@USBR to Negotiate Water Exchange Contract with State of #Utah for #LakePowell Pipeline #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Glen Canyon Dam photo credit Greg Hobbs.

Here’s the release from Reclamation (Marlon Duke):

The Bureau of Reclamation and State of Utah are initiating negotiations for a water exchange contract, which proposes exchanging the state’s assigned Green River water right for use of Colorado River Storage Project water released from Flaming Gorge Dam. The negotiation meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 4, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. at the Dixie Convention Center, 1835 South Convention Center Drive, St. George, Utah.

The exchange will provide Utah with a reliable and certain water supply, while assisting Reclamation in meeting its legal obligations. It will enable part of the state’s Colorado River apportionment to flow from Flaming Gorge Dam to Lake Powell for diversion into Utah’s proposed Lake Powell Pipeline.

The negotiation meeting is open to the public. The public will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments pertaining to the exchange during an open house period immediately prior to formal negotiations and during a comment period following the negotiation session. The proposed exchange contract and other pertinent documents will be available at the negotiation meeting or can be obtained on Reclamation’s website at: https://www.usbr.gov/uc/provo/index.html, under “News and Highlights”.

After #Oroville, officials across the West review dam safety — @HighCountryNews

New Oroville spillway finish work. Photo credit California DWR.

Here’s an analysis from Emily Benson writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

To avoid the risk of further erosion, however, both spillways [at Oroville] needed to be patched up before this winter. By early November, following months of ‘round-the-clock work, the California Department of Water Resources announced that Oroville was ready for the rainy season, though final repairs will take another year. And the consequences of the incident could last far longer: Its sheer scale means it has the potential to affect legislation and policy, as did earlier disasters at other dams. Safety officials in California and across the West are already reassessing spillways, updating disaster plans and refining evacuation maps, hoping to prevent a repeat of Oroville — or worse.

Structural failures were the immediate cause of the Oroville catastrophe. The main spillway has successfully handled larger flows than what it saw last February. While it’s not yet clear exactly why it broke apart, some researchers say part of the blame lies in poor design and shoddy maintenance — and that those problems could have been addressed. An independent group of dam experts is investigating what went wrong, with a final report expected by the end of 2017. An interim report released in September notes that there was preexisting damage and repairs at the area that first crumbled. Weaknesses there could have allowed water to get beneath the spillway, potentially blasting apart the concrete from below.

Administrative failures — problems with inspections or regulations — may share the blame for what happened at Oroville. A patchwork of agencies meant to prevent such problems regulates dam safety in the United States. Federal agencies like the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers oversee inspection and maintenance at their own dams. Dams that belong to the state, like Oroville, or a utility company or other non-federal entity, are typically under the jurisdiction of a state agency; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is also involved in dam inspections at non-federal dams with hydropower projects they license, including Oroville…

In Colorado, Oroville confirmed that dam safety officials were already on the right track, says Bill McCormick, the chief of dam safety at Colorado Division of Water Resources. There, the big test came in 2013, when widespread flooding in north-central Colorado driven by torrential rain led to the failure of about a dozen small dams. Nobody was hurt or killed as a result of the failures, “but they did get people’s attention,” McCormick says. (Several people died elsewhere during the flooding.) Another wet season in the spring of 2015 made clear the need to plan for different levels of flooding and dam releases. “Our main lesson from Oroville is that we still need to be vigilant,” he says, “but we’re doing the right things.”

Aspinall Unit operations update: @USBR is drawing down Blue Mesa #ColoradoRiver #COriver

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be increased by 850 cfs between Friday, December 1st and Saturday, December 2nd. Releases are being increased as part of winter operations to lower the level of Blue Mesa Reservoir nearer to the winter elevation target as well as managing releases with consideration to wintertime hydropower demands.

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 December.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are at 0 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 750 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be at 0 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 1600 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

@ColoradoWater: #Drought planning showed to lower risks at #LakePowell #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Lake Powell April 12, 2017. Photo credit Patti Weeks via Earth Science Picture of the day.

From the Colorado River District:

The Colorado River Risk Study, commissioned by the Colorado River District and other West Slope parties, forecasts that if another drought like 2002-04 recurs,Lake Powell, now about half full rather than full as it was then, could fall below power generation levels or be drained unless Drought Contingency Plans (DCP) can be put in place.

Should the worst happen, Colorado and its sister Upper Division states (Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico) that are party to the Colorado River Compact of 1922 would be hard pressed to meet compact obligations to the Lower Division states (California, Nevada and Arizona).

The Risk Study is now in Phase II, which is a technical process to learn if federal and state Colorado River computer models can be used conjunctively to better predict what could happen in the state of Colorado. Other partners in the study are the four West Slope Basin Roundtables (Colorado Basin, Gunnison, Yampa-White and South- west) and the Southwestern Water Conservation District– with assistance from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

At its quarterly meeting on Oct. 17, the Colorado River District Board received an update on the work. John Carron of Hydros Consulting, the study contractor, said the takeaways from the study so far are:

• Should a drought on the order of 2002-04 recur with Lake Powell at its current half-full level, hydroelectric power generation is jeopardized;

• Hydrology, demands and future development levels matter — the higher the consumptive use in the Upper Division states, the higher the risk to existing users;

• The most successful Drought Contingency Planning requires joint participation by both Upper and Lower Division states;

• Drought Contingency Planning is essential;re-operations of reservoirs, such as Flaming Gorge, to move water down to Powell reduces the risk, but in more severe droughts (e.g., 1988-1993 and 2001-2005),demand management (reduced water use) would be necessary in addition to any
reservoir re-operations;

• Some of the volumes of demand management that the model is forecasting are large and may not be feasible, thus the need to consider the trade-offs and alternative strategies;

• Demand management combined with a water bank could limit the impact by spreading conservation over many years and providing greater control over conserved water — a must- have condition.

The four West Slope Basin Roundtables called for the Risk Study at a joint meeting held in December 2014 in order for the West Slope to better under- stand the risks to current water users of future water development and how development, basin by basin, might look against the risk. As Colorado River water is also used on the Front Range of Colorado, drought risk is important to Front Range Roundtables and their future development, but they opted not to participate in the study.

How we got here

Even though there had been some good snow years in the years 2000- 2013, it was clear that dry conditions and overuse of the Colorado River were driving down reservoir levels at Lakes Powell and Mead.

In July 2013, then U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asked the seven Colorado River basin states if they were prepared to deal with a continuation of these conditions. The answer was no, and the challenge was for the basin states to develop their own DCPs or have the work done for them.

The Upper Division states and the Lower Division states each started work on DCPs for their regions.

Against this backdrop, the four West Slope Basin Roundtables commissioned the Risk Study. In the meantime, Colorado’s Water Plan, released in 2015, calls for actions that will minimize the risk of compact curtailment, embodied in Point 4 of the Seven Point Framework of the plan.

The Upper Basin DCP

The Upper Basin States have a three-pronged DCP, that 1) entails moving water stored in Flaming Gorge, Aspinall and Navajo Reservoirs to Lake Powell as the first line of defense against critical Powell elevations being breached, and modifying releases from Powell to Mead; 2) institutes demand management (reduction of use); and 3) augments river flows through cloud seeding and phreatophyte (primarily tamarisk) reduction.

An agreement between the four Upper Division states and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is in the works on how to re-operate the reservoirs. The demand management piece will be controversial among the states and within each state; details are still to be worked out. One policy contention in Colorado is that municipal water users, including those on the Front Range, share the burden of reduced use – and that the reduced uses not all fall on West Slope agriculture.

Demand management in the Upper Basin would be the last action to implement in the “worst of the worst droughts,” General Manager Eric Kuhn said. “The goal is to limit it to that.”

General Counsel Peter Fleming said a Colorado River District policy issue would be implementing demand management at the same time as new and increasing water uses are being developed in the River District, the state of Colorado and throughout the Upper Basin.

Kuhn said that for Colorado, the Seven Point Framework in the 2015 Colorado Water Plan addresses that — calling for any new transmountain diversion to not increase the risk of curtailment, because of Compact or Lake Powell low levels, on current water users.

“It is a major milestone that the state has adopted that in its plan,” Kuhn said. “This is an issue for the Front Range as well. Existing users do not want to see the risk to their projects increase due to new diversions.”

The Lower Basin DCP

The overall goal of DCP in the Lower Division states is to erase the so-called “structural deficit” that over time has showed those three states depleting about 1.2 million acre feet (maf) annually more than their compact entitlement of 7.5 maf, due to use and evaporation. A section of the 2007 Interim Guidelines that pertains to the three states calls for reduction of water use equal to about half of the structural deficit once Lake Meads falls below certain thresholds. Current Drought Contingency Planning specifies further cutbacks would achieve the 1.2 maf goal.

The Lower Division states are nearing finalizing their DCP. As Mother Nature would have it, big rains in California helped to reduce depletions in the Low- er Basin to 6.6 maf this past water year.

@USBR Announces WaterSMART Cooperative Watershed Management Program Funding Opportunity for 2018

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

This funding opportunity announcement provides funding to develop a watershed group, fund an existing watershed group, complete watershed restoration planning activities, and design watershed management projects

The Bureau of Reclamation has announced its 2018 funding opportunity for Phase I of the Cooperative Watershed Management Program. This funding opportunity is seeking proposals for activities to develop a watershed group, complete watershed restoration planning activities, and to design watershed management projects.

Applicants must submit their proposals by Wednesday, January 31, 2018, at 4:00 p.m. MST. To view this funding opportunity, please visit http://www.grants.gov and search for funding opportunity number BOR-DO-18-F005. Up to $100,000 in federal funds may be awarded to an applicant per award, with no more than $50,000 made available in a year for a period of up to two years.

States, tribes, local and special districts (e.g., irrigation and water districts), local governmental entities, interstate organizations, and non-profit organizations, including existing watershed groups, within the 17 western states are eligible to apply.

The Cooperative Watershed Management Program contributes to the Department of the Interior’s priorities to create a legacy of conservation stewardship and to restore trust with local communities by providing funding to local watershed groups to encourage the development of collaborative solutions designed to address water management needs among Reclamation’s diverse stakeholders. By providing this FOA, Reclamation leverages federal funding to support stakeholder efforts to stretch scarce water supplies and avoid conflicts over water.

To learn more about the WaterSMART Cooperative Watershed Management Phase I grants for fiscal year 2018, visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/cwmp.

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.