Water cutbacks set to begin under deal designed to ‘buy down risk’ on #ColoradoRiver — The Arizona Republic #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2019

Back Row Left to Right: James Eklund (CO), John D’Antonio (NM), Pat Tyrell (WY), Eric Melis (UT), Tom Buschatzke (AZ), Peter Nelson (CA), John Entsminger (NV), Front Row: Brenda Burman (US), and from DOI – Assistant Secretary of Water and Science Tim Petty. Photo credit: Colorado River Water Users Association

From The Arizona Republic (Ian James):

Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will start taking less water from the Colorado River in January as a hard-fought set of agreements kicks in to reduce the risk of reservoirs falling to critically low levels.

The two U.S. states agreed to leave a portion of their water allotments in Lake Mead under a deal with California called the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, which the states’ representatives signed at Hoover Dam in May.

California agreed to contribute water at a lower trigger point if reservoir levels continue to fall. And Mexico agreed under a separate accord to take steps to help prop up Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir near Las Vegas, which now sits 40% full after a nearly 20-year run of mostly dry years.

The agreements, including another deal in the river’s Upper Basin, increase the odds of Western states making it through the next seven years without reservoir levels crashing. But researchers examining the latest climate projections have also warned of the possibility that declines in the river’s flow could force water curtailments in the coming years, and they’ve suggested looking at options to reduce risks.

For the first time since signing the drought contingency deals, representatives of seven states will meet this week at a conference in Las Vegas to talk over their next steps in managing the Colorado River…

Arizona will see a cut of 192,000 acre-feet in water deliveries next year, or 6.9% of its total allotment of 2.8 million acre-feet. Nevada’s share will be reduced by 8,000 acre-feet, while Mexico’s will take 41,000 acre-feet less.

That water will remain in Lake Mead, and will only be recovered in future years once the reservoir rises above an elevation of 1,100 feet. Its level now stands about 15 feet below that threshold.

The cuts under the deal represent 12% of the total water supply for the Central Arizona Project, which delivers water by canal to Phoenix, Tucson and other areas. The agency that manages the canal has said the cuts will reduce deliveries for agriculture by about 15% and eliminate water that would have been available for storing underground and replenishing groundwater at facilities along the CAP Canal…

According to Bureau of Reclamation figures, Arizona and California together conserved 316,000 acre-feet in 2018, and are on track to conserve an estimated 685,800 acre-feet in 2019. Burman said voluntary conservation efforts by the states have helped, and the drought contingency plan has incentivized more conservation…

Arizona’s plan for managing the water cutbacks involves deliveries of “mitigation” water to help lessen the blow for some farmers and other entities, as well as compensation payments for those that contribute water. The payments will be covered with more than $100 million from the state and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District.

Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

Much of the money will go toward paying for water from the Colorado River Indian Tribes and the Gila River Indian Community…

In one study, climate scientists Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck used climate models to estimate a business-as-usual scenario of greenhouse gas emissions. They projected that without changes in precipitation, warming will likely cause the Colorado River’s flow to decrease by 35% or more by the end of the century…

In a new report, water researchers Anne Castle and John Fleck warn that the Colorado River’s water supply could decline so much in the next decade that the ability of the four Upper Basin states “to meet their legal obligations to downstream users in Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico would be in grave jeopardy.”

Castle and Fleck examined the latest science on projected flows and analyzed the legal framework governing the Colorado River…

Patti Aaron, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation, responded to the researchers’ findings.

“We applaud a continued focus on the Colorado River, particularly regarding the risks we all are facing going forward,” Aaron said in an email. “We have a solid history in this Basin of finding solutions to complex problems by working together in an open and collaborative way. Reports of this nature help us stay on that path.”

[…]

California signed on to the deal, but the state’s Imperial Irrigation District balked at participating.

Salton Sea screen shot credit Greetings from the Salton Sea — Kim Stringfellow.

Imperial holds the single largest share of Colorado River water, which flows to farms producing crops such as alfalfa, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Imperial’s officials have called for the state and federal governments to urgently address a worsening environmental crisis at the Salton Sea, which is shrinking and exposing dry lake bed that sends dust blowing into surrounding communities.

The sea has been shrinking more rapidly under a 2003 deal that is transferring water from the Imperial Valley to growing urban areas in San Diego County and the Coachella Valley.

In October, the Imperial Irrigation District’s board members voted unanimously to declare an emergency at the Salton Sea, pressing for California officials to break through years of wrangling and red tape to get working on dust-control and habitat projects along the retreating shores.

Last month, the IID board adopted a resolution laying out parameters for IID’s involvement in future Colorado River negotiations. They said in the resolution that “the linkage between the Colorado River and the Salton Sea is inextricable.”

[…]

Burman, who is scheduled to speak, said the drought contingency plan has laid a foundation that will help the states and other parties work through their next steps.

“Our history on the Colorado River is making improvements and incremental progress as we go,” Burman said. “It’s important that we’re out there talking about the challenges. It’s important that we’re out there talking about possible solutions.”

“Science be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the #ColoradoRiver” — @R_EricKuhn/@jfleck

I finished Eric Kuhn and John Fleck’s new book in the hotel last night on my way to Las Vegas for the Colorado River Water Users Association Annual Conference.

It’s a page-turner that charts the history of the “Law of the River” and how politics and enthusiastic engineers that loved the big projects mostly trumped science in the debate and decisions since the Colorado River Compact negotiations. That trumping set the stage for we users of the Colorado River going forward. The book has praise for current decision makers and the deliberate effort to listen to the scientists regarding the hydrology of the river and the acidification in the basin due to the climate crisis.

Click here to order your copy of “Science be Dammed”.

Brad Udall: “…latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2019 of the #coriver big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with
@GreatLakesPeck

Coyote Gulch outage @CRWUAwater #CRWUA2019

I’m heading to Las Vegas for the #CRWUA2019 Annual Conference so posting may be intermittent all week. Follow along on the Colorado River Water User’s Association Twitter Feed, @CRWUAwater and the hash tag #CRWUA2019.

Attendees react to a rare light moment at a meeting of the Upper Colorado River Commission, on Dec. 12, 2018 at Caesars Palace, as part of the Colorado River Water Users Association, in Las Vegas. During most of the meetings that week, water managers and officials heard a series of remarks about the state of the Colorado River that did not prompt smiles or laughter. Photo credit: Brent-Gardner Smith/Aspen Journalism

Mining company included in #GoldKingMine lawsuit receives environmental excellence award — The Farmington Daily Times

Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

Sunnyside Gold Corporation, the last mining company to actively operate in the Silverton caldera, was recognized for “five years of responsible mining and 30 years of successful remediation and reclamation,” according to the award announcement provided to The Daily Times by Sunnyside Gold Corporation.

This award comes as Sunnyside faces continued litigation alleging the bulkheads it installed in the Sunnyside Mine’s American Tunnel led to changes in water levels. The suit claims this eventually created a buildup of water in the Gold King Mine that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contractors later accidentally released when they breached a collapsed portal into the mine.

“The primary purpose of the engineered concrete bulkheads was to isolate the interior workings of the Sunnyside Mine, and to prevent water flow from the interior workings to the Animas Basin,” said Kevin Roach, Sunnyside’s director of reclamation, in an email to The Daily Times.

Roach said that while Sunnyside owns mines near the Gold King, it never owned or operated the Gold King Mine. He said the company was not involved in the Gold King Mine spill and has no responsibility for it.

“There is no physical man-made connection between the Sunnyside and Gold King mine workings,” Roach said.

And Roach stood by the decision to install bulkheads in Sunnyside’s mine workings.

“One of the most important lessons that can be derived from SGC’s successful reclamation is that, in appropriate circumstances, bulkheading of closed mines can be an effective method to improve water quality,” he said.

Sunnyside has maintained the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which triggered the spill, bears the responsibility. Roach further highlighted studies showing the water quality in the Animas River returned to pre-spill conditions shortly after the incident…

The award also comes after Sunnyside refused to comply with an order the EPA sent the company to install groundwater wells and meteorological stations as part of the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Site remediation work. The Superfund site includes 48 mine sites believed to have impacted water quality in the Animas River. Some of these mine sites were related to Sunnyside’s operations…

Working to reclaim land

Over the past 30 years, Sunnyside has spent $30 million on reclamation work. Roach said much of Sunnyside’s work occurred at sites it does not own. In addition to installing bulkheads, this work included relocating or removing mine tailings from several sites, including near the Animas River and its tributaries.

Sunnyside Gold Corporation was a latecomer to the mining activity in the Silverton caldera, entering the region in 1985 when it acquired the Sunnyside Mine, which it operated until 1991. The mine itself dates back to 1873 and includes two tunnels for hauling ore and drainage, one of which is the American Tunnel.

Following the installation of bulkheads in the American Tunnel, the Sunnyside Gold Corporation was released from liabilities in 2003 when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment concluded it had completed its obligations laid out in a consent decree.

In terms of the future, Sunnyside does not have plans to resume mining in the Silverton caldera. However, that does not necessarily mean mining is gone from the caldera forever.

The latest “E-Newsletter” is hot off the presses from the Hutchins Water Center

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

MODELING THE COLORADO RIVER
A new white paper on present and future strategies for modeling the Colorado River has been released by Utah State University’s Center for Colorado River Studies. Learn more here.

@USBR seeks public input on alternatives to reduce salinity and improve water quality in the #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Paradox Valley Location Map. Credit: Bureau of Reclamation

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Justin Liff, Lesley McWhirter):

The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking public input on alternatives to reduce salinity in the Colorado River from sources in the Paradox Valley in western Colorado. Currently, the Paradox Valley Unit (PVU) in Montrose County, Colorado, is intercepting naturally occurring brine and injecting it 16,000 feet underground via a deep injection well. The PVU began operating in 1996 and is nearing the end of its useful life. The United States has a water quality obligation to control salt in the Colorado River, in compliance with the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act, the Clean Water Act, and a 1944 treaty with Mexico.

“The Paradox Valley Unit is a cost-effective salinity control project in the Colorado River Basin as it prevents 95,000 tons of salt annually from reaching the Dolores River and eventually the Colorado River—that’s approximately 7% of total salinity control occurring in the basin,” said Area Manager for Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office Ed Warner. “Reducing salt in the rivers improves water quality, crop production and wildlife habitat in the basin.”

Reclamation is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement and has released a draft for public review and comment. Alternatives analyzed in the draft EIS include a new injection well; evaporation ponds; zero liquid discharge technology; and no action, which would result in no salinity control in the Paradox Valley.

The public is invited to attend public meetings to learn more, ask questions and provide comments. Two public meetings will be held on:

– Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 in Paradox, Colorado at the Paradox Valley Charter School, 21501 6 Mile Rd., at 5 p.m. – Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 in Montrose, Colorado at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, 1391 S. Townsend Ave., at 6 p.m.

The draft Environmental Impact Statement is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/progact/paradox/index.html or a copy can be requested by contacting Reclamation.

Reclamation will consider all comments received by 11:59 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Feb. 4, 2020. Those interested may submit comments by email to paradoxeis@usbr.gov or to Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501.

Paradox Valley via Airphotona.com

Bozeman construction firm chosen as Chimney Hollow Reservoir contractor — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

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 The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Carina Julig):

Montana-based Barnard Construction Inc. has been selected by the board of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to build the Chimney Hollow Reservoir dam west of Carter Lake, the district announced in a press release Friday.

The Bozeman firm will enter into a $485.4 million contract to build the dam for the 90,000-acre-foot reservoir. The company has previous experience working on water infrastructure projects, including the Keeyask Generating Station in Manitoba and a reservoir in central Florida.

The firm was chosen from two price bids because it had previous experience with similar dams, had a strong safety record and offered the best value for its work, Northern Water spokesperson Jeff Stahla said…

Construction could begin as early as May, the release said, and is expected to take four years. The material for the dam will be quarried from the property that will house the reservoir…

Barnard Construction will also build a 40-foot-tall saddle dam at the south end of the valley, opposite from the main dam at the north end, which will significantly increase the amount of water that the reservoir will be able to store.

As part of the permitting process for Chimney Hollow, Northern Water is also building the $18 million Colorado River Connectivity Channel in Grand County to the west of the Continental Divide. The channel is an environmental enhancement and mitigation project that will connect ecosystems above and below the Windy Gap Reservoir, just west of Granby.