Brenda Burman confirmed as Commissioner of @USBR

Lake Nighthorse August 2017 via the US Bureau of Reclamation.

From The Arizona Republic (Marcella Baietto):

Brenda Burman, the director of water policy for Salt River Project who previously worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior, has been confirmed as the nation’s first female commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Burman, who was nominated for the post in June by President Donald Trump, was confirmed on a unanimous voice vote by the U.S. Senate on Thursday, according to the Senate record.

Burman will take the helm of an agency with nearly 5,000 employees and assist in maintaining almost 500 dams and about 330 reservoirs managed by the bureau across 17 Western states, according to a U.S Department of the Interior press release that announced her nomination this summer.

The bureau also maintains 53 hydroelectric plants in the United States.

Burman, a University of Arizona law-school graduate, previously worked for the bureau, a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, from 2006-08, as deputy commissioner for external and intergovernmental affairs and as the deputy assistant secretary.

She also was on the staff of former U.S. Sen. John Kyl of Arizona, specializing in water and energy matters.

“​I welcome this opportunity and am thankful for the chance to serve again on the Bureau of Reclamation team,” Burman said in a prepared statement after she was nominated. “The men and woman of Reclamation have helped the West work through our most difficult water issues for over a hundred years.”

[…]

Burman’s background also includes working for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Nature Conservancy.

@USBR: Bureau of Reclamation Announces Fiscal Year 2018 Drought Response Program Funding Opportunities

Graphic vie the National Drought Mitigation Center November 2017.

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

States, tribes, irrigation districts, water districts, and other organizations with water or power delivery authority are eligible to apply for drought resiliency projects and drought contingency planning grants

The Bureau of Reclamation has released two funding opportunities for fiscal year 2018 through its Drought Response Program, which is part of the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART program. These funding opportunities are available for entities to develop drought contingency plans and build long-term solutions to drought.

The drought resiliency project funding opportunity is available for projects that will increase water management flexibility, and improve the resiliency of water resources throughout the West. Award recipients will leverage their resources by cost-sharing with Reclamation on drought resiliency projects.

Drought resiliency projects mitigate drought impacts by increasing the reliability of water supplies, improving water management, and providing benefits for fish, wildlife and the environment.

Applicants for drought resiliency projects funding must submit their proposals by 4:00 p.m. MST on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. To view this funding opportunity, please visit http://www.grants.gov and search for funding opportunity number BOR-DO-18-F008.

The drought contingency planning funding opportunity is available for applicants interested in developing a new drought plan or updating an existing drought plan. Applicants may request technical assistance from Reclamation for developing elements of the drought contingency plan.

Applicants for drought contingency planning must submit their proposals by 4:00 p.m. MST on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. To view this funding opportunity, visit http://www.grants.gov and search for funding opportunity number BOR-DO-18-F007.

Reclamation’s Drought Response Program supports a proactive approach to drought by providing financial assistance to water managers to: develop and update comprehensive drought plans (drought contingency planning), and implement projects that will build long-term resiliency to drought (drought resiliency projects).

To learn more about Reclamation’s Drought Response Program please visit https://www.usbr.gov/drought.

Aspinall Unit operations update: Gunnison Tunnel diversions ending for season

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

On Wednesday, November 1st, diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel will end for the season. Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be adjusted in coordination with the ramp down schedule for Gunnison Tunnel diversions in order to keep Gunnison River flows near the current level of 750 cfs. There could be fluctuations in the river throughout the day until the Gunnison Tunnel is completely shut down.

On Thursday and Friday, November 2nd and 3rd, releases from the Aspinall Unit will be reduced to 300 cfs during the day time hours in order to allow for completion of the sonar survey of the Crystal Dam stilling basin. Gunnison River flows will drop down towards 300 cfs during the day while returning to 750 cfs during the non-working hours. After the sonar survey is completed at the end of the day on November 3rd, river flows will return to the current level of 750 cfs.

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 October through December.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are near 850 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 750 cfs. After the shutdown of the Gunnison Tunnel and completion of the Crystal stilling basin sonar survey, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will return to 750 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

@USBR to Hold Public Meeting on Estes Valley Resource Management Plan for Lake Estes, Marys Lake and East Portal

Aerial view of Lake Estes and Olympus Dam looking west. Photo credit Northern Water.

Here’s the release from Reclamation (James Bishop):

The Bureau of Reclamation, in cooperation with Estes Valley Recreation and Park District (EVRPD), is seeking public input on a Resource Management Plan (RMP) for Lake Estes, Marys Lake and East Portal lands.

The agencies will host an open house where the public can learn and ask questions about the resource management planning process, the lands affected by the plan, and provide comments. The open house will be held on Wednesday, October 25, 2017, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Estes Park High School Commons, 1600 Manford Avenue, Estes Park, Colo. Public comments will be welcomed in writing at the open house and throughout the 30-day public comment period.

The 30-day public comment period will begin on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 and will end at close-of-business on Friday, November 17, 2017. Comments must be provided in writing and can be submitted by e-mail, fax, or regular mail. E-mail comments can be sent to EstesRMP@usbr.gov, and faxed comments can be sent to the attention of Ms. Justina Thorsen at (970) 663-3212. Regular mail comments should be sent to the attention of Ms. Thorsen at: Bureau of Reclamation, 11056 W. County Road 18E, Loveland, Colo. 80537.

Reclamation is preparing the Estes Valley RMP. The agency will also prepare an Environmental Assessment in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Reclamation owns and operates the Colorado-Big Thompson project, which includes Lake Estes, Marys Lake, East Portal, and the surrounding federal lands. Through a management agreement with Reclamation, EVRPD is responsible for managing recreation at Lake Estes, Marys Lake, and East Portal. The RMP will guide future recreation development as well as the management of natural and cultural resources on federal lands.

Media inquiries or general questions about Reclamation should be directed to James Bishop at 970-962-4326 or jbishop@usbr.gov. Specific questions about the resource management planning process should be directed to Justina Thorsen at 970-962-4207 or EstesRMP@usbr.gov.

Lawsuit filed over September 2013 Olympus Dam releases

Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 — photo via Northern Water

From TheDenverChannel.com (Mark Belcher):

According to the lawsuit, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam, made the call to release a massive amount of water from the dam to protect its integrity, as it overflowed with floodwater from a heavy storm that continued to dump water on Sept. 12, 2013.

The plaintiffs in the suit say had they been warned of the massive release, they would have been able to move some of their property, but instead they were surprised to find homes literally washed away.

Details revealed in the lawsuit confirms the victims lost their homes and businesses in the flood, and are seeking compensation from the government for their losses.

The lawsuit says the Bureau of Reclamation “made the determination to take [the victims’] property through its actions in releasing water from the Olympus Dam due to its concern for the integrity of the dam and the greater public good in preserving the dam versus [the victims’] property.”

The victims and their attorney requested a jury trial to judge all issues laid out in the suit, however the trial has not yet been scheduled.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

#ColoradoRiver: “Why do the downstreamers deserve a pat on the back?” — @EklundCO #COriver

Detailed Colorado River Basin map via the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Here’s a guest column written by James Eklund that’s running in The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

So why do the downstreamers deserve a pat on the back? Two reasons.

First, the Lower Basin acknowledges that the river’s projections fluctuate wildly from month to month, sometimes week to week. Readers of this paper know that, in the Upper Basin, we are used to wide swings in water availability from year to year and we maintain flexibility in our water management as a result. If you hadn’t experienced this variability, if you sat below the nation’s two largest reservoirs, it would be easy to put off water shortage discussions until later, maximize your water withdrawals every year, and leave the issue for some future generation. But the Lower Basin isn’t taking the short-term gain/long-term pain approach and that’s commendable. Just as we in the Upper Basin are working on a drought contingency plan, so too is the Lower Basin driving hard at a drought contingency plan that will define how shortages are shared.

Second, these contingency plans benefit from some understanding with the Republic of Mexico about how water shortages would be shared internationally. Officials in the Basin States and Mexico realize we are all better off with greater certainty on this point and have agreed to Minute 323 to the 1944 U.S.-Mexico water treaty. The Minute — which addresses water shortages, water for the environment, investment in water projects and salinity — smooths the runway for the Basin States to land drought contingency plans.

Thankfully, our Lower Basin counterparts appreciate our differences as well as the symbiotic nature of the two basins and are working hard to help the varied interests in their states understand the long-term value in more measured reservoir releases from Lake Mead. They recognize that big water releases from Lake Mead present only short-lived highs (insert your worst Colorado marijuana joke) and longer-term hangovers (insert tired old “whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fighting” quote). Put another way, large releases of water from Lake Mead, while they may benefit some users in the short-run, are more painful for everyone in the long-run. Instead, more measured releases from Lake Mead, combined with shortage-sharing agreements, form the recipe for the seven basin states’ sage stewardship of this river.

Both basins agree that these negotiations are complex, collegial, at times contentious and always passionate. After all, it’s water we’re talking about! Each state maintains a sense of urgency to craft our contingency plans, not solely due to fear of additional dry years, but primarily because we sense an opportunity. We currently have the right personalities, focused on the right issues, at the right moment in time to achieve successful management of the Colorado River.

Moreover, the governors in each of the seven basin states may be of different political parties but they share a commitment to wise water management and leaving the Colorado River system better than they found it. Arriving at a mutually-agreeable path forward to protect critical water storage levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead that all of us should embrace and follow.

Boulder Dam dedication (September 30, 1935) anniversary

Hoover Dam dedication September 30, 1935. Photo credit U.S. Bureau of Reclamation via the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Here are President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s remarks:

Senator Pittman, Secretary Ickes, Governors of the Colorado’s States, and you especially who have built Boulder Dam:
This morning I came, I saw and I was conquered, as everyone would be who sees for the first time this great feat of mankind.

Ten years ago the place where we are gathered was an unpeopled, forbidding desert. In the bottom of a gloomy canyon, whose precipitous walls rose to a height of more than a thousand feet, flowed a turbulent, dangerous river. The mountains on either side of the canyon were difficult of access with neither road nor trail, and their rocks were protected by neither trees nor grass from the blazing heat of the sun. The site of Boulder City was a cactus-covered waste. The transformation wrought here in these years is a twentieth-century marvel.

We are here to celebrate the completion of the greatest dam in the world, rising 726 feet above the bed-rock of the river and altering the geography of a whole region; we are here to see the creation of the largest artificial lake in the world—115 miles long, holding enough water, for example, to cover the State of Connecticut to a depth of ten feet; and we are here to see nearing completion a power house which will contain the largest generators and turbines yet installed in this country, machinery that can continuously supply nearly two million horsepower of electric energy.

All these dimensions are superlative. They represent and embody the accumulated engineering knowledge and experience of centuries; and when we behold them it is fitting that we pay tribute to the genius of their designers. We recognize also the energy, resourcefulness and zeal of the builders, who, under the greatest physical obstacles, have pushed this work forward to completion two years in advance of the contract requirements. But especially, we express our gratitude to the thousands of workers who gave brain and brawn to this great work of construction.

Beautiful and great as this structure is, it must also be considered in its relationship to the agricultural and industrial development and in its contribution to the health and comfort of the people of America who live in the Southwest.

To divert and distribute the waters of an arid region, so that there shall be security of rights and efficiency in service, is one of the greatest problems of law and of administration to be found in any Government. The farms, the cities, the people who live along the many thousands of miles of this river and its tributaries —all of them depend upon the conservation, the regulation, and the equitable division of its ever-changing water supply. What has been accomplished on the Colorado in working out such a scheme of distribution is inspiring to the whole country. Through the cooperation of the States whose people depend upon this river, and of the Federal Government which is concerned in the general welfare, there is being constructed’ a system of distributive works and of laws and practices which will insure to the millions of people who now dwell in this basin, and the millions of others who will come to dwell here in future generations, a just, safe and permanent system of water rights. In devising these policies and the means for putting them into practice the Bureau of Reclamation of the Federal Government has taken, and is destined to take in the future, a leading and helpful part. The Bureau has been the instrument which gave effect to the legislation introduced in Congress by Senator Hiram Johnson and Congressman Phil Swing.

We know that, as an unregulated river, the Colorado added little of value to the region this dam serves. When in flood the river was a threatening torrent. In the dry months of the year it shrank to a trickling stream. For a generation the people of Imperial Valley had lived in the shadow of disaster from this river which provided their livelihood, and which is the foundation of their hopes for themselves and their children. Every spring they awaited with dread the coming of a flood, and at the end of nearly every summer they feared a shortage of water would destroy their crops.

The gates of these great diversion tunnels were closed here at Boulder Dam last February. In June a great flood came down the river. It came roaring down the canyons of the Colorado, through Grand Canyon, Iceberg and Boulder Canyons, but it was caught and safely held behind Boulder Dam.

Last year a drought of unprecedented severity was visited upon the West. The watershed of this Colorado River did not escape. In July the canals of the Imperial Valley went dry. Crop losses in that Valley alone totaled $10,000,000 that summer. Had Boulder Dam been completed one year earlier, this loss would have been prevented, because the spring flood would have been stored to furnish a steady water supply for the long dry summer and fall.

Across the San Jacinto Mountains southwest of Boulder Dam, the cities of Southern California are constructing an aqueduct to cost $220,000,000, which they have raised, for the purpose of carrying the regulated waters of the Colorado River to the Pacific Coast 259 miles away.

Across the desert and mountains to the west and south run great electric transmission lines by which factory motors, street and household lights and irrigation pumps will be operated in Southern Arizona and California. Part of this power will be used in pumping the water through the aqueduct to supplement the domestic supplies of Los Angeles and surrounding cities.

Navigation of the river from Boulder Dam to the Grand Canyon has been made possible, a 115-mile stretch that has been traversed less than half a dozen times in history. An immense new park has been created for the enjoyment of all our people.

At what cost was this done? Boulder Dam and the power houses together cost a total of $108,000,000, all of which will be repaid with interest in fifty years under the contracts for sale of the power. Under these contracts, already completed, not only will the cost be repaid, but the way is opened for the provision of needed light and power to the consumer at reduced rates. In the expenditure of the price of Boulder Dam during the depression years work was provided for 4,000 men, most of them heads of families, and many thousands more were enabled to earn a livelihood through manufacture of materials and machinery.

And this picture is true on different scales in regard to the thousands of projects undertaken by the Federal Government, by the States and by the counties and municipalities in recent years. The .overwhelming majority of them are of definite and permanent usefulness.

Throughout our national history we have had a great program of public improvements, and in these past two years all that we have done has been to accelerate that program. We know, too, that the reason for this speeding up was the need of giving relief to several million men and women whose earning capacity had been destroyed by the complexities and lack of thought of the economic system of the past generation.

No sensible person is foolish enough to draw hard and fast classifications as to usefulness or need. Obviously, for instance, this great Boulder Dam warrants universal approval because it will prevent floods and flood damage, because it will irrigate thousands of acres of tillable land and because it will generate electricity to turn the wheels of many factories and illuminate countless homes. But can we say that a five-foot brushwood dam across the head waters of an arroyo, and costing only a millionth part of Boulder Dam, is an undesirable project or a waste of money? Can we say that the great brick high school, costing $2,000,000, is a useful expenditure but that a little wooden school house project, costing five or ten thousand dollars, is a wasteful extravagance? Is it fair to approve a huge city boulevard and, at the same time, disapprove the improvement of a muddy farm-to-market road?

While we do all of this, we give actual work to the unemployed and at the same time we add to the wealth and assets of the Nation. These efforts meet with the approval of the people of the Nation.

In a little over two years this great national work has accomplished much. We have helped mankind by the works themselves and, at the same time, we have created the necessary purchasing power to throw in the clutch to start the wheels of what we call private industry. Such expenditures on all of these works, great and small, flow out to many beneficiaries; they revive other and more remote industries and businesses. Money is put in circulation. Credit is expanded and the financial and industrial mechanism of America is stimulated to more and more activity. Labor makes wealth. The use of materials makes wealth. To employ workers and materials when private employment has failed is to translate into great national possessions the energy that otherwise would be wasted. Boulder Dam is a splendid symbol of that principle. The mighty waters of the Colorado were running unused to the sea. Today we translate them into a great national possession.

I might go further and suggest to you that use begets use. Such works as this serve as a means of making useful other national possessions. Vast deposits of precious metals are scattered within a short distance of where we stand today. They await the development of cheap power.

These great Government power projects will affect not only the development of agriculture and industry and mining in the sections that they serve, but they will also prove useful yardsticks to measure the cost of power throughout the United States. It is my belief that the Government should proceed to lay down the first yardstick from this great power plant in the form of a State power line, assisted in its financing by the Government, and tapping the wonderful natural resources of Southern Nevada. Doubtless the same policy of financial assistance to State authorities can be followed in the development of Nevada’s sister State, Arizona, on the other side of the River.

With it all, with work proceeding in every one of the more than three thousand counties m the United States, and of a vastly greater number of local divisions of Government, the actual credit of Government agencies is on a stronger and safer basis than at any time in the past six years. Many States have actually improved their financial position in the past two years. Municipal tax receipts are being paid when the taxes fall due, and tax arrearages are steadily declining.

It is a simple fact that Government spending is already beginning to show definite signs of its effect on consumer spending; that the putting of people to work by the Government has put other people to work through private employment, and that in two years and a half we have come to the point today where private industry must bear the principal responsibility of keeping the processes of greater employment moving forward with accelerated speed.

The people of the United States are proud of Boulder Dam. With the exception of the few who are narrow visioned, people everywhere on the Atlantic Seaboard, people in the Middle West and the Northwest, people in the South, must surely recognize that the national benefits which will be derived from the completion of this project will make themselves felt in every one of the forty-eight States. They know that poverty or distress in a community two thousand miles away may affect them, and equally that prosperity and higher standards of living across a whole continent will help them back home.

Today marks the official completion and dedication of Boulder Dam, the first of four great Government regional units. This is an engineering victory of the first order—another great achievement of American resourcefulness, American skill and determination.

That is why I have the right once more to congratulate you who have built Boulder Dam and on behalf of the Nation to say to you, “Well done.”

Citation: Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Address at the Dedication of Boulder Dam,” September 30, 1935. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14952.