Dams move water in time: http://t.co/MA9VnixSWK
— jfleck (@jfleck) March 19, 2014
From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):
A project currently proposed by the Trinchera Irrigation Company would improve Mountain Home Reservoir for all those who enjoy it for recreation and depend on it for irrigation.
Constructed in 1908, the dam at Mountain Home in Costilla County is showing its age, according to Trinchera Ditch Superintendent Wayne Schwab who presented a preliminary request for $25,000 from the Rio Grande Roundtable local funding source to perform a feasibility study regarding dam improvements . The irrigation company and Colorado Parks & Wildlife are providing $12,000 in matching funds as well, Schwab said.
He explained that Mountain Home is a popular fishing and wildlife area, so Parks & Wildlife is interested in improving the reservoir. The 47 shareholders in the Trinchera Irrigation Company are also invested in improving the reservoir, which serves as the main water source for the Trinchera Creek drainage. Smith Reservoir is another water source, primarily for folks below the Trinchera drainage, Schwab explained to the Roundtable this week.
“Along with supplying irrigation water, the Smith and Mountain Home are State Wildlife Areas, and Mountain Home is a popular fishing area,” Schwab said.
There are three gates at the Mountain Home dam, but only one is currently in use, Schwab explained, with the other two not used for decades. The irrigation company’s hope is to put at least one of the other gates back into service. Schwab said the state engineer is strongly recommending the other two gates become operational again, and the irrigation company would like to contract a feasibility study to see how best to do that and improve the reservoir’s efficiency. If the dam was operating more efficiently, water storage levels could be maintained both for irrigators and for Parks & Wildlife to maintain a strong conservation pool for fishing.
Schwab said the feasibility study will involve underwater inspections of conduits, valves and valve gates. The engineer performing the study will then provide a few alternatives for improving the dam, which will help establish reliable reservoir elevation levels and water storage.
With a stronger conservation pool, Parks & Wildlife can keep fish in the reservoir . Schwab said Parks & Wildlife is looking at ways to improve the area around the reservoir and increase recreational benefits in Costilla County, which has very little public land compared to other counties in the San Luis Valley. Only 2 percent of the county is public land, he said, and the county is one of the poorest counties in the state, so anything that can help generate tourism and revenue would be helpful.
In addition to Parks & Wildlife, Trout Unlimited is involved in this project, Schwab said, and is interested in ways to improve fishing at the reservoir.
Schwab said the groups involved would like to see the project begun next summer . The Roundtable will likely vote on the funding request during its April meeting.
More Upper Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.
From The Colorado Springs Business Journal (Marija B. Vader):
The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, Accelerate Colorado and the Colorado Competitive Council will host a business briefing on the governor’s statewide water plan.
The goal is to help finalize a new set of statewide business community water policy principles that address the business and economic development of Colorado.
The briefing takes place from 8-9:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 2, at the Antlers Hilton, 4 S. Cascade Ave. The briefing is free, but pre-registration is required. Breakfast buffet is free.
To register online, click on: http://web.coloradospringsbusinessalliance.com/events/Water-Policy-Briefing-to-the-Business-Community-1848/details. For information, call 884-2832.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.
Click on a thumbnail to view a gallery of snowpack data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
From H2O Radio (Click through to read or listen to the program):
Melting snow flows into creeks and streams, and ultimately into drinking water for people living in the arid West. Since 1935, farmers and cities alike have relied on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative Snow Survey Program to predict runoff and know how much water to expect. Snow surveyors from Natural Resources Conservation Service and the other cooperating agencies collect data from thousands of snow survey sites several times each winter.
In 1977, NRCS began developing a network of automated radio telemetry data sites for collecting snow survey data, but some information is still collected manually involving long treks into remote areas, often in bad weather. We tagged along with some of these quiet heroes who, quite literally, go to great lengths to understand just how much water will come out of your tap.
Tower snotel snow depth reached 150" this morning, a gain of 16" over night.
— Art Judson (@ArtJudson) March 18, 2014
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
Western Slope interests are beginning to speak with one voice about their interest in purchasing a historic Glenwood Canyon hydroelectric plant viewed by many as more valuable for its water rights than for its electricity. But there’s no indication for now that the Shoshone Generation Station is even for sale. And a purchase presumptively would involve a high price tag due to the considerable and highly senior water rights, meaning that a funding mechanism would need to be identified, not to mention a buying party.
“I’m sure if the plant was for sale something like that would be put together,” said Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood Springs.
The 15-megawatt plant, owned by Xcel Energy, is tiny by hydroelectric facility standards. But its 1905 water right of 1,250 cubic feet per second wields a lot of power in the water world, ensuring the flow of that much water down the Colorado River at least as far as the Glenwood Springs area. If the right didn’t exist, it could open the door to further diversions of water to junior rights holders wanting it for municipal purposes on the Front Range.
“Shoshone’s really the controlling right on the river,” Pokrandt said.
The Shoshone flows are so important to Western Slope governments, irrigation districts and other entities that part of a recently finalized, wide-ranging agreement dozens of them struck with Denver Water formalizes a protocol for generally continuing flows required by the plant during plant outages. The deal also seeks to mimic those flows even if the plant no longer is operational. Under the deal, Denver Water also would support possible purchase of the plant by a Western Slope entity.
Meanwhile, a Colorado River Basin roundtable group currently is helping draw up a basin-wide plan to submit for consideration as part of development of a state water plan. Louis Meyer, a Glenwood Springs engineer who is doing public outreach around the basin as the group prepares its recommendations, said he’s hearing a unanimous consensus in support of buying the plant.
“I believe that will be one of the seminal things going forward in our plan,” he said.
He said one of the things driving the concern is that while there may be a deal with Denver Water, other Front Range entities aren’t bound by it. Pokrandt, who chairs the roundtable group, said the fear is that an entity would buy the plant just to close it down and retire its water rights, enabling it to divert more water with junior rights.
He said it’s good to see the concept of buying the plant take root, but added, “it would be a very expensive proposition.”
Meyer agreed, but said that if the cost is spread among numerous counties, “it’s not very much at all.”
Pokrandt said the river district would be the logical entity to take the lead in a purchase.
“But we certainly couldn’t do it on the revenues that we have for our current operations. A revenue stream would have to be figured out,” he said.
“… The financial package would definitely have to be a West Slopewide discussion.”
He said there’s an increasing recognition on the Western Slope of the Shoshone rights’ value in keeping water in the river for environmental and recreational purposes, and ensuring its availability for municipal consumption, Grand Valley irrigation and other purposes downstream of the plant.
The water rights are designated for electricity generation, which would mean the buyer would have to continue operating the old plant to keep the rights. Pokrandt said that wouldn’t be easy for the river district, but it already does things such as operate reservoirs.
But he was quick to point out about the Shoshone plant, “It’s not for sale, though.”
Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said he can’t comment on whether the plant is for sale, due to general company policy about not speaking on acquisitions or sales of assets “unless there is some cause for doing it.”
He said people “shouldn’t read too much into that one way or the other.”
Even with its small size, the plant is a component for meeting electricity demand in the area, he said.
“It’s obviously a relatively modest facility but it still provides a big benefit to the company in supporting the grid in what’s obviously a more geographically challenging part of our service territory,” he said.
Building transmission and generation is harder in the mountains, and Shoshone “remains a very important piece from the grid support standpoint,” he said.
Xcel spent $12 million repairing the plant after a penstock ruptured in 2007, putting it out of service.
“We will continue to operate that facility based on that investment,” he said.
Pokrandt said that in probably the best of all worlds, Xcel would continue to own and operate the plant.
He added, “I think Xcel also understands the politics of the situation and the preferred status quo of operating the plant under the current conditions.”
Stutz said the company understands the significance of the plant to entities in the region, and tries to be a good neighbor.
“We’ve always tried to work with any agreements made with other entities in terms of where that water goes,” he said.
From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):
…while images of tipped storage tanks and flooded well sites were part of the national media coverage of the storm and the aftermath, the amount of petroleum products spilled into the rushing waters was small compared to the raw sewage and chemicals from flooded wastewater treatment plants, homes, stores and other facilities, state officials said in the weeks following the flood.
Now, the COGCC, which oversees the state’s multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry, issued its staff report to focus on “Lessons Learned” from the flood. The report doesn’t suggest putting new laws in place, but does propose the COGCC consider adopting “best management” practices for oil and gas equipment located near Colorado’s streams and rivers.
Along with encouraging remote wells, the COGCC recommends boosting the construction requirements for wells located near streams and rivers and developing an emergency manual to help the the COGCC staff better respond in the early days of a future emergency.
From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Jerd Smith):
In the wake of last September’s floods, a new report from state oil and gas regulators recommends that oil companies maintain precise locations and inventories of wells and production equipment near waterways, that all new wells near waterways contain remote shut-in equipment, and that no open pits be allowed within a designated distance from the high-water mark of any given streams.
In the report, released Monday, staff of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said they would not recommend any new state laws to address flood damage in oil and gas fields, but that they would suggest changes to regulations governing how production and gathering facilities are sited and constructed.
The commission noted that more than 5,900 oil and gas wells are within 500 feet of a Colorado stream.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, however, said that the industry responded well to the emergency and that no further regulatory action was needed.
“The floods were a difficult and trying event for everyone, and we are proud at our ability to engage meaningfully in the response and recovery of our Colorado communities,” Tisha Schuller, president and chief executive of the association, said in a statement Monday afternoon. “The flood report reiterated facts supporting that Colorado’s oil and gas industry was extraordinarily well prepared, responded in real time, and is committed to Colorado’s recovery.
From the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:
The suggestions from the commission’s staff include requiring that storage tanks be anchored with cables so they’re less likely to tip and spill and requiring all wells within a certain distance of waterways to be equipped with devices that allow operators to shut them down remotely.
The staff recommendations didn’t say what that distance should be.
The commission is expected to discuss the proposed rules at a meeting this spring.
The report described the flood damage to storage tanks and production equipment as “substantial and expensive” but gave no dollar amount. It also said oil and gas production has still not returned to pre-flood levels but again gave no figures.
From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):
The brainchild of Durango water engineer Steve Harris, Senate Bill 17 originally would have limited the size of lawns in new suburban developments. That idea proved highly controversial among home builders and local governments, so the sponsor, Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, rewrote it to remove the lawn mandate and instead call for a study of water conservation by the Legislature’s summer water committee.
Even so, the plan narrowly survived the House Agriculture. Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, passing on a 6-5 vote. Four Republicans and a suburban Democrat, Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton, voted against it…
Lobby groups for cities and home builders fought against the original bill but now support it. Kevin Bommer of the Colorado Municipal League took the opportunity to defend cities.
“There is a big misperception that municipalities aren’t doing anything – or perhaps aren’t doing enough – on municipal water conservation,” he said. “I think that could not be further from the truth.”[…]
The original idea to target lawns on newly built homes would not have helped because new homes tend to have small lawns, said Jeani Frickey of the Colorado Association of Home Builders.
“It’s not necessarily new construction where you are going to see those huge water savings. It’s existing housing stock,” Frickey said.
The bill now goes to the full House.
More 2014 Colorado Legislation coverage here.