Otero Pump Station diversion to be replaced by @AuroraWater and @CSUtilities

The dam on Homestake Creek that forms Homestake Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journailsm

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Rachel Riley):

The $9 million project will replace an intake and diversion structure and install a fish passage and boat chute on what is considered the last non-navigable stretch of the river between Leadville and Cañon City, according to a Thursday news release from the local utility provider.

Once the project is completed, skilled whitewater boaters, including rafters and kayakers, will be able to traverse the span of river near Clear Creek Reservoir without portaging…

Aurora Water, [Colorado Springs Utilities] is also financing construction on the project, and grants from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board are providing about $1.2 million.

The stone diversion, south of Granite, was constructed in 1964 as the original intake for the Otero Pump Station a few miles north of Buena Vista. At the time, river recreation was not considered during the design process, said Brian McCormick, a senior project engineer for Colorado Springs Utilities.

“This project will bring this diversion and this site up to modern design standards, including the addition of facilities for recreational boating,” McCormick said.

“This is a real nice example of really balancing both the demands we place on the river for water supply and for recreation.”

The structure is now a backup intake for the pump station, which is served by water from nearby Twin Lakes, he said. It is part of the Homestake Project, a partnership between Aurora Water and Colorado Springs Utilities to move water from west of the Continental Divide eastward to the two Front Range cities.

The project, slated for completion in November 2019, will affect about 400 feet of the river. Construction in the river is expected to begin after Labor Day weekend, McCormick said.

The fish passage, also known as a fish ladder, will allow brown and rainbow trout to swim upstream past the diversion when they spawn, he said.

The boat chute will be a channel on one side of the river made up of a series of drops and pools to get the boats safely past the structure, McCormick said.

Commercial outfitters raft the stretch now, but they must portage to get around the diversion, with its jagged concrete and exposed steel, said Rob White, park manager of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.

The project will add “a nice stretch of whitewater possibilities” for adventure-seekers ready for rapids ranked Class III and above, White said.

Utilities and Aurora Water staff members have spent more than a decade developing the project. The Pueblo Board of Water Works is donating easements needed to build and maintain the diversion, according to the news release.

The AHRA Clear Creek North Recreation Site will be closed during the project, but the Clear Creek South Recreation Site will remain open, the release says.

Reservoir releases are bolstering #ArkansasRiver streamflow

Headwaters of the Arkansas River basin. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journlaism

From KOAA.com:

“This year has been a particularly challenging year. Not the best of snowpacks and an extremely hot and dry spring and summer,” said Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, Manager, Rob White. It means the water level in the river could be at its lowest in decades for this time of year. The solution is supplemental water from reservoirs.

This week water from Colorado Springs Utilities reservoir storage is going into the river to help make it through next week. The middle of August typically ends the peak season along the river. “It looked like we may not have a large enough bucket to make it to the 15th,” said Echo Canyon River Expeditions, Owner, Andy Neinas, “That’s where the cooperation and coordination among so many water owners and water providers really came to save the day for many of us.”

The rivers natural flow is supplemented every summer through agreements with the Bureau of Reclamation. This year even more water was needed. Colorado Parks and Wildlife made a deal with Pueblo Water earlier in the summer.

Colorado Springs Utilities agreed to help this week. CSU will send water from storage at Twin Lakes to storage in Pueblo Reservoir.

It is good for rafting and also fishing. The fish population can be threatened when the water gets too low and too warm.

“What we’ve come to understand with climate change is that hydrology is expected to take a turn for the worst” — Pat Wells

Colorado Springs Collection System via Colorado College.

From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

olorado Springs Utilities is trumpeting a water-sharing deal involving several parties in the Lower Arkansas River Valley. The agreement is the first of its kind in the state, aligns with the Colorado Water Plan’s edict to share water among users and helps the city secure a water supply for decades to come.

But several people in the valley are skeptical, saying the agreement could transfer irrigation water for crops, much like the so-called “buy and dry” deals of the 1970s and 1980s that exported Crowley County farmers’ water rights held in mountain lakes to municipalities along the Front Range, thereby decimating agriculture.

“Any time water leaves the lower valley it’s a great concern,” says former Bent County Commissioner Bill Long, who’s advising current commissioners on the matter.

But Springs Utilities officials say it’s another step toward assuring adequate water supplies for the city’s population, which is expected to swell to 740,000 people by 2070. Despite the 2016 activation of the controversial Southern Delivery System water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, the city needs more water, they say.

“We are exploring developing additional supplies from the Arkansas River basin to diversify our portfolio,” Pat Wells, Springs Utilities’ general manager of water resources and demand management, says. “We are acquiring these water rights as a first step to plan for the future.”

Essentially, the complicated deal gives Utilities access to 2,000 acre feet of water — more than enough for 4,000 households per year — for five out of 10 years from water rights held by the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association. LAWMA, which is entitled to use the water for the other five years, is a member-owned nonprofit that replaces water to the Arkansas River for its members’ depletions caused by irrigation pumping.

The city bought 2,500 LAWMA shares owned by Arkansas River Farms at $3,500 per share, or $8.75 million. The city also paid LAWMA $1.75 million for 500 acre feet of water storage in a former gravel pit in the Lamar area, giving LAWMA flexibility to manage its water rights.

Utilities can place a call on the water any February for that year, and LAWMA is allowed to say “no” for one year in 10. Utilities would take the water through a series of exchanges that involve Pueblo Reservoir.

As Utilities senior project manager Scott Lorenz says, “LAWMA is betting that by doing the deal with CSU they will not only immediately benefit from the 2,000 acre feet in five out of 10 years, but they will also have set in place a replicable model that will allow them to further increase their water portfolio.”

Don Higbee, LAWMA general manager, described it this way in a news release: “We will gain a more reliable water supply that will increase crop yields for the average shareholder in both wet and dry years. If we are collaborating with municipalities for water, we are not competing with them for water. The alternative is we risk buy and dry, which permanently removes water from the valley. This agreement keeps water in the valley.”

[…]

Exporting water, even periodically, makes Mauch nervous, because the 113-mile-long canal serves 94,000 irrigated acres between La Junta and Lamar. Those acres are owned by roughly 200 farmers. “It remains to be seen how it works out for the Fort Lyon Canal, Bent County and the neighbors,” [Dale Mauch] says.

That’s because there are ancillary promises tied to the deal. Arkansas River Farms, which sold water rights as part of the Utilities plan, has vowed to revegetate acreage left without water in the years Utilities uses it, Long says. The farming operation also has said it would build a $40 million dairy and a commercial tomato greenhouse, erect irrigation sprinklers to more efficiently water their acreage in dry years and plant native grasses, as well as provide Bent County a $1.7 million letter of credit and some cash to cover lost property taxes. Property taxes are lower on dryland acreage than irrigated.

“If they [Arkansas River Farms] fulfill their commitments, then it will have success for both parties,” Long says. “If they do not complete revegetations and they do not do the economic mitigation they propose, then we’ll be sorely disappointed and definitely on the short end of the stick.

“The commissioners understand things change,” Long adds, “and we need to use water more efficiently down here, and what Arkansas River Farms has proposed will provide that. If they don’t deliver, I think it would be difficult to do another one like this one.”

And that’s important, because Lorenz says valley water-rights owners and Utilities hope the LAWMA agreement is just the beginning.

Many water users want to explore such agreements, Lorenz says, as they try to secure supplies amid climate change, which adds uncertainty to how much water is available in any given year.

“The partnership allows them [LAWMA] to start to meet that gap both through the additional water and storage,” he says. “If this project is successful CSU will have a path forward to acquire part of the water it needs in the future, as will LAWMA. When it comes to developing future water supply, the status quo isn’t working.”

The Colorado Water Plan specifically calls for water sharing, dubbed “alternative water transfers,” which will benefit agriculture and municipal users. The goal, it says, is to seek contributions from the farming industry while “maximizing options for alternatives to permanent agricultural dry-up.”

In other words, Lorenz notes, “The state of Colorado says, ‘Work things out, so we don’t have to impose things on you.’ This is the first shot at that.”

Utilities gets most of its water from the Western Slope through trans-mountain transfers, but one of those sources, the Colorado River Basin, isn’t producing water to adequately supply the appropriations already committed to.

“There is increased competition for limited water supplies, and our existing system has not yielded as much as we thought back in 1996,” when the SDS project was first conceived, Wells says.

Noting that Utilities used to consult the historical record and assume the past would repeat in the future, Wells says, “What we’ve come to understand with climate change is that hydrology is expected to take a turn for the worst, so we’re mitigating our risk for our customers.”

The deal with LAWMA now goes to water court for approval, although Utilities can use the water pending that approval. That’s good, Lorenz notes, because drought conditions might require Utilities to call on the water as early as next year.

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

@CSUtilities and the Lower Ark work out long-term water sharing agreement

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

The Lower Arkansas Water Management Association (LAWMA) Board has announced it will participate in a permanent water sharing agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities.

LAWMA and Colorado Spring Utilities have discussed ways to continue their long-term arrangement of water sharing. The agreement would allow Colorado Springs Utilities to acquire 2,500 LAWMA water shares from an existing LAWMA member and take deliveries in 5 out of 10 years. The boards of both entities have voted to approve the agreement.

“This is a very positive arrangement for LAWMA shareholders,” said Don Higbee, LAWMA general manager. “We will gain a more reliable water supply that will increase crop yields for the average shareholder in both wet and dry years.”

Colorado Springs Utilities purchased the water shares for $3,500 per share. Utilities will take delivery of that water in only 5 out of 10 years. In non-delivery years, other LAWMA members will receive the water, effectively increasing the per-share yield of each LAWMA share…

The next step in the process is to obtain a water court decree formally changing the shares to be used for municipal and augmentation use.

Colorado Springs Utilities has been working with agricultural water entities in the Lower Arkansas Valley through short term, informal agreements for decades.

Over the past two decades, it leased 23,000 acre-feet of water to LAWMA and 33,150 acre-feet of water to Fort Lyon Canal Company. In addition, Colorado Springs Utilities also has provided 20,000 acre feet of water to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for use in John Martin Reservoir in Bent County.

“We are interested in water sharing agreements with the agricultural community and have been involved in leasing agreements since the 2002 drought,” said Pat Wells, General Manager, Water Resources, Colorado Springs Utilities. “Utilities has had successful, informal water sharing agreements with LAWMA for many years. This is an extension of that proven relationship.”

“This arrangement continues LAWMA’s positive long-term relationship with Colorado Springs Utilities. They have a proven track record leasing water to us at very reasonable rates,” said Higbee.

As part of the agreement, Colorado Springs Utilities will also reimburse LAWMA $1.75 million for 500 acre-feet of water storage. This storage will give LAWMA added flexibility to manage its water rights both in times of drought and excess. In the years LAWMA receives the water, it can be stored for future use. In the years Utilities receives the water, LAWMA members will be able to rely on the stored water to maintain steady irrigation.

“If we are collaborating with municipalities, we are not competing with them for water. The alternative is we risk buy and dry, which permanently removes water from the valley,” Higbee explained. “This project helps us avoid that.”

@CSUtilities: Expanding our renewable energy portfolio #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From From the ReSources Blog (Amy T.)

We are excited to announce the start of two utility-scale solar projects that will significantly increase our amount of renewable energy to power the Pikes Peak Region.

“We are committed to offering our customers a cleaner, more diverse and affordable energy portfolio to power their homes and businesses,” says John Romero, general manager of Energy Acquisition Engineering and Planning.
The two projects totaling 95 megawatts will add enough solar energy to power about 30,000 homes annually and increase our solar energy offering to 130 megawatts. Combined with hydro power, our renewable energy portfolio will total about 15 percent of our summer generating capacity when the projects come online.

The peak use of electricity in Colorado Springs typically occurs in the afternoon on hot, sunny days. This high use coincides with the prime time for solar generation.

“The contribution of solar energy to our grid during these peak times is extremely valuable,” explains Romero. “These projects will enable us to have a clean source of generation that decreases the demand on our grid and provides a fixed price for energy over the next 20 years.”

We will purchase the energy generated by both projects combined for less than $31 per megawatt hour.

Palmer Solar Project
We signed a 20-year contract with Colorado-based renewable energy company juwi Inc. (juwi) to supply us with renewable energy from the Palmer Solar Project totaling 60 megawatts.

The approximately 500-acre site selected for this project is part of Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District’s property, located in El Paso County. juwi will be responsible for developing, building and operating the facility planned to come online by December 2020.

“Working with Springs Utilities has been a first-rate experience, and we’re grateful for their commitment to bring safe, clean, cost-effective and reliable energy to their customers,” says Mike Martin, juwi’s president and CEO. “We’re especially excited to be building once again in our home state, and we look forward to our continued relationship with Springs Utilities, the landowners and El Paso County as we operate the facility over the coming decades.”

Grazing Yak Project
We signed a 25-year contract with NextEra Energy Resources (NextEra), the largest generator of solar and wind power in North America, to supply us with renewable energy from the Grazing Yak Project totaling 35 megawatts.

The approximately 270-acre site selected for this project located south of Calhan, Colo. NextEra will be responsible for developing, building and operating the facility planned to come online in late 2019.

“We are pleased to work with our partners at Springs Utilities to develop another solar energy center,” says Kevin Gildea, vice president of development, NextEra. “Once operational, this project will provide an important source of additional tax revenue for the county and will generate cost-effective, home-grown solar energy for Springs Utilities customers for years to come.”

Colorado Springs Utilities to raise rates

The Crags are rock formations located south of Divide, facing the northwest slope of Pikes Peak. It’s a beautiful hike popular with families. Photo credit Colorado Springs Hikes.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

Water rates are going up next year to pay for watering parks properties in Colorado Springs, the City Council decided Tuesday.

The 6-3 vote – opposed by Councilmen Don Knight, Andy Pico and Bill Murray – will boost Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services’ foundering budget, still about $5 million shy of its 2008 level. The department’s current $3.3 million watering budget is about $1.2 million short of where it should be, Parks Director Karen Palus has said.

Ratepayers of Colorado Springs Utilities can expect to pay a half percentage point more, on average, starting Jan. 1, and the money will be transferred to the city for parks watering. Rates then will increase another half percent a year later.

Monthly bills for residential, commercial and industrial ratepayers will rise an average of 34 cents, $1.13 and $14.77, respectively, next year. Those increases will double in 2020.

That boost is relatively minimal but will significantly help the parks, Council President Richard Skorman said during the Tuesday meeting.

#Colorado adds 70,000 new folks in 2017

Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

From KOAA.com (Bill Folsom):

Growth in Colorado is booming. State census numbers just out, show Colorado’s population jumped by around 70,000 people in 2017…

When it comes to water supply, Colorado Springs utilities planners look decades into the future. Within the last year they completed what is called an Integrated Water Resources Plan. “That really looked at our future water supply, 50 plus years out. And a big component of that was estimating our future demand based in part on population.”

[…]

The supply is strong right now and into the near future, but they know long term growth will require expanding our water system. Front Range water comes from an extensive system of reservoirs, pumps and pipes. “If we didn’t change our system at all with our current configuration or our water supply system we’re probably good on water supply for at least another 20 to 25 years.” Growth, however, is expected to continue, so planning is happening now for future water needs. “When we need to start thinking about bringing in additional storage, maybe expanding some of our reservoir storage, perhaps building new reservoirs.”