Trinchera Irrigation Company is looking to rehab the dam at Mountain Home Reservoir

Mountain Home Reservoir via The Applegate Group
Mountain Home Reservoir via The Applegate Group

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.

The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, et al., will host a business briefing, April 2, on the #COWaterPlan

pikespeak

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.

Snowpack news (% of average): San Miguel/Dolores/Animas/San Juan drop below avg = 88% #COdrought

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.

Many eyes are on the Shoshone 1902, 1,250 cfs water right #ColoradoRiver

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

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.

Controlling river

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.

Revenue stream

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.

Electricity demand

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.

Xcel investment

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.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Western streamflow forecasts a mixed bag

Summit County Citizens Voice

Severe drought continues in Southwest

kj California, Arizona and New Mexico reporting very dry conditions.

By Summit VoiceFRISCO — Snowpack across the West is still somewhat of mixed bag in this no-Niño winter, but February storms did help bolster water supplies across the northern tier of states, according to the monthly update from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

East of the Continental Divide as well as parts of Washington, northern Oregon, northern Idaho and western Montana are now forecast to have near-normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecast from the NRCS National Water and Climate Center.

View original post 295 more words

NRCS: CO U.S. Senator Bennet tours an NRCS snow measuring site