Otero Pump Station diversion to be replaced by @AuroraWater and @CSUtilities

The dam on Homestake Creek that forms Homestake Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journailsm

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Rachel Riley):

The $9 million project will replace an intake and diversion structure and install a fish passage and boat chute on what is considered the last non-navigable stretch of the river between Leadville and Cañon City, according to a Thursday news release from the local utility provider.

Once the project is completed, skilled whitewater boaters, including rafters and kayakers, will be able to traverse the span of river near Clear Creek Reservoir without portaging…

Aurora Water, [Colorado Springs Utilities] is also financing construction on the project, and grants from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board are providing about $1.2 million.

The stone diversion, south of Granite, was constructed in 1964 as the original intake for the Otero Pump Station a few miles north of Buena Vista. At the time, river recreation was not considered during the design process, said Brian McCormick, a senior project engineer for Colorado Springs Utilities.

“This project will bring this diversion and this site up to modern design standards, including the addition of facilities for recreational boating,” McCormick said.

“This is a real nice example of really balancing both the demands we place on the river for water supply and for recreation.”

The structure is now a backup intake for the pump station, which is served by water from nearby Twin Lakes, he said. It is part of the Homestake Project, a partnership between Aurora Water and Colorado Springs Utilities to move water from west of the Continental Divide eastward to the two Front Range cities.

The project, slated for completion in November 2019, will affect about 400 feet of the river. Construction in the river is expected to begin after Labor Day weekend, McCormick said.

The fish passage, also known as a fish ladder, will allow brown and rainbow trout to swim upstream past the diversion when they spawn, he said.

The boat chute will be a channel on one side of the river made up of a series of drops and pools to get the boats safely past the structure, McCormick said.

Commercial outfitters raft the stretch now, but they must portage to get around the diversion, with its jagged concrete and exposed steel, said Rob White, park manager of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.

The project will add “a nice stretch of whitewater possibilities” for adventure-seekers ready for rapids ranked Class III and above, White said.

Utilities and Aurora Water staff members have spent more than a decade developing the project. The Pueblo Board of Water Works is donating easements needed to build and maintain the diversion, according to the news release.

The AHRA Clear Creek North Recreation Site will be closed during the project, but the Clear Creek South Recreation Site will remain open, the release says.

Projections On Inflow Into #LakePowell In The Coming “Water Season”: They’ve Looked Better — @ADWR #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Silt walls in upper Lake Powell. Photo credit Brent Gardner-Smith @Aspen Journalism.

From the Arizona Department of Water Resources:

The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center has released its August- projections for unregulated runoff into Lake Powell for Water Year 2019, and, in keeping with recent drought-inspired trends, the outlook isn’t pretty.

The Forecast Center — which provides Colorado River data to the federal Bureau of Reclamation for its crucial August 24-Month Study — foresees an inflow of 8.1 million acre-feet of runoff into Lake Powell. If accurate, that “most probable” inflow represents about 75 percent of the 30-year average of inflow into the great Colorado River system reservoir.

That estimate of 8.1 million acre-feet is down 100,000 acre-feet from the Center’s estimate of a month ago when its modeling projected 8.2 million acre-feet.

The skill level on such longer-range projections is generally low, given the lengthy time period involved and the wide number of variables.

Not the least of those variables is the uncertainty of the region’s upcoming snowpack-season and resulting runoff. The Forecast Center attempts to incorporate a range of possibilities for the coming season’s climatic conditions.

Predictably, snowpack is a big factor in those range of possibilities. But soil-moisture conditions also factor in heavily. And, soil-moisture conditions going into the approaching snowpack season are expected to be drier than normal.

In addition to its “most probable” projection, the Center’s modeling projects a “minimum probable” inflow of 4.8 million acre-feet (44 percent of average), and a “maximum probable” projection of 15.6 million acre-feet (144 percent of average).

A Water Year runs from October 1 of each year to September 31 of the following year.

The unregulated runoff modeling projections come on the eve of the Bureau of Reclamation’s much-anticipated August 2018 24-Month Study.

The August projections are used by the Bureau and the Lower Basin States, among other things, to determine whether Lake Mead may fall to levels that could trigger a shortage declaration.

Last month’s 24-Month Study projected Lake Mead’s end-of-2018 elevation to be just above 1,077 feet. While the troubled reservoir’s water levels have inched downward toward the shortage-triggering level – that being an elevation below 1,075 feet – previous modeling results indicate that Lake Mead should remain above that critical level for Water Year 2019.

The modeling, which employs simulations using the Colorado River Simulation System, or CRSS, is updated and maintained on a continuous basis by the Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper and Lower Colorado Regions.

Conservation efforts have had a great impact on keeping Lake Mead from falling into a “Tier 1” shortage.

In 2017 alone, over seven feet of elevation was added to bolster Lake Mead by its water suppliers and users in the Lower Basin States.

Navajo farmers and ranchers file civil suit against @EPA and 8 private entities over #GoldKingMine spill #AnimasRiver

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

From The Farmington Daily Times (Noel Lyn Smith):

The civil complaint states that plaintiffs in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado were forced to stop using water from the San Juan River for crop irrigation, livestock watering and household purposes due to contamination from mine waste released on Aug. 5, 2015.

Group members claim crop harvests were lost due to the lack of irrigation and that livestock were unable to graze or drink water from the river. In addition, several ranchers sold livestock at a reduced price due to a decline in the animals’ quality.

The 114-page complaint was filed Aug. 3 in U.S. District Court of New Mexico. It seeks approximately $75 million in damages.

Along with the federal agency, the complaint lists as defendants Environmental Restoration LLC, Kinross Gold Corp., Kinross Gold USA Inc., Sunnyside Gold Corp., Gold King Mines Corp., Weston Solutions Inc., Salem Minerals Inc. and San Juan Corp., which the document describes as either EPA contractors or mine owners…

Kate Ferlic, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a press release today that farmers and ranchers used various resources to try to save their crops and livestock, but to no avail.

“They trucked in water, they hand-carried gallons of water down long dirt roads, some even tried to use their tap water. The spill was a very real crisis for the Navajo people,” Ferlic said.

She added that while each of the 295 plaintiffs filed administrative claims with the EPA, the agency still has not acted on those requests…

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and tribal council Speaker LoRenzo Bates weighed in on the litigation in the press release.

Begaye said the spill was a disaster for the tribe and tribal members.

“The San Juan River has enormous cultural and spiritual significance for our nation in addition to its practical and economic importance. It is our lifeblood. Most of the farmers and ranchers have lived and farmed on these lands for generations,” the president said.

Bates said the spill resulted in farmers being unable to irrigate crops, causing a loss of the harvest, which is the sole source of income for many people.

While some farmers could save their crops by using other sources of water, a stigma developed about water contamination and crops grown in the area, resulting in people not purchasing produce from farmers, he added.

“Our people endured clear and significant losses, and I look forward to the court doing them justice by ordering the EPA and the other responsible parties to pay up for those losses,” Bates said.

Low water affecting rafting businesses

From KRDO (Dan Beedle):

Rafting experts in Fremont County along the Arkansas River say low waters haven’t hampered business, but the rafting experience has changed, especially when compared to past years.

Water levels on the Arkansas have been high the past three rafting seasons. Despite the lower waters, business remains steady.

“Our revenue numbers are about exactly the same that they were last year,” said Whitewater Adventure Outfitters Owner Tony Keenan. “[The low water level] affects business in some ways. I think the biggest effect is we had fewer people from the Front Range this year because they are a little more knowledgeable of snowpack numbers.”

The low waters are noticeable, and some of the guides say more boats are likely to tip over with shallower waters.

Many state agencies have taken notice, and have taken action.

Kennan says the state will add 10,000 acre-feet of water to the river during the summer months to help the rafting business. However, this past summer, various state agencies have added roughly an additional 16,000 acre-feet. Just last Tuesday, Colorado Springs Utilities donated 1,000 acre-feet to keep the waters higher through August.

The increase in water also helps keep the flow of the river moving at an acceptable rate for rafting. Officials say it’s been a struggle to keep the river at about 550 cubic feet per second; the preferred flow is about 750 CFS.

“Cooperation has been extraordinary this year to keep flows at a reasonable recreational experience and at a level that is manageable for our guides to get down river,” said Keenan.

From The Washington Post via The Denver Post:

The extremes of temperature and precipitation – too much of one, too little of the other – have grounded rafting companies in places that usually offer white-knuckle rides. With water barely lapping over jagged rocks, some outfitters have moved operations to rivers fed by reservoirs higher up in the parched Rockies.

“Boats can get piled up and people can get hurt if they flip, and guides were having to use their backs to pull the rafts off of rocks,” said Alan Blado, owner of Liquid Descent Rafting, which is based about 40 miles west of downtown Denver. “We didn’t want them to get injured.”

Blado hung on there until his usual run, Clear Creek, was just too low. He relocated his school buses and bright blue rafts to the small Rocky Mountain town of Kremmling and now is trying to salvage the late season by persuading clients to drive the extra 72 miles to float a wide blue-green stretch of the Upper Colorado.

“With Clear Creek being cut short, everybody pretty much takes a pay cut,” Blado said.

This state boasts more headwaters than almost any in the country. Heart-stopping rapids, smooth tributaries and deep holes on the Colorado, Arkansas and the Animas rivers, among others, draw outdoors enthusiasts from around the world.

Last year, thanks to the winter’s heavy snows, outfitters served a record number of visitors. Conditions this year are far different – and far more in line with the pattern of recent decades. Since the late 1990s, three intense droughts have buffeted the state’s $193-million rafting industry.

Summer 2018 followed a rough winter in which some areas received 30 percent of what once was typical snowpack. A warm spring thawed drifts early, causing rivers to peak in May, weeks before the busy summer season. Severe to exceptional drought now covers two-thirds of Colorado, and some of the worst wildfires in state history have broken out.

“Not just in Colorado, but U.S. wide and globally, we’re seeing this disturbing warming trend that is amplifying over the last few decades going back to late 1960s,” said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “It brings a lot more evaporation and makes semiarid areas like Colorado prone to quick-hitting droughts.”

Happy 150th to The Pueblo Chieftain

Kit Carson by Mathew Brady or Levin C. Handy – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division via Wikipedia.


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

In its very first issue on June 1, 1868, The Colorado Chieftain reported that legendary frontiersman Kit Carson had died, and it promised Pueblo readers it would support “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Colorado Territory…

This year marks the 150th anniversary of The Pueblo Chieftain, the oldest daily newspaper in Colorado.

It was born in the horse-and-wagon days of hand-pressed pages, grew through the “hot-lead” era of galleys and “hellboxes” for remelting type, and continues today in crisp, full-color pages and the online world of the internet.

Throughout, the Chieftain and its earlier sister paper, the afternoon Pueblo Star-Journal, chronicled the changing life of Southern Colorado, its heartaches and successes.

From the bitter labor wars in the Colorado coal fields to sending Pueblo boys off to fight World Wars I and II, The Chieftain’s been there. Its pages reflected the booming days of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Co. and also chronicled the harsh downsizing of the U.S. steel industry in the 1980s.

It’s been a voice for economic development and recovery — helping to establish the Pueblo Economic Development Corp. — as well as a defender of the region’s natural resources, especially the vital water supply in the Arkansas River…

Bob Rawlings

Starting in the late 1990s, Robert Rawlings became very concerned with how Denver, Aurora and other Front Range cities were acquiring water rights in rural areas, including along the Arkansas River.

At his direction, The Chieftain became a loud opponent of water sales out of the Arkansas valley, warning that would kill the region’s ranches, farms and businesses.

In fact, it became political scripture in Colorado for governors, senators, congressmen and the rest. If they wanted The Chieftain’s support, they’d better be ready to explain how they were protecting Southern Colorado’s water.