Lost Man Creek finds its way back to Roaring Fork River

Flows in the main stem of the Roaring Fork River on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 below the diversion dam on the upper Roaring Fork. The flows shown heading toward Aspen, about 250 cfs, include  flow from  Lost Man Creek and  the main stem of the Fork.
Flows in the main stem of the Roaring Fork River on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 below the diversion dam on the upper Roaring Fork. The flows shown heading toward Aspen, about 250 cfs, include flow from Lost Man Creek and the main stem of the Fork.

by Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

ASPEN – On Tuesday, June 14 the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. turned out the flow of Lost Man Creek into the main stem of the Roaring Fork River, instead of sending it under the Continental Divide to Twin Lakes Reservoir.

Lost Man Creek is a major tributary of the upper Roaring Fork River and nearly its entire flow is typically diverted through the Twin Lakes Tunnel.

The creek flows out of sweeping high country valley and runs into Lost Man Reservoir. It’s then diverted into a canal and dumps into the main stem of the Roaring Fork River behind a dam.

That dam doesn’t form a reservoir, but instead diverts water from both Lost Man Creek and the Fork into a tunnel under Green Mountain and then, after another stretch of canal, into Grizzly Reservoir.

Once water from Lost Man Creek and the main stem of the Roaring Fork reaches Grizzly Reservoir it joins water from Lincoln, New York, Brooklyn and Tabor creeks and normally flows into the Twin Lakes Tunnel. The water in the tunnel daylights into Lake Creek and flows down to Twin Lakes Reservoir in Twin Lakes, Colorado.

From Twin Lakes Reservoir, all of the water collected and diverted by what’s officially known as the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System is sent to Aurora, Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Pueblo and fields in the lower Arkansas River basin.

But due to constraints in its water rights, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. is being forced to curtail its diversions from the Indy Pass system, which means in all, 600 cfs of native flows will be turned out Wednesday and will flow either into the main stem of the Fork or upper Lincoln Creek, which flows into the Fork just above the Grottos.

On Tuesday, just flows from Lost Man Creek and the Fork were turned out from the diversion system, adding about 250 cfs to the Fork as it flowed past Lost Man Campground.

On Wednesday, the flows from the Lincoln Creek side of the system will be added to the released native flow of water heading downstream toward Aspen.

The Twin Lakes Tunnel, which has been diverting over 600 cfs since June 6, is set to be closed at noon Wednesday, according to Kevin Lusk, the president of the board of Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. and a senior engineer with Colorado Springs Utilities, which owns 55 percent of the water diverted from the upper Fork.

The Twin Lakes Tunnel is expected to be closed for two to three week and the return of native flows to the Fork – for the second year in a row – may flood the North Star Nature Preserve and create what some locals called “Lake North Star.”

Last year, when the Twin Lakes Tunnel closed, the Fork peaked at the “Roaring Fork Near Aspen” gauge at 1,680s cfs on June 18.

Tuesday evening, flows in the Fork at “Roaring Fork Near Aspen” gauge, at Stillwater Drive, were at 640 cfs, up from 400 cfs before the flow of Lost Man Creek was returned to the Fork.

With the addition of Wednesday of about 350 cfs coming down Lincoln Creek, the flows at Stillwater Dr. could reach the 1,000 cfs range. The Fork, at its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, was flowing at 4,150 cfs on Tuesday night.

Hot and sunny weather expected over the next week in the Aspen area will also likely drive up the flow in the river.

Lost Man Creek, on June 14, 2016, flowing out of the high country near Independence Pass in the upper Roaring Fork River basin. Just below this point the creek reaches Lost Man Reservoir.
Lost Man Creek, on June 14, 2016, flowing out of the high country near Independence Pass in the upper Roaring Fork River basin. Just below this point the creek reaches Lost Man Reservoir.
Looking upstream from the dam across Lost Man Creek that forms Lost Man Reservoir, on Tuesday, June 14, 2016.
Looking upstream from the dam across Lost Man Creek that forms Lost Man Reservoir, on Tuesday, June 14, 2016.
The canal that moves water from Lost Man Reservoir, under SH 82, and into the main stem of the Roaring Fork River, just above a river-wide diversion dam across the Fork.
The canal that moves water from Lost Man Reservoir, under SH 82, and into the main stem of the Roaring Fork River, just above a river-wide diversion dam across the Fork.
A view from the dam across the main stem of the Roaring Fork River - just above Lost Man Campground - and the entrance to the tunnel under Green Mountain. That tunnel normally leads the water to Grizzly Reservoir and to the Twin Lakes Tunnel.
A view from the dam across the main stem of the Roaring Fork River - just above Lost Man Campground - and the entrance to the tunnel under Green Mountain. That tunnel normally leads the water to Grizzly Reservoir and to the Twin Lakes Tunnel.
Flows in the main stem of the Roaring Fork River on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 below the diversion dam on the upper Roaring Fork. The flows, shown heading toward Aspen, include about 250 cfs from  Lost Man Creek and  the portion of the main stem of the Fork that was previously being diverted.
Flows in the main stem of the Roaring Fork River on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 below the diversion dam on the upper Roaring Fork. The flows, shown heading toward Aspen, include about 250 cfs from Lost Man Creek and the portion of the main stem of the Fork that was previously being diverted.
The flows in the half-mile-long section of Lost Man Creek between Lost Man Reservoir and the Roaring Fork River. The tail end of Lost Man Creek has been reduced to a trickle for decades. Above Lost Man Reservoir, the creek is too deep to wade across safely. Below the reservoir, it's easy to step over.
The flows in the half-mile-long section of Lost Man Creek between Lost Man Reservoir and the Roaring Fork River. The tail end of Lost Man Creek has been reduced to a trickle for decades. Above Lost Man Reservoir, the creek is too deep to wade across safely. Below the reservoir, it's easy to step over.

RMNP, Roosevelt Forest scars slow to heal from fire, flood — Fort Collins Coloradoan

High Park Fire June 14, 2012
High Park Fire June 14, 2012

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Stephen Meyers):

Scorched by the High Park Fire and washed out by the historic 2013 flood, Poudre Canyon’s once popular Young Gulch Trail remains closed to Northern Colorado hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.

The one-two fire-flood punch has left scars that haven’t yet healed and outdoor lovers with fewer places to play, which has frustrated some recreational groups.

The natural disasters scoured away the first half-mile of the Young Gulch Trail, one of the most popular trails in the Poudre Canyon.

It is one of about 20 Northern Colorado recreation areas still closed nearly three years after the flood wiped out trails, roads and fishing access in Roosevelt National Forest, Rocky Mountain National Park and Big Thompson Canyon.

The damage is so severe, some areas may never reopen.

“I think people understand that this was a pretty dramatic change to our landscape,” U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Reghan Cloudman said. “This is a long rebuilding process.”

Long and expensive.

While a $329,000 project has begun to rebuild Young Gulch Trail, the best case scenario is for the trail to reopen in late 2017. A more realistic goal is 2018.

The U.S. Forest Service estimates it will take $6.3 million to rebuild the recreation areas damaged on Roosevelt National Forest’s Canyon Lakes Ranger District west of Fort Collins.

The deluge caused approximately $10 million of damage in Rocky Mountain National Park, which bounced back from the flood and 2013 government shutdown to post back-to-back record visitation totals in 2014 and 2015. The park is on pace this year to beat its 2015 visitation record of 4.1 million visitors. But the park may take a massive hit to visitation this fall when repairs begin on flood-ravaged U.S. Highway 34 in Big Thompson Canyon, the gateway to the popular park.

As the U.S. Forest Service’s budget continues to dwindle, Canyon Lakes Ranger District must rely even more on Northern Colorado volunteers who last year dedicated more than 50,000 hours to trail projects. Only the Red Rocks District in Arizona received more volunteer hours in 2015.

“With the fire and then the flood, it’s definitely been a challenging time for us,” Cloudman said. “We’re adapting to how we do things. Cost-saving where we can, looking at creative ways to expand what we can do and move forward in the recovery efforts.”

One example: Working with partners like Wildland Restoration Volunteers and Great Outdoors Colorado, which helped secure funding for the Young Gulch Trail rebuild project through Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s State Trails Program.

With help from several volunteer organizations like Poudre Wilderness Volunteers, USFS has restored 63 percent of the 370 miles of flood-damaged roads on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grasslands, and 33 percent of the 157 miles of damaged trails, as of last year.

Fifteen campgrounds, day-use and river access facilities have been rebuilt, while 12 others have been decommissioned across the Canyon Lakes and Boulder ranger districts.

More than $100,000 and 10,000 hours have gone into reopening a portion of the North Fork Trail in Glen Haven. About as much money and work has been dedicated to the still-closed Lion Gulch Trail, which could open as early as September or as late as the summer of 2017, Cloudman said.

In Big Thompson Canyon, several fishing access areas were washed away and won’t be restored, including the North Fork and Glen Haven picnic sites and Idylwilde rest stop. Fishing access has been restored to Sleepy Hollow Park.

Cloudman said Canyon Lakes Ranger District hopes to offer more fishing access on the Big Thompson, one of Colorado’s premier fly-fishing destinations. Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates the Big Thompson sees 2,559 angler days per month, totaling an annual economic impact of $2.37 million.

But the forest service’s plans to add more fishing access won’t be finalized until the Colorado Department of Transportation’s rebuild of U.S. 34 from Loveland to Estes Park is complete in 2018 or 2019.

Construction of the highway poses an economical and ecological impact to the Big Thompson’s fishing industry.

The first part of CDOT’s massive rebuilding project on U.S. 34 begins after July 4, with rock blasting in the horseshoe area of the canyon, near milepost 78.4.

The brunt of the work begins in October, after tourist season. Road crews will blast away the mountainside near the defunct Idylwilde Dam, a once-popular area for anglers. It remains to be seen if CDOT will completely close the highway for five months or enact temporary closures, allowing access during peak hours.

“If our guides don’t have access to the river, then obviously it’s going to affect business,” Christiansen said. “I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but it’s not like we have anything in our control.”

The same impact is happening on already popular hiking trails such as Greyrock and Hewlett Gulch, which are near Young Gulch Trail.

Cloudman said both trails have seen an uptick in visitors since the Young Gulch closure. In 2012, the trails averaged 44 and 33 people a day, respectively, with 70-80 visiting on the weekends.

But during last week’s Memorial Day weekend, more than 100 cars parked at Greyrock and along the shoulder of Colorado Highway 14 each day while passengers hiked the 7,513-foot peak.

Prior to its closure, Young Gulch averaged 37 daily visitors, with 75 on the weekends. Thanks to its close proximity to Fort Collins, the multiuse trail was popular with hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.

But the 4.9-mile trail that meanders up Young Gulch and Prairie Gulch — crossing a stream about 20 times — was scoured by the flood, cutting 2- to 3-foot-deep ruts in the gulch and rerouting the stream channel.

The trail requires an extensive rebuild, essentially a move out of the floodplain.

“A monumental task,” Cloudman said.

In 2014, the forest service debated whether to even rebuild the trail. The agency held public meetings to gather feedback and developed an environmental analysis of the sustainability of the trail.

“It came down to, if we can find a good place and a good way to build a new, sustainable trail, then we absolutely will do it,” Cloudman said.

The new trail design will reduce the number of stream crossings by almost one third, move more of the trail out of the flood zone and provide a more sustainable route, Cloudman said. It will remain open to all users.

Working in a steep, constrained canyon won’t be easy for trail crews, which include Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, Overland Mountain Bike Club, Poudre Wilderness Volunteers and the Larimer County Conservation Corps.

Until the new trail is completed, hikers must endure the trail closure, marked by the closed gates, barricades and cones that have become a common site in the forest since flood and fire changed the landscape.

#ColoradoRiver: Reclamation Awards $17.8 Million Contract for Generator Rewinds and Excitation System Replacements for Wayne N. Aspinall Unit

Aspinall Unit dams
Aspinall Unit dams

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Marlon Duke):

The Bureau of Reclamation awarded Toshiba America Energy Systems of Colorado a $17.8 million contract on Friday, June 10, 2016, to overhaul two generators, install new stator cores and frames, and improve oil and air cooling systems for its Wayne N. Aspinall Unit. Additional work will include new digital excitation systems for Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal power plants near Montrose, Colorado.

Work performed under this contract will replace update existing equipment to allow generation at full rated capacity and improve responsiveness to the dynamic demands of the electrical grid.

Each of the Unit’s power plants and dams are used to generate hydroelectric power and control water flow in the Gunnison River. The Wayne N. Aspinall Unit has a combined generating capacity of 291,000 kW.

Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal power plant and dams are part of Reclamation’s Wayne N. Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project, which retains the waters of the Colorado River and its tributaries for agricultural and municipal use. The project furnishes the long-term regulatory storage needed to permit States in the upper basin to meet their flow obligation at Lees Ferry, Arizona, as defined in the Colorado River Compact and still use their apportioned water.

#ColoradoRiver: Research Evaluates Impacts of Lake Powell’s Troubling Decline #COriver

A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam -- Photo USBR
A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam — Photo USBR

Here’s the release from the Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (Kevin Dennehy):

The Colorado River provides water to roughly 40 million people in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, irrigates some 4.5 million acres of farmland, and can produce more than 4,200 megawatts of electricity for regional customers. But a historic, prolonged drought and increased seasonal variability — in addition to rampant exploitation — has made it increasingly difficult to depend on the iconic river’s water flow.

For instance, Lake Powell, a human-made reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam, is currently less than half full, with vast implications for water availability, energy production, and recreation.

Looking Upstream,” a new report produced by four students at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), evaluates the factors contributing to acute vulnerability to water shortages in Lake Powell and how it will impact the river’s entire Upper Basin.

Led by Lindsey Ratcliff ’16 M.E.M., the 119-page report explores how the declining reservoir levels are impacting water supplies, hydropower, recreation, and the regional environment. Their findings were based on dozens of consultations with managers and experts across the region and a comprehensive literature review.

Among the many impacts, they find that dropping water levels will increase water supply scarcity and reduce recreational visitors by more than a quarter. And, they say, it might drive a surge in the cost of so-called firming purchases, or the wholesale electricity costs borne by the power authority to assure power delivery in the absence of hydropower generation.

“The amount of water in Lake Powell is one of the primary factors contributing to how much hydropower can be produced at Glen Canyon Dam,” said Ratcliff. “When the reservoir declines, more power has to be purchased on the wholesale electricity market. Our study found that this could increase costs by a factor of five to 10, depending on hydrological factors and dam operations.”

In addition to Ratcliff, who assessed the factors contributing to Upper Colorado River Basin water supply vulnerability, the team consisted of Michael Johnson ’16 M.E.M., who examined different environmental impacts; Rebecca Shiveley ’17 M.E.M., who conducted a statistical analysis of the impacts on recreation, and Leanne Weiss ’16 M.E.M., who studied the impacts on hydropower.

The project was produced for Douglas Kenney of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado.

The project complements an earlier report, “The Bathtub Ring: Implications of Low Water Levels in Lake Mead on Water Supply, Hydropower, Recreation, and the Environment,” which examined similar challenges in the Colorado River’s Lower Basin, where Lake Mead is also facing historic water lows. Lake Mead, which was created by the building of Hoover Dam, reached it lowest levels ever this spring. That report was conducted by students at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“We hope that a better understanding of these impacts will strengthen efforts and promote continuous dialogue between decision-makers creating solutions to basin-wide imbalances and drought contingencies,” Ratcliff said.

The research was conducted as an independent study under the guidance of F&ES Prof. Brad Gentry, who described the work as a sort of “reverse case study” that integrated an array of critical information to help guide managers to make more informed planning decisions.

“In that sense it’s a classic F&ES exercise of bringing the best science to bear on important issues and trying to figure out useful information that can guide pathways forward,” he said.

AnimasRiver: Deadline for comments on Superfund status passes

On April 7, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear. Eric Baker
On April 7, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
Eric Baker

From the Associated Press via The Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Time is up for people to comment on a proposed Superfund cleanup for leaking mines in southwestern Colorado, and not many have spoken up.

A few hours before the Monday deadline, 34 people had submitted comments

to the Environmental Protection Agency on the planned Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site.

The site would include the Gold King Mine north of Silverton, which released 3 million gallons of acidic waste into Colorado, New Mexico and Utah rivers last August.

A finally tally on comments is expected later Tuesday.

The low number of comments came as a surprise after years of controversy over a Superfund site. Some worried it would hurt the region’s tourist economy or give the federal government too much power over local affairs.

Navajos Receive $465,000 To Monitor River After Colorado Mine Spill — CBS Denver

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)
The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

From the Associated Press via CBS Denver:

The U.S. Environmental ProtectionAgency says it’s giving the Navajo Nation $465,000 to monitor water quality in the San Juan River for contamination from a massive mine waste spill last August.

The EPA says the money is in addition to $1 million the agency agreed to give the tribe last October.

The new grant was announced Thursday.

An EPA-led cleanup crew inadvertently triggered the spill of 3 million gallons of acid mine waste from the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado on Aug. 5. The spill tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

One of the rivers was the San Juan, which runs across Navajo land in New Mexico.

Denver Water Steps Up Lead Pipe Removal — CBS Denver

Denver photo courtesy of Michael Levine-Clark, Flickr Creative Commons.
Denver photo courtesy of Michael Levine-Clark, Flickr Creative Commons.

From CBS Denver (Brian Maass):

“There is no safe level of lead in drinking water. The EPA says the recommended level is zero,” said Denver Water spokesperson Melissa Elliott.

She emphasized that lead is not present in the mountain streams and reservoirs of Colorado, nor is lead present when water leaves Denver Water’s treatment plants. However, thousands of older Denver homes have lead service lines, which can leach small amounts of lead into residents’ water…

Denver water says every year it collects more than 35,000 samples from older Denver-area homes and invariably finds homes with elevated lead levels in the water. Typically, homes built before 1950 were constructed with lead water lines.

Nobody really knows how many homes in the Denver metro area have lead service lines or where they are. But beginning in March, Denver Water began taking a more aggressive, proactive approach to addressing the problem of lead service lines.

Prior to March, if Denver Water discovered lead service lines through a leak or construction, the agency would replace the lead line that went from the water main to the customer’s meter. The agency would then recommend the property owner replace the rest of the lead service line which runs from the meter into the home. That replacement could cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.

Now though, Denver Water is replacing the lead service line from the meter to the home at no cost to the property owner when the utility discovers lead pipes during construction projects or leaks.

“We decided through an abundance of caution with our customers being very engaged in the issue of lead, and our policies evolving, that we would go ahead and do a full lead service line replacement when they encountered them during construction,” said Elliott.

That’s what CBS4 came across recently as Denver Water excavated and replaced lead lines to homes in a west Denver neighborhood. The agency was replacing the lead line all the way into the home of Brandeis Sperandeo, saving him thousands of dollars…

Johnny Roybal, a water distribution foreman for Denver Water working in that part of the city, told CBS4 “Denver Water is doing it as a courtesy to get the lead out.”

He said that when his crew determines there are lead lines running into a home, they provide information to the homeowner about steps to take, including running water from the tap for three minutes to flush the system before drinking.

Denver Water says in 2015 it replaced approximately 600 lead service lines and anticipates at least the same number in 2016.

“The Flint situation lays bare this simple fact: Our communities will be safer in the long run with no lead service lines in the ground. We’re not waiting for the new regulations,” Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said.

The American Water Works Association estimates there are 6.1 million lead service lines still in use in the U.S. and removal would cost an estimated $30 billion.

“As a community and as a broader society, we need to have a serious discussion on how we get the lead out,” said Lockheed.