Gib Hazard retires after 31 years on Southeastern #Colorado Water Conservancy District Board

Bill Long with Gib Hazard. Photo credit: Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

The second-longest serving director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board, Gibson Hazard Jr., retired [April 18, 2019] after 31 years of service.

Gibson Hazard Jr., of Colorado Springs, joined the board on April 21, 1988. At his last meeting, fellow board members gave him a rousing send off.

“To put that in perspective, Ronald Reagan was president when you joined the board and gas was 98 cents,” quipped Bill Long, district president. “Since the district was formed (in 1958), we’ve had 72 board members and Gib has served with 47, which is quite an accomplishment. This includes our longest serving board member, (the late) Frank Milenski.”

Hazard served as secretary of the board, and represented El Paso County.

“You worked for the good of the district, which was always important,” Long told Hazard.

Hazard was raised on a ranch in southern Arizona, and graduated from Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He was a founding member of the Colorado Water Protective and Development Association, which is now the largest water augmentation group in the Arkansas Valley.

Hazard also served as manager of the 5,000-acre King-Barrett Ranch and Farm operation in Crowley County before it was sold to the Foxley Cattle Co.

The District presented Hazard an Excellence of Service award.

El Paso County has five members on the 15-member board. Members are appointed by district judges.

“We want to understand the impacts of retreating glaciers, degradation of permafrost and changes in snowpack” — Heidi Steltzer

San Juan wildflowers.

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

Heidi Steltzer, an associate professor of biology at FLC, said the study is headed by the International Panel on Climate Change, an intergovernmental arm of the UN that assesses the risks and impacts of climate change around the world and possible response actions.

“We want to understand the impacts of retreating glaciers, degradation of permafrost and changes in snowpack,” she said. “It’s pretty significant in any ecosystem to be snow-covered or not snow-covered, and we want to attribute changes in the mountains directly to those three things.”

For this report, there was no on-the-ground research, Steltzer said. Instead, statements and conclusions have to be supported by a peer review scientific publication from the past five years. She has enlisted the help of two FLC students in gathering all the information.

“Ultimately, the goal is to find as many papers as possible that are review articles that show a pattern,” she said. “So we can show it’s not just happening in one mountain region. It’s happening in many.”

Steltzer has been a mountain scientist since 1994. She earned her Bachelor of Science in biology at Duke University and a doctorate in ecosystem ecology from the University of Colorado-Boulder. She joined the FLC faculty in 2009 and has led field studies in Colorado, Greenland and Alaska.

She said living in the San Juan Mountains and being able to study the environment firsthand has helped her understanding of climate change’s impact on the ecosystem.

“We grow our intuition in science by living where we do our research,” she said.

Across Colorado, snowpack has declined 20% to 60% since the 1950s, according to the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, with the snow season now 34 days shorter than historic norms…

Just last summer, during the extreme drought in Southwest Colorado, Steltzer went out to see how the absence of snowpack affects wildflowers. By early July, most flowers had already bloomed, she said, and were past their peak far too early.

#Drought news: D1 (Moderate Drought) erased from most of #Colorado but is still hanging on along the #NewMexico border, one category improvements across most of #NM

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

A series of storm systems moved quickly across the lower 48 States until reaching the East Coast as a strong ridge of high pressure over the western Atlantic Ocean blocked their eastward progression. Due in part to this slowdown, severe weather and heavy rainfall occurred in portions of the southern Great Plains, lower Mississippi Valley, Southeast, and mid-Atlantic during April 17-19. Moderate to heavy precipitation (1.5-4 inches) also occurred over the western Great Lakes region, Tennessee and central Ohio Valleys, parts of New England, and northwestern Washington. Light to moderate precipitation (0.5-2 inches) was widespread in the Northwest, eastern Great Basin, northern and southern thirds of the Rockies, northern Plains, and the eastern third of the Nation. Only portions of the Southwest, central Rockies and Plains, and western Corn Belt saw little or no precipitation. Weekly temperatures averaged above-normal for much of the contiguous U.S., except for subnormal readings across the Southeast and western and southern Alaska. Light to moderate precipitation along the southern and southeastern Alaskan Coast and light showers on the windward side of the Hawaiian Islands maintained conditions in both states. Changes were made in Puerto Rico as spotty heavy showers provided some relief to short-term D0 and D1 areas, but where the rains missed, some deterioration occurred.

With near- to record wetness in many parts of the country this winter and in 2018, the April 16 USDM had the lowest percent of area in drought (D1-D4) for the lower 48 States (3.73%) and all 50 States (3.78%) since the inception of the U.S. Drought Monitor in 2000, surpassing the previous low drought standard of May 23, 2017. In fact, no dryness/drought (D0-D4) in both the lower 48 (85.88%) and all 50 States (87.06%) also set record low values last week. With more wet weather over D0-D2 areas this week, new USDM record lows will most-likely be set…

High Plains

A fairly large area of light to moderate precipitation (0.5-1.5 inches) was observed across most of Montana, southern North Dakota, western and southeastern South Dakota, Wyoming, and western and northeastern Nebraska. Southern Kansas also received some decent rains (0.5-2.5 inches), as did southern Colorado (0.5-1.5 inches). The precipitation in Colorado was enough to improve D1 to D0 (see West summary with respect to New Mexico). In southwestern Wyoming, the additional precipitation boosted WYTD average basin precipitation and SWE to 112% and 123%, respectively, thus D1 and D0 was shrunk. In northern Wyoming, 0.5-1.5 inches of precipitation was enough to create WYTD and YTD surpluses near the northern and southern D0 edges, thus erasing some of the D0. However, the D1 in the Bighorn Mountains remained intact as both WYTD basin average precipitation and SWE still stayed around 75% of normal. In contrast, extreme northern Montana and North Dakota have missed out on the precipitation, and at 60-days, only 25-50% of normal precipitation has fallen, leading to deficits of 0.5-1.5 inches. In addition, a rapid snow melt during mid-March left much of the water to run off instead of percolating into the still frozen subsoil, thus D0(S) was added. Longer time periods were wet, but since this is the start of the wet season, it is critical that timely and adequate rains fall during the next few months for agricultural interests. Short-term (2-3 months) deficits in central Kansas were also accumulating, but large longer-term surpluses have kept D0 from developing so far…

West

Additional Pacific moisture spread across the Northwest, dropping light to moderate amounts (0.5-1.5 inches) on coastal Washington, the Cascades, northern Rockies, and the central Great Basin (eastern Nevada, western and northern Utah). As a result, some D0 was erased from central Oregon, northern Olympic Peninsula (Washington), and extreme northwestern Washington, while a bit of D1 (west edge) was improved in the extreme northern Cascades. From field reports of excessive moisture & standing water in northwestern and northeastern Utah (since station data can be scarce), D1 and D0 was improved by 1-category in the state and adjacent southwestern Wyoming. WYTD basin average precipitation and SWE are both well above normal as of April 23. Even New Mexico (and southern Colorado) received beneficial precipitation (0.5-2 inches) late in the period. For New Mexico, a reassessment was made based upon short-term (WYTD) wetness vs long-term (several years) drought, plus this week’s precipitation. With many SNOTEL WYTD basin average precipitation and SWE above normal, and most USGS stream flows at or above normal with good inflows into reservoirs, 1-cat improvements were made across most of the state, with the lone D2 area remaining in the northwest where ground observations confirmed worse conditions than the rest of the state. Although this WY has been quite favorable for New Mexico, multi-year strong summer monsoons and additional wet winters will be needed to make a full hydrologic recovery…

South

Two different storm systems brought welcome precipitation to the South. Early in the period, central and eastern Texas and the lower Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys received widespread moderate to heavy rains (1.5-3 inches, locally to 6 inches) that erased much of the short-term D1 and D0 in central Texas, eastern Louisiana, and southwestern Mississippi. The few areas that received less than an inch of rain, or where 60- to 90-day significant deficits still remained, were left unchanged. In contrast, parts of west-central Texas (Edwards Plateau) missed out on the rain, and some slight D1 and D0 expansion was made here, and additionally in northern Webb County. The second system which occurred late in the period dropped beneficial precipitation on the southern Rockies (New Mexico mountain snows) and south-central Plains (Texas Panhandle and west-central Oklahoma), easing dryness and drought there (see West for New Mexico). Some short-term (2-3 months) dryness was found in northern and central Oklahoma, but longer-term wetness has kept D0 development at bay so far. Elsewhere in the South, overall wet conditions prevailed…

Looking Ahead

During the next 5 days (April 25-29, 2019), two systems are expected to provide precipitation to the lower 48 States. One system will track from the southern Rockies northeastward into New England, bringing moderate to heavy rain(1-4 inches) and severe weather to the southern Plains, lower Mississippi, Tennessee, and Ohio Valleys, and Northeast, with another system moving southeastward out of southwest Canada across the northern Rockies and Plains, Midwest, and eastern Great Lakes region, dropping light to moderate totals (0.5-2 inches). Little or no precipitation is expected in the Far West, Southwest, south-central Plains, far upper Midwest, and along the southern Atlantic Coast. Temperatures should average below-normal across the northern third of the U.S., near normal in the Southeast, and above-normal in the Southwest.

The CPC 6-10 day extended range outlook (April 30-May 4, 2019) favors above-normal precipitation odds across much of the central U.S., from the Rockies eastward to the Appalachians, in western and northern Alaska, with subnormal totals likely along the West Coast and in southeastern Alaska, with near-normal chances elsewhere. Subnormal temperatures are likely in the North-Central States while chances of above-normal readings are favored in the Southeast and western Alaska.

Here’s the one week change map from the US Drought Monitor.

One week change map through April 23, 2019.

Photo gallery: Durango and Silverton railroad clears path for first ride May 4

Photo credit: http://riveroflostsouls.com

Ride along with Jonathan Romeo from The Durango Herald to see what the operators of the Durango narrow gauge railroad are working against to clear the route to Silverton. Here’s an excerpt:

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, with the help of Durango-based Bonds Construction, has cleared the 45-mile track from Durango to Silverton.

Bonds Construction posted to its Facebook page this week that crews plowed through 42 avalanche/slide areas over the course of 14 miles in the past few weeks. As a result, the tracks were cleared two weeks ahead of schedule…

The D&SNG’s route from Durango to Silverton doesn’t encounter true avalanche danger until it reaches Cascade Canyon, about 26 miles north of the train station in Durango. From there, north to Silverton, eight to 10 avalanche paths can reach the railroad tracks.

But this year, crews saw avalanche paths slide that had never been witnessed running before. One particular avalanche was near Needleton, which put 60 feet of debris on the tracks.

By all accounts, the D&SNG will be ready to make its first round-trip from Durango to Silverton on May 4.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife: Ribbon cutting at Watson Lake fish ladder rescheduled for May 1

Water courses through the new fish passage at Watson Lake State Wildlife Area. The passage allows fish to swim up and down the river past a diversion dam. Photo credit: Northern Water

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the completion of the fish ladder at Watson Lake has been rescheduled and will now take place on May 1 at 11 a.m.

It was originally set for April 12, but due to inclement weather during that week, was postponed.

Watson Lake is located in Bellvue, Colo., just west of Laporte, on Rist Canyon Road.

More Information:
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) along with funding partners noosa yoghurt, Northern Water, Morning Fresh Dairy, Poudre Heritage Alliance and Trout Unlimited will celebrate the completion of the fish ladder at Watson Lake.

The collaborative project is helping to reconnect a fragmented Poudre River. The stretch contains important spawning habitat and deep pools that provide refuge for aquatic life. This Watson Lake fish ladder is reconnecting over two river miles. The group hopes this will be one of many ladders along the Poudre River that will allow fish to travel freely upstream and downstream, improving the health of the fishery and the ecosystem without impacting water delivery.

Noosa yoghurt has been heavily involved with the project from its inception in 2016, funding the conceptual design in 2017. The vision for noosa has always been to give back to the community in a meaningful way.

“The Poudre River is a treasure in Northern Colorado,” said Stephanie Giard, community outreach coordinator for noosa yoghurt. “The project area is frequently visited by neighbors in the Pleasant Valley for fishing, birdwatching, or just enjoying nature. It is our responsibility to protect this valuable resource in our community.”

Watson Lake Diversion Structure is a channel spanning structure that represented a complete barrier to all upstream fish movement in the Poudre River. The structure delivers water to the Watson State Fish Hatchery and is owned and operated by CPW. The new fish ladder allows for passage through the diversion for all species present within the river reach including longnose dace, longnose suckers, white suckers, brown trout, and rainbow trout.

Designed by OneFish Engineering and built by L4 Environmental, the fish ladder at the Watson Diversion was completed in record time. Biologists and engineers from across CPW came together to work with OneFish Engineering to find the optimal design to provide upstream fish movement through the diversion structure. The construction project started in November at the end of the irrigation season. It had to be completed before spring runoff, which can start as early as March. The project was blessed with ideal weather for construction this winter.

“This project will improve river connectivity and benefit the aquatic resources by allowing fish to move freely back upstream as they wish,” CPW Aquatic Biologist Kyle Battige said. “Outside of the benefits to aquatic life, this project is important as it showcases the feasibility of fish passage at these large diversion structures and will hopefully further momentum for these types of projects. It also serves as an example of the collaboration and team effort from multiple entities that these large-scale conservation projects will have to have in order to be successful in today’s world.”

Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind said this project will be an example of future cooperative efforts on the river.

“This will be the first of several projects like these to create a healthier Poudre River for generations to come,” he said. “Northern Water and the NISP participants are proud to have been part of the cooperative effort to get this project completed.”

“This is a first step in improving the health and resiliency of the Poudre River,” said Rob Graves, owner of Morning Fresh Dairy and co-founder of noosa yoghurt. “Through collaboration, we can preserve and protect this critical natural resource that flows through our community.

“The river has played an important role in our business and in our family for over 100 years and we want to protect it for generations to come. We hope this project and future projects will be the legacy of our family and Morning Fresh Dairy.”

Southern #Colorado officials and volunteers prepare for rain on the #SpringFire burn scar

A firefighting helicopter flies in the foreground while the Spring Creek Fire (August 2018) rages behind it. Photo credit: El Paso County

From The Colorado Sun (Sue McMillin):

Even a quarter inch of rain pouring onto those devastated slopes could bring a new disaster to hundreds of homes and businesses in the Cucharas River valley, including the towns of La Veta and Walsenburg.

The 1,000 residents of La Veta could have as little as 30 minutes warning of a flash flood, and in a worst-case scenario the town could lose 70 percent of its structures.

“We believe we’re going to lose homes,” La Veta Mayor Douglas Brgoch said. “We believe we’re going to lose access and so forth. We don’t want to lose any people.”

Walsenburg’s 3,000 residents would have more warning time, but the potential for devastation also is severe — as many as 600 homes could be flooded along with City Hall and the county’s emergency operations center (a backup location has been secured).

The La Veta town hall also is in “the crosshairs of where flooding would be.” Officials would move to the water treatment facility that is on high ground, Brgoch said.

Town and Huerfano County websites are chock full of flood preparation information. Sirens and stream gauges have been installed, channels cleared and sandbags filled.

In La Veta, residents who live uphill from flood danger have signed up to be “flood buddies,” offering their homes as refuge to friends and neighbors whose homes are most endangered.

Army of volunteers help keep resources focused

About 160 people have put in more than 2,000 volunteer hours with the La Veta Trails organization to clear debris and brush from the banks of the Cucharas River where it runs through town…

Volunteers with Walsenburg’s newly hatched Green Leaf Committee have been doing the same thing along the river banks in that town.

Numerous government and nonprofit agencies are pitching in, coordinating through a post-fire flood task force. Huerfano County Emergency Manager Larry Sanders tried to tick off a list of those who’ve contributed money or services or both: Natural Resources Conservation Service, AmeriCorps, U.S. Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Geological Survey, National Weather Service, Colorado Department of Transportation, water districts, local nonprofits. His voice trails off…

Given the potential for a life-threatening flood — not just this year, but for several — Sanders said everyone keeps pushing to complete as much preparation as possible before monsoon season, typically mid-July to September. But they’ve also warned residents that any spring storm with heavy rain could lead to flooding.

The region got a taste of the potential after the fire last summer, with 13 flood warnings and a “few” events that caused some damage. They lost some cattle, barns and other out buildings and a couple of county roads washed out, he said.

But he anticipates much worse flooding from the burn scar.

“It’s not if and not even really when, but how many times,” he said.

Burn scars statewide are prone to flooding for years

The residents of Huerfano County are not alone. Hundreds of thousands of acres in Colorado have burned in wildland fires this century, often leaving burn scars prone to flooding for years.

A mud and rock slide from the 2002 Missionary Ridge fire near Durango recently closed a county road. Flash flood warning signs dot some canyon roads through the 2002 Hayman Fire burn area, where charred tree trunks stand starkly on the landscape. Closure gates and flash flood warning signs on U.S. 24 through Ute Pass are a reminder of the deadly flash floods that followed the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire.

Depending on the intensity and size of the fire, the steepness of the slopes and its proximity to watersheds and population areas, the results can be catastrophic.

Weston Toll, a watershed program specialist with the Colorado State Forest Service, said burn scar runoff can be devastating to reservoirs, agricultural land and rivers downstream as well as to homes and other structures. Special Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) assessments are completed to help predict post-fire flooding risks.

The intensity of a fire is key because it is so hot that the soil is sterilized, regrowth — and therefore erosion control — takes much longer. Nearly a quarter of the Spring Creek Fire acreage burned at high intensity, according to the BAER report.

#Snowpack/#Runoff news: Mid-March forecasted inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir = 950,000 acre-feet (142% of 30 year average)

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

From The Greeley Tribune (Adam Poulisse):

Recreation officials in northern Colorado say the above-average snowpack — one of our primary sources of water to drink, water our fields and play in — will be a boon for outdoor activities like whitewater rafting, paddleboarding, agriculture and fishing.

As long as the snowpack melts slowly and [doesn’t] cause flooding…

Each of the state’s eight basins have a snowpack greater than 100% of their historical average, Kuhn said. The South Platte (116 percent of normal) and Arkansas (135 percent) river basins are the primary rivers in the Front Range, with the other six flowing to the west…

Even snowpack in the upper Colorado River basin, with all of its water concerns, is sitting at 131 percent of normal, according to data maintained by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Colorado.

Blue Mesa Reservoir

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The mid-March forecast for the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 960,000 acre-feet. This is 142% of the 30 year average. Snowpack in the upper Gunnison River basin is currently 150% of average. Blue Mesa Reservoir current content is 247,600 acre-feet which is 30% of full. Current elevation is 7437.6 feet. Maximum content at Blue Mesa Reservoir is 829,500 acre-feet at an elevation of 7519.4 feet.

Black Canyon Water Right
The peak flow and shoulder flow components of the Black Canyon Water Right will be determined by the May 1 forecast of the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir. If the May 1 forecast is equal to the current forecast of 960,000 acre-feet of runoff volume, the peak flow target will be 7,012 cfs for a duration of 24 hours. The shoulder flow target will be 955 cfs, for the period between May 1 and July 25. The point of measurement of flows to satisfy the Black Canyon Water Right is at the Gunnison River below Gunnison Tunnel streamgage at the upstream boundary of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Aspinall Unit Operations ROD
Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the peak flow and duration flow targets in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, will be determined by the forecast of the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir and the hydrologic year type. At the time of the spring operation, if the forecast is equal to the current forecast of 960,000 acre-feet of runoff volume, the hydrologic year type will be set as Moderately Wet. Under a Moderately Wet year the peak flow target will be 14,350 cfs and the duration target at this flow will be 10 days. The duration target for the half-bankfull flow of 8,070 cfs will be 20 days. The criteria for the drought rule that allows half-bankfull flows to be reduced from 40 days to 20 days have been met.

Projected Spring Operations
During spring operations, releases from the Aspinall Unit will be made in an attempt to match the peak flow of the North Fork of the Gunnison River to maximize the potential of meeting the desired peak at the Whitewater gage, while simultaneously meeting the Black Canyon Water Right peak flow amount. The magnitude of release necessary to meet the desired peak at the Whitewater gage will be dependent on the flow contribution from the North Fork of the Gunnison River and other tributaries downstream from the Aspinall Unit. Current projections for spring peak operations show that flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon could be near 7,000 cfs for 10 days in order to achieve the desired peak flow and duration at Whitewater. With this runoff forecast and corresponding downstream targets, Blue Mesa Reservoir is currently projected to fill to an elevation of around 7508 feet with an approximate peak content of 728,000 acre-feet.

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

A two- to four-week whitewater release from McPhee Dam into the Dolores River is “very likely” and is expected to begin in late May or early June, reservoir managers told a gathering of 40 boaters Thursday at the Dolores Community Center.

Snowpack in the Dolores Basin is 144 percent of average, enough to fill the nearly empty reservoir and provide recreational and ecological downstream flows.

“Our first priority is to fill the reservoir and provide water for our users,” said Robert Stump, of the Bureau of Reclamation in Cortez. “The exciting part for boaters is the predicted runoff provides an opportunity for a downstream release.”

But how long the dam release will last, and the exact date it will begin is unclear as most of the snowpack is still in the mountains, said Greg Smith, a hydrologist with the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center.

Runoff quantity and timing also depend on temperature and how much will be absorbed into the soil. When soil moisture is below 50 percent average, it knocks 5% to 15% off the runoff forecast.

Snowpack totals and runoff forecasts are extrapolated with modeling that relies on a series of snowpack measuring devices, called Snotels, in the Dolores Basin. The units have historical data from 1981 to 2015.

This year, there is the additional “wild card” of having a record dry winter last year and a wet winter this year that is expected to fill it back up, plus excess.

“This is not something we have experienced, and we’re not 100 percent sure how that will impact the runoff this year,” he said.

Reservoir and river managers use probabilities to inform boaters on the likelihood of a dam release.

According to the River Forecast Center, there is a 70% probability that Dolores River runoff will produce 40,000 acre-feet beyond what the reservoir can hold. That equals an approximate two-week whitewater release. Flows would be around 1,000 cubic feet per second, and peak flows would be would between 2,000 and 2,500 cfs.

A 50% runoff probability shows 130,000 acre-feet beyond what the reservoir can hold, according to the Forecast Center, enough for a approximate four-week whitewater release beginning in early May.

“A spill looks very likely,” said Ken Curtis, a reservoir engineer. “I’d plan for an early June raft trip, subject to change.”

[…]

Even without a dam release, melt-off from above-average low-elevation snows have charged the popular Slick Rock to Bedrock section of the Dolores River with boatable flows.

Here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for April 24, 2019 from the NRCS.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map April 24, 2019 via the NRCS.

#Denver Completes Divestment From #FossilFuel Companies — Westword #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

From Westword (Chase Woodruff):

A spokesperson for Denver’s Department of Finance confirmed that the city’s fossil fuel investments have been sold. As of earlier this year, its various portfolios had included about $50 million in corporate bonds issued by fossil fuel giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron, though in previous years that figure had been higher.

“This is a powerful statement to our children, grandchildren and future generations that we care about them and want to invest in their future,” said 350 Colorado boardmember Barbara Donachy.

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

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

Pueblo Dam Hydro plant named for Jim Broderick

Jim Broderick. Photo credit: Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

A hydroelectric generation plant at Pueblo Dam was named for longtime executive director Jim Broderick of the district which is building the facility.

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board Thursday unanimously passed a resolution naming the plant the James W. Broderick Hydroelectric Power Facility at Pueblo Dam when it is completed.

“Jim always takes a proactive approach through strategic planning and forward thinking in addressing the many and complex challenges that confront the Southeastern District, seeking solutions that are fair and equitable, and that protect and conserve the water resources of Colorado and the Southeastern District,” Board President Bill Long in proposing the resolution.

Broderick has led the team constructing the hydro plant through the initial steps for obtaining a Lease of Power Privilege from the Bureau of Reclamation to the eventual construction.

After obtaining final Reclamation approval to construct the hydro plant in 2017, the District signed a design-build contract with Mountain States Hydro of Sunnyside, Wash. Construction began in September of 2017, and is now substantially completed. Testing of the equipment at the plant is underway, and should be completed in May, when flows on the Arkansas River will increase to optimal levels for power production.

The $20.3 million hydro plant will use the natural flows released from the North Outlet at Pueblo Dam to the Arkansas River without consumption of any water. The plant uses three turbines and two generators individually or in combination to produce up to 7.5 megawatts of electricity at flows ranging from 35 to 810 cubic feet per second.
Based on historic averages, the hydro plant will be able to generate an average of 28 million kilowatt-hours annually, or enough electricity to power 2,500 homes.

The plant was funded by loans from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the District’s Enterprise Activity.

“This is an important step for the District,” Broderick said. “We envision this as a long-term revenue source for Enterprise programs, such as the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Equally important will be the new source of clean power we have created.”

Power from Pueblo Dam Hydro will be sold to the city of Fountain, and to Fort Carson, through a separate agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities for the first 10 years of generation. For the next 20 years, Fountain will purchase all of the power generated by the plant.

“We’re very excited,” said Curtis Mitchell, utilities director for Fountain, and vice-president of the Southeastern Board. “This provides us with a source of clean electric power, and it has the added benefit of saving money for our ratepayers.”

Interior of the new Broderick Power Plant. Photo credit: The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Yampa River call in 2018 shuts down senior rights without measurement infrastructure

The Yampa River had almost no flows at Deerlodge Park, at the entrance to Dinosaur National Park, when this photo was taken in mid-August, 2018. Photo/Erin Light via The Mountain Town News

From Steamboat Today (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck):

When the Yampa River went on call for the first time last year, 65% of water users on the river had to cut back or stop using their water because they didn’t have a measuring device or headgate on their diversion.

In light of that, Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 6 Engineer Erin Light sent water users on the Yampa a notice earlier this year, requiring that they install these devices.

Water users must install headgates
“We know we had a problem with measuring devices … but because of this call and this recognition of a problem of having so many structures without measuring devices, I made the decision to send out notices for the installation of headgates and measuring devices,” Light told the audience at the annual State of the River presentation in Steamboat Springs earlier this month.

Light is asking users to install devices by July 31 or ask for more time. If someone does not comply with the notice or receive an extension, they’ll receive an order to install these devices. Not complying with the order can result in a locked headgate, which means a user can’t use any of their water, or a $500 fine per day for every day a user continues to divert water without a headgate.

These structures are required by law, but the Yampa River is still the Wild West when it comes to water use. The Yampa was among the last, if not the last, large rivers in the state to go on call. The area also is among the last in the state to have so many diversions without headgates.

When the river went on call, even water users who had senior water rights and were using less water than they were legally entitled to were not allowed to use their water because their ditches didn’t have measuring devices that count how much water is used.

That’s means about 65% of the devices Light and her staff track in the Yampa River basin — about 850 — were shut off.

A similar notice and order was issued after the Elk River was placed on call in 2010.

Measuring for the future
These devices are important, Light said, because, in the state’s eyes, the value of a water right is based on the record of how much water that crops, livestock and people consume.

Without a way to measure the water, this record is an estimate, with water commissioners — the people charged with monitoring water rights on the ground — taking an educated guess at how much water is flowing based on how quickly a dandelion head floats downstream.

And how the state values a water right is becoming increasingly important as water managers start to plan for the possibility of an interstate call under the Colorado River Compact, which would require Colorado to cut back use as a state in order to send water downstream. Water managers are already working to balance increased demand for water with less available water…

The Upper Yampa Water Conservation District, which includes much of Routt County, offers mini-grants for up to half of the project cost or $500 to assist water users with the cost of installing water control and measuring devices. Each device can earn a grant, so if a producer is installing a headgate and measuring device, they can receive up to $1,000, Upper Yampa General Manager Kevin McBride said.

More information can be found online at http://www.upperyampawater.com/projects/grants.

ID sues to halt #ColoradoRiver #drought plan signed by @POTUS, says officials ignored #SaltonSea — The Palm Springs Desert Sun #DCP #COriver #aridification

Salton Sea screen shot credit Greetings from the Salton Sea — Kim Stringfellow.

From The Palm Springs Desert Sun (Janet Wilson):

The petition, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality Act by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and names the Coachella Valley, Palo Verde and Needles water districts as well. It asks the court to suspend the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan until a thorough environmental analysis has been completed.

“The logic in going forward without (us) was that the (drought plan) couldn’t wait for the Salton Sea,” Henry Martinez, IID general manager, said in a statement. “This legal challenge is going to put that logic to the test and the focus will now be where it should have been all along — at the Salton Sea.”

Martinez said in an interview that the district also had to act because of the continuing threat of possible mandatory water cuts, especially to farm districts like IID, if Metropolitan and others can’t meet their obligations. MWD committed to keep 2 million acre feet of water in the reservoirs under the plan, and its general manager, Jeffrey Kightlinger, has said his staff concluded this year’s healthy precipitation meant they could do it.

But Martinez said that was a short-term fix. “When you go through a drastic drought, you have to keep cutting back and cutting back. It is our opinion that Met cannot supply all of the water … that would be required,” he said. If mandatory cuts were ordered, “politically, urban water users are the heavyweights at the end of the day. … Humans will beat out plants.”

IID’s petition alleges that MWD wrongly committed to enter into agreements on behalf of itself and all other California contractors.

In a statement, Kightlinger said, “We are disappointed that the Imperial Irrigation District is using litigation as a tool to block implementation of the Drought Contingency Plan. Parties on the Colorado River need to collaborate during this time of crisis, not litigate.”

[…]

IID was cut out of the drought plan after MWD stepped in and said it would contribute its rural neighbor’s required share of water in drought years. The districts had previously signed contracts technically making the swap possible.

In his statement, MWD general manager Kightlinger said, “During our negotiations on the Drought Contingency Plan, it was our goal to find an approach that had no adverse impacts on the Salton Sea. That goal was achieved — the contributions to Lake Mead that will be made by Metropolitan and others will not decrease water going to the sea.”

Reclamation and state water officials, including California, signed a joint letter to Congress requesting the drought plans be approved on March 19, without IID. The legislation passed rapidly and overwhelmingly, and was signed into law by Trump on Tuesday. Mexico will also be a party per a previous agreement. State representatives now need to finalize their approvals.

The ripples of IID’s lawsuit were felt in the Arizona legislature on Wednesday, where top water officials gave an update on the drought plan to the Senate Committee on Water and Agriculture. Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke testified that although the potential impact of the lawsuit was unknown, he doesn’t see it affecting much. He is encouraging more dialogue to bring IID back into the deal.

“They’re choosing right now to go down this path, but from my perspective, this will not prohibit us in moving forward and signing the Drought Contingency plan,” he said.

Buschatzke said the focus is on implementing the Drought Contingency Plan as is. If MWD doesn’t sign as a result of the litigation, others will “assess where we’re at” then.

IID’s Martinez said that the timing of the lawsuit the same day as Trump signed the legislation was coincidental. The district was up against a deadline to act once Metropolitan’s board voted to approve taking on IID’s share of water, he said.

Here’s the release from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (ebecca Kimitch/Maritza Fairfield):

Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issues the following statement on Imperial Irrigation District’s legal challenge alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act.

“During our negotiations on the Drought Contingency Plan, it was our goal to find an approach that had no adverse impacts on the Salton Sea. That goal was achieved – the contributions to Lake Mead that will be made by Metropolitan and others will not decrease water going to the sea. Moving forward, we remain committed to working with our partners on the Colorado River and with the federal government to secure funding and lasting solutions to the challenges of the Salton Sea.

“The Drought Contingency Plan will help stabilize Colorado River supplies for seven states and Mexico for the next eight years while we find lasting solutions in the basin that ensure the people, crops and ecosystems that rely on the river have a reliable water supply for generations.

“We are disappointed that the Imperial Irrigation District is using litigation as a tool to block implementation of the Drought Contingency Plan. Parties on the Colorado River need to collaborate during this time of crisis, not litigate.”