Conservation board grants money to entities — The Pueblo Chieftain

Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey
Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board Thursday, meeting at Edwards, approved seven grants requested by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

Among them were funding to improve water supply to the Zinno Subdivision and more Fountain Creek flood control studies.

The St. Charles Mesa Water District received $75,000 from the CWCB toward a $1 million project to connect the Zinno Subdivision to the district.

The subdivision has experienced water outages several times in the past seven years and residents are unhappy about increasing water rates to maintain the system.

The current water provider, Joseph Water, claims the system is safe and reliable. The project is contingent on a district court case.

The state board also approved $93,000 toward a $133,300 study of flood control alternatives on Fountain Creek by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

The district already has completed a U.S. Geological Survey study of the effectiveness of flood control measures, and opted to look at either a dam or series of detention ponds between Colorado Springs and Pueblo. It also determined any impact to water rights could be mitigated.

Other grants included:

  • $60,800 for the Arkansas Basin Roundtable coordinator, a position now filled by Gary Barber.
  • $50,000 toward a $60,000 project by the Fort Lyon Canal to evaluate seepage of the Adobe Creek Dam.
  • $175,000 to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District toward a $250,000 study of agricultural tailwater return flows.
  • $306,600 to the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District toward a $642,000 project to evaluate the potential for underground water storage in Fremont, Chafee and Custer counties.
  • $30,000 to the Holbrook Mutual Irrigation Co. for a flow measurement upgrade at its reservoir in Otero County.
  • All of the grants were approved by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable at its August meeting.

    Lake Nighthorse to Dryside pipeline construction begins — The Durango Herald

    Lake Nighthorse from the Ridges Basin Dam September 19, 2016.
    Lake Nighthorse from the Ridges Basin Dam September 19, 2016.

    From The Durango Herald (Jessica Pace):

    For decades, water storage and supply infrastructure in Southwestern Colorado have been slow-moving, underfunded dreams. Lake Nighthorse, a critical component of the grandiose Animas-La Plata Project intended to supply water to Native American tribes, was filled in 2011, but it took five years before the very first mechanism to transport water from the storage facility would be realized.

    On Wednesday, water authorities, Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribal leaders and La Plata County officials gathered at the lake just west of town to commemorate the watershed moment.

    “We cannot separate water from our way of life,” said Southern Ute Chairman Clement Frost. “We saw how important it is when the Gold King Mine spill happened.”

    The 4.6-mile pipeline will wind west and then northward through La Plata County to Lake Durango, cutting through Bureau of Reclamation land as well as private properties. Some of the private homeowners consented to the infrastructure in exchange for taps.

    Charlie Smith, general manager of the Lake Durango Water Authority, said more than 100 property owners, who either haul water or depend on low-quality wells, are on a waiting list for taps, which come at a price of about $10,000. Lake Durango supplies potable water to households in Durango West I and II, Rafter J, Shenandoah and Trapper’s Crossing.

    The pipeline will add to Lake Durango’s reserves, and will be constructed with $2.8 million from the Lake Durango Water Authority and $1 million each from the two tribes as well as loans and grants from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The sum contributed by the Lake Durango Water Authority includes water purchased from Animas-La Plata.

    Construction is expected to be complete by the end of summer 2017, which will be only the beginning of the Animas-La Plata Project’s long-range vision.

    The Ute Mountain Utes have the ability to extend the pipeline in the future, and the San Juan Water Commission, a New Mexico water authority, is considering a main of its own from Lake Nighthorse to northern New Mexico. The Daily-Times of Farmington reported the commission will meet next month to discuss particulars of the proposal.

    As plans advance to remove water from the Animas River-fed Nighthorse, the water and shore remain free of recreationists. Bureau of Recreation officials said last week that the agency is in consultation with tribes and project partners to find the best recreation plan without compromising cultural resources.

    A draft recreation plan and environmental assessment was released last spring, and a final document is still to come.

    Meanwhile, preparatory infrastructure is underway at the lake, including a decontamination station, where boats will be checked for invasive species when recreation is permitted at the lake.

    Roadwork on a turn lane into Lake Nighthorse from County Road 210 began the first week of September.

    Upper Ark District board meeting recap

    Salida Colorado early 1900s
    Salida Colorado early 1900s

    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors reviewed the preliminary 2017 budget during the monthly board meeting [September 8] in Salida.

    District General Manager Terry Scanga presented the draft budget, noting the addition of a new water education fund. He said the actual budget would be presented at the October board meeting and asked board members to review and comment on the preliminary budget prior to that meeting.

    In a related discussion, Scanga relayed information presented at the recent Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference regarding water project funding, 69 percent of which comes from state severance taxes.

    Scanga said the combined effect of lower oil and gas prices and a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in favor of British Petroleum will eliminate funding for the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Water Supply Reserve Account for the upcoming fiscal year.

    The court ruled in May that the Colorado Department of Revenue had overcharged BP, and the extra severance taxes collected would have to be refunded, setting the stage for other oil and gas companies to seek refunds.

    Legislators responded by passing Senate Bill 16-218, which diverts severance tax revenues for the upcoming year to pay the court-ordered refunds.

    In addition to the WSRA receiving no funding for the upcoming fiscal year, Scanga said the account is slated to be funded at only 50 percent for fiscal year 2017-18.

    The conservancy district has used WSRA grants to help fund a number of water projects and studies in the Upper Arkansas Valley.

    Project Coordinator Chelsey Nutter elaborated on the new water education fund in the district’s 2017 budget while reporting on the inaugural Salida Water Festival.

    After several directors provided favorable feedback on the festival, Nutter announced the Upper Ark district would be taking responsibility for the festival moving forward, in part due to the aforementioned severance tax funding issues.

    Nutter said the new education fund in the budget will be used in part to provide continuing funding for the festival, and district staff are developing an education action plan.

    Nutter reported the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Public Education, Participation and Outreach working group is beginning work on the 2017 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, which will take place in El Paso County.

    Nutter also reported progress on the Lake Ranch Multi-Use Project and said a tour of both multi-use project sites is planned for spring.

    Creek Week volunteers work to beautify Fountain Creek watershed — The #Colorado Springs Gazette

    UCCS Clean the Stream Team at the 2015 Creek Week. Photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.
    UCCS Clean the Stream Team at the 2015 Creek Week. Photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Chhun Sun):

    …a group of 15 volunteers didn’t mind an early wake-up call Sunday before coming together at Palmer Lake to pick up trash, pull weeds and do cleanup as part of the third annual Creek Week – an effort to protect the Fountain Creek Watershed.

    The goal is to reduce pollution that clogs waterways and leads to flooding, improves wildlife habitat and protects drinking water by collecting and removing litter and debris within the watershed during a nine-day period, according to an El Paso County news release.

    Sunday was the second day of the cleanup project, and volunteers arrived at 8:30 a.m. to the Palmer Lake Recreation Area – located at the foot of Ben Lomand Mountain – and dedicated nearly three hours to beautifying the park. A few people spent their time gathering debris around the lake and pulling out weed, while others cleared some brushes near the entrance.

    Then, there was the 21st Medical Group at Peterson Air Force Base that was in charge of replacing old railroad ties along the dirt path. Though the morning was cold and windy, the group didn’t mind being outside. They’re used to working inside a clinic with each other, so this was a good excuse to work up a sweat.

    “We are dependent on the community,” said technical Sgt. Jamin Norton of Pennsylvania. “We need to be out there in the community, showing that we’re giving back and getting to know folks in the community. We move around a lot, so we don’t necessary have local ties. Some of us do, but a lot of us don’t. This way, we get out there and get involved. We meet some of the local folks. They see us and get to know us on a personal level and not just someone in a uniform.”

    The project started as a way to maintain the watershed – which includes Fountain Creek, related wetlands, trails and recreational facilities – as an “important resource and asset of the people of El Paso County and the Pikes Peak region,” the county’s District 4 commissioner, Dennis Hisey, said during a county proclamation reading. The watershed features multiple streams that goes into Fountain Creek and that “an empty plastic water bottle discarded up north in Cottonwood Creek eventually floats south through Fountain and continues on past Pueblo.”

    The first year of Creek Week drew 625 volunteers who collected seven tons of litter. The following year attracted 1,500 volunteers who picked up 10 tons of litter. This year, organizers expect about 2,000 volunteers who will clean up 12 tons of litter.

    “There’s so many reasons to participate in Creek Week,” said Dana Nordstrom, the county’s community outreach coordinator. “There’s beautification, wildlife habitat, water ecology. We tell people to pick a reason, to pick a day and pick it up.”

    For volunteer information and cleanup locations, visit

    City of Rifle to prioritize its water infrastructure projects — The Rifle Citizen Telegram

    Rifle Falls back in the day via USGenWeb
    Rifle Falls back in the day via USGenWeb

    From The Rifle Citizen Telegram (Ryan Hoffman):

    Since lifting restrictions on outdoor water use more than two months ago, public discussion of infrastructure issues that led to a month and a half of water conservation measures has been largely absent at Rifle City Hall.

    But behind the scenes, staffers in the city’s utilities department have been at work completing an assessment of the intake issues, along with compiling a 20-year plan for utility infrastructure needs and associated costs, according to City Manager Matt Sturgeon.

    Ultimately it will be up to City Council to prioritize those items during its annual budget process, which typically begins in October each year.

    Admittedly though, Sturgeon said the No. 1 priority for the city is the completion of Rifle’s new water treatment plant, which has been under construction for the past two years.

    “This has been on the front burner of the entire community for years,” Sturgeon said.

    The new regional water treatment plant is part of approximately $35 million in capital projects — which include new 2-million-gallon and 3-million-gallon storage tanks and the acquisition of property that can be used for a future expansion of the treatment plant — over the past two years.

    The new plant will ultimately be capable of producing 8 million gallons a day — nearly double the capacity of the existing Graham Mesa water treatment plant, which was built in 1980. In bringing the new plant online in the next four to six months the city also has to take the Graham Mesa plant offline and decommission it.

    All of this means issues such as those with the water intake system are taking a back seat.

    Vulnerabilities in the intake system were first discovered on June 1, when the city located a break in the only raw water line that delivers Colorado River water to the Graham Mesa treatment plant — the main source of potable water to municipal water customers.

    A ban on outdoor water use was implemented almost immediately in order to ensure the city had enough water for fire protection, sanitation and indoor use for municipal customers. Although the line was repaired in less than 24 hours, problems arose with the pump house and other intake infrastructure, which led to reduced outdoor water restrictions remaining in place until things returned to normal on July 13.

    Despite the previous belief that the cost would come in well below the $250,000 in emergency dollars authorized by City Council, the final cost will likely be closer to that number, said Jim Miller, Rifle utilities director.

    “We used less diesel but more equipment and temporary labor than forecasted,” he said, adding that there is still one outstanding invoice.

    The $250,000 was in addition to a little more than $100,000 in initial costs authorized by City Council.

    Although much of the focus in the coming months will be on wrapping up the in-process capital projects, that is not to say the city has ignored the intake issues.

    The city is now aware of the weak points in the system and is ready should another issue arise in the near future, Sturgeon said. That readiness includes experience with the contractor that provided temporary pumps during the repair process, as well as having pipeline on hand to repair the raw water line if needed.

    The intake, pump station and raw water line all remain stable at the moment, and staff has discussed the vulnerabilities in preparation for the budget process and discussion with a broader audience, Miller said.

    Issues identified with the water intake infrastructure include: the age and route of the raw water line, as well as the poor bedding condition, which was cited as one of the leading reasons for the initial line break; more sediment being pulled with the raw water during greater periods of the year, which causes accumulation in the wet well; and the existing pump station is difficult to take offline to address the accumulation in the wet well.

    With the new treatment plant and associated infrastructure coming online in the near future, it makes more sense to address the intake issues once the other infrastructure, which has a larger capacity, is on.

    Class-action certification sought by residents of Fountain, Security and Colorado Springs — The Denver Post

    Photo via USAF Air Combat Command
    Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

    From The Denver Post (Kirk Mitchell):

    The lawsuit seeking class-action certification was filed Thursday on behalf of the nine residents living near Peterson Air Force Base, was filed by Colorado Springs attorney Michael McDivitt and New York City attorneys Hunter Shkolnik, Paul Napoli and Louise Caro.

    Other companies named as defendants in the lawsuit include The Ansul Company of Wisconsin; National Foam, Inc. of Pennsylvania; Angus Fire of Bentham, United Kingdom; Buckeye Fire Equipment Company of Mountain, N.C.; and Chemguard of Wisconsin.

    The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the defendants acted with gross negligence and careless disregard for the safety of residents who use water from the contaminated watershed. They are seeking a court order requiring defendants to test and monitor each property and all drinking water within the contamination area.

    They are also asking that a judge order defendants to provide medical monitoring for all those in the proposed class, the lawsuit says. The plaintiffs are also seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

    The lawsuit says the U.S. Air Force and other branches of the military, including the Army, use or have used firefighting foams that degrade into perfluorooctanoic acid (C8), which is highly soluble in water and likely to contaminate water supplies. The so-called aqueous film forming foam is water-based and used to fight difficult fires, particularly those that involve petroleum or flammable liquids.

    A similar federal civil lawsuit was filed Wednesday against 3M, Ansul and National Foam by Denver attorneys Kevin Hannon and Justin Blum on behalf of three Colorado Springs residents. Plaintiffs in that case are seeking class-action certification and damages in excess of $5 million.

    Peterson, Fort Carson and the Colorado Springs Airport have been linked to contamination of the Fountain Watershed area, the lawsuit says.

    The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
    The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

    C8 has been detected in levels exceeding EPA health standards of 70 parts per trillion in the Fountain Creek watershed that provides municipal water and feeds private wells, the lawsuit says. In fact, the Fountain watershed is one of the hardest-hit of 63 areas nationwide where C8 contamination exceeds EPA risk levels, it says.

    A panel of scientists, including three epidemiologist formed to study water contamination in Wood County, W.Va., “found probable links between (C8) and kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy induced hypertension and hypercholesterolemia,” the lawsuit says.

    The plaintiffs all tested for elevated levels of C8 in their blood and their properties likewise had elevated levels of C8. They include:

  • Alan and Leslie Davis and Donald and Theresa Easter, all of Colorado Springs, get their water from the Widefield Water and Sanitation District.
  • Billy and Linda Long, and Lonnie Rouser Sr., all of Fountain, get their water from Fountain Water District.
  • Joyce Moore and Rhonda Sharkey, both residents of Security, receive their water from the Security Water District.
  • Besides being used in firefighting foams, C8 was once widely used in nonstick cookware and as surface coatings for stain-resistant carpets and fabric, the lawsuit says. The chemical is readily absorbed in the blood stream, kidney and liver after consumption or inhalation, the lawsuit says.

    The EPA issued lifetime health advisories about the health effects of C8, the lawsuit says. It can remain in the environment, particularly in water, for many years and can be carried in the air.

    An August 2016 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study found that the source of groundwater contamination of the Fountain watershed could have come from fire training areas at Peterson Air Force Base, the lawsuit says.

    All 32 of Security Water and Sanitation District’s municipal wells are contaminated, the lawsuit says. One well was 20 times the EPA’s risk level and the EPA recommended that pregnant women and small children should not drink the water.

    The class-action designation is sought in part because it would be impractical for the great numbers of people affected by the pollution to litigate their claims individually, the lawsuit says.

    Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
    Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

    Colorado communities worried about glacier water supplies — The Pueblo Chieftain

    Big Thompson River near RMNP
    Big Thompson River near RMNP

    From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Colorado communities that rely on water from dozens of glaciers and glacier features in Rocky Mountain National Park are concerned because the glaciers are shrinking as temperatures climb and winter snowfall becomes more uncertain.

    Water from the Poudre, Colorado and Big Thompson rivers get meltwater from dozens of glaciers and glacier-like features around the park.

    Park glaciers always vary in size depending on the seasons, but low snowfall amounts could keep them from being replenished. A change of a few degrees when temperatures are near the freezing point can turn snow into rain.

    Between the 1990s and 2005, the glaciers started to shrink at an increasing rate. Rocky Mountain National Park’s glaciers were already small by comparison.

    The biggest glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park is about 31 acres (13 hectares), according to a study in 2007.

    A two-year study is underway to find out how the glaciers have changed in area and volume since 2005. Scientists will be using historic maps, climate records, photographs and measurements to better understand what’s happening.

    Scientists will also study how glacier melt influences rivers, by measuring streamflow and collecting water samples to see how much water glaciers contribute to rivers…

    Even a small loss in the snow and ice that feed rivers in northern Colorado could have a big effect on water supplies to Fort Collins and other nearby communities.

    Paul McLaughlin, an ecologist at the park’s Continental Divide Research Learning Center, said changes in the amount of water and temperatures could also damage delicate river ecosystems.