Cache la Poudre River: Fort Collins Utilities tour recap

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From the North Forty News (Dan MacArthur):

Sponsored by Fort Collins Utilities Services, the July tour took participants through forests scorched by the High Park Fire to learn about the special challenges of treating water laden with ash and sediment flowing from charred slopes.

From there it moved to the top of Cameron Pass, where the Upper Cache la Poudre River watershed begins. A stop at the Gateway Natural Area on the return trip offered the opportunity to identify the microscopic bacteria in the river that could make one dance a more frantic jig were they not intercepted before flowing from our taps.

“Basically the reason (Fort Collins) was founded was water,” explained Clyde Greenwood. The utility and water supply supervisor serves as the utility’s resident historian.

Greenwood said Fort Collins was fortunate in that there were no mines in the Poudre Canyon watershed. A watershed is the territory that drains into a body of water.

“Fort Collins is a unique town with pristine water,” he said…

Fort Collins takes half of its water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project’s Horsetooth Reservoir. The other half comes from the Poudre. As a result of quality problems caused by the fire, water supply engineer Adam Jokerst said last year the city took no water from the Poudre for 100 days and depended solely on Horsetooth. This helped the city avoid water restrictions, but reduced the amount of reservoir water it could carry over to this year.

This year, last-minute heavy snows in the high country, the availability of more C-BT water, and the ability to once again take water from the Poudre allowed the city to avoid restrictions, he said.

The main problem plaguing the city’s water supply, he said, is the lack of flexibility with limited reservoir space. “We kind of live from year to year. If we get storage, our system is pretty robust.”

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.

Senate Passes Tipton’s Bipartisan Hydropower Legislation

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

Rep. Scott Tipton’s (CO-03) Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act (H.R. 678) is heading to the President’s desk for a signature after passing the Senate today. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) provided bipartisan support for the legislation as a co-sponsor of the Senate companion (S. 306) carried by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). The bill, which would create rural jobs by expanding the production of clean renewable hydropower, passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support earlier this year.

“This is a victory for all of the communities in Colorado and throughout the U.S. that will benefit from this clean, affordable source of energy and the jobs hydropower production will create. I want to thank my colleagues over in the Senate for joining us in taking action to encourage responsible energy development and putting into place an important piece of an all-of-the-above domestic energy plan,” Tipton said. “By streamlining the regulatory process and providing the opportunity for expedited hydropower production in canals and conduits that have already undergone environmental analysis, we will free up the potential to generate enough power for a million homes in Colorado alone, and create new jobs in the process. I encourage the President to swiftly sign this responsible energy and jobs legislation into law.”

“Just as water makes the West as we know it possible, hydropower plays an important role in supplying our country with clean, renewable energy. I am proud the Senate stood with me and passed these important, bipartisan bills that will unleash the potential of hydropower on waterways across Colorado and throughout the country,” Udall said. “We still have work to do to achieve true energy self-reliance, but these bills help move the ball down the field.”

By eliminating duplicative environmental analysis on existing manmade 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.

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

“This bill facilitates low cost, clean, renewable hydropower installations in canals and conduits across the arid west,” said Chris Treese of the Colorado River District. “Colorado River District applauds Congressman Tipton for his leadership and determination on this milestone legislation.”

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.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Two measures aimed at encouraging the use of pipes and ditches to generate electricity are awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature.

One of the measures, H.R. 678 by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., would ease the process for such projects on conduits administered by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The Interior Department has identified at least 28 Bureau of Reclamation canal sites in Colorado, and another 373 across the country that potentially could be developed to generate hydroelectricity.

A similar measure allowing development of hydropower systems on projects administered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., also won Senate approval on Thursday.

“By streamlining the regulatory process and providing the opportunity for expedited hydropower production in canals and conduits that have already undergone environmental analysis, we will free up the potential to generate enough power for 1 million homes in Colorado alone, and create new jobs in the process,” Tipton said in a statement.

Both measures are being supported by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

The measures present a “significant opportunity” to organizations to boost revenues by generating electricity, said Chris Treese, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which supported the measures.</blockquoteL

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Alex Davis to manage Colorado Parks and Wildlife water rights portfolio

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Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado water expert Alex Davis is returning to public service as the head of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife water unit. Davis, one of Colorado’s leading water attorneys, will begin her new position on Aug. 8.

“I’m looking forward to returning to the public sector,” Davis said. “While my recent work in private sector law and consulting has been extremely rewarding, working in water resource management is where I can make the biggest difference.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is the largest holder of water rights in Colorado, managing more than 100 reservoirs for recreation and water.

“The agency portfolio of water is expansive and important,” said Rick Cables, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “It’s critically important that the agency be able to manage its water holdings not only for wildlife and recreation but also in ways that can benefit agricultural interests, recreational outfitters and municipal water providers.”

Davis has an extensive background in Colorado water and water law. She headed the InterBasin Compact Committee from 2009 to 2010. She also served as the Assistant Director for Water at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources for almost five years and as an Assistant Attorney General for Water in the Colorado Office of the Attorney General for many years.

Davis is a graduate of the University of Colorado Law School and was admitted to the Colorado State Bar in 1994. She has served on the Upper Colorado River Commission, Colorado Ground Water Commission, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Western States Water Council, South Platte Task Force, and many other boards and committees.

“We would be hard pressed to find someone more imminently qualified to manage the largest water portfolio in the state than Alex Davis,” said Chad Bishop, Assistant Director for Wildlife and Natural Resources. “She has the vision and skills to do this job for the benefit of wildlife, outdoor recreation and Colorado’s citizen’s as a whole.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, more than 300 state wildlife areas, all of Colorado’s wildlife, and a variety of outdoor recreation. For more information go to cpw.state.co.us

Aspinall Unit operations update: 550 cfs in Black Canyon

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From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Due to the continuance of precipitation throughout the Gunnison River basin, flows in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, have remained above the Aspinall Unit ROD baseflow target of 890 cfs. Scattered rainfall is forecast to occur over the basin during the next week, which will hopefully keep streamflows at or above their current levels.

Therefore, in order to conserve some storage in the Aspinall Unit, releases from Crystal Dam shall be decreased by 50 cfs (from 1,600 cfs to 1,550 cfs) at 8:00 am, Saturday, August 3rd. This will bring flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon down to around 550 cfs.

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

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the July 1 to July 28 precipitation map. Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the website from the Colorado Climate Center.

Drought news: Comments being accepted for state drought plan revision #COdrought

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Colorado was just the third state in the country to come up with a statewide drought plan. Former Gov. Richard Lamm requested it to be written, in response to dry years in the late 1970s. The state kept the plan, even though the next two decades were wetter than average.

The last decade, however, has been a much different story. Eight of the last 11 years have been drier than usual, including 2002, which ranked as the driest year in Colorado’s recorded history. The Colorado Water Conservation Board updates its drought plan every three years, and the latest revision is due this fall. The board is soliciting public comment on the 700-plus-page document.

The plan specifies what state agencies and local governments should do to prepare for a drought, respond to one when it starts and monitor its effects.

As of this month, 100 percent of Colorado still is suffering from some level of drought, which has blanketed the state since the summer of 2012. It’s mildest in the Front Range foothills and worst on the southeastern plains, which are in the throes of an “exceptional drought” – the worst category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Although it’s common for parts of Colorado to be in a drought, it’s rare for it to affect the whole state, according to the drought plan.

The Drought Mitigation and Response Plan is available for review on the Water Conservation Board’s website, cwcb.state.co.us.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Melinda Mawdsley):

The rainfall total for July was one for the record books. According to the National Weather Service, Grand Junction received 1.37 inches of rain in July, making it the 12th-wettest July on record dating back to 1893. The 30-year average for July is just 0.61 inches.

The National Weather Service is located near Grand Junction Regional Airport, and meteorologist Joe Ramey said rainfall totals were “very variable across the valley and western Colorado.”

Despite the above-average rainfall in July, Darren Starr, manager of streets, storm water and solid waste for Grand Junction, said his department is on schedule with its summer projects, particularly its chip seal program. “In years past, we always allot for rain-out days, but we haven’t used one this year,” he said. The city dealt with flooding in July but certain areas often flood after heavy storms, he said.

As wet as July was, however, Grand Junction is behind its average for yearly rainfall through the first seven months. The 30-year rainfall average through July is 4.87 inches. After a below-average February and March and a “very dry” June, the city has received 4.79 inches of rain this year, Ramey said.

“Even though we have had a wet July, we had a very dry spring and early summer,” he added. “We are officially still in a drought. Yes, our vegetation is doing well in the short-term, but . . . go look at the reservoirs. We do not have stored water.”

Joe Burtard, spokesman for the Ute Water Conservancy District, echoed Ramey. Ute Water relies heavily on snowmelt to build its water supply, so July rainfall, although helpful to keep moisture in the air and lower temperatures, didn’t significantly alter that supply. Burtard said Ute Water customers used 368 million gallons of water in July when 1.37 inches of rain fell compared to 360 million gallons in June when 0.01 inches fell. Those numbers were from Ute Water’s treatment plant and excluded Wednesday, Burtard said.

A bump in moisture is typical in July thanks to what’s commonly called the monsoon season. The monsoon is essentially a seasonal shift in wind direction, Ramey said. From September through early summer, the winds typically blow west to east. However, during the monsoon, winds often blow south to north, bringing in moisture from the sub-tropical regions. When the winds shift back in September, Grand Junction benefits from storm systems generated in the Pacific, as well as those in sub-tropical regions, resulting in the wettest months of our calendar year. “July is a fairly wet month on average, but August, September and October are wetter yet on average,” Ramey said.

As August begins today, rain’s in the forecast. August’s average rainfall in Grand Junction is 0.94 inches. September is traditionally the wettest month with an average rainfall of 1.71 inches.

As an aside, the wettest July on record in Grand Junction was in 1929 with 2.72 inches of rain.

Colorado lawmakers aim to create a good samaritan program under the Clean Water Act for abandoned mine cleanups

Summit County Citizens Voice

Bipartisan push could speed remediation projects

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A few months after the EPA unveiled new regulatory guidance for abandoned mine remediation, a bipartisan pair of Colorado lawmakers launched a new push to speed cleanups.

The new law proposed by Senator Mark Udall and Congressman Scott Tipton would give Good Samaritan groups additional binding legal safeguards they need to remediate the sites and clean up tainted streams. There are more than 7,000 abandoned hard rock mine sites located in Colorado and thousands more throughout the West.

“Runoff from abandoned mines throughout Colorado and the West threaten our water quality, wildlife and local economies. This common-sense, bipartisan legislation will further unleash so-called Good Samaritan groups and allow them to help address this problem,” Udall said.

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