#ColoradoRiver Connectivity Channel Clears Federal Hurdle — @Northern_Water #COriver #aridification

Concept map credit: Northern Water

Click the link to read the release on the Northern Water website:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has released a Finding of No Significant Impact drawn from its Environmental Assessment of the Colorado River Connectivity Channel. The decision paves the way for construction to begin on the project to reconnect the Colorado River through a restored channel around Windy Gap Reservoir in Grand County.

The $30 million project, proposed by the Municipal Subdistrict, Trout Unlimited, Grand County and the Upper Colorado River Alliance, will build a natural river channel around Windy Gap Reservoir for the purpose of improving aquatic habitat in the Fraser and Colorado rivers. The project is expected to reopen the Colorado River to fish passage and improve habitat and water quality in downstream reaches.

“The Colorado River Connectivity Channel is an example of the positive outcomes that can occur when diverse groups come to the table to meet the challenges of delivering a reliable water supply to Colorado residents, all while addressing important habitat in the Colorado River,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind.

Analysis: Push to export #water from San Luis Valley aquifers is NOT dead — The #Alamosa Citizen #RioGrande

Denver Basin Aquifer System graphic credit USGS.

Click the link to read the article on the Alamosa Citizen webiste (Chris Lopez):

Awise man once said, “developers only have to win once; the community has to win every time.” It’s the same with water exportation proposals. The Renewable Water Resources plan suffered a setback when Douglas County chose not to invest with federal COVID money, but the push to export water from the San Luis Valley aquifers is not dead.

“I don’t think anyone should let down their guard and think we ‘won.’” That’s the voice of Karen Hickman, a Douglas County resident who’s been following the discussions in Castle Rock, and who emailed us her thoughts after listening to Monday’s meeting.

She finished by saying, “Commissioner Teal doesn’t like to lose so there must be another plan in the works!”

There is, and Douglas County hired-attorney Steve Leonhardt pointed to it in his first confidential memorandum to the three commissioners on March 23, 2022 when he wrote, “RWR is developing a legislative strategy to address this issue.”

The issue being the required augmentation plan and meeting the rules and regulations governing groundwater withdrawals in the Upper Rio Grande Basin of the high-desert San Luis Valley.

Enter State Sen. Cleave Simpson, who also serves as general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. He’s been pointing out the problems of the Renewable Water Resources plan from the beginning and understood all along that Bill Owens and Sean Tonner would look to take a path through the state legislature.

“Since the first engagement with RWR proponents and the description of their pipe dream concept I felt the only path forward for them was some sort of legislative relief from the Confined Aquifer New Use Rules and the Rules and Regulations for Groundwater Withdrawals in Division 3,” Simpson told Alamosa Citizen. “I suspect they would have to make the case that their concept was of such vital state interest that the state should create a variance of some sort for them to allow confined aquifer withdrawals outside of the Rules we all have adopted and operate under.

“I can’t say for sure what that looks like, maybe as simple as a variance request,” he said. “I think the memo from Steve Leonhardt, the letter from their original attorney to the AG’s office, emails from Sean Tonner to Jerry Berry and the language in their presentation to the commissioners all point to the same thing, ‘but for the rules’ this would be a beneficial concept.”

A legislative strategy for Owens and Tonner might revolve around the “public trust doctrine” that allows the public to decide the best and most appropriate use of the waters of the state. It’s an area that Simpson said he’ll be watching.

As Renewable Water Resources regroups, keep in mind Douglas County commissioners are limited to two four-year terms and that Commissioner George Teal, who supported the request for $10 million of American Rescue Plan Act money from Douglas County, is in the second year of his first term. Commissioner Abe Laydon is up for re-election in November and was able to avoid a primary challenge at the Douglas County Republican assembly when county delegates denied a floor nomination from his challenger. Commissioner Lora Thomas is running for Douglas County Sheriff in November; her term as commissioner doesn’t end until 2025 so she could remain on the county commission if she loses the sheriff’s race. If she wins the sheriff’s race, Teal and Laydon will likely look to influence whoever takes her place.

All of this matters because Owens, the former governor of Colorado, and Tonner, his former chief of staff, both live in Douglas County and are active in Douglas County Republican politics as well as state Republican politics.

Owens; Tonner; their other partner, John Kim; Teal; and Laydon run in the same local political and social circles in Douglas County and along the Colorado Front Range.

Expect them to push forward.

How 18 years, 2 #Utah senators and nearly $220 million help the Navajo: Romney ushers in historic #water rights agreement — The Deseret News #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Survey work begins in 2018 for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project on the Navajo Nation. Photo credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation via The High Country News

Click the link to read the article on The Deseret News website (Amy Joi O’Donoghue). Here’s an excerpt:

A historic agreement sets aside what was destined to be a protracted legal battle between the Navajo Nation and the state of Utah over rights to water in the Colorado River. With that agreement comes nearly $220 million in funding for the Navajo to provide drinking water to 40% of the tribe in Utah that lacks access to clean, running water. The settlement will be at the center of a ceremonial signing Friday in southern Utah’s Monument Valley featuring Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, the president of the Navajo Nation, Jonathan Nez, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who negotiated the funding as part of the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act…

What the act does: This is the result of decades of negotiation, recognizing and protecting reserved water rights of the Navajo Nation and the investment of water delivery infrastructure. Specifically it:

  • Recognizes a reserved water right of 81,500 acre-feet of water for current and future use by the state of Utah.
  • Facilitates payment by the federal government to the Navajo Nation of over $210 million.
  • The state of Utah will contribute $8 million toward drinking water infrastructure on the Navajo Nation.
  • Officials explain ‘dead pool’ and how to stop it in #LakeMead — The Las Vegas Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Intake #1 exposed. Photo credit: SNWA

    Click the link to read the article on the Las Vegas Sun website (Jessica Hill). Here’s an excerpt:

    Dead pool is when the water level would get so low in a reservoir that a dam would no longer be able to produce hydropower or deliver water downstream. It’s been a subject of concern for Lake Powell and Lake Mead, which are on the Colorado River and deliver water to more than 36 million people in seven states as well as Mexico. Lake Mead would reach dead pool if the water level dropped to 895 feet, said Patti Aaron, public affairs officer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Basin Region. As of Wednesday, the level of Lake Mead is 1,049.65 feet, she said.

    “We’re not in danger of hitting dead pool,” Aaron said. “It’s not an imminent problem. It’s not something that’s going to happen tomorrow, and it’s something we don’t think is going to happen at all. We would take every action to not have that happen.”


    Aaron said there were two ways to help Lake Mead: One is better hydrology and more snow melt from the mountains running off into the Colorado, but that’s not in anyone’s control. The second way is through conservation by the Lower Basin states — Nevada, Arizona and California, Aaron said, “leaving water instead of taking it.”

    The Bureau of Reclamation is working with its partners in funding different pilot projects and studies to conserve water, she said. Projects include lining canals so they’re not losing water due to seepage, and desalination techniques.

    “There’s a finite amount of water,” Aaron said, “so we have to look at things like desalination and augmentation.”