Snowpack news (% of normal): Upper Colorado = 120; South Platte = 116; Arkansas = 143; Upper Rio Grande = 145; Gunnison = 139; Yampa & White = 123; San Miguel/Dolores/Animas/San Juan = 141

Statewide SWE as a percent of normal December 7, 2013
Statewide SWE as a percent of normal December 7, 2013

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

…for meteorologists, climatologists and water district officials, it’s too early to celebrate an already above-average snowpack, or to anticipate reaping the benefits when spring runoff hits.

“Early snow is better than no snow,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We don’t put a lot of emphasis on the early numbers before you get us into February and March.”

Still, the early snowpack numbers for the hills west of Fort Collins look good; levels at two crucial Fort Collins reservoirs, Joe Wright and Deadman Lake, are above average. Averages are measured by snow water equivalents — essentially, a sample of snow that is then melted and measured. At Joe Wright Reservoir, snowpack is 13 percent above average for this time of year, and the snow water equivalent is at 4.5 inches. Deadman Lake snowpack levels are 39 percent above average, with a snow water equivalent of 7.1 inches, according to the National Weather Service…

Until September, when catastrophic floods hit the Front Range, most of Colorado was in some stage of moderate to extreme drought. Even with the heavy snows, it took up to a foot of rain in most places to banish the drought completely in northern and central Colorado.

“September has given us such a shot in the arm that we will end up, in the 2013 calendar year, at least a couple of inches above the long-term (precipitation levels),” said Nolan Doesken, director of the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University.

Much of the glut of September rain is still in the ground, and has not yet been depleted by streams, Doesken said. The Cache la Poudre River Basin, the watershed that feeds Fort Collins, has likely retained a lot of moisture after the September floods.

“Our basin has a lot of water in the soils as well as a good start to the snowpack,” Doesken said.

From Transworld.net (Gerhard Gross):

A powerful and well-timed winter storm swept across the western U.S. Tuesday and Wednesday, touching each one of Vail Resorts’ mountains and leaving up to 14 inches of new snow in its wake.

From The Aspen Times (Andre Salvail):

Despite some decent helpings of early snowfall this autumn, what locals and visitors had been hoping for finally came ­— an estimated 14-inch dumping of powder atop Aspen Mountain and 12 inches on Snowmass ski area late Tuesday and much of Wednesday.

In fact, Mother Nature was generous throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, dropping about 11 inches in the city of Aspen, 9 or 10 inches in the Basalt area and a similar amount in Glenwood Springs. The estimates from each area vary, depending on the source and the precise location…

The next significant snowfall event is not expected until Saturday, Boudreau said. It’s not predicted to have quite the same impact as the Tuesday-Wednesday storm, but could bring 3 to 5 inches on Saturday and maybe more on Sunday, according to Cory Gates, also of http://aspenweather.net.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Weather-watchers reported .54 inches of precipitation on Wednesday — in the form of 5.9 inches of snowfall recorded. That bested precipitation and snowfall totals for the day — .35 in precipitation in 1944 and 3.7 inches of snow recorded in 1972.

Storm snowfall totals from across the region revealed the real impact the storm had in multiple spots.

In Garfield County, 30 inches of snow were measured at Douglas Pass over the course of the storm, and 17 inches of snow were recorded in New Castle.

In Delta County, 8 inches fell in Paonia and 5 inches were recorded in Hotchkiss.

The measurements were similarly mixed across Mesa County.

A measuring site at the Skyway on Grand Mesa tallied 10.5 inches of snow, while 9 inches were recorded on the Redlands and 7 inches on Glade Park, according to weather service data.

Larimer County: All major road corridors now open #COflood

Reclamation Selects Jacklynn Gould as Eastern-Colorado Area Manager

Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water
Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Great Plains Region has selected Jacklynn Gould, a Colorado native, as the Eastern Colorado Area Manager in Loveland, Colo. Gould will assume her responsibilities as Area Manager on Dec. 15. She replaces Mike Collins, who is retiring after more than 42 years of federal service.

“Gould is the right candidate for the job,” said Great Plains Regional Director Mike Ryan. “Her prior experience working at ECAO, along with her extensive background in management and water operations qualifies her to help mitigate water challenges of the future.”

Gould is the first female Area Manager Colorado has hired. Prior to accepting the Area Manager position, she served as the Deputy Area Manager for the Eastern Colorado Area Office in Loveland. Gould’s career with Reclamation began in 1992 as a water resource planner in Reclamation’s Denver Office. She has also worked in the Albuquerque Area Office, and most recently in the Eastern Colorado Area Office.

“I’m honored to be selected as the Eastern-Colorado Area Manager,” said Gould. “I look forward to the opportunities and challenges Colorado faces in managing and developing the water resources of tomorrow.”

Eastern Colorado is home to two major Reclamation projects: the Colorado Big-Thompson and Fryingpan-Arkansas. Together, the projects provide water to over 1.5 million people.

More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.

Eagle River Watershed Council: Hydraulic Fracturing & Water an informational panel, Wednesday December 11th

Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg
Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg

Click here to read the announcement.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Water Court cancels @fortcollinsgov 2007 Halligan Reservoir expansion conditional water right — no diligence filing

The Tweet above has been deleted from Twitter.

Update (January 10, 2014): The right is actually a 1985 right. I got that wrong and the source document is now unavailable. Also, the right is not directly associated with the Halligan expansion. Fort Collins has other rights that will fill the expanded vessel.

Here’s the story from Kevin Dugan writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Here’s an excerpt:

Failure to file required paperwork has cost Fort Collins a water right on the Poudre River it has held for 28 years.

The right was intended to help fill Halligan Reservoir, which sits on the North Fork of the Poudre River, if a project to enlarge the reservoir is ever approved and built.

The city has been working on the enlargement proposal for many years. It secured a conditional right to receive up to 33,462 acre-feet of water in 1985 in hopes of storing part of it in Halligan to meet future water needs and protect the city’s water supply during times of drought.

More Halligan/Seaman expansion coverage here.

Many eyes are on the 1,250 cfs Shoshone right #ColoradoRiver

Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb
Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb

From KUNC (Maeve Conran):

There’s popular launch site for rafters a few miles east of Glenwood Springs. It’s right beneath Interstate 70, and is in front of an old tan brick building, set back into the canyon wall. Chances are, highway drivers might not even see this place. But it’s the reason the rafting is so good here all the time.

The Shoshone Hydro Plant, built to harness Colorado River water and turn it into 15 megawatts of electricity has two nine-foot tall turbines, which were manufactured and installed in 1906 and are still humming along today. It’s the linchpin of the river, according to Jim Pokrandt, Education and Outreach Specialist with the Colorado River District.

“Not because of producing electricity,” said Pokrandt. “But because it takes water to produce that electricity, and that water is supplied via a 1902 water right for 1250 CFS. That’s the biggest, oldest water right on the river.”

1250 CFS, or cubic feet per second, is a lot of water. It’s labeled “non-consumptive use,” which means the water is not taken out of the river to grow food or flush toilets. It flows onto the turbines and right back out—sustaining an important part of the local economy: rafting, kayaking and fishing.

Maintaining that primary water right is critical to keeping flow levels adequate for the turbines, and to help create rapids.

Pokrandt says Shoshone also helps towns that draw water from the river, because the high flows the plant requires helps keep the water cleaner.

“Silt, Rifle, Parachute and Clifton are all taking drinking water out of the Colorado River,” said Pokrandt. “The greater the flow, the less intensive you have to treat the water.”

Agriculture in the Grand Valley also benefits from Shoshone’s water right.

Mel Rettig is a vegetable and fruit farmer in Palisade, about 80 miles southwest of the Shoshone plant. Rettig says the higher flows due to Shoshone help keep salinity levels low…

Some West Slope water irrigators who depend on Shoshone would love to buy the plant and its water right to protect the interests of the Grand Valley. A 15-megawatt output is small by today’s standards — modern power plants produce hundreds of megawatts. But Xcel continues to invest millions in maintenance at the plant and the utility says they have no plans to sell Shoshone or its water rights…

“This little, old, two turbine, 15-megawatt 1905 vintage power plant in Glenwood Canyon,” said Pokrandt. “It doesn’t look like much but it’s a big dog on the river.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.