BLM okays Gore Canyon whitewater park

Colorado River in Gore Canyon
Colorado River in Gore Canyon

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

From above and below, it’s easy to imagine how the rapids known as “Fisherman’s Nightmare” got their nickname. The chaotic jumble of rocks and water (also known as “Applesauce”) that serves as sentinel to the Colorado River’s Gore Canyon drops precipitously from the placid, pastoral flats surrounding the Blue River confluence at Kremmling and marks the start of the steepest and most technically challenging whitewater of the entire Colorado River. An unwary angler drifting into the Class V canyon can expect a frightening wake-up call.

Beneath soaring cliffs up to 1,000 feet tall, the river’s gradient shifts radically from a flatwater nature float to an adrenaline-soaked plummet of some 115 feet per mile over the next 4 miles.

It’s a little-known secret that the remote ravine shrouds some of finest fishing along the Upper Colorado, since access is largely limited to the region’s most skilled whitewater boaters. But those in the know will occasionally make their way upstream along a rugged foot path that begins at the Bureau of Land Management’s Pumphouse Recreation Site at the southern edge of Gore Canyon and eventually fades away entirely.

The popular fishing and floating stretch downstream from the Pumphouse boat ramp is known to boast some of the highest fish statistics throughout the river originating in Rocky Mountain National Park, measuring more than 3,500 trout per mile between Pumphouse and the Radium boat ramp 4 miles downstream. While the wild character of the upstream canyon doesn’t lend itself to scientific fish counts, anecdotal evidence suggests that the fish lurking in deep pools below Gore’s steep drops have grown larger and face far less angling pressure than their downstream counterparts.

“I’ve got a photo of the mythological beast that lives below Tunnel Falls (the biggest drop in the canyon) we named ‘General Sherman’ hanging in my garage. He’s just a big, thick, brown trout,” said Ken Hoeve, a Reddington team angler and former pro kayaker who fishes Gore Canyon regularly. “There really are some brutes that live in there, and they’re not very smart because nobody ever fishes for them.”

That’s not to say the fish are entirely devoid of pressures, however.

For two years running now, the Upper Colorado River Basin has earned prominent rankings among the annual ” America’s Most Endangered Rivers” report published by the conservation organization American Rivers. Due to the combined effects of drought, overallocation and transmountain water diversions to meet growing Front Range demand, the Upper Colorado was named the nation’s most endangered river in 2013 and was second only to California’s San Joaquin River this year.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are at a critical tipping point,” said Carbondale resident Ken Neubecker of American Rivers. “We cannot afford more outdated, expensive and harmful water development schemes that drain and divert rivers and streams across the Upper Colorado Basin. If we want these rivers to continue to support fish, wildlife, agriculture and a multibillion-dollar tourism industry, we must ensure the rivers have enough water.”

A basin-wide drought now measuring 14 years has been exacerbated by increasing municipal, agricultural and industrial demands, all of which has led to the lowest 14-year inflow to Lake Powell since the downstream reservoir began filling in 1963.

American Rivers has seen support from conservation groups including Trout Unlimited, Western Resource Advocates, the Sierra Club and Conservation Colorado, among others, attempting to implement measures to maintain critical river flows for fish, wildlife and recreation in the upper basin. Denver Water and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District are proposing significant increases in the amount of water pumped from Colorado River headwaters across the Continental Divide through Moffat Tunnel and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project at Windy Gap.

Denver Water’s Moffat collection system expansion ultimately spawned the 2012 Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, heralded as a new vision for cooperative water management between stakeholders on both sides of the Divide. Denver Water also entered into an agreement last spring with Trout Unlimited and Grand County known as the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan (MECP) for the proposed Moffat expansion that stakeholders believe can balance municipal needs and environmental health of Colorado River headwaters should it be included in the final federal permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

More recently, the Upper Colorado benefited from another layer of protection when the BLM signed a Decision Record on Aug. 15 authorizing the proposed Gore Canyon Whitewater Park at Pumphouse Recreation Site. Grand County applied to build a riverwide wave feature for recreational use near the boat launch area and was awarded historic water rights for constructing the water park. Construction is scheduled to begin in November.

“The project will provide a unique recreational experience for the 60,000 to 70,000 people that visit the area each year,” said BLM Kremmling field manager Stephanie Odell. “It will also provide permanent protection for water flows supporting fishing and recreational float-boating.”

“This area has the potential to be ‘loved to death.’ We are close,” said Thomas Schneider, the owner of Sunrise Anglers fishing guide service in Littleton. “My clients love the remoteness at Pumphouse. It’s such a unique place. Will the added pressure from folks be a detriment to the environs?”

Others see it as a dream come true.

“These whitewater parks work. Not only do they create the best habitat for kayakers and paddlers, but also for the fish that benefit from aerated water and big pools,” Hoeve said. “It’s not like we’re diverting the water. It’s like, ‘Hey, while it runs through here, we’re going to do something good with it that encourages people to come here and fish and paddle.’ It’s another reason to keep water in the river.”

More whitewater coverage here.

Douglas County joins WISE project

douglascounty

From the Parker Chronicle (Mike DiFerdinando):

The Douglas County commissioners took an important step in helping secure the county’s water future at their regular meeting on Aug. 26.

By joining in on the South Metro Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) Authority’s agreement with Denver Water and Aurora Water, the county will be the recipient of 2,775 acre-feet of water per year for a 10-year period, starting in 2016…

The South Metro WISE Authority is made up of 10 water providers that are all part of the larger South Metro Water Supply Authority. Nine of those water providers — Centennial, Cottonwood, Dominion, Inverness, Meridian, Parker, Pinery, Stonegate Village and Castle Rock — are located in Douglas County. The 10th, Rangeview Metropolitan District, is located in Aurora.

“This region has been working hard for a very long time to bring renewable water supplies into the area,” SMWSA Executive Director Eric Hecox said. “We have a legacy of developing non-renewable groundwater and the effort for many years has been to transition our current population off of groundwater as well as to provide water for future economic development, and I think this project achieves that.”

The WISE project began in 2008 as a way for members to identify processes, cost, distribution, timing, storage and legal issues relating to distributing treated reusable water return flows from Denver and Aurora for use by SMWSA water users.

The group tasked with utilizing this water is the South Metro WISE Authority. The primary purpose of the authority is to reduce members’ dependence on non-renewable Denver Basin wells and provide reliable long-term water supply for residents.

“While we often refer to the Denver Basin aquifers in a negative way, they do provide an extremely important drought reserve,” Douglas County Water Resource Planner Tim Murrell said. “By reducing Denver Basin well pumping to a secondary source rather than a sole supply, the basin can continue to be a valuable asset in times of drought.”

In 2013, Aurora, Denver and the South Metro WISE Authority finalized the water delivery agreement. As part of the deal, 100,000 acre-feet of water will go to the authority’s providers over a 10-year period.

At the time of the agreement, the authority members were only able to agree on 7,225 acre-feet per year. This left 2,775 acre-feet per year that would be lost if not claimed. Douglas County has been working with the authority members over the last year to reserve the 2,775 acre-feet per year supply for the county.

The WISE members are funding new infrastructure that will move the water from Aurora’s Binney Water Purification Facility to its end locations, beginning in 2016. Water purchased by the county, as well as by some of the other providers, will be stored at the Rueter-Hess Reservoir south of Parker.

The county will pay a $97,125 annual reservation fee through 2020; 2,000 acre-feet of water per year will be available for use and purchase by WISE members, and 775 acre-feet will be available for use and purchase by non-members.

More WISE project coverage here.

“The world is waiting for us to lead [on Climate Change]” — Bill Becker

Hockey Stick based on Mann & Jones 2003
Hockey Stick based on Mann & Jones 2003

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Bill Becker was equal parts worried and cheerful when he spoke to the Jefferson County chapter of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society chapter in Golden on Aug. 29.

He’s the project manager for the Powering Forward Plan being produced by the Center for the New Energy Economy, the Colorado State University-based think tank led by former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. He confided that he’s in the process of writing a book, and shared elements of what will be the book.

Too little is getting done to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, and Washington D.C., the nexus for the nation and the world, is dysfunctional

“The world is waiting for us to lead, and the rest of the world won’t do anything if we don’t,” he said. [ed. emphasis mine]

Right now, he and others are looking at the international meeting on climate change scheduled for December 2014 in Paris.

But he sees climate change returning as an issue of public concern in the United States after several years in which people’s attention was diverted by the economy.

One piece of evidence for his optimism is a poll conducted earlier this year by the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan.

A revenue-neutral carbon tax, in which all tax revenue would be returned to the public as a rebate check, got 56 percent support. But even higher support, 60 percent, was found for a carbon tax in which revenues are used to fund research and development for renewable energy programs.

Just 38 percent of respondents supported a carbon tax if the money was used to reduce the federal budget deficit. There was also strong opposition to a carbon tax if the revenue is left unspecified.

“We need to press for a carbon tax,” said Becker, describing it as the single most impactful policy mechanism.

The political alignments Becker described see moderate Republicans now shifting to favor stronger action. He cited the support of both Henry Paulson and George Shultz. Paulson served in the cabinet of President George W. Bush, while Shultz worked for both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Becker sees people crossing party lines to support clean energy –with the exception of the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party.

He also said that people committed to change must differentiate between those in what he calls the “denial industry” and those who are skeptics. They have various fears: of change, of conflict, of the Untied States becoming a socialistic state.

“We need to understand where they are coming from and speak to them in the place where they’re coming from,” he said.

People tend to operate in tribes, and they hew to the tribal knowledge, he said. It’s important to understand those tribal values and assumptions.

He also talked about the importance of state and local governments in producing change. Renewable Portfolio Standards, or RPSs, have been powerful in helping push renewable energy and retiring coal-fired power plants. Building codes, land-use zoning and public utility commissions, all at the state or local level, are also important in ratcheting down greenhouse gas emissions.

But ways to finance home and other building energy efficiencies must be stepped up, he said. “We need to get banks to do loans for energy efficiency,” he said.

He ended his talk on an upbeat note. In this time of political dissidence, is there common ground? Look for it, he advises, and he thinks it can be found.

Study: Southwest may face ‘megadrought’ within century

desertcowskull

From the Cornell Chronicle (Blaine Friedlander):

Due to global warming, scientists say, the chances of the southwestern United States experiencing a decadelong drought is at least 50 percent, and the chances of a “megadrought” – one that lasts up to 35 years – ranges from 20 to 50 percent over the next century.

The study by Cornell, University of Arizona and U.S. Geological Survey researchers will be published in a forthcoming issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate.

“For the southwestern U.S., I’m not optimistic about avoiding real megadroughts,” said Toby Ault, Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and lead author of the paper. “As we add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – and we haven’t put the brakes on stopping this – we are weighting the dice for megadrought.”

As of Aug. 12, most of California sits in a D4 “exceptional drought,” which is in the most severe category. Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas loiter in a substantially less severe D1 moderate drought. Ault says climatologists don’t know whether the severe western and southwestern drought will continue, but “with ongoing climate change, this is a glimpse of things to come. It’s a preview of our future,” he said.

While the 1930s Dust Bowl in the Midwest lasted four to eight years, depending upon location, a megadrought can last more than three decades, which could lead to mass population migration on a scale never before seen in this country.

Ault said that the West and Southwest must look for mitigation strategies to cope with looming long-drought scenarios. “This will be worse than anything seen during the last 2,000 years and would pose unprecedented challenges to water resources in the region,” he said.

In computer models, while the southern portions of the western United States (California, Arizona, New Mexico) will likely face drought, the researchers show the chances for drought in the northwestern states (Washington, Montana, Idaho) may decrease.

Prolonged droughts around the world have occurred throughout history. Ault points to the recent “Big Dry” in Australia and modern-era drought in sub-Saharan Africa. As evidenced by tree-ring studies, a megadrought occurred during the 1150s along the Colorado River. In natural history, they occur every 400 to 600 years. But by adding the influence of growing greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, the drought models – and their underlying statistics – are now in a state of flux.

Beyond the United States, southern Africa, Australia and the Amazon basin are also vulnerable to the possibility of a megadrought. With increases in temperatures, drought severity likely will worsen, “implying that our results should be viewed as conservative,” the study reports.

The study, “Assessing the Risk of Persistent Drought Using Climate Model Simulations and Paleoclimate Data,” was also co-authored by Julia E. Cole, David M. Meko and Jonathan T. Overpeck of University of Arizona; and Gregory T. Pederson of the U.S. Geological Survey. The National Science Foundation, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funded the research.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Las Vegas: Twitter is the main outlet for news from the #businessofwater conference, so far #ColoradoRiver

Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows
Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows

Newspaper coverage of the conference is pretty light so far. Click here to view the Twitter stream (https://twitter.com/search?q=%23businessofwater&src=tyah) from the conference. Crowd-sourced citizen journalism at its best.

Here’s some video from KTNV:

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Aug. 27, CBT Project was at its highest level in history for that date — Sky-Hi Daily News #ColoradoRiver

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

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Hank Shell):

On Aug. 27, the Colorado-Big Thompson Project was at its highest level in history for that date, said Brian Werner with Northern Water. Lake Granby was at its second highest level for Aug. 27, only beaten by Aug. 27, 1984.

“I tell people ‘you cant give away water this year,’” Werner said.

Looking at rainfall in Grand County, this year’s precipitation is somewhat deceiving. Precipitation is still below that for a normal year to date for Grand County, according to Accessweather Inc. Historically, the county has had around 7.78 inches of precipitation by this time in a normal year, though this year it has only seen about 5.58 inches.

So what’s keeping Lake Granby so full? For the answer, one needs to look across the Continental Divide.

Lake Granby, as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, is actually a reservoir for Front Range water users. Water is pumped through Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake, where it flows through the Alva B. Adams Tunnel to Estes Park.

This year, an unusually wet summer on the east side of the Divide has kept Front Range reservoirs full, leaving little recourse for water in Lake Granby. Couple that with increased snowpack on the West Slope and a clarity study that has kept flows through Alva B. Adams tunnel minimal, and what’s left is a swollen lake Granby, said Kara Lamb with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“We’ve run the East Slope of the Colorado Big Thomson Project largely on East Slope water most of the year,” Lamb said.

Lamb said she wasn’t sure, but she didn’t believe the Alva B. Adams Tunnel had been run at its full capacity of 550 cubic feet per second at all this year.

Gasner said the last year he could remember Lake Granby being at a comparable level at this time was 2011, but Lamb confirmed that there’s more water in the reservoir this year.

“Even though we were spilling in 2011 at this time, the volume of water is actually higher in this year than it was in 2011,” Lamb said.

Because of the way the spill gates at Lake Granby are situated, the lake can spill even at lower water levels.

Strong monsoon season

Earlier this summer, weather forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder believed a strong El Niño was in the works, meaning a wetter summer and drier winter for the Grand County area.

Surface water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that are sustained above average, commonly referred to as an El Niño event, can have strong effects on weather patterns in Colorado.

Though climate models have changed and a strong El Niño is less certain, climate forecasters still saw an above average monsoon season across the Front Range, said Todd Dankers, a forecaster with NOAA in Boulder.

“We’ve had one of these better monsoon type seasons here for the summer,” Danker said. “We’ve been picking up good amounts of rain, and you can’t really pin that on El Niño.”

Dankers said surface temperatures in the Pacific haven’t been following through the model of a strong El Niño that climate models predicted at the beginning of the summer.

Rather, they’ve been dropping toward normal in recent months.

“We were thinking this pattern we’re in now, it’s been able to tap into a little bit of Hurricane Maria,” Dankers said. “That is contributing some moisture to the showers that we’re going to see.”

Some of the monsoon moisture coming into Colorado has also come from the subtropical Pacific, he said.

“It’s kind of the best monsoon pattern that we’ve seen in the last few years,” he said.

Winter outlook

Though forecasters have been able to pin recent moisture to events in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific, looking farther out, the view becomes much less clear.

A strong El Niño is still possible, Dankers said, which could mean a drier winter in the mountains.

Though right now, the outlook for the mountains is “unsettled,” with the possibility of drier weather moving into the Front Range.

“These long-term ridges and troughs shift every six or eight weeks,” Dankers said. “In the next week or two, we may see a big shift to a drier, warmer pattern that could persist for another five or six weeks.”

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Ute Water receives the “10 Year Directors Award of Recognition” from the Partnership for Safe Water

NIDIS: Want to see your county’s or state’s history of drought?

Below is the Colorado time-series for the last year.

droughtcoloradotimeseries08302013thru08292014viaNIDIS

In Praise of Wastewater Managers

Your Water Colorado Blog

August is National Water Quality month.  This Sunday, August 31 is the 160th anniversary of the outbreak of one of the worst cholera epidemics to hit London – an epidemic that ultimately led to the identification of contaminated water as a conduit for the disease.

Humans have always sought sources of drinking water, and some water clearly looks and tastes better.  But we didn’t always understand that the wrong water could make us sick.

Where Does Your Water Come From?

Before I came to CFWE, I worked as a historical interpreter.  Whether wearing pioneer or Civil War-era dress, I always got the same question – “Don’t you wish you lived back then?”  And my answer was always no.  When asked why I prefer the present, the first thing on my list is always indoor plumbing.

Jennie Geurts before she joined CFWE - the clothes were pretty, but the water quality could be deadly. Jennie Geurts before she joined CFWE – the clothes were pretty, but the water quality…

View original post 1,154 more words

[You can’t find out others’ motivations] “by talking to yourself!” — Pat Mulroy

Colorado River Basin
Colorado River Basin

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

Last Friday, the former head of the water authority serving Las Vegas, Nev., electrified a crowd of Colorado water managers with her passionate and eloquent call for strategic collaboration amongst all who rely upon the Colorado River.

Pat Mulroy, now with the “Brookings West” think tank based at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, told participants in the Colorado Water Congress summer meeting in Snowmass, Colo., that it is time to expand our notion of citizenship beyond our towns and states to the entire Colorado River Basin.

Mulroy’s definition of the basin extends from Cheyenne to Denver and Tucson to Los Angeles, encompassing not only the river’s natural drainage, but the cities and farms outside the basin that draw on its waters through tunnels and canals. She pointed out that what happens in any part of this vast network affects every other part. And given that Los Angeles gets 50 percent of its water from the Colorado River and 50 percent from rivers and pipelines to the north, she argued that keeping Colorado Basin communities whole would ultimately require solving seemingly intractable water disputes in the drought-ridden state of California.

Noting the raft of news stories that appeared this summer, when Lake Mead dropped to levels not seen since it filled 80 years ago, she took issue with the much-repeated statement that Las Vegas is most at risk as lake levels fall. She pointed out that once the city’s new intake is finished next year, at an elevation of 860 feet, Las Vegas will still be able to pull water from the reservoir even when water levels drop below 900 feet — at which point no water will be able to flow beyond Hoover Dam to California, Arizona or Mexico. Repeating the notion that the Lake Mead problem is primarily a Las Vegas problem could lull the public in California and Las Vegas into thinking they don’t have to do their part to reduce consumption in order to boost lake levels.

Citing successful negotiations among the seven states that share the Colorado River Basin and Mexico on how to share surpluses (wouldn’t that be nice!), shortages, and return water to the delta in Mexico, Mulroy sounded optimistic that it will be possible to enact the conservation and management measures necessary to keep Lake Powell and Lake Mead high enough to forestall crisis. The stakes are high. Besides the millions of faucets and millions of acres of farmland on the line, the federal government might step in if the states are unable to keep the system working. Congress might even step in …

Having raised the specter of the Congressional bogeyman, Mulroy called for working diligently in good faith to preserve our communities in a way that makes sense while respecting the motivations of others working to do the same for their communities. In my favorite quote of the talk, she pointed out that you can’t find out others’ motivations “by talking to yourself!”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

#ColoradoRiver ties Denver’s water to downstream states — Denver Business Journal

Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

“Literally everything that happens from Mexico all the way up to Denver is interconnected and affects us,” Jim Lochhead, the CEO of Denver Water, told the Las Vegas Sun during an interview with the Nevada paper this week.

Lochhead was in Las Vegas to attend the Business of Water Summit 2.0, which runs Thursday and Friday.

Lochhead joined other water leaders from across the Southwest, such as the senior officials from water utilities for Southern Nevada and Southern California, as well as business executives who depend on water, such as Coca-Cola.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

“Fish don’t have water rights, so it’s easy to lose sight of their needs” — Jan Scott #COWaterPlan

Durango
Durango

From The Durango Herald (Ann Butler):

Water is a complicated and controversial issue in Southwest Colorado, and more than 100 people showed up Wednesday night to share their thoughts and concerns with the Colorado General Assembly’s Water Resources Review Committee. It’s holding meetings around the state to collect comments about the Colorado Water Plan now being developed

“There is no group of people who appreciate a drop of water more than the people of Southwest Colorado,” said Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, who sits on the Water Resources Committee. “If you ask people in Denver where they get their water, they’ll say their kitchen sink. Or they’ll say they get their food from the grocery store.”

Mike Preston is the chairman of the Southwest Basin Roundtable, which is putting together Southwest Colorado’s recommendations for this area’s section of the plan. He shared highlights and summaries from the group’s draft. And then attendees were off.

Among the most frequent comments:

Increasing storage is key because more of Colorado’s water is leaving the state than we are required to release based on compacts and agreements. Increasing storage on the Front Range as well as here was one suggested answer.

“But we have to balance storage with environmental concerns downriver,” said Jon Scott, who works with the Animas Watershed Partnership. “Fish don’t have water rights, so it’s easy to lose sight of their needs.”

Practicing conservation is essential for Coloradans and people in downriver states who use Colorado’s water.

“Individuals want to have nice green lawns,” said Jesse Lasater, who farms 500 acres in the Pine River Valley. “But it doesn’t make sense to take water away from the people who are putting food on the table for green lawns.”

Protecting water rights might be required. Water is a property right in Colorado. Pending federal regulations may threaten those rights. There were concerns that federal regulations and this new Colorado Water Plan might trump existing, and valuable, water rights.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Drought news: Improvement over extreme northwestern Colorado #COdrought

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

Summary
This U.S. Drought Monitor week saw an active pattern across the Northern Rockies, Northern Plains, and parts of the Midwest. In Montana, a slow-moving, low-pressure system delivered widespread heavy rainfall and flash flooding during the weekend. Across parts of the Southwest, eastern Great Basin, and Intermountain West, locally heavy monsoon rains continued to provide short-term relief to the region. In contrast, the Far West remained in a dry pattern except for some isolated thunderstorm activity in parts of the Mojave Desert in southeastern California. Overall, the seven-day average temperatures in the western U.S. were generally below normal. East of the Rockies, temperatures for the week were above normal – especially across the Southern Plains, Texas, and portions of the Midwest while New England and the Mid-Atlantic states experienced slightly cooler than normal temperatures. In the Midwest, locally heavy rains fell across portions of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio bringing relief to scattered dry pockets in the region. In the Southeast, hot and dry conditions led to further deterioration of conditions across parts of Alabama and Georgia…

The Plains
Heavy rains fell across parts of the Northern Plains during the past week with two-to-six-inch accumulations in portions of North and South Dakota. Below-normal temperatures and rains led to the removal of Moderate Drought (D1) from South Dakota as well as areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) in the Dakotas and Nebraska. In southeastern Nebraska, short-term precipitation deficits and localized agricultural impacts on corn and soybean crops led to a minor expansion of an area of Moderate Drought (D1). In the Southern Plains, hot and dry conditions dominated the region with high temperatures exceeding 100° F in both Oklahoma and Kansas. Temperature departures from average were four-to-ten degrees above normal. In Oklahoma, drying ponds and low reservoir storage levels led to minor expansion of areas of Severe Drought (D2) in northeastern Oklahoma and Extreme Drought (D3) in southwestern Oklahoma…

The West
During the past week, significant rains fell across the eastern two-thirds of Montana. In central Montana, rainfall accumulations ranged from four-to-ten inches leading to flash flooding of local streams. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Missouri River at Landusky swelled to 35,000 cubic feet per second (cfs); well above mean flows at ~ 6000 cfs. In the Southwest, torrential monsoonal rains in the Phoenix Metro area and central Arizona led to flash flooding of dry washes and streams. In the Bradshaw Mountains north of Phoenix, four-to-eight inches of rain last week caused the Agua Fria River (above Lake Pleasant Reservoir) to swell to approximately 40,000 cfs (normal daily median discharge – 2 cfs), according to the USGS. The cumulative effect of the summer monsoon precipitation in Arizona led to one-category improvements in areas of Extreme Drought (D3), Severe Drought (D2), and Moderate Drought (D1) in central, southern, and western portions of the state. In these areas, beneficial rains improved the health of the vegetation, soil moisture, and surface water flows. Despite short-term gains in both Arizona and New Mexico, longer-term hydrological impacts (below-normal reservoir levels) remained after multiple years of below-normal snowpacks in the region’s mountain ranges. In New Mexico, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District recently curtailed water bank deliveries for irrigation in response to low flows along the Rio Grande. The combination of short- and long-term hydrological impacts (below-normal reservoir storage levels, below-normal mountain snowpack conditions in the headwater regions) led to the re-introduction of an area of Moderate Drought (D1) in the Middle Rio Grande corridor from Socorro County northward to Sante Fe County. In the Upper Colorado River Basin, recent monsoonal shower and thunderstorm activity has improved streamflows and reduced precipitation deficits leading to one-category improvements in areas of Extreme Drought (D3) Severe Drought (D2), and Moderate Drought (D1) in northeastern Utah and extreme northwestern Colorado. In California, recent showers and thunderstorms in the Mojave Desert (southeastern California) led to a one-category improvement in an area of Severe Drought (D2). Otherwise, conditions in California remained unchanged on the map. Elsewhere around the West, reservoir storage levels remained well below normal in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon…

Looking Ahead
The NWS WPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for moderate-to-heavy precipitation accumulations (two-to-six inches) in an area stretching from the High Plains eastward to the Upper Midwest with lesser accumulations across the Lower Midwest, New England, Mid-Atlantic, and the Southeast. One-to-three inches are forecasted across the Gulf Coast region while the western U.S. will remain largely dry. The 6–10 day outlooks call for a high probability of above-normal temperatures across California, the Southwest, and the eastern half of the U.S. while below normal temperatures are forecasted across the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, and Intermountain West. A high probability of above-normal precipitation is forecasted for the Eastern tier while the West will be below-normal.

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

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation August 24, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation August 24, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center

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.

2014 Colorado November Election: Colorado Springs City Council approves IGA connected with stormwater enterprise ballot issue

Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground
Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs City Council Tuesday approved an intergovernmental agreement connected with a ballot issue to form the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority. The vote was 7-2.

The issue is expected to be placed on the ballot by El Paso County commissioners at their meeting next week. It would establish the authority to include the county, Colorado Springs, Fountain, Green Mountain Falls and Manitou Springs. The authority would raise about $39 million annually through fees to address a $700 million backlog in stormwater projects.

Stormwater control on Fountain Creek was one of the premises Colorado Springs Utilities used to obtain permits from Pueblo County and the federal government in order to build the Southern Delivery System.

Colorado Mayor Steve Bach immediately opposed the measure. He said the average bill of $92.40 per year would be 77 percent higher than the fee for the former stormwater enterprise and roughly the same amount homeowners now pay (in property taxes) for all city services combined.

“I believe this IGA is not fair to the citizens of Colorado Springs,” Bach said in a statement.

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

Uncompahgre River: Float Highlights River Improvements, Future Visions — The Watch

From The Watch (William Woody):

Last Sunday [August 17, 2014], under beautiful sunny skies, members of the Friends of the River Uncompahgre (FORU) hosted a tour of the river from boats launched at an access point behind Chipeta Lake to a take-out near Taviwach Park on the city’s north side.

The tour was developed to give local officials and residents a first-hand experience of the river since improvements were made along its banks earlier this year; the improvements will continue in 2015 as part of the city’s continuing Uncompahgre River Master Plan, completed in 2011.

Along with local boaters, officials from the city, county, Bureau of Land Management, Parks and Wildlife and the Montrose Recreation District clambered into rafts and kayaks for the three-hour float.

Along the way, wooden markers on the river’s banks highlighted both public and private property boundaries bordering the water. Officials and residents are continuing to brainstorm ideas for possible public-property development. With a trained eye, one could see the next phases of the river master plan, which includes the addition of a whitewater park set for construction next year.

The whitewater park will be located between the pedestrian bridge in Baldridge Park and the West Main Street Bridge.

Due to the rising popularity of river sports, the trend in adding whitewater parks has continued in recent years in sites across the country as a way to draw more visitors.

“We wanted to get some ideas on how we make the river safe for families,” said Montrose City Manager Bill Bell. “We’re really trying to give locals who like the fishing or the outdoor recreation a chance to come and do that in a family friendly environment. But we also want to attract visitors and tourists.”[…]

Durango added its “watermark” years ago, incorporating its downtown with the Animas River through boardwalks and a variety of businesses. Unlike Durango, the Uncompahgre River is fed with water from the Ridgway Reservoir and the Gunnison Tunnel. This means water levels can be more sustainable throughout the year, whereas the Animas runs very low later in the summer.

The sustainable water flow offers the potential for Montrose to become a destination for whitewater companies and guides, allowing them to teach and float later in the season.

Another reason for the whitewater park is to give boaters a safer place to have fun in the rapids. With local knowledge, boaters can learn to ride the famed “M-Wave,” a large, continuous whitewater wave located on the south canal, east of Montrose. Using the park – at least at first – and avoiding the M-Wave will reduce the risk of injury, lawsuits and fatalities, according to officials…

In February, heavy equipment and surveyors with Evergreen-based Ecological Resources Consultants, Inc., spent weeks digging out a 1,500-foot stretch of the river to improve fishing habitat. The work took place directly south of the fishing bridge in Baldridge Park behind the park’s softball fields.

Re-shaping the river’s channel will not only improve the fishing habitat but also riparian wildlife areas along with entire river corridor, according to Renzo DelPiccolo of Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Montrose…

Through grants, lottery funds and city contributions, the cost of renovating the river corridor has amounted to about $900,000 so far, according to Bell.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here.

EPA: Our scientific assessment for Waters of U.S. is based on over 1,000 pieces of peer-reviewed literature

@rfconservancy: Join us next Thursday Sept 4th for our annual Carbondale Bicycle Ditch Tour

Aspinall unit operations update: 1100 cfs through the Gunnison Tunnel diversion

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced from 1800 cfs to 1600 cfs on Tuesday, August 26th at 4:00 PM. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1500 cfs. Significant rainfall has been occurring in the basin this week and the river forecast shows flows continuing to remain above the target for the 10 day forecast period.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1500 cfs for August. For September, the baseflow target will be 1050 cfs.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are 1100 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 750 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be 1100 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 550 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

The Colorado River District, et al., are closely monitoring the settling of Ritschard Dam (Wolford Mountain) #ColoradoRiver

Ritschard Dam and Wolford Mountain Reservoir
Ritschard Dam and Wolford Mountain Reservoir

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Lance Maggart):

Ritschard Dam impounds Wolford Mountain Reservoir, located on Muddy Creek just north of Kremmling. Construction on the Dam was completed in 1995 and falls under the auspices of the dam’s owners the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

Ritschard Dam is an earth-filled dam. As [Jim] Pokrandt explained, “With anything involving earth, settlement is expected.”

Unfortunately, as Pokrandt went on to explain, a portion of the dam has settled faster than the dam designers expected.

“The variations are small, but there is an abundance of caution,” he said…

“We are monitoring the conditions at the dam. The dam is not considered unsafe,” said Bill McCormick, chief of the Dam Safety Branch of the Division of Water Resources.

McCormick explained, “approximately four to five years ago there were anomalous instrumentation readings showing the dam had settled unexpectedly in ways that were not predicted in the design.”

“We have not identified a safety concern that has required us to put a restriction on the reservoir,” he pointed out.

According to Pokrandt, construction equipment visible on the dam is part of ongoing work to install measuring devices to gauge both water levels and movements within the dam.

Data collection and analysis regarding settlement of the earth-fill structure has been under way for several years now and the process will continue.

Pokrandt explained that any construction on the dam undertaken by the District, “will be very expensive” and the District wanted more information and data before any decisions were made regarding new construction.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Getting #energy from oil & gas doesn’t require fresh groundwater

Woodland Park stormwater management

From the Colorado Springs Independent (J. Adrian Stanley):

These are the facts accepted by all parties: Last summer and this summer, Green Mountain Falls has seen destructive floods following unusually heavy rains. The town was not affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire. The floods are not the result of runoff from a burn scar. And Woodland Park, located up the pass, has added major developments in recent years, including some alongside Fountain Creek.

Public officials interviewed for this story said they weren’t ready to start playing the blame game. But some people in Green Mountain Falls, especially those who live or own businesses along the creek, are getting edgy. A few have seen bridges washed out multiple times. Mayor Lorrie Worthey says even her home, which is located on a hill, recently had a flooded mudroom.

“There is more water coming down from Woodland; Woodland has grown a lot,” Worthey says carefully. “With that, we are going to get more water.”

Bill Alspach, Woodland Park’s public works director and city engineer, also is cautious when speaking of the Green Mountain Falls flooding. “Woodland Park has strived to be a good steward of the headwaters,” he says.

Woodland Park development affects two watersheds, Fountain Creek and the South Platte. Since the 1990s, the Fountain Creek side has seen the building of Walmart and Safeway stores, each with sprawling parking lots. An apartment complex is also currently under construction.

Alspach says Green Mountain Falls shouldn’t be affected by such development because Woodland Park has had strict stormwater development requirements since 1994. Driving behind the Walmart, he points out two large, grassy retention ponds that slowly release runoff during storms. He’s checked those ponds during downpours, he says, and they’ve been doing their job.

The Safeway doesn’t have such ponds, but Alspach says that’s on purpose, because allowing the water to run off there was found to reduce peak flows in the creek. The apartment complex also has retention ponds, and sits next to a $2.1 million stormwater project that was recently completed by the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Water flows in an underground box culvert, and is slowed by barricades before it hits a large channel.

He also points out private and public retention ponds that dot the town, especially in newer developments.

Woodland Park just forked over $100,000 for stormwater repairs needed after a damaging July storm, and is still paying off bonds from major stream work in 1998 and 1999. Alspach says he’s working his way west-to-east along Fountain Creek, doing upgrades. By the end of next year, he hopes to be close to finishing all the improvements in the city area, and to have a study in hand of what needs to be done on private and Teller County land that stretches between the eastern edge of the city and the Walmart.

All this work has been done, Alspach notes, with money from grants, Woodland Park’s limited general fund budget, a special streets fund and stormwater fees. It’s been done despite the fact that the town is too small to be bound by state permits for water quality.

“We have really endeavored to do the right thing for a long time,” he says.

More stormwater coverage here.

Meeting growth estimates with conservation, adios bluegrass? #COWaterPlan #drought

Sprawl
Sprawl

From KUNC (Stephanie Paige Ogburn):

As Colorado plans for a future with more people and less water, some in the world of water are turning to the problem of lawns.

In the 2014 legislative session, state senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) introduced a bill [.pdf] that would limit lawns in new developments if they took water from farms. Although the bill was changed dramatically before it passed, that proposal opened up a statewide conservation about how water from agriculture and the Western Slope is used – particularly when it is growing Front Range grass.

Roberts’ proposed bill set at 15 percent the amount lawn area in new developments, excluding parks and open space, said Steve Harris, the Durango water engineer who pitched her the idea.

“So essentially 15 percent kind of worked out to being that you could have grass in the backyard or front yard, one or the other, but not both,” said Harris.

The bill did not pass in its original form, and the issues it addressed were referred to a committee. Now, the conversation about using ag water to grow lawns has morphed into one about the ratio of indoor to outdoor water use, said Harris.

Indoor water is generally recycled, as water goes back into the system, whereas much of the water used for landscapes does not make it back into the water treatment system.

Statewide, that indoor/outdoor ratio is about half-and-half – numbers from Denver Water, which serves residential customers in the city and in many surrounding suburbs, match the state average. The city of Greeley uses a slightly higher percentage of its water for outdoor use, with 45 percent going to indoor uses and 55 percent outdoors.

Harris’s part of the state, though, is pushing for change. In its basin plan released July 31 as part of the state’s water planning process, the Southwest Region called for water providers to aim for a 60-40 ratio by the year 2030. For those taking new water from agriculture or the Western Slope, the standard would be even higher, with a ratio of 70 percent indoor to 30 percent outdoor use…

The idea of setting limits on that grass, though, is receiving pushback from Front Range water utilities and developers. Many utilities point to their existing leadership in conservation, and say a statewide limit takes control away from localities.

But many in rural Colorado are wary of drying up ag land for development. The Colorado Farm Bureau supports limits on farm water being used for turf.

“The rural areas are saying, wait a minute, we are not keen on taking out productive commercial agriculture that is producing something so that you can grow grass in your front yard,” said Harris.

Beckwith and Harris both see Colorado as a place where a discussion on indoor versus outdoor use is just beginning. At some point, said Harris, there will be limits on water use for lawns in Colorado. It’s just a matter of when.

Right now, there is little consensus between Colorado’s different basins on how water use for new lawns should be limited, or even if it should be. But, said Harris, based on the bill from last year’s session, at least there is now a conversation about it.

“If we wanted to create talk, we have created talk,” he said.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

CWC Summer Conference recap: Managing the supply from the #ColoradoRiver and #drought

Colorado River Basin
Colorado River Basin

From Aspen Public Radio (Marci Krivonen):

As cities grow and climate change continues, water managers are nervous. In the middle of a drought in 2012, they began to lay out a contingency plan. John McClow is President of the Colorado Water Congress. He says the idea was to come up with solutions in case the drought continued.

“Well it didn’t, as you know. But, we still feel like the potential is there and we need to have that plan in hand in order to be prepared should it occur. Because the results are catastrophic.”

McClow joined others from the seven Colorado River basin states on Wednesday in Snowmass Village to discuss how to respond to extreme drought.

One state that depends on the river is Arizona. Tom McCann manages the Central Arizona Project that delivers water to 5 million people. He says his organization could lose one-fifth of its supply by 2017.

“So what have we been doing to prepare for this coming shortage and the issues that we see on the river. One of the things we’ve done for some time now is to invest in system conservation and efficiency type projects,” he says.

His group is spending millions to conserve water. They’re also storing the resource underground and funding weather modification programs – like cloud seeding – in upper basin states, such as Colorado and Wyoming.

Still, there’s a problem, McCann says. The lower basin states, like Arizona, use more water than they get from Lake Mead so they depend on “equalization releases” from Lake Powell. Lake Powell supplies the upper basin with water.

“All of us in the lower basin and the basin in general, share the same risk. It’s the risk of Lake Powell going down creates risk of Lake Mead going down. The two reservoirs are operated together. We all live and die together as a basin,” McCann said…

Utah is one of the upper basin states. [Eric] Millis’ primary concern is that drought will bring Lake Powell down to critical levels. His state is expanding weather modification projects, looking to draw more water from upper basin reservoirs and increasing water conservation efforts…

“We’ve also been experiencing above-normal temperatures,” says Tanya Trujillo with the Colorado River Board of California. She says the temperatures have been “really increasing the challenges of trying to keep the water resources down. The hotter it is, the more water that tends to be applied, especially in outdoor situations.”

She says the Colorado River is the “good news” story for California this year because a full supply – partly from a good Colorado snowpack – helped fill a gap from dry California reservoirs.

The state has historically used water other lower basin states didn’t need but, that’s changing. Now states like Arizona are growing and need their full share. So, California’s investing in efficiency projects and fallowing farmland in order to transfer that water to cities.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

There are 44 transbasin diversions in Colorado that move water between river basins. Tour some with CFWE! #ColoradoRiver

2014-15 State of the Rockies Project

stateoftherockies2014to2015
Click here to go to the project website.

Click here for information on the first speakers series event. Here’s an excerpt:

“Sharing Water: What an Environmental Experiment in Mexico can Teach us About the Future of the Colorado River”, Monday, September 8, 2014, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

The first event of the 2014-15 State of the Rockies Speakers Series will feature journalist and author John Fleck. Fleck’s writing centers on water issues in the Southwest and the multitude of issues associated with the Colorado River Basin. His talk will focus on the recent work to reconnect the Colorado River with the Sea of Cortez, and the foundation for collaboration that has been laid for the future. Fleck’s blog can be found here: http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/.

More education coverage here.

USGS: Analysis of Water Quality in the Blue River Watershed, Colorado, 1984 through 2007

Blue River
Blue River

Here’s the release from the United States Geological Service (Nancy J. Bauch, Lisa D. Miller, and Sharon Yacob):

Water quality of streams, reservoirs, and groundwater in the Blue River watershed in the central Rocky Mountains of Colorado has been affected by local geologic conditions, historical hard-rock metal mining, and recent urban development. With these considerations, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Summit Water Quality Committee, conducted a study to compile historical water-quality data and assess water-quality conditions in the watershed. To assess water-quality conditions, stream data were primarily analyzed from October 1995 through December 2006, groundwater data from May 1996 through September 2004, and reservoir data from May 1984 through November 2007. Stream data for the Snake River, upper Blue River, and Tenmile Creek subwatersheds upstream from Dillon Reservoir and the lower Blue River watershed downstream from Dillon Reservoir were analyzed separately. (The complete abstract is provided in the report)

Click here to read the report.

More USGS coverage here.

Colorado communities get $545,000 in federal economic aid — Denver Business Journal #COflood

Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280
Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Colorado’s rural communities have received $545,000 in federal grants from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration.

The money is going to:

  • Estes Park, to help the community recover from the devastating September 2013 floods;
  • and Region 10 League for Economic Assistance and Planning (LEAP) of Montrose, to help the agency figure out the best way to assist the economic recovery of Delta and Gunnison counties after the closure of the Oxbow Elk Creek coal mine in December 2013.
  • Estes Park received a $300,000 grant to develop a strategy to diversify the regional economy and keep jobs after the 2013 floods. One key component of this grant will be developing a specific plan to make use of Estes Park’s existing fiber optic ring to deliver improved broadband services to the Town and region, according to the commerce department…

    The other grant, for $245,000, will help the Region 10 LEAP develop an in-depth, data-driven analysis to help set priorities to create a more diverse economy, the commerce department said.

    More on #AMI deployment & customer engagement with Allison Kastama, Heather Pohl — Water Values podcast

    Flagstaff: Adaptive Management Work Group to Meet in Flagstaff, Ariz., on #ColoradoRiver Topics — August 27 – 28

    Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR
    Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

    Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation:

    The Bureau of Reclamation announced that the Adaptive Management Work Group will meet on August 27 – 28, 2014 in Flagstaff, Ariz., to address topics related to the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program. The AMWG committee provides a forum for discussion of topics related to the operation of Glen Canyon Dam and ongoing monitoring of resource conditions downstream of the dam.
    A number of agenda items will be covered during the two-day meeting including current Upper Colorado River Basin hydrology and Glen Canyon Dam operations; the Water Year 2015 hydrograph; science updates on food-base studies, status of humpback chub and trout and new insights on trout-chub dynamics, and the changing substrate of the Colorado River; 2015-2017 budget and work plan items; new information on razorback sucker in western Grand Canyon; and the status of the Glen Canyon Dam Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement including draft alternatives, process, and current schedule.

    The AMWG is a federal advisory committee appointed by the Secretary of the Interior with representatives from federal agencies, Colorado River Basin states, Native American Tribal governments, environmental groups, recreation interests, and contractors for federal power from Glen Canyon Dam. The Secretary receives recommendations on how to best protect downstream resources and balance river operations through the varied stakeholder interests represented by the AMWG.

    The meeting will be held at the Little America Hotel, Ballroom B, 2515 East Butler Avenue, Flagstaff, Ariz. The meeting will begin on August 27, at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at 5:30 p.m. The meeting will run from 8:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. on August 28.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

    Grand Junction: The Colorado River District Annual Seminar is September 19 #ColoradoRiver

    coloradoriverdistrictannualseminarpage109192014

    Click here for the registration form.

    For more info please contact: Meredith Spyker, 970-945-8522, ext. 221, mspyker@crwcd.org

    More Colorado River Water Conservancy District coverage here.

    Eagle River Valley: Streamflow above average — thanks North American Monsoon #COdrought

    Eagle River Basin
    Eagle River Basin

    From the Vail Daily (Melanie Wong):

    For the first time in more than 110 weeks, according to the Colorado Climate Center, none of the state is in “exceptional drought,” the direst level of drought, which has only been seen once or twice every 100 years.

    “They are not out of the woods in southeast Colorado yet,” said Wendy Ryan, assistant state climatologist. “They have a long road to recovery after four years of drought. These are the first real rains they have seen in some time.”[…]

    It’s been a good summer for the area’s waterways, as far as river levels go. So good, in fact, that the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District hasn’t had to make changes to its water operations in order to keep stream levels up.

    The water district’s Diane Johnson said that in previous years, a combination of dry skies and hot temperatures have forced the district to pull the area’s drinking water from different parts of the river in order to maintain the minimum stream-flow levers.

    “A benchmark for us is that both the Eagle River and Gore Creek have been above the median for the whole season, which is great,” Johnson said. “Once it peaked, it’s stayed above the norm, which is good for fishing and boating.”[…]

    Experts are calling the current wet cycle “monsoon” conditions, which they say is helping to alleviate the dry conditions that racked the state last year. In fact, statewide, precipitation was at 112 percent of average, and so far in August totals are 90 percent of the average.

    Cortez Sanitation District gives some businesses a break on rates

    Cortez early 1900s via Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
    Cortez early 1900s via Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

    From the Cortez Journal (Tobie Baker):

    The Cortez Sanitation District will provide temporary relief to dozens of local businesses that saw sewer rates spike 100 percent or more this year…

    The CSD resolution states it is “fair, equitable and in the public interest to limit any rate increase to 100 percent in any one calendar year.” Teresa Wlodyka, owner of the Tomahawk Lodge on South Broadway, is among 54 customers to be impacted by the resolution. Rate changes should be reflected in September bills…

    CSD manager Tim Krebs said the adjusted rates could remain in effect for 12 months.

    “The board can adjust rates at any time,” said Krebs. “We just wanted to give some relief to those who were affected above 100 percent.”

    The resolution also states “rates being adjusted down are subject to up to another 100 percent per calendar year until their rates meet the current SFE schedule.” Krebs said that if a customer’s previous bill, for example, was $100 per month, the stipulation allows the board to increase the bill to $200 per month next year and even up to $400 per month the following year.

    “The rates need to eventually meet the same rate schedule everyone else is being billed from,” said Krebs.

    Approved by a 3-1 margin, the resolution is forecast to cost the district $68,589, but save business owners $56,628 and public entities $11,961. Board member John Stramel voted against the measure. Board member John Candelaria was absent from the public hearing.

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    Burt Knight Selected as Greeley’s New Director of Water & Sewer

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water
    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

    Here’s the release from Greeley Water & Sewer:

    Greeley City Manager Roy Otto is pleased to announce the selection of Burt Knight as Greeley’s new Director of Water & Sewer effective August 18, 2014. When announcing Mr. Knight’s selection for the position, Mr. Otto stated, “Burt has performed duties as Interim Director with distinction. After reviewing the options before me with many trusted advisors, I believe the best choice for this important responsibility, at this critical time for our city and the Water/Sewer Department, is a promotion of our operations deputy.”

    The Director of Water & Sewer, which reports to the City Manager, will be responsible for implementation of the long-term and comprehensive plan that includes strengthening and maintaining Greeley’s water system infrastructure, continuing water supply acquisition, expanding water storage, and increasing water conservation efforts.

    Knight earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University and has over 30 years of municipal engineering and management experience. Mr. Knight began employment as the City of Greeley’s Chief Water Engineer in 2011 and was promoted to Deputy Director of Operations in 2013. Prior to his employment with Greeley, Mr. Knight served as city/county engineer for the City and County of Broomfield.

    When asked what attracted him to this position, Mr. Knight stated, “I believe in Greeley’s vision of the future and how the organization is focused on achieving community excellence. It is also a pleasure working with the Greeley staff because they are all committed to serving our citizens. I am honored by Mr. Otto’s, City Council’s and the incredible members of the Water and Sewer Board’s confidence in me, I will not let them down.”

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

    Research reveals new details of fatal event, potential risks — Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    Grand Mesa mudslide before and after via The Denver Post
    Grand Mesa mudslide before and after via The Denver Post

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    The size of the landslide that took three lives this spring on the north side of Grand Mesa was remarkable in the relatively recent history of the mountain, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

    A research project headed by Jeff Coe, a research geologist who has studied landslides elsewhere in Colorado and around the world, found that the slide moved in at least five phases when it ran down from the top of the mesa at a speed of about 50 mph on May 25.

    Three men — Wesley Hawkins, Clancy Nichols and his son, Dan Nichols — died while they were working in the slide’s path.

    “If we look over geologic time, there have been bigger slides,” said Jonathan Godt, landslide hazards program coordinator for the Geological Survey office in Golden, “but in human time, this slide was really big.”

    Dirt and debris clinging to the basalt cap of the mesa was already soggy from melting snow when it was pelted with rain falling at a rate of about eight-tenths of an inch per hour for half an hour, setting off a 40-million-cubic yard avalanche of mud, rock and debris down an existing rockslide for more than three miles, overtopping two ridges as it swept down.

    “The chronological sequence of movement was complex, with at least 5 phases: a debris flow; the catastrophic, high-energy rock avalanche, including the rotational rock slide; movement of the hummock-rich, central core of the avalanche deposit; a second debris flow; and ongoing movement of the upper central core,” the abstract says of the slide.

    Early movement was noted between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., when residents reported that their irrigation was disrupted and saw trees falling on the face of the old rockslide, the abstract says.

    “Seismic data indicate that catastrophic movement began at about 3:44 p.m. and lasted about 3 minutes,” the abstract said.

    A “large, back-rotated, rock-slide block remains at the top of the avalanche,” holding back a lake, the abstract says.

    There is some concern about the stability of the lake, though it’s unlikely that water will cascade over it this year, Godt said.

    Continuing threats include the catastrophic failure of the rock-slide block, a large failure upslope from the headscarp, a rapid release of water from the lake, and rapid or slow movement of the avalanche deposit, the abstract said.

    The slide itself is relatively stable, having settled into a flatter area than the steep slopes from which it tumbled away, Godt said.

    Researchers hope that continuing study of the slide will yield clues that can prevent tragic losses such as the loss of the three men, who were believed to be working on clearing an irrigation ditch when they were swept under.

    Hawkins, manager of the Collbran Conservancy District, was remembered Friday by the Colorado Water Congress.

    Coe will present an abstract of the research in October at a meeting of the Geological Society of America in Vancouver.

    “If you look at the 14-year drought, Lake Powell has performed well” — Eric Millis #ColoradoRiver


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Drought is nothing new to the arid West. It’s just never been witnessed by this many people. Vast swatches of Colorado burned in 2012-13, and California, Oregon and Washington are experiencing one of the worst fire seasons in history this year. In the Colorado River basin, Lake Mead is at the lowest levels since it first filled, while Lake Powell is approaching levels too low to generate power. So Western states, like Colorado, are emphasizing drought planning.

    “What happens if the drought continues?” asked John McClow, president of the Colorado Water Congress.

    To answer the question, water planners from other states in the Colorado River basin were invited to address the group’s summer conference.

    “We have to come together as a basin to decide what happens after 2026,” said Tom McCann, assistant director of the Central Arizona Project. “The first thing is the lower basin states (Arizona, California and Nevada) need to reduce their use.”

    CAP stands to lose one-fifth of its supply in a continued drought under temporary guidelines agreed to by states in 2007. To cope, Arizona has implemented conservation, underground storage and weather modification programs.

    “We’ve been in a drought emergency since January,” said Tanya Trujillo, executive director of the Colorado River Board of California, where more than 4,000 fires have occurred this year.

    California voters will decide whether the state will issue $7.5 billion in bonds for water projects in this year’s elections. Already, the state has fallowed 800,000 acres of farm ground and imposed mandatory water restrictions statewide.

    Utah is alarmed by the reduction in levels in Lake Powell that threaten power production, said Eric Millis of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. The state is contemplating a project that would build a pipeline from Lake Powell to serve municipal needs.

    “If you look at the 14-year drought, Lake Powell has performed well,” Millis said.

    But the downward trend in lake levels has continued after a brief spike in the record wet year of 2011.

    In Wyoming, a cloud-seeding research program has been kept alive by donations from other states in the Colorado River Basin, said Steve Wolff, of the Wyoming engineer’s office.

    The state is looking for the first time at using water from Fontenelle Reservoir — part of the storage system built to protect the obligation of upper states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) under the Colorado River Compact — as a protection against drought.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A three-year drought is nothing compared with the damage Los Angeles did to Mono Lake. But people are trying to fix that. Los Angeles expects to get just a fraction of the water it usually brings down off the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains this year, James Yannotta, manager of Los Angeles aqueduct system, told the Colorado Water Congress last week.

    “We average 250,000 acre-feet,” he explained, adding that the city has other sources of water. “This year, it will be 40,000 acre-feet. This is horrible.”

    The aqueduct system for the Owens Valley was completed prior to state environmental laws, and dried up agriculture in the area. But the extension to Mono Lake extension completed in 1940, 338 miles north of Los Angeles, became a lightning rod of environmental concern.

    The level of the lake dropped 40 feet by 1989, and court cases and agreements in the 1990s required Los Angeles to restore it. The lake is three times saltier than the ocean, but Los Angeles captures the water from feeder streams in the closed system before it reaches the lake, Yannotta explained.

    Half of the water Los Angeles used to take now stays in the Mono basin to address environmental needs. Formerly, 30,000-150,000 acre-feet annually were taken from Mono basin, but the level now is regulated by the level of Mono Lake. For the past few years, only 16,000 acre-feet have been pumped. That could be reduced to 4,500 acre-feet if the drought continues next year, Yannotta said. To make up for shortfalls in its traditional supplies, Los Angeles is looking at cleaning its contaminated groundwater supplies, reusing more water, capturing stormwater and conservation — strategies that will cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Conservation efforts have kept water use steady, even though the population served grew by 1 million people in the past 20 years.

    Meanwhile, Mono Lake is filling again, and streams in the Owens Valley below it are flowing as the giant city to the south reins in its thirst.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

    Pueblo: The next Water Resources Review Committee public meeting is August 29 #COWaterPlan

    Pueblo photo via Sangres.com
    Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

    From the Bent County Democrat (Randy Fischer):

    “Water is essential to Colorado’s quality of life and economy, but our ability to maintain those values will be challenged by a growing population, increasing demands for water, and limited supplies of this precious resource.”

    These words appear on the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s website, describing the need for and purpose of the proposed Colorado Water Plan, which is to be drafted by the end of 2014 under an executive order signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013.

    Our goal for the Water Plan is to provide a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need in the future while seeking to maintain such divergent values as healthy watersheds and environment, robust recreation and tourism economies, vibrant and sustainable cities, and viable and productive agriculture.

    Colorado’s Water Plan will build on eight years of extremely valuable water supply planning work by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, the Inter-Basin Compact Committee and the nine Basin Roundtables, one for each of the major watersheds in the state.

    In 2014, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 14-115, which also recognized the need to engage the general public in the water planning process by gathering input through a series of public meetings in all the major river basins of Colorado. SB-115 directs the legislature’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC) to convene these meetings, gather public input, and provide comment on the draft Water Plan by Nov. 1.

    The next of these public meetings is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 29, at 9 a.m. at the Rawlings Library, 100 East Abriendo Ave. in Pueblo. This hearing is for everyone who lives in the Arkansas River drainage, from Leadville to the Kansas border. I invite and encourage all residents of the Arkansas Basin to attend this important meeting.

    The WRRC recognizes that water issues inherently involve competing values that cannot all be resolved through technological or technical fixes. Different groups bring different values to the conversation. There is no “right” way to balance these competing interests and values. Through SB-115, the WRRC is asking the public to help make Colorado’s Water Plan a better document that seeks to represent the values of all state residents.

    The WRRC also recognizes that the Colorado Water Plan will identify difficult choices and tradeoffs that will need to be made to plan for and create a sustainable water future. SB-115 envisions a public process that lays out these choices and tradeoffs facing Colorado and seeks to find a way through public input to navigate the difficult issues that lie ahead.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

    2014 Colorado November election: El Paso County Stormwater issue on November ballot #COpolitics

    Fountain Creek Watershed
    Fountain Creek Watershed

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

    It’s the end of the third quarter in the proposed stormwater funding plan, and a group of residents who have been working on the issue for two years have their game faces on. They saw a contract approved by the El Paso County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that outlines how a regional stormwater authority would work and be governed should voters approve it in November.

    But as the task force members and their consultants huddled after the meeting, there was little time to feel cocky about the victory. It’s a milestone, said Dave Munger, co-chair of the regional stormwater task force, but the game isn’t finished – or won – yet.

    “The fourth quarter will be the election,” he said.

    Munger’s co-chair and consultant to the group Kevin Walker added: “Nov. 4 is when it will be over.”[…]

    If the committee work was the first two quarters of the game, then the third quarter got rough and tumble in recent meetings as [Colorado Springs Mayor] Bach, council members and the rest of the task force hashed out the details of the stormwater contract, called an intergovernmental agreement. The council approved the contract, without most of Bach’s proposed changes.

    Bach held a news conference Aug. 13, announcing that he would not support the proposed stormwater authority. The same day the task force held a news conference to tout its plan.

    And now the campaign season, or the fourth quarter, begins, Walker said.

    Voters will be asked to OK an annual stormwater fee, which would be roughly $92 a year for a home with 3,000 square feet of impervious surface. If approved, a regional authority expects to collect about $39.2 million a year for 20 years.

    Most of the money would be spent on construction projects and maintenance and operations of existing flood control projects.

    About 10 percent of the fees collected would be set aside for flooding emergencies.

    More 2015 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Summit County buys mining claims near Montezuma to protect land — Summit Daily News

    Snake River
    Snake River

    From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley/Joe Moylan) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

    During the silver mining boom of the 1870s, with a population of just 71, Sts. John was for a short time Summit County’s largest town.

    The Summit County Open Space and Trails Department recently bought the abandoned townsite and nearby mining claims for $425,000 from the Tolen family, which owned land in the area since the 1950s.

    The purchase, finalized July 28, conserves about 90 acres in the Snake River Basin above the town of Montezuma as public open space. The 18 separate parcels have significant wildlife value, according to the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, the U.S. Forest Service and the Snake River Master Plan.

    “We are incredibly grateful to the Tolen family for working closely with the Summit County Open Space program to preserve the heritage of Sts. John and this exquisite landscape for the enjoyment of Summit County citizens and visitors alike,” said Brian Lorch, the program’s director. “This is one of the most important and significant acquisitions the program has made in recent years.”

    The county acquired the properties using the Summit County Open Space fund, approved by voters in 2008. Breckenridge Ski Resort contributed $25,000 toward the purchase as part of a deal with environmental groups worried about the impacts of the recent Peak 6 development.

    With the acquisition, the county will protect a large portion of the Snake River Basin backcountry and preserve a piece of Summit County history. Lorch said the Sts. John properties are highly valued for their intact historic resources, popularity for outdoor recreation and high-quality wetlands and wildlife habitat…

    The Summit County Open Space program acquires lands to protect the scenic beauty, natural habitat, backcountry character and recreational opportunities in Summit County. Funded through property tax mill levies approved by Wvoters in 1993, 1999, 2003 and 2008, the program has protected more than 14,000 acres of open space.

    More Blue River watershed coverage here.

    Still no action on the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act

    Hermosa Park
    Hermosa Park

    From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

    Coloradans, perhaps better than anyone, understand and appreciate just how special the wilderness can be. And as connoisseurs of the outdoors, they recognize there are not only wild places, but there are best wild places.

    These are the places that inspire — some acknowledged and held sacred, others that have managed to remain under the radar. Others still find themselves perched in a sort of purgatory somewhere in between.

    Hermosa Creek, in the San Juan National forest just north of Durango, might qualify among those in-betweeners. To Durango locals, the drainage that translates to “beautiful” creek epitomizes the Colorado outdoor experience, and they’d like to see it remain that way. But those who don’t frequent the Four Corners region may not be aware of all that this hidden gem has to offer.

    Count the majority of U.S. Congress among that latter group. For more than a year now, a bipartisan bill known as the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act has languished in the legislative branch of our federal government as a consensus of local stakeholders await acknowledgment of efforts to preserve the attributes that make the place so special.

    “The primary thing the bill does is it takes the basin and protects it exactly as it is today,” said Ty Churchwell, backcountry coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “This bill is completely supported by consensus from all stakeholders — everyone from county commissioners and town boards to sportsmen, miners, mountain bikers and motorized users. There’s nothing for them to do in D.C. but vote it forward.”

    Beyond its lush landscape and idyllic scenery, the beauty of Hermosa lies in its everyman outdoors appeal. The upper creek is a focal point of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Colorado River cutthroat reintroduction program, and the state’s largest unprotected roadless area remains a hunter’s paradise where trophy elk still die of old age. The 20-mile main trail along the creek corridor is a mountain biker’s mecca. The same trail is shared by a reasonable number of motorized users. Backpackers and horseback riders might cross the creek and make their way into a proposed 38,000-acre wilderness area a quarter mile away.

    Overall, the bill would protect 108,000 acres through a series of special management areas, allowing for a variety of historic uses. It’s a one-of-a-kind proposal aimed at protecting an entire watershed as an intact, whole unit, rather than parts and pieces of it.

    “When we started talking about protecting Hermosa as a river, the work group decided to look at this river basin as a whole ecological unit instead of just a river corridor,” Churchwell said. “That means that the boundaries for this protection are the ridge lines. Everything that flows out of this basin is included in the protection — the whole watershed. It’s the first time that we are aware of that there has ever been a protection bill that encompasses an entire watershed.”

    As a result, a coalition of sportsmen’s conservation groups, guides and outfitters, fly shops and retailers, have united with local government entities in support of protecting this public land deemed vital to America’s hunting and fishing traditions and values.

    “Hermosa Creek and the backcountry lands that flank its banks are among the special places that hunters and anglers in Colorado and across the region see as crucial to protect for the good of sportsmen, the environment and the sustainability of area businesses,” said John Gale, the Colorado-based manager of the National Wildlife Federation’s sportsmen’s outreach.

    Should a portion of the drainage receive federal Wilderness designation this year, it will mark the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964 as only the second wilderness area recognized by Congress since 2009.

    More Hermosa Creek watershed coverage here and here.

    Whatever else is in it, the biggest element of #COWaterPlan plan will be cooperation — Chris Woodka


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Whatever else is in it, the biggest element of Colorado’s water plan will be cooperation.

    “Water can either divide or unite us. In the end, it’s our choice,” Gov. John Hickenlooper told the Colorado Water Congress last week. “In this state, we work together, and we have to make sure it doesn’t divide us.”

    When Hickenlooper called for a state water plan last year, it had a direct impact on most of the water professionals attending the summer workshop. Four months from the finishing line, the governor reiterated the importance of water to Colorado. The draft plan will be on the governor’s desk in December, whether or not Hickenlooper survives an election challenge from Republican Bob Beauprez. Beauprez addressed the Water Congress Friday.

    Hickenlooper heaped praise on the work of basin roundtables, which have been meeting since 2005, and have spent the past year developing basin implementation plans.

    “The roundtables, while not as glamorous and sexy as bare-knuckle water brawling in neighboring states and here in the past, have moved forward,” he said.

    “It has not been just a small group of people in Denver directing how it will be used, but a broad group of people working together to write a plan.”

    Hickenlooper highlighted the Arkansas Valley Conduit as an example of water projects that benefit the outlying areas of Colorado. Hickenlooper said he and Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director James Eklund talked with Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior, earlier this year to ask him to move funds to provide more money for the conduit. Last week, the Bureau of Reclamation announced $2 million in funding for the conduit this year.

    “That $2 million is a good first step for Southeastern Colorado, an area that has been in a drought for years,” he said.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Whether it’s putting in a new dam or pipeline, leasing water from farms or simply conserving water, municipal customers should be prepared to pay more for mitigation.

    “With any project, we have to be prepared to look at the question: What are the underlying costs?” said Mark Pifher, permit manager for the Southern Delivery System being constructed by Colorado Springs Utilities.

    Pifher led a panel of those who have worked on Colorado’s largest municipal water projects to explore the obvious and hidden add-on costs of water development. The event was part of the Colorado Water Congress summer convention.

    In the case of SDS, an $840 million pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, about $150 million in additional costs to meet permit requirements has been tacked on.

    Aurora paid additional costs for its lease of High Line Canal water 10 years ago, with an additional $1.3 million on top of $10.8 million in direct payments to farmers and $1.4 million for a continued farming program now in its tenth year on the Rocky Ford Ditch.

    In the Rocky Ford Ditch program, Aurora provides some of the water it purchased to allow farmers to stay in business.

    “We’re thinking we’ll continue the program in the future,” said Tom Simpson, Aurora’s engineer in the Arkansas Valley. “One thing of concern is the availability of water in the Arkansas basin.”

    New storage projects also come with a price tag for mitigation.

    Travis Bray of Denver Water said the $360 million Gross Reservoir expansion project, designed to increase yield by 18,000 acre-feet, has cost an additional $30 million in mitigation so far, as it moves toward full permitting, projected to happen in 2015.

    Jeff Drager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District said its $300 million Windy Gap Project, designed to increase storage by 90,000 acre-feet, has cost $19 million in mitigation and 3,000 acre-feet of water.

    Along with the money, agreements with affected communities cost time. Both projects are a decade behind schedule.

    “I was a young guy when we started, and now my kids are out of college,” Drager said. “I’d just be happy to get this done by the end of my career.”

    Even conservation has hidden costs, said Jason Mumm with MWH Global, a consultant on many municipal projects. He presented detailed analysis that showed how reduction of water use drives water rates up. As a result, customers may wind up paying the same amount of money or more after paying for appliances that reduce water use.

    “Conservation is good, but we do need to understand that it comes with its own costs,” Mumm said.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here. More conservation coverage here. More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here. More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here. More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    The latest Glen Canyon Institute “Colorado River Lowdown” newsletter is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

    Glen Canyon Dam Construction
    Glen Canyon Dam Construction

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

    Last week the Bureau of Reclamation announced it will release 10% more water from Lake Powell to Lake Mead in an attempt to stave off lower basin shortages. Even with these releases, however, Lake Mead is projected to hover around its current low point of 1,080 ft. above sea level. In April 2015, after snow pack in the basin is assessed, the Bureau may choose to release an even greater amount of water.

    The act of filling Lake Mead with water from Lake Powell sets a precedent for future water management in the Colorado River Basin. As Colorado River water becomes more scarce, prioritizing storage in Mead will emerge as the best means of water storage.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

    $40 million and counting: upgrading aging underground reservoirs

    Mile High Water Talk

    The concrete placement for the roof started at 5 a.m. in order to beat the heat of the day. Over an eight-hour span, roughly 25 concrete trucks per hour continuously delivered concrete to four concrete pumping trucks until the roof slab was complete. The concrete placement for the roof started at 5 a.m. in order to beat the heat of the day. Over an eight-hour span, roughly 25 concrete trucks per hour continuously delivered concrete to four concrete pumping trucks until the roof slab was complete.

    According to DenverUrbanism, there are about 5,900 single-family homes in Denver that were built in the 1890s still standing today. And now, there is only one underground water storage tank left in the Denver metro area built that same decade that continues to store treated water today — but not for long.

    That’s because Denver Water is in the middle of a $40 million capital project to improve the safety and reliability of Ashland Reservoir. One of the two reservoirs at the Ashland site has already been demolished and the new tank is nearly complete. Once that tank is in service, the second reservoir will…

    View original post 261 more words

    CWC Summer Conference recap, day 3: Exempt Colorado water storage projects from NEPA? #COWaterRally #ColoradoRiver

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

    Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez told the Colorado Water Congress Friday that as governor he would be the “lead cheerleader” for new water storage projects in the state. He also drew a distinction between himself and Gov. Hickenlooper on the potential of a major new dam and reservoir project being built in the state.

    The governor answered a question on Thursday at the Water Congress meeting in Snowmass Village by saying it was “unlikely” that public opinion in the state had shifted in favor of building a major new water storage project.

    “I submit to you that’s not leadership,” said Beauprez. “I think we need a governor that stands up and says we’ve got to build new storage and I’m going to lead the way to make sure it happens. I’ll promote worthy projects. I’ll be your lead cheerleader on that.”

    The Water Congress is an advocacy organization whose mission includes the “protection of water rights” and “infrastructure investment.”

    Beauprez said he would seek to streamline the approval process for new water projects by asking Congress to pass a resolution exempting Colorado projects from NEPA, which often requires producing an extensive environmental impact statement.

    “I’ll seek NEPA waivers for any project that meets the stringent Colorado standards, with the help of our Congressional delegation,” said Beauprez [ed. emphasis mine], a Republican who represented Colorado’s 7th District on the Front Range from 2003 to 2007.

    Beauprez also told the Water Congress crowd that he supported approval of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP. The project’s proponent, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, is seeking federal approval for two new reservoirs near Fort Collins.

    The water for NISP will come from the Poudre and South Platte rivers on Colorado’s East Slope, but Northern Water’s existing system also uses water diverted from the Colorado River basin on the West Slope, and some of that water could be used in a system expanded by NISP. The Army Corps of Engineers has been leading the review of the project since 2004 and expects to release a decision document in 2016.

    “Frankly, you’ve got a governor who can’t seem to decide if he’s for it [or] against it,” Beauprez said about NISP. “I’m for it. And I’ll do everything to make sure it gets approved and built.”

    Given his enthusiasm for new reservoirs, Beauprez was asked by an audience member if he was proposing new transmountain diversions to augment the Front Range’s water supply.

    “No,” Beauprez said emphatically.

    “Where are you going to get the water from?” the questioner asked, noting that 80 percent of water in Colorado is on the Western Slope.

    “What I’m proposing is the same kind of thing that NISP is doing — taking advantage of the opportunity to store East Slope water on the East Slope. I think until we’ve demonstrated that we’ve stored all the water we possibly can on the East Slope, transbasin diversions shouldn’t even be on the table.

    “We know we can move water,” Beauprez continued. “And sometimes we’ve moved it because it’s been convenient, or because there’s the money, or because there’s the votes, or because of whatever. But the West Slope of Colorado is Colorado, too. And I understand that. And I want to protect that. And I know that you’ve got a whole lot of people downstream from you on the West Slope that covet that water as well.”

    Beauprez, who grew up on a dairy farm in Lafayette and now diverts water to grow alfalfa and raise buffalo in Jackson County, said he has a keen appreciation for Colorado water law and will defend the state’s priority system, which is based on “first in time, first in right.”

    “I know what Colorado’s time-honored water laws are for,” he said “I know that our prior appropriations doctrine has worked, and worked very, very well. And I know that there’s a lot of people that would like to gnaw away, erode, and destroy that. I’m not one of them. Our prior appropriations doctrine, our water law, and our right to own and utilize our water needs to be protected every day at all costs.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Like a bolt of lightning, climate change clearly divides candidates in the Third Congressional District.U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger from Pueblo, Abel Tapia were asked about it at the Colorado Water Congress summer convention.

    “We all agree that climate will change,” Tipton said, quickly launching into campaign talking points on all-of-the-above energy policy.

    But Tipton criticized the way some have politicized the issue and complained of governmental overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal departments.

    “Anyone who doesn’t believe in climate change is fooling themselves,” Tapia said later in the day. “When you look at the forest fires and floods we have experienced, something has added to that.”

    Tapia said the country has the ability and obligation to discover ways to overcome the effects of climate change to keep the county and world secure.

    Tipton also stressed his record in Congress on water issues, citing his efforts to stop the National Forest Service from tying up water rights in federal contracts for ski areas and ranch land.

    He said the EPA’s Waters of the [U.S.] policies are dangerous to agriculture.

    “If the EPA can come in and tell us how to use water, we’re going to be stripping our farmers of their ability to make a living,” he said. “We need common sense in federal regulations.”

    Tapia said his own life experiences as an engineer, school board member and state lawmaker give him a unique perspective that would serve the state in Congress.

    “I’m a problem solver,” he told the Water Congress. “I know that when you need to know something you go to the experts. You are the experts on water.”

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Tweets from the conference were tagged with the hash tag #COWaterRally.

    Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference recap, day 2


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

    Gov. John Hickenlooper told members of the Colorado Water Congress on Thursday that he thinks it’s “unlikely” that public opinion in the state has shifted in favor of a new major dam project being built in the state, even in the face of population growth and drought. He said he has found more support around the state for the idea of increasing the height of existing dams by 5 or 10 feet, which he said can dramatically increase the amount of water stored in a reservoir.

    “I think we have a lot of opportunity in those projects, many of which are underway,” Hickenlooper said.

    But, he added, “I’m not sure we have enough capacity just doing those projects for all the water we’re going to need.”

    He also called for increased water conservation in both the state’s cities and its fields.

    The governor spoke on the second day of the Colorado Water Congress’ annual summer convention, which is being held at the Westin hotel in Snowmass Village through today.

    Former Congressman Bob Beauprez, who is running against Hickenlooper for governor, is slated to speak this morning at the water conference.

    Hickenlooper had the full attention of the members of the water congress on Thursday, as his call for a draft Colorado Water Plan to address the state’s future water needs is supposed to be on his desk by Dec. 10, and the planning process has kept many in the state’s water community busy. The governor noted that the nine different river-basin roundtables have held over 850 meetings to discuss water policy and projects. The Colorado River Basin Roundtable meets monthly in Glenwood Springs, and its next meeting is Monday, Aug. 25 from noon until 4 p.m. Those individual basin plans are now being sifted and sorted to create the draft statewide plan, which Hickenlooper said was met with skepticism when he first proposed it.

    “What we kept trying to say is, the most important part of this water plan is the process we use to create it,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s not going to be a small group of people in Denver trying to make decisions on how water should be allocated for the rest of the state. And I think what we’ve seen is that this plan is going to be created by a broad cross section of people from across the state.”

    Hickenlooper also called for cooperation among often-warring factions in Colorado’s water world, be they Front Range water providers trying to deliver water to a growing urban population, Western Slope ranchers and farmers working to preserve their rural way of life and the future value of their private water rights, or river-lovers on both sides of the divide fighting to keep water in rivers for fishing, boating or nature’s sake.

    “Water can either divide us, or unite us,” Hickenlooper said. “In the end, it’s our choice. I think in this state, we generally choose to collaborate and work together to try and find compromises and make sure that it doesn’t divide us.”

    He said that by working together and taking a “calculated and conservative” approach to water planning, the state’s various water factions are, in fact, moving forward.

    “While this collaboration isn’t as sexy or glamorous as the bare-knuckled water brawling that we see sometimes in our neighboring states, and sometimes here in the past, this cooperation is effective and I think very productive,” Hickenlooper said. “Collaboration can bear fruit that otherwise would be unobtainable.”

    Jim Pokrandt, the director of communications at the Colorado River District in Glenwood Springs and the chair of the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, said it was hard to say if the roundtable members around the state had faith in the emerging water plan.

    “Some won’t be happy unless it calls out a project,” Pokrandt said. “Others will always think it is a stalking horse for a project no matter how it handles that issue.”

    Pokrandt said the draft plan will at least identify many local water projects and statewide needs. Then, he said, “the real work begins.”

    A final water plan is to be complete by December 2015.

    And it remains to be seen how well the governor and the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which is in charge of developing the draft water plan, will collaborate with the state legislature.

    Last year, state Sen. Gail Schwartz, formerly of Snowmass Village and who now lives in Crested Butte, co-sponsored a bill that would require the Colorado Water Plan to be approved by the legislature, and not just the governor. However, the bill was watered down to require the state’s interim legislative committee on water to hold nine public hearings in the state on the plan this summer. The hearing in the Colorado River basin was held Thursday evening at the Glenwood Springs library, with 10 state legislators who sit on the interim water committee in attendance, along with over 50 citizens.

    Pokrandt, as chair of the Colorado basin roundtable, gave an overview of the group’s draft plan. He said a key finding was that another transmountain diversion was not in the best interest of the state at this time, especially as pending projects are already likely to divert an additional 140,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado basin to the Front Range.

    Today, between 450,000 and 600,000 acre feet of water is sent from the basin to the east each year.

    A chief finding of the basin’s plan is that “high conservation, (water) reuse and linking water supply to land use” are in the best options for the state.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    One candidate evoked the strong connection of water to Colorado’s past and the need to preserve more of it for the future. The other talked about a coming global crisis and the need for America to become an international leader for water development. This particular stop on the campaign trail was the summer convention of the Colorado Water Congress. U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, is facing Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner in the November election. Both are perennial favorites of the state’s leading water group, but took different approaches to argue how they would best serve the state’s water interests.

    “How are we going to meet the needs of our people, our farmers and our communities if we don’t build storage,” Gardner said.

    The federal government impedes water development in Colorado and represents a danger to water rights within the state, Gardner said.

    Gardner talked about his family’s five generations as store owners and implement dealers in Yuma, and said federal policies endanger that way of life.

    “Will our children have the same type of opportunity if we don’t change the way we’re doing things?” he asked.

    Udall countered that it’s not enough for Colorado or the United States to look after just its own needs. Instead, the country has the opportunity to provide global leadership in confronting future shortages.

    “When it comes to water, we are living beyond our means and that is a dangerous situation,” Udall said.

    Climate is changing because of human activities at the same time world population is increasing, creating new stress on water supplies. As shortages grow, stability in foreign governments diminishes, he said. While that’s a threat to U.S. interests, it’s also an opportunity for American companies to be innovative while reaching out to help solve the problem. In the process, there would be goodwill toward the U.S., Udall said.

    Closer to home, he said Colorado must protect its interests on the Colorado River and to resist federal attempts to tie up state water rights.

    “I’ve made it one of my top priorities to protect Colorado water,” Udall said. “We have to make sure liquid gold is always available.” cwoodka@chieftain.com Will our children have the same type of opportunity if we don’t change the way we’re doing things?

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A bill that would allow water saved from farm efficiencies to support instream flows — vetoed this year by Gov. John Hickenlooper — could be resurrected in the next legislative session. The interim water resources review committee heard testimony Wednesday from some who opposed the measure and said a pilot program might be workable. There is still opposition to the bill, however.

    “I think we got an idea of why they’re opposing the bill,” said state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, after the hearing.

    The bill, SB14-023, proposed allowing water savings from agricultural improvements to be donated on a temporary basis to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for instream flows, without diminishing the water rights of those who contribute water. It was an attempt to encourage conservation while not penalizing farmers under the state’s “use it or lose it” system. The law applied only to the Colorado River and its tributaries, but could affect junior water rights, including transmountain diversions, such as those used by the Pueblo Board of Water Works or Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

    John Stulp, Hickenlooper’s water adviser, said a scaled-back pilot program to see the impact of such donations of water rights is now being considered.

    “Our concern is of possible damages to intervening diverters,” said Carlyle Currier, vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau. “They could spend a lot of time and money trying to defend themselves in water court.” In overappropriated basins, such as the Arkansas and South Platte rivers, the concept would not work, but there are conditions where senior water rights would not be harmed and junior rights even improved in the Colorado River basin.

    Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, was more supportive of the bill, saying it is a tool that could help keep farmers and ranchers in business. The group’s membership is split over the costs of water court, but argued costs could be reduced if the CWCB picked up the tab for engineering costs.

    “We believe the full range of issues was addressed in the bill,” said Doug Robotham, Colorado water project director for the Nature Conservancy. He also voiced support for the pilot program.

    Montrose farmer Mark Catlin said he considers the bill a “jaundiced” attempt to change state water law. He disagreed with other speakers about whether farm efficiencies decrease consumptive use, because all water in a system is reused many times.

    “A water right is how much water you can divert, and it’s dangerous to go into ag and change the way it works,” he said. “The calling right is at the headgate. Is the state of Colorado going to be a partner?”

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

    Roaring Fork Watershed Stream Flow Report for August 21, 2014