Governor Polis Announces Water Appointments

Aspen trees in autumn. Photo: Bob West via the Colorado State Forest Service.

From email from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources:

Governor Polis has announced three new board appointments to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

· Gail Schwartz of Basalt, Colorado, representing the Colorado River basin
· Jackie Brown of Oak Creek, Colorado, representing the Yampa-White River basin
· Jessica Brody of Denver, Colorado, representing the City and County of Denver

In addition, the Governor appointed Russ George as the Director of the Inter-Basin Compact Committee in addition to five gubernatorial appointees.

· Aaron Citron
· Mely Whiting
· Robert Sakata
· Patrick Wells
· Paul Bruchez

“I’m excited to work with these appointments,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources. “Their collective experience is unmatched.”

Gail Schwartz has spent over two decades serving Colorado in both appointed and elected office. Jackie Brown brings a diverse background in natural resources and is a leader in the water community as the current Chair of the Yampa-White-Green basin roundtable. Finally, as General Counsel for Denver Water and formerly with the Denver City Attorney’s Office, Jessica Brody brings both municipal and environmental law experience.

“I’m looking forward to working with the newly appointed board and IBCC members to continue implementing Colorado’s Water Plan. They bring valued expertise and leadership to the water community,” said Rebecca Mitchell, Director of the CWCB. “We sincerely thank the outgoing Board members and IBCC appointments for their service. Their dedication has been instrumental on numerous policy and planning efforts, including bringing a diversity of perspectives to Colorado’s Water Plan.”

Russ George is a fourth generation native of the Rifle, Colorado area and brings a depth of state government and public service. Russ was instrumental in creating the IBCC and basin roundtables.

“As the first champion of the IBCC and roundtable process, there’s no one better equipped to lead the IBCC. We’re embarking on a future of great opportunity in water, and Russ is the perfect choice to navigate the times ahead,” said Gibbs.

@COParksWildlife: Colorado and Kansas resolve 40-year deadline with the signing of a historic agreement to provide a new source of water in John Martin Reservoir

This view is from the top of John Martin Dam facing west over the body of the reservoir. The content of the reservoir in this picture was approximately 45,000 acre-feet (March 2014). By Jaywm – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37682336

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Bill Vogrin):

Colorado and Kansas sign historic agreement for a permanent water supply at CPW’s John Martin Reservoir State Park

A 40-year deadlock between Colorado and Kansas has been resolved with the signing of a historic agreement that will provide a new source of water for a permanent fish and wildlife conservation pool in John Martin Reservoir.

The long-sought compromise between members of the Colorado-Kansas Arkansas River Compact Administration will allow the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association (LAWMA) to transfer water from the Highland Canal on the Purgatoire River in Bent County into John Martin Reservoir on behalf of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to maintain a permanent pool for fishery and recreation purposes.

The permanent agreement, approved by the Compact Administration on Feb. 14, began as a one-year pilot program in 2017 when CPW was allowed to run 6,000 acre feet into the reservoir. The newly approved agreement will allow water to be delivered each year from the Highland Canal from March 1 through Nov. 15.

The agreement is the culmination of decades of negotiations between a variety of agencies including CPW, the Colorado Division of Water Resources, the Kansas Division of Water Resources, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, LAWMA and the Attorney General’s office. It was brought to fruition through extensive collaboration between the State Engineers of Colorado and Kansas.

“CPW has worked for the past 40 years to get a new source of water approved by the Compact Administration,” said Dan Prenzlow, CPW’s Southeast Regional manager who directed the breakthrough negotiations together with Deputy Regional Manager Brett Ackerman. “John Martin Reservoir is a multimillion-dollar fishery and source of water recreation, camping, hiking and wildlife watching.”

In fact, visitors to John Martin spend an estimated $8.7 million a year in local businesses, making John Martin an important economic engine in the region.

“But it has constantly been in flux and at risk,” Prenzlow said. “This agreement will stabilize the valuable fishery and recreational facilities at John Martin Reservoir State Park and State Wildlife Area.”

Prenzlow listed several significant benefits to the new agreement, including:

  • Reducing the hundreds of thousands of dollars CPW has spent leasing Colorado River water to fill the conservation pool in previous years.
  • Lowering the risk of fish loss, saving CPW approximately $165,000 annually in restocking costs when the fishery is damaged.
  • Providing more consistent boating recreation, especially in drought years.
  • Prenzlow noted that visitation at John Martin drops as dramatically as the water levels fluctuate at the reservoir, which was built as a flood-control structure and completed in 1948. In wet years, the waters of John Martin can spread out to 11,000 surface acres. But in drought years, it’s not uncommon for surface acres to plunge to just 1,000. That was the case during extreme drought years of 2011-15.

    “We are proud to achieve this agreement because we know the importance of a healthy John Martin Reservoir to Colorado anglers, boaters and surrounding communities,” Prenzlow said. “A consistent flow of water into John Martin will keep the boat ramps at John Martin wet and that will mean a consistent source of recreation for boaters, anglers, water skiers and campers in the park and region.”

    Colorado health officials, utilities hit pause, again, on high-stakes lead lawsuit — @WaterEdCO

    Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    State health officials and Colorado’s largest water utilities have agreed for a second time to hit pause on a major lawsuit over how to keep lead out of Denver’s drinking water, citing progress in talks that began last fall.

    “The main point is that everyone has rolled up their sleeves and is working hard to come up with the best solution that we can that minimizes the lead that folks will be ingesting in their tap water,” said Ron Falco, safe drinking water program manager at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    Last April, the City of Aurora, the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, and the Denver Greenway Foundation sued the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to block an order it issued directing Denver Water to install a phosphate-based treatment system to reduce corrosion in old lead pipes. That corrosion can put lead into drinking water in homes and businesses served by lead supply lines and in-house fixtures. Denver Water joined the suit weeks later.

    Avoiding lead contamination in drinking water is of paramount importance for water providers and state health officials, as no level is considered safe to ingest. But heightened levels of phosphates in wastewater and irrigation runoff create issues for reservoirs, lakes and streams. This prompted Metro Wastewater and other entities who must treat the phosphate-heavy water to sue, citing damage to the environment and dramatically higher treatment costs.

    Denver Water had proposed an alternative, after several years of pilot studies, to use chemicals that would adjust the PH levels of its drinking water, something which the CDPHE determined did not reduce lead corrosion enough to meet the federal standards it is required to uphold.

    Among the plaintiffs’ concerns is that phosphate levels in water that is discharged to the South Platte River have to be tightly controlled under provisions of the Clean Water Act. If phosphate levels in treated drinking water rise, wastewater treatment protocols would have to be changed to correct the problem, potentially costing millions of dollars, if not more, according to a report by the Denver-based, nonpartisan Water Research Foundation.

    From an environmental perspective, any increased phosphate in the South Platte River makes fighting such things as algae blooms, which are fueled by nutrients including phosphorous, much more difficult and could make the river less habitable for fish.

    Denver Water, and other plaintiffs, declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation. But in a statement, Denver Water Chief Executive Officer Jim Lochhead said, “We are committed to taking the right steps to reduce the risk of lead leaching into water through customers’ plumbing…As we are fully committed to protecting public health, we are also looking for opportunities to minimize downstream impacts from the use of orthophosphate.”

    After filing the suit, last summer the parties agreed to engage in talks, placing the lawsuit on hold, giving themselves until last November to agree on a set of treatment protocols.

    When that deadline passed, the utilities and the CDPHE requested more time to work, citing progress in the talks. In January, a Denver District Court judge agreed to give everyone until September 20, 2019 to find an acceptable solution.

    Under the CDPHE’s original order, Denver must begin using the new treatment protocol by March 20, 2020. To ensure it can meet that deadline, Denver Water is spending $1.2 million to upgrade its water treatment plants so they can implement the new treatment protocols.

    Denver is not in violation of the federal law that governs lead in drinking water, but it has been required to monitor and test its system regularly since 2012 after lead was discovered in a small sample of water at some of its customers’ taps.

    Lead has continued to appear at taps in some customers’ homes, according to court filings.

    Treating lead and copper in water systems is a complex undertaking governed by the federal Lead and Copper Rule. There is no lead in the water supply when it leaves Denver Water’s treatment plants. But it can leach into the supply via corrosion as water passes through lead delivery lines and pipes in older homes. Denver has 58,000 lead service lines in its system and is gradually replacing them. It also advises customers whose homes are serviced by lead lines to use filters to remove any potential contamination.

    It is the ongoing concerns about lead that have prompted the state to push for the phosphate treatment, because it reduces lead that reaches customers by 74 percent, compared to less than 50 percent using a PH-based process, according to court filings.

    Despite the environmental concerns, the CDPHE maintains that its first job is to protect the health of the thousands of children served by Denver Water in the metro area. Children are most vulnerable to lead contamination.

    Falco said he is optimistic that a solution can be found. New pilot studies underway indicate that Denver Water may be able to use roughly one-third the amount of phosphates originally thought were needed and still achieve the same level of lead reduction, CDPHE officials said.

    “We have a very engaged group of stakeholders working hard to develop the best solution. This this is going to come to a resolution, certainly by March of 2020. We are going to get there,” Falco said.

    Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

    @ColoradoClimate: Weekly #Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

    Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

    The U.S. House passes historic public lands bill 363-62, now on to the @POTUS’s desk and the appropriations fight #lwcf

    From the Associated Press (Matthew Brown) and Colorado Politics:

    A wide-ranging bill that revives a popular conservation program, adds 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, expands several national parks and creates five new national monuments has won congressional approval.

    The measure is the largest public lands bill approved by Congress in more than a decade. The House passed the bill Tuesday, 363-62, two weeks after it gained Senate approval, sending the measure to the White House for the president’s signature.

    The bill would permanently reauthorize the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the country. The program expired last fall after Congress could not agree on language to extend it. Both of Colorado’s senators — Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet — supported its renewal.

    The legislation combines more than 100 separate bills that designate more than 350 miles of river as wild and scenic and create nearly 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas. The bill also withdraws 370,000 acres in Montana and Washington state from mineral development.

    Among Colorado provisions in the measure are language calling for a study of designating the site of the Amache World War II internment camp for Japanese Americans as a national historic park, another study of adding the route of explorer Zebulon Pike (for whom Pikes Peak is named) to the national scenic trails system, the addition of 280 acres to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Teller County, and the addition of land to Arapaho National Forest…

    Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Denver-based conservation advocacy group Center for Western Priorities, hailed the measure’s passage.

    “Such overwhelming support in the House and Senate once again demonstrates that public lands conservation transcends partisan politics,” Rokala said. “This legislation establishes new wilderness areas, mineral withdrawals, National Park Service units, and national monuments, a welcome contrast to the energy-first and anti-conservation policies that have flooded out of the Interior Department over the last two years.

    She added: “Permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund will provide certainty for projects that protect and increase access to our national parks and public lands. It’s imperative that President Trump sign the legislation, then fully fund LWCF in his upcoming budget proposal.”

    The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife estimates the LWCF helped pay for $147 million in state projects and another $120 million for federal projects. The federal part of the Colorado funding was only $61 million. However, the federal funds acted as seed money to help the state secure additional financing from other public and private sources.

    Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the bill represents Congress at its best and “truly gives the American people something to be excited about.”

    Grijalva called the bill as “a massive win” for conservation across the United States.

    “Everyone from inner cities to suburbs to rural communities wins when we work together to preserve the outdoors,” he said…

    The hodgepodge bill offered something for nearly everyone, with projects stretching across the country…

    Environmental groups and lawmakers from both parties said they were especially proud the bill reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has supported more than 42,000 state and local projects throughout the U.S. since its creation in 1964. The program, one of the most popular and effective programs Congress has ever created, uses federal royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to fund conservation and recreation projects…

    “In an era when bipartisanship remains elusive, conservation is a rare issue that still brings Congress together,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. The bipartisan public lands package “represents a historic victory for our wildlife heritage and outdoor enthusiasts of every stripe,” he said.

    The bill creates three new national monuments to be administered by the National Park Service and two others overseen by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, respectively. The new monuments are the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in Mississippi; the Mill Springs and Camp Nelson national monuments in Kentucky; the former Saint Francis Dam site in Southern California; and the Jurassic National Monument in Utah.

    Paonia: “We realized we simply were using more water than we were able to produce based on the raw water supply” — Town Administrator Ken Knight

    Paonia. Photo credit: Allen Best

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    The town of Paonia was forced Tuesday to cut off water to about a third of its users in the second phase of a water emergency that began when it issued a boil order last week due to leaks and resulting low pressure.

    Although the town believes it has fixed the leak problem, it’s now struggling to build back up storage in its main, 2 million gallon tank because its spring-fed water supply was diminished by last year’s drought.

    Town Administrator Ken Knight said the town’s springs are producing about a quarter of what they currently do this time of year, and the water tank had only about a foot or foot-and-a-half of water left as of Tuesday morning.

    “We realized we simply were using more water than we were able to produce based on the raw water supply,” he said.

    The town decided to cut off service to 27 water companies it serves, and continue to supply areas that include downtown businesses, school facilities, and an urgent care center and nursing home. The town is providing bottled water, and the National Park Service also has loaned a potable water truck from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park to give people drinking water. Delta County also is providing a truck that supplies raw water for uses such as flushing toilets and other nonconsumptive uses, Knight said.

    The town’s water problems began early last week due to two major water leaks Knight said weren’t immediately noticeable because the leaked water ran underground to the nearby North Fork of the Gunnison River, rather than surfacing on streets as leaks typically do. Knight suspects at least one leak, which occurred in the area of a fire hydrant, was caused by the freeze-thaw cycles this time of year, but he said the cause isn’t yet known.

    Due to low pressure and the potential for backwash in the system, the town had a state-mandated boil-water order in place from Monday through Friday of last week.

    Service was back to normal over the weekend, but then the issue with the low spring water supply surfaced.

    Knight said the problem is that last year’s low snowpack was compounded by a lack of rain later in the year, so heading into winter the springs never had the chance to recharge…

    The water system serves about 1,800 people. Knight said it could be 24 to 48 hours before water service is restored to those who have been cut off, but that’s an educated guess and the town should know more this morning.

    Once service is restored, a boil order will be in place for a while for those currently not getting water until tests of the restored water supply are completed. Knight said Mesa County health officials provide that testing and have been doing so in a timely manner amidst the current crisis. He credited Mesa County’s health and emergency management officials along with the Park Service, Delta County, state officials and others for their assistance to the town, and also praised town residents for their patience and understanding.