Water Information Program: Water 101 & 201 Seminars in Nucla, September 18 & 19, 2018

The Hanging Flume back in the day

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Please join us for this very informative annual Water 101 and 201 Seminar, taking place this year at the First Park Community Center in Nucla, CO. on September 18 & 19, 2018.

Sponsored by the Water Information Program and Tri‑State Generation and Transmission.

Topics include Colorado water law, drought contingency planning, stream management planning, state and local water agency perspectives, water rights, administration, and development. The Water 201 will review more advanced water concepts, issues, and topics. This event is open to everyone.

#Drought news: #YampaRiver is closed again through Steamboat Springs

From Colorado Public Radio (Natalia V. Navarro):

The Yampa River in northwestern Colorado has closed again. Ongoing drought has drastically reduced water levels.

Colorado Park and Wildlife instituted restrictions on commercial and public activity on the Yampa River this week. An earlier closure ended just 10 days previously.

Commercial tubing companies have been instructed to suspend operations. Officials are requesting that public river users, including tubers, swimmers and anglers, adhere to the “voluntary closure” and stay out of the river.

West Drought Monitor August 28, 2018.

#RiseForClimate: September 8, 2018 #ActOnClimate

Chela is a Nairobi based visual artist who specializes in graffiti and fine art. Chela has gained extensive experience experimenting on the streets of Nairobi. Chela has managed to successfully train some young people on how to use art as a tool for social change. Graphic via: RiseForClimate.org

From RiseForClimate.org:

Artists from six continents have made artworks that people can use to #RiseforClimate. They included the Rise unifying symbols of an orange Cross for what we need to put a stop to, and a Sun for the solutions we need. You can use images from other continents, showing how truly global the movement is.

People are rising up around the world on September 8th to demand real climate leadership from every level of government. Together, we’ll show that people everywhere are committed to a just transition away from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy for all.

To find an event, click here.

Coyote Gulch will be attending the event here.

“You have to do what is right for the health of rivers. That’s part of the health of the city” — Patrick Riley #Denver

Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin)
Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Old Denver pulsed with H2O, water that snaked through the creeks and irrigation canals crisscrossing Colorado’s high prairie before 150 years of urban development buried most of them or forced them into pipes.

New Denver wants those waterways back.

City leaders are ramping up what they describe as a massive, restorative “daylighting” of buried water channels wherever possible — cutting through pavement and re-engineering old streams and canals to create up to 20 miles of naturalistic riparian corridors. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been committed. Eventual costs are expected to top $1 billion over several decades. This work reflects increased interest worldwide in harnessing water and natural processes to make cities more livable.

Starting in 1858 with the discovery of gold in Colorado’s mountains, Denver developers focused on filling in creeks to make way for the construction of railroads, streets, smelters and housing — all laid out across a grid imposed on the natural landscape. The 184-page Green Infrastructure Implementation Strategy that Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration issued this summer reverses that approach with an inventory of high-priority projects aimed at — to the extent that booming growth and development will allow — reopening and revitalizing waterways.

“It is like undoing history,” project manager Patrick Riley said last week along a newly formed 1,000-foot stretch of Montclair Creek — already attracting geese as big trucks beeped and contractors in neon green vests re-contoured the urban terrain.

The Montclair Creek project marks Denver’s most ambitious and controversial daylighting so far, a $298 million revival of a waterway that flows 9 miles from high ground at Fairmount Cemetery (elevation 5,485 feet) under the north half of the city. Work crews are excavating and rerouting water, digging holes for ponds, and planting native grasses and perennials in four areas: the 130-acre City Park Golf Course, the Park Hill Golf Course, a 1.2-mile greenway along 39th Avenue, and a landscaped “outfall” through a 5-acre Globeville Landing park near the South Platte River (elevation 5,274 feet) west of the Denver Coliseum.

City engineers say that, by reconstructing the urban landscape where possible, they’ll slow down water, filter it through vegetation to remove contaminants, control storm runoff and nourish greenery to help residents endure the climate shift toward droughts and rising temperatures…

While a lack of open land and neighborhood resistance can limit daylighting of long-squelched creeks and canals, increasing volumes of storm runoff — the result of the paving of more and more of the city — require action.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has supported daylighting, recognizing that pipes and concrete channels typically can’t handle surges the way natural creeks and floodplains once did before development…

Other projects in the works:

— Re-exposing a southern branch of Montclair Creek that flows under an area extending from City Park across Colorado Boulevard and eastward along Hale Parkway.

— A $77 million removal of concrete and widening of the Weir Gulch that runs through southwestern Denver from South Sheridan Boulevard to the South Platte River.

— A $26 million revitalization of Harvard Gulch in south-central Denver.

— The $249 million enhancement of the South Platte, reshaping and widening river banks between Sixth and 58th avenues, to create an ecosystem healthy enough for trout to reproduce through Denver.

— Converting portions of the 71-mile High Line Canal irrigation system, built in 1883 and owned by Denver Water, into a greenway and refuge.

— Other waterway projects that city officials are discussing involve naturalistic re-engineering of concrete trapezoidal channels in Montbello, flood-prone gullies in Globeville, the southwestern Sanderson Gulch, and buried channels citywide where alluvial sediment indicates creeks once flowed before settlers arrived.

Denver innovations include installing an ultraviolet water-cleaning station at the Montclair Creek outfall to boost natural processes in zapping chemical contaminants, an expanding array from antibiotics to antidepressants, before water reaches the South Platte.

Along Brighton Boulevard north of downtown, city crews also built 56 cement boxes, designed to hold native grasses and flowers in a replaceable soil mix that includes ground-up newspaper, to filter runoff water so that less pollution reaches the South Platte…

Dealing with floods by trying to funnel more and more runoff into culverts and pipelines has become increasingly costly and ineffective, city officials said. A recent city study estimated that dealing with worsening storms by installing more pipelines would cost taxpayers $1.4 billion.

But it’s unclear whether a new approach of embracing waterways will be cheaper in the long run.

As work crews neared completion of the Montclair Creek outfall by the South Platte, project manager Riley said recreational benefits and a need for places “where water could percolate out naturally” — rather than costs — are driving this push that has unified support from city leaders.

“You have to do what is right for the health of rivers. That’s part of the health of the city,” Riley said. “You are going to see a return to natural processes.”

#California Court Finds #PublicTrustDoctrine Applies to State Groundwater Resources

Groundwater movement via the USGS

From Legal Planet (Richard Frank):

The California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District has issued an important decision declaring that California’s powerful public trust doctrine applies to at least some of the state’s overtaxed groundwater resources. The court’s opinion also rejects the argument that California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) displaces the public trust doctrine’s applicability to groundwater resources.

The Court of Appeal’s opinion in Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board decides two key issues of first impression for California water law: first, whether the public trust doctrine applies to California’s groundwater resources; and, second, if it does, if application of that doctrine has been displaced and superseded by the California Legislature’s 2014 enactment of SGMA. A unanimous appellate panel answered the first question in the affirmative, the second in the negative.

The facts of the Environmental Law Foundation are straightforward and undisputed: the Scott River is a tributary of the Klamath River and itself a navigable waterway located in the northwestern corner of California. The Scott River has historically been used by the public for recreational navigation and serves as essential habitat for migrating salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Critically, there are groundwater aquifers adjacent to the Scott River in Siskiyou County that are hydrologically connected to the surface flows of the Scott River. Local farmers and ranchers in recent years have drilled numerous groundwater wells and pumped ever-increasing amounts of groundwater from those aquifers. As a direct result, the surface flows of the Scott River have been reduced, at times dramatically. Indeed, in the summer and early fall months, the Scott River has in some years been completely dewatered due to the nearby groundwater pumping. The adverse effects on both the Scott River’s salmon fishery and recreational use of the river have been devastating.

Environmental groups and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, relying on California’s venerable public trust doctrine, initially responded to this environmental crisis by petitioning Siskiyou County and the State Water Resources Control Board to take administrative action to limit groundwater pumping in the Scott River watershed. Both the Board and the County declined to do so.

Plaintiffs responded by filing suit, arguing that groundwater resources that are interconnected with the surface water flows of the Scott River are subject to and protected by the state’s public trust doctrine. Siskiyou County disputed that claim, arguing that the public trust doctrine is wholly inapplicable to groundwater and that the country has no duty to limit groundwater pumping, even in the face of the resulting environmental damage to the Scott River ecosystem. (The Board, by contrast, eventually reconsidered its position, ultimately adopting plaintiffs’ view that groundwater resources interconnected with surface water flows are indeed subject to the public trust doctrine.)

The trial court concluded that the public trust doctrine does apply to the groundwater resources of the Scott River region. While the litigation was pending there, however, the California Legislature enacted SGMA, which for the first time creates a statewide system of groundwater management in California, administered at the regional level. Siskiyou County seized upon that legislation to argue that even if the public trust doctrine would otherwise apply to the County’s groundwater resources, the doctrine was automatically displaced and made inapplicable to groundwater as a result of SGMA’s allegedly “comprehensive” statutory scheme. The trial court rejected this backstop argument as well, and the County appealed.

The Court of Appeal’s decision today resoundingly affirms the trial court on both issues. On the threshold public trust claim, the justices rely heavily on the California Supreme Court’s landmark public trust decision, National Audubon Society v. Superior Court. In National Audubon, the Supreme Court held that the public trust doctrine, a foundational principle of California natural resources law, fully applies to the state’s complex water rights system. Specifically, National Audubon found that the City of Los Angeles’ diversion of water from the non-navigable, freshwater streams flowing into Mono Lake, which were reducing the lake level and causing environmental damage to the lake ecosystem, could be limited by state water regulators under the public trust doctrine.

The court in the Environmental Law Foundation concluded that the rationale and holding of National Audubon are fully applicable to the facts of the Scott River case. Rejecting the County’s argument that extractions of groundwater should be treated differently from the diversions of surface water that were found in National Audubon to be causing environmental damage to Mono Lake, the Court of Appeal declares:

“The County’s squabble over the distinction between diversion and extraction is…irrelevant. The analysis begins and ends with whether the challenged activity harms a navigable waterway and thereby violates the public trust.”

Accordingly, the Environmental Law Foundation court concludes that the public trust doctrine fully applies to extractions of groundwater that adversely affect navigable waterways such as the Scott River.

Budget change threatens future of #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Glen Canyon Dam

From The Arizona Daily Sun (Scott Buffon):

The Bureau of Reclamation’s $23 million budget will be transferred to the United States Treasury next fiscal year, impacting the continued health of the Colorado River and the many entities that depend on it.

The funds originally come from the power revenue created by the Glen Canyon Dam, which was then retooled by the bureau to ensure the safety of the water downstream. Without funding, the water, aquatic life and archaeological sites in the Colorado River area will be left unprotected and unmonitored. This change could affect Native American tribes including Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi and Navajo, seven states of the Colorado River Basin and two states in Mexico — all places that the river runs through.

The Office of Management and Budget initiated the movement of funds from the bureau to the treasury.

In the meantime, the bureau is examining options to support their projects until a permanent solution is found.

“Reclamation is not going to walk away from these programs,” said Marlon Duke, spokesperson for the Bureau’s Upper Basin Region. “We’re working with our stakeholders and our partners to find ways to continue to do the work to find a more permanent solution.”

According to the Bureau, the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992 originally diverted the $23 million from the treasury to the Glen Canyon Dam. In diverting the money, the dam was intended to “protect, mitigate adverse impacts to and improve the values for which Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area were established.”

#Drought news: Dillon reservoir is dropping ~1 inch/day

Dillon Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

From TheDenverChannel.com (Liz Gelardi):

Staff at Frisco Bay Marina are trying to keep up with water levels that are dropping about one inch per day.

“And so an inch a day going down means the water line is moving 10 feet out every day, so we have to keep chasing it and moving the docks, which is definitely a lot of work,” said Tom Hogeman, the marina’s general manager…

Hogeman said he hasn’t seen the water this low since 2012 and it will only continue to go down as we head into the fall. The marina is typically open for rentals through mid-October but this year the season could end early.

Mandatory watering restrictions in Grand Junction #drought #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Grand Junction back in the day

From the City of Grand Junction via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The perhaps unprecedented mandatory outdoor water use restrictions, announced by the city of Grand Junction in August for all of the city’s domestic water customers, go into effect [Septmeber 1, 2018].

Starting today, Grand Junction residents can only water twice a week. Beginning in October, the restrictions are tightened to just once a week.

City officials have dubbed the water program 3-2-1 to help residents remember to scale back the weekly days of water usage as the year unfolds.

“Don’t forget to re-program your sprinkler timer,” the city advised in a reminder on Friday.

The restrictions on the city’s 9,700 domestic water customers apply only to outdoor watering. Indoor water use is not restricted. Residents can choose which days of the week to water outdoors.

Despite Grand Junction’s decision, other water providers including the Ute Water Conservancy District, the town of Palisade and the Clifton Water District have not followed suit. Officials with those agencies did express their support for Grand Junction’s decision, announced Aug. 21.

Low reservoir water levels, extreme drought and extended hot weather conditions, combined with less monsoonal wet weather usually seen this summer contributed to Grand Junction’s decision to call for mandatory water restrictions, city officials said at the time.

Grand Junction and other Grand Valley water providers called for voluntary water restrictions in early May.

Grand Junction officials cannot enforce mandatory water restrictions, but may intervene in “egregious” situations, officials said.

The city is hoping to avoid drought water pricing, which charges a premium for water use above certain levels.

Grand Junction, like other local water providers except the Clifton Water District, obtains its water from Grand Mesa. Grand Junction receives most of its water from Kannah Creek, which typically runs at 60 cubic feet per second. The creek now is running at just a fraction of that.