#OakCreek to bid out Sheriff Reservoir fixes again, now with Routt County, state support — Steamboat Pilot & Today #YampaRiver

Photo credit: Medicine Bow National Forest

Click the link to read the article on the Steamboat Pilot & Today website (Dylan Anderson). Here’s an excerpt:

Routt County approved more support to complete upgrades at Sheriff Reservoir on Tuesday, Nov. 8, this time for installation of a new head gate at Oak Creek’s nearly 70-year-old water source. The $80,000 from the county will be used with an equal amount of town funding to get a matching grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. If the grant is awarded as officials expect, the state and local funding would total $380,000…

Sheriff Reservoir has two problems. First, the original head gate is 68 years old, and both town officials and state water managers worry it could fail if it is not replaced. Installing a new gate is what the latest county funding would be used to support. The town has put installation of a new head gate out to bid twice, but each effort produced bids that far exceeded initial engineering estimates for the cost of the work and the available funding. That estimate was $187,000, but the lowest bid the town received was $405,000. The town has purchased the new head gate equipment already with the help of DOLA and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

A century ago in #ColoradoRiver Compact negotiations: seeds of a deal planted, but which will grow? — InkStain #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

In the leadup to the final compact negotiations, the weather in Santa Fe had been dry. Santa Fe New Mexican, Nov. 11, 1922

Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (John Fleck and Eric Kuhn):

With the arrival of all of the commissioners and their key advisors, the Commission got back together on Saturday morning. The purpose of this meeting had been agreed to back in early April. Each commissioner would be given the opportunity to suggest the form of a compact. Nevada’s James Scrugham suggested they go by state alphabetical order.

What followed represents a remarkable turning point in the history of the Colorado River Basin, with echoes still reverberating today.

How should the water be divided?

How should the basin be governed going forward?

How much water did they actually have to work with?


Arizona’s Winfield Norviel went first. Norviel suggested a compact based on the application of prior appropriation on a basin-wide basis – for a limited, but unspecified period. He suggested existing rights would not be impacted, shortages should be shared on an equitable basis, and that exports out of the basin would be prohibited except for a specified amount for Colorado and Utah. Importantly Norviel suggested a three-member commission appointed by the president that would investigate disputes and determine if water was being wasted for non-economic purposes. This echoed a proposal Norviel had made at the commission’s first meeting back in January.

California’s McClure passed but suggested one of his associates might make a proposal later. It was then the turn of Delph Carpenter, Colorado’s representative.


Carpenter proposed that the beneficial consumptive use of the river be split between two basins – the moment when this monumental foundation of the river’s management, which had been first proposed by Reclamation’s Arthur Powell Davis, began to move from vague idea to concrete plan.

Carpenter referred to them as the Upper and Lower Regions, with the dividing line at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona. He proposed the split be based on the average annual flow of 17.4 million acre-feet per year from gage record at Yuma, Arizona, which is below the confluence of the Gila and Colorado Rivers. Using this gage record would give each basin 8.7 million acre-feet per year. Carpenter believed that 14% of the river’s total flow, or 2.436 million, came from tributaries below Lee’s Ferry, therefore the upper states would have to provide 62.64 million acre-feet every ten years at Lee Ferry (8.7- 2.436=6.264). Under Carpenter’s compact, each division (basin) would be responsible for 50% of a future treaty delivery obligation to Mexico. He proposed that power generation uses would be subservient to domestic and irrigation uses. Fundamental to his approach was that after a compact dividing the water between two regions was signed, the individual states in each region would get together and divide each region’s water among themselves.

Utah’s R.E Caldwell then presented his proposed compact. It was like Carpenter’s. It would divide the river into two basins at Lee’s Ferry. Prior Appropriation would generally control the river, except the Lower’ Basin’s “senior” rights at Lee’s Ferry would be limited to six million acre-feet per year (the ten-year obligation would be 60 million acre-feet, almost the same as Carpenter). Caldwell also suggested that the Upper Basin would need a reservoir of six million acre-feet above Lee’s Ferry to make his compact work.

After Caldwell presented his suggestion, Wyoming’s Emerson, Nevada’s Scrugham, and New Mexico’s Steven Davis weighed in. Scrugham indicated that he would be OK with a compact between two basins. Emerson was on the fence; he could live with either option. Davis, however, still preferred the Commission apportion water among the seven states.

California’s McClure then asked the Commission to listen to a suggestion made by advisor George Hoodenpyl, a water attorney from Long Beach, California. He suggested a compact based on dividing the use of the waters 50/50 at Lee’s Ferry, all present uses would be protected, and each basin would cede control of future development to the federal government. After clarifying that his suggestion was his and not California’s, he went on to explain that he believed the federal government was the one entity that could make decisions for the good of the region as a whole.

The commissioners then had a general discussion of what they had heard. Norviel and Carpenter dominated the discussion. Norviel believed that a 50/50 split at Lee’s Ferry would not provide enough water for the lower river. Carpenter indicated that he was now totally convinced a compact dividing water among seven states would be unworkable. He also indicated his strong opposition to the formation of a “super-agency.”


Toward the end of the meeting, Reclamation’s Davis reviewed his agency’s data on water flows and water use in the basin. His main source was the Fall-Davis Report, which had been published in February. Davis told the commission that his estimate of the water available at Lee’s Ferry was 16.5 million acre-feet per year – crucially ignoring the work of the US Geological Survey’s E.C. LaRue, who (as we wrote in our book Science Be Dammed) since 1916 had been trying to warn the West’s leaders that the gage record was insufficient, ignoring known droughts in the 1800s.

LaRue had offered his services to Hoover, to attend and contribute to the Compact’s development. In a fateful decision that echoes through Colorado River history, LaRue’s offer was ignored.

Davis indicated that the losses between Lee’s Ferry and Laguna Dam were a little bit more than the inflows. The estimated flow at Laguna Dam was 16.4 million acre-feet per year, based on the Fall-Davis report. He estimated that present and future uses in the Upper Basin would total about 6.5 million acre-feet annually. In the Lower Basin, it was about 7.2-7.4 million acre-feet.

As the Commissioners ended their marathon meeting, they were still split over whether they should proceed with a two-basin or seven-state split. They decided to adjourn until 8 PM on Sunday evening.

Members of the Colorado River Commission, in Santa Fe in 1922, after signing the Colorado River Compact. From left, W. S. Norviel (Arizona), Delph E. Carpenter (Colorado), Herbert Hoover (Secretary of Commerce and Chairman of Commission), R. E. Caldwell (Utah), Clarence C. Stetson (Executive Secretary of Commission), Stephen B. Davis, Jr. (New Mexico), Frank C. Emerson (Wyoming), W. F. McClure (California), and James G. Scrugham (Nevada) CREDIT: COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY WATER RESOURCES ARCHIVE via Aspen Journalism

U.S. Supreme Court Set to Decide Whether Navajo Nation Can Sue Federal Government for Failing to Provide for Necessary #Water — The National Law Review #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Click the link to read the article on The National Law Review website (Kian Hudson):

Department of Interior v. Navajo Nation confronts the Court with a complicated case involving the extent of the federal government’s obligations to assess and meet the Navajo Nation’s need for water, including water from the Colorado River (which forms the Nation’s western boundary). Because much of the land in the Colorado River basin is arid, access to its water has long been a matter of dispute. For example, in the long-running Arizona v. California case (initially filed in 1952) the Supreme Court has exercised its original jurisdiction to quantify the water rights of several states and Indian tribes to the Colorado River.

Notably, in Arizona the federal government – which represented the Navajo Nation as tribal trustee – refused to press a Colorado River claim for the Navajo Nation and successfully opposed the Nation’s attempt to intervene. Arizona, to which the Court has returned several times in the last half-century, thus did not quantify any Colorado River rights the Navajo Nation may have, and the Court’s decree specifically provides that it does not affect “[t]he rights or priorities, except as specific provision is made herein, of any Indian Reservation.”

In this case, meanwhile, the Navajo Nation has brought a breach-of-trust claim against the federal government, seeking an injunction requiring the government to evaluate the Nation’s water needs and to develop a plan to secure the necessary water. The Nation contends that treaties the federal government signed in 1849 and 1868, which promised the Nation a permanent homeland and the seeds and tools needed to farm, implicitly conferred on the Nation concomitant rights to sufficient water – and, the Nation argues, imposed a duty on the government to assess, preserve, and protect those water rights. The Nation invokes the doctrine of Winters v. United States, a 1908 decision that, the Supreme Court has later explained, holds that the establishment of an Indian reservation “by implication, reserves appurtenant water then unappropriated to the extent needed to accomplish the purpose of the reservation.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with the Navajo Nation and held that the Nation could proceed with its breach-of-trust claim. The federal government, along with several states and local water districts, then sought Supreme Court review. Quoting the Court’s 2011 decision in United States v. Jicarilla Apache Nation, their cert. petitions argue that to bring a breach-of-trust claim against the federal government an Indian tribe must “identify a specific, applicable, trust-creating statute or regulation that the Government violated.” And, the cert. petitions contend, water rights implied under the Winters doctrine do not impose the specific, explicit duties required by Jicarilla. The states and local water districts also add the argument that the Nation’s suit impermissibly intrudes on the exclusive jurisdiction the Supreme Court retained in Arizona (to this contention the Navajo Nation responds that its suit does not seek a quantification of its rights in the Colorado River and thus does not implicate Arizona).

The Supreme Court is now set to resolve both of these arguments – whether water rights implied under Winter can give rise to breach-of-trust claims, and whether this suit intrudes on the jurisdiction the Court retained in Arizona. The Court’s decision will have significant practical effects on the Navajo Nation and other communities in the Colorado River basin. And more broadly, it could have significant legal repercussions for breach-of-trust claims and unquantified reserved water rights involving Tribes across the country.

© 2022 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 314

Navajo Reservation map via NavajoApparel.com

Webinar: USGS Science Support of Bi-National Efforts to Restore Riparian Ecosystems in the #ColoradoRiver Delta (November 18, 2022) — USGS #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Endpoint of the Colorado River, Mexico: Less than 80 years ago, the mighty Colorado River flowed unhindered from northern Colorado through the Grand Canyon, Arizona, and Mexico before pouring into the Gulf of California. But as this NASA Earth Observatory satellite photo from September 2000 shows, irrigation and urban water needs now prevent the river from reaching its final destination. Rather, the Colorado River just disappears into the desert sands. The Colorado River can be seen in dark blue at the topmost central part of this image. The river comes to an end just south of the multicolored patchwork of farmlands in the northwestern corner of the image and then fans out at the base of the Sierra de Juarez Mountains. Only about 10 percent of all the water that flows into the Colorado River makes it into Mexico and most of that is used by the Mexican people for farming. Photo credit: NASA

Click the link to go to the USGS website to register:

Speaker(s): Patrick B. Shafroth, Volunteer-Emeritus, Fort Collins Science Center; Pamela L. Nagler, Research Physical Scientist, Southwest Biological Science Center; Eduardo Gonzalez-Sargas, Research Scientist, Colorado State University

Date: November 18th at 2:00 pm Eastern

Summary: A treaty signed by the U.S. and Mexico in 1944, and various subsequent amendments (“Minutes”), are the basis for bi-national agreements between the two countries, including management of water in the Colorado River. One aspect of these agreements in the Colorado River delta (in Mexico, downstream of the U.S.) involves the allocation and delivery of Colorado River water to support efforts to restore riparian ecosystems. In his A Sand County Almanac (1949), Aldo Leopold famously described the Colorado River delta’s thriving ecosystems. However, by the 1960’s, combined effects of streamflow depletion and land conversion had dramatically reduced the quantity and quality of these systems and the river seldom flowed to its terminus in the Gulf of California. While some USGS involvement in the Delta began in 1998, significant effort across multiple science centers began in 2014 and continues to the present in the context of Minutes 319 and 323. In the case of both of these Minutes, some Colorado River has been allocated to support efforts to restore native riparian forests, which provide essential habitat for migratory birds. Minute 319 was focused largely on a single high or “pulse” flow in 2014 and lower flows from 2015-2017. Under Minute 323, which began in 2018 (and is scheduled to end in 2026), water deliveries are used primarily to irrigate managed restoration areas. USGS scientists led and are leading multiple efforts and are supporting others related to these restoration activities. Under Minute 319, USGS scientists conducted an array of studies related to the “pulse flow,” including surface and groundwater hydrology, dynamics of riparian vegetation, large-scale changes in vegetation “greenness” and actual evapotranspiration (ETa), and sediment transport and geomorphic change. Results of these efforts were published in a special issue of the journal, Ecological Engineering (2017) – USGS had five co-authors on eight of 17 articles in the issue and served as co-editors. Under Minute 323, primary research activities have included continued processing and analysis of remotely-sensed data to assess large-scale dynamics of vegetation and ETa in the riparian corridor, and development of several publications related to avian use of these delta habitats. Both of these foci are largely conducted in the context of assessing the effects of restoration efforts. Two key USGS activities in recent years, related to data delivery, have been to 1) deliver actionable science to end-users through the development of a searchable, remotely-sensed, vegetation greenness and ETa database, and 2) lead the development of a database system for sharing and archiving data among the Minute 323 Science and Monitoring community. This community includes myriad governmental, NGO, and University scientists and stakeholders from both sides of the border. Another significant role of USGS has been to provide technical assistance on a range of topics to our partners. In the remaining four years of Minute 323, planned activities include continuation of ongoing efforts with respect to assessing the outcomes of restoration actions on variables such as vegetation, hydrological processes (e.g., ETa), and avian ecology. New efforts include assisting restoration practitioners to improve understanding of the dynamics and influences of target restoration habitats and the importance of connectivity between habitat patches; helping develop a system to provide early warning of water stress which can negatively affect vegetation in the restoration sites; and expanding surface water-groundwater modeling efforts.