#LakeMead and the lower #ColoradoRiver Basin DCP recap #dcpnow #COriver

From The Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):

At a presentation before hundreds of local and state officials, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman and a top aide warned that the risks to the lake are unacceptable. They said it’s urgent that Arizona officials resolve their differences over the drought plan and get on board with six other Colorado River Basin states that are moving toward adopting one.

Since the seven states approved a set of guidelines for managing the river’s reservoirs in 2007, the risks of Lake Mead dropping to very low levels has increased by three to six times, the bureau officials said.

They spoke at a briefing that also found once-warring Arizona Department of Water Resources and Central Arizona Project officials moving closer together on issues that had split them apart for well over a year. Both ADWR chief Tom Buschatzke and CAP general manager Ted Cooke enthusiastically endorsed the idea of a drought plan, although Cooke warned that the resulting reduction in river water use would boost water rates the CAP charges to Tucson, Phoenix and other municipal customers over time.

“We are not here to scare you. We are just presenting the best information we have,” Burman told a gathering that virtually filled a 275-person auditorium at the Arizona Historical Society Museum in Tempe.

“Keeping our fingers crossed, hoping for good hydrology” and waiting for the current and future interior secretaries to ignore the laws of the Colorado River that require protecting its reservoirs from depletion is not how to deal with this problem, she said.

“It’s not how we’ve dealt with it in the past, and it’s not how Arizona wants to deal with it in the future,” said Burman, a longtime Arizonan who has worked for the Salt River Project utility and for former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona in the past.

The bureau’s forecasts for how far and fast Lake Mead’s elevations could fall were most severe when the forecasters used what they called a “stress test.” It relies on computer models assuming a continuation of the last 30 years of unusually dry weather.

Less severe risks of such declines were predicted when the bureau relied on the river’s entire historical record, covering 1906 to 2015, which included several much wetter spells, including the wettest period on record for the river, in the early 20th century.

In 1922, Federal and State representatives met for the Colorado River Compact Commission in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Among the attendees were Arthur P. Davis, Director of Reclamation Service, and Herbert Hoover, who at the time, was the Secretary of Commerce. Photo taken November 24, 1922. USBR photo.

From The Arizona Republic (Joanna Allhands):

And if we repeat the hydrology from 1988-2015 – where dry years were punctuated by a few wet ones, not a great scenario but certainly not the worst case – Lake Mead has a one in five chance of dropping to 1,000 feet of elevation before 2026.

That should give you goosebumps, because it doesn’t just mean significant cuts to the water supply on which Pinal County agriculture and the state water bank relies. (That scenario, which will play out when the lake hits 1,075 feet, is already likely to happen in the next year or two).

If Lake Mead drops to 1,000 feet, that means massive cuts have already hit the water supplies fueling Arizona cities, and we’ll need to cut even more to keep the lake from spiraling into dead pool, where water levels have fallen so low that none can leave the lake.

That is a horrifying prospect.

And let me repeat this: There’s a one in five chance of it happening sometime in the next few years if something doesn’t change…

Here’s the bad news:

Reclamation says that if the plan was in place, it wouldn’t lower the risk of a shortage being declared. In fact, even with the DCP, Lake Mead likely will hit 1,075 feet before 2026, cutting water from the state’s lowest-priority water users (mostly Pinal County farmers, though it wouldn’t be limited to them).

That will hurt.

But here’s the good news: It would significantly lower the likelihood of the lake reaching critically low levels, requiring heftier cuts from cities and other higher-priority water users.

Here’s the video of the meeting. (Water folks on the hotseat.)

And the good people of Phoenix are cutting water use. Here’s a report from (Joshua Bowling) writing for The Arizona Republic. Here’s an excerpt:

Salt River Project officials say water use is down one-third, even though Arizona’s population has doubled.

But even as a historically dry winter and low snowpack numbers set reservoir levels back, officials say it isn’t all bad news.

Salt River Project announced in June that water use among its users has decreased by one-third since 1980, even though the state’s population has doubled since then.

That’s due to conservation efforts, recycling wastewater and recharging water underground for future use, SRP officials say. The agency managers and delivers water from the Salt and Verde rivers to users in Maricopa County.

The Central Arizona Aqueduct delivers water from the Colorado River to underground aquifers in southern Arizona. UT researcher Bridget Scanlon recommends more water storage projects like the aqueduct to help protect against variability in the river’s water supply. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

From The Arizona City Independent (Jake Kincaid):

Top officials in the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project shelved disagreements from the last legislative cycle and presented a united front along with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on the need for reductions of Colorado River water.

Proposed reductions have the entire agriculture pool of Central Arizona Project surface water being slashed if Lake Mead goes into a Tier 1 shortage — below 1,075 feet elevation. This year analysts set Lake Mead at just 1,083 feet.

In a best-case scenario presented in the brief, basing predictions on hydrology going back to 1906, there is a 65 percent chance Lake Mead will drop below this level in 2026.

Making predictions using hydrology records going back to only 1988, which means assuming the hotter, drier climate is here to stay, there is a 90 percent chance Lake Mead will drop below 1,075 feet in 2020 without a drought contingency plan, and a 40 percent chance it will drop that year even with the plan.

It is unlikely the agriculture pool of CAP water will survive even in the best of scenarios under the drought contingency plan.

Paul Orme, who serves as general counsel to five special districts in Pinal County, including Central Arizona Irrigation and Drainage District and Maricopa–Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District, said that DCP is not really designed to preserve the agriculture priority pool.

But there is support for measures to mitigate the burden on agriculture. Stakeholders are working on fleshing out ideas that are “not ready for the press,” Orme said. He recently received a letter appointing him to represent Pinal County agriculture on the steering committee for the drought contingency plan.

“I think people generally agree it’s not fair for agriculture to bear the entire burden of DCP when it’s not really intended to benefit us,” Orme said. “The real purpose of DCP is to keep Lake Mead above 1,020 (feet). That’s really what the primary focus is, and that only protects the long-term allocations of the tribes and the cities — agriculture is long gone.”

Orme said that about 80 percent of the CAP surface water allotted to agriculture goes to Pinal County farmers, making up about half of their total water supply. Taking away CAP water would be economically devastating for agriculture and could ultimately result in about a third of farmland being taken out of production in Pinal County.

Colorado River Basin. Graphic credit: Water Education Colorado

From Audubon (Haley Paul):

This almost 20-year drought is affecting water supplies across the Southwest. We already know the Colorado River System is over-extended — more water is taken out by water users than is put back in by snowpack and rainfall. Millions of people, businesses, birds, fish, and wildlife all rely on a healthy Colorado River and the water it provides.

Given today’s hydrologic trends, in order to stabilize our water supply and reduce the chance that Lake Mead declines more rapidly, we’ll need to incentivize those who would take their water to leave it behind Hoover Dam instead. Enter the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP).

The DCP, according to Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, is a seven-year agreement to “buy down risk” on the Colorado River system. She said it in the first word: BUY. In other words, DCP is going to cost money.

A couple of reasons why DCP will cost money:

Certain water users will need a financial incentive, aka payment, to leave their water in Lake Mead, instead of using it.
Since some water users will be leaving more water in Lake Mead, less water will be coming down the 336-mile long Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal. When there is less water ordered, there is less water sold, yet the fixed costs to maintain this large piece of infrastructure remain. There are fewer units over which to spread costs. Therefore, cost per unit of water rises.
However, not implementing the DCP, not implementing a formal mechanism to encourage water users to leave more water in Lake Mead is far too risky, and potentially more costly, or catastrophic, to our economic and environmental livelihood. The cost of no DCP may be much greater than the cost of having a DCP.

DCP acts as an insurance policy to buy down risk. We buy down the risk of climate change and an over-allocated Colorado River system by using less water now. Our economies and our environment depend on it.

Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

From The Phoenix Business Journal (Patrick O’Grady):

Such a scenario is extremely likely, according to new federal studies, and deciding who gets water first could impact businesses from agriculture to home building throughout the state.

The Wall Street Journal reported the Central Arizona Project and the Arizona Department of Water Resources are attempting to overcome differences on how to spread out less Colorado River water among its users. Arizona is the last of seven states using the river’s water to come up with a drought contingency plan.

Currently, Lake Mead’s water elevation sits at 1,077 feet, two feet away from a level that would signify cutbacks to California, Arizona and Nevada, all of which rely on the the lake to store their allotment of Colorado River water.

The challenge for Arizona is further cutbacks that could be triggered if the lake elevation falls to 1,025, which has a 40 percent chance of happening by 2026, according to a new U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report.

CAP and ADWR have not been able to find agreement on where cuts to water deliveries should happen, according to the WSJ. Agriculture could get the biggest impact, but many businesses would be affected.

Arizona gets about 40 percent of its water from the Colorado River.

Central Arizona Project map via Mountain Town News

From The Arizona Report (Ken Lynch):

10 CAP Facts: The Canal that Made Modern Arizona

About those ten facts! Here they are:

  • The 336 mile-long canal, its pumping stations, and turnouts are operated entirely remotely from a control room in north Phoenix. A rotating team of three or four operates the secure facility 24/7/365, running the entire system from a bank of computers while monitoring a display that takes up two walls of a room the size of your basic city council chamber. It’s efficient, cost-effective, and pretty damn cool.
  • The original Waddell Dam sits at the bottom of Lake Pleasant, intact. Completed in 1927, the dam was submerged when the lake was expanded to hold CAP water by the construction of the New Waddell Dam, completed in 1994.
  • An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons, the volume required to cover a square acre to a depth of one foot. If you are a ‘typical family of four,’ you use about one-third of an acre-foot per year, around 108,000 gallons.
  • The CAP pumps water at a rate of roughly 3,000 cubic feet per second from Lake Havasu. That’s one acre-foot every 14 seconds. A typical family of four would be knocked into New Mexico standing in front of a stream that powerful.
  • Only 4% of CAP water is lost to seepage and evaporation. Covering the canal was discussed early on. It would have quadrupled the construction cost and required untold billions in ongoing maintenance, basically forever. Those costs would have been passed to y-o-u.
  • CAP water begins its journey by being pumped almost straight uphill more than 800 feet. This marvel of sheer power takes place at the massive Mark Wilmer Pumping Station (pictured below in 1981) at Lake Havasu and looks like the world’s most dramatic roller coaster climb. (Illustrating the importance of the legal water wars in Arizona, this very first facility on the CAP is named for Wilmer, a water attorney.)
  • The canal is bigger and deeper than it looks. It’s hard to appreciate when you are concentrating on your driving, but the CAP is 80 feet across, narrowing to 24 feet at the bottom. Average depth is between 16 and 17 feet. There is a section serving as internal storage that is 160 feet wide and 80 feet deep.
  • Water leaving Lake Havasu takes 3-4 days to make it to the end of the line. This means the canal is pushing relentlessly along at 3-5 miles per hour. It does not stop, and as mentioned above, it’s deep. Do NOT let the kids get near it and don’t ever enter the water yourself. It’s not meant for recreation. It’s dangerous. It’s against the law. You will be very sorry.
  • The end of the line is 12 miles southwest of Tucson. Water arriving there is used to replenish Tucson-area groundwater.
  • A woman named Nellie T. Bush commanded the “Arizona Navy” in the 1934 California water dispute. Bush owned the boats Arizona Governor Moeur commandeered in the mobilization, so he made her an admiral on the spot. A prominent Arizonan, Bush was a lawyer admitted to practice in California and Arizona. She became Justice of the Peace in Parker; was elected to the Arizona legislature, and was a delegate to the 1932 Democratic National Convention that nominated FDR for the first time. In 1982, Nellie T. Bush was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame.
  • Arizona Navy photo via California State University
  • The CAP uses 2.8 billion KwH of electricity per year: That’s enough energy to, well, push 1.5 million acre-feet of water 2,400 feet uphill for 336 miles. Water in Arizona also generates power, so part of almost everyone’s household electrical bill is water generated.
  • Bonus Fact:

  • The CAP canal in the Phoenix area is marked by “Hayden- Rhodes Aqueduct” signs. CAP and ADOT put up the signs to call attention to the canal and memorialize the contributions of Senator Hayden and former Rep. John Rhodes, who was a driving force in the House when the 1968 authorization bill was signed.
  • Bonus to the bonus:

  • Rhodes went on to become known as one of three political leaders (Barry Goldwater and Pennsylvania’s Hugh Scott were the others) who delivered the news to Richard Nixon that he did not have enough support in Congress to stave off impeachment and probably faced conviction, triggering Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency in 1974.
  • Lake Havasu is a large reservoir behind Parker Dam on the Colorado River, on the border between California and Arizona. Lake Havasu City sits on the lake’s eastern shore. Photo credit MyGola.com.

    From Parker Live (John Wright):

    The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) was one of many Arizona entities and stakeholders who met to discuss contingency plans to deal with the worsening drought conditions in the southwestern United States.

    The water officials committed last Thursday to reach a multi-state plan by the end of the year to stave off potential shortages. The move comes after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has been pushing western states to come up with solid plans about water usage, with steady declines in the Colorado River year on year…

    Tribal water is increasingly being seen as part of the solution to the problem, by both the representatives of metropolitan areas, which require the highest water usage, and by tribes like CRIT who have rights to many hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water that they do not use.

    A proposed CAP program would potentially allow tribes, who have senior rights, to store water behind Lake Mead, which could be a way to mitigate the shortage-created loss of water rights by central Arizona farmers, who need it to keep producing crops.

    In such an environment, there are few such solutions, which has forced CRIT to the table. But the potential benefits to CRIT are also clear, according to the tribe’s water attorney Margaret Vick, with many of the state’s entities talking about creating positive solutions now rather than leaving it too late and having less desirable solutions imposed by the federal government later.

    “We can buy insurance now to provide more certainty for the coming years,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “It’s Arizona’s history that we face problems head on.”

    Burman said other states would pressure her agency to limit Arizona’s water deliveries if it doesn’t agree on an effective drought plan, and predicted that there would be lawsuits. The agency has said it would rather the states negotiate a solution that includes all entities with rights to the river.

    Lake Mead December 2017. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

    From The Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):

    For the first time in well over a year, a clear path exists for completion of Arizona’s share of a three-state drought plan for the Colorado River.

    The plan would step up already-approved requirements for cuts in water deliveries to Arizona, Nevada and eventually California as Lake Mead drops below certain key levels.

    While many hurdles and potential disputes remain, water officials said last week they’re ready to work together and hold public meetings to solicit comments on the plan from various water users and other interest groups. The first such meeting will be held July 26 in the Phoenix area.

    Officials hope to have a plan ready for the Legislature to approve next year, with “zero no votes,” said Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke at Thursday’s briefing in Tempe on the drought plan.

    Officials laid out four key elements of a drought plan Thursday but said the details will be worked out by a steering committee of water officials and interest group representatives that will meet publicly.

    The key elements are:

  • A plan for what to do with what officials call “excess water,” Central Arizona Project water that isn’t used in a given year by the city, irrigation district or Indian tribe that has the rights to it.
  • A plan to mitigate the drought plan’s impacts on farmers, who will take the biggest hit by far from future cuts in CAP water deliveries.
  • A plan to allow tribes to leave some of their water in Lake Mead and take it out later, when necessary.
  • An overall “Arizona Conservation Plan,” whose purpose and details were not made clear.
  • Unknowns include:

  • At the briefing, officials from the federal government, the state water department and the CAP said the tribes’ role in this plan will be crucial. But the details of setting up a program for how it would happen remain unknown.
  • When Lake Mead drops below 1,075 feet at the end of any year — the threshold for the first shortage on the river — Pinal County farmers would lose all their CAP water. That would likely force them to resume what everyone agrees is unsustainable groundwater pumping to stay in business. But at a news conference following the briefing, CAP General Manager Ted Cooke demurred in response to a question about whether and how some water belonging to other parties could be reallocated to agriculture. “I don’t really want to get ahead of the conversation,” Cooke said.
  • Whether to let the dwindling supply of “excess” CAP water stay in Lake Mead to prop it up, or whether CAP officials should continue to sell it to other parties such as its own sister agency that recharges it into the ground to serve future growth. With Lake Mead falling, Cooke said, “There will not be very much … excess water very much longer.”
  • Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

    From KJZZ (Bret Jaspers):

    The Rest Of The Basin Looks On

    Fights and litigation would only delay a coordinated response to continued high temperatures and slipping water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

    “The situation in Arizona is a topic of a lot of discussion in the Upper Basin,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water.

    He said Arizona’s internal conflict has led to political problems in Colorado.

    “It puts pressure on Denver Water as a municipal utility, taking water out of the Colorado River, and it exacerbates historic animosities and relationships between Western Colorado and Denver Water.”

    Lochhead sent a letter to the Central Arizona Project in April threatening to pull out of a program to conserve water unless the lower basin made real progress on its plan.

    Shortage is so imminent, California has even agreed to take reductions — something the current rules don’t require it to do.

    “And you have to ask yourself, given the position that you are in, why would you let that opportunity go by?” said Pat Mulroy, a longtime water leader in Nevada who is now at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

    Inside Arizona

    But before it can sign a Lower Basin plan, Arizona needs its own internal deal.

    One sticky subject is what to do about farmers in central Arizona, who would take a big hit under the current rules.

    “How do we find a way to make things less painful for them?” Cooke asked. “Not completely painless, but less painful.”

    Another big issue is determining who gets to decide when certain conserved water stays on Lake Mead.

    It’s a major question that Buschatzke said was still “under discussion.”

    “We will work that out,” Cooke said.

    To get to “yes,” Buschatzke and Cooke agreed they’ll have to avoid letting side issues divert the talks.

    Buschatzke said his task is “to find a collective way to create a package where everyone is better off with the package, even though there might be individual pieces of that package that they might not particularly like 100 percent.”

    The lower Colorado River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Arizona Public Media (Casey Kuhn):

    Central Arizona Project General Manager Ted Cooke says partnerships will be crucial to finally getting a drought contingency plan (DCP) approved.

    “Or the result will be that somebody perceives that they’re being ‘stuck’ with the outcome of doing DCP and that will make it much more difficult to have the folks coming together when we do go to the Legislature: ‘We all think this is a good thing. Let’s do it. Please approve it.”

    The next step is assembling a large committee of stakeholders such as agriculture operations and tribal leaders who hold water rights.

    Water officials hope to craft a plan that gets Arizona lawmakers’ approval, and then have the Department of Water Resources director put it into action next year.

    Eagle River Regional Water Efficiency Plan available for review

    From the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District:

    The draft Eagle River Regional Water Efficiency Plan is available for review by the public, which can submit comments through July 30.

    The plan is a joint effort by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority that outlines actions the organizations will take to meet increasing regional water demands with available supply into the future in an environmentally and fiscally responsible manner.

    Community members can review the draft plan at the district office in Vail during business hours and anytime online.

    Both the district and the authority are required to have a water efficiency plan on file with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which is part of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. The CWCB awarded grant funds to the district and authority to assist with plan development and there must be a period for the public to comment on the proposed plan. This public comment period follows an extensive stakeholder outreach process where the plan was presented to nearly 20 community groups, several of which can be viewed on the High Five Access Media website (watch a video). Feedback at those presentations has informed the current draft.

    All comments received will be considered for integration into the final plan and will be noted in a plan appendix. The district and authority boards of directors will review the final plan in August and approve its submittal to the CWCB, which makes the final determination that the plan meets state guidelines and accepts it.

    To submit comments, contact water demand management coordinator Maureen Mulcahy by email, phone (970-477-5402), or mail: 846 Forest Road, Vail, CO 81657. Written comments are preferred for better tracking and inclusion in the final plan.

    Click here to view the draft plan. For more information call Mulcahy at 970-477-5402.

    Why birders and wildlife advocates should care about #LakeMead — Audubon #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Upper Lake Mead dawn patrol. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Audubon (Haley Paul):

    Audubon Arizona’s objective is to make sure that the solutions to our water challenges serve both people and wildlife. Water management policies that provide more certainty and reliability for all users are of critical importance to Arizona’s economy as well as its cities, farmers, birds, and other wildlife.

    As United States Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman (her federal department manages the water on the Colorado River) highlighted in her recent visit to Tempe, Arizona, if the states cannot come together to stabilize Lake Mead through collective and collaborative agreements to leave more water behind Hoover Dam via the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) we face a potential crisis.

    But why care? Water in Lake Mead and the surrounding environment is not the only game in town when it comes to birding and valuable wildlife habitat (never mind the nine Important Bird Areas that surround the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River). But really, as a bird and wildlife advocate, why care about the stabilization of Lake Mead? What’s at stake?

    If Arizona-specific parties affected by DCP cannot get to yes, and instead hydrology catches up to us and Lake Mead declines to critical elevations, water users may look elsewhere for water to make themselves whole. Water resources like groundwater, and existing Arizona regulations that promote sustainable water planning, may come under increased scrutiny and pressure. Arizona’s valuable rivers, streams, and the habitats they provide for birds could be at risk if groundwater pumping increases. Not to mention the negative headlines that are sure to result if we cannot agree on a plan to use less Colorado River water.

    As opposed to unmitigated shortages that leave people out on the hunt to solve their water supply problems, a much better option is a plan that everyone agrees to. Some of what that currently looks like in Arizona is monetary compensation to use less water, and changes in the way accounting is done on Lake Mead so that willing water users can leave more of their water behind the dam. Through careful negotiation with the affected water users, people can get to yes, and there can be faith in the process and the result.

    Another reason to care? We’ll take Commissioner Burman’s lead on this one: Because if Lake Mead gets low enough, “dead pool” could be reached and that means no water is getting past the dam. No Colorado River water is flowing out of Mead. That’s a scary scenario for farmers, cities, and wildlife. Commissioner Burman is clearly worried about a situation like that—hence her urging of the states to commit to Drought Contingency Plans ASAP.

    We’d like to thank Commissioner Burman for amplifying the message on this critical issue. We anticipate more information in the weeks and months ahead from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District on progress toward a DCP. Then, it will be in the hands of state lawmakers and Governor Ducey to construct and pass legislation that allows Arizona to participate in getting DCP done.

    At Audubon Arizona, we’ll be watching and participating as the process continues. Being involved in the conversation when policymakers are talking water—one more way we are advocating for our rivers and the wildlife, habitat, and humans who depend on them.

    Swan River Restoration Project – BRWG Call to Action – July 10th July 24th Summit County BOCC Hearing

    Swan River. Photo credit: Summit Magazine

    Update: from email from Jennifer Hopkins:

    Good afternoon!

    I wanted to let you know that a request has been made to the BOCC by staff and the permit applicant to continue the Mascot Placer hearing to a date certain of July 24, 2018, to allow staff time to further analyze the cumulative traffic impacts this applicant presents for the use of Tiger Road. This request would be granted at the discretion of the BOCC at the meeting on Tuesday the 10th. The opportunity for public comment on Tuesday would also be at the BOCC’s Discretion.

    BRWG appreciates your support and we hope, instead of the meeting on the 10th, you can join us at the meeting on July 24th. It is at the same time and place, 1:30pm in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room in Breckenridge.

    Please let me know if you have any questions.

    Thanks,

    Jennifer
    Blue River Watershed Group

    From email from the Blue River Watershed Group (Jennifer Hopkins):

    The Blue River Watershed Group (BRWG) is reaching out to supporters and stakeholders of the Swan River Restoration Project to notify you of an upcoming Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) hearing that will have a significant impact on the project. As you know, the Swan River Restoration is a collaborative, multi-year effort to restore sections of the Swan River affected by historical dredge mining. The first section of the river has been restored on Summit County/Town of Breckenridge property. In order for restoration work to continue on additional reaches of the river, dredge rock tailings must be processed and removed from the sites.

    The Board of County Commissioners is holding a hearing on July 10th to decide on a Conditional Use Permit that would allow Peak Materials to add a rock crushing operation at the Mascot Placer, located along the Swan River on privately owned land (comprising the third phase of the four-phase restoration project). Peak Materials has been operating a rock screening and sales operation at the site since 2003. BRWG supports the approval of the Conditional Use Permit as it will confer a number of public benefits and allow the Swan River Restoration Project to continue.

    BRWG is asking supporters to attend the BOCC meeting on July 10th in support of the Swan River Restoration and approval of the Conditional Use Permit. Peak Materials is offering in-kind donations of significant crushed rock materials and other work at the site needed for the restoration (valued at approximately $1.5 million). Milling these materials on-site will decrease the amount of material taken off-site and reduce the need to import material for the restoration. The 5-year permit will expedite the removal of the dredge rock and preparation of the site for restoration activities. In addition, the private landowner has agreed to grant a public access easement covering a future stream and riparian corridor to perpetually ensure that the corridor remains undeveloped and available for public use. Without the permit, the restoration project would not receive these benefits and would likely not continue to move forward on this section of the river. At best, the restoration effort would need to find an additional $1.5M and at worst the project could be stopped entirely if the owner refuses to grant the easement if the crushing permit is denied.

    It is crucial that we show community support for this permit. I would love the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further and to answer any questions you might have. Please let me know if there is a time we can chat before July 10th and I will be happy to call you. And please join us at the BOCC meeting. Here are the details:

    Date: July 10th, 2018
    Time: 1:30pm
    Location: Commissioners’ Hearing Room, 208 E. Lincoln Ave., 3rd Floor, Breckenridge, CO 80424

    Thank you for your continued support of this important project.

    The North American #Monsoon is expected to be active this weekend #ColoradoRiver #COriver #drought

    From AccuWeather (Renee Duff):

    Showers and thunderstorms will help ease drought conditions in the southwestern United States into the weekend, but also enhance the risk of flash flooding and dust storms.

    “Monsoonal moisture will remain in place from part of Southern California to Colorado and New Mexico,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Jordan Root.
    Moisture will continue to stream into the region through the balance of the week.

    Graphic credit: AccuWeather.com

    As is typically the case when the monsoon kicks in at this time of year, storms will tend to blossom over the highest terrain during the afternoon hours and drift toward lower elevations into the evening and overnight.

    North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

    Eagle turns dirt on second water treatment plant

    The water treatment process

    From The Vail Daily (Randy Wyrick):

    A groundbreaking ceremony saw the first shovels of dirt turned Tuesday, July 10. Excavation should continue through the summer, and concrete should follow in the fall.

    Water is scheduled to begin flowing in the fall of 2020…

    The town’s current and only water treatment plant runs at 90 percent capacity during peak demand, and some days it’s higher, said Brandy Reitter, Eagle town manager. The new plant will generate as much as 2.5 million gallons of water per day and can be expanded to 5 million gallons per day. It should fulfill the town’s projected growth needs for the next 20 years.

    “The town must accommodate its existing users. We also want to accommodate new customers and growth. We cannot consider new development unless we have the water to serve,” Reitter said. “Now is the time. The demands have increased significantly and we cannot wait any longer.”

    This new water plant will be on the Eagle River. The current plant is on Brush Creek and is the town’s only source of water.

    The town has good water rights on the Eagle River, thanks to tireless work by former town manager Willy Powell, Reitter said.

    Bryon McGinnis, Eagle’s public works director, said the second water plant will help the town preserve those hard-won water rights…

    A second water plant is also a public safety issue, McGinnis said, pointing out the many wildfires burning around Western Colorado.

    The Lake Christine fire near Basalt hit that town’s watershed and strained its system. However, Basalt has a system of wells near the Roaring Fork River, and that second water source kept the water flowing, McGinnis said.

    The town of Eagle saved $10 million and used it as a down payment on the new plant.

    “Development has, for many years, paid its own way. The town has collected and saved fees to help pay for this,” Reitter said.

    The remaining cost will be covered by a low-interest, 20-year loan from a state revolving fund.

    Broomfield-based MWH Constructors will build the plant.

    #Drought news: Yampa River Commercial & Voluntary Closures

    The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

    Here’s the release from the City of Steamboat Springs:

    Due to high water temperatures and low flow in the Yampa River, the City of Steamboat Springs is implementing closures for all commercial activities on the Yampa River and asking the public to abide by a voluntary closure for all recreational river use. The river closure, which began today, Monday, July 9, 2018, will remain in effect until rescinded.

    The Yampa River experienced water temperatures greater than 75 degrees for two consecutive days, July 7 & 8, which exceeds the threshold for a mandatory river closure as outlined in the Yampa River Management Plan. Low water flows, high water temperatures, and low levels of dissolved oxygen are all unfavorable conditions to aquatic life and any one of these factors can trigger a closure.

    Stream flows are currently hovering around 90 cubic feet per second (cfs); however, it is anticipated based on current trends to continue dropping and fall below the 85 cfs level. Average flow for this day in July is 445 cfs, which the river is well below at the current time.

    “A mandatory closure of the Yampa River isn’t something the city takes lightly and goes directly to the long-term health of the community’s number one natural resource,” said Craig Robinson, interim Parks & Recreation Director. “We would like to thank the community, especially our commercial operators, for their cooperation and support during this time.”

    Commercial tubing companies have suspended operations until river conditions return to acceptable levels. Commercial river recreation companies must also adhere to regulations adopted in the Yampa River Management Plan.

    River users – tubers, SUP-ers, swimmers, anglers – are requested to adhere to the voluntary closure and avoid river recreation. Please be mindful of the impacts your actions may have on the Yampa River and its wildlife.

    In addition to the mandatory closure of commercial activities on the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is initiating a voluntary fishing closure between the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area and the western edge of Steamboat Springs.

    Although anglers are not prohibited from fishing in this stretch, CPW and Steamboat Springs is asking anglers to find alternative places to fish to protect the popular fishery.

    “Great fishing can be found at several area lakes and ponds, as well as the high-country,” said Bill Atkinson, area aquatic biologist for CPW. “Anglers still have great opportunities to fish while helping us protect this local resource.”

    Trout are cold water fish that have evolved to function best in 50-60 degree waters. When temperatures exceed 70 degrees, they often stop feeding and become more susceptible to disease.

    A wide range of temperature tolerances for trout have been reported, but upper lethal limits range from 74 to 79 degrees. According to local officials, water temperatures in the Yampa River are now exceeding 75 degrees in the afternoons.

    “When water flows are minimal, fish become concentrated in residual pool habitat and become stressed due to increased competition for food resources,” said Kris Middledorf, CPW’s area wildlife manager in Steamboat Springs. “Because the fish are already stressed by poor water quality conditions, any additional stress from being hooked could make them even more vulnerable to disease and death.”

    Middledorf reminds the public that the mandatory fishing closure on a six-tenth mile section of the Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir remains in effect, enforced by law.

    City staff will continue to monitor flows and river temperatures at the 5th Street Bridge. Water temperature monitoring was incorporated in November 2017 through a partnership with Mt. Werner Water, the Colorado River District and the USGS.

    Notices will be posted at popular river access points and requests everyone’s cooperation in protecting the Yampa River by staying out of the river until conditions improve. The health and protection of the Yampa River rates high with residents. Thank you for Respecting the Yampa and helping to protect the health of the river.