#Denver Water, #Boulder County strike agreement to address construction impacts, improve road safety, and enhance environment, open space and recreation as part of reservoir project — @DenverWater #SouthPlatteRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Rivers and creeks in Grand County are part of Denver Water’s North Collection System. Water flows through the Moffat Tunnel, under the Continental Divide, to Gross and Ralston reservoirs. Image credit: Denver Water.

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Todd Hartman):

Denver Water and Boulder County have entered into an agreement related to the Gross Reservoir expansion that marks the final step in a nearly 20-year federal, state and local review to permit the project. Denver Water will commit nearly $13 million and make significant adjustments to construction practices to address the County’s concerns over impacts to the local community and environment, as well as provide a contribution of land to Boulder County’s open space inventory. In exchange, Boulder County agrees that the project may proceed, with construction expected to begin in April 2022.

“We appreciate the County’s effort to work through the issues and come to an agreement that will help ease concerns about the project’s impact on nearby residents, bring benefits to Boulder County residents through enhancements to its trails and open spaces and allow Denver Water to proceed on an undertaking critical to the water security of 1.5 million people in the Denver region,” said Denver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead. “Denver Water and Boulder County have shared values. We both believe deeply in the need to address climate change, conserve our water resources and protect the region’s precious environment. This agreement reflects those values through dedicated funding and actions on the ground.”

The settlement puts to rest a federal lawsuit filed by Denver Water in July, asking the court to resolve a conflict centered around whether Boulder County has any land-use permitting authority over the project given the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s order requiring Denver Water to proceed with expansion of the reservoir.

The agreement includes numerous components across multiple areas of emphasis. They include:

Reducing construction and traffic impacts

  • $5 million to be administered by Boulder County to address specific concerns that may arise over noise, light and dust impacts to residents near the project.
  • Steps to reduce haul traffic on area roads, including development of an on-site quarry (later to be largely submerged by the reservoir), restrictions on hours when travel and work can occur on local roadways and other efforts to limit congestion.
  • Permanent improvements to some roads and intersections.
  • Traffic reduction efforts to include a rideshare program that creates incentives for workers to carpool from a staging area below Coal Creek Canyon, and certain “no truck” days.
  • Environmental and recreational enhancements

  • Transfer of 70 acres of Denver Water land near Walker Ranch Open Space to Boulder County, with deed restrictions limiting it to open space and conservation uses, along with easements over utility-owned land to allow for trail connections through the reservoir area.
  • $5.1 million for use in acquiring land for open space, conservation easements and trail corridors.
  • $1 million for restoration of the South Saint Vrain Creek on the Hall Ranch Lyons Quarry site; any remaining funds from the project can be used for other creek or wetland projects in the South Boulder Creek watershed.
  • $250,000 over the five-year construction period for use by Boulder County for additional rangers, communication staff, signage and shuttles to address recreational closures during construction.
  • Commitments to conservation and climate action

  • $1.25 million to offset carbon emissions estimated to be generated by the project, even as Denver Water notes those emissions will be offset over time by the hydropower produced by the dam. The county will invest the funds in various emissions reductions projects.
  • $250,000 toward a pilot program to explore using “biochar” to reduce the carbon emissions related to tree removal associated with the project.
  • Use of hydropower to operate most of the construction project and fly ash or other natural constituents in the concrete, which reduces CO2 production.
  • Continued work by Denver Water to conserve and reduce water use, spanning programs that include recycled water, limits on summer water, tiered rate structures and efficiency improvements at the customer-by-customer level.
  • Denver Water has worked earnestly for years with local governments and citizen groups on the West Slope to address the impacts of an expanded Gross Reservoir. Those talks, often intense, and spanning half a decade, resulted in the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement in 2013, an unprecedented collective effort involving 18 signatories and 40 partner organizations that began a new era of collaboration and conflict-resolution between Denver Water and the West Slope to provide environmental benefits and protections for the Colorado River watershed.

    The utility also made — and in many cases has already carried out — additional commitments worth tens of millions of dollars to offset impacts of the reservoir expansion in conditions attached to permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as through separate agreements with the U.S. Forest Service.

    Previous commitments have also included projects of direct benefit to Boulder County: raising the dam by an additional 6 feet to create 5,000 acre-feet of storage space in Gross Reservoir for environmental flows in South Boulder Creek as well as to bolster water supplies for the cities of Boulder and Lafayette, greater production of clean energy from the hydroelectric facility at Gross Reservoir, improvements to portions of South Boulder Creek damaged in the 2013 floods and expanded recreational opportunities at the reservoir.

    “In the two decades Denver Water has spent preparing for the project, we have been driven by a singular value: the need to do this expansion the right way, by involving the community, by upholding the highest environmental standards and by protecting and managing the water and landscapes that define Colorado,” Lochhead said. “Boulder County and its residents share these perspectives, and we look forward to continuing to work with them as the project moves ahead.”

    #Snowpack news (November 3, 2021)

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

    Here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for November 3, 2021 via the NRCS.

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map November 3, 2021 via the NRCS.

    Colorado Springs’ overhaul of development rules calls for scaling back high-water turf grass — The #ColoradoSprings Independent

    Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

    From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    Changes in landscaping regulations for new Colorado Springs developments are on the horizon, the latest effort to curtail the use of water-thirsty lawns as drought continues to grip the West and pressure the Colorado River, the source of up to 70 percent of the city’s water supply.

    The rules would reduce the amount of turf a residential lot would be allowed to have to minimize use of the city’s water supply on landscaping.

    Part of Retool COS, a revamp of all city regulations governing development, the turf restrictions could be adopted as early as next May.

    But those rules won’t affect existing sprawling lawns and high water-using plants. Officials hope the use of tiered water rates and education will encourage property owners to reduce demand, which already has happened.

    As the consequences of severe drought become more apparent, Colorado Springs residents should recognize the condition of the state’s rivers has a direct impact on them, says Colorado Springs Utilities spokesperson Natalie Eckhart…

    West Drought Monitor map October 26, 2021.

    Drought in the West has spanned 20 years, and on Oct. 18, the Bureau of Reclamation released its Two-year Probabilistic Projections that updated modeling for inflows at Lake Powell and Lake Mead, fed by the Colorado River, showing the reservoirs are at risk of reaching critically low levels…

    The Bureau of Reclamation study removed the wet period of the 1980s from the calculations and “further underscores the possible dire drought conditions that the [Colorado] Basin may experience in the next two years and the need for immediate action to bolster resiliences going forward,” the Water for Colorado Coalition said in a release. The coalition is made up of nine organizations — including The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Colorado, Trout Unlimited and Western Resource Advocates — that work to ensure the state’s rivers support those who depend on them.

    The study and projections illustrate “the grim state of hydrology in the Basin and offers an impetus for urgent collaborative action,” the coalition said.

    “The Colorado River is in trouble, and under the status quo there is uncertainty as to how the River system will continue to support thriving economies, communities, and river systems within the state, let alone the 40 million people, trillion dollar economic market, diverse cultures, and myriad fish and wildlife habitats that rely on it.”

    The coalition urged water users to incorporate all the tools available to “increase preparedness and resilience to climate change,” including voluntary conservation efforts, forest management and restorative agricultural practices to boost soil health and reduce loss of water…

    For Colorado Springs Utilities, the need to monitor and conserve water is a pragmatic one, not being located on a river system but rather relying heavily on transmountain supplies, most notably from the Colorado River.

    About 50 percent of the city’s water supply comes from the Colorado River Basin. That portion rises to 70 percent with reuse, a method that allows for additional use of previously used water. For example, once water is used for domestic purposes, it’s treated and reused in the city’s non-potable system.

    “We take the risks very seriously and employ a number of mitigation strategies,” Colorado Springs Utilities Board Chair Wayne Williams says via email.

    Among those:

    • Diversifying Colorado River sources by acquiring and developing rights from various other sources, including share agreements with lower Arkansas River Valley agricultural users.

    • Expanding the current infrastructure to allow for more storage. Utilities has spent millions of dollars in recent years repairing and upgrading dams at its reservoirs for maximum storage potential. It secured the equivalent of a third of the city’s supply by inking a storage contract at Pueblo Reservoir and building the Southern Delivery System pipeline to Colorado Springs, which became operational in 2016. It’s also in the planning and research stage of building a new reservoir in the White River National Forest in Eagle County to perfect water rights owned by the city and Aurora since the 1950s.

    • Reducing per capita water consumption through efficiency and conservation measures. Data show the average use per person in Colorado Springs dropped from 139 gallons per day in 2000 to 82 gallons per day this year, Springs Utilities spokesperson Jennifer Kemp says. Moreover, of that 139 gallons some 20 years ago, 60 percent went for outdoor use, while outdoor use today comprises only 41 percent of total usage per person.

    • Exploring more uses for the city’s non-potable water supply.

    • Researching the feasibility of incorporating recycled water into the domestic supply.

    Now, the city’s Retool COS land use code proposes to incorporate “recognized water conservation principles” into development requirements to conserve water.

    The proposal calls for reducing consumption through use of xeriscape concepts and “standards for the selection, installation, and maintenance of organic soil amendments and plant materials, and the conservation of indigenous plant[s].”

    Those steps will, in turn, reduce mowing and fertilization requirements of limited turf areas, preserve species habitat, and curtail air, water and noise pollution, Retool COS says.

    Specifically, the proposed code change would apply to all single-family and two-, three- and four-family residential projects by limiting turfgrass to no more than 25 percent of the portion of the lot not covered by a primary or accessory structure or a driveway, patio, deck or walkway.

    Also, no contiguous area of less than 100 square feet could be planted with high-water-use turfgrass or other landscaping with spray irrigation. This provision’s intent is to minimize pockets of high water turf outside of the “tree lawn” — that space between a detached sidewalk and street curb, Planning Supervisor Morgan Hester says in an email…

    Past efforts have included education about plants and their individual watering needs, and tiered rate structures that increase the per-unit cost of water based on levels of usage. Simply put, the more water you use, the higher the price, or the less water you use, the lower your bill will be.

    6 priorities could deliver energy breakthroughs at the Glasgow #climate summit – there’s progress on some of them already — The Conversation #COP26

    The energy transition is already underway.
    Volker Hartmann/Getty Images

    Dolf Gielen, Colorado School of Mines and Morgan Bazilian, Colorado School of Mines

    Much of the news coming out of the U.N. climate conference has focused on the spectacle, and how countries’ pledges aren’t on track to prevent dangerous climate change. But behind the scenes, there is reason for hope.

    In many countries, the energy transition is already underway as falling costs make renewable energy ubiquitous and more affordable than fossil fuels. A growing number of world leaders agreed at the climate summit to reduce methane emissions and aim for net-zero emissions.

    The challenge for government officials now is figuring out how to help scale up clean energy dramatically while reducing fossil fuel emissions, and still meeting the rapidly growing energy demands of billions of people in developing and emerging economies. With an ongoing energy crisis creating shortages and record high prices in several countries, navigating this early stage of the energy transition requires thoughtful policies and well-prioritized plans.

    As climate policy experts with decades of experience in international energy policy, we identified six strategic priorities that could help countries navigate this tricky terrain.

    Illustration showing where to cut emissions soonest most efficiently
    Meeting the Paris climate agreement goal of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) will require reducing fossil fuels and increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere with techniques such as carbon capture and storage or use (CCS and CCU).
    International Renewable Energy Agency

    1) Deploy carbon pricing and markets more widely

    Only a few countries, states and regions currently have a carbon price that is high enough to push polluters to cut their emissions.

    A price on carbon, often created through a tax or carbon market system, captures the cost of harms caused by greenhouse gas emissions that companies don’t currently pay for, such as climate change, damage to crops and rising health care costs. It is particularly critical for power production and energy-intensive industries.

    One goal of the Glasgow negotiations is to write rules to help carbon markets function well and transparently. That’s essential for effectively meeting the many net-zero climate goals that have been announced by countries from Japan and South Korea to the U.S., China and those in the European Union. It includes rules on the use of carbon offsets, which allow individuals or companies to invest in projects elsewhere to offset their own emissions. Carbon offsets are currently highly contentious and not delivering trustworthy emissions credits.

    2) Focus attention on the hard-to-decarbonize sectors

    Shipping, road freight and industries like aluminum, cement and steel are all difficult places for cutting emissions, in part because they don’t yet have tested, affordable replacements for fossil fuels. While there are some innovative ideas, competitiveness concerns – such as companies moving production out of the country to avoid regulations – have been a key barrier to progress.

    Europe is trying to overcome this barrier by establishing a carbon border adjustment mechanism, which would tax imports of goods that didn’t face the same level of carbon taxes at home.

    The United States and the European Union also announced at the summit that they would work to negotiate a global agreement to reduce the high emissions in steel production.

    3) Get China and other emerging economies on board

    It is clear that coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, needs to be phased out fast, and doing so is critical to both the U.N.‘s energy and climate agendas. Given that more than half of global coal is consumed in China, its actions stand out, although other emerging economies such as India, Indonesia and Vietnam are also critical.

    This will not be easy. Notably half of the Chinese coal plants are less than a decade old, a fraction of a coal plant’s typical life span. China has raised its climate commitments, including pledging to reach net-zero emissions by 2060 and agreeing to end financing of coal power plants in other countries, but its current pathway will not yield substantial reductions this decade.

    A major announcement by India’s prime minister at the COP around a net-zero goal for his country by 2070, with interim targets for ratcheting down emissions before then, is an early win.

    4) Focus on innovation

    Support for innovation has brought cutting-edge renewable power and electric vehicles much faster than anticipated. More is possible. For example, offshore wind, geothermal, carbon capture and green hydrogen are new developments that can make a big difference in years to come.

    At the climate conference, a coalition of world leaders launched what they call the “Breakthrough Agenda” – a framework for bringing governments and businesses together to collaborate on clean energy and technology. The Glasgow Breakthroughs include making electric vehicles the affordable norm, bringing down clean energy costs, scaling up hydrogen energy storage and getting steel production to near-zero emissions, all by 2030.

    The countries and companies that lead in developing these new technologies will reap economic benefits, including jobs and economic growth. More opportunities exist in market design, social acceptance, equity, regulatory frameworks and business models. Energy systems are deeply interconnected to social issues, so changing them will be successful only if the solutions look beyond the technology to societal needs.

    5) Prioritize green financing

    Over 160 banks and investment groups are involved in another coalition that has agreed to put pressure on high-emissions industries by tying lending decisions to the goal of global net-zero emissions by 2050.

    Ramping up green financing will require transparent taxonomies, or guidelines, for defining green and clean investments; science-based transition plans for companies and financial institutions; and a hard look at portfolios of financial institutions given the risk of substantial stranded fossil fuel assets, such as coal power plants that haven’t reached the end of their life spans but can no longer be used.

    Meeting the transition funding needs of developing economies should be a high priority.

    6) Reduce short-lived greenhouse gases

    The Biden administration announced a sweeping set of rules on Nov. 2, 2021, for reducing emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide that comes from leaking oil and gas infrastructure, coal mines, agriculture and landfills. Methane doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long, so stopping emissions can have faster climate benefits while carbon emissions are reduced.

    The U.S. and the European Union also launched a new global pledge to cut methane emissions by nearly one-third by 2030. Over 100 countries have signed on.

    This type of coalition, based on a tightly focused issue, can bring meaningful emissions reductions in places that are less likely to support broader climate agreements.

    Not one solution

    It is likely that U.N. energy and climate deliberations will continue to move in fits and starts. The real work needs to take place at a more practical implementation level, such as in states, provinces and municipalities.

    If there is one thing we have learned, it is that mitigating climate change will be a long slog. While it’s uncontested that the benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation far exceed the costs, politicians need to show that the many energy transitions emerging are good for economies and communities, and can create long-lasting jobs and tax revenue.

    COP26: the world’s biggest climate talks

    This story is part of The Conversation’s coverage of COP26, the Glasgow climate conference, by experts from around the world.

    Amid a rising tide of climate news and stories, The Conversation is here to clear the air and make sure you get information you can trust. Read more of our U.S. and global coverage.

    This article was updated Nov. 3, 2021, with over 100 countries signing onto the methane pledge.The Conversation

    Dolf Gielen, Director for Technology and Innovation at the International Renewable Energy Agency and Payne Institute Fellow, Colorado School of Mines and Morgan Bazilian, Professor of Public Policy and Director, Payne Institute, Colorado School of Mines

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    “Powerless” against #Denver Water, #Boulder County OKs deal to triple size of Gross Reservoir — The #Colorado Sun

    Gross Reservoir — The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will raise the height of the existing dam by 131 feet, which will allow the capacity of the reservoir, pictured, to increase by 77,000 acre-feet. The additional water storage will help prevent future shortfalls during droughts and helps offset an imbalance in Denver Water’s collection system. With this project, Denver Water will provide water to current and future customers while providing environmental benefits to Colorado’s rivers and streams. Photo credit: Denver Water

    From The Colorado Sun (Michael Booth):

    Commissioners say they hate the project, but the odds of winning a lawsuit were poor. Denver Water upped the offer to help mitigate impacts of construction to $12.5 million.

    The Boulder County Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a settlement allowing Denver Water to expand the dam and pool at Gross Reservoir, despite vocal opposition from some residents, after a $10 million mitigation deal was sweetened by $2.5 million to soften construction impacts for neighbors.

    Denver Water is likely to vote Wednesday to approve a total of $12.5 million in mitigation and open space donations for Boulder County, after last-minute talks raised the sum.

    The commissioners said they were heartsick at the destruction the dam expansion will cause for neighbors and for revered county open lands. But, they added, county attorneys advised them that federal laws preempt their planning process because the existing dam includes a hydroelectric generator and is therefore controlled by federal laws.

    The attorneys said Boulder County would lose a federal suit filed by Denver Water and that the agency would withdraw its mitigation offer if they delayed a vote.

    Denver Water already has the federal approval it needs to raise the dam on South Boulder Creek by 131 feet, and inundate the surrounding forest for 77,000 more acre-feet of storage, nearly tripling capacity…

    The commissioners wanted Denver Water to go through the county’s existing “1041” land use process, allowed under state law, before construction on the Gross Reservoir expansion begins. But in July, Denver Water sued, saying federal laws superseded Boulder County’s process and that its federal permit required the utility to begin construction by 2022. Boulder County was intentionally slowing down the project, Denver Water argued…

    Denver Water Manager Jim Lochhead said in a statement after the vote, “I appreciate that this was a hard and emotional decision for the Boulder County Commissioners.

    “We have tried for the last year to go through the County’s 1041 land use process, and only after delays were we forced to file litigation to prevent violation of the order by FERC for us to commence construction of the project. Denver Water continues to be committed to do everything in our power to mitigate local impacts of construction,” Lochhead said.

    Construction would impact surrounding forests, trails, roads and neighbors, and also temporarily cut off access to popular open spaces in parts of the area. Commissioner Marta Loachamin said she toured areas around Gross Reservoir for the first time in June, and was struck by markings in the forest showing how many trees will have to be removed and how high the new water pool will rise in the canyon.

    Conservation groups who have sued to stop the dam expansion can continue to negotiate with Denver Water for additional mitigation, deputy county attorney David Hughes told the commissioners. Denver Water has indicated they would continue to talk with the groups, he said…

    The conservation groups are adamant Boulder County could have negotiated for more mitigation. Save the Colorado and PLAN-Boulder County said they had proposed $70 million in mitigation as a settlement, and that Boulder County stopped including them in talks last week.

    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    The agreement with Denver Water now includes:

  • $5 million for the construction impacts on immediate neighbors of the reservoir.
  • $5.1 million to Boulder County open space funding to acquire new land or repair and maintain trails and facilities under extra strain from visitors who can’t use Gross Reservoir spaces.
  • $1.5 million to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from construction.
  • $1 million for South St. Vrain Creek restoration.
  • A transfer of 70 acres of Denver Water land near Gross Reservoir to Boulder County to expand Walker Ranch Open Space.