Montrose: Aspinall Unit operations meeting January 23, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The next Aspinall Operations meeting will be on Thursday, January 23rd, at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose. Start time is 1:00.

Aspinall Unit

The winter newsletter is hot off the presses from the One World One Water Center

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Auraria Campus Water Competition

This fall semester, six MSU Denver classes participated in the first Auraria Campus Water Competition. The students were asked to create innovative projects to increase water conservation and education on campus. This project was part of a grant awarded to the One World One Water Center by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to increase awareness of the Colorado Water Plan and to lead in university water conservation projects. Of the participating classes, the winning projects were a new and improved Public Relations plan for the OWOW Center, implementing a centrifuge machine at the Tivoli Brewery to reuse water efficiently, and a landscape plan from campus that incorporated xeriscaping and other water saving methods.

Each class was paired with a water industry expert to help create projects and increase understanding of water in Colorado. The experts then served as the judges for the competition and scored projects based on their connection to the Colorado Water Plan, ability to engage the public about a water issue, raise awareness of water issues, provide resources and tools for action, and a level of feasibility for real-world integration.

The event was very successful in bringing industry experts, students, and community members together to engage and learn from one another during the final judging session and the tabling event that immediate followed. The OWOW Center is excited to host another round of the competition in the fall of 2020.

#GrandJunction: “It’s Water Course time.” Three Evening Seminar Series on #Hydrology, #COWater Law, #Snow Science, #CloudSeeding, #ForestHealth & #WaterQuality Feb 11, 18 & 25 — Hutchins Water Center

Click here for all the inside skinny.

The latest newsletter is hot off the presses from the #GunnisonRiver Basin

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Funding Opportunities in the Gunnison River Basin
Funding opportunities for water projects that help improve and conserve water and land resources can be found on, including:

  • Colorado Water Plan Grants
  • US Department of Agriculture federal grants and loans
  • Colorado Water Conservation Board state grants and loans
  • Do you know a high school student interested in Western water issues? Encourage them to apply for the Diana Hoppe Memorial Scholarship. Read More.

    Hay meadows near Gunnison

    New poll shows leading role of #climate policy in #Colorado primary — @ConservationCO #ActOnClimate #VoteEnvironment #KeepItInTheGround

    Comasche Solar Farm near Pueblo April 6, 2016. Photo credit: Reuters via The Climate Reality Project

    From Conservation Colorado (Garrett Garner-Wells):

    New polling released today highlighted climate change as the top issue in Colorado’s upcoming presidential primary, 10 points higher than health care and 15 points higher than preventing gun violence.

    The survey of likely Democratic presidential primary voters conducted by Global Strategies Group found that nearly all likely primary voters think climate change is already impacting or will impact their families (91%), view climate change as a very serious problem or a crisis (84%), and want to see their leaders take action within the next year (85%). And by a nearly three-to-one margin, likely primary voters prefer a candidate with a plan to take action on climate change starting on Day One of their term over a candidate who has not pledged to act starting on Day One (74% – 26%).

    Additionally, the survey found that among likely primary voters:

  • 85% would be more likely to support a candidate who will move the U.S. to a 100 percent clean energy economy;
  • 95% would be more likely to support a candidate who will combat climate change by protecting and restoring forests; and,
  • 76% would be more likely to support a candidate who will phase out extraction of oil, gas, and goal on public lands by 2030.
  • These responses are unsurprising given that respondents believed that a plan to move the U.S. to a 100 percent clean energy economy will have a positive impact on future generations of their family (81%), the quality of the air we breathe (93%), and the health of families like theirs (88%).

    Finally, likely primary voters heard a description of Colorado’s climate action plan to reduce pollution and the state’s next steps to achieve reductions of at least 50 percent by 2030 and at least 90 percent by 2050. Based on that statement, 91% of respondents agreed that the Air Quality Control Commission should take timely action to create rules that guarantee that the state will meet its carbon reduction targets.

    Full survey results can be found here.

    Montrose Councillors get briefing by @USBR and @BLM_CO regarding future Paradox Valley salinity operations

    Paradox Valley Location Map. Credit: Bureau of Reclamation

    From The Montrose Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

    The main injection well for salinity control in the Paradox Valley is hearing the end of its useful life, prompting a draft document spelling out actions to take.

    Montrose County commissioners, who met on Wednesday afternoon with several representatives of the Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Land Management, raised concerns over scenic and recreational values, seismic activity and energy use that would come into play, depending on which of four scenarios the Department of Interior selects to address salt loading.

    “Some of the concerns I have is the aesthetics of it,” Commissioner Roger Rash said, referring to an alternative in the agencies’ draft environmental impact statement that calls for several large evaporative ponds.

    Commissioner Sue Hansen, meanwhile, was concerned about private land bordering the proposed sites for new salinity control facilities, as well as seismic activity…

    Agencies offer strategies

    The first alternative in the Dec. 6 draft EIS is no action: salinity control would stop in the Paradox Valley.

    Alternative B calls for a new deep injection well, under which brine would be collected and piped to the existing surface treatment facility and, from there, piped to a new deep injection well and injected into unpressurized sections of the Leadville Formation.

    Two proposed areas were analyzed as possible locations for the new well. One includes a combination of BuRec land and BLM-administered land on Skein Mesa.

    The second area is on BLM-administered land on Monogram Mesa or Fawn Springs Bench.

    Each site would require rights of way or withdrawals of BLM land and a variety of infrastructure; additionally, the Monogram Mesa site would require BuRec to acquire 49 acres of private land.

    Potential Gunnison sage-grouse habitat implications were noted, although the draft EIS did not deem these to be significant.

    If Alternative B is selected, new seismic investigations would be completed to determine the final site of the well; this would require additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.

    Alternative C would control salinity through several evaporation ponds and piping. It would require a 60-acre landfill that could be as tall as 100 feet above ground…

    The draft EIS acknowledges the ponds and landfill would “negatively affect the visual landscape of the Paradox Valley” and would not conform with the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office’s resource management plan, so an amendment to that plan would be required…

    Alternative C would also have the most indirect effect on cultural resources and on wildlife, particularly migratory birds…

    Rash said the proposed mitigation itself wasn’t visually appealing, either, particularly putting netting over the evaporative ponds; McWhirter said that would only be feasible for one of the ponds.

    The draft EIS also looked at zero-liquid discharge technology, Alternative D.

    Under it, brine would be piped to a treatment plant consisting of thermally driven crystallizers to evaporate and condense water from brine, resulting in a solid salt and freshwater stream. The salt would also go to a 60-acre landfill.

    There would be 80 acres of permanent surface disturbance, requiring the withdrawal of 267 acres of BLM-administered lands, further, 56 acres of private land would have to be obtained.

    Alternative D would also use the most energy — 26,700 megawatts per hour for electrical energy use and 4.2 million CCF (hundreds of cubic feet) of natural gas per year.

    Hansen asked about seismic activity related to injection activities and was told it’s not usually significant — although there was a 4.5 magnitude earthquake close to the current injection well — and that seismic activity is indeed associated with the injection drilling…

    Summary of alternatives

    • A (no action): 95,000 tons of salt per year no longer removed from Dolores and Colorado Rivers; induced seismicity; increase in downstream salinity numeric criteria.

    • B (new injection well): removal of up to 114,000 tons of salt per year; induced seismicity; drilling under Dolores River Canyon Wilderness Study Area (if sited on Skein Mesa location); 22-mile pipeline and pumping stations to transport brine with high hydrogen sulfide concentration (if sited on Monogram Mesa location).

    • C (evaporation ponds): Removal of up to 171,000 tons of salt annually; 540-care surface evaporation ponds; wildlife mortality; non-conformance with BLM’s Resource Management Plan; 60-acre salt disposal landfill…

    • D (zero-liquid discharge technology): Removal of up to 171,000 tons of salt annually; significant energy requirement; 60-acre salt disposal landfill…

    The draft environmental impact statement is available online at

    Comments may be submitted until 11:59 p.m., Mountain Time, Feb. 4. Those interested may submit comments by email to or to Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501.

    Paradox Valley via

    “To put it bluntly, just stop plowing, I’m a big fan of no-till farming” — Mike Petersen

    Graphic via

    From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

    Information on the growing salinity of the river was presented Wednesday at a workshop organized by the Centennial, Morgan and Sedgwick County Conservation Districts. The workshop information included some from a study commissioned by Colorado Corn Growers Association and Colorado Corn Administrative Council, and due to be released later this month.

    According to Mike Petersen, a retired soil scientist and agronomist who presented at the workshop, the situation in the South Platte Valley isn’t dire yet but unless changes are made, the situation will only become worse.

    The first change is to stop plowing the ground every year, and leave residues on the surface as long as possible. Plowing, Petersen said, releases needed soil moisture into the air, which leaves salts behind, this concentrating them…

    One step is to use non-ionic surfactants in irrigation water. Farmers add surfactants to make the water “wetter,” so it soaks into the ground and gets to the plant root zone. It’s similar to the way a detergent acts in dishwater or a clothes washer. Many surfactants are “anionic” which means they have a slight electrical charge that binds them to minerals in the soil. Non-ionic surfactants are biodegradable and plant-derived from sugars, usually glucose derivatives, and fatty alcohols. Once they do their job, they break down in the soil and become inert.

    Better water management is another key to controlling salinity. According to a 1989 treatise on soil salinity by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, flood irrigation and furrow irrigation are best for salinity control, but may need to be combined with sprinkling. Petersen recommended irrigating between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. as that’s when the plants take up water most efficiently.

    Biostimulants that encourage microbial growth in the soil will help plants overcome the potassium-blocking effect of salts in the soil. Potassium is a “big sister” to nitrogen, in that it grabs nitrogen by the hand and pulls it up through the plant system.

    The 2018 Farm Bill defines a biostimulant as “(A) substance or micro-organism that, when applied to seeds, plants, or the rhizosphere, stimulates natural processes to enhance or benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress, or crop quality and yield.”

    It’s the first time federal legislation has ever defined biostimulants, and the USDA hopes it will lead to more widespread use of them.

    Petersen also recommended not using, or at least using much less, sulfur-based soil amendments. Gardeners are familiar with sulfur-based fertilizers with brand names like Miracle Gro and Azomite. Sulfur is beneficial to plant growth, but Petersen said over-use of it can worsen salt content in soils.

    Cash crops and cover crops that are “salt tolerant” can, over time, actually remediate salty soil. According to Successful Farming Magazine, cash crops that do well in salty soil are barley, camelina, rye, safflower, sunflower, and sugar beets. Cover crops that can help remediate the soil include barley, rye, Siberian millet and sorghum-Sudan grass.

    Petersen strongly recommended rotating crops to minimize salinity as well.

    The USDA and Colorado State University have several recommendations for good crop rotations in eastern Colorado, depending on location and whether the crop is irrigated or dryland.

    None of the measures to counter soil and water salinity are exactly cheap, and in some cases growers may have to make some hard choices. Still, he said, it beats the alternative of doing nothing.

    Some high-hazard dams rated unsatisfactory — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    Harvey Gap Reservoir via the Applegate Group.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    The YT Ranch reservoir is small, with a storage capacity of just 125 acre-feet (an acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons of water). Bill McCormick, the state’s dam safety chief for the Division of Water Resources, said there’s some question whether the dam even should be categorized as high-hazard and whether instead it should be listed as significant-hazard, meaning it only poses a threat of significant structural damage but not loss of life if it failed when fully filled…

    Either way, the dam has been undergoing annual inspections and state dam safety officials hope to see its owner, now [Laramie Energy], eventually repair it. Meanwhile, the reservoir remains under a storage restriction, allowed to store only about half of its capacity, McCormick said…

    Elsewhere in the Grand Mesa area, a restriction was lifted in November on storage in Big Battlement Lake after its owner, the city of Delta, did repair work to address seepage issues at the dam there. Big Battlement is upstream of Cedaredge.

    Big Battlement is a high-hazard dam that previously had an unsatisfactory rating.

    Following is a rundown on some other high-hazard dams in the region that currently are rated unsatisfactory:

  • Ward Lake on the Grand Mesa, upstream of Cedaredge. It’s an earth dam built in 1958, and is owned by the Surface Creek Ditch & Reservoir Co. Its normal storage capacity — what it can hold before water goes through the spillway, rather than how much more it can hold in flood conditions before the dam is overtopped — is 1,710 acre-feet. But it was purposely breached in preparation for replacement of the outlet works and can’t currently hold water, McCormick said. He said those construction plans are currently under review by the state and the work may take place this summer.
  • Grass Valley (Harvey Gap), north and upstream of Silt in Garfield County. This earth dam was built in 1892 and is owned by the Silt Water Conservancy District. Its normal storage capacity is 5,060 acre-feet. McCormick said that a few years ago the district fixed a problem with its outlet works, and dam officials eased a storage limit, but storage still is limited to no higher than a foot below the spillway until that deteriorated spillway can be addressed. He said his agency is working with the district on getting funding for that work.
  • Gurley, above Norwood, owned by the Farmers Water Development Co. It’s an earth dam built in 1961, and its reservoir’s normal storage capacity is 9,000 acre-feet. McCormick said the dam has a stability problem on its downstream slope involving a small slide last spring, and engineering work is being done regarding a repair.
  • Stillwater #1 in Garfield County, upstream of the community of Yampa. Owned by Bear River Reservoir Co., it is an earth dam and was built in 1939 with a normal storage capacity of 6,088 acre-feet. McCormick said it has seepage issues above a certain reservoir elevation and so it has a storage restriction. “I think they’ll be moving forward with some engineering on that here in the near future as well,” McCormick said.
  • Lawn Lake Flood

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    It’s been nearly four decades since a dam last had a major failure in Colorado, but the incident remains high on the minds of state dam safety officials.

    The Lawn Lake dam’s rupture in Rocky Mountain National Park in 1982 also caused the failure of a downstream dam, killed three people and caused extensive damage in the Estes Park area.

    “We use that as a training tool for our staff, our dam owners,” with a goal of keeping such an incident from ever happening again, said Bill McCormick, chief of dam safety for the state Division of Water Resources…

    At the start of the new year in Colorado, new dam-safety rules went into effect that are intended to account for the possibility of wetter storms in the years and decades to come due to warming temperatures.

    “We’re not sure when the storms will come but we know they will and we’re planning against those likely increases in the extreme events, just in the magnitude of the extreme events,” McCormick said.

    A focus of the new rules is better designs for spillways to help dams accommodate a higher volume of water during a storm.

    McCormick said the new rules resulted from a 2018 study on future extreme regional rainfall in Colorado and New Mexico. State and federal agencies were involved in the research…

    “One of the things that came out of that was a recommendation to accommodate increases in temperatures due to climate change into our rules and regulations,” he said.

    He said although the study was inconclusive as to whether there would be more or fewer storms in the future, it indicated a good likelihood of wetter storms because warmer air holds more water…

    McCormick said 432 high-hazard dams are in the state, but he said that descriptor is a common source of confusion. People tend to think a dam classified as high-hazard dam is in poor condition, and that’s often not the case.

    Dams get that classification based on the potential for downstream structures to be impacted with a water depth and velocity that could cause loss of life if the dam fails. McCormick said all it takes is for one structure to be deemed vulnerable under the evaluation criteria for the dam to get that classification. Colorado dams with a high-hazard rating are inspected once a year. Those in the significant hazard classification, meaning their failure wouldn’t likely cause loss of life but could cause major property damage, are inspected every other year. Low-hazard dams are inspected every six years.

    McCormick said different design standards also apply to the various classifications of dams.

    How to handle #stormwater will be an issue in 2020 for the Mesa County commissioners

    Grand Mesa Colorado sunset.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

    On drainage, the county will be busy getting its feet under it to deal with a change in how that will be managed.

    Last year, Grand Junction officials decided it no longer wanted to oversee the 5-2-1 Drainage Authority, primarily for financial and logistical reasons. As a result, the county is to take over those management duties by March. In the meantime, the authority will be dissolved, and the county is to work with the Grand Valley Drainage District, the city, Fruita and Palisade to address immediate storm water needs.

    What likely won’t be addressed by year’s end, McInnis says, is an idea to create a single entity to address drainage issues and an expected $100 million need in infrastructure improvements, primarily because of disagreements over how to fund it. Doing so likely could require a countywide ballot measure if a special fee is required or the effort calls for creating a new, expanded drainage district with taxing powers to encompass all five government entities.

    “The big challenge for all of us is going to come when the feds come down and start putting these (water quality) standards in place,” McInnis said. “Right now, we’ve got a little period of time where the county can do it with the contributions from the city and the others. But the day will come when we’re all going to have to shimmy up to the bar.”