The Eagle River Watershed Council “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses

Eagle River Basin
Eagle River Basin

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

May 14th, 5:30 p.m.
The Dusty Boot in Eagle
*grab your drinks & food and bring them into the presentation!*

Come learn first-hand from Colorado Parks & Wildlife Aquatic Biologist Kendall Bakich about a variety of topics regarding the status and management of the Eagle and Upper Colorado River fisheries.

“This is an important meeting and we hope to see a good turnout,” said Bakich. “We want to give the public an opportunity to hear how their local fisheries are doing directly from the people who manage them.”

Bakich will present her most recent survey data regarding the variety of fishes and populations currently found in the Eagle and Upper Colorado Rivers.

“Whether you are an avid angler, a guide, local restaurateur, hotel owner or you just want to hear about fish, this is a great opportunity to discuss our local fish communities,” added Bakich. “The fish in Eagle County are not only an incredibly important resource for the area, they are one of the most outstanding resources in Colorado.”

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #COdrought


Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Snowpack/runoff news: Water Year 2014 snowpack is melting out #COdrought

Click on a thumbnail to view a gallery of snowpack data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The melt out has started in earnest in the southern and western basins. The South Platte Basin is hanging on a bit. Unlike last season and 2011 we haven’t gotten the big Spring storms boosting the snowpack. There may be something on the horizon today and tomorrow and next week. Keep dancing for snow.

Former NRCS snow guru Mike Gillespie told me a while back that this is the time of year to start paying attention to “current as a percent of peak” numbers instead of “percent of average.”

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

A large snowpack has river flows in the mountains and foothills well above average for this time of year, but that hasn’t yet translated into historically full rivers closer to Greeley. There’s plenty of water coming down, experts say, but local farmers — having endured two dry and windy months — have been taking it out of the river about as fast as it’s been coming down during the past week.

“It’s been bone dry lately … so anyone who’s in priority to take water is taking whatever they can,” said Mike Hungenberg, a farmer near Greeley and Eaton, and president of the New Cache La Poudre Ditch and Irrigation Co. in Lucerne. He noted that, in addition to it being dry recently, some farmers could be taking more water than normal now because they’ve planted more acres this year than in recent years because of the positive water outlook.

The biggest contrast in river flows has been in the Poudre River. At its mouth above Fort Collins, the Poudre River was seeing flows of about 950 cubic feet per second on Tuesday — more than double the historic average of about 450 cubic feet per second for May 6 at that location, according to Colorado Division of Water Resources numbers. But by the time the river reached Greeley, flows on Tuesday were 35 cubic feet per second — far below the historic average of about 170 cfs for May 6 at that location.

It was a different story on the Poudre River near Greeley last week. Flows in the river near Greeley reached about 380 cfs on April 28 — well above the historic average of about 150 cfs for that date. Hungenberg noted that his ditch started delivering water to its local farmers a couple days later because they were in need, helping contribute to the sharp drop in stream flows in the river.

“A lot of factors play into it,” said Dave Nettles, the Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 1 engineer, based in Greeley. “We’ve had some cooler temperatures that have helped slow some of the flows. But no doubt we’re seeing farmers irrigating more than normal for this time of year because of how dry it’s been lately.”

With river levels historically low near Greeley and in Weld County, it could be a cushion the area needs to endure too much water coming this way later on.

“It could play a part in that,” Nettles said.

A well above-average snowpack in the mountains, combined with rivers and streams that are still littered with debris and compromised banks, has caused concern for potential flooding in northeast Colorado during the spring run-off period this spring.

Local farmers said they don’t like using this much irrigation water just to get their crops started, but they don’t have much choice.

Last September’s historic flooding gave local farmers good soil moisture heading into 2014 and, during the first two months of the year, precipitation in the Greeley area was double what it is historically. Since March 1, however, Greeley has only received about 2 inches of precipitation — about 40 percent less than normal. The recent exclamation point to the dry-spell was a series of windy days that parched the soil even more so. Local farmers say they’re glad to have the abundant run-off to help them get their crops off to a good start, but added that they’re eager for rain to come to the rescue, helping them reserve some of their run-off supplies for irrigating later in the year.

Meanwhile Clear Creek at Golden is up ~40 cfs this morning. From email from the USGS Water Watch system:

Streamflow of 285 cfs exceeds subscriber threshold of 200 at 2014-05-07 04:45:00 MDT
06719505 00060 CLEAR CREEK AT GOLDEN, CO

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This morning we made some additional changes to the outflow at Olympus Dam. Inflows to Lake Estes were up again last night, as is typical for this time of year. As a result, in a series of two changes at 7:15 a.m. and again at 9:15 a.m., we bumped up the outflow from the dam to correspond with the forecasted inflows to the small reservoir. Today, the Big Thompson River is flowing at about 236 cubic feet per second at the top of the Big Thompson Canyon by the gage below Olympus Dam.

Now that runoff has begun, we will likely be making changes every day to adjust outflow with inflows. We are also going to move back to our regular operations schedule where we adjust the gates at Olympus Dam shortly after midnight each night to match the predicted inflows for the reservoir in the early morning hours.

From CDOT via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

High water from the start of the seasonal mountain runoff prompted Colorado Department of Transportation officials to close a section of the Glenwood Canyon bike path on Tuesday afternoon. The path between the Shoshone put-in and the Hanging Lake trailhead will remain closed until further notice, CDOT spokeswoman Tracy Trulove said.

“We will monitor the situation daily, but for now that section is closed,” Trulove said.

It’s possible that other sections of the path could also be closed at times during the spring runoff season, she said.

Tilting the table of Colorado’s water geography — Mountain Town News

Diagram depicting average streamflow leaving Colorado -- graphic/State Engineer
Diagram depicting average streamflow leaving Colorado — graphic/State Engineer

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Transmountain diversions from Colorado’s Western Slope to cities and farms east of the Continental Divide range from 450,000 to 600,000 acre-feet a year

How much water is that? It represents just 4.8 percent to 6.9 percent of all waters from the Western Slope, including not just the Colorado River but tributaries whose waters flow into the river outside Colorado: the Yampa, the Dolores and San Miguel, the Animas, and the San Juan.

But on the main stream of the Colorado River, upstream from Grand Junction (and excluding the Gunnison), the dent is much more severe. Half of all water available for consumption is taken from the basin in diversions ranging from Grand Lake to Aspen.

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: HB14-1002 passes House (again) now on to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk #COleg

Cortez: Rate hikes cost sanitation district board incumbents their elected jobs


From the Cortez Journal (Toby Baker):

All three challengers to the Cortez Sanitation District were elected Tuesday, forcing both incumbents out of office.

Unofficial results for Tuesday’s mail-in ballot election reveal that board president Dave Waters and board member David Kimble were removed from office. They received 394 and 367 votes, respectively.

Challengers Ryan Griglak, Tim Robinson and Ray Fox received 590, 695 and 704 votes, respectively. They will serve four-year terms.

Reached via telephone Tuesday evening, The Cortez Journal broke the news to Fox.

“I’m pleased,” he said immediately. “Obviously, I wanted to get on the board.”

Fox said he was also happy to hear that Griglak and Robinson would be joining him on the board, adding that they all face a learning curve.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Fox said. “Hopefully we can move things in the right direction.”

Attempts to reach Griglak and Robinson for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday evening.

The total number of ballots mailed versus cast was also immediately unavailable.

More San Juan River Basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley augmentation plans will enable 3x the pumping this year over last

Typical water well
Typical water well

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Farmers who use wells will pump more than three times as much water than in 2013 under augmentation plans approved last week by the state.

“I think one of the things that helped out was that there was so little pumping last year that there are no return flows to be replaced this year,” said Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer.

The plans from the three major groundwater associations, including 1,780 wells, total nearly 102,000 acre-feet (33.2 billion gallons), compared with 32,384 acre-feet in 2013. That’s also about 115 percent of the 12-year average from the three major well pumping plans.

The largest group is the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, which plans to pump 60,756 acre-feet this year, up from 13,534 acre-feet in July.

“In District 67, below John Martin Reservoir, they are influenced by Purgatoire River flows, so that’s had an effect,” Witte said.

The Colorado Water Protective and Development Association plans to pump 33,000 acre-feet, while the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association has plans for 8,231 acre-feet in farm wells.

Another factor in the ample well allotments is a reduction in the state presumption of depletions, which dropped to 36.5 percent this year, from 39 percent in the past.

Surface water replacement plans, primarily driven by large farm sprinkler systems also have been approved.

There are three major plans under the Rule 10 plans adopted in the 2010 consumptive use rules which prevent injury to downstream users, including Kansas.

On the Fort Lyon Canal, 161 improvements on 57 farms will require 1,000 acre-feet of replacement water. Non-Fort Lyon plans for 74 improvements on 35 farms will require 891 acre-feet. Both of the plans are administered by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

A third plan, filed by LAWMA for four farms owned by GP Resources call for 836 acre-feet of replacement water.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.