Colorado River to get new whitewater play park at Pumphouse — Steamboat Pilot & Today

Pumphouse, Radium campgrounds via the Bureau of Land Management
Pumphouse, Radium campgrounds via the Bureau of Land Management

From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Eugene Buchanan):

While kayaking play parks have sprouted up across the West in recent decades — including the C and D Holes on the Yampa River in downtown Steamboat Springs — the region’s biggest waterway, the Colorado River, only has one engineered kayaking (and board surfing) park: the remarkably popular “wave” in Glenwood Springs.

That’s slated to change this spring, however, with construction of the Colorado’s second river park near the Pumphouse put-in just downstream of Kremmling and Class V Gore Canyon, an hour’s drive away from Steamboat.

In late November, officials from Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Grand County, local landowners and paddlers gathered to announce the construction of the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park right where the Colorado emerges from the Gore Canyon and enters the meandering flats of the Pumphouse Recreation Area.

The park will be located between the top two already established put-in zones.

With the stretch boasting year-round flows, the new site will create a park-and-play venue usable from early spring through fall for Colorado paddlers.

The park also is integral to protecting future flows on the heavily diverted Colorado River.

Since 2010, river conservation group American Whitewater has worked with Grand County on the park’s concept and design as well as helped secure political and financial support for the project. With input from hundreds of volunteers, American Whitewater also has defined flow ranges that sustain good paddling opportunities along that section of the Colorado River.

“The project provides important benefits to river recreation and river health, in Grand County and for many miles downstream,” American Whitewater’s Colorado Director Nathan Fey said. “This project provides certainty for downstream water users, creates new opportunities for paddlers and anglers and complements many other river management actions currently being developed across the Colorado River Basin.”

The Gore Canyon Whitewater Park is being built in association with Grand County’s Recreational In-Channel Diversion water right.

The RICD, which was filed in 2010, will protect 2,500 cubic feet per second from being taken out of the river, consistent with Colorado Water Law. Similar to the RICD obtained by the city of Steamboat Springs for the Charlie’s Hole structure downtown on the Yampa River, the new RICD for Grand County consists of a new in-channel “feature” that is required by state statute to control and measure the flow in the Colorado River at Pumphouse.

The control feature was designed by Jason Carey, of River Restoration Engineers, which also built the wave in Glenwood Springs downstream.

Consisting of engineer-designed boulders placed across the stream channel that will not be visible at normal flows and will allow for fish passage at all flow rates, the feature is being built just upstream of the second Pumphouse boat ramp.

“By building this project and securing important water rights, our communities can enjoy long-term protections for our river and for its many uses,” Fey said.

The park will enhance river-based recreational opportunities in the region; help grow the sport by providing a location for people to develop new skills; and strengthen the local economies. The groundbreaking ceremony kicked off the construction phase of the project, which is scheduled to be complete by April 2015.

More whitewater coverage here.

Oil and gas exploration with liquefied petroleum gas gel for hydraulic fracturing to reduce dependence on water

Advantages of liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via
Advantages of liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via

Conventional vs liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via
Conventional vs liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via

From The Greeley Tribune (Allison Dyer Bluemel):

Companies in drought areas have begun looking at liquefied petroleum gas gel for hydraulic fracturing as a way to reduce dependence on already-scarce water supplies.

Gas gel presents a potentially viable replacement to the millions of gallons of water used in the fracking process at each well site, said John McLennen, an associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Utah.

Also referred to as dry fracking, the process does not involve water. Instead, highly pressurized gas is injected directly into a formation to crack the rock.

“Conceptually it’s a great idea. People are definitely looking for water substitutes,” he said.

While the gel reduces the use of water dramatically and can benefit both producers and operators, many companies have not incorporated the gel into their operations due to the explosive and flammable nature of propane, McLennen said.

Under the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, companies have the autonomy to make individual technology related decisions, spokesperson Dan Haley said.

“There are a number of different techniques that Colorado companies use in oil and gas development,” said Doug Flanders, COGA director of policy and external affairs. “The most important factor when deciding which technique works best is the type of formation where you’re trying to extract oil or gas.”

McLennen said that the advantages to gel use have yet to be fully researched or substantiated. However, it has the potential to drastically reduce water use in areas were the resource is expensive because of drought or high transportation costs.

On average, each well requires between 1 million and 5 million gallons of water during fracking operations.

In Colorado, hydraulic fracturing operations account for approximately .08 percent of water consumed statewide, with companies working on ways to re-use and recycle water annually, Haley said.

The gel would help to solve the challenge of recycling flow-back water from wells, said Jason Munro, president of GASFRAC based in Calgary, Alberta.

Oil and gas companies dispose of water that cannot be recycled, using Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission guidelines where approximately 60 percent goes into underground injection wells, 20 percent is managed in evaporation ponds, and the remaining 20 percent goes into surface waters under permits by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The injection of water through an underground injection control well requires certain casing and cementing, monthly reporting on materials and volumes injected and pressure tests to ensure the waste stays in the designated area.

The majority of evaporation pits sit in the Raton Basin in southern Colorado, and some water is used on roads for dust suppression if it does not meet the necessary parameters for disposal in streams or rivers that are drinking sources.

Companies reuse recycled water most if the surrounding area has high demand for it in other operations; otherwise they dispose of the production water.

In the average mixture, water and sand make up roughly 99.5 percent of the mix with the additional 0.5 percent consisting of chemicals that assist the flow of sand into the formation, according to COGA.

In addition to water and sand, COGA reports that hydraulic fracturing mixtures include gelling agents to make fluids thicker cross linkers to continue to thicken fluids, breakers to thin fluids to ensure production after time, surfactants to improve production and recovery, biocides to control bacteria, and additional additives to address other challenges.

Liquefied petroleum’s lower specific gravity decreases the volume necessary in operations by half which can reduce truck traffic by up to 90 percent and eliminates the need for post stimulation transport, Munro said.

GASFRAC’s system is primarily propane due to its presence as a natural, non-damaging hydrocarbon, he said.

The liquefied petroleum gas gel alternative involves injecting petroleum gel combined with sand under high pressure into the shale at similar ratios to hydraulic fracturing, he said.

GASFRAC has worked with liquefied petroleum gas technologies since the company became operational in 2008 and provides consultation to companies in Canada and rural Texas.

The company lauds liquefied petroleum gas gel as a “rare technology breakthrough in the oil and gas industry that can deliver both economic and environmental benefits for its producers.”

GASFRAC utilizes three major components in the use of the gel: storage tanks, a sand blender and specialized high pressure pumping units.

The company’s storage tanks involve a boost pump and nitrogen pressurization which feed the gel into the sand blender. Tanks are coated with a pressurized nitrogen blanket as a safety measure, Munro said.

Proppant, such as sand, is preloaded, purged and pressurized with the nitrogen to create a sand laden mix that stimulates the reservoir.

The process ensures the even distribution of sand in the mixture, which prevents it from settling in formations.

Munro said that the gel offers fewer restrictions than water in that more sand can be added to the mix to increase down-hole pressure and that the mixture can be altered to each well more efficiently.

As a formation friendly substance, the gel reduces the damage to surrounding environment as it occurs naturally down hole and is within a closed pressurized system. On average, more than 75 percent of the propane can be recovered and sold again compared to water operations, were recycling and reusing water can present a challenge, Munro said.

Additionally, he said the presence of hydrocarbons already in production eliminates the presence of biocides found in conventional fracking operations.

“It’s way more environmentally friendly and less likely to cause seismic events such as earthquakes,” he said.

Compared to the price of water recovery, he said the gel has a minimal cost after companies resell or repurpose recovered propane.

Additionally, the lower surface tension of liquefied petroleum gas gel can also produce a higher yield from wells when used properly, Munro said.

Due to the substance acting as an energized gel, petroleum gel helps to push fracking fluid in the well which has the potential to increase the natural gas yield in the wells, McLennen said.

“There is a pretty dramatic curve,” Munro said. “If used properly there can be a dramatic uplift in production.”

Munro said that they have seen the most dramatic increase in production at their Texas sites.

Additionally, McLennen said the higher availability of propane on site allows to easier access for oil and gas companies.

Another benefit of the gel comes through the use of butane which helps performance under high-temperature surface conditions, he said.

However, McLennen said the use of gel petroleum presents safety considerations which would require new expenditures and precautions to avoid injury.

“They are very expensive and because of the explosive properties of the substances used, they can be very dangerous,” said Encana’s Media Relations Manager Doug Hock.

Hock said that due to the gel’s relatively recent appearance in the oil and gas world, very few companies know about its definite benefits and disadvantages or have done research into its applications on individual formations.

“In speaking with our chief of completions, he tells me that completely waterless fracs are seldom done,” Hock said.

Alternatively, Hock said Encana has utilized nitrogen gas in its San Juan Basin operations in New Mexico which reduces, but does not fully eliminate, water use.

“The reason for using a nitrogen (fracture) is low reservoir pressure,” he said. “While it does reduce the amount of freshwater used, that’s not why it’s used.” Nitrogen, which makes up between 30 and 70 percent of the mixture with water, is added at the wellhead in a mixture with the water and pumped down hole. The nitrogen additive appears as foam similar to shaving cream, Hock said.

Both nitrogen and CO2 do not have the same volatile properties and risk of explosion, he said.

“The main problem with propane is that it is explosive, that’s been the big challenge with it,” he said. “Of course, we’re always looking for new ways to be efficient.”

Other options, such as non-flammable hexaflouropropane used in inhalers, stand as viable options to decrease water use in hydraulic fracturing operations. Hexaflouropropane solutions virtually eliminates the flammability risk at the surface and replaces water in the fracking process, McLennen said.

In order to ensure the safety of on-site employees, GASFRAC implemented remote control shut-offs, automatic shutdowns if propane leaks are detected and thermal monitors. In addition to these precautions, no physical workers are present on site, Munro said.

Thermal cameras are used to monitor all high-pressure lines while crews monitor pressure transducers throughout the system remotely from vans offsite, according to the company’s safety statement.

“We’re the safest operations in the world,” he said. “These are the safest operations I’ve ever observed during my time in the industry.”

However, the necessary safety precautions to monitor the highly explosive propane can provide high overhead costs that can deter companies from implementing the use of gel to replace water.

“It’s not something we are exploring here for several operational and effectiveness issues,” Noble Energy Corporate Communications Manager Steve Silvers said.

While many companies, such as Noble Energy and Halliburton, do not currently use liquefied petroleum gel technology, Munro said that the growing popularity of hydrocarbon technology will lead to more widespread use of the substance in the future.

“For us it’s a game-changing technology,” he said. “It allows us to recapture and reuse (the gas) effectively.”

More oil and gas coverage here.

Greeley water conservation plan under review — The Greeley Tribune

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

From The Greeley Tribune (Kayla Young):

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.

More Greeley coverage here.

Water Diversions, Part Five — Pagosa Daily Post

George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South
George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South

From the Pagosa Daily Post (Bill Hudson):

About halfway through the public portion of the November 25 meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) board of directors, board member Burt Adams was pleading with the other four directors — Mike Church, Glenn Walsh, Paul Hansen and Gordon McIver — to conduct their discussion openly, in public session.

“In this public offer that CWCB has made here — this public proposal — there are at least ten items in the offer that I believe would be detrimental to PAWSD. … So we have this public document here, and I believe our discussion should be held in public.”

Director Glenn Walsh responded to Mr. Adams.

“Well, I have maybe 15 points that I’m real pessimistic on. So, going into executive session is by no means a ratification of the deal that’s on the table.”

The PAWSD meeting had been publicized as an “executive session” .. meaning that the press and the public would be excluded from the meeting. A discussion of “the deal that’s on the table” would be held in secret, in other words.

The issue itself, however, was anything but secret. The current PAWSD board has publicly rejected the idea of building a $357 million reservoir in Dry Gulch — a project that had been approved by a previous PAWSD board of directors. PAWSD had signed an Letter of Intent to cooperate with San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) president Rod Proffitt, in offering PAWSD’s 90-percent ownership of the Running Iron Ranch to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) in exchange for some kind of “loan forgiveness” on the $9 million loan made to PAWSD by CWCB.

The CWCB staff had responded with a publicly-issued outline of a completely different agreement, seemingly aimed at getting Dry Gulch build anyway, even though — to my knowledge — no one anywhere has quantified a
the need for such a reservoir, ever since the bogus Steve Harris projections were rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court.

If you haven’t yet read the CWCB offer, you can download it here.

The Colorado Sunshine Law prohibits government boards from making decisions in secret. But the same law allows an executive session for the purpose of “instructing negotiators.” Is it possible for a board to give confidential directions to a negotiator… without making some decisions secretly? It’s a good question. In the end, four of the five PAWSD board members voted to make certain negotiating decisions in secret.

I have to give the PAWSD board a lot of credit for their lengthy discussion on November 25. I’ve witnessed a lot of local government boards go into executive session to argue very important public issues, without so much as a howdy-do. On November 25, the PAWSD board publicly argued at length — with one another and with the audience — the wisdom and ethics of discussing the CWCB offer in closed session. I’ve never witnessed a government board take an executive session vote so seriously.

However, the audience was never provided a copy of the CWCB proposal under consideration, so we were listening to a discussion that didn’t always make a lot of sense to us. It was clear, from the 51-minute public discussion, that different board members had different interpretations of the CWCB offer.

How much interest would be charged, exactly? What would happen to the $1 million SJWCD grant? How much would the balloon payment total?

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.

NWS Pueblo: Latest snowpack numbers for the Arkansas and Upper Rio Grande basins of southern Colorado

Water Lines: Colorado Water Plan delivered, key dilemmas remain — Hannah Holm

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

Colorado lurched one more step towards resolving how to satisfy growing demands for water with stable-to-diminishing supplies when Governor Hickenlooper received the first complete draft of a statewide water plan on Dec. 10.

In compiling the plan, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) provided the latest information on current and projected water supplies and defined some “no regrets” actions that would help no matter what the future holds. These include achieving at least low-to-medium levels of conservation, completing already planned projects, implementing water re-use projects, and preserving the option of taking more water out of the Colorado River and its tributaries to meet both West and East Slope needs.

The CWCB stopped short of endorsing (or vetoing) any particular projects to meet future needs or taking a hard stand on the role conservation and land-use restrictions should play in meeting future needs. The draft plan maps the landscape, but doesn’t define the route.

The identification of specific projects was left to roundtables of water providers and stakeholders in each of the state’s major river basins. As anticipated, those basin plans conflict on the issue of whether East Slope basins can continue to rely on additional West Slope water to meet their growing needs. Approximately 500,000 acre-feet per year already flows east across the Continental Divide through ditches and tunnels that siphon off a majority of the natural flows from many headwaters streams. One acre-foot can meet the needs of two to three households for a year under current usage rates.

Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism
Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism

While the draft plan doesn’t say “yes” or “no” to additional transmountain diversions, it does incorporate a seven-point “draft conceptual agreement” on how to negotiate on future transmountain diversions. The draft discussion framework (there’s been a lot of push back on calling it an agreement) contains several new features in the many-decades-long debate between East and West Slope actors over transmountain diversions. It states that the East Slope is not looking for stable water deliveries each year from any such project, recognizing that it may only be able to divert in wet years and would have to use transmountain water in conjunction with non-West Slope sources, such as the Denver Basin aquifer and temporary transfers from agriculture.

The draft framework also notes the need for an “insurance policy” to protect against Colorado water users getting cut off in the event that we fail to let enough water flow beyond the state line to meet downstream obligations. Colorado and the other Upper Colorado River Basin states have never failed to meet their obligation to downstream states under the 1922 Colorado River Compact, but the margin by which we’ve exceeded it keeps diminishing. Additional use in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, plus continued drought, could push us over that threshold.

While the draft framework is a tiny part of the draft Colorado Water Plan, it’s likely to be at the center of debate between water leaders from each of the state’s major river basins as the draft Colorado Water Plan becomes “final” over the coming year. In a meeting Dec. 18, members of the four West Slope basin roundtables met in Grand Junction to work towards a common negotiating position in those discussions.

The four roundtables share extreme skepticism about the wisdom of any transmountain diversion, no matter the caveats; they also share a concern that any “insurance policy” to protect existing uses from curtailment under the 1922 Colorado River Compact would ultimately result in water being transferred out of West Slope agriculture, even if the transfer is voluntary and lower-impact than the wholesale “buying and drying” of agricultural water rights that has already devastated some East Slope farming communities.

Where the West Slope roundtables begin to diverge is over how additional Colorado River Basin development on the West Slope figures into the picture. Given that any new uses raise the risk of failing to meet downstream obligations, should new West Slope water projects be looked on any more favorably than new projects to send water across the Continental Divide? Where is the right line in the trade-off between protecting existing Colorado River water users and making the fullest use possible of the resource? And what place should “nonconsumptive” uses of water for the health of the environment and recreation play into these decisions?

This already complicated dilemma is made more complicated by the fact that the Yampa and White river basins have fewer dams and diversions on their streams than the other West Slope river basins, and therefore have a greater interest in new projects to provide greater security for existing users, as well potentially irrigate even more land and/or meet the needs of increasing energy development. Is the Yampa Basin bearing an unfair share of the burden of meeting downstream obligations, or would it be even more unfair for existing users in other basins to have to cut back in order to subsidize Yampa Basin growth?

In the quest to find common ground on this issue, participants in the Dec. 18 meeting called for better hydrologic data in order to better understand how much additional risk is created by different levels of additional use.

I don’t know if that’s possible, given the current state of scientific understanding of our region’s climate and hydrology, particularly when it comes to forecasting. What may bear fruit is the search for the right “triggers,” in terms of reservoir and/or streamflow levels, to indicate when more development, on either side of the Continental Divide, can proceed without posing unacceptable risks to the whole system. Don’t expect this dilemma to be resolved any time soon, no matter what deadlines exist on paper.

This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to You can also find the Water Center on Facebook at or Twitter at

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.