Outdoor enthusiasts want access, land owners want property protection

Headwaters of the Arkansas River basin. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journlaism

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewic):

A 76-year-old fly fisherman who likes to fish near the small town alleges the owners of a nearby home resorted to violence, including firing a gun, to stop him and friends from using the fishing spot.

The lawsuit alleges that Mark Everett Warsewa, the property owner who allegedly fired the gun, contends the riverbed at that spot is his property. Records show he is an appraiser for Fremont County government.

The fisherman, Roger Hill, attached to his lawsuit a hand-written note, which he says Warsewa wrote in 2012, that says: “Guys There are 63 miles of Public Water on the Arkansas River, Use Them! There are no easements on the River in this section. I know, I work for the Fremont County Assessors’s Office, You can and will be charged with trespassing! I have your plate number. I’ll have Sheriff Jim Beicker run it.”

Hill wants a judge to declare the riverbed belongs to the state of Colorado “so he can again safely fish at his favorite fishing spot,” his lawsuit states.

Hill, of Colorado Springs, filed the lawsuit in February in U.S. District Court in Denver. He said he wades into the river from public land.

Linda Joseph is also a defendant. The lawsuit says she and Warsewa, 60, own the property and home nearest the fishing spot, where Texas Creek flows into the Arkansas.

The Spring Edition of the #Colorado Ag Water Alliance Newsletter is hot off the presses

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

Water Legislation

A set of bills deal with new uses for reclaimed water: domestic wastewater that has received secondary treatment by wastewater treatment works, as well as additional treatment needed to meet standards for approved uses. In the past, this water has been restricted to landscaping irrigation and some commercial and industrial uses. Separate bills expand this use to edible crops (HB18-1093), industrial hemp (SB18-038), and marijuana cultivation (HB18-1053).

The bills codify rules promulgated by the water quality control commission by creating three categories of water quality for reclaimed domestic wastewater and the allowable uses for each water quality standard category. The bills require the water quality control division to develop policy, guidance or best management practices for use of reclaimed domestic wastewater.

Only the bill expanding reclaimed water use to edible crops has been sent to the governor. The bills for industrial hemp and marijuana cultivation are still in the legislature.

Another bill, HB18-1199, pertains to aquifer storage-and-recovery plans. HB18-1199 authorizes a person to apply to the groundwater commission for approval of an aquifer storage-and-recovery plan and requires the commission to promulgate rules governing the application process and requirements for a plan.

This bill was signed by the governor.

One last significant piece of legislation was HB18-1151: Colorado Water Conservation Board Approve Deficit Irrigation Pilot Projects. Current laws allows the water conservation board to approve up to 15 pilot projects for agricultural water leasing or fallowing projects. The bill expands the types of projects to include deficit irrigation in water divisions 2 and 3 and within the boundaries of the Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District. The bill also excludes the determination of historical consumptive use decreases in use resulting from deficit irrigation projects. The bill was set aside this year and may be brought up next legislative session.

Paper: #ClimateChange and #Drought: From Past to Future

West Drought Monitor August 23, 2016.

Click here to read the paper (Benjamin I. Cook, Justin S. Mankin, Kevin J. Anchukaitis). Here’s the abstract:

Abstract

Drought is a complex and multivariate phenomenon influenced by diverse physical and biological processes. Such complexity precludes simplistic explanations of cause and effect, making investigations of climate change and drought a challenging task. Here, we review important recent advances in our understanding of drought dynamics, drawing from studies of paleo climate, the historical record, and model simulations of the past and future. Paleoclimate studies of drought variability over the last two millennia have progressed considerably through the development of new reconstructions and analyses combining reconstructions with process-based models. This work has generated new evidence for tropical Pacific forcing of megadroughts in Southwest North America, provided additional constraints for interpreting climate change projections in poorly characterized regions like East Africa, and demonstrated the exceptional magnitude of many modern era droughts. Development of high resolution proxy networks has lagged in many regions (e.g., South America, Africa),however, and quantitative comparisons between the paleoclimate record, models, and observations remain challenging. Fingerprints of anthropogenic climate change consistent with long-term warming projections have been identified for droughts in California, the Pacific Northwest, Western North America, and the Mediterranean. In other regions (e.g.,Southwest North America, Australia, Africa), however, the degree to which climate change has affected recent droughts is more uncertain. While climate change-forced declines in precipitation have been detected for the Mediterranean, in most regions, the climate change signal has manifested through warmer temperatures that have increased evaporative losses and reduced snowfall and snowpack levels, amplifying deficits in soil moisture and runoff despite uncertain precipitation changes. Over the next century, projections indicate that warming will increase drought risk and severity across much of the subtropics and mid-latitudes in both hemispheres, a consequence of regional precipitation declines and widespread warming. For many regions, however, the magnitude, robustness, and even direction of climate change-forced trends in drought depends on how drought is defined, with often large differences across indicators of precipitation, soil moisture, runoff,and vegetation health. Increasing confidence in climate change projections of drought and the associated impacts will likely depend on resolving uncertainties in processes that are currently poorly constrained (e.g., land-atmosphere interactions, terrestrial vegetation) and improved consideration of the role for human policies and management in ameliorating and adapting to changes in drought risk.

How traffic impacts today reduce headaches down the road – News on TAP

Two disruptive pipeline projects underscore the challenges of updating critical water infrastructure.

Source: How traffic impacts today reduce headaches down the road – News on TAP

All aboard the conservation trolley – News on TAP

Modes of transportation may have changed, but our water-saving message remains the same.

Source: All aboard the conservation trolley – News on TAP

A finely tuned machine: Denver Water’s Recycling Plant – News on TAP

With an eye on always improving, treatment plant changes are expected to save $600K annually in labor costs alone.

Source: A finely tuned machine: Denver Water’s Recycling Plant – News on TAP

On assignment: My underground pipe quest – News on TAP

Rare, but important, inspection of one of Denver Water’s largest pipes shows what it takes to maintain infrastructure.

Source: On assignment: My underground pipe quest – News on TAP

Respected water blogger sees a (barely) hidden message in federal press release on Colorado River management

@JFleck #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Arizona Water News

Burman Bureau of  Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman

Well-respected water journalist and author John Fleck is serving up some intriguing thoughts on his blog about a recent press release issued by the Bureau of Reclamation.

Author of Water is for Fighting Over: and Other Myths about Water in the West, Fleck contends the Bureau’s press release was less of a traditional press announcement than an implicit call to action directed at the Colorado River basin states.

John Fleck at Morelos Dam Journalist and author John Fleck

Fleck argues that Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman used the press statement as an opportunity to kick-start the effort to finalize drought-contingency planning among the seven Colorado River states.It’s hard to argue with Fleck’s point. As quoted in her press release, Commissioner Burman observes that “(w)e need action and we need it now.

“We can’t afford to wait for a crisis before we implement drought contingency plans,” she said.

View original post 134 more words

#Snowpack news: Basins are melting out fast

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

Honing in on options for a potential White River Dam near Rangely

Looking up the White River valley, with the Wolf Creek valley opening up to the left. The view is from Hwy 64.

By Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

CRAIG — Three variations of a potential dam that could someday sit astride the main stem of the White River between Meeker and Rangely have been examined by the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District in Rangely.

Last week in Craig, Steve Jamieson, a principal engineer and president at W.W. Wheeler and Associates, told the members of the Yampa, Green and White river basin roundtable that an 80-foot-tall dam built across the main stem of the White River at Wolf Creek could store 68,000 acre-feet of water.

He said a 104-foot-tall dam across the river could store 138,000 acre-feet.

And a 290-foot-tall dam across the valley floor could store 2.9 million acre-feet of water.

“The maximum you can get here is 2.9 million acre-feet in this bucket,” Jamieson said. “It’s a big bucket, and you can do that with a dam that it’s about 290 feet high. It would be a very efficient dam site, but you need to have the water to fill it.”

A slide being presented by Steve Jamieson of Wheeler a showing the range of dam and reservoir sizes that have been studied for the potential White River Dam on the main stem of the White River 23 miles east of Rangely. The dams range in size from 80-feet-tall to 290-feet-tall and could store between 68,000 AF to 2.9 MAF. The dam sizes were studied as part of Phase 2A of the White River storage project, and the state has provided $500,000 in funding so far to study the project.
Steve Jamieson, left, of Wheeler and Associates, and Brad McCloud, right, showing an illustration of where the axis of a 290-foot-tall dam across the White River would be. The big dam would require a 500-foot-wide spillway, which would mean relocating a section of Hwy 64.

Water enough

About 500,000 acre-feet of water a year runs down the lower White River each year, flowing through Meeker and Rangely and into Utah and the Green River.

And between 1923 and 2014, the annual flow in the White River at the Utah line ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million acre-feet, according to Wheeler and Associates.

The potential White River Dam would be located 23 miles east of Rangely, along Highway 64.

The existing Taylor Draw Dam, which forms Kenney Reservoir on the main stem of the White River, is six miles east of Rangely.

That reservoir was built in 1984 to hold 13,800 acre-feet of water, but it’s gradually silting in, as was expected in a 1982 EIS done for the project. The surface area still “available for recreation,” or boating, is now less than 335 acres, down from 650 acres when the reservoir opened.

The dam’s hydro plant, however, is still generating about $500,000 a year in electricity revenue for the Rio Blanco district in a run-of-river setup.

A slide being presented by Steve Jamieson of Wheeler and Associates and Brad McCloud of EIS Solutions showing the range of dam and reservoir sizes that have been studied with state funding for the Wolf Creek drainage. The dams range in size from 80-feet-tall to 260-feet-tall and could store 41,000 AF to 1.6 MAF. The dam sizes were studied as part of Phase 2A of the White River storage project, and the state has provided $500,000 in funding so far to study the project.

Off-channel too

Jamieson also has been studying an off-channel dam in the Wolf Creek drainage, which is a broad, dry valley on the north side the river, just upstream of the proposed White River Dam site.

The Wolf Creek Dam would be located 3,000 feet back from the river and 170 feet above it.

An 80-foot-tall version of that dam could store 41,000 acre-feet of water, a 119-foot-tall dam could store 130,000 acre-feet, and a 260-foot-tall dam could store 1.6 million-acre feet, Jamieson said.

“This is really good dam site here, I like this,” Jamieson said. “It’s very flexible.”

However, the off-channel Wolf Creek Dam would require that water be pumped up from the river, at a high cost, or delivered via a 40-mile long canal or pipeline starting near Rio Blanco Lake — closer to Meeker than Rangely.

“It’s going to be a very long and expensive canal,” Jamieson said.

The pumping facility for a 90,000 acre-foot reservoir, which was studied in 2014, was estimated to cost $18.2 million build and up to $1.1 million a year to operate.

Jamieson said Highway 64 would need to be moved to accommodate the biggest White River Dam option, which requires a 500-foot-wide spillway on one side of the river valley.

The river itself would also have to be moved during construction.

“You’d be constructing two to three years at least,” Jamieson said. “So what we looked at is actually building a tunnel around into this abutment that we would divert the White River through during construction.”

A slide presented by Steve Jamieson of Wheeler and Associates on May 9, 2018, showing the maximum inundation area of a 290-foot-tall dam on the main stem of the White River. Jamieson presented the slide at the May 9, 2018 meeting in Craig of the Yampa/White/Green basin roundtable.

Gardner-sized

Jamieson said the district started studying the maximum size of the potential reservoirs after Sen. Cory Gardner asked during a site visit, “How big can you make this reservoir?”

During his presentation Jamieson repeatedly referred to Sen. Gardner, using phrases such as “this is the maximum Cory Gardner reservoir.”

A roundtable member asked, “Did the senator promise the money for this?”

The basin roundtables operate under the auspices of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and review grants for water projects.

“No, he did not, unfortunately,” said Brad McCloud of EIS Solutions, a public affairs consulting firm retained by the district. “We asked.”

The Colorado Water Conservation Board also wants to know what the maximum reservoir size is.

“Based on recent comments from some stakeholders, it may be beneficial to build the largest possible reservoir at Wolf Creek,” the scope of work for a 2017 grant from the board to the district states.

It also says “a much larger reservoir … could have additional benefits to the state.”

One of those benefits could be helping the state avoid a compact call on the Colorado River.

“Part of the Phase 2A study is to determine if the project may have the potential to provide Colorado compact curtailment insurance during periods of drought,” the 2017 grant application from the district said.

Since 2013, the district has received three grants totaling $500,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for its White River project, and the potential benefit of compact compliance has been mentioned in all three grants.

The White River near the vicinity of the Wolf Creek drainage. The river sends about 500,000 acre-feet of water a year across the state line into Utah, with flows ranging from 200,000 AF to 1.2 MAF a year. The White drains the western side of the Flat Top Mountains and flows through Meeker and Rangely.

20,000 or 90,000

On Wednesday in Craig, Jamieson downplayed compact curtailment and focused on the district’s goal of creating a 20,000 or 90,000 acre-foot “working pool” of water inside larger potential reservoirs.

For example, it would require a 138,000 acre-foot on-channel reservoir to establish a 90,000 acre-foot working pool for the district, after allowances for a recreation pool and a 24,000 acre-foot sedimentation pool — which would fill in over 50 years.

To establish a need of the stored water, Jamieson cited a 2014 study showing demand in the basin at 91,000 acre-feet in 2065.

That’s on the high end, though.

The low-end need in 2065 was 16,600 acre-feet.

The district filed in water court in 2014 for a 90,000-acre-foot storage right at both the on-channel and off-channel locations.

But Erin Light, the division engineer in Div. 6, told the district in July 2017 “this application continues to contain aspects that are speculative and this is concerning to me.”

She questioned the district’s use of the highest estimates for such potential uses as oil shale production and flows for endangered fish.

The water attorney for the district, Ed Olszewski, responded to Light in August.

He said the district “disputes that any portion of the application is speculative” and the application is intended to be “as flexible as possible.”

As Jamieson wrapped up his presentation, he said the Rio Blanco district plans to “initiate project permitting” in 2019.

“I know we’re very aggressive,” Jamieson said. “We’re making progress.”

Aspen Journalism is covering water and rivers in collaboration with The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. The Times and the Post Independent published this story on Monday, May 14, 2018.