Snowpack news: Fryingpan headwaters continues to have well above normal snowpack #COdrought

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The snowpack in the Roaring Fork River watershed this week reached 127 percent of median, or normal, for March 27, and more snow is in the forecast for the coming week.

The snowpack measurement for the high country around Aspen is from seven snow-measuring sites in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River basin, including sites near Independence, McClure and Schofield passes.

“The Fryingpan headwaters continues to have well above normal snowpack while the Crystal headwaters is closer to normal measurements,” the Roaring Fork Conservancy said in its weekly snowpack report about two large tributaries of the Roaring Fork River…

“It’s great that we have the snowpack,” said Jim Pokrandt, communication and education specialist with the Colorado River District. “It puts a little more water in the bank in Lake Powell.”[…]

The snowpack in the portion of the Colorado River basin just within the state of Colorado is looking even better, at 128 percent of normal as of March 28.

Also on Friday, the Yampa-White river basin was at 124 percent, the Gunnison River basin was at 111 percent, the Arkansas River basin was at 101 percent, and the San Miguel-Dolores River basin was at 90 percent of normal.

The snow-covered South Platte River basin, which drains toward Denver and Nebraska, is at 135 percent of normal, giving it the third deepest snowpack in over 30 years, behind 1986 and 1996…

This winter’s healthy snowpack has lead the managers of the Fry-Ark diversion project, which diverts water from Hunter Creek and the headwaters of the Fryingpan River under the Continental Divide, to forecast on March 1 that they would divert 73,000 acre-feet of water this season, well above the average diversions of 54,800 acre feet a year.

As such, the Bureau of Reclamation is now releasing water out of Turquoise Lake reservoir, near Leadville, and Twin Lakes reservoir, in anticipation of the coming water from the Roaring Fork River watershed.

Those releases have helped kick up the level of the Arkansas River to 490 cubic feet per second in The Numbers section of the river above Buena Vista, which is considered “lower runnable” for kayakers by the Mountain Buzz website.

The bureau is also releasing water out of Ruedi Reservoir into the lower Fryingpan River, which is now running at 213 cfs. That’s 158 percent of average, and produces a current in the river strong enough to make some wading anglers uncomfortable. Ruedi Reservoir was 66 percent full on Friday.

Releases from Ruedi have helped bring the Roaring Fork River, at its confluence in Glenwood with the Colorado, up to 595 cfs, while the median flow for this time of year is 574 cfs.

Water is also being released out of Green Mountain and Dillon reservoirs on the upper Colorado River, according to Pokrandt. Those releases helped bring flows through Gore Canyon to 793 cfs on Friday, also considered a runnable level by Mountain Buzz…

The Colorado River above Glenwood Springs was running 1,270 cfs Friday, which is enough water to boat the Shosone and Grizzly sections of the river, and the Colorado River at Loma was at 3,590 cfs.

Big irrigation diversions above Grand Junction are just beginning, however, and those can drop the river level below them, especially if a cold snap sharply reduces runoff from the high country…

The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton, which is managing the “Colorado Dust-on-Snow Program” reported the third dust-on-snow event of the winter on Wednesday, brought on by high winds transporting loose soil. Others logged by the program occurred on Feb. 16 and March 17.

Durango: Southwestern Water Conservation District’s 32nd Annual Water Seminar, April 4 #COWaterPlan


From the Montrose Daily Press:

A line-up of water experts on topics including Colorado’s water plan, water banking, and conservation, will speak at the Southwestern Water Conservation District’s 32nd Annual Water Seminar at the Doubletree Hotel (501 Camino del Rio) in Durango on Friday, April 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Invited speakers include James Eklund, Colorado Water Conservation Board; John Stulp, Interbasin Compact Committee; and John McClow, Upper Colorado River Commission.
Registration is $35 in advance or $40 at the door. To register online, visit Mail-in registration forms are also available on the website. Registration will open at 8 a.m. on April 4.

More Southwestern Colorado Water Conservation District coverage here.

Northern Water books $40.3 million in revenue in 2013

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

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Revenue increased about $10.5 million for the year ended Sept. 30 primarily because Berthoud-based Northern Water received nearly $9 million from Front Range water entities, including Denver Water, Aurora Water and the Pueblo Board of Water works, for water releases from Granby Reservoir.

Northern Water provides water to portions of eight Colorado counties with a population of 860,000 people and serves more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land.

Last year, Northern Water completed several contracts and agreements related to the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. The goal of the program is to recover four unique fish species listed as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Because they divert water from the Colorado River, Northern Water and other water users have made a permanent commitment to release 10,825 acre-feet of water annually. Northern Water releases more than 5,400 acre feet from the Granby Reservoir to support the project. An acre foot equals 326,000 gallons and is enough to serve 2.5 households annually.

The one-time compensation paid to Northern Water for the project came this year, according to the annual report. Northern Water’s expenses for the project came in previous years, said John Budde, financial services department manager for Northern Water…

Northern Water ended 2013 with $241.6 million in assets compared with. $231.4 million in assets in 2012. The organization also had $26.5 million in liabilities last year compared with $29 million in liabilities the prior year.

The organization had expenses of $29.2 million in 2013, down from $31.2 million in 2012.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Grand Junction: Governor Hickenlooper addresses Club 20 #COWaterPlan

Grand Junction back in the day
Grand Junction back in the day

From (Travis Khachatoorian):

Water rights was the big topic of the day.

“Water is critical to everyone, but in Western Colorado we’re very, very concerned about being able to access water to develop our own industries and our own communities,” said executive director of Club 20 Bonnie Petersen.

Governor Hickenlooper spoke about his support for a statewide Colorado Water Plan. This would involve water basin officials from all corners of the state coming together for compromise on decisions regarding water distribution.

“I think if we get everyone in the room together and get them frequent meetings so they get to know each other, I think there’s a real chance that the urban areas, the front range, the ranches, the agricultural users here on the Western Slope and the Eastern Plains, we can figure out the right compromises,” said Governor Hickenlooper.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Playing in the Rio Colorado at San Luis #ColoradoRiver

The Fountain Creek District is studying the potential effects of flood control dams

Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to fix Fountain Creek wants to begin looking more closely at the feasibility of flood control alternatives meant to protect Pueblo.

“This is a good start to beginning to understand the volume of water and the impact of dams, but we need to do an analysis to figure out cost options,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said.

Hart is the county’s representative on the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which met Friday to receive the final report on a Fountain Creek dam study.

A computer simulation by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at 13 scenarios by centering a 100-year storm over Colorado Springs and measuring the impact on reducing flood waters in Pueblo by constructing dams at various points in the watershed.

“It did not look at property and water rights issues,” said David Mau, head of the Pueblo USGS office.

The most promising alternatives, in terms of protecting Pueblo, were to build a series of small dams south of Colorado Springs, or one large dam near Pinon, just north of Pueblo.

Hart asked Mau whether it would be possible to model a larger off-channel diversion near the Pueblo County line.

“You could look at that using the model,” Mau confirmed.

Mau said the alternatives presented in the study were those suggested by the district’s technical committee, and do not represent the only choices. The study focused on small dams because dams under 10 feet face less regulatory issues. An 85-foot-high dam 10 miles north of the confluence with the Arkansas River was modeled, but would not be the only alternative for a large dam, he said.

Dams in other areas of the watershed might have more localized benefits, Mau added.

“What’s important is the volume of water and where it is stored,” he said.

The district will not have any money to begin construction until Colorado Springs pays the remainder of the $50 million it agreed to provide the district under its 1041 agreement with Pueblo County.

It would need about $60,000 in grants to drill down to cost estimates on two or three of the alternatives, said Larry Small, executive director. A feasibility study would look at land acquisition, permits, construction issues and how long it would take, Small said.

“We need to get going as quickly as we can,” said Richard Skorman, a board member from Colorado Springs.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.