Bureau of Reclamation: On this day in 1922, the Colorado River Compact was signed

More Colorado River Compact coverage here and here. More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Ed Quillen the Truth Teller: Get our facts right, be entertaining…tell the truth — Allen Best

Here’s a recap of the recent Ed Quillen anthology events, written by Allen Best for The Mountain Town News. Click through and read the whole article — a tribute from one of Ed’s close friends. Here’s an excerpt:

Ed Quillen once advised me that a journalist must avoid two fatal errors: to be inaccurate and to be dull. Rarely, if ever, was he either, as occurred to me during two events in his honor recently, the first in his hometown of Salida, Colo., and then two nights later in Boulder, Colo.

An anthology called “Deeper into the Heart of the Rockies,” has been published, containing 100 of his columns culled from among the 1,500 columns published in The Denver Post between 1999 and 2012, when he died. The book, a sequel to his previous anthology, called “Deep in the Heart of the Rockies,” is primarily the result of work by Abby Quillen, the daughter of Ed and Martha. She asked me to assist in selecting Ed’s best columns, and I did my best, working through 300 to 400 of them, mostly late at night.

I wasn’t of much help to Abby. I saved more than I discarded. What struck me again was how consistently good Ed was, and how extremely rare the duds. He was often funny and always informative, particularly in providing context of geography and history about this or that issue of the day, something that journalism does poorly. Most deliciously, you never knew exactly where he would take you. He tended to be liberal or, as one blogger described him in The Denver Post after his death, “mountain libertarian.” You wouldn’t bet on his conclusions. His arguments were buttressed by facts, not girded by some ossified ideology. Particularly in his later years, he was a first-order intellect, what the historian Patty Limerick, who has academic credentials that Ed lacked, describes as a populist intellectual…

…at a college auditorium at Boulder…former State Senator Dennis Gallagher, a professor of Shakespeare before he got into politics, bent and troweled Ed’s words [Why bother to learn the Colorado dialect?] to maximum oratorical effect. Just as much fun was Greg Hobbs, a former water lawyer by practice and now a Colorado Supreme Court Justice, who read one of Ed’s best columns about water: “Water is easier to understand if you treat it like a religion.”

Coyote Gulch links to Ed Quillen here and here.

Restoration: Pueblo West is working with Chaffee County to revegetate the Hill Ranch buy and dry property

Hill Ranch photo via Colorado Central Magazine -- Mike Rosso
Hill Ranch photo via Colorado Central Magazine — Mike Rosso

From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

After receiving information from soil tests, Pueblo West officials will meet with Chaffee County officials to develop the next steps for revegetation and weed control efforts at the Hill Ranch, next to U.S. 285 north of Centerville. Alan Leak, a consultant for Pueblo West from RESPEC Water & Natural Resources, met with Chaffee County commissioners during their regular meeting Tuesday.

Pueblo West had soil samples from the Hill Ranch sent off for analysis, Leak said. The analysis showed that seed mixes used by Pueblo West more than a year ago “were not suitable” to soil acidic levels at the Hill Ranch. He said he does not have the complete analysis yet.

Larry Walker, Chaffee County Weed Department supervisor, said he would like to see the complete results once Leak has them.

From the soil analysis, Leak said they will get recommendations on what seeds to use on the property. Once he gets that information and the full report, which should happen by the end of the year, he will meet with people in Chaffee County and develop a plan for next year.

Chaffee County Commissioner Dennis Giese said he would like to have Leak meet with the commissioners at their February work session to discuss the plan.

For next year, instead of just trying two test sites with the same idea, Pueblo West might try “a bunch of different things” and see what works. That way if one idea does not work, they do not waste the whole year, he said.

Pueblo West purchased the Hill Ranch water rights, and part of the purchase conditions require the municipality to revegetate the land with local grass before it can use the water right, county officials said previously.

Leak said he last met with the county commissioners during the summer, when they discussed Pueblo West’s summer and fall plan for the Hill Ranch. At the time he told commissioners about a proposed plan for weed control and two sites for test crops. He explained a process consisting of tilling two test sites, planting a sterile sorghum and mowing the property to keep weeds down. Each of the two approximately 50-acre test sites was tilled to mix peat in with the soil and planted with a sterile sorghum. Sorghum was planted to help reduce the acidity and build root mass in the soil. The efforts resulted in “a fair sorghum crop” at the test sites, Leak said. They also found that “in most parts the peat is not as deep as we thought,” he said. The test sites had irrigation water run onto them, about 1,500 acre-feet, Leak said. So far Pueblo West “has expended $115,000” this year on its Hill Ranch efforts, he said.

Walker said, considering the work he has done to help with the Hill Ranch revegetation and weed control efforts, he wonders if the county should perhaps get compensated as a consultant.

“Weed control was somewhat successful,” Leak said. The Hill Ranch was mowed three times, and the area had some selective grazing.

“The guy mowing did a great job – a month too late,” Frank McMurry, a rancher who lives near the Hill Ranch, said at the meeting. “We have a monumental weed problem, due to the timing.” When it comes to mowing to keep weeds down, timing matters, he said.

“We probably got up here a little late a few times,” Leak said. However, Pueblo West did make an effort to get Hill Ranch mowed. Next year, they want to get to the mowing earlier, he said.

Because the weather can change and affect the growth of weeds without much warning, McMurry said he thinks Pueblo West should hire someone local to monitor and manage the Hill Ranch site, not someone from Walsenburg. A local person could stay apprised of the conditions and know what they mean for growth on the site, Commissioner Dave Potts said.

Here’s some background from Ron Sering writing for Colorado Central Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

Rights to irrigate the area known today as Hill Ranch predate Chaffee County by more than a decade. Decreed in 1868, the rights permitted diversion of water for agriculture and ranching. And so it remained for more than a century, even after sale of the rights by the Hill family to Western Water Rights Limited Liability Partnership in 1986.

That all changed with the subsequent sale of the rights to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District (PWMD) in 2008. The PWMD, home to nearly 30,000 thirsty people, needed the rights to fuel a growth rate that remains among the fastest in the state. The rights are significant, totaling nearly 1,900 acre feet of water. An acre foot totals nearly 326,000 gallons. Under the decree, the rights would convert from agricultural to municipal. Included in the terms was the cessation of irrigation activities. The land would be dried up and restored to its pre-irrigation state.

The irrigation made growth possible for more water-loving vegetation, including aspen and cottonwood trees, and Russian thistle, a non-native species also known as tumbleweed. Under the rights transfer, the intrusive weeds must be removed and native grasses restored.

PWMD contracted with Denver-based WRC Engineering to perform the dry-up. The plan was to cease irrigation to dry up the land, defoliate the intrusive species and minimize windblown weeds and dust, followed by the introduction of a prescribed seed mixture from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

Say hello to ColoradoGives.org and then open up your wallet on December 10

Search by "water" results from Colorado Gives Day website
Search by “water” results from Colorado Gives Day website

Click here to go to the Colorado Gives Day website. You can search for your favorite old or new non-profit by name, keyword, city, zip code, county or cause. I searched by the keyword “water,” of course.

Left Hand Creek: Crews are racing against the start of irrigation season to reconnect facilities to the creek #COflood

Left Hand Creek September 2013 via Piper Bayard
Left Hand Creek September 2013 via Piper Bayard

From TheDenverChannel.com (Russell Haythorn):

The floods destroyed or badly damaged 12 of the head gates along Left Hand Creek. Those gates were used to divert water into smaller canals and out to farms for irrigation or reservoirs for drinking.

“All five of our reservoirs are offline, meaning we cannot get water into the reservoirs,” Left Hand Ditch Company Vice President Terry Plummer says.

In some places, the old creek bed is now dry and the water is flowing along a new path. If it doesn’t get diverted back into the original channel, Plummer says even the repaired gates can’t be used.

“There is no other option here,” he said. “It has to be repaired. This is people’s livelihood.”

The price of repair is estimated at $3.25 million.

So far, the Williamson Canal is nearly complete.

“We put the river back in its bed, rebuilt the banks,” Plummer said.

Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Water rights and cost issues still must be decided, but a study of the effectiveness of dams in Fountain Creek should be finalized in January. The study’s release was delayed a month because of a federal government shutdown, but the results have been reported for months.

“There has been no study of costs and benefits,” David Mau, head of the Pueblo office of the U.S. Geological Survey told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The USGS did the study in conjunction with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. The local share of funds for the $500,000 study was provided through $300,000 paid by Colorado Springs Utilities as part of its Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions for the Southern Delivery System.

The study looks at a 100-year storm centered over downtown Colorado Springs, and the effectiveness of dams or diversions at various locations along Fountain Creek. The most effective alternatives were a large dam on Fountain Creek or a series of detention ponds south of Colorado Springs. Mau said the number of ponds was not as important as the volume of water that could be stored.

There were some snickers in the room when Mau pointed out that roads and railroad tracks would have to be moved to build a large dam approximately 10 miles from the confluence of Fountain Creek. But it was pointed out that a large flood also could relocate roads, railroad tracks and utility lines, as was the case in Northern Colorado in September. Pueblo County lost the Pinon Bridge in the 1999 flood.

Mau said the amount of sediment trapped by a dam would amount to 2,500 truckloads, but said smaller ponds also would require extensive maintenance to remain effective.

Board member Vera Ortegon asked Mau which alternative he would recommend.

“We look at the science,” Mau said. “I could give you my personal opinion, but I won’t.”

Meanwhile property owners continue to chip away at the Fryingpn-Arkansas Project debt. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Property owners in nine counties will continue to make a dent in the federal debt for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project next year. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency in charge of repaying the debt, will collect another $6.5 million in property taxes next year, most of which goes toward reducing the debt. The board reviewed the budget Thursday and is expected to pass it on Dec. 5. The district began paying off $129 million in federal loans in 1982 on a 50-year loan. The amount represents the region’s share of the $585 million cost to build the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project. About $36 million of the debt will remain at the end of the year, Executive Director Jim Broderick told the board Thursday.

The district collects 0.944 mills in property taxes in parts of Bent, Chaffee, Crowley, El Paso, Fremont, Kiowa, Otero, Pueblo and Prowers counties. Of that, 0.9 mills goes toward federal repayment and the rest toward operating expenses.

It also will collect $5.3 million in pass-through revenues from El Paso County to repay the federal government for building the Fountain Valley Conduit.

The district also collects funds through sale of Fry-Ark water, fees and grants.

The district’s operating budget is $2.24 million next year, with an additional $1.07 million in capital projects planned.

The enterprise budget, paid mostly by user fees, totals $2.8 million, which includes $880,000 in capital projects.

The district is responsible for paying the Bureau of Reclamation to operate and maintain the project. The district also allocates water to cities and farms, and provides legal protection of Fry­Ark water rights.

More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.