PAWSD discusses 2018 preliminary budget

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

[The budget was] presented to the board of the Pagosa Area Water Sanitation District (PAWSD) on Sept. 21.

The PAWSD budget includes four funds: a general, debt service, water enterprise and wastewater enterprise.

In a follow-up phone call with The SUN, Business Services Manager Shellie Peterson explained some of the larger changes for each portion of the budget…

Water enterprise fund

There were also a few notable proposed changes to the water enterprise fund.

“There are a lot of similarities to the water fund and the wastewater fund,” she said.

Both are proprietary funds, she explained.

“These are supposed to be run as you would a private business, meaning that the amount that you charge for service charges in all of your different revenues, ideally, should cover all of your related operating expenses and your capital expenditures and the debt service that’s involved with the enterprise funds,” she said.

Peterson noted that PAWSD can transfer from the general fund up to 9.99 percent of a funds’ revenues.

“So in doing that in a small way we’re subsidizing the enterprise funds with a little bit of tax dollars,” she said.

Capital projects was also included on the water enterprise fund as having a projected negative 35 percent change for 2018.

This projected change would move the capital projects budget from $428,211 in 2017 to $279,890 in 2018.

According to the draft budget summary sheet, there is a distinct decrease in capital expenditures, but many of the decreases are off- set by “increases in major mainte- nance item expenditures.”

“We’re projecting to spend less on capital next year,” she said.

In an email to The SUN Peterson explained that the reason for spending less on capital is that some years present a bigger need for capital projects than others.

“There really is not a ‘why’ to capital spending. Some years present the need for major new construction or processes more so than others,” Peterson wrote.

Water loss was also listed as a larger maintenance item in the draft budget.

“During the restructuring of the Colorado Water Conservation Board loan for the Dry Gulch prop- erty, a commitment was made to spend $125,000 per year on water line replacement or repairs to re- duce water loss,” she wrote.

Peterson noted that the water line replacement or repairs are not capital expenditures.

“They will not be capitalized and depreciated over a useful life,” she wrote.
The next big capital project will be the installation of ultraviolet disinfection at the San Juan Water Treatment Plant.

“That work is being engineered this year, dirt work, excavation will be started next year, and the UV project itself will be bid out in 2019,” she wrote.

The ending fund balance for the water enterprise fund is projected to have a 12 percent increase.

This would raise the balance up from $5,061,503 in 2017 to $5,666,128 in 2018.

“That’s saying if everything went exactly according to this formula I would have just over $5 million at the end of 2017, in this fund, and then yet I’m projecting to have a 12 percent increase in that ending fund balance,” she explained.

Why the fund balance is going to go up involves a few things, Pe- terson noted.

“Part of the reason that the fund balance is going to go up is because my revenues are going to go up just a titch, but my expenses are going to go up too, just a little bit,” she said.

Wastewater enterprise fund

Peterson explained that the wastewater enterprise fund and the water enterprise fund work in the same way, but offer different services.

“They operate identically other than the fact that they provide two completely different services,” Peterson said.

The majority of revenue that the wastewater fund receives is from the minimum monthly ser- vice charge for wastewater, she explained.

“The wastewater fund is less complicated because it’s a flat rate, everyone who is connected to Pagosa Area Water sewer is paying $32 per equivalent unit,” she said. The wastewater fund’s revenue is easier to determine because it doesn’t have a oating volumetric rate that the water enterprise fund has, Peterson noted.

Two of the bigger proposed percentage changes within the wastewater enterprise fund were wastewater collection and capital projects.

Wastewater revenue is projected to increase by 42 percent for 2018. The potential increase would move wastewater’s budget of $458,300 in 2017 to $652,935 in
2018.

“It means we are expecting our expenses to be higher in that department,” she said.

Collection of wastewater in- volves everything that happens in the collection system, the pipes underground, to bringing the sewage to the sewer plant, Peterson explained.

“We expect to go out to bid on $200,000 basis to have a commer- cial sewer line cleaning service come in,” she said.

The company responsible for the line cleaning would spray the sewer lines clean, and install cameras and create tapes from the cameras, Peterson explained.

With these tapes, PAWSD could see any potential problems within the sewer line, she explained.

Right now PAWSD is using local firm, Pagosa Rooter, to clean its sewer lines.

“They just aren’t able to televise for us, but we’ve been doing cleaning that way,” she said.

The problem for PAWSD is that it is harder to have larger firms come to Pagosa Springs because they won’t mobilize for that small amount of work.

“That’s the lion share of why that budget is going to increase,” Peterson said.

Another reason for the increase for wastewater revenue is having lift station rehab at lift station 21 and lift station 7, Peterson ex- plained.

Capital projects was again listed under this section of the budget.

Capital projects is proposed to have a 59 percent decrease in the proposed budget, from $371,525 in 2017 to $153,320 in 2018.

“In the capital department, we just have less being forecast, really where the big dollars are this year is more in the maintenance line,” Peterson said.

Both the water and wastewater funds stay at close to the same level of total expenditures, but the weighting is changed for this year, she said.

WWA Intermountain West Climate Dashboard: New Briefing Available

Click here to read the briefing. Here’s an excerpt:

Highlights:

  • Multiple early-season storms have brought snow to the high country, resulting in much-above-normal SWE for early October in many basins. However, with dry conditions forecasted for the next 7-10 days, it’s not clear that much of this early bounty will persist.
  • August was generally very dry for our region except for several islands of wetter conditions from scattered convective storms. The first half of September was likewise dry, and then a pattern change brought cooler air and more moisture, continuing into early October. September ended up bringing above-normal precipitation to eastern Colorado, central and northern Utah, and nearly all of Wyoming. Dry conditions continued in September for western Colorado and southern Utah.
  • August temperatures were slightly above normal in Utah, and below normal in Colorado and Wyoming. September saw most of Utah and Wyoming with below-normal temperatures, with Colorado above normal.
  • Since early August, there have been only minor changes in drought conditions across the region, with some areas improving and others worsening, according to the US Drought Monitor. As of October 3, there are several small areas of D1 in the region, in northeastern Wyoming, central Utah, and northwestern Colorado.
  • Overall, the 2017 water year was extremely warm and very wet for the region. In all three states, 2017 was among the 10 warmest water years (inc. 3rd warmest for Colorado, 4th warmest for Utah) and the 20 wettest water years (inc. 4th wettest for Wyoming) since 1895.
  • The experimental PSD precipitation forecast guidance for the October-December period shows slightly enhanced chances for above-normal precipitation for northeastern Colorado, while the guidance for January-March shows enhanced chances for above-normal precipitation for northern Utah and southeastern Colorado.
  • @ClimateBecky: #Colorado Water Year 2017 #Climate Summary @ColoradoClimate

    Click here to view the summary. Here’s an excerpt:

    WY2017 Temperature

    Annually, temperatures were warmer than average across the state, with record warmth in the higher elevations.

    WY2017 tied for the 3rd warmest water year on record for the state. The WY average temperature is 45.7°F, and WY2017 was 2.2°F warmer.

    @CFWEWater Webinar: Aquatic Nuisance Species The Threat and Solutions

    Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

    On Tuesday, October 24th, from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, the Colorado Water Congress and the Colorado Foundation for Water Education will host a webinar on the threat of aquatic nuisance species, specifically zebra and quagga mussels, to our waterways and delivery systems in Colorado.

    Aquatic nuisance species continues to be a hot topic for the water community, but we need to reach beyond our own network when communicating about this looming threat to our pristine waterways. Join us to learn about the threat these invasive mussels pose, and how Colorado is working to educate the public and our policy makers so we can maintain healthy waterways and infrastructure.

    Speakers:

  • Mike Preston | Dolores Water Conservancy District
  • Ken Curtis | Dolores Water Conservancy District
  • Doug Vilsack | Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  • Doug Krieger | Dept. of Natural Resources
  • Registration is FREE! Learn more and register here.

    @ColoreadoStateU students help restore areas devastated by 2013 Boulder floods

    CSU junior Brad Simms gets to work with his shovel in efforts to restore the area around Left Hand Canyon from the floods. Brad is a member of CSU’s Watershed club. (Jenna Van Lone | Collegian)

    From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Samantha Ye):

    Humans who rebuild an environment which nature destroyed seems like a backwards scenario.

    And yet, dozens of Colorado State University students partnered with the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers Saturday to restore Left Hand Creek, an area devastated by the 2013 Boulder floods.

    According to Brad Simms, vice president of the Watershed Club and intern at WRV, the project was made specifically for college students by Luke McNally, the WRV watershed restoration manager. Simms, who had participated in a previous restoration, helped several CSU clubs mobilize their members.

    Roughly 60 people attended in total: 17 came from the Environmental Sustainability and Science Club, 10 from the Watershed Club, six from the Fly Fishing Club and several others from CSU and around the community.

    Volunteers arrived at 8 a.m. and stayed until 4 p.m. They were divided into five groups with each group taking on a different area of the riverbed and the tasks which came with it.

    Eliot Hawkes, a sophomore ecosystem science and sustainability major, spent her morning spreading native seeds and mulch by the downstream bank.

    “You feel like you’re getting a good day’s (worth) of hard work in,” Hawkes said. “I’ve wanted to volunteer with the WRV since last spring, and I got an email about it and decided just to sign up over email.”

    Kelly Nelson, a member of the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Club at CSU, drops wood chips to compact the soil near Left Hand Canyon in attempts to restore the land from the floods. The flood restoration event was open to members of the ESS Club, the Watershed Club, the Fly Fishing Club, and the Boulder community on Saturday. (Jenna Van Lone | Collegian)

    Natalie McNees, sophomore natural resources management major, signed up independent of any clubs. Her morning consisted of backfilling trenches and pounding down stakes to keep erosion control fabric in place.

    “(The riverbank) would just be this dirt pile if we weren’t doing anything,” McNees said. “And, it was fun hitting things with (a) little hammer.”

    The September 2013 floods scoured large parts of the riverbanks and caused sediment deposition. According to McNally, floodwaters ripped out riparian vegetation, heightening chances of further erosion.

    With funding from the National Resource Conservation Service, the WRV has been rebuilding the Left Hand Creek since February, and they expect to finish by the end of October. Before Saturday, the group focused on river channel reconstruction and realignment.

    CSU students participated in the final implementation stage of restoration: revegetation, the laying down of native seed mixes, soil amendments, erosion control blankets and mulch. They also planted a palette of native wood plants such as junipers, alders and cottonwoods among others.

    “We have more diversity of native plants on this project than we’ve probably ever had on a project,” McNally said. “We’re really pushing the envelope with Left Hand Creek to make this as biodiverse as possible.”

    WRV will return to the site next year to evaluate the effectiveness of the restoration and look for how to improve in the future.

    As a CSU alumnus, McNally said he enjoyed seeing so many young people involve themselves in environmental projects, especially students from the Warner College of Natural Resources.

    “This work is directly relevant to what they’re going to school for and can help to supplement their education with some field experience,” McNally said.

    Even though the Saturday was done through several CSU clubs, students can sign-up for any WRV project they want by going to http://www.wlrv.org.

    At the end of the day, Jess Jackman, president of the ESS Club, said she enjoyed the experience.

    “I love watching students get engaged in restorations,” Jackman said. “I think it was productive and successful, and I think everyone had a lot of fun as well … We’re proud of our work.”

    Left Hand Creek September 2013 via Piper Bayard

    Fraser River restoration: “The biomass [in the river] has more than tripled, just from last year” — Mely Whiting

    From The Sky-Hi News (Lance Maggart):

    The Fraser Flats Habitat Project is a cooperative venture conducted by Learning By Doing, an amalgamation of local water stakeholders who several years ago formed a committee in an effort to increase cooperation and decrease litigation between Front Range water diverters, local governments and High Country conservation groups. The Fraser Flats Project is the group’s pilot project, restoring a roughly one-mile section of the Fraser River.

    Work on the project, which was conducted on a section of the Fraser River between Fraser and Tabernash, wrapped up in late September and the members of Learning By Doing are, to put it mildly, thrilled with the success of the project.

    “We are elated,” said Mely Whiting, legal counsel for Trout Unlimited. “This is amazing. The biomass [in the river] has more than tripled, just from last year, and only in the matter of a couple of weeks since the project was completed.”

    Denver Water Environmental Scientist Jessica Alexander explained the intention of the project.

    “To start, we wanted to improve the habitat of the river for fish and aquatic insects,” Alexander said. “We saw problems with the way the river channel looked and behaved before the project and we wanted to improve those things, to provide more habitat.”

    Alexander went on to explain that the Fraser River channel was too wide and shallow to provide good habitat and resulted in high sedimentation in the river rocks that are essential to development of bug life, which in turn serves as base of the food web within the river. Additionally there was little large vegetation on the river banks at the project site, resulting in river bank erosion and higher stream temperatures due to lack of a shade canopy.

    To fix these problems work on the project centered on a few key areas. Project organizers wanted to deepen and narrow the river’s main channel, allowing the water that does flow down the Fraser to flow deeper and faster, helping clear sediment out of river rocks. Additionally they planted roughly 2,500 willows and cottonwoods on the river’s banks, to address erosion and shade concerns.

    The project got underway last fall as Learning By Doing secured permits for the project and conducted design work. In May this year about 150 local local and regional volunteers spent two days harvesting and planting willows and cottonwoods along the banks of the Fraser in the project area.

    Over the summer and fall contracting firm Freestone Aquatics, specializing in aquatic habitat restoration, conducted the physical work of narrowing and deepening the river channel…

    The total cost of the project was roughly $200,000. The cost was broken down between several stakeholders including the Colorado River District, Northern Water, Trout Unlimited, and more. Denver Water pitched in roughly $50,000 and the project received a Fishing is Fun grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Moving forward Learning By Doing is looking at a few different projects in Grand County and is trying to decide which project it will tackle next.

    From Colorado Public Radio (Nathaniel Minor):

    For decades, the Fraser River in Colorado’s Grand County has turned into a trickle every fall as the snowmelt that powers the river dissipates. The low flows have led to warmer water temperatures and less wildlife.

    That changed this year, at least along a short stretch of the Fraser. And it’s due to an unusual partnership that includes Denver Water, which diverts most of the river to the Front Range, and Trout Unlimited, which has fought for decades to protect it. The group, dubbed Learning by Doing, focused its efforts on nearly a mile of the river near Tabernash. Work wrapped up on the $200,000 project earlier this fall.

    “I had man tears when I saw this for the first time,” said Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “It was very emotional to see the river look healthier than it has in the 47 years I’ve lived there.”

    Now, instead of a wide shallow creek, the low-flow Fraser River drops into a narrow channel that allows to run deeper, faster and colder. That led to a nearly immediate rebound in the fish population, according to a preliminary assessment by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    “We found about a four-fold increase in trout population,” said Jon Ewert, an aquatic biologist at CPW who surveyed the river both before and after the project was finished. “It was pretty exciting to see that.”

    Ewert was cautious not to get too far ahead of his data. He plans to survey the fish population again next year to see if they reproduce like he hopes they will. But he says he’s very encouraged by what he’s seen so far.

    Klancke credits cooperation by Denver Water, Trout Unlimited, Grand County and others for this initial success. Before his Trout Unlimited days, Klancke said he was “radical” in his opposition to the diversion of water to the Front Range. He even used to urinate in diversion ditches, he told me last year. He’s since changed his tactics.

    “Working with the people who have impacts on your river is far more effective than trying to fight them, or just trying to stop them,” he said.