Summit County’s struggle is meeting the water needs of growing communities while satisfying Front Range water rights established here in the 1930s and ’40s.
“They need to be making land use plans for themselves,” said County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier, “instead of relying on us to save them.”[…]
The Colorado Basin needs to rally around the idea of no additional water for other basins, said Peter Mueller, of the Nature Conservancy.
Both Stiegelmeier and Mueller are part of the Colorado Basin Roundtable, one of nine groups of stakeholders created in 2006 by the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act…
In Frisco, water experts, local leaders and residents concerned about the future of water convened Wednesday to discuss the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan.
The plan must show how the basin will produce the projected water needed by 2050, said Louis Meyer, the project manager for SGM, the civil engineering and surveying firm in Glenwood Springs creating the plan.
David Baldinger Jr., the official observer for the National Weather Service, said his weather station not far from Steamboat Springs High School finished March with 16.1 inches of snow and14.7 on the ground, compared to 28.5 inches accumulation and 20.8 on the ground at the end of March 2013.
Baldinger Jr. confirmed that consistent snowfall has been the hallmark of the weather pattern the past two months — February began with snowfall in town on 14 of the first 17 days…
Monday’s measured snowfall of 6 inches at midmountain and 7 inches at the summit marked the biggest 24-hour snowfall of the month. Steamboat finished up with 13 inches of midmountain snow and 17 at the summit in the final five days of the month.
For the season, Steamboat now has seen 333 inches of snowfall and is within a couple of inches of the 20-year average with the ski season scheduled to end April 13…
The amount of moisture contained in the snowpack at several key measuring sites in the mountains above Steamboat Springs already is greater than the median peak for the season, according to records kept by the National Resources Conservation Service…
A snowpack measuring site at 9,400 feet on the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass that is maintained by the NRCS shows 35.3 inches of water is contained in the snow there. That’s 145 percent of the median for the date, but also 135 percent of the median peak, which isn’t statistically due for another four weeks April 28.
The median peak water stored at the end of the winter on Rabbit Ears is 26.1 inches compared to 35.3 inches there now…
The Tower site, at 10,500 feet elevation on Buffalo Pass, just northeast of the city of Steamboat, is storing significantly more water than Rabbit Ears right now — 51.3 inches — and the median date when it peaks isn’t until May 9. As of March 31, the snowpack at the Continental Divide is 147 inches deep and 118 percent of median for the date. Coincidentally, that is 100 percent of the median.
Steamboat typically sees two phases of spring runoff, the first when lower elevation boosts river flows, and the second much later when the snow above 9,000 feet finally gives in to the longer, warmer days of spring.
In the 1930s, a 6-foot-tall, 60-feet-wide diversion dam was built in Tabeguache Creek, just upstream from its confluence with the San Miguel River, for the purposes of providing water to the Town of Uravan.
That dam remained for roughly 80 years, even as the uranium mining town was abandoned, declared a Superfund Site and razed in a reclamation project.
When Uravan shuttered, the dam stopped diverting water for human consumption. It continued, however, to block upstream passage to three species of native fish that rely on warm-water tributaries for their spawning grounds.
Until recently, that is. Thanks to a Bureau of Land Management project that was supported by the San Miguel Watershed Coalition and Nature Conservancy, the diversion dam was dismantled earlier this month.
Following two years of research, planning and securing funding, it took crews from Reams Construction a day and a half to pull all of the concrete out of the streambed.
And just like that, Tabeguache Creek was flowing free.
Peter Mueller, who is both the Nature Conservancy’s Southwestern Colorado Project Director and a board member on the Watershed Coalition, said the removal was a great thing to witness.
“One of the things that is so critical for the Nature Conservancy, the Coalition and BLM is that the native fish use these tributaries for spawning,” Mueller said. “And so to be able to remove this diversion structure and open up another eight miles of habitat, with full cooperation of both private landowners and the federal government … we were really excited about it.”
Amanda Clements, an ecologist with the BLM, said the project came about when the agency’s fish biologist was examining Colorado maps for migration barriers.
“He spotted this one,” Clements said.
Through follow-up investigation, Clements said, the BLM discovered that water rights of the dam had been determined abandoned and that removal of the structure would open up a lot of habitat for three species of native fish: Roundtail chub, Flannelmouth sucker and Bluehead sucker. All three are considered “BLM Colorado sensitive species.”
More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.
For one week now, the Colorado River has been flowing into its delta. It’s the first ever deliberate release of water here to benefit the environment.
That the river is flowing again in its delta is somewhat astounding, all the more remarkable because it’s happening as the result of cooperation between the United States and Mexico under a new collaborative agreement on river and water management.
These releases – lasting eight weeks – are being made from Morelos Dam, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) upstream from the river’s end at the Upper Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez). About 75 of those river miles (120 kilometers) are typically wet, either from a high groundwater table or the tides that make their way upstream. But a reach of about 25 miles of the channel have been dry for decades, hot sand baking in the desert sun.
For the Colorado River to flow all the way to the Upper Gulf it needs to cross that sandy reach, and on March 29, 2014 it had made it down about 20 of those 25 miles, and about 40% of the total flow volume had been released.
Two new and three returning directors have been appointed to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board. The appointments were approved by Deborah Eyler, chief district judge in Pueblo, in conjunction with other chief judges throughout the nine-county area within the district. The new members will take their seats at April’s meeting. There are 15 directors who serve four-year terms on the board that oversees the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.
Pat Edelmann, retired head of the U.S. Geological Survey office in Pueblo, and Curtis Mitchell, head of Fountain Utilities, have joined the board.
Returning directors are Bill Long of Las Animas, Ann Nichols of Manitou Springs, and Tom Goodwin of Canon City.
Edelmann, 58, replaces Shawn Yoxey as a Pueblo County representative on the board. Pueblo has two other directors on the board, Vera Ortegon and David Simpson.
Edelmann retired in 2011, and spent most of his career in the Pueblo USGS office studying the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek. He frequently presented USGS reports and studies to the Southeastern board during his career.
Mitchell, 55, replaces Greg Johnson. Mitchell worked for Colorado Springs Utilities for 30 years before joining Fountain Utilities five years ago.
“I was involved with the startup of the Fountain Valley Authority, so I have a lot of interest as a water professional in the startup of the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” Mitchell said.
Building the conduit, which will serve 40 communities east of Pueblo, is the district’s top priority.
Long, 59, a business owner and Bent County commissioner, is president of the board. He was appointed to the board in 2002.
Nichols, 68, an economist and treasurer of the board, was appointed in 2006. Her father, Sid Nichols, was a charter member of the board.
Goodwin, 61, a farmer and rancher, was first appointed in 2011. His father, Denzel Goodwin, was a longtime member of the board.
More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy coverage here.
Three contracts totaling more than $600,000 were approved Friday by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board. The contracts are funded by state grants. They include two contracts for $502,000 for the Upper Fountain Creek and Cheyenne Creek restoration master plan, and another for $107,000 for the Frost Ranch restoration project. The three projects are among five projects the district is directly coordinating throughout the watershed. They also include a flood detention demonstration pond in Pueblo, located behind the North Side Walmart, and a project on Monument Creek.
In addition, the district has cooperated in obtaining other grants for communities along Fountain Creek.
Those efforts include a sediment collector in the city of Pueblo, which is being evaluated by the city, and a Great Outdoors Colorado grant that included funds for a wheel park, expanded park and beach area on the East Side just south of Eighth Street.
During discussion of flood control alternatives on Fountain Creek, Pueblo Councilwoman Eva Montoya said projects to the north are needed to control Pueblo flows.
“We have to have detention ponds there, so it doesn’t wash out what we are doing in Pueblo,” she said.