#COWaterPlan: Coalition embarks on Blue River efficiency project — Sky-Hi Daily News #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Blue River
Blue River

From The Sky-Hi Daily News (Kevin Fixler):

Efforts continue throughout Colorado with implementation of the one-year-old state water plan, and Summit County is trying to do its part.

A countywide push led by the town of Frisco and the High County Conservation Center (HC3) recently garnered a $94,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to move forward with a comprehensive Blue River watershed efficiency-planning project. The regional venture, scheduled to start in January 2017, has a total budget of $162,500, and matching cash and in-kind labor contributions from each of the county’s major municipal water providers make up the difference…

The Blue River itself acts as a source for drinking water and agricultural irrigation to Summit’s 29,000 year-round population, not to mention the countless visitors who spend time on the water body each year for recreation. Projections suggest the local population will increase by at least 5 percent over the next decade, meaning the need to conserve and discover additional efficiencies is one of the more painless ways to get ready for the additional ask.

“Water doesn’t recognize geopolitical boundaries, so it’s important we work as a watershed to accomplish some really good water conservation goals,” said Frisco Councilwoman Jessica Burley, who is also HC3’s community programs manager. “The state has set some interesting water goals, and it’s our job to go forth and conquer from a regional perspective. With these initiatives and this plan, hopefully we will make an impact on the Colorado River basin.”

[…]

The statewide plan calls for 400,000 acre-feet of new storage and that same total in conservation from urban areas. An acre-foot is the U.S. standard measurement for water bodies and equates to about 326,000 gallons. Sharing 50,000 acre-feet of water possessed by agriculture based on senior rights through alternative methods is another facet of the state plan.

Thus far, the execution of much of the lofty benchmarks has been sluggish, in part due to a lack of funding. It’s why obtaining dollars from the state for such municipal projects is so important. Not only does it provide capital at present while the research is done, but the initial approval also offers eligibility for future grants and loans. Without an CWCB-endorsed efficiency plan in place, funds are otherwise not available.

Mimicking a model previously created by the Roaring Fork Valley, Summit’s Blue River planning enterprise is backed by Breckenridge, Frisco, Copper Mountain Metro, Dillon, Silverthorne, as well as Summit County government — “So we all have a little skin in the game, so to speak,” said Burley — with the primary objective of reducing water consumption by a measurable amount in the next few years. The consortium anticipates a 14-month investigation and review process, followed by some potential actionable items, such as leak detection and repairs, education and outdoor watering mandates, as soon as a year after that.

“This is the first step into bringing the Colorado Water Plan to fruition,” explained Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado River District, a public policy agency in charge of protecting the named basin. “Part of being more water efficient is finding those leaks and stopping them. That’s efficiency at a systematic level, then it drills down to the retail level with things like lawn irrigation, efficient appliances and efficient spigots and showerheads.”

If it’s to be successful, putting the ambitious state plan into practice will ultimately fall more on the shoulders of each local community and watershed, he added, rather than through commands dictated at the state level. And that’s a summons Summit County leadership recognizes and is attempting to embrace one year later.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 700 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

Green Mountain Dam via the Bureau of Reclamation
Green Mountain Dam via the Bureau of Reclamation

From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Green Mountain Reservoir continues to release 700 cfs to the Blue River to meet water delivery obligations. It is expected to continue for at least the next couple of weeks. Green Mountain Reservoir release includes storage water to support the Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, contract obligations and replacement water for the Colorado River Collection System.

Silverthorne: Developer donates 1.833 cfs diversion right to the town

Silverthorne via City-Data.com.
Silverthorne via City-Data.com.

From the Summit Daily News (Elise Reuter):

Local developer Gary Miller donated a total of 1.833 cubic-feet-per-second (cfs) in water rights to the town, the rough equivalent of 13.71 gallons per second, or 1,185,000 gallons per day.

Sawmill Gulch is diverted from Willow Creek, within the Eagles Nest Wilderness, Linfield said. The diversion, appropriated in 1918, was originally intended for irrigation.

“I’ve owned this water for a long time,” Miller said. “I think the town of Silverthorne has done such a great job. I thought, ‘I’ve got the water; they’ve got a lot of people moving into the town.’ I thought the best thing for me to do was to give it to them.”

[…]

Though the town has not assessed the value of the water rights, the fact that they are dated before the Colorado River Compact adds inherent value. An agreement formed in 1922 among seven U.S. states in the Colorado River Basin, the Colorado River Compact allocates water rights between the states.

“Water with earlier dates is not subject to that compact and the rules related to water use within the Colorado River Basin, including the Blue River Basin,” Linfield said.

Since the water remains untapped, the town would put in the necessary infrastructure once an appropriate use is determined.

“The town of Silverthorne has millions of dollars invested in our water rights portfolio and we work diligently to manage and maintain those rights,” Linfield said. “While we feel our water portfolio is strong, we are always looking for ways to improve and protect this valuable resource.”

#ColoradoRiver: Gov. Hickenlooper endorses Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — @DenverWater #COriver

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has officially endorsed Denver Water’s proposed Gross Reservoir Expansion Project as a model for achieving a balanced approach to environmental protection and water supply development through an inclusive and collaborative public process.

The endorsement follows the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s issuance of a Section 401 Water Quality Certification on June 23, 2016, which ensures compliance with state water quality standards. The certification confirms that Denver Water’s commitment to extensive mitigation and enhancement measures for the project will result in a net environmental benefit.

“The state’s responsibility is to ensure we do the right thing for Colorado’s future, and this project is vital infrastructure for our economy and the environment,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “The partnerships and collaboration between Denver Water, the West Slope and conservation organizations associated with this project are just what the Colorado Water Plan is all about.”

The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — also known as the Moffat Collection System Project — will strengthen Denver Water’s system against drought and climate change by nearly tripling the capacity of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County.

“Colorado is a growing and dynamic state,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. “Denver Water has the critical responsibility to sustain over 25 percent of the state’s population and the majority of our economy for decades to come.”

Since 2003, Denver Water has been involved in federal, state and local permitting processes to evaluate the proposed project and develop ways to not only mitigate identified impacts, but also to enhance the aquatic environment and the economy of Colorado. The 401 certification — one of the major regulatory requirements — recognizes and builds upon other existing Denver Water agreements such as the landmark Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, Learning by Doing cooperative effort and the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan.

“The Denver metropolitan area is tied to the economic and environmental health of the rest of the state, and Denver Water is committed to undertake this project in a way that enhances Colorado’s values,” said Lochhead.

Denver Water expects to secure all of the major permits for the project by the end of 2017. The estimated cost of the project is about $380 million, which includes design, management, permitting, mitigation and construction.

Visit http://grossreservoir.org to read more about the project and http://denverwaterblog.org for videos with voices from a few of the many project supporters including, Gov. Hickenlooper, Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Here’s a post from Brent Gardner-Smith (Aspen Journalism) dealing with the subject but with a West Slope angle.

#ColoradoRiver: Green Mountain Reservoir operations update #COriver

Green Mountain Dam via USBR.
Green Mountain Dam via USBR.

From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Green Mountain Reservoir is planned to reach maximum fill on July 5. On June 29, Green Mountain Reservoir had 1.4 ft of remaining capacity. Releases to the Blue River are forecasted to stay between 800 and 900 cfs. The current weather forecast has extensive precipitation in the region. If Green Mountain Reservoir was to fill early due to the precipitation, releases from Green Mountain could change rapidly. Once full Green Mountain Reservoir will need to pass all inflow to maintain a safe water surface elevation.

You can check the reservoir elevation at http://www.usbr.gov/gp-bin/arcweb_gmtr.pl.

Researchers following water flow out of toxic Breckenridge mine — The Summit Daily News

Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort
Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

From The Summit Daily News:

The team is injecting fluorescent, non-toxic, green dye into water that flows into the collapsed mine shaft on Illinois Gulch Road above Breckenridge. They’re then observing and sampling the water downstream to see how much of the water filters through the mine and emerges on the other side. The hill has been mined all the way through and is rife with tailings and collapsed mine shafts. Contaminated water — a toxic tangerine from heavy iron — trickles out of the mine openings and along the ground, staining the dirt and rocks in its path.

“Basically, the study is to figure out how the water is draining from the mine sites,” said Katherine Jenkins of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A group of partner agencies is managing this several dayslong water tracer study at the Puzzle Willard Mine. The Illinois Gulch Tracer Study — led by Colorado Department of Natural Resources Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety and assisted by the Colorado Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service — is being conducted to trace the path of water flowing in creeks down Boreas Pass through the mine and out three adits, or openings.

At each of the adits downstream, there is an automated sampler that tests for traces of the dye every few hours. After the injection of the dye into the mine site on Monday morning, the team will spend the next 7-10 days testing the water on the other side of the mine for traces of the dye, to see whether the contaminated water was making its way into the surface water in the Illinois Gulch drainage.

Peter Stevenson, of the EPA, explained that the mine runoff presents no danger to the drinking water of Breckenridge residents. He said the water sources for the town are located in other drainages, and everyone who lives up near Illinois Gulch Road uses Breckenridge water. However, a small amount of this water could make its way to Lake Dillon. The stream that runs through the mine is the headwaters of Iron Springs, which feeds into Blue River and then the lake.

At this point in the process, the investigation is intended to establish a baseline of the water quality at the site and then use the data to determine what further steps must be taken.

“After we figure out where the water goes, then we’re going to come together with all of our partners and try to figure out what the next step is,” said Jean Wyatt of the EPA. “We’ve done fish studies, we’ve done macro-invertebrate studies and we’re still compiling all that data,”

When the amount of water that is actually running through the mine is found, the group can assess the situation and determine whether steps need to be taken and, if so, what the best method is for preventing the water from reaching the metals in the mine.

“We have a lot of sampling data from over the years. We need to compile it and review it and look at it. This is a piece of a multi-year assessment,” said Stevenson.

The research team is leaving all its options for mitigation open until this assessment is complete, but they do have an expectation of what may happen to the mine tailings in the area that are not sitting in the drainage water.

“Ultimately, I would expect this to get shaped and capped somewhere nearby,” said Stevenson

Video: State of the River | May 4, 2016 | Silverthorne Pavilion