@USBR: Releases Draft Environmental Assessment for Phase II of Piping Cattleman’s Ditches

Credit: Cattleman’s Ditches Pipeline Project II Montrose County, Colorado EIS via USBR.

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Justyn Liff, Jenny Ward):

The Bureau of Reclamation has released a draft environmental assessment on Phase II of the Cattleman’s Ditches Piping Project located in Montrose County, Colorado. The project would replace approximately 6.1 miles of open irrigation ditch with 5.1 miles of buried water pipeline. The purpose of the project is to reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.

The draft environmental assessment is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/index.html or a copy can be requested by contacting Reclamation.

Reclamation will consider all comments received by September 15, 2017. Submit comments by email to jward@usbr.gov or to: Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501.

@USBR: Paonia Dam intake structure repair open house, August 15, 2017

Intake structure during construction in 1961. Photo Credit Reclamation.

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Tom Fowlds, Justyn Liff):

The public is invited to a public meeting on Tuesday, August 15, at 7 p.m. to meet with project representatives from the Bureau of Reclamation, Fire Mountain Canal Company and North Fork Water Conservancy District to learn about Paonia Dam intake structure repairs. The meeting will be held at Memorial Hall, 175 North 1st Street, in Hotchkiss, Colo.

Repairs will begin in mid-September 2017 to the Paonia Dam intake structure and bulkhead, part of the Paonia Project located near Paonia, Colo.

Crews will dismantle the damaged concrete bulkhead located within the intake structure and then install an aluminum trash rack and bracing to the top of the intake structure. Prior to and during intake structure repair, increased turbidity downstream of the dam will be noticeable due to reservoir operations and drawdown. These repairs are necessary to help ensure continuation of normal dam operations and water delivery to downstream users.

During repair and construction, work crews and heavy construction equipment will be operating at the dam. Turbidity will increase in Muddy Creek and the North Fork of the Gunnison River downstream of Paonia Dam, and sediment deposition will occur primarily in Muddy Creek from the dam to the confluence of Anthracite Creek until flushing flows are released in spring 2018. Repairs are expected to be completed in November 2017.

To learn more about the Paonia Project, upcoming repair work or sedimentation issues in the reservoir, visit our website at: http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wca/progact/paonia/index.html. You can also join our email list for project updates by clicking the “Contact Us” link.

@USBR: Future scientists study with current scientists at Nature High Summer Camp

Students looking at and learning about an animal pelt.

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Chris Watt):

Bureau of Reclamation employees Shane Mower and Dave Snyder taught students hands-on lessons in fish data acquisition using seining, animal skull anatomy and physiology, wildlife adaptions, wildlife tracks and possible impacts to fish and wildlife from natural and human-influenced changes in the environment, at Nature High Summer Camp held July 31 to Aug. 5.

Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Region, along with other Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Utah State University, and local agencies, sponsor and participate in the Nature High Summer Camp. Started in 1991, the goal of the camp is to introduce high school students to science and natural resource fields of study and careers they might not have otherwise considered.

Federal professionals share their expertise by providing students with actual field activities and experiences in hydrology, rangeland conservation, wildlife biology, soils, and forestry. Students learn how to use information from these disciplines in creating team-based camp projects that address natural resource issues from the differing perspectives of environmentalist, farmers, ranchers, recreationists, and government agencies.

Federal resolution aims to streamline water storage permits

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

House Resolution 1654 would set the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as the agency in charge of permitting water storage projects. That agency then would coordinate all the federal agencies involved in that process, as well as the reducing redundant requirements at state and local levels that currently are part of the permitting process.

While this legislation becoming law could have substantial impacts on some proposed water storage projects in Colorado, it would not be likely to impact the process for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP)…

“Obviously we support the basic idea of streamlining the permit process,” Brian Werner from Northern Water said of the legislation. “We’re all for finding out how we can tweak this process.”

For example, many of the studies and other preparatory work on a large water storage project like NISP could have been conducted concurrently, rather than sequentially, Werner suggested.

“Streamlining doesn’t mean that we don’t do the studies,” he said, “but we could do it more efficiently.”

[…]

Congressman Ken Buck, R-CD4, voted in favor of the resolution, even speaking for it on the House floor and mentioning proposed water storage projects in Colorado, like NISP, as why he supported it…

House Resolution 1654 would set the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as the agency in charge of permitting water storage projects. That agency then would coordinate all the federal agencies involved in that process, as well as the reducing redundant requirements at state and local levels that currently are part of the permitting process.

While this legislation becoming law could have substantial impacts on some proposed water storage projects in Colorado, it would not be likely to impact the process for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP).

That proposed water storage project would have Northern Water build two reservoirs, Galeton northeast of Greeley and Glade northwest of Fort Collins. They would provide water to the 15 NISP participants, including the city of Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District.

“Obviously we support the basic idea of streamlining the permit process,” Brian Werner from Northern Water said of the legislation. “We’re all for finding out how we can tweak this process.”

For example, many of the studies and other preparatory work on a large water storage project like NISP could have been conducted concurrently, rather than sequentially, Werner suggested.

“Streamlining doesn’t mean that we don’t do the studies,” he said, “but we could do it more efficiently.”

Congressman Ken Buck, R-CD4, voted in favor of the resolution, even speaking for it on the House floor and mentioning proposed water storage projects in Colorado, like NISP, as why he supported it.

“Unfortunately, many water storage projects in my state face significant setbacks in permitting due to a long list of regulatory checkboxes,” he said in prepared remarks. “Much of this delay occurs because each level of government-local, state, and federal-requires (its) own studies and permitting checklists, even though many of those requirements are the same or only slightly different.”

The goal would not be to eliminate environmental or safety requirements for getting the permits, Buck pointed out. Instead it would be to seek to get the “different levels of government to work together so that our water projects can earn the permits they rightly qualify for” during the initial permitting process.

The legislation next faces debate in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but a hearing date had not yet been set as of Monday afternoon. That committee includes Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner as a member.

Department of the Interior Awards $6.9 Million to 17 Projects for Drought Preparation — @USBR

Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Entities in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oklahoma and Montana will receive funding to prepare for and address drought in advance of a crisis

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced today that the Bureau of Reclamation is awarding 17 projects in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Montana a total of $6.9 million to proactively prepare for and address drought in their communities. The federal funding will be leveraged to support more than $47.9 million for the development of drought contingency plans and implementation of drought resiliency projects.

“Drought continues to have serious adverse impacts throughout the West,” Secretary Zinke said. “Reclamation and its partners have been leaders in combating this drought for a hundred years. The newest infusion of Reclamation funds announced today will help communities in five states prepare for and respond to drought.”

Reclamation’s Drought Response Program supports a proactive approach to drought. It aids water users for drought contingency planning. The Drought Response Program also provides funding for the implementation of mitigation actions through drought resiliency projects, giving priority to projects that are supported by a drought planning effort.

Complete descriptions of all the selected projects are available at http://www.usbr.gov/drought.

Five projects in California and one project in Montana were selected through a competitive process to receive funding to develop drought contingency plans. They are:

  • Bella Vista Water District (California)
    Reclamation funding: $86,580; Total Project Cost: $173,160
  • City of Rialto, California
    Reclamation funding: $200,000; Total Project Cost: $404,474
  • Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
    Reclamation funding: $150,000; Total Project Cost: $300,000
  • Schafter-Wasco Irrigation District (California)
    Reclamation Funding: $200,000; Total Project Cost: $456,500
  • Sonoma County Water Agency (California)
    Reclamation Funding: $200,000; Total Project Cost: $501,196
  • Southern California Edison Company (California)
    Reclamation Funding: $100,000; Total Project Cost: $200,000
  • Eleven projects in California, Colorado, Nevada and Oklahoma were selected through a competitive process to receive Drought Resiliency Project grants. They are:

  • Alameda County Water District (California), Rubber Dam #3 Fish Ladder
    Reclamation Funding: $750,000; Total Project Cost: $7,121,600
  • Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, Northeast Colorado Walker Recharge Project – Phase I
    Reclamation Funding: $750,000; Total Project Cost: $7,000,000
  • City of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Caney River Water Augmentation and Intake Improvements
    Reclamation Funding: $750,000; Total Project Cost: $7,152,097
  • City of Torrance, California, Torrance Van Ness Well Field
    Reclamation Funding: $750,000; Total Project Cost: $16,703,900
  • Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians (California), West Fork Russian River Bank Stabilization and Habitat Restoration
    Reclamation Funding: $300,000; Total Project Cost: $600,000
  • Merced Irrigation District (California), Merced River Instream & Off-Channel Drought Habitat Project
    Reclamation Funding: $744,489; Total Project Cost: $2,707,763
  • Mountain Park Master Conservancy District (Oklahoma), Groundwater Supply Augmentation Project
    Reclamation Funding: $300,000; Total Project Cost: $618,500
  • Round Valley Indian Tribes (California), Mill Creek Streamflow & Riparian Corridor Restoration Project
    Reclamation Funding: $689,101; Total Project Cost: $1,444,461
  • San Gabriel River Water Committee (California), San Gabriel Inlet Structure Project
    Reclamation Funding: $300,000; Total Project Cost: $689,093
  • To learn more about Reclamation’s Drought Response Program and to see a complete description of all the projects, visit https://www.usbr.gov/drought.

    Aspinall Unit operations update: 1150 CFS in Black Canyon

    Fog-filled Black Canyon via the National Park Service

    From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    The spring peak operation has officially concluded. Due to an issue with the power plant at Crystal Dam, the ramp down was forced to end prematurely. As of today releases are being made through the bypass gates at a rate of 2150 cfs. This has put flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon around 1150 cfs. This release rate is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Further adjustments to this release rate may be necessary to manage the remaining runoff coming into Blue Mesa Reservoir.

    #ColoradoRiver: Forecasted inflows to Lake Mead drop #COriver

    Lake Mead from Hoover Dam December 13, 2016.

    From The Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):

    The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s monthly prediction for Colorado River reservoir levels says the lake could drop to 1,076.53 feet by the end of 2018 or Jan. 1, 2019. That would be a foot and a half above where a Central Arizona Project water shortage would be declared. Last month, the forecast for the end of the year was 1,096.77 feet.

    A shortage declaration would cut river water deliveries to Central Arizona farmers and Arizona Water Bank recharge projects. Tucson gets most of its drinking water from CAP but wouldn’t be affected by a shortage declaration at this point — only when and if the lake drops much lower.

    The forecast is down sharply from the bureau’s May 2017 prediction because this spring’s river runoff levels are less than expected a few months ago although still above normal. That means the amount of water to be released from Lake Powell downstream to Mead this year won’t be as much as was thought a few months ago. The prospect of lesser releases from Powell has been known for some time, but the 20-foot-decline in the 2019 forecast was just released.

    “The severe drop-off in anticipated flows into Lake Mead represents a shocking turn-around in expectations for the near-term health of the great reservoir,” said the Arizona Department of Water Resources in an article on its website.

    The abrupt forecast change underscores the need for agreement on a near-term “drought contingency plus” plan for the state to reduce the risk of shortages, Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke said Thursday. CAP officials have opposed that plan as unneccessary in light of earlier, more favorable forecasts, leaving negotiations stuck for months. CAP officials weren’t available for comment Thursday on the latest forecast.

    At the same time, Mead’s bad January 2019 forecast doesn’t mean an immediate crisis. The forecast doesn’t take into account already planned water conservation efforts by the CAP that, if carried out, will push the lake up by a few feet compared to what the bureau is forecasting, a bureau spokeswoman said.

    It does, however, take into account 350,000 acre feet that California users and Arizona’s Gila River Indian Community have pledged to leave in the lake in 2017. Lesser amounts are committed for 2018 and 2019.

    The Phoenix City Council added to the conservation push this week by unanimously approving a deal to pay the Gila River Indian Community $2 million to leave 40,000 additional acre feet in the lake for a year. Arizona is spending $2 million. The non-profit Walton Foundation and the Bureau of Reclamation are kicking in another $1 million apiece.

    The agreement isn’t a done deal yet because CAP must approve it. But it’s already being hailed by backers as a prime example of how cooperation among users can boost the lake’s levels.

    The January 2019 forecast could rise or fall later, depending on the weather over the next 18 months, reclamation officials noted.

    “We offer our best projections to help our water users plan, but the hydrology is extremely variable,” bureau spokeswoman Rose Davis said Thursday.