@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


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.