@NASAClimate Investigates Water Supply in Snow


I’m heading down to Petersen AFB to learn about this project this today. Here’s the release from NASA:

This February, a NASA-led research campaign called SnowEx kicked off in Colorado. The 5-year study will advance global measurements of how much snow is on the ground at any given time and how much liquid water is contained in that snow. The amount of water in snow plays a huge role in water availability for drinking water, agriculture, and hydropower.

Teams of 50 researchers are stationed at Grand Mesa and Senator Beck Basin over a three-week period to measure snow using a variety of snow-sensing instruments and techniques. Ground measurements will allow the team to validate the remotely sensed measurements acquired by multiple sensors on the various aircraft.

Data acquired from the SnowEx campaign will be stored at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, and will be available to anyone to order at no cost, as is the case with all NASA data.

For more information: https://www.nasa.gov/earthexpeditions/

2017 #COleg: Colorado Corn backs SB17-036 (Appellate Process Concerning Groundwater Decisions)

Groundwater movement via the USGS
Groundwater movement via the USGS

From the Colorado Corn Growers Association (Eric Brown):

During a meeting this month, the Colorado Corn Growers Association’s Public Policy Committee voted to put its support Senate Bill 17-036, a measure titled, “Appellate Process Concerning Groundwater Decisions.”

Under current law, the decisions or actions of the ground water commission or the state engineer regarding groundwater are appealed to a district court, and the evidence that the district court may consider is not limited to the evidence presented to the commission or state engineer.

Therefore, unlike appeals from other state agencies’ decisions or actions under the “State Administrative Procedure Act,” a party appealing a decision or action of the commission or state engineer may present new evidence on appeal that was never considered by the commission or state engineer.

This bill would limit the evidence that a district court may consider when reviewing a decision or action of the commission or the state engineer on appeal to the evidence presented to the commission or the state engineer.

While this is the first bill on which the CCGA Public Policy Committee has taken a position, the committee is monitoring a number of others as the 2017 Colorado Legislative Session continues.

#Snowpack news: Several basins measure above normal peak

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

Here’s the Westwide Basin-Filled snowpack map for February 17, 2017.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 17, 2017 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 17, 2017 via the NRCS.

Pueblo Dam hydropower plant should be online next year

Pueblo dam releases
Pueblo dam releases

From KOAA.com (Andy Koen):

The Pueblo Dam will soon be producing enough renewable energy to power 3,000 homes. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District plans to begin construction of the $19.5 million hydroelectric generating station later this year. The construction site will be located downstream form the Pueblo Dam River Outlet which was constructed to serve as the connection for the Colorado Springs Utilities Southern Delivery System.

“We’ll be using the water that’s flowing into the river again, we won’t be consuming any of that water,” explained Conservancy District spokesman Chris Woodka.

The District borrowed $17 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to build the plant. It will house a trio of turbines, each capable of producing electricity whether the river is moving fast or slow.

“We designed it so that it would at several different flows so that we could get the maximum production out of it,” Woodka said.

With a rating of 7.5 megawatts, the plant will create enough power for roughly 3,000 homes. It’s the kind of clean power that City leaders in Pueblo want for their community…

The Conservancy District expects to generate around $1.4 million annually from the sale of it’s electricity. Groundbreaking is expected to take place in May and Woodka said their goal is to have the power plant go online in the Spring of 2018.

Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.
Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s board of directors decided Tuesday to not object to a plan to move the proposed Galeton Reservoir from its original site.

Galeton is part of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s controversial Northern Integrated Supply Project, which would use water from the Cache la Poudre and South Platte rivers to irrigate, provide domestic water, and bolster the Poudre through Fort Collins.

Northern Water originally planned to build the reservoir on the southeast side of Colorado Highway 14 near Galeton, but in the 10 years since the project was proposed Nobel Energy has drilled almost two dozen oil and gas wells in the area. Those wells would have to be capped, at tremendous cost to Northern, in order to use the site for a reservoir.

Northern has applied to have the water rights instead transferred to land on the northwest side of the highway.

LSP board member Brad Stromberger, who also is on the Northern board of directors, said the Berthoud-based water district is “in the design stages” on the project already and plans to begin construction on the reservoir within about five years.

“This is a big project,” he said. “This is a new water source we need.”

The LSP’s water lawyer, Kim Lawrence, had recommended that the district file an objection to Northern’s request. Such objections are commonplace primarily to get access to crucial engineering and financial information about water projects. LSPWCD has previously gone on the record as being entirely in support of NISP, and during Tuesday’s meeting the district’s manager, Joe Frank, cautioned that objecting to the change in the Galeton application could be used by NISP opponents to claim that the lower South Platte doesn’t support NISP.

“We could, potentially, see about 10,000 acre feet of return flow per year from this project,” Frank told the board. “There might be a day here and there when they would take water that might have come down (the South Platte River) but the return flows will more than make up for that.”

After a brief conference call with Lawrence, the board decided to not take any action on the Galeton Reservoir…

The board did, however, vote to file an objection to an application by the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority to pipe 1,500 acre feet of water from the South Platte River into the off-channel Binder Reservoir, also known as the Brighton Lateral Reservoir. ACWWA wants to use the water to exchange with other water entities along the river. Lawrence’s recommendation to the LSP was to file an objection because the proposed project “affects many (irrigation) ditches in this reach.”

Fountain Creek: Pueblo County and Lower Ark join @EPA/CDPHE lawsuit

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

Pueblo County commissioners and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District can intervene in the suit, U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch ruled Thursday.

A year ago, Pueblo County commissioners signed off on an intergovernmental stormwater agreement with Colorado Springs, ensuring that the city will spend $460 million over 20 years to provide 71 stormwater projects aimed at minimizing Fountain Creek’s effects on downstream communities.

The creek flows downstream carrying excess sedimentation, E. coli contamination and other pollution, claims the Lower Ark, which represents the largely agricultural areas of Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties.

County officials have echoed those concerns.

And the EPA, after conducting audits in 2013 and 2015 of the city’s stormwater system, found that the creek and its tributaries were eroded and widened, their waters combining with surface runoff to create excessive sedimentation and substandard water quality.

Federal officials upbraided the city for not demanding enough infrastructure from developers and for not maintaining the culverts and creeks snaking through the city.

The lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on the EPA’s behalf, and by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is a serious concern for Mayor John Suthers, who has made the city’s long-neglected stormwater infrastructure a top priority.

In addition to the agreement with Pueblo County, he has more than doubled the stormwater division’s staff, added a new manager and overseen the Nov. 2 release of an inch-thick Stormwater Program Implementation Plan.

The EPA and state filed suit one week later, on Nov. 9.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

Pueblo County was granted a motion Thursday that allows the county to join in a federal/state lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also was allowed to join the case as an intervenor to protect the district’s interest during the litigation…

Pueblo County filed the motion to intervene last week. The lawsuit was filed Nov. 9 in U.S. District Court in Denver by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment against Colorado Springs.

The Lower Ark district filed the same motion in November.

The lawsuit claims there is harm caused by discharges of pollutants down Fountain Creek into Pueblo and east to the Arkansas River’s other tributaries.

It also claims the city of Colorado Springs made numerous violations of their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit issued by the state.

Alleged violations by Colorado Springs include the failure to adequately fund its stormwater management program, to properly maintain its stormwater facilities and to reduce the discharge of pollutants to the maximum extent practicable.

Hart and fellow Commissioners Sal Pace and Garrison Ortiz have said they cherish the relationship the county has developed with Colorado Springs through negotiations over the Southern Delivery System’s 1041 permit agreement and hope this will not do anything to damage it.

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.