North Sterling irrigators favor lease to BNN Energy


From The South Platte Sentinel (Jeff Rice):

Roughly half of the landowners attended a meeting Thursday afternoon to get the latest information and when they were finished NSID Executive Director Jim Yahn said they’d signed up enough acreage to make the project a reality.

“We have enough; it’ll be a go,” Yahn said.

The project would lease up to 6,800 acre feet of water to BNN Energy, a subsidiary of Tallgrass Energy. BNN supplies water to Tallgrass’ oil and gas development operations in Weld County. The plan calls for BNN to hook a pipeline directly to one of North Sterling Reservoir’s outlet pipes and pump the water more than 30 miles west into the Tallgrass drilling field.

“It’s a historic thing, I’ve never heard of anyone pumping water directly out of a reservoir,” Yahn said after the meeting.

Estimates given to the landowners Thursday indicate that BNN could pay up to $1,551 an acre foot for the water. While that comes out to over $10 million a year to be distributed among landowners, Yahn said it’s doubtful BNN would ever use that much. More probable estimates were between 5,000 and 6,000 acre feet per year, and final numbers could change slightly before an agreement is signed. Yahn said Thursday he expects that could happen by early March.

“These were some big numbers we put up there, but we wanted (the landowners) to have an idea of how much water they’re giving up,” Yahn said after the meeting. “Some of them could be giving up 10 to 20 percent of their water.”

He emphasized, however, that the “giving up” isn’t permanent. It is only a 10-year lease, and the water needed for BNN does drop after the first five years.

The advantage of the lease agreement being spread over so many landowners, Yahn said, is that farmers can still farm, but will have to manage their irrigation differently.

“We don’t have to dry up any acres,” he said. “Farmers can manage the acres they have, maybe decide to not irrigate their hay for a third cutting, or not to plant some of the least productive land.”

The agreement would be similar to one the irrigation district made with Xcel Energy to provide 3,000 acre feet of water to the Pawnee Power Station as a backup to the company’s regular water right.. He said the district had a change decree done on their water rights in 2006 so 15,000 acre feet of the district’s water could be used for things other than irrigation. He said Xcel has never called for water.

The North Sterling has plenty of water to lease, with two storage decrees, a 1908 storage decree for 69,446 acre feet and a 1915 decree for an additional 11,956 acre feet. Those two together equal 6,812 acre feet more than the reservoir can hold. What that means is that the district can drain that much from the full reservoir and fill it again, even if there are calls on the river, and as long as the North Sterling’s decrees are in priority.

In addition, the district has a 1914 direct flow decree for 460 cubic feet per second, which means that it can run water into its inlet ditch, through the reservoir, and out into the discharge ditch. The lease with BNN would be from the storage decrees only, not from the direct flow decree.

#Oroville spillway failure — @ProComKelly

Click here to view Kelly Huston’s great photos detailing what is happening at the Oroville dam and reservoir.

Please note that the infrastructure is working as designed (except for the failure, of course) and there is no danger of a dam failure. Young Salmon hatchlings are going to suffer from the increased sediment in the river. Flooding is not seen as a problem at this time.

You can view Kelly’s photos by clicking on a thumbnail graphic below.

And here’s a view from the top of the auxiliary spillway from the California Department of Natural Resources.

View from the top of the auxiliary spillway February 11, 2017 via @CA_DWR.
View from the top of the emergency spillway February 11, 2017 via @CA_DWR.

Here’s their release:

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) said the auxiliary spillway at Lake Oroville started spilling water at 8:00 am today. This occurred when the lake level exceeded 901 feet elevation above sea level.

DWR officials said the flow over the auxiliary spillway will range between 5,000 and 10,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). This will combine with the flow from the primary spillway, which is currently at 55,000 cfs, and this will result in a total flow to the Feather River between 60,000 to 70,000 cfs.

This flow to the Feather River is expected to be about half the downstream flood system capacity and consistent with releases made at this time of year in wet years such as this.

The volume of water is expected to pose no flood threat downstream and should remain well within the capacity of the Feather River and other channels to handle. Oroville Dam itself remains safe and there is no imminent threat to the public.

DWR and CAL FIRE crews in past days have been clearing trees and brush from the path water is taking in the auxiliary spillway, which is an unlined hillside. The auxiliary spillway flows are expected to wash soil and debris into the Feather River.

Lake Conditions including lake levels, inflows, and outflow can be obtained at:

How about drone video from the California Department of Natural Resources.