#Runoff news: The melt is on, La Plata, Animas, and Gunnison rivers merit advisories

From The Durango Herald:

A flood advisory has been issued for the La Plata River near Hesperus as rising temperatures and increasing snowmelt have pushed the river toward flood stage.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction said flows along the La Plata River will remain near to slightly above the bank throughout the rest of the week, with the possibility for minor lowland flooding.

As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, a river gauge measured the flow of the La Plata River at 5 feet. A flood stage for the waterway is considered 5½ feet…

The Animas River in Durango was flowing at about 1,500 cubic feet per second Saturday. As of Tuesday morning, the river had reached more than 5,000 cfs and is expected to peak around 7,000 cfs later in the week.

Butch Knowlton, director of La Plata County’s Office of Emergency Management, said Monday that the Animas River begins to spill out onto some areas of the Animas Valley around 7,000 cfs.

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

The Animas River…was at about 1,500 cubic feet per second Saturday. On Tuesday, the river was running at more than 5,000 cfs and is expected to keep rising.

By the end of the week, the Colorado River Basin Forecast Prediction Center is calling for the Animas to hit nearly 7,000 cfs. (The Animas River usually hits a peak flow of about 4,700 cfs in early June at the height of spring runoff.)

[…]

If the Animas does reach 7,000 cfs, it would mark the largest peak since 2005 in the April-to-July snowmelt window, when the river hit 8,070 cfs on May 26. The last big water year was in 2015 when the Animas peaked at 6,210 cfs on June 12.

The Animas River at 7,000 cfs starts to spill out on the low-lying areas and fields in the lower Animas Valley north of Durango, Knowlton said. At 8,000 cfs, areas around Trimble Lane start to flood.

The water flow for the Animas River to be considered in a flood stage is about 10,500 cfs, Knowlton said. While the river may not hit that mark this year, there is a wild-card type scenario that has emergency managers concerned.

From KJCT8.com (Matt Vanderveer):

The National Weather Service has issued a river flood advisory for the Gunnison River in Mesa County. Water flows are expected to increase throughout the week.

“Some may start to get above bank full by this weekend. But it’s just something we’re monitoring. It’s not a sharp increase where we expect to see flooding in a couple of days. We are starting to see runoff and an increase in higher flows and higher levels,” said Matthew Aleksa, National Weather Service Grand Junction.

@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.

Community Agriculture Alliance: Upper #YampaRiver Habitat Partnership Program

The Yampa River flows through the Carpenter Ranch. Photo courtesy of John Fielder from his new book, “Colorado’s Yampa River: Free Flowing & Wild from the Flat Tops to the Green.”

From Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Jack Taylor) via Steamboat Pilot & Today:

Are you familiar with Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Habitat Partnership Program (HPP)? If you are in the livestock/agriculture business or a landowner in Routt County you should be.

CPW’s HPP program works to reduce wildlife conflicts, particularly conflicts associated with forage and fences, and to assist CPW in meeting game management objectives. HPP efforts are primarily aimed at agricultural operators and focus on problems and objectives for deer, elk, pronghorn and moose. HPP is funded by receiving 5% of the deer, elk, pronghorn and moose license revenue from each HPP area. This results in millions of dollars annually that can be spent on projects on both private and public land across Colorado.

The local HPP committee in Routt County is the Upper Yampa River HPP committee. The committee is comprised of several local agricultural producers, local sportsman and agency representatives (CPW, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Serivce). This combination of local knowledge allows for innovative project ideas and novel solutions to problems specific to Routt County.

The Upper Yampa River HPP committee has recently funded several habitat improvement projects, specifically projects that enhanced the amount of water available to both wildlife and livestock on private property. These projects allowed for better grazing practices that will benefit wildlife and livestock into the future.

Other common projects for the Upper Yampa River HPP committee involve assisting landowners with fencing projects. This could be providing materials for a strong welded wire hay stack-yard that can stand up to the snow loads in Routt County or supplying vinyl-coated top wire. The vinyl-coated top wire program helps to reduce the damage that deer and elk can cause to fencing while they are crossing it because the vinyl-coated wire is more visible, which also results in fewer deer and elk fence entanglement issues.

The possibilities do not end there. In addition to fence and forage type projects, the Upper Yampa River HPP committee also assists landowners with funding a portion of the transaction costs for conservation easements.

HPP looks for a 50/50 cost split to approve the project being submitted. This means if you are asking the HPP committee to contribute $2,000 to a habitat improvement project on your property, they would be looking for a contribution from you worth $2,000.

The Upper Yampa River HPP committee also considers any other partners associated with the project, like a neighbor, if the project can span multiple parcels of property.

To submit a project with the Upper Yampa River HPP committee, contact your local district wildlife manager directly or call the CPW Steamboat Springs Service Center at 970-870-2197. Upper Yampa River HPP meetings are typically held once a month. Contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife to learn more.

Jack Taylor is a district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

Screenshot of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project boundaries via Northern Water’s interactive mapping tool , June 5, 2019.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

Brad Wind, general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District based in Berthoud, and Jim Hall, Northern Water’s senior water resources engineer, briefed the LSPWCD’s board of directors on Northern’s efforts to keep Colorado-Big Thompson water from leaving the Northern District…

Wind told the Lower board that Northern is working to enforce Article 19 of the 1938 contract between Northern Water and the federal government, known as the Project Repayment Contract. That article, one of 27 contained in the contract, specifies that all seepage and return flows from the use of Colorado-Big Thompson project water are reserved to Northern Water and are not to be taken outside the district’s boundaries.

On May 9, Northern adopted a resolution saying it would “take appropriate actions to enforce Article 19 consistent its interpretation of Article 19.”

Wind said the heavy lifting in that effort will be tracking how C-BT water, and resulting seepage and return flow, are used. He used the phrase “colors of water,” which is a concept that holds that, through close monitoring and accounting, mixed waters from various sources actually can be tracked through multiple uses. For instance, water that is native to the South Platte Basin can be accounted differently from C-BT water, which is diverted from the Colorado River into Grand Lake and piped through the Adams Tunnel to Estes Park and held in Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake for distribution to C-BT members.

Return flows are water that has been diverted from the river, used to irrigate crops or for municipal use, and either seeps back to the river through the ground or is discharged after treatment. Much of the river’s flow in the lower reaches in late summer and through the winter is from return flows from upstream use. Return flows are crucial to irrigators in Weld, Morgan, Washington, Logan and Sedgwick counties.

“To protect return flows, we have to know what they are,” Wind said. “We have to be able to quantify what return flows are coming from C-BT use and what’s from native water. It’s complicated.”

Hall told the Lower board that there is the danger that “change of use” cases going through Colorado water courts could result in return flows from C-BT water being shipped out of the Northern district in violation of Article 19.

“We’re starting to see change cases on irrigation ditches moving water outside the district boundaries,” Hall said. “That’s why it’s important to track this stuff. It’s easier to track municipal water because we can look at their (wastewater treatment facility) discharges, but it’s harder to prove agricultural return flows.”

Hall said return flows from native water are not subject to Article 19, only C-BT return flows.

Wind said Northern will be watching closely all change of use cases that go through Colorado’s water courts and will continue monitoring water usage in the district to make sure C-BT water doesn’t leave the district.

Thornton Water Project update

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Larimer County leaders are asking a court to uphold their rejection of the Thornton pipeline.

The city of Thornton sued Larimer county commissioners in April, asking the Larimer County District Court to overturn the board’s decision and either approve one of the two proposed pipeline routes or force the county to do so. Larimer County commissioners filed their response to Thornton’s lawsuit Monday afternoon.

The legal battle is the latest twist in a yearslong fight over a proposed pipeline that would carry Poudre River water from reservoirs north of Fort Collins to Thornton…

Pipeline opponent No Pipe Dream and river advocacy group Save the Poudre both plan to intervene in the lawsuit, those groups’ leaders told the Coloradoan. If the court allows the groups to intervene, they’ll become parties in the lawsuit…

Commissioners argue the court must affirm their decision if there’s any “competent evidence” in the record supporting it. Competent evidence is a legal term describing evidence that tends to prove a matter in a dispute.

The county also argues the court doesn’t have the authority to substitute its own judgment on the pipeline path. If the court decides commissioners made the wrong call, it must send the case back to the board for reconsideration and correction, the answer argues.

Next steps in the lawsuit could include a motion for judgment or a scheduling conference for the parties to discuss the potential of a settlement or plan a discovery period and timeline for a trial.

Map via ThorntonWaterProject.com