Southwestern Water Conservation District’s Annual Water Seminar: Friday, November 1, 2019

Swim class on the San Juan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click here for all the inside skinny:

The 37th Annual Water Seminar will be kicked off by SWCD’s new executive director, Frank Kugel. He has a strong track record of building partnerships and leveraging local resources for collaborative water solutions. Frank will speak to some of the challenges SWCD sees facing water management in southwestern Colorado, and opportunities for our communities to proactively address them.

Anxious for winter storms? First, we’ll hear about the forecast from KKTV meteorologist Brian Bledsoe, and cutting-edge methods for snowpack measurement from Jeff Deems of the National Snow & Ice Data Center.

No water seminar in 2019 would be complete without a discussion of the state’s current feasibility investigation of a demand management program. Mark Harris, Grand Valley Water Users Association, will moderate a panel of heavy hitters on the topic: Colorado Water Conservation Board Director Becky Mitchell, The Nature Conservancy Water Projects Director Aaron Derwingson, and Colorado River District General Manager Andy Mueller.

Further expanding on the subject, we’ll hear a proposal from local economist Steve Ruddell and consultant Dave Stiller which challenges the notion that a successful *and* voluntary, temporary, compensated demand management program would be impossible. State Senator Don Coram and State Representative Marc Catlin will react to this proposal and provide their thoughts more generally on funding water management in Colorado.

And if you haven’t heard the latest results of the West Slope Risk Assessment, John Currier, Colorado River District, will be summarizing the report for southwestern Colorado and taking questions. Jayla Poppleton, Water Education Colorado, will also preview several exciting programs and content making waves across the state. Watch your inbox for the final program, coming soon!

Reserve your seat now. Registration includes catered breakfast and lunch. Click here to register or call 970-247-1302.

Southwestern Water Conservation District Area Map. Credit: SWCD

Ken Curtis appointed to lead Dolores Water Conservancy District

Mcphee Reservoir

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Longtime district engineer Ken Curtis has been appointed the new general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

Curtis replaces Mike Preston, who is retiring after leading the organization that manages McPhee Reservoir for the past 12 years. Preston will stay on during a transitional period serving in external relations.

The two have worked closely together as a management team, said DWCD board president Bruce Smart.

Curtis served as chief of engineering and construction during the 12 years that Preston was general manager…

Preston informed the board in February his intention to retire, and recommended Curtis as his successor. The board agreed to the transition plan in order to facilitate a smooth change over…

Curtis has been involved in all aspects of water management, including delivering water to customers, oversight of project maintenance and upgrades, and invasive mussel prevention program. He also monitors reservoir levels and Dolores River inflows, conducts water policy research and community outreach, and helps coordinate the downstream fishery release and whitewater boating spill.

Fort Lewis College launches the Four Corners Water Center — The Durango Herald @FLCwater

Swim class on the San Juan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

Group to focus on San Juan and Dolores watersheds

The new Four Corners Water Resource Center at Fort Lewis College aims to help educate professionals and bring the community together to make good water management decisions, Director Gigi Richard said.

“(Water) is a problem that is not going to go away as the population grows, as the climate warms, as we place greater demands on our existing systems and our infrastructure ages,” she said.

Richard co-founded the water center at Colorado Mesa University and is launching a similar center at FLC that will focus on the Dolores and San Juan river watersheds.

“We have called it the Four Corners Water Center because we don’t want to stop at the state line; the rivers don’t stop at the state line,” she said.

The center expects to educate students, convene community discussions and create an online data hub collected on the Dolores and San Juan river watersheds, she said.

Richard hopes to help highlight FLC water research and connect students with water-related classes, projects, research opportunities, internships and careers, she said. Fifteen FLC faculty are involved in water-focused research…

Richard also plans to assess the college’s water-related courses over the next year and determine how the school could expand its water-related curriculum. The school could offer minors, majors or certificates related to water studies…

The center also plans to create an online hub for data on the San Juan and Dolores river watersheds, such as native fish, sediment and channel morphology. She would like some of the data to be made into graphs that could be accessible to decision-makers, she said.

The center also hopes to convene forums that could promote education and discussion, Richard said.

For example, on Sept. 13, the center will host a forum called “Burned, Buried and Flooded: Water Resources Excitement in Southwest Colorado.” Panelists will discuss water topics including how the 416 Fire may affect the watershed, reservoirs and avalanches.

The center expects to work with many of the groups already working on water issues in the region such as Mountain Studies Institute and the Water Information Program.

The Water Information Program August/September 2019 Newsletter is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

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

Southwestern Water Conservation District Hires New Executive Director

Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD) is pleased to announce the confirmation of their new Executive Director, Frank Kugel.

Frank Kugel. Photo credit: Upper Gunnison River Conservancy District

Kugel was the General Manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District for almost 13 years, and is a registered Professional Engineer with a Civil Engineering degree from the University of Colorado – Denver. Frank was involved in construction engineering in the Denver area before joining the Colorado Division of Water Resources as a Dam Safety Engineer. He served in the Denver and Durango offices of DWR before moving to Montrose where he ultimately became Division 4 Engineer for the Gunnison, San Miguel and lower Dolores Basins. Frank joined the UGRWCD upon leaving DWR in 2006. He was a member of the Gunnison Basin Roundtable since its inception and chair of its Basin Implementation Planning Subcommittee.

WIP had a brief chat with Frank to give you a bit more information. Here are a few questions and answers from our conversation.

WIP: What experience and knowledge do you bring to the District?

Frank: I have been the General Manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District for the past 13 years. During that time I worked on local and statewide water issues and reported to an 11-member board. Prior to that, I was Division Engineer for Water Division 4, encompassing the Gunnison, San Miguel and lower Dolores River basins. As Division Engineer, I frequently attended SWCD board meetings and the SW seminar. Before that, I lived in Durango for 11 years while inspecting dams for the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

WIP: As the new Executive Director of SWCD, what is your vision for the district?

Frank: My vision as Executive Director is to build upon the many successes accomplished by the Southwestern Water Conservation District. I intend to work closely with the board of directors in developing policies that will help guide the district. Instream flows and drought contingency planning are two of the areas that could benefit from policy guidance.

WIP: What are some of your top priorities with/or within the district?

Frank: A top priority for me is to reach out to the local communities. I plan to attend a county commissioner meeting in each of the nine counties within my first year at the district. Working on Colorado River issues will also be a high priority.

WIP: What do you foresee being challenges?

Frank: Facing a future with reduced water supplies due to climate change, coupled with increasing population, is a challenge for all of Colorado. The Southwest District can play a lead role in educating our constituents about this pending gap between water supply and demand and how the District can mitigate its impact.

We welcome Frank Kugel to SWCD and wish him all the best in his new position!

Southwestern Water Conservation District Area Map. Credit: SWCD

#Runoff news: 51 days on #DoloresRiver a boon to boaters, biologists — The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

Coming out of extreme drought, water releases a pleasant surprise

Colorado Drought Monitor August 28, 2018.

For 51 days this spring and summer, water managers opened the spigots on McPhee Reservoir, sending millions of gallons of water down the Dolores River – a boon to fish, farmers and boaters.

During the last 20 years, only 10 years have been boatable. But this year was remarkable for the number of boating days after extreme drought conditions in 2018.

McPhee Reservoir started 2019 with one of the poorest water levels in its history, but extraordinary snowfall allowed the Dolores Water Conservancy District to fill the reservoir and release 135,000 acre-feet of water.

The high-flow days will benefit the ecology of the entire corridor, said Mike Preston, general manager of the district. The big releases occurred between Memorial Day weekend and the first week of July, with a short intermission after Memorial Day.

The district met with stakeholders, such as boaters and biologists, weekly to determine water management strategy, Preston said.

“So far, everybody is pretty happy,” he said.

The Dolores River Boating Advocates were pleased with the number of boating days. While it was not the longest season ever, it was a good run, said Sam Carter, program and outreach coordinator for the group…

The high levels in the reservoir will allow the district to provide irrigators all the water they have rights to and hold over water in the reservoir for next season, Preston said. The releases from the reservoir will also have lasting benefits for native fish and trees along the river, experts said.

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The high flows help maintain and improve habitat for three species of native fish: roundtail chub, bluehead sucker and flannelmouth sucker, said Jim White, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The bluehead and flannelmouth sucker populations are both depressed in the Dolores. Their populations have been hurt by non-native fish and changes in habitat because of the dam, he said…

This summer, White said he may have observed benefits of the last big water year on the Dolores, which was in 2017. He was surveying fish in Slick Rock Canyon and found an abundance of young flannelmouth suckers possibly from 2017 or 2018, he said. Higher water helps support spawning…

The large amount of spring runoff released from McPhee also kept the water district from needing to tap into water set aside specifically for fish, Preston said. So now the same amount of water can be released over a shorter period of time, which will be beneficial for fish.

The high-water year will also have lasting benefits for trees, such as cottonwoods and willows, because it will recharge the groundwater in the floodplain, said Cynthia Dott, a biology professor at Fort Lewis College. Dott specializes in studying the floodplain forest habitat and has worked on the Dolores River with her students.

Rainwater does not provide enough water to recharge the water table, and when the table drops too low, it can hurt large cottonwoods, she said. But there should be plenty of groundwater for the trees to tap into next year, she said.

“They will have plenty of water to keep their feet wet,” she said.

The high flows were also traditionally needed to scour the banks of rivers and leave open, muddy areas for young cottonwood seedlings to get established, she said.

However, because there have been so many years of low flows on the Dolores, willows have established themselves along the banks and high flows now are not enough to rip them free, she said.

Frank Kugel will likely be the next executive director of the Southwestern Colorado Water Conservation District

Frank Kugel. Photo credit: Upper Gunnison River Conservancy District

From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):

One the region’s foremost water experts is being offered another job in the industry that would take him back to Durango. Frank Kugel, general manager of the Upper Gunnison River Conservancy District, is in negotiations with the Southwestern Water Conservation District for the top job.

According to the SWCD website, “on July 15, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-6-402(3.5), the Board of Directors of the Southwestern Water Conservation District selected Frank J. Kugel as the finalist under consideration for the position of Executive Director.” The SWCD board plans to approve a conditional offer employment at its August 6 meeting and formally make the offer on August 7.

Kugel confirmed the situation and said if all goes well and the SWCD board accepts the terms of employment, he would begin the new position on September 3.

Kugel has led the UGRWCD for almost 13 years. “The Southwestern Water Conservation District serves all of nine counties, as opposed to three with the UGRWCD, so it is a higher profile position for me,” Kugel explained in an email this week. “I have worked with the SWCD for 18 years, 11 of which were while inspecting dams while living in Durango. The other seven years were while I was Division 4 Engineer in Montrose and dealing with water administration in the San Miguel and lower Dolores River basins.

“The Southwestern District shares a number of common challenges with UGRWCD, namely Colorado River issues and drought contingency planning and demand management,” Kugel continued. “They also face a challenge of having nine separate river basins, most of which individually flow out of the state.”

[…]

The SWCD board unanimously chose Kugel as the top finalist for the executive director job as the previous executive director had retired in April. Board president Robert Wolff explained there is a two-week public notice period before a formal job offer is made, so that will happen after the August meeting.

“For me personally, several things about Frank stood out,” Wolff said. “He is fluent with all the Western Slope water issues we are dealing with, and he lived in Durango back in the 1990s. He is well thought of in the water community as a whole and he seems to know how to manage a district.”

Kugel said he is fortunate to have this new opportunity and also lucky to have been in the Gunnison Valley for a dozen years. “I have been blessed with a supportive board and top-notch staff over these past 13 years,” he said. “We have done great things to develop and protect the quality and quantity of our precious water resources. The Upper Gunnison basin is a very special place and I will always hold it, and its people, near and dear to my heart.”

Jeep fails to cross the #DoloresRiver at high water

I’ll bet this is not the type of jeeping video that this guy wanted to star in. (Some cursing.)

While rafting the Dolores we were hanging out at camp when these people showed up and tried to cross the river at about 1400cfs — Aaron Edwards