2018 #COleg: LSPWCD supports Reservoir Release Bill

North Sterling Reservoir

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s Executive Committee voted Tuesday to support the Reservoir Release Bill that should be taken up by the General Assembly later this month.

The committee reviewed a draft of the bill at its Tuesday meeting and made clear that it supports the draft as it now exists.

The bill covers only the Northern Integrated Supply Project now, but might affect any future water project and possibly projects that include expansion of existing reservoirs. It requires Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to maintain a prescribed stream flow in the Cache la Poudre River as it passes through Fort Collins, or about 12 miles of river channel. That water flow would be regulated by releases of water from Glade Reservoir.

The proposed legislation converts into law a plan Northern Water presented last year, and that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission signed off on last September, that mitigates NISP’s impact on recreational use of the river through Fort Collins

The key to getting groups like Lower South Platte to support it is a section called “Costs of Bypass Structures.” In order for river flow to be maintained from the water release point at Glade Reservoir to the end of the project, it will have to flow past several irrigation diversion structures. Because a constant stream flow must be maintained, some or all of those structures will have to be modified because they now completely block the river and dry up the river at several places. Ordinarily, that’s allowable as long as sufficient water is returned to the river somewhere downstream.

But under the terms of the Reservoir Release Bill, the prescribed stream flow has to stay in the river, which means diversion structures will have to be rebuilt or modified to allow water to go around them.

The Costs of Bypass Structures clause puts the cost burden of those modifications on the reservoir owner, who is the party responsible for maintaining prescribed stream flow; in this case, that’s Northern Water.

Lower South Platte’s manager, Joe Frank, told the executive committee Tuesday he thought the district should publicly support the draft legislation, partly to avoid any misunderstanding.

“Last year we took a neutral stance on (a previous version) and someone took that to mean we didn’t care about it,” Frank said. “We do care, we care deeply, and we support it. What we meant was that we didn’t oppose the plan, but someone took it to mean we didn’t support it, either.”

During discussion of the legislation Bruce Phillips, the state’s water commissioner for District 64 which includes the lower South Platte, said he thought stream maintenance provisions would be required in all storage projects…

Ken Fritzler, the district’s board chairman, asked whether other committee members thought the draft legislation is something the board could publicly support. Gene Manuello answered that he thought it was.

“I think we should support the draft as it is now,” he said. “We have supported NISP all along, and I think a majority of WRASP supports it.”

WRASP stands for Water Rights Appropriators of the South Platte; it is a consortium that represents more than 240,000 irrigated acres from Barr Lake to Julesburg, and more than 1,150 high capacity irrigation wells that draw from the South Platte alluvial aquifer.

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