Part 2: Addressing concerns from Save Greeley’s Water about Terry Ranch — The #Greeley Tribune

Water treatment process in Greeley. Graphic via Greeley Water

From The Greeley Tribune (Cuyler Meade):

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a three-part series on the city’s decision on whether to approve the Terry Ranch project. It was originally intended as a two-part series but new information presented after the publication of Part 1 necessitated a third part. Part 1 is available here and Part 3 will publish in Sunday’s Greeley Tribune…

Wood, following the publishing of the first part of this series, connected with the Tribune to share his group’s concerns. Much of what he shared is also found on savegreeleyswater.com, and many of the elements of the group’s fears and allegations had already been discussed with the city’s project manager for the project, and its deputy director of the Water and Sewer Department, Adam Jokerst.

What follows is the second part of Jokerst’s responses from a phone conversation, in question-and-answer format, to the issues raised by Wood, Gauthiere and their cohorts, including some further clarification from Jokerst via email about a question raised by Wood in his conversation with the Tribune.

Save Greeley’s Water: Injection of treated Bellvue water may dissolve precipitated uranium ore bodies, causing uranium levels to spike, causing problems with treatment.

Adam Jokerst: We hauled water from the Bellvue water treatment plant and collected that water at the location where the water would tee off the transmission line between Bellvue and Greeley, so the actual point it’d be directed up to Terry Ranch. We hauled that up, injected it underground, stored it for about 24 hours, then for three to four days, withdrew it, tested the quality and tested to see if there were any reactions between injected water and rock. We saw no evidence there would be adverse reactions somehow leeching or mobilizing contaminants.

Before we did this, we ran a variety of models looking at chemistry and geochemistry, predicting these reactions. This was a confirmation of what we thought would occur. Doing this pilot test again conclusively confirmed there won’t be reactions.

We’ll continue to do additional tests when we do the injection to doubly make sure, but we have no indication there will be adverse reactions.

SGW: Terry Ranch is not an exclusive water right in the underground aquifer. The State Land Board land, which checkerboards the ranch, is vulnerable to others filing water rights. Other entities drawing water could result in significantly less annual capacity in order to comply with groundwater extraction rules.

AJ: We have an exclusive right to the groundwater underlying the surface land owned by the Terry Grazing Association. The Terry Grazing Association lands are checkerboarded with State Land Board land, but part of the purchase agreement is an exclusive lease to the water under the State Land Board land. The water under the State Land Board land has not been decreed. It’s not a decreed water right, but if it were decreed, Greeley would have the exclusive lease on the water.

It’s a big aquifer. There are others that could file for non-tributary decrees of the aquifer in different locations, but our modeling shows that there will not be well interference. That means withdrawals from miles away are not going to affect the yield of our rights. This is common. In the Denver Basin, many different entities pump from the same aquifer; typically, there’s no interference between multiple wells. We localize draw-down, so the well depletes the groundwater around itself, but there isn’t interference between wells owned by different people.

Terry Ranch is also in the area of the thickest area of the aquifer, and it typically becomes less thick and shallower as you move from north to south, so Terry Ranch is where the most productive wells are expected to be.

SGW: The proposed Terry Ranch Pipeline Route is very inefficient from a cost and energy standpoint.

AJ: Terry Ranch will cost more to operate than our existing water treatment plants because of the pumping requirements. We will need to pump the water out of the ground, that’s energy, then the water will flow by gravity down to Greeley, but when we inject water, we’ll have to treat it and pump it. So yes, there are energy inputs required that make this more expensive. The point we’ve made about this being a drought supply is these are costs not that are not incurred every year.

An analogy on the spot: I have a commuter car with great gas mileage, and I have an SUV that costs a little more to drive. I don’t drive the SUV every day, though, and so my bottom-line budget is not significantly impacted by having a less-efficient vehicle. In this way, while Terry Ranch will be expensive, we won’t operate it all the time as we do our surface water. So rate impacts will not be as comparably increased, water rights won’t be increased comparably because we’re bringing on a more expensive treatment system. We fully acknowledge it’s more energy-intensive and more expensive, though.

SGW: The Terry Ranch/Wingfoot/City of Greeley talking points (have) referred to the $125 million from Wingfoot as something that Wingfoot is contributing to the deal. It is not a gift; it is a loan with interest. The city would be better served by financing through the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

AJ: It is not a loan.

It’s a complicated agreement. We negotiated in exchange for these credits that we’d get the assets and $125 million. There are options that give Wingfoot the right to sell us credits, Greeley the right to buy back credits, but it’s not like we’re on the hook for a mortgage. We aren’t making monthly or annual payments to Wingfoot.

SGW: The City of Fort Collins applies their sewage sludge to the land upstream of the Terry Ranch aquifer. Currently, Fort Collins applies 2,344 metric dry tons of sewage sludge per year to the property.

AJ: It is happening. Fort Collins owns the Meadow Springs Ranch located primarily on the west side of I-25, just west of Terry Ranch. And Fort Collins disposes the solids left over from waste water treatment through land application. We looked at the risk of these biosolids infiltrating into the ground and making their way to Terry Ranch.

Groundwater moves extremely slow, that’s why this is classified non-tributary, so our experts create da model flow and simulated it’d take about 1,400 years for any solids on the Meadow Springs Ranch to make it to the Terry Ranch aquifer. That’s the most conservative estimate — conservative as in the shortest amount of time.

Over time, contaminates break down, most do, and we feel the risk is low. As we’ve said, repeatedly, we’re not saying there’s no risk of contamination, but it’s very very low risk. And not any more risk than we currently see with our existing surface water supplies.

Surface water can flush out, but in Boyd Lake or Lake Loveland, there’s continuous input of contaminates. There’s no flushing that out. That’s why we treat it. It’d be nice to have pristine water sources untouched by man, but that doesn’t exist. The water department treats that water so it’s safe and great tasting.

Part three of this conversation will be published tomorrow. The city of Greeley announced Friday evening that City Council would allot extra time to public comment — a full hour — during the March 2 council meeting wherein the endorsement for the purchase finalization will be voted upon.

The meeting, which takes place at 6 p.m. March 2, can be commented on via the city’s Zoom platform at greeleygov.zoom.us./j/98241485414. A link is also being provided to sign up to speak, at signupgenius.com/go/4090D4BACAD2AAB9-march. Sign-ups must be made before 5 p.m. March 2.

Residents who wish to comment will be allowed three minutes each, unless more comments than can fit in an hour are presented, in which case the time will be limited to two minutes each to accommodate as many comments as possible.

Residents may also submit comments prior to the meeting in writing at cityclerks@greeleygov.com or by mail to the City Clerk’s Office, 1000 10th St., Greeley, CO, 80631.

From KUNC (Luke Runyon) via High Plains Public Radio:

The city of Greeley wants to keep growing, and it needs water to do so.

Over the last couple years, city leaders have focused their energy on testing and developing an underground water supply to make that growth possible. The Terry Ranch project, estimated to cost upwards of $318 million to fully build out, would give the city access to an untapped water source — a rarity on the fast-growing, water-tight Front Range.

Unlike the city’s existing water storage, held in reservoirs along the Poudre River northwest of Fort Collins, the Terry Ranch project represents a pivot in how Greeley has developed new water supplies since its inception as the agricultural temperance settlement, the Union Colony, in 1870.

Instead of enlarging one of its existing reservoirs, city leaders are envisioning the massive groundwater basin on the Colorado-Wyoming border, sitting below grazing bison herds, as its way toward future growth, drought resilience and climate change adaptation…

Jokerst stood next to a test well drilled deep into an aquifer that’s held in place by layers of rock below the property. Think of it like an enormous contact lens under the surface, filled to the brim with water. State officials have deemed the aquifer “non-tributary,” meaning it doesn’t drain, or isn’t connected, to a flowing waterway.

The well is delivering treated drinking water from the city’s existing water treatment plant into the aquifer to see what happens to it after spending a few days below the surface. The treated water, the same thing you’d get if you turned on a faucet in Greeley, is trucked into the high elevation grassland by the thousands of gallons. It’s then pumped back out and tested.

As the pump whirred in the background, Jokerst ticked off the factors that he says make this project the smartest way to ensure Greeley can keep growing, without breaking the bank.

“This very well could be the future of Greeley’s water supply,” he said.

City officials have been pitching the Terry Ranch project to residents since making the project public knowledge in June 2020, while at the same time studying its efficacy. Here’s how it would work: Greeley would get the water in the aquifer, and $125 million to cover a portion of infrastructure costs, from a private company, Wingfoot Water Resources. The city would have years to build the pipelines, treatment facility and pump stations needed to draw water out of the aquifer, and put additional water in it.

Water needs aren’t so severe in the city that they’d need to bring it online rapidly, Jokerst said.

The first six miles of pipeline could begin construction in 2022, Jokerst said, while a full project build out could take 15 to 20 years. If dry conditions eat into their existing storage, that timeline could be sped up…

The idea for this new storage project was born out of an old one. The Terry Ranch project came up as an alternative to the city’s proposal to enlarge its Seaman Reservoir on the North Fork of the Poudre River. Expanding dams and flooding riparian habitat — home to at least one threatened species — comes with its own financial and legal problems. And when the aquifer project presented itself as a cheaper alternative capable of storing more water with fewer environmental concerns, Jokerst said the city took it seriously…

Climate change is already raising temperatures across Colorado, and diminishing the snowpack the city relies on. This project is an investment in diversifying how Greeley stores water, as droughts are projected to grow in length and intensity over the next several decades, Jokerst said.

If the Terry Ranch project moves forward and is approved by the city council, Jokerst said Greeley will exit the 15-year federal permitting process to make Seaman Reservoir larger, having spent roughly $19 million on that dam project so far.

Private backer bets on future water needs

The logistical diagram of how water would move from the Poudre River to the aquifer and then from the aquifer to future homes and businesses is complicated. The financial arrangement to make this deal possible is moreso.

By handing over ownership of the water, Wingfoot, which owns the aquifer now, would receive credits, redeemable by developers interested in building within city limits and in need of new water taps.

As part of the deal, Greeley gets a big underground bucket of water and some cash to develop it, while Wingfoot makes their investment back when new water users — like subdivisions, commercial districts and factories — come knocking.

The aquifer under Terry Ranch is estimated to hold 1.2 million acre-feet of water…

In the deal, Wingfoot will receive 12,121 credits, each one equal to one acre-foot.

Right now, developers without ready access to water supplies can pay what’s called “cash in lieu” to Greeley to supply water to new construction. The city’s current cash in lieu rate for one acre-foot is $36,500. When selling the credits, Wingfoot will likely come under that cost to stay competitive with Greeley’s rate, Jokerst said.

While it’s not easy to pin down with certainty the exact value of the water at stake, it’s possible to game out some scenarios. In a highly unlikely hypothetical scenario where Wingfoot sells all 12,121 credits immediately after closing for the slightly discounted price of $36,499, the water credits would be worth $442.4 million…

But the big unknown is how fast Greeley will grow, and how much water it will need…

The Greeley city council is expected to take a final vote on the deal during its March 2 meeting.

#ColoradoRiver study means it’s time to cut #water use now, outside experts say — #Tucson.com #COriver #Aridification

At full pool, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States by volume, but two decades of drought have dramatically dropped the water level behind Hoover Dam as can be seen in this photo. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

From The Associated Press (John Locher) via Tucson.com:

Less water for the Central Arizona Project — but not zero water.

Even more competition between farms and cities for dwindling Colorado River supplies than there is now.

More urgency to cut water use rather than wait for seven river basin states to approve new guidelines in 2025 for operating the river’s reservoirs.

That’s where Arizona and the Southwest are heading with water, say experts and environmental advocates following publication of a dire new academic study on the Colorado River’s future.

The study warned that the river’s Upper and Lower basin states must sustain severe cuts in river water use to keep its reservoir system from collapsing due to lack of water.

That’s due to continued warming weather and other symptoms of human-caused climate change, the study said.

The study from Utah State University said Arizona and the other two Lower River Basin states may have to slash their take from the river up to 40% by 2050 to keep reservoirs from falling too low. The other Lower Basin states are California and Nevada.

The study also says the four Upper Basin states must dramatically scale back or kill plans to divert more water from an already depleted river. Those states are Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The study appeared as the seven states are preparing to renegotiate the operating guidelines that expire at the end of 2025.

More immediately, the first cutbacks in Central Arizona Project deliveries from the river — primarily to Central Arizona farmers — appear likely for next year…

Eric Kuhn, one of the new study’s co-authors, speculated that over time, the Central Arizona Project will make a bunch of deals with irrigators along the river to buy water rights, following the footsteps of Colorado and Southern California water transfers.

Aerial photo – Central Arizona Project. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=326265

“CAP water flows uphill to the money. Municipalities in Central Arizona have political power and money. How many votes are there along the river vs. how many votes there are in Maricopa County?” said Kuhn, retired director of the Colorado River Water District in Glenwood Springs.

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2019 of the #coriver big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck

It’s pretty clear the Imperial Irrigation District, the river basin’s largest water user by far, will also be a target for future water transactions to help cities, [Mark] Udall said. Imperial takes more than one-third of the Lower Basin’s 7.5 million acre-feet annual supply from the river…

Upcoming negotiations: Arizona’s top water officials and some outside water experts and activists are taking different stances toward the impending seven-state river negotiations.

Those talks should start sometime this year, although the Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the reservoirs, isn’t being specific on when.

It’s working on developing a plan “that ensures that all of our partners on the river are able to participate and contribute in a collaborative and meaningful way,” bureau spokeswoman Patricia Aaron said…

Central Arizona Project map via Mountain Town News

Reacting to the negotiations and the new study, a CAP official said that agency has long understood risks to the Colorado River system associated with a hotter, drier future, and realizes that more work is needed to address them for the longer term…

The state has a good start in preparing for the seven-state talks, thanks to the structure of water interest groups the state assembled to put together the 2019 drought plan, said ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke.

“We anticipate looking at a variety of hydrologic futures, how they might impact lake levels, how we might protect those lake levels under those hydrologic scenarios, as well as how our efforts might equate to the frequency or magnitude of reductions,” Buschatzke said…

Retiring coal-fired power plants faster than now planned can save water because they use a lot, Bahr said.

Having water priced more “appropriately” — charging more for water use beyond what homeowners need for drinking, cooking and bathing, is also advisable, she said — something Tucson already does in its water rate structure.

Aerial Survey: Though Declining, Spruce Beetle Remains Most Damaging Forest Pest — @CSFS_Outreach

The spruce beetle remains the most damaging forest pest in the state for the ninth consecutive year, based on a 2020 aerial detection survey. Photo credit: Dan West/Colorado State Forest Service

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

Forest managers are working together to address continued outbreaks of insects and disease in Colorado’s forests, including the spruce beetle, which remains the most damaging forest pest in the state for the ninth consecutive year, based on a 2020 aerial detection survey led by the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, and Colorado State Forest Service.

Every year, the agencies aerially monitor forest health conditions on millions of forested acres across the state. Today, the agencies released the results of last year’s aerial survey and survey map.

Due to pandemic safety protocols in 2020, trained aerial observers with the USFS and CSFS only flew over priority areas where there was a likelihood of forest pests causing widespread tree mortality.

In total, they monitored 16.3 million acres from the air, compared to 30.2 million acres in 2019.

Because of the reduced acreage observed, total numbers of affected acres are not included in the findings or in the forthcoming 2020 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests since comparisons between 2020 and other years are not possible.

Impacts from Native Bark Beetles

Despite the modified flights, observers were able to detect and track pests infesting areas of forests that were previously unaffected, including the spruce beetle and Douglas-fir beetle. While the intensity of these two native bark beetles decreased in 2020, they continue to infest and kill previously unaffected stands.

The Spruce beetle affects high-elevation Engelmann spruce. Primary areas impacted by this insect include newly infested forests in eastern Gunnison and western Chaffee counties. Both counties are experiencing severe, intense infestations. Spruce beetle populations also increased in Hinsdale, San Juan and La Plata counties. Beetle outbreaks in Huerfano and Custer counties continue to expand as well, though not as rapidly. In Grand County, the intensity of infestations has declined from past years as the beetle continuously depletes large-diameter spruce trees. Since 2000, the spruce beetle has affected at least 1.88 million forested acres in Colorado.

The Douglas-fir beetle continued to invade Douglas-fir trees in central and southern Colorado, particularly in Gunnison, Saguache, Hinsdale and Mineral counties, where infestations are severe.

Spurred by Drought Conditions

Weather continues to play an important role in creating conditions that exacerbate the activity of spruce and Douglas-fir beetles, as well as other forest pests, in Colorado. The amount of precipitation and daily temperature patterns affect how well trees can ward off pests to remain healthy and resilient. In 2020, winter and spring had average precipitation amounts. Thereafter, severe and extreme drought conditions across most of the state occurred through the summer and fall, further weakening trees and intensifying infestations of bark beetles and other forest pests.

“Unfortunately, our dry conditions are optimal for insect epidemics and tree diseases in many parts of the Rocky Mountains,” said Tammy Angel, Acting Regional Forester for the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. “Where possible, managing forests for age and species diversity can increase resiliency while ensuring diverse wildlife habitat, cleaner air and water, timber and grazing resources, and greener, safer landscapes for recreation.”
Spurred by drought conditions, the roundheaded pine beetle and associated native bark beetles continue to affect ponderosa pine forests in Dolores and La Plata counties in southwest Colorado. The intensity of this activity remains high in localized areas of the San Juan National Forest. Further to the south, pockets of affected areas within La Plata County are expanding.

The aerial survey also revealed that western spruce budworm continues to be Colorado’s most damaging and widespread forest defoliator. Budworm infested forests in south-central Colorado continue to experience intense disturbance. Over several years, defoliation from this insect may weaken a tree to the point where bark beetles can easily overcome the tree and kill it.

“Colorado’s forests are vital to the economic and ecological health of our state,” said Mike Lester, state forester and director of the Colorado State Forest Service. “Our partnership with the USDA Forest Service on the aerial survey offers another great example of how we can effectively address forest health issues that span property boundaries by working together, like bark beetle outbreaks. With information from the survey, we better understand the health of our forests and can focus our efforts where they’ll make the biggest impact.”
The aerial survey exemplifies the agencies’ continued support for shared stewardship and the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2019, which establishes a framework for federal and state agencies to work collaboratively to accomplish mutual goals and respond to ecological, natural resource, and recreational challenges and concerns for the 24.4 million acres of forestlands in Colorado.

More results from the 2020 aerial survey include a map of insect and disease activity in Colorado and a story map at http://bit.ly/COForestHealth2020.

To view 2020 Forest Insect and Disease Conditions in the Rocky Mountain Region, visit https://usfs.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=10c87fc97cef46f59a4f256b75f978ab

For more information on the insects and diseases of Colorado’s forests, and support for landowners seeking to achieve healthier forests, contact your local CSFS field office or visit http://csfs.colostate.edu.

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The Roaring Fork Valley experienced a spread of Douglas fir, spruce and western balsam bark beetles last year but the infestations remained light compared to many other parts of the state, according to the latest assessment…

“I can share (that the) spruce beetle has moved into the Aspen area, particularly in the northern reaches of the Elk Mountains,” Dan West, forest entomologist with the state forest service, wrote in an email…

The aerial survey indicated the White River National Forest had about 160 acres of new spruce beetle activity that was detectable from the air. The infestation is likely more widespread, he said, because what can be seen from the air is usually less than what’s occurring on the ground.

The survey also determined that the Douglas-fir beetle infestation has intensified because of the Lake Christine Fire of July 2018 on Basalt Mountain.

Map via the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District.

“Moderately scorched trees are havens for bark beetles, and the trees along the burn perimeter were likely brood trees for these beetles,” West said.

Forest health assessments are vital because Colorado’s forests have come under pressure from climate change. Warmer temperatures and unpredictable precipitation levels are stressing trees, said Adam McCurdy, forest and climate director at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.

He said Douglas-fir beetles have been a slow but growing problem primarily downvalley from Aspen, with spot infestations in Castle Creek Valley, the ridges north and east of Snowmass Canyon and the Fryingpan Valley…

McCurdy said Douglas fir trees have proven in the past to be resilient because they are hardier in a warmer climate. Recent droughts and warm temperatures have stressed them.

West agreed that drought in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout Colorado has made Douglas firs more vulnerable to beetles. Last year’s weather pattern added to the problem.

McCurdy pointed out that intense Douglas-fir beetle infestations are on the doorstep of Pitkin County, in eastern Gunnison County.

In addition to Douglas-fir infestations, the aerial survey map shows small outbreaks of western balsam bark beetles in higher elevations of the Independence Pass corridor as well as Castle and Maroon creek valleys. Sub-alpine fir trees are vulnerable to the western balsam bark beetles. There are also a few small pockets of spruce beetle infestations in the Roaring Fork watershed.

White River National Forest officials were concerned about a potential spruce beetle outbreak after a landmark avalanche cycle in March 2019. The slides wiped out untold acres of mature spruce and other trees in areas such as Conundrum Creek Valley and Lincoln Creek Valley.

West said there is limited potential for the debris piles to host an infestation…

The Colorado State Forest Service also identified disease in Colorado’s signature aspen trees as another emerging problem in 2020, largely because of drought.

McCurdy said there is ample evidence of aspen stands experiencing problems in the Aspen area: the Cemetery Lane side of Sunnyside Trail, upper Buttermilk and the west side of Castle Creek Valley downvalley from Toklat Lodge among them.

The White River National Forest announced Thursday a major proposal for a decades-long aspen management plan. The 2.3-million-acre forest contains an estimated 600,000 acres of aspen trees. About 375,000 acres are targeted for timber harvesting and prescribed fire to maintain and expand aspen stands.