The San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) board discussed several aspects of its proposed Dry Gulch raw water storage project during its regular meeting Monday night, including loan nancing, a mill levy increase, contracts and new names for the project.
Among the decisions made at the meeting was approving a resolution allowing the district to apply for a $2 million loan to help acquire property needed for the project, as well as for preconstruc- tion expenses.
That loan, however, would be contingent upon the SJWCD successfully raising its mill levy to one mill during an upcoming election.
In introducing the topic to the board, chair Rod Profitt explained that he had already submitted the loan application to the Colo- rado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), but that the resolution would “essentially” formalize that application.
Profitt noted he would be appearing before the CWCB during that board’s meeting in May (to be held in Pagosa Springs) to see if the loan is approved, at which point the SJWCD would have to work on the mill levy increase being approved…
The resolution further states, “the costs to acquire the rest of the land needed for the reservoir basin and pre-construction expenses are expected to be $2,000,000.”
The 40-year loan, Proffitt explained during discussion, comes with a 2.75 percent interest rate, which mean debt-service pay- ments of about $96,129 per year.
One mill, he said in response to a question by board member Al Pfsiter, would raise about $213,000 per year, meaning the district would also have funding for other projects such as the stream management program…
The resolution passed 5-0, with board member Ray Finney absent from the meeting.
As of April 1, the snowpack in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basin continued to look strong, sitting at 128 percent of median.
Statewide, the snowpack sat at 111 percent on that date.
“We’re still really high up there compared to some of the statewide drainages,” said Joe Crabb, one of the area’s water commissioners for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Division of Wa- ter Resources. Crabb presented the informa- tion to the San Juan Water Con- servancy District board during the board’s regular meeting Monday.
While the local basin’s 128 per- cent of median is lower than the March 1 mark of 153 percent of median, it is better than it was in previous years.
The April 1, 2016, snowpack rang in at 84 percent, while the 2014 figure for the same time pe- riod was 86 percent, and, for 2011, was 99 percent. Crabb also explained to the board that recent high winds had the potential to impact the snow- pack by depositing sediment on top of the snow, which increases the rate it melts.
Crabb further noted that the snow water equivalent (SWI, the amount of moisture in the snow) remains good, with Crabb’s pre- sentation showing the SWI at 120 percent of median to date and 117 percent of the seasonal median.
In terms of the river flow, Crabb explained that the San Juan River through Pagosa Springs and the Piedra River had each surpassed 1,100 cubic feet per second (cfs) in March, though the runoff had fallen back in to the range of 600- 630 cfs following that. As of April 12, the flow of the San Juan River had inched back up, ringing in at 716 3 midday, with higher amounts at night. He noted that the peak river flow typically occurs around the end of May or first week of June, with the San Juan and Piedra rivers peaking at about the same time.
On April 1 statewide snowpack was at 108 percent of normal, down from 139 percent of normal last month and 156 percent on Feb. 1.
“It has been a bit of a rollercoaster snowpack season,” said Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey supervisor, referring to record low snowpack accumulation in October and November, followed by record high snowpack accumulation in December and January, and now a return to near record low snowpack accumulation again in March.
Relatively good snowpack remains in the Gunnison, Arkansas, and combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins, all above 118 percent of normal. Only the combined Yampa and White basins are now below normal.
March precipitation statewide was 64 percent of average with two SNOTEL sites recording as low as 20 percent of March normals. These low monthly totals dragged down the year-to-date precipitation from 123 percent of average last month to 112 percent on April 1. Fortunately, some recovery came at the month’s end to much of Colorado’s mountains mostly in the form of snow. The South Platte, Arkansas and the Rio Grande basins did receive enough snow to reach new snowpack peaks beyond the peak reached in early March. Snowpack typically peaks for all basins near April 10, the exception being the South Platte, which peaks two weeks later.
At the end of the month the Sangre de Cristo mountains were able to scrounge up considerably more precipitation than the rest of the state, helping to boost the late season snowpack in that region.
“March and April are the two months in which Colorado typically sees the greatest precipitation, accounting for over one-fifth of the year’s total,” said Domonkos. A slow start in March can be overcome in April.
While current snowpack and reservoir storage levels are normal to slightly above normal across much of the state, the recent snowmelt and dry conditions in March had significant impacts. As a result, spring and summer streamflow forecasts have dropped considerably since a month ago.
Not long ago, major electric utilities in much of the Southwest seemed bent on chasing rooftop solar companies out of the region. They saw the booming industry as a threat to their profits and sought rate changes that would make solar panels less financially attractive to homeowners. The electric companies advocated slashing the compensation those customers get for sending their excess power to the grid and adding new fees to their electric bills.
Because the electric companies are monopolies, state regulators have to approve such changes. In late 2015, the Public Utility Commission of Nevada set new rates that were so unfavorable to solar customers that they nearly snuffed out the residential solar business in the state. The number of households applying to connect solar panels to the grid dropped from a peak of nearly 3,000 in August 2015 to just 14 in July the next year. The biggest solar installation companies left the state, laying off thousands of workers.
But that’s not the end of the story. The public was outraged, and its objections resulted in a surprising shift: gradual rollback of the commission’s anti-solar decision…
Apparently big electric companies are learning that given the broad popularity of solar in the sunny desert region, they will have to accommodate rooftop solar instead of trying to kill it. This reflects the growing political might of the solar industry as it’s seen as a key job creator in much of the Southwest.
Please consider coming by the Community Building at Thornton’s Community Park on May 16th. I’ll be speaking about the climate crisis as part of the Climate Reality Project. Children are welcome. We’ve already baked in a lot of uncertainty about the future for them. The presentation revolves around three questions: Should we act; Can we act; and, Will we act? I’ll bring you up to date on the engineering effort around renewable energy.
What: Climate Change is Water Change: Colorado Update
Where: Thornton Community Park Community Building (Near the swimming pool), 2211 Eppinger Blvd, Thornton, CO 80229
When: Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
About the Climate Reality Project:
With glaciers melting, seas rising, and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record coming this century, the threat of climate change has never been clearer. But with solar, wind, and other clean energy solutions becoming more affordable and accessible every year, neither has the way forward. And with 195 countries signing the historic Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gases the world is finally united in working to seize the promise of renewables and create a safe, sustainable, and prosperous future powered by clean energy.
What’s in the way? Powerful fossil fuel companies and their government allies spreading fear and misinformation.
Led by Vice President Gore and CEO Ken Berlin, we’re here to change that. We connect cutting-edge digital media, global organizing events, and peer-to-peer outreach to share the truth about climate change and the solutions in our hands today with people everywhere. And with our more than 10,000 Climate Reality Leader activists building support for pro-climate policies at every level, and millions joining us to accelerate the global transition to clean energy, we have the chance to stop climate change and together create a future we can be proud of. We’re not about to waste it.