarbon fluids from the soil.”

Natural gas liquids include substances such as ethane, butane and propane. The gas plant removes these marketable liquids from raw natural gas.

An official with the state Department of Natural Resources said the agency will continue to probe the cause of the contamination. “The area of an above-ground valve set has long been the focus of the source investigation, and the scenario outlined by Williams provides a possible explanation of a release in this area,” spokesman Todd Hartman said. “However, the investigation of the cause or causes of the impacts to soil and groundwater will continue until we can determine whether the release described by Williams accounts for the situation on the ground.”

Williams discovered contaminated soil March 8 as it did pipeline location work in preparation for the construction of a new gas processing unit at the plant. Last week, a Williams official mentioned the pressure gauge leak during a presentation before the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board. But he said the amount thought to have leaked was less than 25 gallons — not enough to even require a report to the state.

EAB representative Bob Arrington, a retired mechanical engineer living in Battlement Mesa, had challenged that idea, saying the amount of liquids recovered to date could leak from a gauge in a matter of hours. “It was a very likely suspect,” he said Wednesday.

Williams says water samples analyzed by independent laboratories indicate Parachute Creek hasn’t been affected by the hydrocarbons discovered in the soil. Tests have shown the occasional presence of what are called diesel-range organics in the water, but also have shown the concurrent presence of those organics upstream, which authorities have indicated suggest the organics may be coming from a source such as contaminated runoff from roads.

This week, for the first time, investigators reported benzene in groundwater on the opposite side of Parachute Creek from the valve area. Initially, authorities said benzene on that south side of the waterway was just adjacent to the creek, and three wells 50 feet south of the creek revealed no benzene. But Hartman said Wednesday that was based on preliminary field information, and benzene concentrations in those three wells since have been determined to range from 51 to 450 parts per billion. The safe drinking water standard for benzene is 5 ppb or less. Surface water samples taken Wednesday about 2 1/2 miles downstream, where the town of Parachute diverts water for irrigation, show no evidence of impact, he said.

A bill now being considered in the Legislature would require reporting within 24 hours of all spills of oil and exploration and production waste involving one barrel or more. Current Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules require reporting of general spills of five barrels or more within 10 days, and immediate reporting of spills of any size if they affect or threaten a surface water supply. Arrington called the bill a good idea. “There are certain chemicals that you spill just a small amount, it’s terribly deadly, and they’re dealing with hundreds of chemicals and the rule would apply to all of them,” he said. A tighter reporting requirement also would help ensure that companies get serious about their handling of substances, he said. “You have to have a heightened sense that it’s very important to do so,” he said.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Williams energy company officials announced Wednesday that a mechanical failure caused the hydrocarbons spill that has poisoned groundwater and forced a multi-agency scramble to protect Parachute Creek in western Colorado. A failed pressure gauge led to a leak that spilled 10,122 gallons of natural gas liquids from a valve, starting on Dec. 20, Williams spokesman Tom Droege said. Crews have cleaned up 5,964 gallons so far, Droege said. The leak was discovered and stopped on Jan. 3, he said.

Colorado environmental overseers weren’t so sure. Williams’ scenario “provides a possible explanation of a release,” state natural resources spokesman Todd Hartman said. “However, the investigation of the cause, or causes, of the impacts to soil and groundwater will continue until we can determine whether the release described by Williams accounts for the situation on the ground,” Hartman said…

Back on Jan. 3, Williams crews discovered and cleaned up natural gas liquids that, at that time, they estimated at less than 42 gallons — low enough that state rules do not require notification of authorities, Droege said in a prepared statement. Williams officials were not immediately available.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

In a release issued late Wednesday, the Williams Midstream pipeline company attributed the find to “preliminary analysis of meter data,” and said the leak was stopped on Jan. 3 after it was discovered. Williams crews have been working to locate the leak, determine the size of the plume and keep chemicals out of Parachute Creek since March 8, when the plume was discovered by Williams workers. The leaky gauge was part of a “valve set” on a four-inch natural gas liquids line that leads from a nearby natural gas processing plant to a tank farm on the other side of Parachute Creek. The company believes the leak began on Dec. 20, 2012, and estimates that “about 80 percent of the leaked volumes [of liquids] vaporized before entering the soil.” The company statement on the leak estimates that approximately 241 barrels (about 10,000 gallons) of natural gas liquids soaked into the soil, of which about 143 barrels (or roughly 6,000 gallons) has been recovered.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Forecast news: 4-8 inches of snowfall from Vail Pass north #codrought #cowx

From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

A cool northwest flow will be over the forecast area through the end of the workweek. A disturbance will quickly pass through today bringing numerous snow showers to the mountains, with winter weather advisories in effect over parts of the northern Colorado mountains. Valley locations will see isolated to scattered rain/snow showers today with activity diminishing later this afternoon. Another weaker disturbance will bring a chance of northern mountain snow showers on Friday. An extended period of unsettled conditions is anticipated later Saturday through the middle of next week, with periods of rain/snow/windy weather across the north and a chance of showers/windy weather across the south. Temperatures will continue to moderate into this weekend returning to seasonal/above normal levels by Saturday, then a gradual downturn is expected once again early next week.

Drought/snowpack news: Upper Colorado snowpack = 75% of avg, South Platte = 70% #codrought




Click on the thumbnail graphics for the South Platte Basin High/Low and Upper Colorado River Basin High/Low graphs, along with the current statewide snowpack map.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The snowstorm that brought strong winds but less snow than expected on Tuesday had a minor effect on the Larimer County snowpack, dropping about 2 inches of snow in the Red Feather Lakes area and about an inch near Estes Park. Some areas west of Fort Collins reported up to 4 inches on Tuesday. Despite the recent spate of spring storms, the snowpack in all the region’s river basins remains far below normal. The water content of the snow in the South Platte River Basin, which includes the Poudre River and Poudre Canyon, is 29 percent below normal, and the Laramie and North Platte Basin is 20 percent below normal, according to federal SNOTEL data released Wednesday.

From The Greeley Tribune:

Following a hot and drought-plagued 2012, this year is so far cooler and wetter than normal. The average temperature last month in Greeley was 40.1 degrees, 3.7 degrees below normal for March, and it stands as the 18th-coolest March on record for the city, according to numbers provided by the Colorado Climate Center in Fort Collins. Through the end of March, Greeley’s average temperature for 2013 was 33.8, 2.9 degrees below normal, and this year is so far tied for the 16th-coolest.

Precipitation in March was down a bit — at 1.10 inches, just 0.02 below normal — but total precipitation for 2013 through the end of March is above normal. As of March 31, Greeley had received 2.17 inches of precipitation for the year, which is 0.17 inches above normal, and this year stands as the 13th-wettest on record.

From the Leadville Herald-Democrat:

Snowfall in March produced a nominal increase in the statewide snowpack percentage, according to Phyllis Ann Philipps, State Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The latest snow surveys confirm that statewide snowpack has increased slightly from 73 percent of median on March 1 to 74 percent on April 1. This is the third consecutive month that the snowpack has increased by just one percentage point. Most major basins saw slight improvements to snowpack percentages during March. Although the state snowpack remains well below normal, the good news is that most basins continue to accumulate snow and have yet to reach their peaks for the year.

The Arkansas River basin had an increase of 3 percentage points.

In a typical winter the state receives around 20 percent of its seasonal snow accumulation during March. This winter, however, March precipitation recorded at SNOTEL sites was well-below normal, with the exception of the South Platte and Colorado River basins. There is almost no chance that the snowpack will reach normal conditions before beginning to melt.
Reservoir storage remains well-below average statewide, and all major basins in Colorado are expected to see below-average stream-flow runoff this spring and summer.

In the Arkansas Valley as of April 1, snowpack is at 74 percent of median and 122 percent of what it was this time last year. Reservoir storage is at 55 percent, and 64 percent of this time last year.

From the Canyon Courier (Sandy Barnes):

Extended drought conditions and non-point-source pollution are concerns for those who monitor water quality in the Bear Creek watershed. “We’re going to have a little less water and will have to adjust,” Russ Clayshulte, Bear Creek Watershed Association manager, said during a panel discussion on April 4.

According to recent data from Snowtel, the snowpack was 74 percent of the normal amount, he said.

In addition to low snowpack, both humans and animals are impacting the health of the creek, said Clayshulte. Although advanced wastewater treatment facilities are effective in containing phosphorus, nitrogen and other harmful elements, there are 27,000 septic systems in the Evergreen area that are totally unregulated, he said…

“This year, water managers are worried,” said Clayshulte. Even with extensive precipitation, it takes three to four years to restore water levels to pre-drought conditions, he said. “You may have to let your grass die,” Clayshulte said to those in the audience at the Evergreen Fire/Rescue auditorium, where the event was held.

From the Fort Lupton Press (Gene Sears):

With last year’s hotter than normal temperatures expected again this summer and a snowpack hovering at around 77 percent of average, the outlook is dire. The South Platte basin has it the worst in the state so far, with snow totals more than 30 percent under averages for the year. In response, several municipalities are already setting restrictions in place for the spring/summer watering season. Ranging from outright bans on watering until a specified date, restrictions limiting turf water usage to as little as two days per week and strictly enforced time-of-day watering cycles, the conservation practices are expected to be tighter than last season, with fire danger potentially higher. According to Fort Lupton’s Finance Director Leann Perino, aside from the normal yearly restrictions in place on an annual basis, the city has no current plans to cut back water usage on the part of residents — at least not at this point.

From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

With no end to the drought in sight, Steamboat Springs has joined many other Colorado communities in announcing upcoming water restrictions. The Stage 2 restrictions will go into effect May 1. The same restrictions were enacted last year on June 28. Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District General Manager Jay Gallagher said imposing the restrictions earlier this year will be more effective in curbing the consumption of treated water…

The restrictions affect the four districts that provide water to the Steamboat area: Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, the City of Steamboat Springs District, the Steamboat II Metro District and the Tree Haus Metro District.

Starting May 1, no outdoor watering will be allowed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Residents who have an even-numbered address can water only Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Residents with an odd-numbered address can water only Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. No watering is permitted Wednesdays…

Among other restrictions, vehicles cannot be washed at residences and hard surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks and parking lots cannot be washed with potable water…

The Steamboat Springs Water Conservation Plan adopted in 2011 outlines when water restrictions will be put in place. Among the criteria is when the snowpack at the Tower measuring site April 1 is below 80 percent of average. On April 1, the snow-water equivalent was at 64 percent of average. The snowpack rebounded a bit April 3 to 71 percent of average. Among the other criteria, above-average temperatures are predicted from April to August. Below average precipitation also is being forecast…

In the Steamboat area, Fish Creek provides most of the drinking water. Gallagher said the reservoir fed by natural flows from the melting snowpack is expected to fill. The problem is that the irrigation season likely will be like last summer when it was four to six weeks longer. That means reservoir levels will begin to drop sooner than typical prompting the conservation efforts.

From the Cortez Journal (Jordyn Dahl):

The deadly combination of below-normal precipitation and warmer-than-normal temperatures has local fire officials on edge and preparing for an active fire season…

The forecast for water inflow into McPhee Reservoir this year is 43 percent of average, said Mike Preston, general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

The mountains have below-average snowpack and what precipitation does run down is seeping into the extremely dry soil, he said. The snowpack is running between 70 and 80 percent of normal, said Chris Cuoco, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, based in Grand Junction.

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

…the snowpack isn’t great. The Independence Snotel site, an automated measuring device, shows the snowpack at just 70 percent of average east of Aspen but 130 percent of the level one year ago, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a federal agency. In the Fryingpan River Valley east of Basalt, the snowpack at the Ivanhoe site is 98 percent of average and 133 percent of last year’s level. However, the snowpack is bleak at lower elevations of the valley. At the Kiln site, the snowpack is just 69 percent of average and at Nast Lake it’s only 39 percent. In the Crystal River Valley south of Carbondale, the snowpack at Schofield Pass is just 75 percent of average but 119 percent of last year. It’s even more pronounced at McClure Pass, with the snowpack at 74 percent of average but 179 percent of last year, the agency reported…

The U.S. Drought Monitor weekly map released April 2 shows all of Pitkin and Eagle counties rated in “extreme” drought. That is the fourth-worst classification of drought on a scale from 1 to 5. The entire state is rated in some level of drought. The southeast corner is the worst with “exceptional” drought. The southwest corner is best off with “moderate” drought. Pitkin County has been rated in “extreme” drought since early January…

The ongoing drought already has spurred talks of lawn-watering restrictions in some Colorado cities and towns. Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon said his staff hasn’t discussed yet if there is a need for lawn-watering restrictions.

Meanwhile, Ruedi Reservoir is significantly lower now than it was at the same time last year. The reservoir is about 60 percent full with 61,383 acre-feet of water. Last year it was 70 percent full with 71,174 acre-feet. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the reservoir, generally waits for snowpack data and streamflow forecasts on May 1 to make definitive projections on whether the reservoir will fill. “At this point, we’re skeptical it will get all the way full,” said bureau spokeswoman Kara Lamb.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

Venetucci Farm learned in a Feb. 20 letter from the Colorado Water Protective and Development Association that it will not receive any augmentation water for the 2013 pumping season. The news left farm leaders wondering how they would keep the livestock fed and continue to cultivate crops, including bright orange pumpkins that have been given out to about 5 million kids over the last 70-plus years. “Our entire operation is in jeopardy,” said Mike Hannigan, CEO of Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which runs the farm…

According to Hannigan, the farm sits on “tremendous resources” of water but the Pikes Peak Community Foundation does not own the surface water rights on its own property. Instead the farm must lease water from the CWPDA. So, foundation officials did not hesitate after receiving the letter. They’ve been on a quest to find other sources to make a quick fix for 2013. “I immediately started calling everybody I knew who owned any surface water,” Hannigan said.

He found a family in Colorado Springs that might be willing to share some water. “They have been absolutely wonderful to us and I just got an email saying they think they can help us out,” Hannigan said Tuesday morning. The foundation is negotiating with the family to lease water for this season and Hannigan is “working with them to “keep the price reasonable” despite rising water costs amid a drought that began in 2011.

As for a long-term solution, Hannigan said the plan is to look into purchasing the water rights at the farm. That would cost about $2 million but would be a “permanent solution,” he said.

2013 Colorado legislation: SB13-258 would allow a developer to prove up water supplies at each stage of development #coleg


From the Denver Business Journal (Dennis Huspeni):

Senate Bill 258, introduced Tuesday, is sponsored by state Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, and Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City. If passed, the bill would declare that “each application included in the definition of development permit constitutes a stage in the development permit approval process.”

Its introduction follows a recent ruling from a District Court judge that halted the proposed Sterling Ranch development, which calls for a 12,050-home community in northern Douglas County. Eighteenth Judicial District Judge Paul King ruled that Douglas County commissioners erred when they agreed to rezone the 3,400-acre site in 2011. Commissioners also had decided the developer, Sterling Ranch LLC, could prove it had enough water to serve the community later as each platting of the development was approved. But on Aug. 22, King ruled that the commissioners, in allowing the developer to take an incremental approach later in the planning stages, “exceeded its jurisdiction and abused its discretion.” King’s Nov. 9 order states he followed the letter of the 2008 Colorado law when making his ruling striking down the Board’s decision.

Government and business leaders filed an amicus brief asking King to reconsider, fearing his ruling would strip local governments of their ability to control development and landowners of the right to develop their land, and would have negative economic ramifications for the entire state.

The new bill states: “With respect to the definition of ‘development permit’ as used in connection with the statutory provisions requiring that land development be supported by an adequate water supply, the bill modifies the definition to clarify that each application included in the definition of the term constitute a stage in the development permit approval process.”

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.