Aspinall Unit update: 350 cfs in the Black Canyon #ColoradoRiver

Fog-filled Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Fog-filled Black Canyon of the Gunnison

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Flows in the Gunnison River have dropped to ~350 cfs today to accommodate the sonar mapping exercise at the Crystal Dam stilling basin.

Maintenance and testing of both power generators at Blue Mesa Dam will also start today – this is scheduled to be finished within 10 days. During this time there will be no power generation at Blue Mesa Dam. In order to minimize the amount of bypass water at Blue Mesa Dam, releases at Crystal Dam will remain at 300 cfs until the Blue Mesa power plant is back online. Therefore flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will continue to be around 350 cfs until further notice.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Give water a hand and help stop water waste! @ThorntonWater #fixaleak

COGCC: A Staff Report to the Commissioners “Lessons Learned” in the Front Range #COFlood of September 2013

Flooded well site September 2013 -- Denver Post
Flooded well site September 2013 — Denver Post

Here’s the release from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (Todd Hartman):

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission today released a comprehensive public report describing the lessons learned from the September 2013 flood. This 44-page report will support a Commission discussion in coming months as it decides whether to modify its regulations and policies that apply to Colorado’s oil and gas industry.

The flood along the Front Range and eastern plains of Colorado in September 2013 inundated many oil and gas facilities. Production equipment and oil and gas locations were damaged by rushing flood waters and debris. Colorado experienced spills of oil, condensate and produced water.

The report, Lessons Learned in the Front Range Flood of September 2013, describes the Commission’s investigation and conclusions following its flood response so far. The Commission has completed more than 3,400 individual inspections of oil and gas facilities affected by flood waters. It has discussed flood observations and lessons learned with the oil and gas industry, first responders, federal, state and local government agencies, conservation groups, and many other interested parties. On February 6, 2014, the Commission held a workshop in Denver to support a wide-ranging public discussion of these matters.

The report describes recommendations for changes to Colorado’s oil and gas program, and it also collects the flood response information gathered by the Commission. Recommendations include improved construction and protection of oil and gas facilities sited near Colorado’s streams. The report also includes recommendations for how the Commission can work better in a future emergency, emphasizing the importance of the Commission’s collection and dissemination of reliable oil and gas information in the very early days of an emergency.

The COGCC will schedule a hearing in the near future to discuss the report and take additional public comment.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission oversees the responsible development of oil and gas in Colorado and regulates the industry to protect public health, safety, welfare and the environment. The Commission oversees wells, tank batteries, and other oil and gas equipment located, in some cases, near streams throughout the state.

Click here to read the report. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (“COGCC” or the “Commission”) estimates that more than 5,900 oil and gas wells lie within 500 feet of a Colorado waterway that is substantial enough to be named. When these streams flood, nearby oil and gas facilities are at risk of damage, spills, environmental injury and lost production.

COGCC continues its work in the state’s recovery from the September 2013 flood along the Front Range of Colorado. COGCC has completed more than 3400 firsthand inspections of the oil and gas facilities affected by the flood. It has discussed flood observations and recommendations in detail with industry, other federal and state agencies, first responders and local governments, conservation groups and many others. The agency participates fully in Governor Hickenlooper’s broad flood response efforts started when the extraordinary rains began to fall.

COGCC has learned from these experiences, and this report is built upon that information. Section III collects and describes flood observations by COGCC staff and others. These observations range from highlighting significantly varying levels of protection offered by different anchoring systems to the importance of releasing to the public accurate and comprehensive COGCC information in the early days of the flood. Section IV assembles suggestions to improve Colorado’s oil and gas program – suggestions gathered from many sources by COGCC since the flood. These suggestions also vary widely, from those who believe COGCC regulations worked well to protect against the flood and should be left as they are today to those who believe that additional construction and other regulations are called for statewide as a result of the flood experience.

From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

The the state and the oil and gas industry need to do a better job of managing the 20,850 Colorado wells within 500 feet of rivers and streams, according to a report released Monday.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission report on lessons learned from the 2013 floods sought to identify the potential risks and suggest steps to be taken.

“The flood that struck the Front Range of Colorado in September 2013 was a major disaster and emergency,” the report said. “Damage to the oil and gas industry was significant.”

The oil and gas commission conducted more than 3,400 flood-related inspections and evaluations, and evaluated each of the 1,614 wells in the flood zone.

The inspections determined that wellheads generally fared well, but that tank batteries and other production equipment were toppled or dislodged by flood waters.

Flowing water, for example, eroded earthen foundations below tanks and equipment.

“Many oil and gas facilities located near flooded streams were damaged in the September 2013 flood,” the report said. “Oil, condensate and produced water spilled into the environment.”

About 48,250 gallons of oil and condensate spilled and more than 43,478 gallons of produced water also spilled, the report said.

Among the recommendations are that tanks and equipment be located as far from waterways as possible.

Secondary containment should be constructed with steel berms, which held up better in the flood, and lined with synthetic liner material bolted to the top of the steel berm.

Tanks should be constructed on compacted fill to reduce sub-grade failure and they should be should be ground-anchored, with engineered anchors and cabling.

The report also suggests regulatory changes including requiring each driller to have an inventory of all wells and production equipment in waterway areas.

Wells within the high-water mark of a waterway should be equipped with remote shut-in devices. These were very effective in closing wells during the flood, the report said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Residents and officials are keeping a wary eye on the snowpack along the Front Range canyons #COdrought #COflood

From (Matt Renoux):

“We have had a lot more snowfall than last winter – a harsher winter depending on the spring runoff. We could have a lot of water come in,” said [Gary Haines].

He’s trying to frame up the kind of spring Colorado rivers will have. Snow surveyors from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, local water managers and Sen. Michael Bennett made a point to check out a snow survey sight on Berthoud Pass for the same reasons.

“It’s important that we have an informed view,” said Bennett.

Putting on snowshoes and hiking into the powder, they watched as the snowpack in that area was measured, coming in at 77 inches. Then calculations were made to see exactly how much water is in the snow, which came out to be about 140 percent above average. That’s good news for central Colorado but down south snowpack levels are down as much as 90 percent. So the question many are asking is how much water will eventually come down to fill reservoirs around the state.

“We are standing on a place that’s had a really good snowpack this year – southwest Colorado, southeast Colorado. We are still facing significant droughts and farmers and ranchers are looking to this data,” said Bennett.

Overall water storage in Colorado reservoirs are below average but in some case’s reservoirs are being lowered to make room for more spring runoff.

Cache la Poudre River: Time-lapse footage of the removal of the Josh Ames Diversion Dam

The March 14 newsletter from the @WaterCenterCMU is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

Jonathan Waterman paddling the ooze in the Colorado River Delta via National Geographic
Jonathan Waterman paddling the ooze in the Colorado River Delta via National Geographic

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

On March 23, the gates of the Morelos Dam will open to provide the first ever intentional release of water for the benefit of the environment in the Colorado River Delta. The pulse flow release, to be followed by smaller base flows, is the result of the “Minute 319” agreement between Mexico, the US, several non-governmental organizations, and the states that share the river.

President’s $1 Billion Reclamation Budget for FY 2015 Underscores Water & Power as Economic Drivers in the West

A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam -- Photo USBR
A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam — Photo USBR

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan DuBray):

President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request released today identifies a total of $1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation, continuing the President’s commitment to be prudent with taxpayer dollars while setting consistent spending priorities for Reclamation. As the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier and second-largest producer of hydroelectric power, Reclamation’s projects and programs are critical to driving and maintaining economic growth in the western states.

“This budget reflects not only the President’s vision of opportunity and growth but also his strong commitment to meet water delivery requirements in the West in the face of dry conditions and a changing climate,” said acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley. “With this request, we are reinforcing our commitment to promote efficient water deliveries and power generation, implement critical river and environmental restoration programs, continue our focus on water-related activities to support tribal nations, and stretch water supplies through recycling and conservation.”

The proposal for Reclamation’s Water and Related Resources account of $760.7 million includes $343.5 million for resource management and development activities. This funding provides for planning, construction, water conservation activities, management of Reclamation lands – including recreation – and actions to address the impacts of Reclamation projects on fish and wildlife. The request also emphasizes reliable water delivery and power generation by requesting $417.2 million to fund operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation activities at Reclamation facilities, including dam safety initiatives.

The budget emphasizes Reclamation’s core mission to address the water needs of a growing population in an environmentally responsible and cost-efficient manner and to assist states, tribes and local entities in solving water resource issues. It also emphasizes the operation and maintenance of Reclamation facilities in a safe, efficient, economic and reliable manner – ensuring systems and safety measures are in place to protect the public and Reclamation facilities.

Reclamation’s funding request addresses administration, departmental and bureau priorities, including opportunities to enhance America’s Great Outdoors through ecosystem restoration, renewable energy, water conservation through the WaterSMART Program, to strengthen tribal nations, and engage the next generation of Americans in resource-related issues.

WaterSMART Program – The FY 2015 budget for Reclamation proposes $52.1 million for the WaterSMART Program (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) to assist communities in stretching water supplies and improving water management. WaterSMART components include: WaterSMART Grants funded at $19 million; the Basin Studies Program funded at $3.9 million; the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program funded at $21.5 million; the Water Conservation Field Service program funded at $4.5 million; the Cooperative Watershed Management program funded at $250,000; the new Drought Response program funded at $1.5 million; and the new Resilient Infrastructure program funded at $1.5 million.

Strengthening Tribal Nations – The FY 2015 Budget proposes $90 million for Indian Water Rights Settlements, in a new account of the same name to ensure continuity in the construction of four of the authorized projects and to highlight and enhance transparency in handling these funds. The budget includes $81 million for the ongoing Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project (Title X of Public Law 111-11). The budget also includes $9 million to continue implementation of three settlements authorized in the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. These settlements will deliver clean water to the Taos Pueblo of New Mexico, the Pueblos of New Mexico named in the Aamodt case, and the Crow Tribe of Montana.

The budget request proposes to transition the Central Utah Project Completion Act Program into the Bureau of Reclamation as part of broader administration efforts to implement good government solutions, ensure consistent treatment of federal water projects, consolidate activities when possible and reduce duplication and overlap. The FY 2015 CUPCA budget is $7.3 million.

Specifics of the budget request include:

America’s Great Outdoors Initiative – Reclamation has a responsibility to focus on the protection and restoration of the aquatic and riparian environments affected by its operations. The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative includes $116 million for Reclamation river restoration projects. Highlights of Reclamation’s ecosystem restoration activities, many of which support Endangered Species Act recovery programs, include:

  • $118.6 million to operate, manage and improve California’s Central Valley Project. More than half of the funding provides for operation and maintenance of project facilities, including $16.4 million for the Replacements, Additions and Extraordinary Maintenance program – which is used for modernization, upgrade and refurbishment of facilities throughout the Central Valley. Within the CVP total, $11.9 million and an additional $2 million in the CVP Restoration Fund are for the Trinity River Restoration Program.
  • $28.3 million for the Lower Colorado River Operations Program, of which $16.2 million is for the Multi-Species Conservation Program to provide long-term ESA compliance for river operations.
  • $32 million for activities consistent with the settlement of Natural Resources Defense Council v. Rodgers as authorized by the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act to restore and maintain fish populations, and avoid adverse water impacts.
  • $22.7 million for ESA recovery implementation programs, including $15.1 million to implement the Platte River Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program and $5.1 million for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.
  • $18 million for the Klamath Project, which supports studies and initiatives to improve water supplies to meet the competing demands of agricultural, tribal, wildlife refuge and environmental needs along with facilities operations and maintenance activities.
  • $37 million for California Bay-Delta Restoration. The account focuses on the health of the Bay-Delta ecosystem and improving water management and supplies. The budget will support the coequal goals of environmental restoration and improved water supply reliability under the following program activities: $1.7 million for a Renewed Federal State Partnership, $8 million for Smarter Water Supply and Use, and $27.4 million for Habitat Restoration. These program activities are based on the Interim Federal Action Plan for the California Bay-Delta issued December 22, 2009.
  • $57 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund to continue funding a variety of activities to restore fish and wildlife habitat and populations within the CVP service area of California.
  • $22.7 million for the Middle Rio Grande Project, of which $7.9 million is targeted to support environmental activities developed through the Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program.
  • $17 million for the Columbia and Snake River Salmon Recovery Project for implementation of the biological opinions for the Federal Columbia River Power System.
  • Other Budget Highlights Include:

  • $34.1 million for rural water projects to undertake the design and construction of five projects and operation and maintenance of tribal features for two projects intended to deliver potable water supplies to specific rural communities and tribes located primarily in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.
  • A total of $11 million for the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, which will continue funding grants to implement conservation measures and monitor the effects of those measures on the river diversions.
  • $82.9 million for the Dam Safety Program to continue dam safety risk management and risk reduction activities throughout Reclamation’s inventory of dams. Corrective actions are planned to start or continue at a number of facilities. A major focus continues to be modifications at Folsom Dam in California.
  • $26.2 million for Reclamation’s ongoing site-security program that includes physical security upgrades at key facilities, guards and patrols, anti-terrorism program activities and security risk assessments.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation, throughout the 17 western states, is committed to helping meet the many water challenges of the West. A driving force behind bureau initiatives is resolution of water issues that will benefit future generations and providing leadership on the path to sustainable water supplies.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.

    CWCB: Climate Change in Colorado — A Synthesis to Support Water Resources Management and Adaptation

    Colorado, United States, and Global Temperatures, 1895-2012 via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
    Colorado, United States, and Global Temperatures, 1895-2012 via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

    From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

    Public comments will be accepted March 12- April 11, 2014 (COB). The draft report has been posted to the CWCB website. A comment form is also available on the website to download. Both documents can be found at

    This report, an update of a 2008 report by the same name, is a synthesis of climate science relevant for management and planning of Colorado’s water. It focuses on observed climate trends, climate modeling, and projections of temperature, precipitation, snowmelt, and runoff. Climate projections are reported for the mid-21st century, because this time frame is being used for development of adaptation strategies by the state of Colorado and other water entities.

    This report summarizes findings from peer-reviewed global and regional studies, and presents new Colorado-specific analyses and graphics derived from existing datasets. The state is home to many experts in climate and hydrology, and this report also draws from ongoing work by these scientists.

    Questions and written feedback regarding the report and its contents can be directed to Jeff Lukas, lead author, by email at or by phone at 303-497-6212 by close of business April 11, 2014.

    Click here to read the draft report. From the executive summary:

    This report is a synthesis of climate science relevant for management and planning forColorado’s water resources. It focuses on observed climate trends, climate modeling, and projections of temperature, precipitation, snowmelt, and runoff. Climate projections are reported for the mid‐21st century because this time frame is being used for development of adaptation strategies by the state of Colorado and other water entities. The information in the report is also applicable to other sectors beyond those connected to water.

    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    Climate experts say it’s about to get warmer —probably much warmer — in Colorado. A draft state climate report released this week for public comment shows that Colorado has warmed by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 50 years. By the middle of this century, summer temperatures will be higher than in all but the hottest years, with another 2.5 to 5.5 degrees of warming expected.

    The report, aimed at helping resource managers prepare for changing conditions, found no long-term trends in annual precipitation, even with the relatively dry period in the early 2000s. Annual observed precipitation changes the past few decades are within the range of natural variability, according to the report…

    One big question mark with implications for water management is the effect of global warming in the mountains. Some recent research suggests greater warming at high elevations as global temperatures increase, but there’s a lack of data from sites above 10,000 feet in Colorado. Data gaps point to the need for better climate monitoring, some experts say, warning that federal budget cuts could threaten existing monitoring programs.

    From the Associated Press via the Aurora Sentinel:

    The report, released Wednesday, says most projections indicate less snow will accumulate in Colorado’s mountains because warming trends are causing it to melt earlier in the season.

    The report was prepared for the Colorado Water Conservation Board by the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. The board is accepting public comment through April 11…

    It says statewide annual average temperatures have risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit in 30 years, the same as North America as a whole.

    The report says computer models project Colorado temperatures will rise 2.5 to 5.5 degrees by mid-century, compared with a 1971-2000 baseline.