Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
When we planted saplings at the Edwards Restorations site a few years ago, we encircled them with wire cages to protect them from local beavers. The trees are now outgrowing the cages but still aren’t quite big enough to withstand the industrious beavers.
A group of 7th and 8th graders from Stone Creek Charter School helped us to remove the beaver cages and paint the trees with a mixture of paint and sand. The beavers don’t like chewing on the sand, plus the paint is breathable and won’t hurt the trees as they continue to grow! Many thanks to Stone Creek Charter School for all their help!
From email from the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance (Christian Gilmer):
The 13th Annual Convention of the Ditch & Reservoir Company Alliance (DARCA) will be held February 11-13, 2015, at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Thirty-two speakers are scheduled for DARCA’s Annual Convention, Colorado’s State Water Plan – The Ditch Company Perspective. The event will focus on DARCA’s efforts to provide input to the state of Colorado’s ongoing water plan. A wide variety of speakers have been invited to not only inform, but to solicit input from ditch companies and agricultural water users. Additional topics will include presentations on the California drought and their water plan, Northern Water, the history of the prior appropriation system, and the valuation of ditch companies. Colorado State Senator Gail Schwartz will address the group to discuss the Colorado General Assembly’s present and future role in the plan.
DARCA will be hosting a pre-convention workshop on Wednesday, February 11. The workshop, Technology and Ditch Companies will deal with cutting edge technologies used in water delivery systems across Colorado.
On Friday, the final day of the conference, participants may choose among three concurrent workshops:
Corporate Formalities of Ditch Companies – Representatives from recently incorporated ditch companies and two attorneys will be on hand to discuss the process of formally incorporating your ditch company.
Water Court and the Appellate Process – Three Western Slope lawyers will provide the participants with a description of the water court process and appellate system. The attorneys will discuss recent cases of interest to ditch companies.
Ditch Rider Issues & Rights – Ditch riders are critical members in all Colorado ditch systems. A panel of seasoned ditch riders, superintendents, an insurance provider, and a water attorney will lead the discussion on ditch rider problems and solutions.
Please help us spread the word. For information regarding convention registration, as well as sponsorship or exhibitor registration opportunities, please visit http://www.darca.org or contact John McKenzie at (970) 412-1960 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign-up now for special early bird rate!
Here’s Part II of Bill Hudson’s essay on the Colorado Water Plan. Here’s an excerpt:
One thing becomes very clear when you start trying to understand the politics of water in Colorado. It’s a complicated mess of competing priorities. Like many states in the arid West, Colorado has historically rejected the riparian water rights law that governs most of the eastern U.S. According to riparian doctrine, the water in a river or stream belongs to the land owner who owns property adjoining that waterway. This doctrine copies elements of English and Spanish common law; ownership of the water rights are attached to the related property and usually cannot be sold except with the sale of the adjoining land.
But when American and European settlers began populating Colorado, the most profitable industry was mining, and unlike a farm — the basic economic unit for land private ownership prior to 1850 — a mine is very often established some distance from the nearest river. Some the lawyers and judges of Colorado came up with the “prior-appropriation doctrine.” That doctrine grants superior water rights to whichever water user made the earliest use of the water source, historically speaking. In Colorado, it doesn’t matter if your own property adjoining the river; it only matters that you made historical use of a water source.
A water user who began pulling one million gallons a year from the San Juan River in 1892, for example, has — in Colorado — the legal right to pull a full one million gallons out of the river each year, even if he leaves no water at all for anyone with a later (“junior”) water right.
And in Colorado, the owner of an 1892 water right, for example, can sell that water right without selling the land on which that water has been historically used. (Which makes no logical sense to me, but that’s how the Colorado courts have ruled.)
This is known as the Colorado doctrine, and it was adopted by many of the other states west of the Great Plains. It has worked reasonably well, apparently… so long as we had more water in the rivers than we needed each year.
But a couple of things have changed. Back when the Colorado doctrine was established, most people in Colorado made their living by farming, ranching or mining. They used water mainly to produce useful and necessary items. Today in Colorado, most of us use water to flush our toilets and water our lawns. Not exactly the production of useful items in the same sense. The Pagosa Daily Post, for example, uses not a drop of water in its production process (unless La Plata Electric Association happens to be buying hydro power.) We can certainly question whether any useful products are created.
The other thing that’s changed is the population of the West. In 1950, Colorado had about 1.3 million residents; the number today is 5.3 million.
If you take into account the seven Western states that signed the Colorado River Compact of 1922 — allocating each states’ water rights to the mighty Colorado River — we can see that the total population of the seven states in 1950 was about 14.5 million. (US Census.)
The total population today is 58.6 million.
The amount of water available to serve all these new residents has not increased. In fact, it may have decreased. Substantially.
As I mentioned, about two dozen people attended the Southwest Basin Roundtable presentation on November 17, and brought with them a range of concerns. Some were concerned about federal control or Colorado’s water. But mostly, I think, we talked about the pending water diversions by Colorado’s larger Front Range community’s — diversions that might draw water out of various West Slope watersheds and pipe it over the Continental Divide to water lawns and flush toilets in Denver and Colorado Springs. That’s a potent issue. The West Slope generates most of the water in Colorado, but most of the state’s population lives on the eastern side of the Rockies…
The users of Colorado’s water are varied, and their level of concern about water resources reflect the manner in which they use water. Families. Ranchers. Farmers. Industries. Fishermen. Boaters. These are the human users — the users that we normally include in water conversations. But we can also, if we so choose, consider other users of Colorado’s water: wild game animals, trees, grasses, fish, birds.
Mice. Earthworms. Ladybugs.
If we stop and consider, for a moment, how these other, non-human users interact with Colorado’s water resources, we can easily see a natural, conservative approach. Animals and trees use only what they need, and not a drop more.
In some places in the world, humans approach water in the same manner. They use only what they absolutely need and not a drop more. How much water, then, does a human social group need? Say, for example, a social group that grows food and operates industries and hosts tourists and raises families?
Colorado’s Water Plan sums up the primary challenges facing us, with this language:
“Colorado faces a financial gap in addressing future environmental, recreational, agricultural, and communal needs. Without adequate investment, Colorado cannot effectively address the above-listed challenges.”
Sometimes what appears to be a crisis is merely a lack of imagination, or an unreasonable attachment to an expectation.
According to a 2010 report by the The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it requires about 1,122 gallons of water per day to supply the average American with his or her daily needs. This includes the water used to produce the food we eat, and the myriad other products we consume.
A person living in the Netherlands meets all his or her needs with about 465 gallons per day, less than half what we use here in America.
The same report notes that the average Israeli — living in a desert climate very similar to regions of the American West — meets his or her water needs with 204 gallons a day… less than one quarter the water used by a typical American.
If Colorado is truly facing water shortages of some kind — which is a story we hear regularly from people who run water districts and from people who profit from building massive water projects — how will we prioritize the use of our ever-more-precious water? Agricultural uses? Recreational uses? More suburban lawns?
“If we’re going to use taxpayer money to store more water, then I think the taxpayers ought to get a say in what that water gets used for. I don’t want to save water on the West Slope so there’s more water to irrigate golf courses in Denver. So I think, if you’re going to use taxpayer money, you have an obligation to the taxpayers.
“And I don’t think the taxpayers are going to say, ‘Yes, more golf courses.’ The taxpayers might say, ‘More food,’ or they might say, ‘More jobs.’ I’m not suggesting that we change the [prior-appropriation doctrine]; private water is private water. I get that. But public money makes the water public.”
Good comment. If we are going to use taxpayer money to store more water, here in Archuleta County, how will that water be used?
We might even ask a more direct question. If we are going to use taxpayer money to someday build Dry Gulch Reservoir — one of the four projects currently listed in the draft Southwest Basin Implementation Plan — shouldn’t the taxpayers have some say in how the reservoir’s stored water gets utilized?
The voters of Archuleta County have expressed their desires pretty clearly over the past three years, regarding the Dry Gulch Reservoir. They have elected five anti-Dry Gulch candidates to the five-member Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) board of directors, and the board currently does not show any additional reservoirs in their 25-year Capital Improvement Plan.
So then… why is the Dry Gulch boondoggle currently part of Colorado’s Water Plan? I believe the answer is pretty simple. The voters do not elect the members of the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD); they are appointed by Judge Greg Lyman, the same judge who approved the original water rights for Dry Gulch back in 2004. And it’s the SJWCD board that has somehow inserted a glaringly unpopular water project into a statewide planning document.
The SJWCD owns only a 10 percent interest in the Running Iron Ranch property northeast of downtown Pagosa, but it might require years of legal wrangling to separate PAWSD’s 90 percent interest in the property from SJWCD’s interest. Another alternative for partitioning the two water districts’ ownership of the reservoir site was proposed last winter by SJWCD president Rod Proffitt.
Following a contentious meeting with the PAWSD board, the SJWCD board had voted to continue moving forward with building an 11,000 acre-foot reservoir: “to give the project a chance to succeed,” as Mr. Proffitt once put it. Mr. Proffitt began talking to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) — the state board that had provided PAWSD and SJWCD with the $10 million to buy the Running Iron Ranch — about giving PAWSD “some breathing room” on their loan, so PAWSD wouldn’t press to sell the land to reduce its debt. (PAWSD has a lot of debt at the moment.)
Suspension of payments, debt forgiveness and lower interest rates were all discussed, with Mr. Proffitt pitching ideas to both CWCB and PAWSD. Mr. Proffitt also approached the Southern Ute Tribe about them buying out PAWSD’s interest and becoming partners in the project.
The PAWSD board’s lead negotiator, Allan Bunch, continued to stress ‘partition’ as the best solution to the problem of joint ownership — an action that would likely force the sale of the ranch and drive a final stake into the heart of the zombie reservoir. But Mr. Proffitt was able to get the PAWSD board to consider a trade: $4.6 million in loan forgiveness from CWCB — if PAWSD would assign its Dry Gulch ownership to CWCB.
Numerous twists and turns later, the CWCB came back with a rather different offer. They explained that, legally, CWCB can’t own reservoir sites, so trading loan forgiveness for a share of the Dry Gulch property was not feasible.
But CWCB might be willing, they said, to lower the interest rate on PAWSD’s $9 million loan — if PAWSD and SJWCD would hold onto the property for 20 years, and then consider whether to build a reservoir there. If they did not build the reservoir by 2035, PAWSD would have to pay the remaining $4.6 million, plus interest, in a nice big balloon payment.
SJWCD would assume management of the Dry Gulch project. We might note that SJWCD currently cannot afford to hire any paid staff; apparently CWCB is comfortable asking a board of well-meaning volunteers to manage a $100 million water project. (I am simplifying the actual proposal somewhat, to make this article more readable.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here. More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.
Now the hard work starts, said Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Grand Junction-based public water agency that seeks to protect, use and develop the river’s water for the benefit of Colorado. The river starts in the state and winds downstream to California and Mexico.
The draft has another year, until December 2015, to be finished to comply with the executive order Hickenlooper issued in 2013.
The draft “is a good first step in moving to where we need to go,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead.
“It sets the foundation for what I’d hope to see: the development of an action plan that would lay out an implementation strategy for how we meet the challenges of the future,” Lochhead said. He added that he hopes to be able to say — a year from now — that the action plan is in place, and that a “good, collaborative process” led to the development of the plan…
The draft plan proposes closing the gap through five strategies: recycling water supplies, conservation, using groundwater, shifting agricultural water to municipal use in some years, and possibly shifting more water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, said James Eklund, the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which is overseeing the plan.
Complicating the issue is how water supplies might change over time due to larger issues such as climate change, according to the draft plan.
The goal is to meet the water needs of the population, but to do so without harming the environment by taking too much water out of the streams used by wildlife and the recreation industry, and without drying up farm and ranch land, Eklund said.
Agriculture accounts for about 85 percent of the water used in Colorado every year.
Closing the gap is expected to require “some package of those five things, a balance of those, that doesn’t undermine the environmental and recreational attributes of the state,” Eklund said.
But the plan doesn’t touch Colorado’s existing water court system that deems water to be a property right, with the oldest rights considered superior to younger rights to water supplies, he said.
It does aim to smooth the historic tension in Colorado over water between the sparsely populated, but water rich, Western Slope, and the more populous, but water poor, Front Range by encouraging discussion and consensus building to reach “win-win” scenarios, Eklund said.
“The disputes haven’t gone away, but we’re well positioned to do a plan or process on how people on both sides of the Continental Divide can come to a consensus rather than fighting each other,” he said.
“The plan lays out a process, the state should encourage that and the state has a vested interest in making sure these things will move forward — so bring us in early and let us help broker this,” he said…
The coming year — as the plan moves from draft stage to a final stage — will be a key part of the process, the Colorado River District’s Kuhn said.
Western Slope advocates want to see the final plan focus on conserving water and reusing it across the state, he said.
“The big issue that won’t be settled is the question of a big, new diversion,” Kuhn said.
That’s a polarizing conversation, and there are questions about whether there’s any water in the Colorado River that’s available for big, new diversions to the Front Range, he said.
That’s where the focus on conservation and reuse come into play, he said.
“Unless you can show there’s a water supply out there, then a new project on the Colorado River is off the table,” he said.
Denver Water’s Lochhead said he hopes the final plan will address how to overcome barriers that exist to new technologies and techniques of using and reusing water, such as capturing rainwater, retaining stormwater, and treating and reusing water — things that are difficult to do under current laws and regulations.
“The are technologies out there to employ sustainable green practices and the marketplace wants to go in that direction,” Lochhead said.
“I hope there’s a process (in the plan) to have those discussions about the changes that need to happen,” he said.
Creating a statewide water plan could give also give Colorado leverage when it comes to dealing with the federal government which must sign off on infrastructure projects, and downstream states, which have claims on water that passes beyond Colorado’s borders, Eklund said.
“We want a water plan developed by Colorado, not one dictated by the federal government or by the…downstream states and the country of Mexico via the nine intergovernmental compacts we have to provide water,” Eklund said.
“If for some reasons drought impacts our water supplies, and they don’t get they water they believe they’re entitled to, they may try to intervene in Colorado,” he said.
Sixty thousand is the Greeley Water and Sewer Board’s magic number. That’s how many acre feet of water the planning body expects will be needed by 2060 to sustain a population more than double its current level.
“Right now, we have about 31,000 acre feet in supplies and our demand is about 26,000 to 28,000. So we’re ahead of our demand at this point,” said Eric Reckentine, Greeley’s deputy director of water resources.
While Reckentine said Greeley sits in a much better spot than many other municipalities regarding water resources, the city will need to remain active is securing additional supplies to keep pace with growth.
“Ninety percent of our job is getting ready for what happens in the future,” he said. “What we’re doing right now is preparing supplies for future growth. We’re seeing 2 to 2-and-a-half percent growth right now.”
In October, the city released a revised version of the Greeley Water Conservation Plan to outline its supply strategy for the public. In broad terms, the proposal identifies four key focus areas: strengthening infrastructure, continuing water acquisition, expanding storage and continuing water conservation.
The revised plan is open to public comment until Dec. 15.
A final draft will be submitted to the Greeley Water and Sewer Board for approval Jan. 21.
Broken down specifically, the water department has identified several critical projects to make 60,000 acre feet of firm, guaranteed water a reality for Greeley.
Expansion of the Milton Seaman Reservoir from 5,000 acre feet to 53,000 is among the city’s top priorities.
“Storage is critical because of the way Colorado water law works. You have to store your water in times of drought. That’s why we’re in some storage projects that we’re doing,” Reckentine said.
The first environmental impact statement for the project is expected in early 2016, and groundbreaking is slated for 2025 or 2030. To fill the reservoir, the city will invest $90 million over the next 15 years to acquire agricultural water rights, Reckentine said.
“These are prime agricultural supplies we want to acquire. We want to store those supplies, exchange them up and store them in Milton Seaman Reservoir and then retime those supplies in times of drought,” he said. “That will give us about 10,000 acre feet of supplies once that’s completed. I have acquired about 2,100 of the 10,000 right now that we need in this program.”
Reckentine pointed to the city’s leasing program to dismiss concern that purchases by the city could limit water availability for agriculture.
In 2014, the board said 20,000 acre feet of water went to serve businesses and homes in Greeley.
An additional 24,000 acre feet of water was leased, primarily for agricultural uses. Just 300 acre feet were leased to oil and gas. Water and sewer director Burt Knight said oil and gas needs represent a small portion of Greeley’s water use.
Regarding agricultural uses, Reckentine said that while spot leases could be restricted in drought years, he did not expect the industry to suffer from acquisitions by the city.
“There are some areas that are going to dry up but it’s not going to eliminate agriculture from our economy,” he said.
“It might be more of a cultural thing too, that people don’t want to farm as much. People have been moving to cities … that’s just the way the world is. It’s more urban and less agricultural.”
Regarding infrastructure improvements, Knight pointed to efforts over the last decade to reline piping with cement mortar lining. He said this process has reduced system water loses from 20 percent to 5 percent.
More controversial has been completion of a 30-mile pipeline to connect the Bellvue Water Treatment Plant, located northwest of Fort Collins, to Greeley’s infrastructure. While a majority of the pipeline has been finished, the final portion of the project has been met with opposition by property owners not satisfied to allow the pipeline to pass through their land.
“There are three property owners that we are going to need some court assistance with to acquire the easements,” Knight said. “We try very hard to work with property owners to acquire needed easements.”
Greeley water attorney Jim Witwer said condemnation, or eminent domain, is a last resort, but with far-reaching projects like this one, it is sometimes a necessary step to finish construction.
One property, owned by Brinks Trust, took Larimer County to court over its approval of Greeley’s Bellvue development plans, although the case was dismissed.
For the remaining two properties in question, one came to an easement agreement with Greeley before heading to court last week.
The third property dispute is scheduled for court review Dec. 22.
The number of brown and rainbow trout in the Animas River swimming through Durango has declined, according to an ongoing study.
In particular, a decline has been noted in fish from 32nd Street to the Lightner Creek confluence with the Animas, said Jim White an aquatic biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who worked on the fish survey.
The section of the Animas classified as Gold Medal, from Lightner Creek to Rivera Crossing Bridge (behind Home Depot), also saw a decline, but it was not as dramatic. The area maintained its classification as a prime fishing destination, but the researchers found a decline in large fish.
This is the first time the area hasn’t met the Gold Medal standard for large fish since 1996, White said.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocks the Animas with both kinds of trout, and the stocking practices have not changed in about 20 years.
However, the most recent survey in September revealed a worrisome decline in both young and large brown trout compared with prior years, White said.
“We’re concerned over the absence of these young brown trout,” he said.
White plans to start monitoring brown trout specifically and tracking their population fluctuation. He completes fish surveys along this stretch of the Animas every two years.
No clear reason has been identified as to why the fish populations may be declining, but there are many circumstances that might be playing a role…
Zinc and cadmium from the mines near Silverton have had an adverse effect on the fish and the environment upstream of Bakers Bridge, said Peter Butler, coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group.
Some other negative factors could include warmer water in the summer, sediment levels, low water levels and other possible factors.
An insect-population study done this fall may reveal more information about river health next year.
The Ecosphere Environmental Services study focused on the food supply for fish, and it will be compared to a similar study completed 10 years ago. The results will be released in the spring, Skillen said.
Anecdotally anglers have noticed a decline in caddisflies, pale morning duns, midges and blue-winged olives, he said.
Some of these insect populations may be affected by sediment flowing into the river because it fills in areas where they live, White said.
FromAspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Aspen Times:
A consulting engineer and whitewater park designer has raised concerns that three whitewater parks proposed by the City of Glenwood Springs between Grizzly Creek and Two Rivers Park on the Colorado River could make the popular stretch of river too gnarly for some boaters and floaters.
“Changing the nature of the reach by creating a recreational in-channel diversion (RICD) to entice expert recreational experiences would be inappropriate and would likely have deleterious effects on existing recreational experiences … ,” concluded Jason Carey, an engineer with River Restoration of Carbondale, in a Sept. 9 report.
Carey designed the popular surf wave on the Colorado River in West Glenwood Springs, as well as a whitewater park now under construction on the Colorado at Pumphouse, which is below Gore Canyon and above State Bridge.
The Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Lodge & Pool is concerned about potential damage to its source of hot water by the installation of wave-producing “control structures” in one of the parks, and so it hired Carey to study a preliminary engineering report prepared in January for the city by another whitewater park designer, Scott Shipley of S2O Design & Engineering.
On Friday, Shipley responded to Carey’s independent technical review of his design with a supplemental engineering report of his own.
“It is the intent of the city of Glenwood Springs to create whitewater parks at the proposed sites that will produce a surfing and boating attraction for all types of visitors while protecting the existing floating and rafting experiences through this reach,” Shipley wrote in his Dec. 5 report.
The key, Shipley says, is to provide a way for boaters to get around the two man-made waves in each of the three parks, if they want to.
“The proposed RICD control structures will utilize clearly marked bypass chutes that are designed to provide a route that is easily recognizable and navigable with low to medium size waves, which provides for a concurrent ‘less difficult’ recreational experience,” Shipley wrote, adding that “the proposed structures will not change the difficulty rating of the reach.”
But Carey’s review of Shipley’s design suggested that a wave big enough to attract expert kayakers may also produce river carnage amongst casual boaters, even with a bypass channel.
“A recently completed RICD in Durango is notorious for flipping rafts, even with the bypass boat chute’s obvious routes of navigation designed into the structures,” Carey wrote. “One user commented how they just got off of the Grand Canyon and never flipped. First run down the Durango RICD and they flipped in their raft and lost equipment.”
While Carey does not say so, Shipley of S20 designed the new whitewater park that opened this spring in Durango on Smelter Rapid in the Animas River.
“This type of experience may be acceptable as Durango was a Class III reach modified into a Class III+ RICD and people know there is a risk of flipping and self rescue in these rapids,” Carey wrote. “However flipping rafts may be unacceptable in Class II rapids when children, elderly or otherwise risk adverse persons are aboard.”
The section of the Colorado between Grizzly Creek and Two Rivers is considered Class III during bigger water, but for most of the summer the stretch is rated Class II, as the river typically runs at a consistent 1,250 cfs due to the senior water rights tied to the Shoshone hydropower plant upstream.
The surf wave in West Glenwood, which was designed by Carey, has a bypass channel, but it also has flipped rafts. Carey notes, however, that the big wave is located on a run – Two Rivers through South Canyon – that was already a consistent Class III stretch and so the “Glenwood wave” did not change the nature of the run.
The city is seeking a new water right in Div. 5 Water Court for the whitewater parks, which are proposed for three locations along 3.5 river miles of the Colorado River.
The parks, each with two wave-producing structures, are proposed at No Name and Horseshoe Bend, which are both upstream of downtown Glenwood, and at upper Two Rivers Park, which is just above the confluence with the Roaring Fork River.
The city wants the right to call for 1,250 cfs of water from April 1 to Sept. 30, for 2,500 cfs for up to 46 days between April 30 and July 23, and for 4,000 cfs for up to five days between May 11 and July 6.
Additional comments on the city’s proposal are due in to water court by March.