Description of Job
Although the Division of Water Resources Office is located in Alamosa, the position’s primary duties are performed within 30 miles of the border of Colorado.
This position assists the Division of Water Resources (DWR) State Engineer in carrying out the statutory duties required of the DWR and any written instruction of the State Engineer within the geographic area of State Division Three; serve as Division Engineer as designated; assure integrity of the Prior Appropriations Doctrine while maximizing beneficial use of water; coordinate the regulation of water within the Division; consult with the Water Court; resolve disputes that exceed the abilities of Water Commissioners; supervise field and office personnel; assist the public through the Water Court process and well permit application process and in the understanding of water law, hydrology and water supply, and other water-related issues; prepare expert witness reports; consult with the Water Court regarding Water Court applications; respond to water user complaints and write reports summarizing the agency’s position; and negotiate or provide expert engineering support / testimony to litigate any conditions necessary to protect existing water rights. Other duties as assigned.
Rio Grande River Basin via the Colorado Geologic Survey
Map of the Rio Grande watershed. Graphic credit: WikiMedia
San Luis Valley. In this perspective, S is on top. Costilla County is along the edge of the southeastern side of the Valley between the Sangre de Cristo sub-range known as the Culebra Mountains (on the E) and the Rio Grande (on the W); upper left quadrant within SLV on this map. Source: http://geogdata.scsun.edu.
From email from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources:
Governor Polis has announced three new board appointments to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
· Gail Schwartz of Basalt, Colorado, representing the Colorado River basin
· Jackie Brown of Oak Creek, Colorado, representing the Yampa-White River basin
· Jessica Brody of Denver, Colorado, representing the City and County of Denver
In addition, the Governor appointed Russ George as the Director of the Inter-Basin Compact Committee in addition to five gubernatorial appointees.
“I’m excited to work with these appointments,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources. “Their collective experience is unmatched.”
Gail Schwartz has spent over two decades serving Colorado in both appointed and elected office. Jackie Brown brings a diverse background in natural resources and is a leader in the water community as the current Chair of the Yampa-White-Green basin roundtable. Finally, as General Counsel for Denver Water and formerly with the Denver City Attorney’s Office, Jessica Brody brings both municipal and environmental law experience.
“I’m looking forward to working with the newly appointed board and IBCC members to continue implementing Colorado’s Water Plan. They bring valued expertise and leadership to the water community,” said Rebecca Mitchell, Director of the CWCB. “We sincerely thank the outgoing Board members and IBCC appointments for their service. Their dedication has been instrumental on numerous policy and planning efforts, including bringing a diversity of perspectives to Colorado’s Water Plan.”
Russ George is a fourth generation native of the Rifle, Colorado area and brings a depth of state government and public service. Russ was instrumental in creating the IBCC and basin roundtables.
“As the first champion of the IBCC and roundtable process, there’s no one better equipped to lead the IBCC. We’re embarking on a future of great opportunity in water, and Russ is the perfect choice to navigate the times ahead,” said Gibbs.
Scott Hummer was kind enough to forward the materials below in celebration of the 140th anniversary of the creation of Colorado’s water commissioners:
This past Tuesday, February 19, 2019 marked the 140th anniversary of the creation of the position of Water Commissioner by the State Legislature/General Assembly on February 19, 1879…
The concept of Colorado’s system of Prior Appropriation, “the Colorado Doctrine”, was first established in the “gold camps” of the late 1850’s. The concept was first put into practice in the “gold camps” of California and came to Colorado with the “miner’s courts” established by the original “prospectors” in the territory.
And yes, the Water Commissioner position came before the creation of the State Engineers Office as well as the position of “Superintendent of Irrigation”, today’s Division Engineers.
In brief the original legislation created the position as well as the first ten water districts, and as many know…the legislation was in response to the “water war” along the Poudre River in the mid 1870’s…
In 2004, a “celebration” of the 125th anniversary was organized and Water Commissioner were recognized on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives at the Capital and received an honorary proclamation from then Gov. Owens…
Also in July of 2004, water commissioners were invited to attend and participate in the annual Water Workshop, at then Western State College in Gunnison.
The title of the ‘o4 Water Workshop was “Technology, Science (including the Dismal Science, and Changing Politics of Water”.
So after 15 years, perhaps, it is appropriate to inform and educate the water users and citizens of Colorado as to the public servants that serve them so well.
“He who expects the letter of the law in relation to irrigation to be executed with the precision of clockwork, and that infallible results will be obtained, has a small conception of the tangled web of difficulties in the way, and a meager knowledge of the uncertainties of the element to be manipulated.” — J.P. Maxwell, State Engineer 1890
Here’s the report from the CWCB and DWR (Taryn Finnessey and Tracy Kosloff):
In response to persistent and prolonged drought conditions throughout the southern half of the state and along the western border, the Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan was activated for the agricultural sector on May 2, 2018, additional counties in northwest Colorado were added in September and activation remains in effect; information can be found HERE.
Calendar year 2019 has brought with it beneficial moisture that has nearly eliminated all exceptional drought conditions in Colorado and increased snowpack to above normal conditions. As a result, streamflow forecasts have increased in some areas and water providers looking ahead to the 2019 demand season are cautiously optimistic given current conditions. However, much of the snow accumulation season remains and reservoir storage and soil moisture will take time to rebound to pre-drought levels.
■ As of February 19th, exceptional drought, D4, has been almost entirely removed from the state. Only a small sliver remains in Archuleta county, covering about a tenth of a percent of the state. Extreme drought, D3, has also decreased and now covers 10 percent of the state; severe drought 29 percent and 27 percent is classified as moderate drought. An additional quarter of the state is currently experiencing abnormally dry conditions (see image below).
■ El Niño conditions are now present, and may continue through spring (55 percent chance). This is a weak event and given the timing it is unclear the impact that it will have.
■ SNOTEL snow water equivalent statewide is 115 percent of average with all basins above average. The highest snowpack is in the Arkansas basin at 123 percent of median, while the lowest is the Rio Grande at 111 percent of median (see image below).
■ Reservoir storage, statewide is at 83 percent of normal, with the South Platte, Colorado, and Yampa-White, all above 90 percent of average as of February 1st. Storage in the Arkansas and Upper Rio Grande basins are at 89 and 79 percent of normal, respectively. The Southwest basins of the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas & San Juan, and Gunnison remain the lowest in the state at 57 and 61 percent of normal, respectively.
■ Individual reservoir storage levels are highly variable statewide, some reservoirs have strong storage while storage in other reservoirs remain at low levels for this time of year. Historically, reservoirs take a long time to refill following a drought event.
■ March through May is an important period for annual average precipitation in Colorado, many regions receive a large portion of total precipitation during these spring months.
■ Outlooks for the spring season do not show a clear direction. There is a slightly increased chance of above-normal precipitation for the spring across Colorado, and equal chances of above, below, and near-normal temperature.
Update: From email from Division One (Corey DeAngelis):
Hope all is well with you! We extended our job posting for the Division 1 Assistant Division Engineering position until 02/05/2019 at 5:00 pm.
We have an opening for our DWR Division 1 Assistant Division Engineer position in Greeley, Colorado…The position is open through 01/11/2019, 5:00 pm
Description of Job
This position assists the Division Engineer in performing functions and duties as specified by state statute and to carry out duties and orders of the State Engineer within the geographical area of Water Division One. The position must direct the day to day management of work unit’s involvement in the water court; must guide and direct the allocation and distribution of water; must enforce compliance with decrees, statutes, permits, rules and regulations, and compacts; must resolve disputes concerning water rights and use; must complete and review technical studies related to water resources engineering and water rights administration; and must inform, disseminate information to, and counsel water users, professionals and staff regarding water use, water rights, water allocation and state statutes pertaining to water use. This position will assist the Division Engineer, as assigned, directing and overseeing administration and compliance of Division 1 Ground Water Measurement and Use Rules.
Click here to apply. From email from DWR (Michael Hein):
This job opportunity is for a vacant Colorado Division of Water Resources Augmentation Plan Auditor & Accounting Operations Specialist Team Lead for Division 1 located in our Greeley, CO office. This position is at the Physical Science Researcher/Scientist IV level (PSRS-IV) and is currently open to the public for application through January 25, 2019 or until 50 applications are received, whichever comes first.
This position provides leadership, guidance and oversight as a work leader to the Division 1 operations group responsible for Augmentation Plan coordination and administration. This group supports water rights administration by developing methodologies to collect and analyze water diversion and delivery data to verify augmentation plans and water diversions are operated in compliance with all applicable court decrees, statutes, rules and regulations. This position identifies and determines applicable professional standards and concepts incorporated into governing water court decrees and provide written protocol and guidance to staff regarding proper analysis of Augmentation Plan operation in accordance with water court decree requirements. This position, when necessary, provides recommendations for new process and procedures to collect, report, analyze and coordinate practices to allow compliance of these plans with the applicable decrees. This position prepares expert reports and expert testimony in Water Court trials not related to enforcement actions. Position is the work leader of three or more full-time positions.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board has given $843,338 to the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District since 2013 to study a potential dam on the White River, yet officials at the Colorado Division of Water Resources say the project appears “speculative” and Rio Blanco lacks evidence for its claims for municipal, irrigation, energy and environmental uses.
On Nov. 14, the CWCB directors approved the most recent grant application from Rio Blanco for $350,000 to keep studying the proposed White River dam and reservoir project near Rangely.
But while the CWCB is spending more state money to help prepare the White River project for federal approval, another state agency, the Division of Water Resources, is asking hard questions about the project in water court.
“There are concerns whether the district can show that it can and will put the requested water rights to beneficial use within a reasonable period of time and that the requested water rights are not speculative,” wrote Erin Light, the division engineer in Division 6, who oversees the White and Yampa river basins, and Tracy Kosloff, the assistant state engineer in Denver, in a report filed in water court Oct. 4.
In addition to pursuing a series of grants from CWCB, Rio Blanco applied in water court in 2014 for a new water right to store 90,000 acre-feet of water from the White River.
The two engineers in the Division of Water Resources filed their report after consulting with the state attorney general’s office. Review of water rights applications by division engineers is routine, but the report filed by the division engineer and assistant state engineer raised a higher level of concerns than normal.
Also known as the Wolf Creek project, it could store anywhere from 44,000 to 2.92 million acre-feet of water, according to the array of proposals, presentations and applications that have been made public over the project’s ongoing evolution. (Please see: Timeline: tracking the proposed White River dam and reservoir).
The water would be stored either in a reservoir formed by a dam across the main stem of the White River, or in an off-channel reservoir at the bottom of the Wolf Creek gulch.
The latest grant from the CWCB to Rio Blanco was to “finalize the preferred reservoir size and firm-up financial commitments of key project partners so that applications for federal permits can be filed,” according to a CWCB staff memo on the grant.
Asked about the apparent conflict between CWCB and DWR on the White River project, CWCB Director Becky Mitchell said she was aware of the concerns voiced by the division and state engineers and was confident that the next phase of study supported by CWCB would help answer some of the questions raised.
“All of the grants given to Rio Blanco thus far have been all about feasibility, so we are not necessarily in disagreement with DWR, but it needs to trued up,” Mitchell said Tuesday. “There may be concerns with what DWR is stating and the grant will help us evaluate those concerns.”
In another sign of CWCB’s support for the potential project, the agency’s finance section has added a potential $100 million loan to Rio Blanco on a list of potential loans it compiles and publishes as part of the CWCB director’s reports to the agency’s directors.
Brad McCloud of EIS Solutions in Grand Junction is serving as Rio Blanco’s project manager for the White River project.
When asked Tuesday about the contradictory messages sent by the two state agencies, McCloud said, “I think one side is working on one end and the other is doing the other and it’s a good check and balance and the way the system is supposed to work. And there are probably things that will get worked out along the way.”
In their report filed in water court, the state’s water engineers challenge Rio Blanco oft-stated claim it is seeking the new storage facility at Wolf Creek in order to meet the future water needs of the Town of Rangely, which today takes its water directly from the White River.
“While every case is different and may require evidence tailored to the particular facts of the case, the engineers have not received sufficient evidence to support the district’s claimed water demands for Rangely nor evidence that Rangely intends to rely on water storage in one of the Wolf Creek Reservoirs to meet its demand,” the report from Kosloff and Light says.
The engineers’ report also questions the demand for water in the potential new reservoir from the energy sector.
They said Rio Blanco should, at a minimum, show how much of the 45,800 acre-feet of industrial demand it is claiming is located within the district’s boundaries.
They also say Rio Blanco should make public how much of the demand from the energy sector within the district’s boundaries can be satisfied by the existing water rights of the district.
In addition to challenging Rio Blanco’s claims for municipal and industrial use of water in their 2018 report, Light and Kosloff also question Rio Blanco’s claims for irrigation and environmental uses.
They said a storage report prepared for the project “notes that irrigated acreage and irrigation water demand is projected to decrease in the future” in the area downstream of the reservoir.
And the engineers said they “do not believe that a water right for irrigation use should be awarded in this case.”
And the engineers question Rio Blanco claim that it will release up to 42,000 acre-feet of water from its proposed reservoir to the benefit of endangered fish downstream on the White and Green rivers.
They say an ongoing study has yet to make clear how much water is needed for the endangered fish.
“Long story short, it is still unclear what flows should be used when determining if or how much water needs to be stored to assist with meeting the recommended flows,” the report says. “Until these numbers are known, claiming any quantity of water for these uses is speculative.”
Size in flux
The White River project has a wide range of potential uses, according to Rio Blanco, and it also has a wide range of potential sizes, as various presentations and applications have included potential sizes from 44,000 acre-feet to 90,000 acre-feet to 400,000 acre-feet to 2.92 million acre-feet.
Alden Vanden Brink, the manager of the Rio Blanco district, told the CWCB directors Nov. 14 that his district is not seeking to build a 400,000 acre-foot reservoir, despite the reference in Rio Blanco’s grant application to study a reservoir between 44,000 acre-feet and 400,000 acre-feet.
“The 400,000 is maximum size,” Vanden Brink said. “That is not what the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District is looking to build. It’s going to take somebody from a way outside source to come to the table for that.”
Vanden Brink said the district was seeking to store “anywhere from 44,000 to about 130,000” acre-feet of water.
However, the grant application from Rio Blanco notes that a 400,000 acre-foot reservoir might have some benefit to the state.
“If the higher end of the storage is implemented, the project has tremendous potential to help the majority of the state of Colorado address Colorado River Compact administration issues,” the grant said.
An earlier study on the dam by W.W. Wheeler and Associates for the Rio Blanco district found it was possible to build a dam on the White River at Wolf Creek that would hold 2.92 million acre-feet of water.
The latest grant application to CWCB from the Rio Blanco district says “the preferred reservoir size will be developed based on the amount of water needed and committed to by key project stakeholders.”
Wade Cox, the president of the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District, discussed the project in October with the board of the Colorado River District, and referenced the varying potential sizes of the reservoir.
“There is never going to be enough water,” Cox said. “I don’t care how big you build it. Whatever you do, it’s never going to be enough. Somebody somewhere is going to utilize it.”