CWCB ISF Program 40th Year Celebration, January 15

Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

From the Colorado Trout Unlimited website:

Celebrating 40 Years of Success and Challenges for Colorado’s Instream Flow Program

Join the Colorado Water Conservation Board for a special workshop and happy hour celebrating the 40th anniversary of Colorado’s Instream Flow Program. The event features a keynote presentation from Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs, panel presentations on the program’s history and on its future, and a happy hour featuring light refreshments. Among the confirmed panelists who will be speaking are:

  • James Eklund, Director, Colorado Water Conservation Board
  • Eric Kuhn, General Manager, Colorado River Water Conservation District
  • Amy Beatie, Executive Director, Colorado Water Trust

The event is free and open to the public; RSVPs are requested. The program begins at 2 pm, with the happy hour reception starting at 430 pm – at the Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center.

Sponsored by American Rivers, Colorado Trout Unlimited, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Water Trust, Conservation Colorado, Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell, The Nature Conservancy, Petros & White, Public Counsel of the Rockies, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, University of Denver Water Law Review, Waterjamin Legal & Policy Consulting, and Western Resource Advocates.

More instream flow coverage here. More CWCB coverage here.

Drought news: 31.5% of Lower 48 in drought, up in AL, KS, OK, TX, OR

US Drought Monitor December 17, 2013
US Drought Monitor December 17, 2013

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

The Central and Northern Plains and Midwest

After some modest improvements last week, most locales in these regions saw little in the way of precipitation over the past week, leading to few or no changes in the depiction on this week’s map. The one area that did see some minor expansion of drought this week was in central Kansas, where the recent warm, windy and dry weather has led to a slight push eastward of D1 conditions…

The South and Southern Plains

Last week was rather cool and dry for most parts of these regions as the drought keeps its grip and begins to swell again across parts of southern Texas and western Oklahoma and the panhandles of both states. Scattered pockets of increases and/or introductions of D1/D3 are noted in both states given the continued dryness of late on top of long-term (12- to 36-months) dryness, which has left behind dry stock ponds and slowed winter wheat and pasture growth/recovery…

The West

Drought and dryness continued its march northward to the Canadian border through coastal and central Oregon and Washington this week as dismal water year numbers continue to roll in. Widespread expansion of D0 is noted in both central Oregon and Washington while D1 has now spread across the southwestern corner of Oregon up to the Umpqua Divide. In fact, many locations in southern/southwestern Oregon (around the Medford and Klamath Falls areas) are approaching record dry calendar years. Groundwater levels for wells are of increasing concern in these areas of the state, and the ski resorts (many not even open yet) are feeling the brunt of it as well given the lack of snow to date. According to the National Weather Service in Medford, OR, Mount Shasta City may epitomize the impacts: current 2013 calendar year precipitation stood at 9.99 inches as of earlier this week, and the 1981-2010 normal stands at 43.21 inches. In fact, December of 2012 was wetter (10.43 inches) than all of 2013 to date.

Region wide, early USDA-NRCS SNOTEL readings are abysmal for both Water-Year-to-Date precipitation and snow water equivalent with values as of December 17 falling in the 30-50% of normal range. There is plenty of time to make it up in January-March, but this certainly isn’t the start to the season many were hoping for.

Although there are no changes to the map in California this week with D2/D3 firmly entrenched across 83% of the state, impacts are beginning to really ramp up, with the Big Sur fire and water supply issues a continual concern and making plenty of news heading into 2014. Indeed, fire has become more than just a seasonal concern for those folks in California of late. The NWS office in Los Angeles/Oxnard reported on December 16 that Los Angeles is on track for its driest calendar year on record with data going back to 1877. Through December 15, LA had recorded only 3.49 inches (26% of normal). The current record dry calendar years of 1947 and 1953 both came in at 4.08 inches. Many other locations around the region are approaching similar dubious record or near-record dry calendar years…

Looking Ahead

During the December 19-23, 2013, time period, a system is expected to bring some much-needed moisture to the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, heavy rains are expected across portions of the eastern southern Plains and into the middle Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley. Others along the eastern Seaboard and up into New England can also expect to share in some of the moisture, although at more modest levels. Above-normal to well-above-normal temperatures are expected across northern California, Texas and the Gulf Coast region and from Florida northward into New England. Cold air looks to remain entrenched across the central and northern Plains along with the western Great Lakes region.

For the ensuing 5 days (December 24-28, 2013), warmer temperatures are anticipated across all of Alaska, California and the southern Atlantic Coast region from Florida up to the coastal Carolinas. Cooler temperatures are expected in the Pacific Northwest, Intermountain West, Mississippi Valley and Midwest, including the Great Lakes. Dryness seems to be in the cards for most, with below-normal precipitation likely across most of the West, central and southern Plains, Mississippi Valley and western Gulf Coast states. Alaska and the southern Atlantic Coast states can expect above-normal amounts of the wet stuff, though.

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

December 1-15 month to date precipitation Upper Colorado River Basin via Colorado Climate Center
December 1-15 month to date precipitation Upper Colorado River Basin via Colorado Climate Center

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go the website.

Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

Upper Arkansas Valley
Upper Arkansas Valley

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

During the monthly meeting of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors, consultant Ken Baker discussed preliminary efforts to develop a bill that would create a “flexible water market,” saying he believes some form of bill will be enacted during the next legislative session.

Baker said the bill would allow the amount of water attributed to historical consumptive use on irrigated land to be put to other uses during temporary fallowing of that land and allow the water to be put to any beneficial use without designating the specific use, as is currently required. Through a flex market, Baker said, agricultural water rights holders could implement rotational fallowing of their farmland and lease a portion of their water for other beneficial uses, while retaining sufficient water to sustain agricultural activities and keep the land in production. A key element of this approach, Baker said, is that the bill would grant the state water engineer the authority to approve flex market filings and agreements, removing Water Court from the process except for appeals.

Baker also noted that nothing proposed in the bill to date addresses storing or transferring water leased through the proposed flex market system. Baker said one concern with the legislation is basin-of-origin protections for water in the Arkansas River Basin because similar bills passed in 2013, HB-1248 and HB-1033, do not protect the Arkansas Basin from transbasin diversions.

In other business, directors:

  • Learned that a final decree was issued granting absolute storage rights for all district water in O’Haver Reservoir and all but 100 acre-feet of district water in North Fork Reservoir.
  • Learned that the Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a grant to fund phase 2 of the Helena Ditch project, which will include construction of concrete components to ensure sufficient capacity in the ditch and a bypass to return excess diverted water back to the river.
  • Learned from hydrologist Jord Gertson that Arkansas River Basin snowpack has reached 139 percent of average and that the district is gaining native and transbasin winter water in Twin Lakes Reservoir.
  • Heard comments from attorney Kendall Burgemeister indicating U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s proposed Browns Canyon National Monument legislation “seems favorable to the district.”
  • Heard from Director Tim Canterbury that preliminary discussions have begun in an effort to craft legislation concerning livestock ponds that have no water rights, some of which the Colorado Division of Water Resources officials have ordered drained.
  • Discussed the exemption from the priority system of livestock that drink from a free-flowing stream or ditch.
  • Received a list of projects from the Personnel and Finance Special Committee and were asked to prioritize projects and submit those priorities to the committee prior to the January meeting.
    Heard from Cañon City Water Superintendent Bob Hartzman about ongoing efforts to protect the watershed through erosion prevention and revegetation in areas burned by the Royal Gorge Fire.
  • Heard from Director Frank McMurry that the U.S. Forest Service will no longer pursue its plan of forcing ski resorts to surrender their water rights, a plan that agricultural water rights holders had opposed.
  • Approved, by an 8-4 vote, dropping opposition to the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District’s Super Ditch case if the Lower Ark district agrees to drop its opposition to the Upper Ark district’s 04CW96 case. McMurry, Canterbury, Tom French and Bill Jackson voted against the measure.
  • Renewed the U.S. Geological Survey contract for the Groundwater Network Study.
  • Approved stipulations negotiated with St. Charles Mesa in case 04CW96 relating to basin-wide exchanges.
  • Learned from Burgemeister that the deadline for filing oppositions in the district’s Cottonwood Creek exchange case had been extended into February because the Aspen newspaper failed to post notice of the filing.
  • More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

    The BLM and COGCC continue to monitor leaking gas well near De Beque

    Colorado River near De Beque
    Colorado River near De Beque

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    A recently hydraulically fractured horizontal oil and gas well was drilled within about 400 feet underground, and possibly within 260 feet, of a nonproducing well discovered to be leaking Saturday. The inactive, 32-year-old vertical well showed no leaking or structural problems during a routine Bureau of Land Management inspection July 9.

    Authorities are continuing to investigate the cause of the newly discovered leak at the Maralex Resources well on BLM-managed land on Jaw Ridge in Mesa County about seven miles southwest of De Beque. One possibility is that hydraulic fracturing of a horizontal well owned by another company, Black Hills Exploration & Production, may be responsible.

    The BLM and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are investigating the incident with the assistance of both companies. BLM spokesman Chris Joyner said the COGCC took soil and water samples Tuesday.

    “We’re being told within a week we’ll know what the analysis shows,” he said.

    “If it’s fracking fluids, then obviously that will give us an indication that it was related to the other site that was recently fracked,” Joyner said.

    Joyner said the BLM is being told a citizen, possibly a hunter, discovered the leak Saturday. The leak was bubbling up from around the well, but Maralex opened the well to divert the leak to a holding pit, which caused the water and gas to come up only through the well and suggested the action relieved the pressure, he said.

    Todd Hartman, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said late Tuesday afternoon that it appeared the flow of fluids and gas had stopped altogether. An unknown amount of fluids initially migrated off the pad but didn’t reach surface water, Joyner said.

    Maralex “acted quickly Saturday and got it going into a containment pit. That helped a lot,” he said.

    A containment berm around the pad was built Tuesday.

    Fracked recently

    Joyner said Maralex removed 160 barrels of fluids from the pit, which had been dry during this summer’s inspection. He said precipitation likely accounts for part of that amount.

    The leaking well is 7,300 feet deep and about a mile southeast of a 6,000-foot-deep Black Hills well that Joyner was told was fracked within the last 10 days. He said the leak appears fairly fresh, or the volume would likely be much larger.

    Maralex couldn’t be reached for comment. Black Hills spokesman Wes Ashton said his company’s horizontal well went underground within about 400 feet of the Maralex well. Joyner said that’s possible, but it could have come within 260 feet. Joyner didn’t know how close to the well it was allowed to be, and Ashton didn’t know how far the fractures from the Black Hills well were expected to extend.

    Ashton said Black Hills has drilled four wells, all horizontal, in the De Beque area in the last three years.

    “We’ve got a pretty good track record and history in the local area. … We’re just doing anything we can at this point to assist what’s going on and as far as the review.”

    Horizontal drilling, which involves drilling down and then out 90 degrees sometimes for long distances, is becoming increasingly popular, in Colorado’s case mostly in northeastern Colorado where companies are pursuing oil development.

    Path to surface

    Bruce Baizel, energy program director with the Earthworks conservation group, said such drilling poses a challenge as the wells “wiggle and waggle” between pre-existing vertical wells, at closer and closer distances with less margin for error. Especially if the wells are older, perhaps with corroded pipe or with cement sealing around them that has weakened over time, there’s the potential for leaks when high-pressure fracking occurs, he said.

    “You put pressure on it and boom, there goes your crumbling cement and you’ve got a path right to the surface,” he said.

    Ashton said Black Hills does collision-avoidance studies, including resurveying of existing wells and planning of a well path to avoid existing well bores.

    “This is an issue of concern to the industry and operators in the industry are presently working with regulatory agencies to address the issue and we’re actively participating in that process,” he said.

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works continues fee exemptions for economic development

    Wind farm Logan County
    Wind farm Logan County

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A moratorium on fees to establish water service for companies that bring jobs to Pueblo was approved Tuesday. The Pueblo Board of Water Works has approved the exemption on a year-to-year basis for the last 30 years as a way to support local economic development. The resolution exempts fees for main extensions, tap, meter and plant water investment fees that otherwise would be required by the water board. The goal is to encourage industry that creates primary jobs to locate in Pueblo.

    Since 1984, the moratorium has resulted in the contribution of $5.7 million toward infrastructure that allowed companies to locate or expand in Pueblo.

    The most recent efforts have been to create water service to the St. Charles Industrial Park south of Pueblo. Vestas, Rocla and pewag have located in the park since improvements began in 2009. Prior to that, the improvements were concentrated at the airport industrial park east of Pueblo.

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    Antonito water system in non-compliance

    The water treatment process
    The water treatment process

    From the Valley Courier (Jesse Medina):

    Town residents are concerned over a number of water violations that the town of Antonito has incurred within the past few months. The topic was put forth to the Antonito town board at their monthly meeting on Thursday, Dec. 12. The state is imposing penalties on the town for using Town Administrator Rossi Duran to operate their water systems without a license. Duran has been operating without a license since August , and the town’s waste and distribution licenses expired in 2012. The town has failed to comply with having a certified operator responsible in charge requirement to operate the Antonito water distribution facility. According to state law, every facility, domestic or industrial, that manages wastewater, water collection systems and distribution systems must be supervised by a certified operator. The town was required to submit proof of having a licensed operator by October 30.

    Duran had received a letter from the State Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Control Division stating the town is in violation of Colorado Primary Drinking Water regulations and could receive a $1,000 if the town fails to complete compliance requirements. The town has been notified that it is in violation of several other policies and has been for several years, going back to 2008.

    The town received several notices from the state ordering them to halt their water testing practices, which are not in accordance with state regulations. Antonito Mayor Michael Trujillo was sent a letter calling for a cease and desist on water regulatory practices in the town. The letter requires the town to submit an answer to the water quality division that either admits or denies the findings on the violations. Trujillo said that a response was sent and that the town is doing the best it can to comply with the state. Several residents voiced their opinions regarding the violations and how the town is planning to address these charges. Resident Ronald Hope asked Trujillo if he was aware of the violations and if the board had received letters from the state informing the town of the nature of the violations and the potential repercussions of continuing to operate out of policy.

    “I just want to know if the board is aware of the violations in question. We have an unlicensed water tester working for the city and we need a new one that is qualified. The board needs to do something about this,” said Hope. Trujillo said that the town was aware of the violations and of the length of time that these violations have been occurring.

    “We are working on trying to solve this problem. We have to look at this and work on it as a community because this affects all of us,” said Trujillo.

    The board did not make any decision regarding the violations, and suggested that a workshop be conducted to discuss, and come to a solution , for complying with state water regulations.

    Antonito water has been scrutinized since the Guadalupe water test came back positive for E. coli in November . Only one test came back positive, but it raised some concern amongst residents and brought the town’s past violations into question.

    From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Residents of Antonito are worried about their water quality after the town was notified it failed to comply with state water regulations for months. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent a letter threatening to penalize the town for allowing town administrator Rossi Duran to operate the town’s water systems without a license.

    At a meeting last week, resident Ronald Hope asked Antonito Mayor Michael Trujillo if he was aware of the violations. City officials acknowledged that Duran has been operating without a license since August, and the town’s waste and distribution licenses expired in 2012.

    More infrastructure coverage here.