@CSUtilities Partners with Forest Agencies to Invest $15 Million in Watershed Restoration — Colorado State Forest Service

Here’s the release from the Colorado State Forest Service:

Colorado Springs Utilities, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region and Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) announced their plans to invest $15 million, over a five-year period, in forest and watershed restoration projects. These projects will occur on more than 11,000 acres in Colorado Springs Utilities’ critical watersheds located on the White River and Pike-San Isabel National Forests

Today’s announcement comes as part of a signing event held at the Mesa Conservation Center to kick off the second phase of watershed restoration efforts.

The U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region and Colorado Springs Utilities have been in partnership since 2013, and together, have reduced the risk of catastrophic wildfire, restored forests impacted by wildfire, and minimized erosion and sedimentation in reservoirs to over 12,000 acres of National Forest System lands.

“We understand the obligation to the nearly 480,000 customers within the Colorado Springs Utilities area and the importance of healthy watersheds. Thus, we place heavy emphasis on partnerships like these, which allow us to keep clean water flowing to our local communities while maintaining resilient and productive forest lands,” Regional Forester, Brian Ferebee stated.

“Our dedication to conservation and natural resource sustainability has been amplified with the inclusion of the Colorado State Forest Service.”

View of Pikes Peak from the South Catamount Reservoir. Photo: Andy Schlosberg, CSFS

The agreement, which now extends the existing partnership to the CSFS, expands the capacity to implement priority projects, leverage state resources, and balance national, state and local priorities. Since 1987, Colorado Springs Utilities has partnered with the CSFS to manage forests on 13,000-acres in the Pikes Peak Watershed. Their work to protect water quality, improve water yields, and identify and reduce wildfire risk, have dramatically improved forest health.

Together, the partnership promotes an “all lands” approach that addresses watershed and forest health challenges on the National Forest System and neighboring lands.

Forest & watershed health projects

“The destruction of Waldo Canyon required a huge investment from Colorado Springs Utilities to repair damaged water infrastructure and restore severely burned watersheds,” said Earl Wilkinson, Chief Water Services Officer, Colorado Springs Utilities. “Our continued partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Service will enable critical preventative measures to protect our drinking water supply.”

Under the 2019-2023 program, Colorado Springs Utilities will invest $7.5 million in forest and watershed health projects within critical watersheds. This funding will be matched dollar for dollar by the U.S. Forest Service and the CSFS for a total value of approximately $15 million.

Management activities associated with these projects will include forest thinning, prescribed fire, invasive species management, road and trail improvements, and stream improvements.

“Through partnerships like this one, land managers and water providers in Colorado can help ensure clean, reliable water for present and future generations,” said Mike Lester, State Forester and CSFS Director.

Colorado Springs Utilities has a large mountain water system with many reservoirs and other infrastructure located on U.S. Forest Service Land. Forest restoration and wildfire fuels reduction projects will take place within watersheds near Colorado Springs, including the vicinity of Pikes Peak, the headwaters of the Arkansas River, surrounding Homestake Reservoir on the Eagle River, and in the Blue River watersheds.

The projects will reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and post-fire sedimentation and erosion upstream of Colorado Springs Utilities’ reservoirs and other water delivery infrastructure.

For details contact:

Colorado State Forest Service – Ryan Lockwood, (970) 491-8970, ryan.lockwood@colostate.edu
U.S. Forest Service – Lawrence Lujan, (303) 815-9902, lawrence.lujan@usda.gov

#Wyoming Governor Gordon, state agencies mobilizing resources in wake of irrigation tunnel collapse

Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal. This camera looks over a north flowing canal that provides irrigation water to surrounding fields. Agriculture in this part of the state is made possible in part by irrigation canals like this. Scotts Bluff National Monument is visible on the horizon. Photo credit: Platte Basin Time Lapse

Here’s the release from Governor Gordon’s office:

Governor Mark Gordon, members of the executive branch, and representatives from multiple state agencies are mobilizing in an effort to provide assistance to farmers affected by a catastrophic irrigation tunnel collapse in Goshen County.

The Governor signed an Executive Order for a Declaration of Emergency today, allowing him to deploy state resources to Goshen County as needed. The collapse occurred early in the morning of July 17 along the Fort Laramie-Gering irrigation canal west of Lingle and caused a large breach of the canal wall. The disaster inundated farmland near the breach and has left more than 100,000 acres of cropland in Wyoming and Nebraska without water during a critical period for growers. Goshen County Commissioners issued a Local Disaster Declaration earlier today.

“This is a serious emergency and we recognize addressing an issue of this magnitude will take coordination, especially because it affects so many Wyoming and Nebraska farmers,” Governor Mark Gordon said. “We are working with an understanding of the urgency of the situation, along with a need to proceed carefully. Wyoming is united in its effort to find the right way to help the Goshen Irrigation District get up and running.”

After visiting the site on Friday, the Governor and members of the executive branch met Monday morning to analyze ways to provide state support to Goshen County and the Goshen Irrigation District. The Governor’s office is assembling resources to engage federal partners and is working with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security and the State Engineer’s Office to explore potential options for resources and assistance.

State officials and representatives from Governor Gordon’s office will attend a stakeholder’s meeting organized by the Goshen Irrigation District scheduled for 2 pm Wednesday, July 24, at the Eastern Wyoming College auditorium. The meeting is open to the public and will include a discussion of the collapse and a possible timeline for repairs to the tunnel and ditch.

From the Goshen County Commissioners via The Torrington Telegram:

The Goshen County Board of Commissioners has officially declared the collapse of an irrigation tunnel along the Fort Laramie-Gering Irrigation Canal as a local disaster.

In a declaration issued Monday morning, July 22, the county stated that “extensive damage was caused to private property and the loss of irrigation water will result in an extensive loss of agricultural crops to the farmers of Goshen County within the disaster area.”

The declaration, signed by Chairman Wally Wolski, vowed to seek emergency funds from any and all sources.

“All locally available public and private resources available to mitigate and alleviate the effects of this disaster have been insufficient to meet the needs of the situation,” the declaration said. “The Chairman of the Goshen County Board of Commissioners has declared a State of Emergency on behalf of Goshen County, and will execute for and on behalf of Goshen County Commission the expenditure of emergency funds from all available sources, the invoking of mutual aid agreements, and the requesting of assistance from the State of Wyoming.”

The Goshen Irrigation District has organized a stakeholder’s meeting to discuss the Fort-Laramie Gering irrigation tunnel collapse, repairing the tunnel and the ditch, and the timeframe of the repairs. The meeting will be held Wednesday, July 24, 2 p.m. at the Eastern Wyoming College auditorium.

The GID issued a press release on Friday, July 19, to ask people to stay away from the collapse to allow the GID and various contractors space to make the necessary repairs. The collapse occurred in a remote section of the canal, with only a one-lane road to get in or out of the site.

“Goshen Irrigation District and Gering-Fort Laramie District are asking for all patrons to please observe all road closure signs near the tunnel and canal breach,” the release said. “There will be large equipment and contractors in and out of that site every day of the week and for extended hours. Please, for your safety, do not impede the work that needs to be done.”

Wyoming rivers map via Geology.com

“It hasn’t done any damage, but I do want the rain to stop” — RoseAnn DiSanti

Pickling cucumbers: Photo credit: Vegetable Gardener

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

Usually, farmers are happy with any rain they can get, but too much wet stuff can cause other problems.

“My crops are fine. It’s just too much rain to get in there and harvest,” said RoseAnn DiSanti of DiSanti Farms in Pueblo County.

Just up the road on U.S. Highway 50, Kasey Hund, manager of Di Tomaso Farms, was singing the same tune.

“Its muddy out there. it’s going to slow us down a couple of weeks,” Hund said, standing at one of her pumpkin fields.

“But everything looks good out there still. As long as it doesn’t flood again or rain more. Too much is too much, but when we have really hot days, it tends to make them grow well. They should be very abundant.”

[…]

“The biggest problem right now is not being able to get the labor into the field and get the stuff out that I need,” DiSanti said.

“It hasn’t done any damage, but I do want the rain to stop. We have to wait until it dries out before we can put labor out on the fields. You don’t want to break the plants and you can’t expect the labor to work when it’s so muddy. It’s hard on them.”

DiSanti said about 2 inches of rain fell on her farm Saturday.

“We’ve been so fortunate that we haven’t got any hail. The chile and everything still looks good, but I sure wish the rain would stop. We’ve had enough,” DiSanti said with a laugh…

Hund said despite the mud, workers gathered pickle cucumbers Monday morning

“It was very muddy. Pickles are in abundance. All this rain and all the hot days really made them produce 10 times as fast. We had to get in there and pick a few.

Workers had to carry the picked crop out by hand instead of using vehicles and equipment.

They also had to wash all the mud off the pickles. It’s a longer process. The customers were calling. Our top priority right now is pickles. Everybody wants pickles,” Hund said.

There’s a lamp in the window — Greg Hobbs

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There’s a lamp in the window
And a face to every being

Evenings and mornings will follow
as sure as the dries hold out

For every precious drop.

— Greg Hobbs 7/20-21/2019

All fishing bag, possession limits removed for Sand Creek drainage located in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve — #Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Rio Grande cutthroat trout via Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Joe Lewandnowski):

In preparation for a native cutthroat trout restoration project, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has removed all bag and possession limits for fishing on Upper Sand Creek Lake, Lower Sand Creek Lake and Sand Creek located in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the National Park Service are working to restore the Rio Grande cutthroat trout to its native waters. In late August, the lakes and creek will be treated to remove all fish from the drainage. If all goes as planned, Rio Grande cutthroats will be stocked again in the fall of 2020. These waters are located high on the west flank of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range.

Anglers must hold a valid Colorado fishing license and can only use standard methods of take. Commercial fishing is not allowed. The area holds rainbow, brook and non-native cutthroat trout. Anglers can keep all the fish they can catch starting Monday, July 22 through Aug. 25

Once the Rio Grande cutthroat trout are re-established, anglers will have the unique opportunity to catch this native fish. Cutthroat trout populations have declined over the last 100 years due to water diversions, land-use changes and competition from non-native trout that have been stocked throughout the Rio Grande drainage.

“This is a challenging project, but it will provide ideal and protected habitat for these fish,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for CPW’s Southwest Region. “We appreciate that the National Park Service shares CPW’s goals to re-establish native cutthroats in the waters of the San Luis Valley.”

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

Invasive mussel policies in Boulder County

Boulder Reservoir.

From The Denver Post (Sam Lounsberry):

As confirmed cases of invasive mussel contamination on out-of-state boats reach record numbers in areas close to Boulder County, local authorities say the problematic species’ profile remains low, as it traditionally has, within county borders.

Reservoirs popular with recreational users in Boulder County have policies governing what boaters have to do before putting in, efforts to decontaminate all crafts entering local waters and biology to thank for the good news…

At Longmont’s Union Reservoir, inspectors in the past 10 years have come across only two vessels contaminated with invasive mussels, and so far, none have been found this year, according to John Brim, a city parks and open space ranger.

Because only wakeless boating is allowed at Union Reservoir, it doesn’t attract boats used most often at out-of-state bodies of water known to harbor the invasive species; Lake Powell is especially notorious…

At Boulder Reservoir, cases of contaminated boats are slightly more common, with one confirmed contamination this year, and about five suspected mussel contaminations, with several of those confirmed, since 2008, according to Boulder Reservoir Manager Stacy Cole…

Between 15 and 20 decontaminations have taken place this year in Boulder, including one Monday, for boats that haven’t received a permit tag from the city or those that have and since were used on an out-of-state waterway.

“Parks and Recreation staff use a mobile decontamination unit which flushes the system including ballast tanks with high-temperature water — 140 degrees Fahrenheit — necessary to kill mussels,” Boulder spokesperson Denise White said. “The city also adds potassium hydroxide to the decontamination water to kill any possible mussels before the wastewater enters the city’s sanitary sewer system.”

Boulder boosted its precautions for this year, requiring not only an initial decontamination process for untagged boats and those coming in after a stint outside Colorado, but also an ensuing seven-day quarantine period on dry land at Boulder Reservoir and a second decontamination before the vessel is allowed back in the water. Cole said there was no particular incident that prompted the city’s move. Rather, the growing number of mussel-infested waterways in surrounding states has prompted such prevention initiatives across the state, she said…

Boaters can receive their first decontamination for free from state officials in Denver, and then pay Boulder for their second decontamination at rates that vary from $35 to $175 depending on the size of the watercraft…

Broomfield protects itself from the pesky organism by disallowing boating on all its waterways.

Delta-Montrose and Tri-State reach exit agreement — The Mountain Town News #ActOnClimate

Craig Station in northwest Colorado is a coal-fired power plant operated by Tri-State Generation & Transmission. Photo credit: Allen Best

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Deal sealed for electrical co-op’s exit from Tri-State but the fee unknown

Tri-State Generation and Transmission and one of its 43 member co-operatives, Delta-Montrose Electric Association, have come to terms. Delta-Montrose will be leaving the “family,” as Tri-State members are sometimes called, on about May 1, 2022.

What it cost Delta-Montrose to exit its all-requirements contract with Tri-State, however, will remain a secret until then. The figure was redacted in the settlement agreement filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission last Friday. The figure can become public after the split occurs next year, according to Virginia Harman, the chief operating officer for Delta-Montrose.

See filing with the PUC: PUC filing attachment 7.19.19

Delta-Montrose will then be supplied by Guzman Energy, although the power purchase agreement has yet to be completed, Harman said.

Guzman also supplies energy to Kit Carson Electrical Cooperative, which is based in Taos, N.M., as well as the small town of Aztec, N.M.

In May, Guzman also revealed it was offering to buy several of Tri-State’s coal plants, close them down, and replace the lost generation from other sources. See: A small Colorado company sees opportunity in revolutionizing Colorado’s energy supply.

The split reflects a fundamental disagreement over the future of electrical generation and the pace of change that has festered for about 15 years. Those different visions became apparent in about 2005 as Tri-State managers sought to build a major new coal plant near Holcomb, Kan., in partnership with Sunflower Electric.

The utilities were shocked when Kansas denied a permit for the plant, based on the time at the still-novel grounds of its carbon dioxide pollution. When Tri-State finally got its permit for the coal plant in 2017, it had spent nearly $100 million with nothing to show.

See: Twilight of an energy era as supplier of rural co-ops turns back on coal plant

Meanwhile, the electrical world had turned upside down. Wind had become the cheap energy, not coal, and it was being integrated into power supplies effectively. Even solar was in cost competitive in places.

Along among the then 44 member cooperatives, only Kit Carson and Delta-Montrose had refused the 10-year contact extensions to 2050 that Tri-State had wanted to satisfy money markets for long-term loans. Their contracts remained at 2040. The contracts of other member co-ops—including those serving Durango, Telluride, Crested Butte and Winter Park—go until 2050.

Kit Carson was the first to get out. In 2016, assisted by Guzman, it paid the $37 million exit fee required by Tri-State and set out, also with the assistance of Guzman, to develop solar farms in dispersed parts of its service territory in northern New Mexico. It aims to have 100% solar capability by the end of 2022.

See: Is Kit Carson’s renewable goal also the answer to rural America’s woes?

In November 2016, Delta-Montrose informed Tri-State it wanted to buy out its contract, too. It asked for exit figure. The negotiations did not yield an acceptable number to both, and in December Delta-Montrose asked the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to arbitrate. The PUC agreed over protests by Tri-State that the PUC had no authority. A week was set aside in June, later delayed to begin Aug. 12, for the case.

No figures have ever been publicly revealed by either Tri-State or Delta-Montrose, although a court document filed early in July reported that Tri-State’s price had been reduced 40%.

Meanwhile, Tri-State got approval from its members to seek regulation for rate making by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That could possibly have moved the jurisdiction over the Delta-Montrose exit to Washington. It would not affect review by Colorado, New Mexico or other states in which Tri-State operators of resource planning.

Delta-Montrose and Guzman have not completed plans for how the co-operative may develop its local energy resources. The co-op had reached Tri-State’s 5% allowance for local generation by harnessing of fast-moving water in an irrigation conveyance called the South Canal.

For Tri-State’s new chief executive, Duane Highley, the task at hand may be how to discourage more exits by other member co-op. Tri-State has argued that it moved slowly but has now is in a position to realize much lower prices for renewable energy generation. It is moving forward on both wind and solar projects in eastern Colorado.

Delta-Montrose, with 33,000 members, is among the larger co-ops in Tri-State. But even larger one, who together represent nearly half the electrical load supplied by Tri-STate have all dissatisfaction with Tri-State’s slow movement away from coal-fired generation.

In Southwestern Colorado, Durango-based La Plata Electric recently asked for an exit figure, too.

Along the Front Range of Colorado, United Power, by far the largest-coop, with 91,000 members and booming demand from oil and gas operators north of Denver, has wanted more renewable energy and greater ability to develop its own resources. Poudre Valley has adopted a 100% clean energy goal.

Delta-Montrose, with 33,000 members, is easily among the 10 largest co-ops.

The settlement agreement filed with the PUC says DMEA “shall not assist any other Tri-State member in pursuing withdrawal from Tri-State. The agreement also says that DMEA and Tri-State agree to not disparage each other.

More than 30% of Tri-State’s generation comes from renewables, mostly from hydropower. This total is little different from that of Xcel Energy. But Xcel in 2017 announced plans to close two of its aging coal plants, leaving it at 55 percent renewable generation in Colorado.

Tri-State, too, is closing coal plants. A coal plant at Nucla, in southwestern Colorado, west of Telluride, will close early next year, several years earlier than previously scheduled. However, it’s small by coal plant standards, with a nameplate capacity of 114 megawatts, and operates only part time.

A larger reduction is scheduled to occur by 2025 when one of three coal units at Craig, in northwestern Colorado, will be retired. But a Tri-State official, speaking at a beneficial electrification conference in Denver during June, suggested that a second coal plant could also be retired early. That second coal unit is co-owned with other utilities in Colorado and other states, all of whom have indicated plans to hasten their retreats from coal.

Tri-State last week also announced a partnership with former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s Center for the New Energy Economy to facilitate a stakeholder process intended to help define what Tri-State calls a Responsible Energy Plan. See: Tri-State Announces Responsible Energy Plan 20190717

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

A long-standing legal dispute in the Colorado energy industry came to an end Monday when Delta-Montrose Electric Association announced it would withdraw from its membership in Tri-State Generation & Transmission, effective May 1, 2020.

The early withdrawal is part of a definitive settlement agreement between the two energy companies.

Delta-Montrose Electric Association, a rural utility provider on the Western Slope, said it underwent the effort to secure cheaper rates for customers and purchase more renewable energy.