Aspinall Unit operations update: Streamflow forecast for April-July = 87% of average

Gunnison River Basin High/Low graph January 27, 2020 via the NRCS.

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be decreased to 800 cfs on Wednesday, January 29th. Snowpack in the Upper Gunnison Basin is currently at 106% of normal. The Jan 15th runoff forecast for Blue Mesa Reservoir predicts 87% of average for April-July inflows. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for January through March.

Currently, there are no diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 1100 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be at zero and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 800 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

This scheduled release change is subject to changes in river flows and weather conditions. For questions or concerns regarding these operations contact Erik Knight at (970) 248-0629 or e-mail at eknight@usbr.gov

Colorado Drought Monitor January 21, 2020.

State looks to address #Texas v. #NewMexico water case — The New Mexico Political Report

Map of the Rio Grande watershed. Graphic credit: WikiMedia

From Santa Fe New Mexican (Robert Nott) via The New Mexico Political Report:

State leaders looking for a way to address a litigated claim that New Mexico is not providing enough water to Texas under a decades-old compact want funding for a water conservation pilot program south of Elephant Butte.

Though the plan remains vague, both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Legislative Finance Committee are proposing to support it by allocating funding to the project in the 2021 fiscal year.

The plan would let water users in the southern part of the state figure out how and when to leave certain areas of their farms unplanted — or fallow — to conserve ground and surface water.

“It’s the start of a solution to the lack of water resources south of Elephant Butte,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, who first announced the plan at a Journey Santa Fe event this month. “It’s critical that the solution comes from the farmers down there.”

The Governor’s Office is proposing a $10 million allocation in next year’s budget for a year’s implementation of the pilot program. The LFC’s $30 million proposal takes a three-year approach to the plan, Wirth said.

Either way, many state legislators from both political parties believe the far-from-fleshed-out pilot needs more legislative oversight…

Wirth and State Engineer John D’Antonio both said that while the plan in itself is a solid step toward conserving water, the shadow of the legal fight over the Rio Grande — litigation that is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court — adds urgency to the action.

The Rio Grande Compact of the late 1930s set up a complicated deal in which Colorado, New Mexico and Texas all are allocated a certain amount of water from the river…

The Texas-New Mexico legal conflict started in 2013 when Texas argued New Mexico farmers are using too much water, including through the drilling of wells, from the Rio Grande as it flows through New Mexico on its way to Texas.

In 2017, the Supreme Court denied New Mexico’s legal motions to dismiss the Texas complaint…

D’Antonio said his office is looking at temporarily fallowing some of the land that uses Rio Grande water and then studying the hydrological effects of it to see if the plan could sustain a similar long-term effort among farmers willing to take part.

The lower Rio Grande water users would “pay into a fund that would compensate those farmers for fallowing,” he said. “The initial money the state would put up would allow for that program to evolve over time.”

[…]

John Utton, a water attorney who represents several water-users in the southern part of the state — including New Mexico State University and the Camino Real Regional Utility Authority — said it’s vital planners look at areas that could be permanently fallowed without damaging the state’s agricultural business.

“There may be time where there is more land available and other times when we need to shrink a little bit but we don’t want to permanently fallow agricultural efforts,” he said. “Pecans, green chile and onions are all an important part of our economy and need to be kept viable.”

Center for #ColoradoRiver Studies: “The Future of Lake Powell” February 20, 6:30 pm at Star Hall in Moab, Utah #COriver #aridification

Lake Powell, created with the 1963 completion of Glen Canyon Dam, is the upper basin’s largest reservoir on the Colorado River. But 2000-2019 has provided the least amount of inflow into the reservoir, making it the lowest 20-year period since the dam was built, as evidenced by the “bathtub ring” and dry land edging the reservoir, which was underwater in the past. As of October 1, 2019, Powell was 55 percent full. Photo credit: Eco Flight via Water Education Colorado

From email from the Center for Colorado River Studies:

A forum discussion on what politics, policy, and climate change have in store for Lake Powell.


Thursday, February 20, 6:30 pm
Historic Star Hall, Moab, Utah
Free and open to the public!

Join us, and a panel of experts, to start a conversation about long-term issues associated with management of Lake Powell. Since the Colorado River began filling Glen Canyon in 1963, the future of Lake Powell has been up for discussion. Climate change, politics and water-use policy all now factor into the fate of this vast reservoir in southern Utah.</blockquote>

#Snowpack news

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

And, here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map via the NRCS.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map January 27, 2020 via the NRCS.

@CWCB_DNR: Demand Management Statement from Director Mitchell @cwcb_becky #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

A hayfield near Grand Junction, irrigated with water from the Colorado River. Under demand management pilot programs, the state could pay irrigators to fallow fields in an effort to leave more water in the river. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Colorado Water Conservation Board Update on Demand Management January 2020:

As we look forward into 2020, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) continues the important work of investigating whether a Demand Management program would be feasible and advisable for the State of Colorado. Demand Management is the concept of temporary, voluntary, and compensated reductions in the consumptive use of water in the Colorado River Basin. Any water saved would be used only to ensure compact compliance and to protect the state’s water users from involuntary curtailment of uses.

The Drought Contingency Plan, a suite of agreements among the seven Colorado River Basin States, was executed in May 2019, and provided the opportunity to begin initial discussions about a potential Demand Management program in the Upper Colorado River Basin. All Upper Basin States, including Colorado, are currently conducting their own feasibility investigations. Though these states recognized that Demand Management may be a mechanism for ensuring ongoing compact compliance, they also recognized that significant stakeholder outreach and interstate coordination would need to come first. In the event that Colorado reaches the conclusion that Demand Management is feasible and advisable, all other Upper Colorado River Basin States must agree to key elements before any program could be created.

Colorado’s investigation is guided by the 2019 Demand Management Work Plan, which was adopted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The Plan provides a framework for initial stages of the investigation, including: workgroups, regional workshops, and education and outreach.

Since the CWCB’s June 2019 update on Demand Management, the workgroups have met multiple times across the state to identify issues associated with a potential Demand Management program. Workgroups consist of experts in Colorado River issues and water management, along with water stakeholders. All meetings have been open to the public. Meeting details and reports are available on the CWCB website. In addition, the IBCC is aiding in this process by analyzing how principles of equity may be incorporated into any potential Demand Management program, if one is set up. This ongoing work is informing the feasibility investigation.

The second regional Demand Management workshop will be held at the Colorado Water Congress https://www.cowatercongress.org/2020-annual-convention.html on January 29 from 9:00 – 11:30 am. This workshop will provide an update on the feasibility investigation, and an opportunity for attendees to provide feedback on the work completed so far and potential next steps.

We are only in the initial stages of the feasibility investigation. CWCB staff plans to seek additional guidance this summer from the CWCB Board relating to the next steps of the feasibility analysis. Additionally, CWCB staff has reported to the Water Resources Review Committee as requested and continues to work with the Colorado General Assembly to secure funding for the feasibility investigation.

The CWCB recognizes the importance of a thorough investigation, including discussions with Colorado water users, stakeholders, and others across the state. At this stage, we cannot provide a timeline for completion of this feasibility investigation.

Get involved in the discussion:

  • Attend a workgroup meeting. All meetings are open to the public and provide opportunity for public comment.
  • Attend a regional workshop to hear updates on the feasibility investigation and provide feedback.
  • Reach out to us directly at demandmanagement@state.co.us.
  • The CWCB would like to thank workgroup members who have spent significant time considering these important issues, as well as the water stakeholders and other Coloradans who have been involved with this investigation throughout the process. The CWCB looks forward to continuing its important work on Demand Management in the New Year.

    To provide written comments on demand management, please email demandmanagement@state.co.us. For more information from CWCB staff, email Sara Leonard at sara.leonard@state.co.us.

    Sincerely,
    Rebecca Mitchell
    Director, Colorado Water Conservation Board

    Powderhorn snowmaking gets draft approval — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    Trail map for Powderhorn Ski Area via liftopia

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

    Powderhorn Mountain Resort’s goal of adding top-to-bottom snowmaking is dependent on a reservoir and pipeline project.

    That project cleared another hurdle on Friday with the announcement of a draft approval.

    The draft decision from the Grand Valley Ranger District authorizes the construction of a snowmaking supply pipeline, a pump house, an intake pad, and also the Rim View Connector Trail for mountain biking.

    The decision includes an environmental assessment of the project.

    The draft decision now initiates a 45-day period where objections can be filed. Individuals who submitted written comments during the combined scoping and comment period in September 2019 have standing to file an objection to the draft decision.

    Objections must be submitted by mail, express delivery, messenger service, or hand delivery to Objection Reviewing Officer, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, 1617 Cole Blvd. Bldg. 17, Golden, CO 80401. Email objections can be submitted at SM.FS.r02admin-rev@usda.gov.

    The first phase of the project will connect Powderhorn to Anderson Reservoir No. 2 with a pipeline that can supply up to 140 acre-feet, or around 45.6 million gallons of water, to the snowmaking system.

    The environmental assessment and other documentation can be found at http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=56710/

    Information: Bryan West, Project Leader, at (303) 275-5276, or bryan.west@usda.gov.

    New #WOTUS Strips Protections and Could End Up in #SCOTUS — H2O Radio @H2Otracker

    A wetland along Castle Creek. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From H20Radio.org:

    The Trump administration formally proposed a rule last week that strips away protections that have been in place 50 years for waters all across the U.S. In what is seen as a victory for fossil fuel producers, farmers, and real estate developers, the proposed rule retains protections for large bodies of water, rivers, and streams—but removes safeguards for many wetlands, intermittent streams, and groundwater.

    E & E News reports that a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, made up of current and former EPA scientific advisers, has filed a complaint calling for an investigation into the process leading to the new rule, charging that it was based more on politics than science. They claim that the final rule contradicts the overwhelming scientific consensus on the connectivity of wetlands and rivers and streams. They add that officials instructed staff not to submit comments for the record.

    The new rule, which will be implemented in 60 days, is sure to be challenged in court by environmental groups and some state attorneys general. The outcome, if it makes it to the Supreme Court, is not certain. One environmental law expert told Politico that conservative justices on the Court may not like the way the Trump administration ignored both science and the experts it picked to advise the EPA.