#FortCollins issues water restrictions to protect supply — 9News.com

Mammatus clouds, associated with strong convection, grace a sunset over Fort Collins, Colorado, home of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University. Photo credit: Steve Miller/CIRA

From 9News.com (Janet Oravetz):

Water restrictions will be implemented for residents of Fort Collins following extreme drought conditions and wildfires which have the area facing a potential water shortage, the city announced on its website.

The water use restrictions will take effect Oct. 1 and will remain in effect until the order is lifted by the city manager…

Ongoing drought conditions, the Cameron Peak Fire burning near Walden and an infrastructure repair project known as Horsetooth Outlet Project (HOP) have the city facing a projected water shortage unless action is taken, the city said.

Typically, utilities receives about 50% of its water from Colorado-Big Thompson shares via Horsetooth Reservoir and 50% from the Cache la Poudre River. During HOP, utilities will have limited access to water supplies in Horsetooth and will rely more heavily on the Poudre River.

If conditions during HOP – like continued drought or poor water quality due to the Cameron Peak Fire – prevent or limit the ability to deliver water from the Poudre River, a temporary backup pump system will convey water from a different Horsetooth Reservoir outlet to the Utilities Water Treatment Facility.

The capacity of this backup system is expected to supply only average utilities winter water demands, which does not include irrigation or other seasonal outdoor uses.

Lawn watering will not be allowed beginning Oct. 1. Trees, gardens for food production and other landscapes may be watered by hand or drip systems only. There are also restrictions on vehicle washing, power washing and street sweeping, among other things.

Horsetooth Reservoir’s water level dropping rapidly but boating will continue — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

Horsetooth Reservoir looking west from Soldier Dam. Photo credit: Norther Water.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):

Horsetooth Reservoir’s water level dropping around 4 feet per week in July and August certainly hasn’t go unnoticed by concerned boaters.

The water level of the popular reservoir dropped from 97% full at the beginning of the season to around 60% last week. Despite the drop, all boat ramps will be usable through Labor Day weekend, but not so much come mid-September.

Jeff Stahla, Northern Water spokesman, said an unusually dry and hot summer created an increase water demand by agriculture and municipalities, resulting in the sharp drop in water level. He said the rate of that drop is expected to lessen the rest of summer and early fall as water demand lessens…

Mark Caughlan, Horsetooth Reservoir district manager, said he expects the South Bay boat ramp to remain usable throughout the fall but that by mid-September the Satanka and Inlet Bay ramps will be closed due to the low water level.

Stahla said by late this week the reservoir’s water level will be at the lowest level since 2012, which was a historically dry year.

He said lowering the water level will also help divers to safely replace a valve at Soldier Canyon Dam, which he said is routine maintenance and does not involve major construction. He said other work to the reservoir will be done at the same time by other entities…

Stahla said Horsetooth Reservoir, which is the largest reservoir in the Colorado-Big Thompson Project East Slope distribution system, is expected to fill back up next year. He said CBT’s water storage in mountain reservoirs above Horsetooth Reservoir is in good shape with storage at more than 90% in some reservoirs.

#Boulder reservoir to be drained starting sept. 1 for required maintenance work

Here’s the release from the City of Boulder (Jeff Stahla, Denise White, Samantha Glavin):

Beginning Sept. 1, 2020, until March 2021, access to Boulder Reservoir will be limited while the reservoir is drained to allow Northern Water, in coordination with the City of Boulder, to perform necessary maintenance on the reservoir and its dams.

Boulder Reservoir. Photo credit: The City of Boulder

This work will ensure visitor safety and effective water delivery to municipal and agricultural water users. Reservoir water levels will be significantly lower than normal during this time. This is routine, required maintenance work that will take place every 5-10 years.

The reservoir basin will be closed to all water-based activities, including boating, watercraft, fishing, swimming, wading and other on-water recreation once the reservoir drawdown begins Sept. 1. Passive recreation opportunities (e.g., walking, cycling and running) will still be available during this time. The main trail along on the North Shore will remain open, but access to the shoreline will be restricted. Trails in the vicinity of the north and south dams may be periodically impacted during periods of construction in those areas. A map of affected areas is available on the project website at bouldercolorado.gov/water/boulder-reservoir-maintenance#.

Performing the maintenance work this year when some recreation activities such as swimming and special events are already restricted due to COVID-19 will ensure that additional impacts will be avoided, and recreation can return to full service once the pandemic subsides. However, the city recognizes that this limitation on Boulder Reservoir use may be disappointing to impacted recreationists. The city is providing reservoir permit and pass holders with a partial refund or credit on their purchase, available through Aug. 23. Current permit and pass holders have been contacted directly with information on how to access this offer.

Additionally, Boulder Reservoir has received approval to remain open on Friday, Aug. 7, which is designated as an unpaid city closure day to address financial challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic, and offer extended hours of operation from 7-9 p.m. on Aug. 10-16. The city is able to offer these additional hours due to cost savings as a result of the draining project’s impact in shortening the fall recreation season.

The reservoir will be drained to remove sediment from the area around the reservoir outlet, which naturally builds up over time. Maintenance will also occur on dam outlet structures, and the on the land between the north and south dams known as Fisherman’s Point. Construction equipment access and activity will be in the vicinity of the north dam and Fisherman’s Point. 

Northern Water is coordinating with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and city staff to mitigate environmental impacts of the project. The reservoir will be drained outside of nesting season, limiting effects on nesting and migrating species during the most critical point in their life cycle. The reservoir will be refilled prior to spring migration and nesting seasons. While there are currently no plans to relocate the fish in the reservoir as the water level is expected to support the fish, Northern Water will monitor their environment daily. If conditions appear problematic, fish relocation may be arranged. 

The Boulder Reservoir is a key part of the city’s drinking water supply and provides water to other municipal and agricultural users. Water is delivered to the reservoir and its water treatment plant via the Southern Water Supply Project, completed in 2020, and the Boulder Feeder Canal. The City of Boulder owns Boulder Reservoir, but operations and maintenance related to water storage and dam safety are primarily managed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Northern Water). 

Additional information is available on the project webpage at https://bouldercolorado.gov/water/boulder-reservoir-maintenance#. General project questions can be directed to Water Resources Manager Kim Hutton at 303-441-3115 or huttonk@bouldercolorado.gov. For questions regarding recreation impacts, contact Boulder Reservoir Facilities Supervisor Stacy Cole at 303-441-3469 or coles@bouldercolorado.gov.

Say hello to @Northern_Water’s new website

Screen shot of the new Northern Water website. Click the image to go to the website.

Click here to to the new website. Easy to navigate and find data:

Northern Water is proud to announce the launch of a new organizational website. The website offers a user-friendly experience with improved navigation and functionality.

With a modern, sleek design, the new website uses enhanced functionality, features and content to tell the story of Northern Water and its commitment to delivering water to more than 1 million people and 615,000 acres of irrigated farmland in Northeastern Colorado while protecting water quality on both sides of the Continental Divide.

Key features of the new website include:

  • Improved navigation that makes content easy to find;
  • A search engine that captures targeted results for visitors seeking specific information;
  • Mobile responsive design that allows website access from any device;
  • A new data portal that provides real-time data, water quality data and more;
  • A new customized water accounting portal that empowers water users to manage their portfolio, order and transfer water, and view important documents; and
  • A news blog to inform the public about Northern Water’s projects, programs and activities. New weekly content will ensure the public is kept up to date on the latest happenings.
  • The new website has been more than a year in the making with a primary goal of creating a user-friendly platform accessible from any device. Specifically, the goal was to make it easier for visitors to learn about the organization and its rich history, receive project updates and discover ways to more efficiently use water in their landscapes and daily lives.

    #Colorado-Big Thompson operations update

    Olympus Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation.

    From email from Reclamation (Elizabeth Jones):

    Olympus Dam near Estes Park, Colorado impounds Lake Estes. The lake is the afterbay for Estes Powerplant, a hydroelectric powerplant that can produce up to 45 MW each hour. Colorado-Big Thompson Project water from the west slope fuels the Estes Powerplant. Project water discharged from Estes Powerplant is diverted from Lake Estes, routed to additional hydroelectric powerplants on the Front Range and is then stored in Carter Lake or Horsetooth Reservoir. Project water is rarely released from Olympus Dam into the Big Thompson River.

    This is the season for snow-melt runoff into Lake Estes. In the past 10 days, natural inflow into Lake Estes has increased from a low of about 250 cubic feet per second (cfs) to a peak flow of about 1,020 cfs. Currently, natural inflow is decreasing (around 700 cfs); however, warmer or wetter days could result in natural inflow increasing again and the recent peak inflow could be surpassed.

    Olympus Dam is not an authorized flood control structure. As such, the natural snow-melt or precipitation runoff that flows into Lake Estes is released from Olymus Dam into the Big Thompson River. Under normal operations, Olympus Dam does provide the benefit of shaving off the peak inflow. One way it does so can be explained using recent operations. During two days this week when peak inflow into Lake Estes was about 1,000 cfs, maximum release from the dam was 880 cfs. This is because outflows are generally the day’s average. Outflow does not follow the within-day variation, which ranged from 714 cfs to 1,020 cfs within a 24-hour period. Releases from Olympus Dam in the near term will be driven by whatever Nature provides from the headwaters of the Big Thompson watershed.

    As the snow-melt runoff season progresses, Reclamation will provide information to the public regarding expected flows released from Olympus Dam.

    #Colorado-Big Thompson Project operations update #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    From email from Reclamation (Brittany Jones):

    The Bureau of Reclamation will increase diversion of Colorado River water to Horsetooth Reservoir at midnight tonight. The change will require a decrease in the Big Thompson River diverted for power generation at Olympus Dam.

    Reclamation is currently releasing 125 cfs to the Big Thompson River from Olympus Dam. The flow will increase to 265 cfs beginning tonight. Our current forecast indicates that runoff into Lake Estes will substantially increase over the next week. It is possible the Olympus Dam required release to the Big Thompson River will exceed 600 cfs.

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

    @Northern_Water: Regional Pool Allocation Set at 15,000 Acre-feet

    Here’s the release from Northern Water:

    The Northern Water Board of Directors allocated 15,000 acre-feet of Regional Pool Program (RPP) water during its May 14, 2020, Board meeting. RPP water is available for lease by eligible Northern Colorado water users, with sealed bids due May 28, 2020. Bid prices per-acre-foot must be greater than or equal to $27.40, a floor price the Board selected based on the 2020 agricultural assessment rate.

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, interim procedures have been instituted for the May 2020 RPP allocation. The interim procedure and additional Regional Pool information are available at http://northernwater.org/regionalpool.

    The following forms are required to submit a bid:

  • Pre-Approval Form – To confirm eligibility, interested bidders must email or mail the Pre-Approval Form to Northern Water. In person delivery will not be accepted in 2020. A new Pre-Approval Form is required each year.
  • Carrier Consent Form – If the RPP water will be delivered by a carrier, such as a ditch or reservoir company, bidders and their carriers must complete the Carrier Consent Form or provide a signed agreement stating that the carrier will deliver the RPP water to the bidder. This form must also be emailed or mailed to Northern Water; in person delivery will not be accepted.
  • Bid Form – Sealed bids will be accepted at Northern Water’s headquarters through a “self-serve” process. Bidders will sign in at a kiosk in the lobby and print a bid label for their sealed bid envelope. The label will identify the bidder name, date and time stamp, and bid number. Secure the label to the bid envelope and place in the drop box. Sealed bids may also be mailed to Northern Water, but must be received before the deadline.
  • Sealed bids are due by 2 p.m. May 28 at Northern Water’s headquarters, 220 Water Ave., Berthoud, CO 80513. As described above, sealed bids can be mailed or hand delivered; email and fax bid forms will not be accepted. RPP leases will be awarded based on highest bids per acre-foot. Sealed bids will be opened during a 9 a.m., June 1 Zoom video conference. The link to the Zoom video conference will be available at http://northernwater.org/RegionalPool.

    Many staff are working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are not available to answer questions in person. Questions regarding the Regional Pool Program and bid submittal can be emailed to regionalpool@northernwater.org or by calling Sarah Smith at 970-622-2295 or Water Scheduling at 970-292-2500.

    Screenshot of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project boundaries via Northern Water’s interactive mapping tool , June 5, 2019.

    @Northern_Water increases 2020 C-BT quota to 70 percent #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Screenshot of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project boundaries via Northern Water’s interactive mapping tool , June 5, 2019.

    Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District:

    Above average regional water storage coupled with above average snowpack prompted the Northern Water Board of Directors to increase its 2020 quota allocation for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project to 70 percent.

    The Board unanimously approved the allocation at its meeting Thursday, April 9, 2020, which was held via video to comply with state stay-at-home orders as part of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

    Luke Shawcross, manager of the Water Resources Department at Northern Water, outlined snowpack and forecasted streamflows and discussed the available water supplies in regional reservoirs.

    When setting the quota the Board considers current regional reservoir storage levels, forecasted snowpack runoff, availability of water within the C-BT system and public input.

    The Board has been setting C-BT quota since 1957 and 70 percent is the most common quota declared. It was also the quota set for the 2019 water delivery season.

    The quota increases available C-BT Project water supplies by 62,000 acre-feet from the initial 50 percent quota made available in November. Water from the C-BT Project supplements other sources for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million-acre service area. According to recent census figures, approximately 1 million residents now live inside Northern Water’s boundaries. To learn more about Northern Water and the C-BT quota, visit http://www.northernwater.org.

    Pearl Harbor altered Colorado’s path after 1941, and Covid-19 will also — The Mountain Town News #coronavirus #COVID19

    Boring of the Eisenhower Tunnel began in 1968 and was completed in 1973 at a cost of $117 million. The Colorado Department of Transportation estimated the cost early in the 21st century would have been $1 billion to $1.1 billion. Photo/ C-DOT.

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    This pandemic has started feeling like something more than an extended snow day or having the mumps when you’re a child. Perhaps it’s now more like 1941, after Pearl Harbor.

    The potential for a pandemic has been amply reported over the years. People in the early 1940s knew we would inevitably go to war. When abstraction became reality on that December day, so much changed in the context of Colorado.

    In the late 1930s, ski areas were about to blossom. The Union Pacific’s Averell Harriman in 1936 opened Sun Valley in Idaho, and resorts were taking off in New England. Colorado had a few smaller ski areas, including Berthoud and Winter Park, plus town ski areas at Steamboat Springs and Gunnison.

    Others were thinking bigger. In Aspen, a boat-tow had been installed, primitive but effective in transporting people uphill. One of them was Elizabeth Paepcke, the wife of a wealthy Chicago industrialist. She wanted her husband to see Aspen, to see the potential she saw. Others saw a different resort, one on Mount Hayden, in the Castle Creek Valley southwest of Aspen. Colorado legislators gave the venture $650,000, which was backed by a federal fund.

    Closer to Denver, tunnel crews had begun boring an exploratory tunnel under Loveland Pass, with the idea of creating a highway under the Continental Divide. To the west, the state government had used federal New Deal funding to upgrade the horse trail across the Gore Range to a two-lane gravel road. They called it Vail, to honor Charlie Vail, then the boss of the Colorado Highway Department.

    In Washington, D.C., President Franklin Roosevelt had had engineers develop plans for a national system of highways with separated lanes.

    In Colorado, work had begun on Green Mountain Reservoir. The intent was to provide a service to the Western Slope as a result of the giant trans-mountain diversion planned at Grand Lake to benefit farmers in northeastern Colorado.

    And in northeastern Colorado, my father was working on a dryland farm near Fort Morgan and lopping off the tops of sugar beets in that quiet before the distant clouds of war arrived.

    Pearl Harbor changed everything.

    The war brought the 10th Mountain Division to Colorado, to a high valley along the Continental Divide between Leadville and Red Cliff called Eagle Park. The Army named it Camp Hale, and at the height of the training it was among the largest cities in Colorado, with 14,000 people, mostly men.

    After the war, in 1946, Elizabeth Paepcke’s husband, Walter, finally visited Aspen and saw what had so impressed her. But he put a new touch on it, the idea of invigorating the body and challenging the mind, a DNA that lingers to this day. 10th Mountain Division veterans returned in droves to Colorado to convert Aspen from a derelict mining town into an international resort. A resident, for a time, was Pete Seibert, who had grown up in New England dreaming of creating a ski resort. But he wanted his own resort. That dream in 1962 became Vail.

    In time, my father was inducted into the Army, leaving behind the dryland farm where he was reared and its house, which had neither indoor plumbing nor electricity, and took the train to California for basic training, then a posting at the Presidio, near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Eventually he was shipped to India at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains.

    The bore under Loveland Pass was completed in 1943, but it revealed too much difficult geology for a highway tunnel. Later, a different alignment was chosen, and that tunneling work resulted in the first of two tunnels in 1973.

    The idea of superhighways that many people want to attribute with singularity to Dwight Eisenhower finally was given a federal sponsorship in 1956. Among the Senate sponsors was Albert Gore, father of the future vice president. But if not for the war, it might have happened sooner.

    First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit Northern Water.

    As for that big New Deal-era water project, the Colorado-Big Thompson, it was finally completed in 1957.

    And my father returned to northeastern Colorado, married the girl he had met at a gathering of young Baptists in the 1930s and took up work as a carpenter. He never flew again, never traveled abroad, but he did have a taste for curry that was never satisfied. He died before the spread of Indian restaurants in Colorado.

    Vail probably would have happened eventually. The mountain itself and the proximity to Denver made it a natural. But World War II put Pete Seibert into Colorado. Aspen would have flourished, but perhaps in a different way. As for Mount Hayden, it came to nothing, in its own way perhaps a casualty of World War II.

    This pandemic is different than World War II, and we have to go back further to see precedent. In 1918, Gunnison quarantined itself and survived with little loss of life, while Silverton, as remote a town as there may be in Colorado, isolated in the icy fastness of the San Juan Mountains, lost 10% of its population.

    In this COVID-19 pandemic, the first case in Colorado was a visitor to Summit County who had recently been in Italy, then Australian visitors to Aspen-Snowmass. But then Eagle County flared, and as of early this week had 22 cases from the Vail area compared to 24 in Denver County, which has a population about 12 times as large. County officials on Thursday said they suspected hundreds, if not thousands, had contracted COVID-19.

    A century ago the influenza spread globally, but by rail instead of by air. The world has shrunk, with consequences both good and bad.

    We will survive this pandemic, but there will be changes. I sincerely doubt we’ll see the significant expansion at DIA that had been announced just a few months ago. That may actually be good.

    Can other good also result? Many of us hope that it will result in greater acceptance of facts, more acceptance of science. Ideology played a powerful role in the sluggish, or worse, acceptance of the virus by powerful people, most notably the president. That same ideology, the same denial, has shrugged off or rejected the power of accumulating greenhouse gases to produce costly changes in our climate.

    I hope we develop a greater sense of a global community. It could easily take us the other way, one exemplified by the run on guns and ammunition. What we see early on, the sniping between President Trump and his counterparts in China, is not encouraging.

    This was first posted by the Colorado Independent.

    The latest @Northern_Water E-Waternews is hot off the presses

    Southern Water Supply Project Map via Northern Water.

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    Final pipeline pieces get put into place for Southern Water Supply Project II

    The contractors for the Southern Water Supply Project II reached a significant milestone last month with the installation of the final portion of pipeline.

    The final piece was placed along the 20-mile route near Carter Lake in southern Larimer County. The pipeline, funded by the City of Boulder, Left Hand Water District, Longs Peak Water District and the Town of Berthoud, will bring water supplies to those communities year-round.

    While the installation of pipeline is complete, additional work remains. Northern Water technicians are installing and programming equipment for integration into its SCADA system, and testing of the pipeline segments for quality assurance is ongoing. Northern Water anticipates the pipeline will start carrying water to its destination at Boulder Reservoir in April.

    Beyond the pipeline, however, work will continue on another important aspect of construction: reclamation of disturbed ground. The pipeline runs through easements on a variety of public and private properties, and reclamation crews will be working with those entities to ensure lands are reclaimed to their owners’ satisfaction.

    Garney Construction was the lead contractor for the $44 million project.

    A video of the final pipeline is available here.

    To learn more, go to http://swsp2.org.

    Rising cost of water rights in Loveland squeezes local developers — the Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Lake Loveland

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Carina Julig):

    Water in Loveland comes from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which diverts water over the Continental Divide to the Front Range. Over the past several years, units of water from the project have soared in price as Northern Colorado’s population has grown and development increases.

    From 2010 to 2019, the average price of C-BT units rose from $7,000 to $55,000. The amount of water in a C-BT unit is set yearly by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District — Northern Water — and fluctuates based on the amount of snowpack and forecast streamflows for that year. In 2019, it was set at 70 percent of an acre-foot…

    The city of Loveland requires developers to bring their own water rights to a project or to purchase water from the city. The city’s cash-in-lieu price for water rights is pegged to the market value and has steadily risen alongside it.

    At the Loveland Utilities Commission meeting Dec. 18, the city approved raising the cash-in-lieu price of C-BT units to $47,640. It last raised the price in July to $39,330.

    The city asks developers to pay their own way so that they don’t cut into the city’s water resources for the future, said Joe Bernosky, the director of Loveland Water and Power.

    “What we’re doing is we’re to trying to make them pay their own way so the existing citizens don’t have to pay or we don’t kick the can down the road,” Bernosky said. “And that’s not a good way to do business when you’re a utility.”

    Cash-in-lieu money the city receives from developers all goes toward firming up the city’s water portfolio, said Larry Howard, a senior civil engineer in the Water and Power utility.

    There’s no profit incentive to increasing the cash-in-lieu price, Howard stressed. The city is just reacting to market conditions and doesn’t have a lot of options.

    The rising cost of water is making it harder to build more affordable housing in Loveland, something the city badly needs. Jeff Feneis, director of the Loveland Housing Authority, said water rights are one of the organization’s biggest challenges.

    In order to help mitigate the increasing cost of water, the city recently recalculated the water rights necessary per building unit. The change, which went into effect this September, applies only to residential buildings.

    Due to more efficient building practices such as more efficient appliances, new houses require less water than older ones do. In light of this, the city reduced the required amount of water for a single-family dwelling from about one-quarter of an acre-foot to about one-tenth.

    @Northern_Water district’s fall symposium recap

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Carina Julig):

    More than 300 people attended the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s fall symposium [November 20, 2019] at the Embassy Suites in Loveland to discuss the region’s water future.

    Several city officials from Loveland attended, including City Council member Steve Olson…

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    The majority of Northern Colorado’s water comes from the Colorado River, over the Continental Divide. Water is diverted through Rocky Mountains by the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, and stored in reservoirs.

    As water flows become more unpredictable, with droughts some years and heavy snowfalls in other, having the infrastructure to store larger quantities of water is becoming increasingly important…

    The city has rights to water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and the Windy Gap Project as well as rights to water from the Eastern Slope.

    Green Ridge Glade Reservoir

    Most of Loveland’s water comes from the Green Ridge Glade Reservoir, which stores water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

    Water & Power is currently updating its raw water master plan, which details how the city will provide water to customers for several decades, Bernosky said.

    As Loveland’s population has grown, water usage has remained relatively flat, due to more efficient home and building construction. The city has been on a 20-year trend of reducing its gallons per capita per day, said Larry Howard, a senior civil engineer in the city of Loveland’s water resources division.

    Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

    If the Chimney Hollow Reservoir project goes through, Loveland will have adequate water supply through 2060, Howard said. The city has rights to 10.5% of the water in the proposed reservoir, which is currently being held up by a lawsuit.

    Brian Werner 38 Years With Northern Water, A Celebration at the Source and Heart of Western Water Education! — Greg Hobbs

    Eric Wilkinson, left, and Brian Werner, on the job. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Brian Werner 38 Years With Northern Water,
    A Celebration at the Source and Heart
    of Western Water Education!

    When we look to the future
    it’s no more fortuitous

    than finding each other
    on the journey of the great

    surveys of our lives.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    @Northern_Water Symposium, November 20, 2019

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    Click here for all the inside skinny:

    Video: The Colorado-Big Thompson Project — @Northern_Water

    First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit Northern Water.

    Reservoir agreement helps trout by borrowing endangered fish water — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Some rejiggering of reservoir operations in the upper Colorado River watershed is taking the heat off trout in Grand County through the early release of water that had been set aside for endangered fish in Mesa County.

    The approach is being made possible by storing water elsewhere so it can be released for the endangered fish when they need it later.

    Under the agreement involving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Colorado River District, an additional 35 cubic feet per second of water started being released last week from Lake Granby, also known as Granby Reservoir, in the Colorado River headwaters. That nearly doubled Colorado River flows immediately downstream.

    The increased flows help reduce daytime temperatures in the river, which had begun topping 60 degrees and threatening the health of trout. The releases involve water normally stored in Granby for use in boosting flows in the river near Grand Junction for endangered fish such as the humpback chub and razorback sucker.

    The endangered fish still will get water under the deal, however. In exchange for the additional water coming out of Granby, the river district is withholding 35 cfs of water from Wolford Mountain Reservoir, which sits above Kremmling on Muddy Creek, a Colorado River tributary. That’s below the problem stretch of the Colorado River, thanks to inflows to the river coming from Muddy Creek and other tributaries, so the Wolford water that’s being withheld doesn’t hold the importance to the trout that the released Granby water does.

    “There’s plenty of water in the river except for in that stretch below Granby,” said Jim Pokrandt, a river district spokesman.

    Pokrandt said the Colorado River is currently a “free river” right now in Colorado. There are no calls on it to meet the needs of senior water rights holders when flows are more limited. But the upper stretch in Grand County in the Hot Sulphur Springs area is depleted due to transmountain diversions to the Front Range.

    Withholding the Wolford water means it will be available for the endangered fish during lower-flow periods on the Colorado River in Mesa County, in lieu of the water that is being released from Granby.

    Firestone: Fred Sekich Farm to be auctioned off August 28, 2019, split into smaller parcels, and the water rights sold separately

    Screenshot of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project boundaries via Northern Water’s interactive mapping tool , June 5, 2019.

    From The Denver Post (Mark Samuelson):

    …the game of selling farm property has changed — particularly the auction game — as information technology makes offerings much more attractive for sellers and widens the opportunities for buyers and investors.

    “Today’s farm auction is structured to create better potential for the buyer,” says Scott Shuman, partner in Hall and Hall, brokers and auctioneers who have been selling western real estate since the 1940s. In 2010, Hall and Hall made a move into auctioning — and have been pioneers in structuring auctions to get better returns for farm sellers.

    When the Fred Sekich Farm, east of I-25, north of Firestone, is auctioned at The Ranch/Larimer County Event Complex on Aug. 28, its 546 acres will be cut into 58 offerings — one as small as 4 acres, one as large as 141 acres, with the parceled surface water rights (176 Colorado-Big Thompson Units and 18.75 ditch shares) auctioned separately.

    Those water rights may be as valuable as the land, maybe more.

    “Water is gold,” says Rick Sekich, who along with his mom and two brothers are the sellers…

    Grandpa Nick Sekich would have had little idea the value that surface water would hold as Colorado grows.

    “It’s really gone up,” says Sherri Rasmussen, contract manager for Northern Water, administering the CB-T’s vast distribution all the way east to Sedgwick County. When the project began in the 1930s, an acre-foot sold for $1.50; by 2013, it was 10,000 times that…

    All of this could stay agricultural — selling to an owner with holdings nearby. But either way, Shuman adds, sellers make out better in these auction sales, where buyers have an opportunity to customize a purchase…

    Hall and Hall, with 15 offices across the West, is in Eaton, Colo., 800-829-8747. The complete sale catalog is at HallandHall.com.

    The latest “E-WaterNews” is hot off the presses from @Northern_Water:

    A “rooster tail” is formed by the water descending the Granby Dam spillway on July 19. Photo credit: Northern Water

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    Cool spring, late storms fill C-BT Project

    A cool and wet spring in Northern Colorado coupled by unusual late snowstorms combined to top off the Colorado-Big Thompson Project in 2019.

    At Lake Granby, water reached the spillway over the weekend of July 13-14. In the days before that, managers had been releasing additional water into the Colorado River to make room for incoming snowmelt.

    Because of a storm that dumped snow on the headwaters of the Colorado River on June 21, the inflow into Lake Granby climbed significantly. While earlier models had indicated Lake Granby wouldn’t fill, that storm boosted streamflows considerably.

    Northern Water was not the only organization surprised by the late snowmelt and heavy late-season storms. Denver Water, which manages Lake Dillon and collects water at the headwaters of the Fraser River, reported the snowpack that feeds its system was also far above normal this year.

    Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    Screenshot of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project boundaries via Northern Water’s interactive mapping tool , June 5, 2019.

    From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

    Brad Wind, general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District based in Berthoud, and Jim Hall, Northern Water’s senior water resources engineer, briefed the LSPWCD’s board of directors on Northern’s efforts to keep Colorado-Big Thompson water from leaving the Northern District…

    Wind told the Lower board that Northern is working to enforce Article 19 of the 1938 contract between Northern Water and the federal government, known as the Project Repayment Contract. That article, one of 27 contained in the contract, specifies that all seepage and return flows from the use of Colorado-Big Thompson project water are reserved to Northern Water and are not to be taken outside the district’s boundaries.

    On May 9, Northern adopted a resolution saying it would “take appropriate actions to enforce Article 19 consistent its interpretation of Article 19.”

    Wind said the heavy lifting in that effort will be tracking how C-BT water, and resulting seepage and return flow, are used. He used the phrase “colors of water,” which is a concept that holds that, through close monitoring and accounting, mixed waters from various sources actually can be tracked through multiple uses. For instance, water that is native to the South Platte Basin can be accounted differently from C-BT water, which is diverted from the Colorado River into Grand Lake and piped through the Adams Tunnel to Estes Park and held in Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake for distribution to C-BT members.

    Return flows are water that has been diverted from the river, used to irrigate crops or for municipal use, and either seeps back to the river through the ground or is discharged after treatment. Much of the river’s flow in the lower reaches in late summer and through the winter is from return flows from upstream use. Return flows are crucial to irrigators in Weld, Morgan, Washington, Logan and Sedgwick counties.

    “To protect return flows, we have to know what they are,” Wind said. “We have to be able to quantify what return flows are coming from C-BT use and what’s from native water. It’s complicated.”

    Hall told the Lower board that there is the danger that “change of use” cases going through Colorado water courts could result in return flows from C-BT water being shipped out of the Northern district in violation of Article 19.

    “We’re starting to see change cases on irrigation ditches moving water outside the district boundaries,” Hall said. “That’s why it’s important to track this stuff. It’s easier to track municipal water because we can look at their (wastewater treatment facility) discharges, but it’s harder to prove agricultural return flows.”

    Hall said return flows from native water are not subject to Article 19, only C-BT return flows.

    Wind said Northern will be watching closely all change of use cases that go through Colorado’s water courts and will continue monitoring water usage in the district to make sure C-BT water doesn’t leave the district.

    #Snowpack/#Runoff news: @Northern_Water declares a 70% quota for the 2019 season #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR. Granby Dam was retrofitted with a hydroelectric component and began producing electricity earlier this year as water is released in the Colorado River.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Sam Lounsberry):

    Unit owners of the Colorado-Big Thompson project, which delivers Colorado River water from the wet Western Slope to the dryer Front Range, will get 70% of their quota this year, according to a Northern Water news release.

    The 70% allocation means that a farmer who owns 10 acre-feet of Colorado-Big Thompson water will get seven in a year, with the remaining three kept in storage for use in dry years…

    In wet years like this one, Northern sometimes downsizes the quota of Colorado-Big Thompson water distributed, since native streams can be full enough to provide farmers late-season growing supply, which provides Northern a storage opportunity for use in dry years.

    But the move to boost the Colorado-Big Thompson quota from 50% — the level normally set at the start of Northern’s water year in November just to get users through the winter so snowfall can inform spring allocation rates — ensures farmers will have a more flexible late growing season.

    The quota increases available Colorado-Big Thompson water supplies by 62,000 acre-feet from the initial 50% quota made available in November…

    The snow-water equivalent mark for the Upper Colorado Basin is 120% of the normal median as of Thursday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, with snowpack levels in other river basins across the southwest at even higher marks. But KUNC and The Aspen Times reported this year that despite the good snowfall this winter, officials predict spring runoff won’t be enough to replenish reservoirs across the southwest, because years of drought have left dry soil that sucks up extra drops.

    “Modeled soil moisture conditions as of November 15th were below average over most of the Upper Colorado River Basin and Great Basin,” the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center stated in its April 1 report. “In the Upper Colorado River Mainstem River Basin, soil moisture conditions were below average in headwater basins along the Continental Divide, and closer to average downstream.”

    Water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project supplements other sources for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million-acre service area, across parts of eight counties, the Northern release said.

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map April 11, 2019 via the NRCS.

    Loveland: @Northern_Water Spring Water Users Meeting Tuesday, April 9, 2019

    Click here to read the agenda.

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    Colorado-Big Thompson water units increasingly packaged for lease to N. #Colorado farmers #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

    From The Longmont Times-Call (Sam Lounsberry):

    As ownership of Colorado-Big Thompson water units shifts from agricultural interests to municipal control, farmers in the Longmont and Boulder areas are becoming dependent on the cities’ water rental programs.

    And with more municipal control of the Colorado-Big Thompson system, the market has changed in focus from acquisitions to leasing programs for farmers.

    Colorado-Big Thompson units can be bought, sold and transferred between water users anywhere within its manager Northern Water’s eight-county region without new uses having to be approved by a state water court, even when a deal involves users in different native stream basins. For that reason, the units have been attractive to those looking to buy in the water market — especially real estate developers needing to dedicate raw water to a municipality or water district to annex in new structures for utility service.

    Farmers own less, but still get half

    When the Colorado-Big Thompson project made its first deliveries in 1957, more than 85 percent of its water was owned by agricultural users.

    In 2018, though, municipal and industrial ownership of the 310,000 Colorado-Big Thompson water units…crept to 70 percent, leaving just 30 percent owned by agricultural users.

    But more than half of the system’s water still has been delivered to farmers in recent years, according to Northern Water data.

    That discrepancy reflects how much Colorado-Big Thompson water — originally intended to be a supplemental supply late in the growing season — farmers are renting from cities such as Boulder and Longmont.

    ‘Nearly out of range’

    Boulder last year leased 7,690 acre-feet of water, including 6,950 acre-feet of Colorado-Big Thompson water, and has leased an average of 3,410 acre-feet per year since 2000; Longmont last year leased 612 acre-feet of Colorado-Big Thompson water, along with some city shares of supply ditches that deliver water from native sources such as the St. Vrain River and Left Hand Creek, figures provided by the cities show.

    Longmont revenues generated by its water rental program over the last four years total nearly $3.9 million; Boulder has generated $861,850. The reason for the discrepancy in revenue despite Boulder renting more Colorado-Big Thompson water than Longmont is Longmont rents more of its native water, and its rates for much of its Colorado-Big Thompson water are higher than Boulder’s.

    But the rental market for water also is sliding out of reach for local farmers as outright purchases of Colorado-Big Thompson water have skyrocketed in price — units were sold for $36,000 apiece in an October auction. The water issue has been compounded by a weak commodity market for Front Range crops…

    Northern Water in years wet enough to lease excess Colorado-Big Thompson water does so through a bidding system known as its regional pool, and how those bids shake out in the spring influences the overall rental market for water each year.

    The minimum successful bid on an acre-foot of water in the spring 2010 regional pool was $22, but last year it was $132, Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said, a six-fold increase over the decade.

    No longer a ‘go-to’ supply

    Developers aiming to annex housing into municipalities or water districts that don’t accept cash in lieu of dedicating new raw water units might be forced to look into acquiring shares of ditch companies delivering water from streams native to a city’s or district’s service area.

    “We have 10 percent of that ag (Colorado-Big Thompson) supply yet to be transferred” to municipal or industrial control, Werner said, predicting about 20 percent of the system will likely stay under agricultural ownership for the foreseeable future.

    “It’s slowed down. About 1 percent a year” is being transferred from ag to municipal and industrial control, Werner said. “Inside the next decade or so, (that system) goes off the table as a go-to water supply.”

    Storage may preserve agriculture

    With more interest in water markets individualized to native stream basins — as opposed to the trans-basin Colorado-Big Thompson market — applications to state water courts to change ownerships and uses of those native basin shares could pick up, as developers continue trying to satisfy their obligations to give new water to Northern Colorado’s growing municipalities.

    Windsor is looking at buying into the Windy Gap Firming Project

    Windsor Lake/Mummy Range

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

    But as the [town board] looks at other plans to add water, it could introduce higher rate increases, higher fees for developers — or a combination of both. It just depends on the projects Windsor participates in.

    As the town grows, it’s looking at ways to prepare for an increase in water use. Among the recommendations Windsor Water Resource Manager John Thornhill presented to the board is to look at joining Windy Gap Firming Project and maintain participation the Northern Integrated Supply Project — both massive water supply projects managed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    Windsor is one of 15 northern Colorado communities already planning participating in NISP, which is also managed by Northern Water.

    The project, which would also impact Evans, would provide 40,000 acre-feet of raw water to all of the participants — enough for 80,000 families. Of that, Windsor would get 3,300 acre-feet of water, 8.25 percent of the total project.

    Still, town officials project that Windsor will need to supply 15,803 acre-feet of water in the future. That leaves the town with an 8,731 acre-foot gap in the total amount of water the town is currently has plans for — including NISP — and what officials know they will need in the future.

    In addition to participating in the Northern Water projects, Thornhill recommended budgeting money for water conservation, as well as acquiring new water from other providers in the region, such as the North Weld County Water District.

    As it stands now, Windsor’s treatable water supply comes from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, a Northern Water project that delivers more than 200,000 acre feet of water each year to 960,000 people in the eight counties it serves.

    @USBR revises release forecasts for Olympus and Ruedi dams

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    From email from Reclamation (James Bishop):

    Due to revised demands, releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River are scheduled to rise from 83 to 101 cubic feet per second (cfs) tonight at midnight (cusp between Thursday and Friday), 21 September. Earlier this week I announced releases from Olympus Dam were planned to rise to 225 cfs and that figure has since changed significantly.

    At this point in our forecast, we do not anticipate releases to the Big Thompson River rising above 150 cfs as we use the river to deliver C-BT Project water. On that subject, use of the Big Thompson to make project water deliveries is slated to run through October 12, and those deliveries vary frequently. I will of course continue to provide updates while keeping in mind the old adage: “Plans are disposable. Planning is indispensable.”

    A map of the Fry-Ark system. Aspen, and Hunter Creek, are shown in the lower left. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project western and upper eastern slope facilities.

    From email from Reclamation (James Bishop):

    Yesterday, I messaged you that we at Reclamation no longer planned to increase releases to 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) from Ruedi Dam to the Fryingpan River but would instead be maintaining releases at 355 cfs. That change holds, but I wanted to further explain this.

    Due to the persistence of very low river flow conditions in the Colorado River, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in coordination with Reclamation engineers and other Program partners, has decided to reduce the rate of release of Endangered Fish Recovery Program water stored in Ruedi Reservoir to allow these releases to be extended further into October. The reduced rate of release will enable a longer duration of “fish water” to be delivered to the 15-Mile Reach over the upcoming weeks, optimizing its benefits to the endangered fish.

    #Colorado-Big Thompson Project operations update: @USBR expects releases to the Big Thompson River to increase significantly

    Olympus Dam releases June 2011.

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

    The Bureau of Reclamation is forecasting a notable increase in releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River beginning on September 20, 2018.

    As of today, September 18, releases from Olympus Dam into the Big Thompson River are at 26 cubic feet per second (cfs). Between September 20th and October 12, releases are expected to rise to approximately 225 cfs.

    This forecast assumes native inflows into Lake Estes as well as irrigation demands will not change significantly from our current projections, but both are subject to unexpected fluctuations.

    @Northern_Water turns dirt on Southern Water Supply Project

    Southern Water Supply Project

    From The Longmont Times-Call (Sam Lounsberry):

    Work on the pipeline, known as phase two of the Southern Water Supply Project, is being overseen by Northern Water, which manages Carter Lake as part of the Colorado Big-Thompson Project.

    Once complete, the pipeline will improve water quality and delivery reliability compared to the open, above-ground Boulder Feeder Canal that currently brings water from Carter Lake to Boulder Reservoir.

    The new pipeline will pump 50 cubic feet per second of Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap Project water, with Boulder receiving the bulk of the water among participants at the Boulder Reservoir Water Treatment plant, the pipeline’s terminus.

    Boulder will receive 32 cubic feet per second and bear $32 million of the cost, according to city spokeswoman Gretchen King, while Left Hand Water District — which serves a 130-square-mile area between Longmont and Boulder — will receive 12 cubic feet per second and pay about $8 million for its share of the project…

    Left Hand will have another $2 million of cost from the district’s addition of a hydroelectric generator at the intersection of the new Southern Water Supply pipeline and the entrance to the district’s Dodd Water Treatment Plant. The generator will produce enough power to satisfy about a third of the plant’s electricity need, according to district Manager Christopher Smith…

    Berthoud and Longs Peak Water District — which serves Boulder and Weld County residents in an area north of Longmont — will each receive 3 cubic feet per second, but on Thursday officials from the town and district could not to provide their share of the costs of the remaining $4 million for the project.

    Smith noted the pipeline, which has an estimated completion date of March 2020, will not only further protect water quality, but also will allow year-round water delivery to Left Hand Water District’s Dodd Water Treatment Plant…

    “During some portions of the year the pipeline will act as the primary source of raw water for the participants in the project,” the Northern Water release states.

    Currently, the Boulder Feeder Canal is offline from Oct. 31 to April 1 annually, Smith said. When the canal is down, so, too, is the Dodd Water Treatment Plant…

    When the pipeline is complete, the Dodd Plant will be open year-round.

    The first 12 miles of new pipeline, from Carter Lake to St. Vrain Road in Longmont, will parallel the existing Southern Water Supply Project pipeline, which was runs to Broomfield and was completed in 1999.

    From St. Vrain Road, the new pipeline will continue south to the Boulder Reservoir Treatment Plant.

    Front Range water group pushes back project that would pull from #ColoradoRiver, citing lawsuit — @AspenJournalism #COriver

    A view of the location of the proposed Chimney Hollow dam and reservoir site in the foothills between Loveland and Longmont. The 90,000 acre-foot reservoir would store water for nine Front Range cities, two water districts and a utility, and is being held up a lawsuit challenging federal environmental reviews. Graphic credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    The Front Range water district that wants to build the Chimney Hollow Reservoir and pull more water from the Colorado River is delaying construction bids and issuing revenue bonds, citing a lawsuit by Save the Colorado, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups challenging federal approvals for the project.

    The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District had hoped to have the project, now estimated at $570 million, under construction by early 2019 and completed by 2023, but now it is uncertain when construction will begin because of the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver late last year.

    “Our original schedule was to be out to bid about right now and we would be selling bonds right now,” Jeff Drager, Northern’s director of engineering, said earlier this month.

    Chimney Hollow Reservoir is at the core of what’s known as the Windy Gap Firming Project. Northern, through its affiliated municipal subdistrict, plans to build the 90,000 acre-foot reservoir to provide a “firm annual yield” of 30,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River to nine Front Range cities, two water districts and a utility.

    About 9,000 acre-feet a year of additional water is expected to be diverted from the headwaters of the Colorado River as a result of the project.

    The 346-foot-tall dam, which would be the third tallest in Colorado, is located between Loveland and Longmont in Larimer County next to an existing reservoir, Carter Lake.

    Drager said since the litigation was filed last year Northern has taken the opportunity to do more engineering and design work on the dam, including the upcoming drilling of 40 holes to further explore softer rock found at the location of the left abutment of the dam.

    “We’re now scheduled to be at a point where we could go out to bid for construction and issue bonds probably in February or March,” he said.

    But at that point Drager said Northern would have to see what progress has been made in the lawsuit.

    “If I had to guess,” he said, “I’d say we’ll be slowed down.”

    The parties in the lawsuit are waiting for the judge in the case to rule on if the voluminous administrative record in the case is complete, including on a motion to add a recent report commissioned by Save the Colorado on actual water use, and if motions to intervene in the case by Northern, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the city of Broomfield will be accepted…

    The lawsuit contends that a review of the proposed project by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers under the National Environmental Policy Act was flawed and that the resulting approvals should be overturned.

    The federal review of the project began 2003. Reclamation issued its approval in 2014 and the Corps issued its approval in May 2017.

    Five nonprofit environmental groups filed a lawsuit in October, including Save the Colorado, Save the Poudre, Living Rivers, the Waterkeeper Alliance and WildEarth Guardians. The Colorado chapter of the Sierra Club joined the lawsuit in November.

    “The Windy Gap Firming Project is an apt example of inadequate analysis and poor decision-making that will ultimately result in significant new diversions from the Colorado River to provide the Front Range with unneeded water supply,” the environmental groups told the court in a recent brief.

    The delay in issuing bonds means that the 12 entities paying for the project will have to contribute $10 million in cash to allow Northern to keep the project moving forward, instead of using money expected to be available after selling municipal bonds. The 12 entities have put in $34 million to date toward the project.

    “We had hoped that our funding for 2019 was going to come from sale of the bonds and starting construction, but because of the litigation that we have, that’s delayed a little bit,” Drager told Northern’s board of directors at a meeting in Berthoud on August 9. “That $10 million will be provided by the participants in early 2019 and that should carry us through, we hope, until we are ready to put the project out to bid and sell the bonds to pay the rest of the cost.”

    Northern owns and operates the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which includes the huge Lake Granby Reservoir and the Adams Tunnel that sends over 200,000 acre-feet of water of Colorado River each year under Rocky Mountain National Park to the east slope.

    The C-BT Project also diverts water pumped up from the relatively small 445-acre-foot Windy Gap Reservoir, built in the early 1980s to serve as a pumping forebay on the Colorado River, just below its confluence with the Fraser River in Grand County.

    But Windy Gap is limited in how much water it can deliver because of its junior water rights and instream-flow obligations below the dam.

    Northern says Chimney Hollow Reservoir will allow it to pump water from Windy Gap in wetter years and store the water until needed in drier years by the 12 participating entities, which include Broomfield, Greeley, Longmont and Loveland.

    But the environmental groups say the federal agencies reviewed the proposed project with an overly narrow focus on how to fix the Windy Gap project and not on other potential ways to meet Front Range water demands.

    “Reclamation did not seriously consider reasonable alternatives to provide water to Windy Gap participants and allowed (Northern) to plow ahead with its original choice — the firming project — and double down on its busted bet,” the lawsuit states.

    Reclamation and the Corps told the court in May that the agencies conducted “an independent evaluation” and concluded the project “is needed to meet a portion of the existing and future water needs of the growing east slope municipalities.”

    Northern, on its website, points out “the project has been approved by the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Grand County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and endorsed by Gov. John Hickenlooper. It also has support from several environmental groups such as Trout Unlimited.”

    The support from some environmental organizations, including Trout Unlimited, stems from the mitigation measures designed to reduce its impact on the Colorado River headwaters, including a new bypass, or connectivity, channel that will allow more of the river to flow past the Windy Gap Reservoir.

    Lurline Underbrink Curran, the former county manager for Grand County, has also appealed to Robert Kennedy, Jr., of Waterkeeper Alliance, to drop the lawsuit.

    “Any lawsuit that delays or stops this work is a detriment to the Colorado River,” Currant wrote in Oct. 2017. “If the Windy Gap Project does not go forward, the hard-won concessions evaporate, and the Colorado River will continue to degrade.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is covering the Roaring Fork and Colorado River basins for The Aspen Times. The Times published this story on its website on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, as did the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

    Loveland tries to unravel the knot of future water supply

    Green Ridge Glade Reservoir

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Julia Rentsch):

    Forecasting a future in flux

    By 2042, the city of Loveland is projected to demand 30,000 acre-feet of water a year, according to projections calculated by Loveland Water and Power staff. Comparatively, the city currently needs about 18,000 acre-feet annually, and the city’s diverse portfolio of water sources yields a firm 22,400 acre-feet each year.

    One acre-foot is enough water to cover one acre of land, one foot deep. It’s about enough water to supply two homes for a year, said Larry Howard, a senior civil engineer in the city of Loveland’s water resources division.

    Meanwhile, both the city’s population and acreage is growing.

    Loveland’s 2017 data and assumptions report states the city now has a population of 74,385 within a 35 square mile area, and at ultimate buildout will cover 66 square miles. By 2042, Loveland’s population is estimated to hit 110,000 people, according to the same report.

    But, simultaneously, per-capita water consumption has been steadily falling nationwide over the past 20 years due to efficient fixtures and conservation initiatives, Bernosky said. Additionally, the introduction of metered water rates has played a role in reducing use compared to the previous flat monthly fee, Greene said.

    Luckily for the city, one variable is already locked in: The city of Loveland’s water district is surrounded on all sides by other districts, so the area it will serve is finite.

    Nevertheless, Bernosky said it is very difficult to take these trends and accurately predict the city’s water needs. There are a lot of pitfalls in forecasting the future as development patterns shift or decline, technology advances, natural events like droughts take place, economic factors play in and unexpected events occur, he said.

    “It’s very, very confusing right now,” he said. “A lot of it is very much in flux.”

    The latest E-Waternews is hot off the presses from @Northern_Water

    Looking east toward the Chimney Hollow Reservoir site, which is just this side of the red ridge. On the other side is Carter Lake Reservoir and beyond that, the Loveland area.

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    New website offers better access to Windy Gap Firming Project info

    Northern Water and the Municipal Subdistrict have launched a revamped website to provide easy-to-find data regarding the Windy Gap Firming Project and its chief component, Chimney Hollow Reservoir.

    The site, http://chimneyhollow.org, offers answers to frequently asked questions, information for potential contractors and download-ready fact sheets. In addition, it offers a video from Gov. John Hickenlooper that discusses his endorsement of the project as well as its place in the the Colorado Water Plan.

    As the project moves forward, the site will also present information related to the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir as well as the mitigation and enhancement efforts being conducted by Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict.

    The project also has a presence on Facebook, found here.

    A look at “Buy and Dry”

    Photo credit: Allen Best

    From KUNC (luke Runyon, Matt Bloom & Esther Honig):

    “Buy and dry” describes a class of water transactions that typically involve a municipality or other local government paying the owner of a farm for some or all of their available water rights.

    It’s a slow, mostly invisible flow of water from the region’s heritage industry — agriculture — to a new powerhouse: real estate development and urban growth.

    The transactions go back decades, with plenty of cautionary tales to guide both farmers and government officials, casting various Front Range cities and Eastern Plains farming communities as both villains and victims.

    Concern about the practice has reached a fever pitch. The state’s water plan, adopted in 2015, frowns at buy and dry tactics. Water prices continue to rise. Some alternative methods for leasing water are slowly being implemented, at the same time multi-million dollar checks are passed from developers and city planners to farm families.

    Urban growth is a driver

    The practice of buy and dry is primarily driven by the growth of water-short cities – of all sizes – along the Front Range. According to Colorado’s State Demography Office, communities along the I-25 corridor in Weld and Larimer counties are the fastest growing. Populations there are increasing at a rate twice as fast as the state as a whole…

    Windsor, like many fast-growing Front Range communities, sees agricultural water as a viable source to supplement future growth. As recently as May, Windsor purchased water rights from at least two different farming families, according to allotment contracts from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    One purchase was of units of water within the Colorado-Big Thompson Project from the John Ernest Lucken Revocable Trust. The other with the Andrew H. Blase Family Trust.

    In both cases Wagner says he doesn’t know whether the town’s purchases led to farms “drying up.”

    “I’m not sure of what’s happened to those farms,” he said. “Whether they still have enough water rights to irrigate or whether they’ve reduced the farming acreage.”

    Wagner added that Windsor, unlike other cities, has not specifically purchased farms to own them and take the water off them. When asked about the likelihood of the town doing that, Wagner said it very well could…

    Water rights worth millions

    For farmers in the West, access to water is a key part of making agriculture possible in an arid region. Without irrigation farmers are significantly limited on the range of crops they can grow and in the profitability of the land they own.

    With commodity crop and milk prices at low points, selling water rights can help make a farm operation whole.

    That’s the case for Colorado dairy farmer Timothy Bernhardt, just down the road from Windsor in Milliken. The Bernhardt family has farmed there since the 1920s. Access to water to quench the thirst of his 900 dairy cows is essential, Bernhardt says.

    “Cattle drink a lot of water, so about 50 to 100 gallons of water a day,” he says. “So it’s critical for milk production because milk is made up mostly of water.”

    In May Bernhardt and his brother made the choice to sell 175 units of water within the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — about 57 million gallons — to the city of Milliken for nearly $5 million.

    That money will be used to pay off debt, Bernhardt says. Like many businesses, farms rely on loans and credit to operate and the brothers wanted to pay it off because they’re each older than 60 and looking at retirement. Their children aren’t interested in running a dairy farm, so when they retire, the business ends with them…

    Cautionary tales

    There’s no arm-twisting in buy and dry, cities are often quick to say. These transactions involve willing buyers and sellers. Cities get what they need — new water supplies — and farm families get an opportunity to pay off debt, make on-farm upgrades or retire.

    But on a regional-scale, water managers and government officials are troubled. Water flowing from farms to the Front Range means a movement of power and economic activity, from rural areas to cities. Take the Colorado-Big Thompson Project as an example.

    When the vast network of reservoirs was originally built in the 1930s to transport water from the state’s wetter Western Slope to the east, agriculture was the majority user of its stored water. Today, 70% of the project’s water is used by municipalities and industry…

    Conversations about buy and dry often turn to the Arkansas River valley and the communities of Crowley, Ordway and Sugar City. Water managers don’t really have to imagine what a future of rampant buy and dry could look like. It has already happened there…

    Cronin and a handful of other water managers in the South Platte Regional Opportunities Working Group recently started a conversation about what it would take to allow Front Range cities to keep growing, without draining farms in the process. It looked like at least three — maybe four — new reservoirs positioned along the South Platte River to the stateline with Nebraska to supplement water supplies for cities and farmers.

    Cronin cautions that these are preliminary discussions.

    He calls the discussion of new reservoirs a “generational” one — if the idea gains enough supporters for it to happen at all. Large-scale water projects often take decades in planning, permitting and litigation before a shovel hits the ground. This one would likely follow a similar timeline, Cronin says. Questions still linger about how much it would cost, another big hurdle to bringing it to fruition.

    Greeley to allow developers to pay cash-in-lieu of water

    Greeley in 1870 via Denver Public Library

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

    In Greeley, developers have historically been required to bring water to the table for any proposed development.

    Often, that water is associated with whatever piece of land the developer bought, so it’s an easy transfer.

    But when the land has already been dried up, developers are forced to hit the open market, competing with other developers to buy water at increasingly higher prices.

    “The way it is now, it’s kind of driving water prices up,” said Martin Lind, a major Front Range developer. “You’ve got 50 developers looking for small (portions) of water here and there.”

    In Greeley, there are fewer pieces of land with water rights still attached than ever before, and if Greeley wants to continue to grow — and city leaders say it must — officials say they’ve got to do something.

    Greeley’s solution, in the works since at least 2003, exchanges buckets of water for buckets of cash, as city leaders contemplate a transition to a system that allows developers to pay cash-in-lieu of water, a system officials say would be less burdensome on developers.

    That plan, based both on a dwindling supply of water and upon Greeley’s ability to potentially strike better deals, likely wouldn’t be approved until August.

    For Harold Evans, chairman of the Greeley Water and Sewer Board and a man who has experience in Colorado real estate, the plan would be good for everyone.

    “It gives (developers more options),” Evans said. “I think it will be a positive for the development community.”

    SMART WATER

    Greeley’s water planning goes out to 2065, and the city has been engaged in an aggressive, multi-phase water buying plan during the past several years.

    The city owns most of the water in its projected growth area — the areas not yet within city limits but expected to be one day, areas like the ones between Weld County roads 17 and 13, north of U.S. 34.

    With that in mind, it’s easy to see why there are fewer water resources available for developers.

    Take Journey Homes, which is building a 400-home development at the southwest corner of 83rd Avenue and 10th Street in west Greeley.

    Journey Homes Principal Larry Buckendorf said water comes first in almost everything Journey does.

    “For Journey, it’s water,” Buckendorf said. “That is the first consideration that we look into — what are the municipalities’ raw water requirements and what kind of water is attached to the land? It’s item No. 1.”

    Journey followed probably the simplest process available. It bought the land and the water that came with the land and deeded it to the city.

    But what happens when there’s no water attached to the land? That’s literally a growing problem as agriculture users sell their water rights to growing municipalities across the Front Range.

    The answer, for Greeley, is to let developers pay cash for water they don’t have. Buckendorf said it’s always good to have more options, and he said he has always enjoyed working with Greeley.

    Today, Greeley allows developers to pay cash-in-lieu of water for just 8 acre-feet of water.

    To give some perspective, Journey Homes’ development sits on 166 acres. Greeley requires 3 acre-feet of water for every acre of land. That means the city required 498 acre-feet of water from Journey, and Journey could bring cash to the table for just 8 of those.

    Switching fully to cash-in-lieu wouldn’t necessarily reduce developers’ costs, as Greeley will factor in not just the cost of water but the relative costs of storage expansion projects and system upkeep. But it would reduce the headache of buying water on the open market.

    “We see that we need to start to do a transition to support development,” Water and Sewer Director Burt Knight said. “If I don’t do a transition, and you don’t have water tied to the property, I’m forcing you into the market to buy C-BT (Colorado-Big Thompson). That’s a very difficult market, and it’s expensive.”

    A nice, round, roughly accurate number is $30,000 per acre-foot. If Journey paid cash, it would be out $14.9 million just in water — before selling a single home.

    To recoup those costs, Journey would need to take out about $40,000 from each of the 400 homes it’s building in west Greeley. That helps explain why housing affordability is so difficult to attain, officials say.

    “Before you’ve moved any dirt, before you’ve bought the land, before you’ve done anything, you have to calculate about $100,000 per each acre just for the water,” Greeley Community Development Director Brad Mueller said.

    It’s possible more housing stock would help drive prices lower, and Greeley does have room to grow. Today, Mueller said the city has more jobs than houses, and that’s an imbalance — although not the worst version of such an imbalance — city officials hope to fix at least in part by switching to the cash-in-lieu system.

    DIFFERENT STROKES

    Brian Werner is the spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which manages a number of projects, including the Colorado-Big Thompson project.

    That project diverts water across the continental divide to the Front Range. Talk to anyone who knows water and they’ll say it’s the best water. Why? Well, first, it comes from high in the Rocky Mountains, fed by snowmelt.

    Second, unlike almost any other water source in Colorado, it can be used for anything in the South Platte River Basin, all the way to Julesberg and Nebraska, without a decade-long water court battle to change its use. To clarify, if a city buys water that has historically been used to water crops, it must go to court and get approval to use the water for residential development.

    Because there are no such requirements for CBT water, though, it’s costly. Werner said an auction earlier this year featured $30,000-per-unit prices.

    In 1957, the first year the CBT project was in operation, units sold for $1.50 apiece, Werner said. If CBT water shares simply followed inflation, they would cost $13.47 per share today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.

    And back then, 85 percent of the units were owned by agriculture producers. Today, that’s 30 percent.

    Werner said that won’t get much lower, as there are a few large farming operations that might not ever sell.

    All of that, combined with developers needing the water to help Front Range cities grow, leads to price increases.

    It’s another reason Greeley is looking to switch to a cash-based system.

    But the same problem leads to different solutions.

    Many smaller water districts and municipalities are actually taking an opposite approach to the problem, forcing developers to bring water to the table so those water districts don’t have to deal with the open market.

    Werner said there’s no way to say either system represents a smarter approach to water policy, as a variety of factors affect any given water district. And he certainly wouldn’t criticize Greeley, a city he uses as an example of proper water planning.

    “They’ve done one of the best jobs in northern Colorado of building a water portfolio,” Werner said. “They’ve been doing it for 150 years, so they’ve got a better starting position than some of these newer communities.”

    GROWING PROBLEM

    Knight said without the impending change to the way Greeley manages water, it would be difficult if not impossible for new development to move forward.

    It begs a question, though: Is there pressure to grow at the expense of smart water policy?

    Even if Knight and Mueller said they’ve never felt that pressure, there’s enough at stake that Greeley regularly studies its neighbor municipalities when it comes to water and development policy.

    Every five years, the city looks at prices and trends and compares itself with others. The most recent study, completed in July 2015 by BBC Research and Consulting, cost $41,876.27, and the study looked at the 21 fastest-growing municipalities across the Front Range.

    That study showed Greeley’s costs, including the amount of water required to be deeded to the city, impact fees and tap fees, were above average among those municipalities, and called the high cost of water significant for developers and new homebuyers.

    The prices have only gone up since July 2015, but even then, Greeley’s costs were $36,271 per home — $8,000 higher than average. With CBT shares going for $5,000 more today than before, the costs are closer to $40,000 per home today.

    Some of the other municipalities were similar, including Johnstown, which was higher in 2015 at $35,000 per home, and Windsor ($28,500 per home).

    Others were far lower, including $11,375 in Evans and $10,000 for the Central Weld Water District, which covers a vast swath of rural Weld County from Evans and Kersey down to Firestone. Longmont and Lafayette were below $10,000.

    “There are some communities that we kind of shake our head,” Knight said, refusing to name names. “It looks either low or high. The ones that are low make us wonder, ‘Are they making themselves vulnerable in the future?’ ”

    So how does Greeley compete for new development with costs like that?

    Buckendorf said the costs tend to shake out in the end.

    “Land sellers are very astute,” Buckendorf said. “They know if the raw water requirement is less, they’ll ask for more for their land.”

    Knight said Greeley sets its rates in such a way as to ensure the city recoups the necessary costs, and typically that leaves Greeley somewhere in the middle of the city’s Front Range neighbors.

    “It’s important for Greeley residents to appreciate that we have a current water board and history of water board members who have been very serious stewards of the water for the community,” Mueller said.

    Brad Wind named @NorthernWater general manager #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Brad Wind. Photo credit: Northern Water

    Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Jeff Stahla):

    Colorado native Brad Wind has been chosen to lead Northern Water as the organization’s sixth general manager in its 81-year history.

    Wind, who most recently had served as the assistant general manager, Administration Division, was formally named to the position April 6 by the Northern Water Board of Directors.

    Wind joined Northern Water in 1994 as an engineer and previously served as the organization’s assistant general manager, Operations Division. Wind holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Colorado State University, a master’s degree in agricultural engineering from University of California at Davis and bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering and agricultural engineering from Colorado State University.

    Wind grew up in Northeastern Colorado, the area served by Northern Water. He was raised on a farm in Washington County and graduated from Brush High School.

    “Brad Wind has 25 years of experience built on the Northern Water tradition of teamwork and continual improvement,” said Board President Mike Applegate.

    “The Board is confident he will provide excellent leadership and vision as we move forward in service to the region,” he added.

    Wind takes over for previous General Manager Eric Wilkinson, who retired in April. Wilkinson will continue to work on a part-time role as a policy adviser for Northern Water.

    “I am thrilled to be named Northern Water’s next general manager, and I appreciate the legacy Eric has left us all,” Wind said.

    “We have a lot on our plate and our staff is up to the challenges of maintaining a reliable water supply and pursuing additional storage for northeastern Colorado,” he added.

    Windsor town board planning for future water needs

    Windsor Lake/Mummy Range

    From Windsor Now (Emily Wenger):

    At the April 16 Windsor Town Board work session, Dennis Wagner, director of engineering for Winds or, said the town has several options as it considers how best to meet the water needs of current and future residents.

    Right now, the town is reliant on other sources to treat its water, so it has to pay the city of Greeley and the Fort Collins-Loveland and North Weld County water districts.

    But some town board members want to give Windsor a way to avoid those price tags, even if that doesn’t happen for many years.

    The regional water treatment plant also would serve Severance, Eaton and the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District.

    Eaton is also feeling the pressures of providing for future growth, said Gary Carsten, town administrator for Eaton, so being part of the regional project would help prepare the town to serve future residents.

    In 2017, the partners hired Black and Veatch Engineering to study the possibility. That plant would be east of Interstate 25 and just north of Colo. 14. The challenge with that plant, Wagner said, will be finding enough water to treat to justify the cost at $25 million for Windsor’s portion.

    At its April 9 meeting, the Windsor Town Board also approved a plan to continue discussions with Broe Infrastructure about another water treatment plant at Great West Industrial Park.

    That plant, which the town would eventually buy, would pull about 1,300 acre-feet of water per year from the ground and treat it.

    If all goes according to plan, Windsor Town Attorney Ian McCargar said construction on that water treatment plant would start in 2019 and be finished by 2021.

    Windsor is hoping much of that water will come from Northern Integrated Supply Project, of which Eaton is also a part. The project, which would create two new reservoirs to supply the region, has been in the works for about 18 years, said Mayor Kristie Melendez.

    Windsor gets its water rights from the Colorado Big Thompson project, which brings water across the Continental Divide from the upper Colorado River and North Poudre Irrigation Co. It’s enough for now, but town officials are concerned it won’t stretch as the town grows and everyone in northern Colorado is trying to provide enough water to serve their residents.

    Buying into NISP, Windsor officials said, could ensure that water is available.

    The town is expected to spend $86.6 million on the project before it’s completed, including a $2 million payment next year.

    Wagner said the project cost keeps going up as the project keeps getting put off and construction costs rise.

    Melendez said some partners are skeptical about NISP ever being completed, because the project is taking so long. Currently, it’s expected to be built from 2021-25, if the planning and approval process continues without any issues, but Melendez said she’s not convinced that will happen, because of continual postponements.

    @NorthernWater board sets #Colorado-Big Thompson quota = 80%

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Jeff Stahla):

    Strong regional water storage coupled with below-average precipitation prompted the Northern Water Board of Directors to increase its 2018 quota allocation for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project to 80 percent.

    The Board unanimously approved the allocation at its meeting Thursday at Northern Water’s Berthoud headquarters.

    Sarah Smith, a water resources engineer at Northern Water, said total storage in the region was above average for the fifth-straight year. While Colorado precipitation has been below average this winter, recent storms boosted the snowpack in the northern portion of the state.

    “The Poudre basin did benefit quite a bit from those storms,” she said.

    Water Resources Manager Andy Pineda recommended the 80 percent quota to the Board based on the existing snowpack totals, runoff projections, regional water storage and input from water users.

    The 80 percent quota increases available C-BT Project water supplies by 93,000 acre-feet from the initial 50 percent quota made available in November.

    Water from the C-BT Project supplements other sources for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million-acre service area. According to recent Census figures, 960,000 residents now live inside Northern Water’s boundaries.

    To learn more about Northern Water and the C-BT quota, visit http://www.northernwater.org.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

    While much of the state is facing drastic water shortages, shareholders in the Colorado Big Thompson project will see better than average return on their investment this year, according to a Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District news release…

    The quota this year is 80 percent, up from the average of 70 percent, a jump that represents 93,000 extra acre feet for the year.

    Greeley is one of 33 cities that uses Colorado Big Thompson water, and Greeley Water and Sewer Board Chairman Harold Evans said the quota looks good for Greeley…

    Northern Water got a bump thanks to a fifth-straight year of above-average reservoir storage, as well as recent storms that have boosted snowpack in the state’s northern regions. Reservoir storage this year is 25 percent higher than normal, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service snowpack report released this past week.

    Colorado Big Thompson water is used by 33 cities and towns, as well as 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users, according to the release. Nearly one million residents live within Northern Water’s service area.

    The announcement will help farmers and municipalities plan water use for the year. About 70 percent of the contracts for Colorado Big Thompson water are owned by municipalities, but the usage is about 50 percent for farmers versus municipalities, as farmers often lease some water from municipalities, including Greeley.

    Burt Knight, Greeley’s Water and Sewer director, said the higher quota will allow Greeley to lease some water to some of its agriculture partners.

    The Greeley Water and Sewer Board will meet next week for its annual declaration regarding the snowpack and how it impacts Greeley.

    #Snowpack news: @NorthernWater to set C-BT quota on April 12th

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 17, 2018 via the NRCS.

    From The Fence Post (Nikki Work):

    As of March 14, the state sits at about 67 percent of the average snowpack, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    Things are looking slightly better in northern Colorado, with the two basins that impact Weld County — the Upper Colorado and the South Platte — at 77 percent and 81 percent of the average year, respectively…

    Eric Brown, spokesperson for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said the dry weather is on Northern Water’s radar, just like it’s on farmers’, but there may be one saving grace — a healthy amount of water in reservoir storage.

    Northern Water’s reservoirs are at one of their highest ever levels, with storage at 121 percent of average. Across Colorado, reservoir storage is at about 117 percent of the historic average. While Brown said the water district is optimistic that, in true Colorado fashion, there’s a big spring storm a’comin’, its prepared to use some of its reserves to combat an abnormally dry year.

    “In general, farmers who have access to some sort of water in storage should be okay for 2018, as Northern Water’s C-BT Project and reservoirs across the South Platte Basin are sitting at solid levels for the most part,” Brown said. “But for the farmers who don’t have access to water that’s in storage, they really need snow and/or spring rains in the near future.”

    But for everyone, use of the water in storage this year creates uncertainties down the road, as some of the current surplus will be used up. Plus, a good, wet snow would bring some much-needed moisture to the plains and help with soil quality, which plays an important role in crop health.

    The Northern Water Board will set its quota for C-BT deliveries for the remainder of the 2018 water delivery season at its April 12 board meeting. Both snowpack and C-BT and local non-C-BT reservoir levels will factor into this decision. The board sets a quota each year to balance how much water can be used and how much water needs to stay in storage, and the historic average for the quota is 70 percent.

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    The latest e-Waternews is hot off the presses from @Northern_Water

    Graphic credit: Northern Water

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    Crews from Northern Water work to maintain hydroelectric plant equipment

    Workers from Northern Water have taken apart some of the equipment at the Robert V. Trout Hydroelectric Plant at the outlet of Carter Lake as part of the organization’s annual maintenance program for the facility.

    On Feb. 8, members of the Northern Water board of directors were told that 2017 was a strong year for electricity production at the plant. Energy is captured from the outlet at Carter Lake as water is delivered into the St. Vrain Supply Canal. That electricity is marketed through the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association to customers throughout the utility’s service area on the Front Range.

    The power plant, one of two hydroelectric generation plants owned by Northern Water, has been in operation since 2012 and is authorized through a Lease of Power Privilege agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. In addition to Northern’s two hydroelectric plants, Reclamation operates six additional Colorado-Big Thompson generation stations that supply renewable energy throughout the American West.

    Learn more about power generation at Carter Lake

    Fort Morgan Times Year in Review Part 2

    Map via Northern Water.

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

    Fort Morgan triggers building water pump station: Participants in the Southern Water Supply Project pipeline long knew that an eastern pump station may be needed to ensure enough water can be delivered to its farthest-out participants: Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District, the Times reported May 13.

    Fort Morgan and Quality Water both reached their capacity of Colorado-Big Thompson water multiple times in recent summers. Gravity is currently what brings the water to Fort Morgan, since Carter Lake, where it is stored, is hundreds of feet higher than Fort Morgan. But growth in use of water by the pipeline’s participants meant less and less water can reach Fort Morgan just through gravity. All of the participants in the pipeline had the right to call for a pump station to be built, as per the original agreements. The council did approve directing staff to proceed with that request to Northern Water. But getting a pump station built will be expensive for all the participants in the pipeline, since the overall project is expected to cost about $6 million. It would take about three years from its start before the pump station would be online…

    New water meter system for Log Lane: The new town water meter system will cost Log Lane Village approximately $154,520, the Times reported June 16.

    The town’s board of trustees had previously approved contracting with Aclara/HD Systems for providing a new water meter system, but the costs and details had not yet been finalized. That’s happened June 14, with the board approving the expenditure and choosing the more expensive but longer-lasting scalable option of two proposals offered by contractor.

    A look at the #Colorado-Big Thompson Project #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit Northern Water.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Kenneth Jessen):

    The drought of the 1930s was the impetus for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

    Work started in 1938 and would span nearly two decades to complete.

    The first project was the Green Mountain Reservoir on the Blue River. The water stored ran north into the Colorado River and is used to compensate for water that would be diverted to the Eastern Slope.

    A significant year for the project was 1944 when work ended on the Alva B. Adams Tunnel, just over 13 miles long. It carried water under the Continental Divide.

    Lake Granby, the largest reservoir in the system, stores Colorado River water during the spring runoff. A second project was the nearby Shadow Mountain Reservoir connected to Grand Lake by a short canal. The two bodies of water are nearly 90 feet higher than Lake Granby.

    The Alva B. Adams Tunnel’s west portal is on the east side of Grand Lake which, incidentally, is the largest natural water body in Colorado.

    After the spring runoff and to keep Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake filled, a pumping station brings Lake Granby water up to their level.

    Added in 1951-52 and on the west side of the Continental Divide is the Willow Creek Reservoir. A pumping station elevates the water 175 feet to a canal flowing into Lake Granby.

    The 9 ½ -foot in diameter Alva B. Adams Tunnel drops 109 feet in its 13 miles, ending at the East Portal.

    From a small lake at the East Portal, the water is carried via a siphon under Aspen Brook to the Rams Horn Tunnel and via a penstock, down to the Marys Lake power plant. This is a drop of 205 feet.

    Running directly under the summit of Prospect Mountain, yet another tunnel and penstock delivers water to the Lake Estes power plant, a drop of 482 feet.

    From Lake Estes, water flows east first through the Olympus Tunnel to the 5 ½ -mile long Pole Hill Tunnel.

    Water is delivered to the top of a canal then to a penstock. It drops 815 feet to the Pole Hill power plant. From there, the water enters the 1 ¾ -mile-long Rattlesnake Tunnel, ending on the west side of Pinewood Lake. An intake on the east end of Pinewood Reservoir takes water through the Bald Mountain Tunnel to the penstock visible from Loveland.

    Water is delivered to the Flatiron power plant at Flatiron Reservoir over 1,000 feet below.

    This is where things get complicated.

    During times of excess water, it is pumped up to Carter Lake, 277 feet higher.

    Water also flows through a short tunnel north to the Hansen Feeder Canal to Horsetooth Reservoir.

    From the south end of Carter Lake, water is delivered into the South St. Vrain Supply Canal. This long canal takes water under part of Rabbit Mountain all the way the Boulder Reservoir.

    In all, West Slope water drops nearly 3,000 feet during its journey to the East Slope.

    The Colorado-Big Thompson Project has created a dozen reservoirs, uses 35 miles of tunnels and also generates a substantial amount of electric power. These are the power plants:

    Marys Lake

    Estes Park

    Pole Hill

    Flatiron

    Green Mountain

    Big Thompson

    Trout

    Fort Morgan water rates to go up 3%

    Fort Morgan vintage photo from Moody’s Vintage Collectible Postcards

    From Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

    Starting in January, Fort Morgan residents can expect to pay at least $2 more per month for water, depending on their water usage.

    The Fort Morgan City Council recently approved adjusting water rates for 2018 to include the 3 percent increase recommended by the latest rates study.

    Water Resources/Utilities Director Brent Nation said that a residential household that currently pays $71.90 for a monthly water bill likely would have a bill next year of $73.90.

    The increase was recommended to the council so as to keep the city’s water fund revenue on track for the possibility of going out to bond for construction on the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), as well as likely upcoming large capital projects at Fort Morgan Water Treatment Plant and ongoing maintenance of the city’s water delivery system, Nation and City Manager Jeff Wells explained…

    He said the price of constructing NISP has not changed, but some of the projections for how it is expected to be financed for Northern Water by the 15 participants – including Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District – are changing. That meant the city needed to figure out how to “balance out” those financing expense projections with the water fund projections for revenue.

    Nation said the latest water rates study included “a conservative approach” so that the city could “make sure that the fund is safely being funded for these projects” but also keep rates from having to skyrocket in the future.

    For now, Nation said the 3 percent water rates increase for 2018 would “keep us moving forward towards where we’re projecting that we’re going to need over the next 10 to 15 years, depending on how NISP plays out.”

    […]

    The current rate study did indicate that Fort Morgan’s water rates are on the higher end in northeast Colorado, but that had been the case since the Colorado-Big Thompson project began, Nation said.

    “We pay for high quality water, and that’s what we’re getting,” he said.

    But there also are other things the city’s water treatment and water delivery departments will look at doing so as to save money for rate payers, Nation told the council, not getting into specifics right now.

    Wells pointed out that the city has been collecting a monthly NISP fee from rate-payers so as to start building up cash toward future bonding for that project, if or when it gets approved.

    Windy Gap Firming Project update

    Windy Gap Reservoir

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    Collaboration is a lofty goal touted by political and business leaders as a potential way forward on anything from climate change to healthcare to obesity. Drop your weapons, turn your enemies into partners and achieve great things — or so the thinking goes. But collaboration is a concept that sounds great in the abstract and quickly turns messy in practice, with plenty of pitfalls along the way toward a common goal.

    Avoiding drawn out fights has always been tough when dealing with water issues in the West. Collaboration wasn’t always the go-to strategy for environmentalists, political figures and water managers who held competing interests on overtaxed, overdrawn rivers.

    But with the Windy Gap Firming Project in northern Colorado’s mountains, old grudges are being put aside in favor of new, collaborative tactics. While some of the West’s oldest enemies are working together, those who feel left behind by all the newfound teamwork aren’t ready to sing “Kumbaya.”

    […]

    Windy Gap Reservoir — at the heart of the dispute — is a shallow, human-made lake just west of Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado River water sits in a wide, shallow pool, kept in place by a dam…

    It’s just one piece of a much larger diversion project that moves water from the headwaters of the Colorado through the mountains for use along the Front Range. Water managers have proposed, and received the federal permits needed, to use this small reservoir to move more water eastward, exercising water rights they say they’re unable to use now because the system is full to the brim at inopportune times.

    That type of proposal — to send more Colorado River water eastward to supplement urban and suburban growth — stirs up all kinds of West Slope anxiety about Front Range growth.

    “We know the flows are going to be diverted,” [Kirk] Klancke says. “We know the state’s not going to stop growing, that’s reality.”

    “The pragmatic approach would be then to figure out how to keep your aquatic habitat healthy with those diminished flows, and that’s what we’re doing,” he says.

    Rather than fight powerful water managers like Denver Water and Northern Water in the duke-it-out, courtroom-style battle some environmental groups have perfected over the years, Trout Unlimited and some of its allies took an unprecedented step: working together. Since the Windy Gap project’s revival more than a decade ago, they’ve had a seat at the negotiating table. If cities want to siphon away West Slope water, Klancke says, they need to give something in return.

    “These are some of the most powerful people in the state because they control one of the state’s most important resources,” he says.

    Which is exactly why other environmentalists, like Ken Fucik, don’t trust the water diverters and, by association, environmental groups like Trout Unlimited for working with them.

    “When you look at the process over here, there are some of us over here who are unhappy,” Fucik says.

    Fucik, a retired environmental consultant from Grand Lake, is opposed to a 2012 deal brokered by Trout Unlimited, county officials and others. In exchange for a permit to allow more water be sent to the Front Range as part of Windy Gap, the negotiators got $10 million in required mitigation to upgrade water quality in the headwaters and an additional $12 million in mitigation work for fish and wildlife, projects not required by law. That includes partial funding for a bypass channel that would skirt around Windy Gap dam and reservoir, reconnecting the upper reaches of the Colorado River, allowing fish to move more freely.

    Grand County was also able to negotiate additional flows out of Windy Gap Dam to flush out sediment, an agreement that Northern Water be in charge of operation of the new bypass and more flows to support endangered fish in a stretch of the Colorado near Grand Junction…

    Environmental consultant Geoff Elliott agrees. He lives in Grand County and says when you’re not part of collaborative agreements and weren’t invited to the negotiations, you end up feeling left out and unheard.

    “It comes down to trust and we’re asked to trust in a process where we’ve been eliminated, pushed out and punished,” he says. “It’s hard for us to trust in that process.”

    Fucik and Elliott are now supporting a recently filed lawsuit from a handful of environmental groups who take a different tactic with water projects, like Save The Colorado and WildEarth Guardians. Their goal is to prevent more water pulled from the Colorado River watershed from traveling to the Front Range…

    For an environmentalist concerned about the health of the river, this conundrum has become the fork in the road: When do you collaborate with someone who’s supposed to be your enemy? And when do you roll the dice in court?

    Lurline Curran photo credit Aspen Journalism.

    Lurline Underbrink Curran says the path of most resistance has been tried before, with pretty erratic results. She’s the former Grand County manager and sat at the negotiating table with Northern Water.

    “I don’t understand collaboration becoming a dirty word,” she says. “Because I can tell you, I can throw out some dirty words that will curl your hair, and that is not one of them.”

    Because Grand County officials, like Curran, held the key to a permit that would allow the project to move forward, she joined forces with environmental groups like Trout Unlimited and ranchers concerned about the river’s flow downstream of Windy Gap. The negotiations took years and Curran says her team was a formidable opponent to the Front Range water suppliers, despite what detractors might think.

    Curran admits some of the negotiations were done behind closed doors, as she says, to build trust among old enemies. But adds that the solutions they came up with will benefit the river in the long-term.

    “Will the Colorado be as wide and deep as it used to be? Hell no. But that’s gone. Like it or not that’s been gone for decades,” she says. “But you can make it so it’s functional.”

    Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

    The idea of bringing parties with old grudges to the negotiating table was meant to avoid lawsuits in the first place. Now that one’s been filed it threatens to bring down the whole deal. Northern Water has already started planning the $400 million Chimney Hollow Reservoir. Trout Unlimited is still fundraising to secure enough money to build the Windy Gap bypass channel, the crown jewel of the agreement.

    Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner says the agency is moving ahead with its plans.

    “I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any concerns, we’d rather not have a lawsuit filed,” Werner says.

    Werner doesn’t have any regrets on how the compromise went down. For decades, water managers have been seen as bullies who strong arm their opponents to get what they want. He says the Windy Gap Bypass project seemed like a turning point.

    “What’s best for the river?” he asks. “We need water for growth in Colorado, there’s no question about that. How are we going to do it, folks?”

    Either by working with your enemies. Or against them.

    Windy Gap Firming Project: “This short-sighted lawsuit would only delay progress” — Mely Whiting

    Proposed bypass channel for the Colorado River with Windy Gap Reservoir being taken offline, part of the agreements around Northern Water’s Windy Gap Firming project.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    Representatives of two of the utilities that hope to store water in Chimney Hollow say that if a lawsuit filed to halt the reservoir is successful it may not stop the water from being diverted from the Colorado River, and a leading conservation group says the lawsuit will hurt the river not help it.

    “It could mean that instead of one big project that holds the 90,000 acre feet, participants use a bunch of smaller options (for water storage),” said Michael Cook, district manager of the Little Thompson Water District, one of 13 participants in the reservoir project led by Northern Water.

    The participants already own the supply of water, called Windy Gap, that would be diverted into the reservoir. However, they do not have a place to store it during years when water is plentiful for use in dry years when it is needed.

    This reservoir would provide that storage to firm up the supply, which is why it also is called the Windy Gap Firming project.

    The Little Thompson Water District accounts for about 6 percent of the overall project and has been using some of its Windy Gap water each year.

    The city of Loveland, which owns 10.5 percent of the water, has used it infrequently but is relying on the water, which it purchased with money from a bond, for future water needs as the city grows.

    The city needs a place to store this water to firm up the supply and would be forced to look at other storage options for its Windy Gap water if the lawsuit were to prevail, said Larry Howard, the city’s water resources manager…

    However, he, like Werner, expressed confidence that the 14-year permitting process was sound and that the reservoir project will go forward despite the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday.

    An attorney for Trout Unlimited, too, expressed doubt that the lawsuit will stop the project, stating that, despite the lawsuit, water will continue to be diverted from the Colorado River as populations grow and other solutions are needed to turn the tide.

    “This lawsuit likely won’t stop Windy Gap, but it could succeed in delaying real solutions to the problems,” Mely Whiting, attorney for Trout Unlimited, said in a written statement. Trout Unlimited was a leading participant in negotiations for mitigation and conservation efforts included in the project.

    “Habitat restoration projects and other solutions are already being implemented and showing great success in improving the health of the Colorado River. That’s why many conservation groups who’ve been working the longest on this problem support our collaborative approach.

    “These solutions offer the best hope for keeping the valuable resources of the Upper Colorado alive. This short-sighted lawsuit would only delay progress.”

    Save the #Colorado, et al. file lawsuit over Windy Gap EIS

    Proposed bypass channel for the Colorado River with Windy Gap Reservoir being taken offline, part of the agreements around Northern Water’s Windy Gap Firming project.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

    The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, questions the need for the Windy Gap Firming project, which would ensure the full complement of more than 40,000 acre feet of water is diverted from the Colorado and eventually stored in the planned, $400 million Chimney Hollow Reservoir the Front Range communities would share…

    The lawsuit was filed by Save the Colorado, Save the Poudre, WildEarth Guardians, Living Rivers and the Waterkeeper Alliance, a collection of nonprofit environmental groups that have long opposed the project.

    It was filed against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their roles in approving the project in May and conducting the environmental impact statement. In April 2016, Gov. John Hickenlooper endorsed the project, as well.

    Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District spokesman Brian Werner said he hasn’t had much time to review the lawsuit, but he said although he and others are disappointed, he’s confident the project will eventually move forward. Northern Water was the driving force behind the Windy Gap firming project, which was proposed as a way to ensure Front Range municipalities get the full yield they’re due based on water rights from the Colorado.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Denver, asks the judge to throw out the records of decision by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, claiming they violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act in approving the project.

    Save the Colorado, Save the Poudre, WildEarth Guardians, Living Rivers and Waterkeeper Alliance, together, filed the lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, claiming that the permitting process was flawed and did not consider the cumulative effects on the river, the resulting effect on the ecosystem and tourism or alternatives for water supply…

    The main target of the lawsuit is the environmental analysis, led by the Bureau of Reclamation and relied upon by the Corps of Engineers. That environmental process, which included both a draft and final environmental impact statement, took more than a decade…

    “We think that the process has worked well,” said Werner. “The EIS, we don’t think that there is any basis in fact about it (in the lawsuit). In this country, anybody can say what they want about a process. We think the federal government has done it well.”

    In fact, Northern Water has agreed to a wildlife mitigation plan that will benefit not destroy the river and the trout habitat, including channel work that has already begun and control of flows and diversions to boost the ecosystem for trout and other aquatic life, Werner said.

    “The Colorado River below Windy Gap is better with the mitigation and enhancement and the project than it is without it,” Werner said.

    The lawsuit claims that the project should have been replaced with other alternatives but that the applicants “stubbornly” continued to push forward because of how much money they had already sunk into the reservoir…

    “Federal agencies must evaluate not only the impacts of a proposed project, but also alternatives to the intended course of action,” Zach Lass, student attorney at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, said in a press release. “Reclamation and the Corps fell victim to a sunk costs bias that infected the entire review and approval process when they failed to consider alternatives that did not involve spending more money trying to salvage their failed Windy Gap Project.”

    […]

    One of the big issues alleged in the lawsuit is that the extensive environmental analyses failed to consider alternative sources of water besides pulling more from the river and storing it in a brand new reservoir. The applicants failed to look at conservation, efficiency and water recycling, said [Gary] Wockner…

    The lawsuit does not ask for an immediate injunction to stop work that is currently being done on the Chimney Hollow site, which includes blasting of a test quarry for construction of a small version of the dam to gather information on the geology of the area.

    That work, along with planned tree removal and relocation of a power line, will continue as this lawsuit is heard in court, Werner said…

    No court dates likely will be set until the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have responded to the initial complaint, and they have 60 days to do so. Often, it takes at least a year for a decision in this type of lawsuit.

    @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.

    @NorthernWater is drawing down Horsetooth for Soldier Canyon Dam outlet works maintenance

    Horsetooth Reservoir looking west from Soldier Dam. Photo credit: Northern Water.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    In all, Horsetooth dropped 32 feet between Aug. 1 and Sept. 13. The reason for the decrease is two-fold, according to reservoir manager Northern Water.

    One reason for the level change is the approaching end of the irrigation season. Water users often didn’t need to take advantage of their water rights earlier in the summer, when storm clouds dropped rain on Northern Colorado several times a week.

    But as the weather’s dried up, Northern Water has delivered more water to ditch companies for irrigation, spokesman Brian Werner said. The Poudre and South Platte Rivers are running lower now that snowpack has waned, so irrigation water is coming out of storage at Horsetooth.

    The Soldier Canyon Dam is located on the east shore of Horsetooth Reservoir, 3.5 miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado. The zoned earthfill dam has an outlet works consisting of a concrete conduit through the base of the dam, controlled by two 72-inch hollow-jet valves. The foundation is limey shales and sandstones overlain with silty, sandy clay. Photo credit Reclamation.

    The releases are also necessary because Northern Water is planning maintenance on the Soldier Canyon Dam outlet works in early November, Werner said. Lower water levels make it easier for divers to access dams for repairs.

    Horsetooth stood at 5,391 feet on Wednesday morning, which is about average for this time of year, Werner said. On Aug. 1, Horsetooth’s elevation was 5,423 feet, or 7 feet below full…

    Northern Water plans to draw down Horsetooth another 4 feet but will do so more gradually during the coming weeks, Werner said. The reservoir will probably reach more of an “equilibrium” between inflows and outflows this weekend, he added.

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

    @Northern_Water signs off on Broomfield/Larimer County ATM agreement

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    From The Broomfield Enterprise (Jennifer Rios):

    The final nod was received by Northern Water last week, following earlier approvals by Broomfield and Larimer counties.

    The agreement includes Broomfield buying 115 Colorado-Big Thompson water units for $25,550 each from Larimer, which would save Broomfield $109,250 if bought at open-market value.

    It also includes an “Alternate Transfer Mechanism,” or ATM, that would give Broomfield the right to use 80 C-BT units a minimum of three out of 10 years, while paying an additional fee to use the water in those years to add to the farm’s viability.

    The effort is a drought-protection effort that could be increased to five out of 10 years in extreme drought years. That period would be a rolling 10 years, meaning once Broomfield pulls water, the clock starts…

    The ATM is the first of its kind in Colorado where water is shared from agricultural to municipal use in perpetuity.

    “By piloting this agreement, we’ve demonstrated that, by working together and sharing valuable resources, it’s possible to conserve fast-disappearing farmland at a reduced cost while securing a source of water for Colorado’s growing cities,” Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Program manager for Larimer County, said in a Larimer Department of Natural Resources news release this week. “Hopefully, this creates a model for farmers and municipalities to work together and avoid simple ‘buy and dry’ of farmland.”

    Through the agreement, Larimer County was able to conserve 211 acres of productive farmland, along with the farm’s agricultural, historic, scenic, community buffer and educational values, the release states, while reducing the cost of buying the farm and its water by 46 percent.

    “Broomfield values a partnership approach to both water conservation and securing future water resources,” David Allen, director of Public Works for Broomfield, said. “We were pleased to work with Larimer County to bring this innovative Alternative Transfer Method to both of our communities.”

    Larimer County retained 45 units of C-BT water unencumbered, along with native Handy Ditch water.

    According to studies funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program, the water that will remain on the farm will be enough to keep it profitable and productive, according to the release. It will grow corn or sugar beets in wet years and water-efficient crops in dry years. In very dry years, when the farm might normally struggle to grow a profitable crop, the farm may now be better off financially with the ATM in place because it will bring in revenue from the ATM payment associated with the sharing of the water, the release states.

    #ColoradoRiver: Prep work starts for Chimney Hollow Reservoir #COriver

    From 9News.com (Cory Reppenhagen):

    Work has started on the new Chimney Hollow Reservoir in Larimer County. Final approval was granted for a 90,000 acre foot reservoir in May, and crews are now surveying and drilling at the site, to determine the extent of building materials.

    Chimney Hollow will be operated by Northern Water. It is located just west of Carter Lake Reservoir, and is going to be close to the same size of twin to the east. This location was chosen for it’s proximity to existing Colorado Big Thompson facilities, and because there were no threatened or endangered species, no existing residences to relocate, and they were able to acquire the property from a single owner, Hewlett Packard.

    Nearly 400,000 northern Colorado residents will benefit from this new water supply. Those areas are Broomfield, Longmont, Loveland, Greeley, Erie, Superior, Louisville, Fort Lupton, Lafayette, and the towns in the Central Weld County Water District.

    “This project specifically is to make some supplies reliable year in, and year out, for those communities. They will be able to have more of a guarantee that they will be able to pull water from the Windy Gap Project, which today, is not possible. There are some years where there is either no water available, or nowhere to store it,” said Brian Werner, spokesperson for Northern Water…

    Contracts will start to get awarded in 2018, and Northern Water says that construction will likely start later next year, or early in 2019. It will be a three to four year build. The next step, which could happen this fall, is to relocate power lines that run through the middle of the property, and to also start clearing the vegetation.

    Once construction is complete, they can start filling the reservoir with water. According to Northern Water, that could take several years to fill up.

    “There are state regulations on dam safety, on how fast we can bring the water elevation up, so it’s sort of fill and seal, before we can go to that next incremental level. It could take 3, or 5, or even 10 years to fill it. A lot is dependent of mother nature as well, with how much water is available,” Werner said.

    The water will come from the headwaters of the Colorado River, channeled back to the east from Windy Gap Reservoir.

    The Chimney Hollow project has already been 14 years in the making. The permitting process began in 2003, and there have been $15 million spent in studies. The total estimated cost is $400 million.

    The dam is estimated to be about 340 feet tall, which makes it the tallest dam to be built in Colorado since the Morrow Point Dam in Gunnison County back in 1968. Morrow Point is still the largest dam in Colorado at 468 feet. Denver Water has recently received approval to increase the size of Gross Dam, in Boulder County, to 471, which will make that the largest dam once it is finished.

    Chimney Hollow Dam could be the first in the United States with an asphalt core. This type has been used in Europe and Canada for many years. The available land material in the area, made asphalt the more cost effective choice. The asphalt will be the inner seal of the dam, but the outside appearance will be more earthy, made of land and boulders. Arizona has also received approval to build an asphalt core dam, and could be completed about the same time as Colorado’s.

    Larimer County will be handling the recreation on this new reservoir, and already has some initial plans for hiking, fishing, and boating. It will be a non-motorized boating lake and a day-use area. So far, there are no plans to allow overnight camping.

    There had been some opposition to this project, and other proposals to build new reservoirs in Colorado. River conservation groups are concerned about the impacts of further taxing a the Colorado River system. Werner says they are addressing the future of the river, and the future of Colorado’s population at the same time.

    “We are all for using water more efficiently, and water managers in this state are doing a darn good job of that, but the bottom line is that you have to provide some additional buckets, some additional water storage to meet our future demand, without drying up our agricultural lands,” he said.

    Larimer County approves ATM IGA with Broomfield for C-BT shares

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

    From The Longmont Times-Call (Pamela Johnson):

    Following the lead of citizens who, in recent public outreach, expressed an interest in the county preserving agriculture and water, the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources spent $8.4 million in 2016 to buy the Malchow family farm and its associated water. The county is now calling the land the Little Thompson Farm because of its proximity to the river of that name.

    The goal was to preserve the land as a working farm and to offset the cost of doing so with a water-sharing agreement, which is also a method the Colorado Water Plan endorses to stop simple “buy and dry” of farmland by municipalities that need the water to handle growth.

    Extensive negotiations and studies by experts in agriculture, finance and water led to partnership agreement between Larimer County and the city and county of Broomfield. Experts made sure the farm could stay viable under the agreement by looking at water supply, economics and historic weather patterns.

    That agreement, which was approved by Larimer County on Tuesday, basically sells Broomfield 115 shares of the farm’s Colorado-Big Thompson water outright, allows the municipality to use another 80 during three dry years out of every 10, and preserves 45 shares for the farm use.

    The water that will stay on the farm — a mix of Colorado-Big Thompson and additional shares of Handy Ditch water — will be enough to keep the farm profitable and in production, growing corn and sugar beets in wet years and dryland crops in dry years, according to information from extensive studies.

    For its part of the agreement, Broomfield will pay the county $3.7 million for the water. The price includes paying market value for the 115 shares that it will buy outright and 40 percent of market value for the 80 units that it can use only three out of every 10 years…

    The municipality will be able to pull the 80 units of water in three dry years out of every 10, and the rest of the time, the water will remain on the farm to irrigate crops. During the years that the water leaves the farm, Broomfield agreed reimburse the farmer that is leasing the land from the county the cost of that farm lease to help keep the farm profitable in dry years.

    Under the agreement, Larimer County will receive another $100,000 from a grant from the Gates Family Foundation and $52,750 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    This type of water sharing agreement is encouraged by the Colorado Water Plan as a way to protect farmland from the typical “buy and dry” that is occurring with growing municipal need across Colorado.

    In fact, Larimer County officials noted that if the Malchow family had not wanted to sell to Larimer County to keep their family farm in production, buyers were lined up to pay top dollar just for the water…

    A team of experts looked at historic weather data, financial models and water supply to determine if the farm could stay viable under this agreement, and deemed that it could.

    With this model in place, Larimer County and state water officials hope this agreement, the first of its kind in the state, will result in more farmers and cities following suit instead of simply selling the water and taking the land out of production.

    C-BT storage update

    Horsetooth Reservoir

    From 9News.com (Cory Reppenhagen):

    As of July 31, Lake Granby was more than 99 percent full, Horsetooth Reservoir was 95 percent full, Carter Lake was 94 percent full. That is just down slightly from mid July, when the Colorado Big Thompson Project hit a record high storage level of 724,865 acre feet..

    Northern Water, the operator of this water district, told 9NEWS that they have to keep the levels high because our booming population is a concern, and there is not even enough water storage available to handle our current population, in the event of even a short duration drought.

    Broomfield on path to sign IGA for C-BT shares with Larimer County

    Broomfield

    From The Broomfield Enterprise (Jennifer Rios):

    Director of Public Works David Allen explained that Larimer County will sell Broomfield 115 Colorado Big Thompson water units for $25,550 each and share 80 more units that service the farm.

    The outright sale of Colorado-Big Thompson units would save Broomfield $109,250 compared to if the city and county bought them at open-market value.

    It also includes an “Alternate Transfer Mechanism,” or ATM, that gives Broomfield the right to use 80 C-BT units a minimum of three out of 10 years — a drought-protection effort that could be increased to five out of 10 years in extreme drought years. That period will be a rolling 10 years, meaning once Broomfield pulls water, the clock starts.

    The those 80 units will cost $10,400 per unit, again a fraction of what Broomfield would pay outright for units…

    Broomfield is buying the 115 C-BT units at a lower price because they are attached to the 80 units Broomfield with share with Larimer County. Currently water rights holders “use it or lose it” under the existing water plan. As communities like Broomfield grow, and rural communities shrink, this plan is a good way to keep farms active, but still use that same water for growing populations in dry periods…

    Last year, Larimer County bought an irrigated farm just southwest of Berthoud and the intent is to maintain irrigated agriculture. It also got several shares of local ditch water. Currently, it has more water than needed to keep the farm operating, which prompted Open Land officials to reach out to Broomfield proposing the sale and shared 80 units.

    If Larimer County decides to sell the 80 units, Broomfield would have the first right of refusal to purchase those. If not, Broomfield would get 40 percent of the sale price.

    Now the plan will go before Larimer’s Open Lands Advisory Board Thursday, and before Larimer County Commissioners Tuesday.

    The plan will still need final approval from Northern Water…

    If everything is approved, municipalities will hope to have an intergovernmental agreement in place early by 2018. The outright sale of the 115 units will happen this year.

    Longmont Councillors approve asking voters for Windy Gap bond issue

    Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

    From The Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar):

    A 5-2 Longmont City Council majority decided Wednesday night to ask voters’ authorization to sell an estimated $36.3 million in bonds to help finance the city’s share of costs for the Windy Gap Firming Project…

    …the city’s water customers would pay higher rates in 2018, with rates increasing by an average 13 percent above 2017 levels. There would be another 10 percent increase in 2019 and a 6 percent increase in 2020 as the city makes annual principal and interest repayments on the 20-year bonds.

    The water rate-backed bonds, along with about $6.2 million the city projects it will be getting from development fees and other sources, would cover Longmont’s costs of paying for the project that would be able to provide the city with about 10,000 acre-feet of water. A council majority continued to endorse the 10,000 acre-feet level on Wednesday night.

    Mayor Dennis Coombs and council members Brian Bagley, Bonnie Finley, Jeff Moore and Gabe Santos voted Tuesday to direct the city staff to prepare an ordinance that will, when adopted, advance the bonding question to November’s ballot.

    Council members Polly Christensen and Joan Peck voted against the $36.3 million bonding scenario.

    Christensen and Peck instead tried to get the council to support an alternative that would have lowered Longmont’s Windy Gap Firming Project level from 10,000 acre-feet of water to an 8,000 acre-foot participation. That option would have maintained a set of 9 percent annual water rate increases that already are to take place at the start of 2018 and again in 2019, but with no rate increases above that 9 percent level in either of those years.

    The Christensen-Peck approach, however, failed on a 5-2 vote, with all other council members voting against that option.

    Santos said that when it comes to water delivery and supplies, “it’s incumbent on us to make decisions for the future, for the next generations.”

    Coombs noted that under Longmont’s tiered water-rate system, with residents’ and businesses’ actual water bills based on how much water they actually use, “people have some control,” even with the pending increases ahead.

    Customers “can take some responsibility” for conserving water, and thereby reducing the water bills they get, even with the higher rates ahead in future years, he said.

    Peck, however, said she was concerned that “we’re buying more (water) than we actually need” if Longmont sticks with the 10,000 acre-feet participation level from the Windy Gap Firming Project, which is to include construction of a new Chimney Hollow Reservoir southwest of Loveland.

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    Prior to the council’s Wednesday night action to direct the staff to prepare the ballot measure language for the bonding option, a number of residents spoke about their opposition to that project and questioned its need. Some also objected to the entire concept of diverting water from the Western Slope to the Front Range.