Arkansas Valley Conduit Final EIS Available


Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb/Buck Feist):

The Bureau of Reclamation announces the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long-Term Excess Capacity Master Contract. To access the document, its Executive Summary, and supporting appendices please visit A list of local libraries housing hard copies of the Final EIS is also included on the website.
In the Final EIS, Comanche North is identified as the agency-preferred alternative. It minimizes cost and urban construction disturbance, avoids the U.S. Highway 50 expansion corridor, and maximizes source water quality and yield. It is a hybrid alternative developed in response to comments on the Draft EIS by using components of other alternatives analyzed in that document. Of the AVC alternatives, Comanche North would be least costly and provide the most benefits.

“After extensive public involvement and consideration of comments, scientific data and regional water needs, Reclamation is pleased to release this Final Environmental Impact Statement and announce Comanche North as the agency-preferred alternative,” said Mike Ryan, Regional Director for Reclamation’s Great Plains Region, which includes eastern Colorado.

Reclamation completed the Final EIS in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. In it, the agency proposed and analyzed three federal actions pertaining to AVC and the Master Contract:

  • Construct and operate the AVC and enter into a repayment contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District;
  • Enter into a conveyance contract with various water providers for use of a pipeline interconnection between Pueblo Dam’s south and north outlet works; and,
  • Enter into an excess capacity master contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.
  • When completed, the pipeline for the AVC could be up to 227 miles long.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado’s congressional delegation wants more funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and sent a joint letter last week to the Department of Interior arguing for more funds in 2015. The letter came at the same time as the final environmental impact statement by the Bureau of Reclamation for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which recommends construction of a 227-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads, serving 40 water districts and a population of 50,000 that is expected to grow to 75,000 by 2070. The conduit route would move water through the Pueblo water board’s Whitlock Treatment Plant for filtration, swing south of the Comanche Power Plant, then run primarily north of the Arkansas River east of Pueblo. In the letter, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, both Republicans, asked Anne Castle, Interior undersecretary for science and water, for increased funding in the 2015 budget, when construction of the conduit could start.

    The EIS also recommends an interconnection at Pueblo Dam between the North Outlet Works construction by Colorado Springs for the Southern Delivery System and the South Outlet Works, which will primarily serve the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The south connection also serves Pueblo West, the Fountain Valley Conduit and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The EIS also recommends 40-year Lake Pueblo storage contracts for 25 conduit participants and 12 other water providers. The contracts would total almost 30,000 acre-feet annually. The total cost for all three projects is estimated at $400 million in the EIS, and some of that would be repaid by storage contract revenues under 2009 federal legislation.

    While the conduit itself benefits 50,000 people, the interconnect benefits more than 665,000, by providing redundancy for SDS and Pueblo. About 178,000 people would be served by the master contract, including some El Paso County communities outside of Colorado Springs and several Upper Arkansas water users.

    But the push for funding in austere federal times continues. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which sponsors the projects, sought $15 million in funds for the 2014 fiscal year, but received just $1 million. With the record of decision for the projects expected in 30 days, Colorado’s congressional representatives asked Castle to consider more “robust” funding for the conduit.

    Here’s the full text of their letter from the Boulder iJournal:

    Dear Assistant Secretary Castle and Commissioner Connor:

    As the Department of Interior begins consideration of its FY 2015 budget, we write to express our strong support for robust funding of water conservation and delivery studies, projects and activities. In particular, we want to highlight the Arkansas Valley Conduit project in southeastern Colorado. Adequate funding is essential in order to meet federally mandated water quality standards in the region.

    The Arkansas Valley conduit is a planned 130-mile water delivery system from the Pueblo Dam to communities throughout the Arkansas River Valley in Colorado. The conduit is the final phase of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which Congress authorized in 1962. When completed, it will help bring clean drinking water to up to 42 municipalities, towns, and water providers in the lower Arkansas valley.

    Many of the wells in these areas have been contaminated with radon or uranium. As a result, many of the water providers in the region are out of compliance with federal water quality standards. More importantly, however, because of the lack of funding for water projects like this, the populations of these regions have been denied clean high quality water. Providing clean and safe water to all Americans should be at the forefront of the Department’s mission, and these water quality issues underscore the urgent need for progress on the conduit.

    The federal government has already funded planning and feasibility studies for four years in order to make the conduit a reality, and President Obama signed legislation in 2009 committing to fund a substantial share of the project costs. Unfortunately, the Administration’s budget proposal for FY 2014 did not fund the project adequately. While planners in the Arkansas valley expect costs to exceed $15 million in FY 2014, the Bureau of Reclamation’s budget justification requested just $1 million for the project. Adequate funding to compensate for this shortfall in 2015 will be essential to complete the project on schedule.

    As you know, the final Environmental Impact Statement will be released this month. Following a 30-day comment period, a Record of Decision (“ROD”) will be announced. The issuance of an ROD stating a preferred alternative removes any regulatory barrier to moving forward with the project, and signals the start of the design and engineering phase. The Office of Management and Budget indicated that the lack of the ROD was the reason for reducing the funding to only $1 million for FY 2014. With the ROD due to be announced soon, adequate project funding is essential for moving this vital infrastructure and water quality project forward in a timely manner.

    Thank you for your consideration of this request.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

    CWCB will consider recommendations for instream flow protection for 6 Garfield County streams


    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Six Garfield County streams, including three along the Mesa County line, are being proposed for instream flow protections. The Colorado Water Conservation Board will consider recommendations for stretches of the Dry Fork of Roan Creek west of De Beque, Beaver Creek south of Rifle, and East Divide Creek south of New Castle. The East Divide Creek stretch being targeted actually crosses into Mesa County, and the other two creeks are just north of the Mesa County line. Also up for consideration are the Left Fork of Carr Creek east of Douglas Pass, the East Fork of Parachute Creek on the Roan Plateau north of Parachute, and Meadow Creek north of New Castle.

    State law allows the board to hold instream flow rights for purposes such as protecting recreation and fisheries, subject to limitations including that the rights don’t injure other water rights.

    The Bureau of Land Management recommended the Left Fork of Carr Creek, East Fork of Parachute Creek and the Dry Fork of Roan Creek for the protections. “All three streams support native fish and riparian communities,” BLM official Roy Smith told Garfield County commissioners earlier this summer. They’re also all in western Garfield County, in areas of increasing oil and gas development.

    The BLM has been investing in improvements on the Dry Fork of Roan Creek, which Smith said has leopard frogs, fish and a “pretty amazing aquatic insect community” to support those fish.

    The other two creeks proposed by the BLM are in pristine condition, and Smith called the East Fork of Parachute Creek “one of the most beautiful places in Garfield County.” The creek sits in a canyon and includes a 200-foot waterfall. That creek is proposed for the highest instream flow rate of the three targeted by the BLM, at 5 cubic feet per second from April through June.

    Smith said the overwhelming majority of BLM creeks with fisheries in Garfield County have instream flow designations.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommended the other three creeks for protections. Beaver Creek is a principal water source for the city of Rifle and also is home to brown trout and Colorado River cutthroat trout. East Divide Creek also contains Colorado River cutthroat trout, along with rainbow trout and speckled dace.

    More CWCB coverage here.

    U.S. Forest Service Launches New Wildland Fire Website

    Secretary Jewell Lauds Enactment of Bipartisan Energy Legislation to Encourage Development of Small Hydropower, Support Rural Jobs


    Here’s the release from the US Department of the Interior:

    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued the following statement following President Obama’s signature of two bills that are expected to create rural jobs and encourage the development of small hydropower projects, including within existing Bureau of Reclamation conduits, waterways and canals. The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act and the Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act were signed into law today.

    “I applaud the bipartisan efforts that will support the President’s Climate Action Plan and our all-of-the-above energy strategy to boost domestic energy production, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and begin to slow the effects of climate change,” Secretary Jewell said. “By streamlining the permitting of small hydropower on existing Bureau of Reclamation facilities, these laws will help expedite the development of renewable and affordable energy in the West and support the creation of rural jobs. There is more work to be done, but these efforts will help the Department of the Interior as we work to permit enough renewables on public lands to power more than 6 million homes.”

    The Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act provides greater certainty for the generation of clean, renewable hydroelectric power at those Reclamation sites through the regulatory process and administrative streamlining.

    “The enactment of this legislation underscores our efforts to develop renewable energy on canal and conduit sites managed by Reclamation across the west,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor. “This unlocks the door to developing new sources of energy at hundreds of our facilities across the West while creating new jobs at the same time.”

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

    The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society ‘State of the Climate – 2012’ is hot off the presses


    Click here to read a copy. Here’s an excerpt:

    Overall, the 2012 average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces ranked among the 10 warmest years on record. The global land surface temperature alone was also among the 10 warmest on record. In the upper atmosphere, the average stratospheric temperature was record or near-record cold, depending on the dataset.

    Monsoonal rain inflows to Two Buttes Dam have raised levels above the safe level


    From The Prowers Journal:

    After a major rain event on Wednesday initiated a dramatic rise in water levels, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is releasing water from the Two Buttes Reservoir.

    Many years ago, the State Engineer’s Office, now the Division of Water Resources, Office of the State Engineer, Dam Safety Branch placed a restriction on the Two Buttes Dam, which is classified as a High Hazard Dam. At that time, a 20-foot storage restriction was put in place by the State Engineer’s office due to safety concerns downstream based on the spillway adequacy to pass the required Inflow Design Flood. This restriction provides storage space in the reservoir to help prevent the dam from overtopping and failing in an extreme flood event, which would help alleviate potential dangers to the residents living downstream of the dam, including the town of Holly.

    At 2 a.m. Thursday morning, parks and wildlife staff noticed a sudden rise in inflows as the water level jumped from 19.2 feet to about 21.5 feet, an estimated rise rate of one foot per hour. Over the last two weeks, Two Buttes Creek flooded on numerous occasions, ultimately causing reservoir levels to rise to more than 24 feet. Due to the storage restriction, the agency is legally obligated to release any water above 20 feet as soon as possible.

    The agency intends to maintain reservoir levels as high as possible within the restriction. The lake will not be drained. In addition, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is currently attempting to gather the funds to continue repairs to the outlet structure and rehabilitation of the dam so that Two Buttes Reservoir can be returned to the originally intended 46-foot depth.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.