How low can Ruedi Reservoir go? — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The boat ramp at Ruedi Reservoir allows motor boats to access the water. The Bureau of Reclamation is projecting that the reservoir will fall to 55,000 acre-feet this winter.
CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

Bureau of Reclamation warns of potential impacts to Aspen hydro plant, water contract holders

Water levels at Ruedi Reservoir could fall so low this winter that the city of Aspen could have difficulty making hydro-electric power and those who own water in the reservoir could see shortages.

That’s according to projections by the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the reservoir near the headwaters of the Fryingpan River. At the annual Ruedi operations meeting on Aug. 5, officials estimated the reservoir will fall to around 55,000 acre-feet this winter, what’s known as carry-over storage. According to Tim Miller, a hydrologist with the Bureau of Reclamation who manages operations at Ruedi, the lowest-ever carry-over storage for the reservoir was just over 47,000 acre-feet in 2002, one of the driest years on record. Last year’s carry-over was about 64,000 acre-feet.

At 55,000 acre-feet, the elevation of the water is about 7,709 feet. That’s about two feet lower than Aspen officials would like.

“We don’t like being below 7,711,” said Robert Covington, water resources/hydroelectric supervisor for the city.

That’s because the hydro plant needs a certain amount of water pressure to operate. The higher the water elevation, the more water pressure there is.

According to Covington, power providers Xcel Energy and Holy Cross Energy sometimes temporarily and quickly shut down the hydro-electric plant when there are problems with transmission lines or they need to do repairs.

“It’s very common for these types of plants to automatically shut down,” Covington said.

The problem is that restarting the plant requires a larger amount of water than the 40 cubic feet per second that is roughly the minimum amount required to operate the plant efficiently.

“It’s very difficult for us to get back online so we end up pushing more water through for a very short period of time,” he said.

If Aspen has to shut down the plant because flows are too low, the city could purchase more wind power to maintain its 100% renewable portfolio.

“When we go lower on hydro, we go with wind, which is generally the most cost-effective,” said Steve Hunter, utilities resource manager with the city.

Anglers dock at Ruedi Reservoir on Aug. 5. Bureau of Reclamation officials project that low carry-over storage combined with another low runoff year could lead to shortages for water contract holders.
CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Shortages to contract holders

Another consequence of low carry-over storage means that Ruedi will start out even lower next spring when the snow begins to melt and the reservoir begins to fill again. That means if there is below-average runoff again, some contract holders who own water in Ruedi could have to take shortages, something that has never happened before, Miller said.

There are 32 entities that have “contract water” in Ruedi, which the bureau releases at their request. This is water that has been sold by the bureau to recover the costs of building and operating the reservoir. The contract pool is separated into two rounds and contract holders will take a previously agreed upon shortage amount depending on which round they are in.

“If we get another similar type of runoff this year, there will be shortages most likely to the contract pool,” Miller said.

The 15-Mile Reach is located near Grand Junction, Colorado

But there are still uncertainties in predicting how low the reservoir will go. The biggest of these is how much water will be released for the benefit of the endangered fish in the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River near Grand Junction.

There is a 10,412 acre-foot pool available for the fish, but in dry years entities that store water in Ruedi will sometimes coordinate to release more fish water in the late summer and fall. This would draw down the reservoir even further. It’s still not clear how much water will be released this fall for the four species of endangered fish.

“The release defines the carry-over,” Miller said.

Despite initial bureau forecasts in April that projected Ruedi could probably fill to its entire 102,373 acre-foot capacity, Ruedi ended up only about 80% full this year. July 11 was the peak fill date at 83,256 acre-feet and an elevation of 7,745 feet.

“It was probably a little over-optimistic,” Miller said of the April forecast. “But at the time our snowpack was average. It was a reasonable forecast given the conditions.”

As climate change worsens the drought in the Western U.S., Ruedi is not the only reservoir to face water levels so low that they threaten the ability to produce hydroelectric power. Last month, the bureau began emergency releases from Upper Basin reservoirs, including Blue Mesa on the Gunnison River, to prop up levels in Lake Powell and preserve the ability to produce hydropower at Glen Canyon Dam.

This story ran in the Aug. 10 edition of The Aspen Times.

A Massive Plumbing System Moves #Water Across #Colorado’s Mountains. But This Year, There’s Less To Go Around — KUNC

The Lost Man diversion canal, about to duck under SH 82 above Aspen, in the Roaring Fork River watershed. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Public Radio (Alex Hager) via KUNC:

High up on Colorado’s Independence Pass, a narrow, winding road weaves through the evergreens and across mountain streams, up and over the Continental Divide at more than 10,000 feet. At one point that road crosses a canal.

It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, but that canal is part of water infrastructure that makes life on Colorado’s Front Range possible.

The state has a geographical mismatch between where water shows up and where much of the population has settled.

“Wherever you are in this state, you’re either at the source of the drinking water supply, you’re in the middle of the drinking water supply, or you’re at the end of the tap,” said Christina Medved, outreach director at Roaring Fork Conservancy. “So on the Western slope, we are at the source of the water.”

About 80% of Colorado’s water falls on the western side of the state. Much of it is high-mountain snow and rain that eventually trickles down into streams and rivers like the ones on Independence Pass.

But about 80% of Colorado’s people live on the east side of the mountains. Because of gravity, that water doesn’t flow to them naturally. Instead, Colorado’s heavily-populated Front Range relies on a massive plumbing system to keep drinking water flowing to its taps.

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

For a century and a half, engineers have carved up the mountains with tunnels and canals that pipe water across the state through trans-mountain diversions. Some of that infrastructure is nestled near the high-alpine headwaters of the Roaring Fork River, which eventually flows through Aspen and Glenwood Springs on its way to the Colorado River. Near Lost Man reservoir, a dam and tunnel create a juncture between water that will follow that natural path westward to the Colorado, and water that will be diverted eastward through the mountains and onto cities such as Colorado Springs.

A tunnel through the mountains draws in water that will pass through two reservoirs and the Arkansas River on its way to the southern portion of the Front Range. Water diverted from the Colorado River basin, through trans-mountain diversions, makes up 60 to 70% of the water used by Colorado Springs. Denver, Greeley, Fort Collins and smaller municipalities on the Front Range also rely heavily on Western Slope water.

Graphic via Holly McClelland/High Country News.

And these kinds of set ups aren’t confined to Colorado. Similar systems bring water to big cities all across the region. Salt Lake City, Albuquerque and Los Angeles rely on canals and tunnels to ship faraway water into their pipes. New ones are in the works on the Front Range and in southern Utah.

But these systems aren’t without critics.

Water from the Roaring Fork River basin heading east out of the end of the Twin Lakes Tunnel (June 2016), which is operated by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., a member of the Front Range Water Council. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

“When you first learn about it, the concept of a trans-mountain diversion is crazy,” said Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “It seems wrong. It seems antithetical to the health of the river. And I have to say all of that’s true.”

His organization was set up in the 1930s to oppose these diversions and ensure that there is enough water for people on the Western side of the state…

The issue is, contemporary environmental values aren’t written into the West’s water law. Instead, water use is defined by regulations written when Colorado first became a state in the 1800s. The rules say that if you have rights to use water, it doesn’t matter if you want to use it hundreds of miles away from its source – even if that requires miles of cross-mountain plumbing to do so.

Colorado Drought Monitor map July 13, 2021.

At this moment, there is less water to pull from in every part of the state. The Front Range escaped from drought after steady spring rains, but those high-mountain areas that usually provide a dependable source of water for all of Colorado are experiencing a different fate. The western slope is deep in the second year of drought conditions, leaving snowpack and river flows lower than they should be.

Mueller thinks that only sharpens the need for the Front Range to curtail its water use. Although they retain the legal right to use a certain amount of water, he’s asking them to use less – which he says will promote the health of rivers and their ecosystems west of the divide.

The ditch that moves water from Lost Man Reservoir to Grizzly Reservoir and then under the Divide to the South Fork of Lake Creek and the Arkansas River.

On the Front Range, those on the receiving end of diversions say they are listening to their western counterparts when they put up distress signals during particularly critical times. They also say deliberate conservation work is paying off in the longer term. Nathan Elder, water supply manager for Denver Water, said over the past two decades, per capita water use in his district is down by 22%.

“Everyone in Colorado needs to decrease their use,” he said…

Amid tension between demands for water on both sides, exacerbated by extreme drought conditions, is the fact that there is not much of an alternative. Colorado’s water system is built to accommodate the fact that the majority of its people and the majority of its water are far from each other. Without fundamental changes to the bedrock of water law, those asking for water will have to work within a system built on trans-mountain diversions…

Some contingency planning – within the reality of a diversion-centric system – is already in place. In Colorado Springs, which receives some of the flow diverted from the top of Independence Pass, re-use practices are helping the city get more mileage out of the water it’s apportioned.

Graphic credit: Water Education Colorado

Abby Ortega, water resources manager for Colorado Springs Utilities, said reused water accounts for 26% of the city’s total portfolio and the city relies heavily on storage to get through dry years like this one.

Brad Udall: Here’s the 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

But climate change threatens to increase the frequency and intensity of droughts, which has water managers on edge and looking more intently at ways to maximize what’s available.

“Every water planner in the state has some worry with the rapidly declining hydrology on the Colorado river,” Ortega said.

Unclear waters: How pollution, diversions and #drought are squeezing the life out of the lower #ArkansasRiver Valley — The #Denver Post

This view is from the top of John Martin Dam facing west over the body of the reservoir. The content of the reservoir in this picture was approximately 45,000 acre-feet (March 2014). By Jaywm – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37682336

From The Denver Post (RJ Sangosti):

The Arkansas Valley Conduit promises to bring clean drinking water to more residents of southeast Colorado

n the 1940s, the Arkansas River was dammed south of town to build [John Martin Reservoir], a place locals call the Sapphire on the Plains. The reservoir was tied up in a 40-year battle until Colorado and Kansas came to an agreement, in 2019, to provide an additional water source to help keep the levels high enough for recreation and to support fish.

Forty years may seem like a long time to develop a plan to save fish and improve water levels for a reservoir, but southeastern Colorado is used to long fights when it comes to water…

Arkansas Valley Conduit map via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka) June 2021.

For nearly a century, leaders in southeastern Colorado have worked on plans to bring clean drinking water to the area through the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit, but progress on the pipeline project stalled after a major push in the 1960s. Pollution, water transfers and years of worsening drought amid a warming climate continue to build stress for water systems in the area. Adding to that, the area continues to see population decline combined with a struggling economy.

The water needed for the conduit will be sourced from melting snowpack in the Mosquito and Sawatch mountain ranges [ed. and Colorado River Basin]. Under the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act, passed in the early 1960s, the water has been allocated for usage in the Lower Arkansas Valley. The water will be stored at Pueblo Reservoir and travel through existing infrastructure to east Pueblo near the airport. From there, the conduit will tie into nearly 230 miles of pipeline to feed water to 40 communities in need.

Renewed plans to build a pipeline to deliver clean drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley are bringing hope for many people in southeastern Colorado. But in an area that is inextricably linked to its water, the future can seem unclear…

“Deliver on that promise”

“It was nearly 100 years ago, in the 1930s, that the residents of southeast Colorado recognized that the water quality in the lower valley of the Arkansas River was quite poor,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and a former Bent County commissioner.

Water systems in the district, which includes Pueblo, Crowley, Bent, Prowers, Kiowa and Otero counties, have two main issues affecting drinking water.

The first is that a majority of those systems rely on alluvial groundwater, which can have a high level of dissolved solids. This can include selenium, sulfate, manganese and uranium, which are linked to human health concerns.

Second, the remaining systems in the water district rely on the Dakota-Cheyenne bedrock aquifer that can be affected by naturally occurring radionuclides. Radium and other radionuclides in the underlying geologic rock formation can dissolve into the water table and then be present in drinking water wells, also carrying health risks.

John F. Kennedy at Commemoration of Fryingpan Arkansas Project in Pueblo, circa 1962.

In 1962, residents in southeastern Colorado thought President John F. Kennedy was delivering a solution to their drinking water problem during a ceremony in Pueblo. Congress had passed the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act, and Kennedy came to Pueblo to authorize the construction of a pipeline to deliver clean drinking water…

Residents of the 1930s began working on ideas to deliver clean drinking water to southeastern Colorado. By the 1950s, they were selling gold frying pans to raise money to send backers to Washington, D.C., to encourage Congress to pass the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act. But it wasn’t until 1962 that the pipeline authorization became a reality.

Fast forward 58 years, and two more politicians came to Pueblo to address a crowd about the same pipeline project. This time, on Oct. 3, 2020, it was at the base of Pueblo Dam. Because of funding shortfalls, the Arkansas Valley Conduit was never built after it was authorized in 1962.

The Colorado communities could not afford to cover 100% of the costs, as initially required, so in 2009, the act was amended to include a 65% federal share and a 35% local cost share. Additionally, in 2020, Congress appropriated $28 million more toward the project, according to the water conservancy district.

That October day, Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner took turns talking about the importance of the project. They told a small crowd that when the pipeline is built, it will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 residents in southeastern Colorado…

The water conservancy district estimates the pipeline project’s cost will range from $546 million to $610 million…

Physical construction of the pipeline won’t start until 2022, according to the water district…

“The solution to pollution Is dilution”

A hand-painted sign with stenciled letters welcomes travelers on Highway 96 into Olney Springs. The highway cuts across four blocks that make up the width of the small town with around 340 residents.

Olney Springs is one of six water systems in Crowley County that plans to have a delivery point, known as a spur, on the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The plans for the pipeline call for two spurs in Pueblo County, three in both Bent and Prowers counties, and one in Kiowa County. Out of the 40 total participants, the remaining 25 are in Otero County…

Located along the Arkansas River about 70 miles east of Pueblo, La Junta is the largest municipality in Otero County. With its population around 7,000 and a Walmart Supercenter, a Holiday Inn Express and Sonic Drive-In, La Junta can feel like a metropolis when compared to Olney Springs.

La Junta is one of two Arkansas Valley Conduit participants, along with Las Animas, that uses reverse osmosis to remove potentially harmful and naturally occurring toxins from the water. Reverse osmosis is a process that uses pressure to push water through a membrane to remove contaminants. According to the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Arkansas Valley Conduit Environmental Impact Statement, reverse osmosis can treat source water to meet standards, but the brine from the process “is an environmental concern, and operation costs are high.”

The other participants use conventional methods to treat water. The environmental impact statement said those methods can be as simple as adding chlorine for disinfection and filtration or adding chemicals to remove suspended solids, but that those treatments “…cannot remove salt or radionuclides from water.”

Tom Seaba, director of water and wastewater for La Junta, said out of a total of 24 water districts in Otero County, 19 were in violation with the state due to elevated levels of radionuclide.

Four of the 19 came into compliance with the state’s drinking water standards after La Junta brought them onto its water system. The remaining 15 are still in violation with the state, according to Seaba.

La Junta spent $18.5 million to build a wastewater treatment plant that came online in 2019 to help meet water standards for its community. But the city’s water treatment came with its own issue: selenium.

After La Junta treats its water using reverse osmosis, the water system is left with a concentrate, which is safe drinking water. However, it’s also left with a waste stream high in selenium. “That wastewater has to go somewhere,” Seaba said. It goes to the city’s new wastewater treatment plant…

According to the environmental impact statement, “La Junta’s wastewater discharge makes up about 1.5% of average annual flow in the Arkansas River.” The study goes on to say that during drought or low-flow events, the wastewater discharge can contribute up to half of the streamflow downstream from the gage.

Seaba is looking to the Arkansas Valley Conduit as a possible answer. “The solution to pollution is dilution,” he said. The water from the pipeline will not have a selenium problem, Seaba explained. By blending water from the conduit with the selenium waste from reverse osmosis, La Junta hopes to reduce costs and stay compliant with Environmental Protection Agency standards to discharge into the river.

The environmental review studied a section of the Arkansas River from where Fountain Creek runs into the river east to the Kansas border. The study found that a section of the river was impaired by selenium…

“I sure don’t drink it”

The EPA sets a maximum contaminant level in drinking water at 5 picocuries per liter of air for combined radium and 30 micrograms per liter for combined uranium. If contaminant levels are above those numbers, the water system is in violation of drinking water regulations, which the state enforces.

According to data provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Patterson Valley Water Company in Otero County, one of the 40 pipeline participants, had the highest result of 31 picocuries per liter for combined radium in 2020. In that same county, Rocky Ford, another pipeline participant, had a high result of 0.2 picocuries per liter for combined radium. According to the state health department, Rocky Ford’s combined radium sample numbers were last recorded in 2013.

Manzanola, also in Otero County and a pipeline participant, topped the list with the highest result of 42 micrograms per liter for combined uranium in 2020. In contrast, 19 other pipeline participants, from across the valley, had results of 0 micrograms per liter for combined uranium, according to the most recent numbers from the state health department.

Levels of the two carcinogens are sporadic throughout the valley. The average of the highest results of all 40 participants in the pipeline for combined radium is roughly 8 picocuries per liter and combined uranium is roughly 5 micrograms per liter. According to Seaba, averaging the members’ highest results might seem unfair to some individual water systems because it brings their numbers up, but what those averages do show is that water in Pueblo Reservoir, which will feed the future conduit, is approximately three times less affected by combined radium and combined uranium than the average of current water used by pipeline participants. In 2020, the highest result of combined radium in the Pueblo Reservoir was 2.52 picocuries per liter, and the highest result of combined uranium was 1.7 micrograms per liter…

“I sure don’t drink it,” said Manny Rodriquez. “I don’t think anybody in town drinks the water.”

Rodriquez, who grew up in and still lives in Rocky Ford, was not sure if the water at his apartment was in violation of the state’s clean drinking water act or not. State data showed at that time his water was not in violation. Colorado is required to notify residents if their water system is in violation of the clean drinking water act…

MaryAnn Nason, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, used an example to show how violations can add up: “If a public water system has two entry points that fail for both combined radium and gross alpha (measures of radionuclides), and they have those same violations for 10 years each quarter, that is going to appear as 160 violations on the website. But really, it is one naturally occurring situation that exists for a relatively long time,” Nason said.

For some residents like Ruby Lucero, 83, it makes little difference to her if her water is in violation with the state or not. She plans to buy her drinking water no matter what the results say about her tap water…

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

“The struggling farmer”

In the past decade, Otero County has seen a 2.9% drop in population. Residents have a ballpark difference of $38,000 in the median household income compared to the rest of the state, and the county is not alone. All six counties that are part of current plans for the Arkansas Valley Conduit are seeing economic hard times.

Adding to those factors is drought. Years of drought keep hitting the area’s No. 1 industry: agriculture.

The Rocky Ford Ditch’s water rights date back to 1874, making them some of the most senior water rights in the Arkansas River system. In the early 1980s, Aurora was able to buy a majority of those water rights. Over time, Aurora acquired more shares and has converted them to municipal use…

“We still have a heavy lift before us”

Planned off the main trunk of the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a pump station near Wiley will push water along a spur to support Eads in Kiowa County. Water that ends up in Eads will have traveled the longest distance of the pipeline project. The majority of the pipeline will be gravity-fed, but this section will need to be pumped uphill.

The journey is a good representation of Eads’ battle with water. Not only is clean drinking water needed, but the area is also desperate for relief from years of drought exacerbated by climate change…

Long said that Eads is different from a majority of the other participants in the project because it is not located along the Arkansas River…

The domestic water that will be delivered via the conduit is even more important for a town like Eads, said Long. “It’s very difficult to attract new industry when you have a limited supply of very poor water.”

Long believes the conduit will make a huge difference to support communities in the Lower Arkansas River Valley…

Long has been working on the Arkansas Valley Conduit project for nearly 18 years.

“After such a long fight, to finally be where we are feels good, but honestly I can say it doesn’t feel as good as I thought it would. Only because I know we have so much work still to do, and I know how difficult the past 18 years have been,” Long said. “We still have a heavy lift before us.”

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

In #Fountain, #Colorado, There’s Plenty Of Room For New Homes. But There Isn’t Enough #Water — Colorado Public Radio

Sprawl

From Colorado Public Radio (Michael Elizabeth Sakas):

Colorado Springs is one of the fastest growing regions in the state. Homes are getting more expensive and harder to buy. The boom is expanding into nearby cities — and the pressure is building…

There are currently fewer than 9,000 taps, or connections, to Fountain’s water supply. Over the last year, Blankenship said developers have applied for nearly 30,000 new taps to the city’s water system.

[Dan] Blankenship is telling developers, Fountain is tapped out…

To support that many new taps, the city would need to buy additional rights to use more water. They would also need a place to store that water, and the city would need to treat it and find a way to get it to homes.

Summary of Observed Wet & Dry Surface Water Hydrology via SCW

That’s getting harder to make happen in a state like Colorado, where most of the people live on the Front Range but most of the water is on the Western Slope.

Where the city of Fountain gets its water from

Fountain gets most of its water from the Pueblo Reservoir, which is filled with water that would otherwise end up in the Colorado River. The reservoir project was built in the 1970s. It’s unlikely the city would be able to build something similar today, Blankenship said. It’s a lot tougher to do that now, just because of the environmental concerns…

Smith said it’s becoming more common for developers to have to secure water rights and pay for additional water infrastructure if they want to build a big project.

But he said the situation in Fountain is unusual…

Fountain hasn’t finalized any plans yet, but they say developers are going to need to help pay the millions of dollars to buy those new water rights, reservoirs, and pipes needed to support that kind of growth. Blankenship, Fountain’s utility director, said instead of the city paying for that upfront, he wants to shift that cost to developers…

No matter how a developer might have to secure water for a new project, the cost will get rolled into the price of a new home, said Kevin Walker, with the housing and building association in Colorado Springs…

Kevin Reidy, a senior water conservation specialist with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said other water utilities are also worried about how to keep up with growth. Fountain is just the first to talk so openly about the issue…

A big part of Reidy’s job is to get water and land planners to work together, which he said have been too siloed. Reidy helps host training events to get water and land people in the same room to talk about these issues.

“I think we’re kind of hitting that point where people are kind of saying, ‘Okay wow, we’ve got to do things differently,’” Reidy said.

For Fountain, that means telling developers this town doesn’t have the water you need. If you want to build here, you’ll have to bring your own.

Directors Reappointed to Southeastern District Board

John F. Kennedy at Commemoration of Fryingpan Arkansas Project in Pueblo, circa 1962.

Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

Five Directors were reappointed to the Board of Directors of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and were sworn in on Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Reappointed are: Seth Clayton, Executive Director of Pueblo Water, representing Pueblo County, and Secretary of the Board; Andrew Colosimo, Government Affairs Manager for Colorado Springs Utilities, representing El Paso County; Greg Felt, Chaffee County Commissioner and a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board; Carl McClure, a Crowley County farmer; and Howard “Bub” Miller, an Otero County farmer and rancher.

The Southeastern District is the state agency responsible for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which is operated by the Bureau of Reclamation. The Fry-Ark Project includes Pueblo Reservoir, Twin Lakes, Turquoise Reservoir, Mount Elbert Forebay and Power Plant at Twin Lakes, Ruedi Reservoir, a West Slope Collection System, and the Boustead Tunnel.

The Fry-Ark Project is designed to import 69,200 acre-feet annually for use by cities and farms in the Arkansas River basin from the Fryingpan River watershed near Basalt. Fry-Ark Operating Principles list environmental conditions that must be met when water is diverted.

The District also operates the James W. Broderick Hydropower Plant at Pueblo Dam, which was completed in 2019 under a Lease of Power Privilege with Reclamation.

The District is working with Reclamation to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a pipeline that will deliver a clean source of drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.

The District includes parts of nine counties, and has 15 directors who are appointed to 4-year terms by a panel of District Court judges.

Other directors of the Board are: President Bill Long, Bent County; Vice-President Curtis Mitchell, El Paso County; Treasurer Ann Nichols, El Paso County; Pat Edelmann and Mark Pifher, El Paso County; Patrick Garcia and Alan Hamel, Pueblo County; Tom Goodwin, Fremont County; Kevin Karney, at-large; and Dallas May, Prowers and Kiowa Counties.

Ruedi Reservoir operations update: 60 CFS in the #FryingpanPan River starting January 1, 2021

From email from Reclamation (Elizabeth Jones):

Ruedi Reservoir release will increase tomorrow morning by approximately 14 cfs. The flow at the Fryingpan River gage below Ruedi Reservoir will increase from 46 cfs to 60 cfs for the next two months. The release increase is due to a contract release, and the goal is to mitigate formation of anchor ice within the Fryingpan River channel.

Fryingpan River downstream of Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

Arkansas Valley Conduit project launched — The Pueblo Chieftain

Arkansas Valley Conduit “A Path Forward” November 22, 2019 via Southeastern.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Steve Henson):

Dignitaries from throughout the nation, including U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, gathered at Lake Pueblo for the groundbreaking of a pipeline that will deliver clear water to the Lower Arkansas River Valley…

As the conduit will bypass the Arkansas River, including the portion on Pueblo’s lower East Side where the heavily polluted Fountain Creek dumps into the river, it is seen as a regional solution to drinking water quality problems facing rural communities of Southeastern Colorado…

It may be a decade or more before the conduit will be built, but the project is well on its way now.

When completed, the conduit will serve an estimated 50,000 people in Southeastern Colorado via some 260 miles of pipeline.

Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and former Bent County commissioner, said: “It’s kind of an emotional event because generations have actually worked on this project and to finally see this kind of progress where we can deliver safe water to folks, which also provides a great opportunity for economic development is close to unbelievable. It truly is a great day.”

John Singletary, former chairman of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, agreed:

“As a young boy in the Arkansas Basin, I sold gold frying pans to support the effort that eventually lead to President Kennedy coming to Pueblo to sign the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project into a law,” Singletary said. “This was the first step in seeing the Arkansas Valley Conduit built. In the decades since, people like Senator Michael Bennet have never lost sight that this project is more than politics. The Conduit is a vision turned reality to help reduce dry-up of farm ground and provide clean drinking water for 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.”

The total project cost is estimated at somewhere between $564 and $610 million to complete over a 15-year period and about $30 million a year for the next 15 years will need to be appropriated to see it finished.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Rayan Severance):

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, who also has spent a lot of time and effort on the project throughout his career, echoed Long’s comments about ground finally being broken for the conduit.

“It is a testament to the commitment of generations of people in the Lower Arkansas Valley to bring clean drinking water to communities that were promised it in the early ’60s and never had that promise fulfilled,” Bennet said. “One of the first things I heard about when I became a senator was the Arkansas Valley Conduit because of Bill (Long) and because of Ray Kogovsek, who had been the congressman for that area, and made the case about how important it was.”

Bennet said the progress made on getting the conduit built has been a true bipartisan effort in which Democrats and Republicans have worked hand-in-hand…

The conduit, part of the original Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, would bring water from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads, serving about 40 communities along the route. As it will bypass the Arkansas River, including the portion on Pueblo’s lower East Side where Fountain Creek dumps into the river, it is seen as a regional solution to drinking water quality problems facing rural communities of Southeastern Colorado.

Many of those water providers are facing enforcement action for high levels of naturally occurring radionuclides in well water. A new source of clean water through the Arkansas Valley Conduit is the least expensive alternative, according to a 2013 Environmental Impact Statement.

While the project is breaking ground, there is still a long way to go, Bennet cautioned.

The total project cost is estimated at somewhere between $564 and $610 million to complete over a 15-year period and about $30 million a year for the next 15 years will need to be appropriated to see it finished.

“It’s not going to be easy to do but we’re going to fight for it,” Bennet said.

@CWCB_DNR: Proposed Acquisition of Contractual Interest in Ruedi Reservoir Water for ISF Use #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

This map shows the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River near Grand Junction, home to four species of endangered fish. Experts are concerned that rain on the Grizzly Creek Fire burn area could create ash and sediment flows that could pose a threat to fish. Map credit: CWCB

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

Proposed Acquisition of Contractual Interest in Ruedi Reservoir Water for ISF Use on the Fryingpan River and the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River

The Colorado Water Conservation Board will be considering an offer from the Colorado River Water Conservation District, acting through its Colorado River Water Projects Enterprise (“District”) of a short-term lease of 3,500 acre-feet of water that the District holds in Ruedi Reservoir for instream flow (“ISF”) use. The proposal is to use the released water to supplement winter flows in the Fryingpan River below Ruedi Reservoir from January 1, 2021 – March 31, 2021; and from April 1 – December 31, 2021, to help meet or reduce shortfalls to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s flow recommendations for the endangered fish critical habitat in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River. The Board will consider this proposal at its September 16-17, 2020 virtual meeting. The agenda for this Board meeting can be found at:

https://cwcb.colorado.gov/virtual-board-meeting-september-16-17-2020

Consideration of this proposal initiates the 120-day period for Board review pursuant to Rule 6b. of the Board’s Rules Concerning the Colorado Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program (“ISF Rules”), which became effective on March 2, 2009. No formal Board action will be taken at this time.

Information concerning the ISF Rules and water acquisitions can be found here.

The following information concerning the proposed lease of water is provided pursuant to ISF
Rule 6m.(1):

Subject Water Right:
RUEDI RESERVOIR
Source: Fryingpan River
Decree: CA4613
Priority No.: 718
Appropriation Date: 7/29/1957
Adjudication Date: 6/20/1958
Decreed Amount: 140,697.3 Acre Feet

Decree: 81CW0034 (Second Filling)
Appropriation Date: 1/22/1981
Adjudication Date: 12/31/1981
Decreed Amount: 101,280 Acre Feet
Bureau of Reclamation Contract: 079D6C0106
Contract Use: Supplement winter instream flows in the Fryingpan River
Contract Amount: 5,000 Acre Feet
Amount Offered for Consideration: Up to 3,500 acre-feet

The following information concerning the proposed additional use of leased water remaining after March 31, 2021 is provided pursuant to ISF Rule 6m.(1):

Subject Water Right:
RUEDI RESERVOIR
Source: Fryingpan River
Decree: CA4613
Priority No.: 718
Appropriation Date: 7/29/1957
Adjudication Date: 6/20/1958
Decreed Amount: 140,697.3 Acre Feet

Decree: 81CW0034 (Second Filling)
Appropriation Date: 1/22/1981
Adjudication Date: 12/31/1981
Decreed Amount: 101,280 acre-feet
Bureau of Reclamation Contract: 139D6C0101
Contract Use: Municipal use in Colorado River Basin; includes “use of water by . . . piscatorial users, including delivery of water to supplement streamflow. . . .”
Contract Amount: 4,683.5 acre-feet
Amount Offered for Consideration: Up to 3,500 acre-feet.

Proposed Reach of Stream:
Fryingpan River: From the confluence with Rocky Ford Creek, adjacent to the outlet of Ruedi Reservoir, downstream to its confluence with the Roaring Fork River, a distance of approximately 14.4 miles.

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River: From the confluence with the headgate of the Grand Valley Irrigation Company (lat 39 06 06N long 108 20 48W) downstream to its confluence with the Gunnison River.

Purpose of the Acquisition and Proposed Season of Use:
The leased water would be used to supplement the existing 39 cfs ISF water right in the Fryingpan River to preserve the natural environment, and used at rates up to 70 cfs to meet the Roaring Fork Conservancy and Colorado Parks and Wildlife flow recommendations to improve the natural environment to a reasonable degree. The leased water would be used to also supplement the existing ISF water rights in the 15-Mile Reach to preserve the natural environment from July 1 – September 30, 2019, and to provide water at rates above the existing decreed ISF rates to help meet or reduce shortfalls to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (“USFWS”) flow recommendations for the endangered fish critical habitat in that reach to improve the natural environment to a reasonable degree from April 1 –December 31, 2019.

Water stored in Ruedi Reservoir will be released to the Fryingpan River during the winter time period. The existing instream flow water right is decreed for 39 cfs from November 1 – April 30. The objective of the lease would be to maintain Fryingpan River flows at a rate of 70 cfs to prevent the formation of anchor ice at times when temperatures and low flows could otherwise combine to create anchor ice, which adversely impacts aquatic macroinvertebrates and trout fry.

The 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River provides critical habitat for two species of endangered fish: the Colorado pikeminnow and the razorback sucker. This reach is sensitive to water depletions because of its location downstream of several large diversions. It provides spawning habitat for these endangered fish species as well as high-quality habitat for adult fish. Due to development on the Colorado River, this reach has experienced declining flows and significant dewatering during the late summer months, and at times, there are shortages in the springtime. As a result, the USFWS has issued flow recommendations for the 15-Mile Reach since 1989 to protect instream habitat for the endangered fish.

Supporting Data:
Available information concerning the purpose of the acquisition and the degree of preservation and improvement of the natural environment, and available scientific data is available at:

https://dnrweblink.state.co.us/cwcb/0/edoc/213103/6.pdf?searchid=2484c28a-57b0-4eb7-8831-b8085c8ffa2b

Linda Bassi
Stream and Lake Protection Section
Colorado Water Conservation Board
1313 Sherman Street, Room 721
Denver, CO 80203
linda.bassi@state.co.us
303-866-3441 x3204

Kaylea White
Stream and Lake Protection Section
Colorado Water Conservation Board
1313 Sherman Street, Room 721
Denver, CO 80203
kaylea.white@state.co.us
303-866-3441 x3240

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Pitkin County launches project to restore ancient wetland at North Star Preserve near Aspen — @AspenJournalism

Liza Mitchell, a natural resource planner and ecologist with Pitkin County, shows off the recent work on a restoration project at a fen on North Star Nature Preserve, on Aug. 26. This fiber mat is plugging an old ditch that drained water from the wetland to the Roaring Fork River. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Natalie Keltner-McNeil):

On a recent morning, Liza Mitchell of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails rolled out fiber mats over a soil-filled portion of a ditch in the North Star Nature Preserve, adding a final layer to a wetland plug that the natural resource planner and ecologist and her team had been working on for the three weeks prior.

The plug is the central component of the program’s fen-restoration project, which aims to enhance the wetland’s ability to provide habitat, store and filter groundwater, and sequester carbon.

While North Star is known as an idyllic paddleboarding and beach destination, 77% of the preserve is closed to public access. This includes the property west of the Roaring Fork River, where the fen sits.

The preserve’s 245 acres function primarily to protect native species and ecosystems. The first 175 acres of the preserve were bought by the Nature Conservancy in 1977. In 2001, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails and the city of Aspen jointly purchased the 70 acres below the initial property, creating the current North Star Nature Preserve, according to the 2020 North Star management plan.

“It’s for wildlife,” Mitchell said of North Star.

Liza Mitchell, a natural resource planner and ecologist with Pitkin County, stands near the wetlands on the North Star Nature Preserve on Aug. 26. A restoration project aims to keep water in the fen, which is habitat for many kinds of wildlife, including ducks, plovers and moose. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

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Critical to the nature preserve

Aligning with the goal of conservation, Open Space and Trails staff identified the North Star fen as a site for ecological restoration. Situated in the northwest corner of the property, the 14-acre fen, which is a peat-filled wetland, is populated with sedges, reeds and grasses.

The wetland is critical to the entire preserve, providing wildlife habitat, water filtration and flood mitigation. In dry months, groundwater stored in the fen percolates into the Roaring Fork River, benefiting the watershed and its thirsty users, Mitchell said.

Yet, due to human alterations to the watershed and North Star, the fen is drying out. In 1936, two tunnels, multiple canals, and the Grizzly and Lost Man reservoirs were completed as part of the Independence Pass Trans-Mountain Diversion System. The system moves water from the upper Roaring Fork River basin to the east side of the Continental Divide, satisfying the water needs of Colorado’s largest cities, according to the 2020 management plan.

This system diverts as much as 40% of the Roaring Fork’s headwaters upstream of the preserve, reducing the volume of river water that flows into the property and saturates the fen, Mitchell said.

The fen underwent further drying in the 1950s, when the preserve was a private ranch owned by James Smith. Smith dug ditches through the fen for pasture and hay cultivation, and those ditches continue to drain standing water into the Roaring Fork, according to Mitchell.

The wetland plug combats the drying by slowing the outflow of water from the fen into the Roaring Fork River. Mitchell, two staffers from Basalt-based Diggin It Riverworks and two ecological consultants began the plug construction Aug. 10. The first week, the team filled 130 feet of the main ditch with a mixture of locally sourced and imported soil. In the second and third weeks, the team added a layer of local soil, scattered native plant seeds and sealed it all with hay, mulch and matting, Mitchell said.

“It’s been a pretty quick project,” she said. “We’ve really tried to get in, get out and minimize disturbance as much as possible.”

The wetland plug is 130 feet long, and composed of a mixture of local and imported soil, hydromulch, straw, native seeds and erosion mats. The restoration team later added wattles across the plug, and they hope to engage the community in planting native sedges and rushes across the top of the plug this spring. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

6,700 years of carbon sequestration

The wetland plug increases saturated conditions in the fen, or the presence of standing water, enhancing the fen’s ability to provide ecological services to the preserve. For instance, saturated conditions allow fens to function as carbon sequesters by storing peat, or carbon-rich plant material.

Peat accumulates at a rate of 8 inches per 1,000 years, according to David Cooper, wetland ecologist and professor at Colorado State University. With 53 inches of peat soil, the North Star fen is estimated to be 6,700 years old, according to a Pitkin County news release.

“Peatlands make up about 5% of the land surface of the world,” Cooper said, “but almost 45% to 50% of all the soil carbon on Earth is in peatlands.” When fens dry up, the carbon stored as peat is released as carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming, he said.

Saturated conditions also support wildlife. Standing water creates the ideal habitat for native plants, such as beaked and blister sedge, as well as native amphibians and waterfowl. Saturated conditions suffocate canary grass, an invasive species that spread increasingly through the fen as it dries up, Mitchell said.

Wet by standing water, fens filter groundwater. The peat body removes excess nitrogen as well as heavy metals that would otherwise accumulate in watershed fish populations, Cooper said.

The project’s final phase, completed this past week, involves adding wattles and straw bales to two smaller ditches in the fen to retain groundwater storage and promote standing water conditions. Photo credit: Liza Mitchell/Pitkin County OST via Aspen Journalism

A positive for North Star neighbors

Mitchell anticipated finishing the construction phase of the restoration project this past week. She plans to place wattles, or cylinders of hay, across the wetland plug to prevent soil and seed erosion. She also will add hay bales and cylinders to the fen’s two smaller ditches to retain water and provide a surface for native plants.

After this construction phase, a hydrologist and botanist hired by Open Space and Trails will monitor the fen for three years. The consultants will conduct studies and submit reports to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which issued the initial permit for the project in 2018, according to Mitchell.

In the spring of 2021, Open Space and Trails staffers hope to get the local community involved with the project by having volunteers plant native sedges and rushes over the plug.

Already, community response to the restoration project has been very positive. Even without physical access to the fen, neighbors are excited about the prospect of improving habitat for wildlife, such as blue heron and elk, which they enjoy watching from their windows, Mitchell said.

“North Star can get a lot of negative attention surrounding the paddleboarding and recreation use, so it’s really nice to have another project that there seems to be widespread agreement on,” Mitchell said. “Everyone can get behind that it’s a pretty light touch for a pretty big benefit.”

This story ran in the Sept. 5 edition of The Aspen Times.

Hard-to-predict water year leaves Ruedi Reservoir levels low — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Sailboats dock at the Aspen Yacht Club marina in 2018. Levels in Ruedi Reservoir are projected to be down to about 84,500 acre-feet around Sept. 1, which could reduce access to the club’s boat ramp. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

Ruedi Reservoir is feeling the effects of an unusual water year, with less water for endangered fish and with low reservoir levels predicted for late summer and fall.

“This year was a strange year,” Tim Miller, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist who manages operations at Ruedi, said at an annual public meeting about reservoir operations held virtually Wednesday. “For most of the year, it seemed like we were doing well, we thought we would get a fill on the reservoir. However, things really turned around in late spring and early summer.”

At the meeting convened by the Bureau of Reclamation, Miller said the reservoir, which holds just over 102,000 acre-feet of water, topped out at 96,750 acre-feet this year — about 5,000 acre-feet short of filling. That means there is 5,000 acre-feet less water available this season to boost flows downstream for endangered fish in what’s known as the “15-mile reach” of the Colorado River near Grand Junction.

As reservoir levels continue to drop over the next month, Aspen Yacht Club members may not be able to access the boat ramp over Labor Day weekend. By Sept. 1, reservoir levels are predicted to be down to about 84,500 acre-feet and the surface to be at an elevation of 7,747 feet, which is 19 feet lower than when it’s full.

“After Sept. 1, it’s going to be dicey,” Miller said of accessing the private marina’s boat ramp. The U.S. Forest Service boat ramp will still be accessible at those levels, he said.

Bruce Gabow of the Aspen Yacht Club said that when water levels are 13 feet below full, the club’s docks become grounded and inoperable. He said that most years, boats are taken out of the reservoir by mid-September, but with water levels dropping sooner this year, many will need to go before the end of August.

“Everyone has kind of been expecting it, but they will be bummed out,” he said of the club’s members.

Ruedi Reservoir is currently 92% full, at 94,065 acre-feet. It topped out on July 17 at 96,914 acre-feet. In 2018, the reservoir also didn’t fill, topping out at 92,650 acre-feet, according to Miller.

Each spring, Miller must decide how much water to release from Ruedi and when to release it to make room for inflow from snowmelt. Those decisions are based on streamflow forecasts from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, as well as the Bureau of Reclamation’s statistical forecasts.

This year’s unusual conditions made for tricky forecasting, leading some to question whether more and better data collection is needed, instead of relying primarily on snow telemetry, or SNOTEL, data. These automated remote sensors collect weather and snowpack information in remote watersheds, but they provide only a snapshot of a specific location. Each of the three forecasting agencies over-predicted Ruedi inflow for the months of April, May and June.

Usually, the amount of runoff closely mirrors snowpack. And with snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin slightly above normal, as measured by SNOTEL sites, it seemed that is where runoff would also end up. But parched soils from a dry fall sucked up some of the moisture before it made its way to streams and eventually the reservoir. Miller also suspects that a high rate of sublimation — where snow goes from a frozen state to vapor, skipping the liquid phase — may have also played a role.

“To do our statistical forecast, it’s 90% snowpack only,” Miller said. “We had some different variables this year.”

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By the end of May, Miller realized inflow projections were too high and began scaling back releases. Ruedi also did not participate in Coordinated Reservoir Operations this year. In the annual CROS, which began around May 29, water managers from across the state aimed to enhance peak spring runoff by releasing water from reservoirs at the same time. The peak flows have ecological benefits, especially for fish in the 15-mile reach.

“It was pretty much a last-minute declaration we couldn’t do CROS,” Miller said.

This photo from August 2018 shows low water levels at the Aspen Yacht Club docks at Ruedi Reservoir. The reservoir missed filling by 5,000 acre-feet in 2020 because of low runoff. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Better data?

April Long, executive director of Ruedi Water & Power Authority, suggested that water managers should explore other ways of collecting data in addition to SNOTEL information to improve forecast accuracy. The city of Aspen and Denver Water have experimented with LiDAR technology — which analyzes the reflection of laser light to create detailed three-dimensional maps — to track the depth of mountain snowpack, providing a more complete picture of the water contained in that snowpack.

“With this year of unexpected results from our snowpack and the way it melted off, I have concern that with climate change and climate variability, we are going to see more uncertainty,” Long said in a follow-up interview with Aspen Journalism. “I wonder how much benefit we could gain if we knew a little more.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the date Ruedi storage peaked in 2020.

Aspen Journalism is a local, investigative, nonprofit news organization that collaborates on coverage of water and rivers with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers. This story ran in the Aug. 7 edition of The Aspen Times.

Reservoir Releases to Bolster Flows in 15-Mile Reach of #ColoradoRiver — The #Colorado Water Trust #COriver #aridification

A map of the Fry-Ark system. Aspen, and Hunter Creek, are shown in the lower left. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project western and upper eastern slope facilities.

Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Trust, et al. (Mark Harris, Mark Harris, Donald Anderson, and Scott McCaulou):

On Saturday, August 1, Colorado Water Trust, Grand Valley Water Users Association, and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District will initiate their implementation of an agreement that will deliver 877 acre-feet of water to the Grand Valley Power Plant and the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River above its confluence with the Gunnison River near Grand Junction, Colorado this summer. Grand Valley Water Users Association and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District identified available capacity in their water delivery system for Colorado Water Trust to deliver water decreed for power generation through the Grand Valley Power Plant, from where it subsequently returns to the 15-Mile Reach. This delivery will mark the second execution of an innovative agreement that Colorado Water Trust, Grand Valley Water Users Association, and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District entered last year with assistance from the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The agreement furthers common goals of streamflow restoration for the 15-Mile Reach and takes steps toward unlocking a $425,000 grant from Walton Family Foundation to renovate the aging Grand Valley Power Plant. Thanks to donor support, Colorado Water Trust has purchased stored water from the Colorado River District. That water will be released from Ruedi Reservoir to the Colorado River for use in the power plant and to increase 15-Mile Reach flows to support four species of endangered fish including the Colorado Pikeminnow, Humpback Chub, Bonytail, and Razorback Sucker.

“We are so grateful to Grand Valley Water Users Association and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District for coordinating with us to boost flows in the 15-Mile Reach. Seeing the project work for a second year in a row proves the lasting success of our partnerships, and it’s particularly important to the fish this year, with flows as low as they are.” says Kate Ryan, Senior Staff Attorney for Colorado Water Trust.

This is the second time in the past two summers that Colorado Water Trust purchased water stored in Ruedi Reservoir for release to the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River to help maintain healthy streamflow and water temperatures. Purchases since 2019 will result in delivering over 1200 acre-feet of water to the Colorado River. Colorado Water Trust works closely with Grand Valley Water Users Association and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District to identify when there is available capacity in the power plant. Colorado Water Trust also works closely with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program to determine when the 15-Mile Reach needs supplemental water most to support the fish. When these two conditions overlap, Colorado Water Trust releases the water purchased out of storage for delivery to the power plant and then the 15-Mile Reach.

“Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and the Grand Valley Water Users Association appreciate the Colorado Water Trust’s facilitation of this agreement–it benefits our two organizations at the Grand Valley Power Plant, and the many other water users who support flows through the 15-Mile Reach. We believe these kinds of collaborative efforts to be of great value to the people of Colorado, the Colorado River, and the fish,” says Mark Harris, General Manager of Grand valley Water Users Association.

“Maintaining adequate flows for endangered fish through the 15-Mile Reach is possible only because of the extraordinary cooperation our Recovery Program enjoys from multiple partners and stakeholders. We are delighted to add the Colorado Water Trust to that mix of cooperators. This year, in light of unusually low flow conditions in the Colorado River, the additional water made available through this leasing arrangement is especially welcome,” says Donald Anderson, Hydrologist and Instream Flow Coordinator for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy also helps to inform Colorado Water Trust of conditions on the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork Rivers to so that releases will complement flows on the stream sections between Ruedi Reservoir and the Colorado River. This year, the water released from Ruedi Reservoir will serve a few purposes before it supports the health of endangered, native fish in the Colorado River in the 15-Mile Reach. The water will bring flows in the Fryingpan River closer to their average, and will cool water temperatures on the Roaring Fork River. Finally, on the Colorado River, the water will generate hydropower, helping to produce clean energy.

“Flowing rivers are an economic engine in Colorado, providing immense value to irrigators, drinking water providers, and recreation across the state,” says Todd Reeve, CEO of Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Director of Business for Water Stewardship. “It is for this reason that we are seeing more and more corporate funders step forward to invest in innovative projects like this one that help keep the rivers in Colorado flowing.”

Essential to the project’s success are dedicated donors: Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Coca Cola, Colorado Water Trust donors, and Daniel K. Thorne Foundation. Without these generous donations and the collaborative work of local and state agencies, water releases to support the health of the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River would not be possible.

ABOUT COLORADO WATER TRUST: Colorado Water Trust is a statewide nonprofit organization that works collaboratively with partners all across Colorado on restoring flow to Colorado’s rivers in need using solutions that benefit both the people we work with and our rivers. Since 2001, we’ve restored 12 billion gallons of water to rivers and streams across the state.

This map shows the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River near Grand Junction, home to four species of endangered fish. Water from Ruedi Reservoir flows down the Fryingpan River and into the Roaring Fork, which flows into the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Map credit: CWCB

@USBR to Host Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations Public Meeting #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From email from Reclamation (Elizabeth Jones):

The Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled the annual public meeting to discuss the Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations for the 2020 water year.

The meeting will be held on August 5, 2020, from 6:30-8:00 pm using Webex (Webex is a web-based platform that hosts online meetings with HD video, audio and screen sharing.)

To join from a mobile device (attendees only):
Dial: 1-415-527-5035, 1992510741## US Toll

To join by phone:
Dial: 1-415-527-5035 US Toll

The meeting will provide an overview of Ruedi Reservoir’s 2020 projected operations for late summer and early fall, which are key tourist seasons in Basalt. Also, representatives of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will give a presentation on the upcoming implementation of the Ute Water Conservancy District and Garfield County leases of Ruedi Reservoir water to the Board for instream flow use in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River. The meeting will include a public question and answer session.

For more information, please contact Tim Miller, Hydrologist, Eastern Colorado Area Office, by phone or e-mail: (970) 290-4895, or tmiller@usbr.gov.

The blue expanse of Ruedi Reservoir as seen from the air. Students with the Carbondale-based Youth Water Leadership Program took to the air with EcoFlight to see how people have modified water in the Roaring Fork watershed. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

Arkansas Valley Conduit funding gets final approval — The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Ryan Severance):

Construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit is expected to begin in the near future following the state’s approval of a $100 million financing package for it.

The Colorado General Assembly has approved the annual Colorado Water Conservation project bill that contains the funding, and Gov. Jared Polis signed that bill into law earlier this week…

The Arkansas Valley Conduit is estimated to cost between $564 and $610 million to complete over a 15-year period, according to Chris Woodka of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The $100 million in state funding would include $90 million in loans and $10 million in grants over the life of the project. When complete, the conduit will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities.

The conduit had received funding since 2010 to prepare for construction of the 130-mile pipeline which will deliver a safe drinking water supply to the Lower Arkansas Valley.

In February, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that $28 million of fiscal year 2020 funding was being directed to the conduit in an effort to move from planning and design into construction. An additional $8 million has been requested for fiscal year 2021 and is under consideration by Congress, Woodka said.

Arkansas Valley Conduit “A Path Forward” November 22, 2019 via Southeastern.

Governor Signs Bill to Fund Arkansas Valley Conduit — Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District applauded state approval of a $100 million financing package for the Arkansas Valley Conduit that will allow construction to begin in the near future.

The Colorado General Assembly passed the annual Colorado Water Conservation project bill which contains the funding earlier this month, and Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law on Monday.

“The Arkansas Valley Conduit will be a lifeline for the Lower Arkansas Valley for generations to come,” said Bill Long, President of the Southeastern District. “Governor Polis, the General Assembly and the CWCB have all shown vision and foresight with this support of the AVC. This goes beyond just financing a pipeline, because really it’s an investment to assure clean drinking water for the future.”

Long also noted the strong bipartisan support the AVC enjoys from the entire Colorado congressional delegation, and noted in particular the leadership of Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and Congressmen Scott Tipton and Ken Buck.

“I want to thank the CWCB board and staff for including this funding in their annual bill, and express our sincere gratitude to the legislators from the Arkansas Basin for their leadership and support,” said Kevin Karney, chairman of the District’s AVC committee. “The recognition by the State of Colorado of the benefit of partnering with the Bureau of Reclamation on this project is an enormous boost.”

The AVC is estimated to cost between $564 million and $610 million to complete over a 15-year period. The $100 million in state funding would include $90 million in loans and $10 million in grants over the life of the project. When complete, the AVC will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities.

The AVC had received funding since 2010 to prepare for construction of the 130-mile pipeline which will deliver a safe drinking water supply to the Lower Arkansas Valley. In February of this year, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that $28 million of FY ’20 funding was being directed to the conduit, in an effort to move from planning and design into construction. An additional $8 million has been requested for FY ’21 and is under consideration by Congress.

“The unanimous approval of this funding package by the CWCB board last November was the absolute catalyst for an improved federal funding picture,” said Southeastern District Executive Director Jim Broderick. “Colorado, like other Western states, recognizes developing a strong partnership with Reclamation allows us to overcome water quality and water supply challenges in rural areas.”

Arkansas Valley Conduit “A Path Forward” November 22, 2019 via Southeastern.

#Runoff news: Generally below average streamflow W. of the Continental Divide of the Americas @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The Roaring Fork River near Mill Street in Aspen was flowing around 255 cfs on Thursday afternoon. The Colorado River Basin Forecast Center predicts spring runoff will peak here for the year on Saturday. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

Flows in local rivers are peaking this week, with a spring runoff that is slightly earlier and lower than normal.

“It kind of depends on where you are, but on the Colorado (River’s) main stem, for sure, the peak is below average,” said Cody Moser, senior hydrologist with the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center in Salt Lake City.

But despite the lower-than-average flows, this weekend is probably one of the best of the year to go boating on local waterways.

Vince Nichols, owner of the Aspen-based rafting company Blazing Adventures, said this weekend’s relatively big water is akin to a powder day.

The company is running trips on the upper Roaring Fork River, especially the Slaughterhouse section between Cemetery Lane and Woody Creek, and doing so in accordance with Pitkin County-mandated social-distancing and cleaning guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This will likely be one of the high-water weekends of the year,” Nichols said. “For the next seven to 10 days, there will be really good rafting conditions on the Roaring Fork.”

Flows in the Roaring Fork, at its confluence with the Colorado in Glenwood Springs, are predicted to be 74% of average for April through June. According to stream gauges, the Roaring Fork appears to have hit its peak seasonal flow on June 2 at just over 4,000 cubic feet per second. The normal period for peak runoff at this location is between May 29 and June 23, at about 5,900 cfs.

Predicting the exact day of peak flows near Aspen is trickier. The forecast center is predicting a peak for the Roaring Fork in Aspen on Saturday, at 490 cfs, because of rain expected that day. The Roaring Fork at Mill Street was running at a daily high of about 330 cfs on Thursday.

There would be more water flowing through Aspen if not for the Twin Lakes Tunnel, which takes water from the Roaring Fork headwaters near Independence Pass to Front Range water providers. About 600 cfs of water from the upper Roaring Fork basin was being diverted through the tunnel Thursday.

“The challenge is we’ve got that big warmup and precipitation in the forecast in this weekend,” Moser said. “It’s kind of a tough call.”

The low runoff, despite a snowpack that was slightly above normal, is due to 2019’s dry late summer and fall, plus this year’s drier-than-average March, April and May. Dry soils and plants sucked up a lot of the moisture before it made its way into the streams.

This photo taken on Thursday, June 4, shows little snow left on top of Independence Pass, the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River. This year’s peak spring runoff is slightly earlier and lower than normal. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Below-average flows

According to the U.S. Geological Survey gauges, the Crystal River near Redstone appears to have peaked on June 2, at about 1,750 cfs. The Crystal at this location usually peaks between May 25 and June 18, at about 1,930 cfs.

Downstream on the Colorado, flows peaked in DeBeque Canyon, above Grand Junction, on June 2, at about 13,300 cfs. A typical peak is about 17,000 cfs between May 24 and June 12.

This year’s peak flows on the Colorado near Grand Junction were augmented by releases from several upstream reservoirs to the benefit of endangered fish in the 15-mile reach between Palisade and the Gunnison River, which flows into the Colorado in central Grand Junction.

Beginning May 29, Green Mountain Reservoir, Wolford Mountain Reservoir, the Moffat Tunnel and other water-storage facilities released water to enhance the Colorado’s natural peak in the 15-mile reach. The augmented high flows enhance fish habitat.

Ruedi Reservoir, above Basalt on the Fryingpan River, did not participate in the coordinated reservoir operations this year because there was not surplus water to contribute, said Tim Miller, a hydrologist with the Bureau of Reclamation who manages water levels in Ruedi.

“I was getting kind of worried about fill a month ago,” Miller said. “I was pretty sure we didn’t have extra. We haven’t received anything near average precipitation for part of April or all of May.”

Ruedi Reservoir, which can hold 102,373 acre-feet of water, is currently 79% full. Releases from Ruedi will decrease Friday to allow it to fill, bringing flows on the Fryingpan to 115 cfs. Miller said it could end up about 5,000 acre-feet short of filling this year, which usually happens in early July.

Aspen Journalism is a local, nonprofit and investigative news organization that covers water and river issues in collaboration with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers. This story ran in the June 5 edition of The Aspen Times.

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

As of June 3, the San Juan River had a reported flow of 745 cfs, lower than the average for June 3 of 1,560 cfs.

The highest reported flow total for the San Juan River came in 1948 when the river had a reported flow of 4,090 cfs.

The lowest flow total for the San Juan River came in 2002 when the river had a flow of just 116 cfs.

Arkansas Valley Conduit will provide fresh water to towns of Southeastern #Colorado — The Mountain Mail

Arkansas Valley Conduit “A Path Forward” November 22, 2019 via Southeastern.

From The Mountain Mail (Cody Olivas):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently adopted a project management plan that will guide construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit…

Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, said he didn’t see the AVC having much impact on Salidans and others in the area. “It’s not going to change river flows,” he said. “It’s not going to impact the allocation (of water) communities in the upper basin get.”

After thinking about it for a second he said some transit loss might have a “minimal impact” on irrigators, but added that the advantages of the project far outweigh those potential effects.

[Sam] Braverman said they’re not creating any new water diversions from Colorado’s Western Slope. The big change, he said, is that water will now be piped from Pueblo to surrounding municipalities instead of letting it flow to them in the river, which will improve drinking water quality…

Salinity, selenium and uranium found in the natural environment all pose water-quality challenges for the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado.

Several communities the conduit will serve currently can’t drink their tap water.

“There’s at least 5,000 people who literally have radioactive water coming out of their pipes,” Braverman said. “They can’t drink their water, and (the municipalities) can’t afford to filter it out.”

Braverman said another 11,000-12,000 people in the communities get their water from reverse osmosis, but the state doesn’t see those systems as permanent solutions because they put their effluent back into the river. He said drying the effluent, packing it and taking it to landfills would be too costly to be a realistic solution.

“There’s no way those communities could afford to do that,” he said. “The AVC is really the only answer for all of these communities; this a game changer for disadvantaged areas.”

The AVC will provide water for municipal and industrial use.

The project management plan describes how the project will be executed, monitored and controlled.

Under the plan, the Pueblo Board of Water Works will deliver AVC water to a point east of Pueblo. A contract among the Reclamation Bureau, Pueblo Water and Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is in the discussion stage. From that point, the bureau will construct the trunk line, a treatment plant and water tanks, while Southeastern will coordinate with communities to fund and build connections.

Southeastern will serve as lead on the “spur and delivery lines” portion of the project and seek funding to design and construct this portion of the project, $100 million of which has already been secured from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, subject to legislative approval.

Braverman said they just started final design on the first 12 miles of the pipeline…

Braverman said communities the AVC will serve have been hearing about it for decades, but getting the $28 million recently was the first chunk of money they’ve secured to begin construction.

“That was a complete shift from where we were,” Braverman said. “Now it’s just a matter of the funding stream continuing.”

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

Project Management Plan Developed for Arkansas Valley Conduit — Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Arkansas Valley Conduit “A Path Forward” November 22, 2019 via Southeastern.

Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Bureau of Reclamation have adopted a project management plan that will guide construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit (AVC).

The AVC is a pipeline project that will deliver clean drinking water to 40 communities serving 50,000 people from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads on the eastern plains. This water supply is needed to supplement or replace existing poor quality water and to help meet AVC participants’ projected water demands. The estimated cost of the AVC is between $564 million and $610 million.

“The Project Management Plan is the blueprint for how we will build the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and an important step in the future of the AVC,” said Bill Long, President of the Southeastern District Board of Directors. “The AVC is absolutely necessary for the future water quality and health of the Arkansas Valley.”

“The Department of the Interior and Reclamation are committed to improving the water supplies of rural southeastern Colorado,” said Commissioner Brenda Burman. “I look forward to our continued collaboration with Southeastern to move this long-delayed project forward.”

“The communities of the Lower Arkansas Valley deserve clean drinking water, which the Arkansas Valley Conduit will supply for 50,000 Coloradans for generations to come,” said Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colo. “I was proud to secure robust federal funding of $28 million to begin construction for the first time since Congress authorized the project and President Kennedy promised completion nearly six decades ago. The project management plan adopted by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy is another great step forward for this project and I’ll continue to work with local and federal leaders to ensure we deliver abundant and affordable clean drinking water to the Colorado communities in need.”

“This is a significant milestone in our efforts towards construction of the AVC,” said Jeff Rieker, Eastern Colorado Area Manager for Reclamation. “This plan will guide design and construction by Reclamation and Southeastern, and streamline our joint efforts to provide clean water to these communities.”

Reclamation and Southeastern have worked together for the past year to envision a layout for the AVC that reaches communities with the poorest water quality most quickly, reduces overall costs, and reduces the need for federal appropriations. Many communities have issues with radioactive elements in groundwater supplies. Others face increasing costs to treat water and to dispose of waste by-products from that treatment.

Under the plan, AVC water will be delivered to a point east of Pueblo by the Pueblo Board of Water Works. A contract among Reclamation, Pueblo Water and Southeastern is in the discussion stage.

From that point, Reclamation will construct the trunk line, a treatment plant and water tanks, while Southeastern will coordinate with communities to fund and build connections. Reclamation and Southeastern continue to meet regularly, using remote technology, to work on activities such as design, land acquisition and environmental review that will lead to construction.

“We’re on a path to begin construction in the near future, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Kevin Karney, who chairs Southeastern’s AVC Committee. “Part of that will be reaching out to AVC participants to help shape how the AVC is developed. Overall, I’m excited to see the AVC moving forward.”

Congress provided additional funds to Reclamation in FY 2020. Reclamation allocated $28 million for construction of the AVC in February, and an additional $8 million for 2021 was requested in the President’s budget. The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $100 million finance package that still must be approved by the Colorado Legislature. Other potential sources of funding are being considered.

The AVC was part of the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act, but was never built because communities could not afford 100 percent of the costs. In 2009, the Act was amended to provide a 65 percent federal cost share. Reclamation identified a preferred alternative in 2014, which has been modified in the latest project management plan.

xxx

For additional information, contact Chris Woodka at Southeastern, (719) 289-0785; Darryl Asher at Reclamation, (406) 247-7608.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project operations update

The blue expanse of Ruedi Reservoir as seen from the air. Students with the Carbondale-based Youth Water Leadership Program took to the air with EcoFlight to see how people have modified water in the Roaring Fork watershed. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Brittany Jones):

The release from Ruedi Reservoir will increase Friday afternoon by 25 cfs. The flow at the Fryingpan River gage below Ruedi Reservoir will change from 135 cfs to 160 cfs where it will remain for the near future.

For any concerns regarding Ruedi Reservoir operations please contact either Brittany or Elizabeth Jones at (406) 247-7611 or (406) 247-7618.

Friday, April 03 2020, 1400 hrs
Increase the reservoir release by approximately 25 cfs (carried out by High Country Hydro, Inc. personnel). After this change, the flow at the Fryingpan River gage below Ruedi Reservoir is expected to increase from 135 cfs to approximately 160 cfs, with a gage height of 1.76 feet.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project operations update

Fryingpan River downstream of Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

From email from Reclamation (Brittany Jones):

The release from Ruedi Reservoir will increase the afternoon of March 26 by 50 cfs. The flow at the Fryingpan River gage below Ruedi Reservoir will change from 85 cfs to 135 cfs where it will remain for the near future.

For any concerns regarding Ruedi Reservoir operations please contact either Brittany or Elizabeth Jones at (406) 247-7611 or (406) 247-7618.

On Thursday, March 26 at 1600, increase the reservoir release by approximately 50 cfs (carried out by High Country Hydro, Inc. personnel). After this change, the flow at the Fryingpan River gage below Ruedi Reservoir is expected to increase from 85 cfs to approximately 135 cfs, with a gage height of 1.64 feet.

Garfield County to lease its Ruedi Reservoir water to help endangered fish in #ColoradoRiver — @AspenJournalism #COriver #aridification

The “braiding” of shallow water and exposed riverbed concerns biologists. The 15-mile reach of the Colorado River near 19 Road in Grand Junction is home to four species of endangered fish. Garfield County is leasing some of the water it owns in Ruedi Reservoir to help bolster flows during late summer and early fall. Photo © Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

Through the release of water it owns in Ruedi Reservoir, Garfield County will help endangered fish species in an often-depleted section of the Colorado River.

Garfield County will lease 350 acre-feet of water annually over the next five years to the Colorado Water Conservation Board under the CWCB’s instream-flow program. The water will bolster flows July through October in the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River near Grand Junction, home to the endangered humpback chub, bonytail, razorback sucker and Colorado pikeminnow. The CWCB board approved Garfield County’s offer at its meeting last week in Westminster.

Garfield County owns 400 acre-feet a year of Ruedi water as a backup source for the county, municipalities and other water users within its service area. Since the county does not immediately need the water, it will lease the water to the CWCB for five years at $40 an acre-foot for the first year and $45 an acre-foot for the second year. The price would go up in years three through five by 2% annually. The maximum price the CWCB would pay for the water is $14,000 in 2020 and $78,915 over the five years of the lease.

Water from Ruedi Reservoir flows down the Fryingpan River and into the Roaring Fork, which flows into the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs.

“We are really appreciative that Garfield County stepped up and offered to lease the water,” said Linda Bassi, CWCB’s stream- and lake-protection chief. “You never know what kind of water year we are going to have, so it’s great to have an extra supply to send down to the reach for those fish.”

The blue expanse of Ruedi Reservoir as seen from the air. Students with the Carbondale-based Youth Water Leadership Program took to the air with EcoFlight to see how people have modified water in the Roaring Fork watershed. Garfield County is leasing 350 acre-feet of water it owns in Ruedi Reservoir to help bolster flows in the Colorado River for endangered fish. A section of fish habitat known as the 15-mile reach often has low flows in late summer because of two large upstream irrigation diversions. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

Preserving Fryingpan fishing

Late summer, flows in the 15-mile reach are often lower than what is recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for healthy fish habitat mainly because of two large upstream irrigation diversions: DeBeque Canyon’s Grand Valley Project, known as the Roller Dam, and Palisade’s Grand Valley Irrigation Canal.

Gail Schwartz, who represents the Colorado River mainstem, Fryingpan and Roaring Fork region on the CWCB board, reminded staffers of the need to coordinate flows out of Ruedi to preserve conditions for anglers. When flows exceed about 300 cubic feet per second, it becomes difficult to wade and fish the Fryingpan’s popular Gold Medal Fishery waters. At critical wading flows of 250 to 300 cfs, Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends releases be capped at 25 cfs to avoid dramatic changes for anglers.

“We want to support the economy and the recreation on the Fryingpan and we want to support the success of the 15-mile reach for the species,” Schwartz said.

This map shows the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River near Grand Junction, home to four species of endangered fish. Water from Ruedi Reservoir flows down the Fryingpan River and into the Roaring Fork, which flows into the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Map credit: CWCB

More fish water

At its March meeting, the CWCB board will consider another lease of Ruedi water for endangered fish. The Ute Water Conservancy District, which provides water to about 80,000 people in the Grand Junction area, is offering to renew its lease of 12,000 acre-feet of water it stores in Ruedi Reservoir. The CWCB could lease the water at $20 an acre-foot for 2020, at a total cost of $240,000.

Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of water and rivers. This story was published in the Feb. 6 edition of The Aspen Times.

Fryingpan River downstream of Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

Arkansas Valley Conduit gains federal funding — Southeastern #Colorado Water Conservancy District

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Here’s the release from Southeastern (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Valley Conduit received $28 million in federal funding to finish design and begin construction of the long-awaited pipeline.

“We are very grateful and thankful for the work of Senator Gardner and our delegation in securing this funding,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor of the AVC. “This amount of money is a real milestone in the history of the project.”

[…]

“I think this is a wonderful example of bi-partisan support and partnership of federal, state and local officials that is needed to secure a safe drinking water supply, not only for the people of Southeastern Colorado, but for every rural American,” Long said…

The AVC is seen by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as the best remedy for high levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials in drinking water for about 15 of the water providers. Other communities are also facing issues of expensive treatment for other sorts of contamination.

The $28 million is the first step in a $600 million project to provide clean drinking water from Pueblo Dam through a 130-pipeline to Lamar and Eads. The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $100 million finance package for AVC in November. State legislative approval is needed to finalize the availability of those funds.

The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Interior worked with other cabinet-level agencies in the past two months as part of an initiative to find efficiencies in construction of water projects.

The AVC will provide clean drinking water to about 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.

The AVC was first authorized as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in 1962 as a way to provide supplemental water to communities east of Pueblo. It was never built because of the cost to local water systems.

In 2009, federal legislation made revenues from the Fry-Ark Project available for construction and repayment of the AVC. A 2014 Record of Decision by the Bureau of Reclamation determined the AVC was the best solution for water quality and supply problems in the Lower Arkansas Valley.

Reclamation has worked with the Southeastern District for the past three years in planning efforts to reduce costs and the time needed to reach water systems east of Pueblo.

Pueblo Dam. Photo credit: Dsdugan [CC0] via Wikimedia Commons

From Senator Bennet’s office:

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today released the following statement applauding news that the Arkansas Valley Conduit will receive $28 million of Bureau of Reclamation funding to begin construction on the water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley, which would bring clean drinking water to an estimated 50,000 Coloradans:

“For more than five decades, Coloradans in the southeastern corner of our state have been waiting for the federal government to fulfill its promise to deliver clean drinking water to their communities. Since I came to the Senate, we’ve worked together to pursue any and every avenue possible to ensure we fulfill that promise and build the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” said Bennet. “I’m thrilled this project is one step closer to breaking ground and ensuring that families in southeastern Colorado have access to a safe water supply.”

The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado.

In 2009:

  • Congress passed legislation by Bennet and former U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to authorize the construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
  • Bennet worked to secure $5 million in funding to begin construction on the Conduit as part of the Energy and Water Appropriations Conference Report.

    In 2013:

  • Bennet and his colleagues sent a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation to quickly approve the Conduit’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) in order to expedite the project’s completion.
  • In 2014:

  • Following Bennet and Udall’s efforts to urge the Bureau of Reclamation to quickly approve the Conduit’s EIS, the Record of Decision was signed in February.
  • After the President’s budget included an insufficient level of funding for the project, Bennet led a bipartisan letter urging the administration and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to allow the Conduit’s construction to move ahead as planned.
  • Bennet successfully urged the Department of Interior to designate $2 million in reprogrammed funding from Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 for the Conduit.
  • Bennet secured language in the FY 2015 Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act that sent a clear signal to the Bureau of Reclamation that the Conduit should be a priority project.
  • In 2016:

  • Bennet secured $2 million from the Bureau of Reclamation’s reprogrammed funding for FY 2016.
  • Bennet secured $3 million for the Conduit as part of the FY 2017 Energy & Water Appropriations bill.
  • In 2017:

    Bennet secured $3 million for the Conduit for FY 2017.
    In 2019:

  • In April, Bennet and Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) wrote to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, urging them to prioritize funding for the Conduit.
  • Bennet, Gardner, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO-3), and Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO-4) wrote to the Department of the Interior urging the Department to support the project.
  • Bennet secured approximately $10 million for the Conduit in the December 2019 spending bills for Fiscal Year 2020.
  • From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit, a 130-mile water pipeline that would serve as many as 40 communities and 50,000 people east of Pueblo, is receiving a major financial boost to begin construction, decades after the project was authorized by the U.S. Congress…

    The funding will come from the Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation’s Fiscal Year 2020 work plan.

    John F. Kennedy at Commemoration of Fryingpan Arkansas Project in Pueblo, circa 1962.

    Arkansas Valley Conduit update

    From The La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Bette McFarren):

    Issues with clean water supply going back to the settlement of the Arkansas Valley will be aided by the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s approval of a $100 million packet for the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

    “The Southeastern District and Reclamation are working to reduce project costs and the need for up-front federal funding in order to begin construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit project. About $30 million has been invested in planning since 2011,” wrote Chris Woodka in a recent article about the CWCB’s action.

    “Most of the issues of water quality in the Arkansas Valley are dealing with nucleides,” said Tom Seaba, water and wastewater director for the City of La Junta. “Our new Waste Water Treatment Plan will reduce the contaminants going back into the river, and we will need time and accurate readings to see how effective it is. I don’t think of Selenium as a contaminant, but as a naturally occurring element in our area. We hope to install some other type of treatment to bring us into complete compliance. We are working under a discharge specific variance that is good for five years, and may be renewed for five years. All other elements are under control. We are in year two of the variance.

    “Many of the smaller systems, such as South Swink and May Valley, are in much worse condition. A cleaner water source from the Pueblo Water Reservoir would make compliance with clean water standards a non-issue.” Seaba said 15 of the 24 public water systems in Otero County have state water violations for naturally occurring radioactive contaminations.

    Swink and four other small systems are currently importing water from La Junta because of La Junta’s reverse osmosis water treatment plant. For smaller water companies, the improvements La Junta has made are not financially possible.

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    #Pueblo Reservoir update

    Pueblo Dam

    From The La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Bette McFarren) viaThe Bent County Democrat:

    Roy Vaughan of the Bureau of Reclamation thinks the Colorado water supply is good overall and particularly so in the Pueblo Reservoir.

    As of Nov. 12, 188,138 acre feet of water were stored in Pueblo, of which 141,594 a/f is water tied to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Water Project, the massive project that more than 50 years ago built Lake Pueblo; 41,475 a/f is excess capacity water; 16,142 a/f is winter water storage. There is room for more water — 103,779 a/f of project space in Pueblo; 5,287 a/f of project space in Twin and Turquoise Lakes.

    @CWCB_DNR approves $100 million package for Arkansas Valley Conduit — Southeastern #Colorado Water Conservancy District

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Here’s the release from Southeastern (Chris Woodka):

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board unanimously approved a $90 million loan and $10 million non-reimbursable investment for the Arkansas Valley Conduit at its November meeting.

    The loan, which still requires approval by the Colorado Legislature, will assist in a $500 million project that is being planned by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Bureau of Reclamation. The AVC will bring clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo in Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties.

    The Southeastern District and Reclamation are working to reduce project costs and the need for up-front federal funding in order to begin construction of the AVC project. About $30 million has been invested in planning since 2011.

    “Poor water quality has been an issue in this area of the state since before Colorado even existed.  All the way back to explorers traveling along the Arkansas River in the early 1800s noted the poor drinking water in their journals,” said CWCB board member Jack Goble, who lives in Hasty. “And the lack of clean drinking water still exists today.  Taking a drive down Highway 50, you’ll pass by dozens of water filling stations, with at least one in almost every town in the Valley.”

    In its presentation, the Southeastern District noted strong support from the State Legislature, the congressional delegation and Gov. Jerad Polis for AVC. The Legislature approved a resolution in January asking the Administration to restore AVC funding. The congressional delegation drafted its own letter to the Administration as well.

    “I will continue to support efforts to work with our departments on opportunities to seek state financing and grant opportunities to advance this project,” Polis wrote in a letter earlier this year.

    Bill Long, President of the Southeastern Board, introduced three of the system operators who will benefit from AVC: Rick Jones of the May Valley Water Association, Norman Noe of the South Swink Water Company, and Tom Seaba of La Junta.

    “The only way we can move forward in the Arkansas Valley is to have safe drinking water for all of our residents,” Long said.

    May Valley faces state enforcement actions for violations of state standards for radioactive contaminants it has dealt with for 20 years, and other solutions would cost as much as $200 per month per customer, Jones said.

    “It’s disheartening to be told you can’t drink the water,” Jones said.

    Noe told the CWCB that it is also becoming increasingly expensive to deal with radioactive waste that is produced by the wells that the communities rely on for a water supply.

    Seaba said 15 of the 24 public water systems in Otero County have state water violations for naturally occurring radioactive contamination. Four of the systems have already connected with La Junta. La Junta treats water with reverse-osmosis, but the waste stream contains selenium. The city spent $19 million on a wastewater plant and still cannot meet selenium standards.

    “If the conduit is funded and built, you will solve the problems for these communities,” Seaba said.

    The AVC was authorized in 1962, but was not built because local communities could not afford to pay 100 percent of the cost. New federal legislation in 2009 requires a 35 percent local cost share, but also allows revenues from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to be used for construction and repayment of the AVC.

    The presentation was at times emotional, teeing off with a recap of the history of the AVC by Alan Hamel, a Southeastern board member and former CWCB member. He showed a video of President John F. Kennedy, who came to Pueblo in 1962 and delivered a stirring speech about the importance of water projects to all of the people in the United States.

    Several CWCB members shared their own emotional comments during discussion.

    “It’s the responsibility of all of us on the board to make sure that all Coloradans have the basic right for clean drinking water,” said Heather Dutton, who chairs the CWCB.

    James W. Broderick Hydropower plant at Pueblo Dam dedicated

    Workers prepare a turbine and generator at the James W. Broderick Hydroelectric Power Facility at Pueblo Dam shortly before it began producing electricity this week. Photo credit: The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

    The James W. Broderick Hydropower Plant at Pueblo Dam was dedicated on Monday, September 16, [2019], before a crowd of about 100 people.

    The hydroelectric generating facility was completed in May 2019 and is named for James W. Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    Southeastern President Bill Long hailed Broderick’s vision for pursuing the project under a Lease of Power Privilege with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The process was started in 2011, and culminated in 2017, when the lease was signed. Construction of the $20.5 million plant took 18 months.

    “Jim has given a lot more than his name to the James W. Broderick Hydropower Plant. It has been Jim’s vision to create this project, and to use the revenues generated by the plant to enhance the benefits of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project,” Long said. “this is an example of the type of creative thinking and leadership that Jim brings to every aspect of his service to the Southeastern District.”

    Broderick, in accepting the honor, credited his wife Cindy and their daughter Amy for his own success as a water leader not only in southeastern Colorado, but throughout the state and the western region. Broderick currently is president of the Colorado River Water Users Association, and has led other agencies within the state, including Colorado Water Congress and the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

    Broderick also recognized the Southeastern District’s early partners in the Lease of Power Privilege, Colorado Springs Utilities and Pueblo Water, for technical assistance and support in bringing the power plant project to completion. Other contributors during the planning and construction process included Black Hills Energy and Pueblo West.

    [Those on] hand for the event [included] Brenda Burman, Commissioner of Reclamation, and Becky Mitchell of the Colorado Water Conservation Board…

    Burman said the plant is one of 14 built on existing dams so far under a Lease of Power Privilege, and shows how maximum benefits can be realized from existing federal projects. Reclamation operates the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in cooperation with the Southeastern District. The Project provides supplemental water for cities and farms in the Arkansas River basin by importing water from the Colorado River basin.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board provided a $17.2 million loan to construct the hydroelectric plant. Mitchell hailed the plant, which uses water to produce energy, as the type of project the state will become involved with as it moves in the future.

    The power plant will generate, on average, 28 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power 2,500 homes a year. It was constructed under a design-build contract with Mountain States Hydro of Sunnyside, Wash.

    Power will be sold to the City of Fountain, and to Fort Carson, through Colorado Springs Utilities.

    Arkansas Valley Conduit update

    From High Plains Public Radio (Abigail Beckman):

    Chris Woodka is with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. He said part of the reason we’re seeing more water systems violate water standards is that federal and state standards have changed. They are now accounting for even more minute quantities of contaminants.

    He said water from wells can be especially affected because, “shallow wells in the alluvial aquifer are high in organic contaminants, nitrate and selenium.”

    “Deeper wells often have elevated levels of radioactive materials,” he said. “And nearly all of the communities east of Pueblo take water from wells.”

    Some communities have responded by using water filters. Las Animas and La Junta have both installed large reverse osmosis membrane systems to remove contaminants from the water supply. Woodka said that has improved the taste and appearance.

    But, he said, even after filtration, radium and uranium can still remain in the water at low levels.

    And then there’s the cost.

    “Those communities still face tremendous expense in disposing of the waste from the treatment processes,” Woodka said, “which can only be reduced by adding more clean water.” And extra water, let alone clean water, is hard to come by in a drought-prone state like Colorado. But there is one possible solution that’s been in the works for decades.

    It’s called the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation describes the conduit as a “bulk water supply pipeline designed to meet existing and future municipal and industrial water demands in the Lower Arkansas River Basin.”

    It would include about 230 miles of buried pipeline, a water treatment facility, and water storage tanks. Water would be routed to six counties – Pueblo, Otero, Crowley, Bent, Kiowa and Prowers – and would serve an estimated 50,000 people.

    The project was first approved in 1962. Some work was completed in the early 1980’s, but the actual conduit has yet to come to completion. Woodka said that’s mainly because of cost.

    “[These] communities could never afford to build [the conduit] themselves.” Woodka explained.

    Congress passed a law in 2009 that reduced the amount of money local governments would have to pitch in for the project. Woodka said that finally made the construction of the conduit feasible.

    But it’s still a $500 million project.

    “The main problem that we’ve run into,” said Woodka, ”has been getting adequate federal appropriations to start building it. He said they are working on ways to lower the overall costs of the project.”

    Woodka said lawmakers at the state and national level have been “extremely active” in promoting this project on both sides of the political spectrum…

    [Republican State Senator Larry Crowder] said the key now is for residents to get involved.

    “We’re getting the cities involved, we’re getting the people in the cities involved to send letters to Senator Gardner, Senator Bennet and Congressmen Buck and Tipton,” he said, “to make sure that they are aware of how the people feel about it.”

    @USBR to Host Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations Public Meeting

    Fryingpan River downstream of Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Tyler Johnson):

    The Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled the annual public meeting to discuss the Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations for the 2019 water year.

    The meeting will be held on August 7, 2019, from 6:30-8:00 pm at the following location:

    Roaring Fork Conservancy River Center
    22800 Two Rivers Road
    Basalt, CO 81621

    The meeting will provide an overview of Ruedi Reservoir’s 2019 projected operations for late summer and early fall, which are key tourist seasons in Basalt. Also, representatives of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will give a presentation on the upcoming implementation of the Ute Water Conservancy District lease of Ruedi Reservoir water to the Board for instream flow use in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River. The meeting will include a public question and answer session.

    For more information, please contact Tim Miller, Hydrologist, Eastern Colorado Area Office, by phone or e-mail: (970) 461-5494, or tmiller@usbr.gov.

    Ruedi Reservoir expected to fill, and maybe spill — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    The ungated spillway at Ruedi Dam and Reservoir, which automatically spills water into the lower Fryingpan River should the reservoir ever fill beyond its holding capacity of 102,373 acre-feet.

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    Those who keep an eye on the lower Fryingpan River, below Ruedi Reservoir, may have noticed that the river’s flow increased this week in three distinct steps.

    On Monday, the river was flowing steadily at just about 200 cubic feet per second.

    On Tuesday, it stepped up to 250 cfs, and on Thursday, it took another 50 cfs jump, to 300 cfs.

    And on Friday, the river jumped another 25 cfs, heading into the weekend flowing at about 325 cfs. (See USGS gage).

    The increases in flow were directed by Tim Miller, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist who manages water levels in Ruedi and also manages water releases from the reservoir, which is about 14 miles above Basalt.

    The water from the reservoir was being released through the dam’s outlet structures, as well as through the hydropower plant at the base the dam, into an area that’s popular with anglers, and large fish, and nicknamed the “Toilet Bowl,” due to its swirling waters.

    Miller’s goal is to fill the reservoir by July 4, while avoiding overfilling the reservoir, which would cause water to flow over the dam’s spillway, which does not have a flow-controlling gate, as some spillways do.

    The top of the ungated spillway at Ruedi Dam. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Balancing act

    Miller is now balancing some factors beyond his control: the deep snowpack above Ruedi, lingering cold temperatures and varying flow levels in the transmountain diversions tunnels in the upper Fryingpan Basin.

    On Friday, Ruedi was 64.6 percent full and holding 66,116 acre-feet of water, according to Reclamation. When full, the reservoir holds 102,373 acre-feet.

    But, given the deep snowpack above Ruedi, Miller said “it’s very possible” the reservoir could spill, something that, to his knowledge, has only happened a few times since the reservoir and dam were completed in 1968.

    The Ivanhoe snow-telemetry, or SnoTel, site above Ruedi, in the Ivanhoe Creek subbasin, is at 10,400 feet. The site shows there was still 54 inches of snow at that elevation Friday. That’s up from 42 inches a week ago but still below the March 14 peak of 90 inches.

    “It just really depends on the weather,” Miller said of future releases into and out of Ruedi.

    Peak runoff in the upper Colorado River basin within Colorado is now expected to arrive late, between June 15 and June 25, as more cool weather is in the forecast.

    Once water reaches this point on the spillway on Ruedi Dam, it’s heading for the river some 285-feet below.

    Not for flood control

    Victor Lee, also a hydrologist with the Bureau of Reclamation, made a presentation on Ruedi and Green Mountain reservoirs Monday at the Colorado River Basin roundtable in Glenwood Springs.

    He said he expected, because of the snowpack, to see above-average releases out of Ruedi as the reservoir fills and to see above-average diversions through the Boustead Tunnel, which sends water collected by the Fryingpan Arkansas Project diversion system under the Continental Divide to Turquoise Lake, near Leadville.

    Since 1972, the Fry-Ark Project has diverted an average of 54,000 acre-feet a year through the Boustead Tunnel, but it’s expected to divert 84,000 acre-feet this year, according to Lee.

    On Friday, the tunnel was sending east a relatively modest 38 cfs of water, but it had been sending about 300 cfs on May 17.

    Lee also sounded a cautionary note about the rare prospect of Ruedi filling, spilling and sending at least 600 cfs of water down the lower Fryingpan.

    “I have to stress that Ruedi is not a flood-control project, and if we get filled, there are no gates on the spillway to stop water from going,” Lee said. “And so, if we’re full, and we fill before peak runoff, there is always that chance that we would have excess flows beyond 600 cfs.”

    Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times. The Times published a version of this story on Saturday, May 25, 2019.

    “This year the snow is melting out a little later higher up…I do expect water to be fairly high for the [Ruedi] reservoir” — John Currier

    Ruedi Dam. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

    From The Aspen Times (Chad Abraham):

    Ruedi Reservoir on Friday was just under 63 percent full as it continues to recover from the recent drought, but the wet, cool spring — more snow and rain is possible today — means there is plenty of snow remaining in the upper Fryingpan River Valley.

    Gauges at and near the reservoir show winter is loosening its grip, albeit slowly. The Ivanhoe Snotel site, which sits at 10,400 feet, had a snowpack Friday that is 185 percent of normal for the day, while the Kiln site (9,600 feet) stood at 161 percent of average.

    That simply means more snow is locked in at high elevations than normal for this time of the year, said John Currier, chief engineer with the Colorado River District.

    “This year the snow is melting out a little later higher up,” he said. “I do expect water to be fairly high for the reservoir.”

    Currier predicted Bureau of Reclamation officials, who control releases from Ruedi, to keep flows in the Fryingpan at around 300 cubic feet per second (CFS) for most of the summer. That level, which will increase drastically as snowmelt increases and fills the tub, is preferable for “fisherman wade-ability reasons,” he said. “They are typically going to have to bypass [that CFS rate] because there’s much, much more water during runoff.”

    Ruedi being roughly three-quarters full in mid-May is somewhat below normal, said Mark Fuller, who recently retired after nearly four decades as director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority. That’s a sign of both a stubborn snowpack and the reclamation bureau “trying to leave plenty of room for late runoff in anticipation of a flood out of the upper Fryingpan when it gets warm,” he said…

    Releases from Ruedi may make fishing the gold-medal waters below the reservoir a bit more difficult when they occur, but greatly aid the river environment in the long term, said Scott Montrose, a guide with Frying Pan Anglers.

    Farms get boost in water from Fryingpan-Arkansas Project #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

    Agriculture received the lion’s share of water from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project this year, when an abundant water supply is expected to boost Arkansas River flows as well as imported water.

    Allocations totaling 63,000 acre-feet were made by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board on Thursday (May 16), with 48,668 acre-feet going to agriculture, and 14,332 going to cities. The district is the agency responsible for management of the Fry-Ark Project, which is operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    “This is a remarkable outcome for the Arkansas River basin, given the dry conditions we faced last year,” said Garrett Markus, water resources engineer for the district. “The conditions look favorable during the next three months, when rainfall should add to the abundant snowpack already in the mountains.”

    Water users in nine counties benefit from the supplemental water provided by the Fry-Ark Project, ranging from large cities in Pueblo and El Paso counties to irrigation companies in the Lower Arkansas Valley. Fry-Ark Project water accounts for about 10 percent of flows in the Arkansas River annually.

    While cities are entitled to more than 54 percent of project water, their accounts in Pueblo Reservoir are relatively full, freeing up additional water for agriculture. Municipal allocations include:

    Fountain Valley Authority, 7,353 acre-feet;
    Pueblo Water, 2,000 acre-feet;
    Cities west of Pueblo, 2,312 acre-feet;
    Cities east of Pueblo, 2,667 acre-feet.

    In the event of changing conditions – a reduction of precipitation or rapid melt-off of snow – the District initially will release only 28,256 acre-feet of water to irrigation companies until final imports are certain, with the remainder delivered as soon as the expected total is reached. Municipal allocations would not be affected by a shortfall, because they are all below allocation limits.

    Another 17,338 acre-feet of irrigation return flows were allocation, and 10,016 acre-feet will be initially released.

    Reclamation estimates the project will yield 84,000 acre-feet this year, but deductions from that total are made for evaporation, transit loss and obligations to other water users reduce the amount of water available to allocate.

    The Fry-Ark Project imports an average of about 56,000 acre-feet through its collection system in the Fryingpan River and Hunter Creek watersheds above Basalt. Water comes through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake, through the Mount Elbert Power Plant at Twin Lakes and into terminal storage at Pueblo Reservoir.

    Three-month projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict cooler and wetter than average conditions for eastern Colorado.

    #ArkansasRiver Basin Water Forum recap

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

    Pushing the…administration to continue financial support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit pipeline is a priority, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner told an audience of water district officials here Wednesday.

    The 130-mile pipeline — which would run from Lake Pueblo to Lamar — was first authorized in 1962 but was unfunded until 2009, when Congress began authorizing planning funds for the long-awaited project.

    Speaking to the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum in Pueblo, the Republican senator said he recently met with officials of the Bureau of Reclamation earlier this month to press the administration to support the pipeline project.

    “I won’t let the federal government walk away from its obligation to the communities along the project,” he told the audience of several hundred water district officials at the Pueblo Convention Center.

    Most recently, the federal bureau completed a feasibility study of the project.

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

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

    [Colorado and Kansas] are working together now on how to share a river that is lifeblood to eastern Colorado and western Kansas farmers and ranchers, according to experts at the 25th Arkansas River Basin Water Forum here this week.

    The states have been to the U.S. Supreme Court seven times since 1902, most often because Kansas officials charged that Colorado was overusing the river. That wasn’t an empty claim, lawyer Matt Montgomery told the audience Thursday.

    “The river essentially runs dry every summer near Dodge City because of its heavy use by agriculture in Colorado and Kansas,” he said.

    Of course, it resurfaces further east and continues its way to the Mississippi River.

    The historic source of the water feud was the fundamental clash in water philosophy. Colorado’s landowners and Legislature believed in an appropriated system of awarding water rights. People with the most senior water rights on the river get water before any junior rights are recognized.

    Kansas, which was settled earlier, had a more land-based view. Owning land next to a river granted the landowner automatic water rights. The problem was the Arkansas might be used up before it reached some Kansas landowners.

    Also, Colorado farmers were quick to drill wells in the valley. More than 1,000 new ones were installed after World War II, Montgomery said.

    When states fight, it’s the U.S. Supreme Court that has primary jurisdiction. The court ordered the two states to reach some accommodation — and they created the Arkansas River Compact in 1949.

    John Martin Reservoir back in the day

    To help regulate water flow in the river, John Martin Reservoir was built in the 1940s near Lamar.

    “But then Lake Pueblo and Trinidad Reservoir were built (in the 1970s), and that triggered the last lawsuit from Kansas, that Colorado was storing too much water,” Montgomery said.

    But the two new lakes weren’t the problem; it was the additional wells that were depleting the river, he noted.

    Today, the two states monitor the river use — and in Colorado, water courts require augmentation to the river before new wells are added.

    Gib Hazard retires after 31 years on Southeastern #Colorado Water Conservancy District Board

    Bill Long with Gib Hazard. Photo credit: Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

    The second-longest serving director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board, Gibson Hazard Jr., retired [April 18, 2019] after 31 years of service.

    Gibson Hazard Jr., of Colorado Springs, joined the board on April 21, 1988. At his last meeting, fellow board members gave him a rousing send off.

    “To put that in perspective, Ronald Reagan was president when you joined the board and gas was 98 cents,” quipped Bill Long, district president. “Since the district was formed (in 1958), we’ve had 72 board members and Gib has served with 47, which is quite an accomplishment. This includes our longest serving board member, (the late) Frank Milenski.”

    Hazard served as secretary of the board, and represented El Paso County.

    “You worked for the good of the district, which was always important,” Long told Hazard.

    Hazard was raised on a ranch in southern Arizona, and graduated from Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He was a founding member of the Colorado Water Protective and Development Association, which is now the largest water augmentation group in the Arkansas Valley.

    Hazard also served as manager of the 5,000-acre King-Barrett Ranch and Farm operation in Crowley County before it was sold to the Foxley Cattle Co.

    The District presented Hazard an Excellence of Service award.

    El Paso County has five members on the 15-member board. Members are appointed by district judges.

    Pueblo Dam Hydro plant named for Jim Broderick

    Jim Broderick. Photo credit: Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

    A hydroelectric generation plant at Pueblo Dam was named for longtime executive director Jim Broderick of the district which is building the facility.

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board Thursday unanimously passed a resolution naming the plant the James W. Broderick Hydroelectric Power Facility at Pueblo Dam when it is completed.

    “Jim always takes a proactive approach through strategic planning and forward thinking in addressing the many and complex challenges that confront the Southeastern District, seeking solutions that are fair and equitable, and that protect and conserve the water resources of Colorado and the Southeastern District,” Board President Bill Long in proposing the resolution.

    Broderick has led the team constructing the hydro plant through the initial steps for obtaining a Lease of Power Privilege from the Bureau of Reclamation to the eventual construction.

    After obtaining final Reclamation approval to construct the hydro plant in 2017, the District signed a design-build contract with Mountain States Hydro of Sunnyside, Wash. Construction began in September of 2017, and is now substantially completed. Testing of the equipment at the plant is underway, and should be completed in May, when flows on the Arkansas River will increase to optimal levels for power production.

    The $20.3 million hydro plant will use the natural flows released from the North Outlet at Pueblo Dam to the Arkansas River without consumption of any water. The plant uses three turbines and two generators individually or in combination to produce up to 7.5 megawatts of electricity at flows ranging from 35 to 810 cubic feet per second.
    Based on historic averages, the hydro plant will be able to generate an average of 28 million kilowatt-hours annually, or enough electricity to power 2,500 homes.

    The plant was funded by loans from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the District’s Enterprise Activity.

    “This is an important step for the District,” Broderick said. “We envision this as a long-term revenue source for Enterprise programs, such as the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Equally important will be the new source of clean power we have created.”

    Power from Pueblo Dam Hydro will be sold to the city of Fountain, and to Fort Carson, through a separate agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities for the first 10 years of generation. For the next 20 years, Fountain will purchase all of the power generated by the plant.

    “We’re very excited,” said Curtis Mitchell, utilities director for Fountain, and vice-president of the Southeastern Board. “This provides us with a source of clean electric power, and it has the added benefit of saving money for our ratepayers.”

    Interior of the new Broderick Power Plant. Photo credit: The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    #ArkansasRiver: Southeastern District approves $22.3 million budget

    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

    Southeastern District approves $22.3 million budget

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board of Directors Thursday approved a $22.3 million budget for 2019 that includes payments for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and the anticipated opening of a hydroelectric generation plant at Pueblo Dam.

    Most of the budget comprises pass-through payments to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    Fry-Ark Project costs total $8 million, which includes $1.46 million for repayment and $6.54 million for operation and maintenance. An amendment to the repayment contract this year established a fixed rate of repayment, and a maintenance fund for the project. The project includes Pueblo Dam, Twin Lakes, Turquoise Lake and a Western Slope collection system that brings water from the Colorado River basin into the Arkansas River basin.

    Fountain Valley Authority payments total $5.36 million. The Fountain Valley Authority includes Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security, Widefield and Stratmoor Hills. Its water supply comes from Pueblo Dam through a pipeline constructed in the 1980s.

    The District also will pay $272,382 on behalf of participants in the Excess Capacity Master Contract at Pueblo Reservoir. The contract was established in 2016 to allow participants to store water in the reservoir when space is available.

    The budget projects $350,000 for spending in support of the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation has $6.8 million available for AVC-related activities as well.

    The $20.3 million hydroelectric plant at Pueblo Dam is expected to come online in early 2019. The plant is nearing completion and was financed with a $17.3 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and a $3 million loan from the District’s Enterprise Fund. Power will be sold to the city of Fountain and Fort Carson through Colorado Springs Utilities. Revenues are expected to total $900,000 in 2019.

    The District mill levy for the coming year will by 0.944 mills, which is not substantially different from previous years. The District covers parts of nine counties from the Arkansas River headwaters to the Kansas state line.

    Ruedi Reservoir operations update

    The Fryingpan River, above Basalt. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From email from Reclamation (James Bishop):

    At 1 p.m. today, Oct 1, Reclamation plans to decrease the releases from Ruedi Reservoir to the Fryingpan River from 300 to 270 cubic feet per second until further notice.

    Ruedi Dam operations update

    Ivanhoe Reservoir, in the headwaters of the Fryingpan RIver basin. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From email from Reclamation (James Bishop):

    Releases from Ruedi Dam to the Fryingpan River are scheduled to decrease from 350 to 300 cubic feet per second on Monday, September 24 at 8 a.m.

    This release rate maintains “fish water” deliveries to the 15-mile Reach for endangered fish species. Routine updates to follow. Feel free to contact me with any questions at jbishop@usbr.gov or by phone at 970-962-4326.

    @USBR revises release forecasts for Olympus and Ruedi dams

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    From email from Reclamation (James Bishop):

    Due to revised demands, releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River are scheduled to rise from 83 to 101 cubic feet per second (cfs) tonight at midnight (cusp between Thursday and Friday), 21 September. Earlier this week I announced releases from Olympus Dam were planned to rise to 225 cfs and that figure has since changed significantly.

    At this point in our forecast, we do not anticipate releases to the Big Thompson River rising above 150 cfs as we use the river to deliver C-BT Project water. On that subject, use of the Big Thompson to make project water deliveries is slated to run through October 12, and those deliveries vary frequently. I will of course continue to provide updates while keeping in mind the old adage: “Plans are disposable. Planning is indispensable.”

    A map of the Fry-Ark system. Aspen, and Hunter Creek, are shown in the lower left. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project western and upper eastern slope facilities.

    From email from Reclamation (James Bishop):

    Yesterday, I messaged you that we at Reclamation no longer planned to increase releases to 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) from Ruedi Dam to the Fryingpan River but would instead be maintaining releases at 355 cfs. That change holds, but I wanted to further explain this.

    Due to the persistence of very low river flow conditions in the Colorado River, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in coordination with Reclamation engineers and other Program partners, has decided to reduce the rate of release of Endangered Fish Recovery Program water stored in Ruedi Reservoir to allow these releases to be extended further into October. The reduced rate of release will enable a longer duration of “fish water” to be delivered to the 15-Mile Reach over the upcoming weeks, optimizing its benefits to the endangered fish.

    Ruedi releases are bolstering Fryingpan River streamflow

    Fryingpan River downstream of Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

    From Aspen Public Radio (Elizabeth Stewart-Severy):

    While most local rivers are flowing at levels far below average, the Fryingpan is the exception. Releases from Ruedi Reservoir are supplementing low flows downstream, in the Colorado River.

    The Bureau of Reclamation controls the amount of water that flows out of Ruedi dam, and announced this week that flows in the Fryingpan will increase to 400 cubic feet per second (cfs), more than double the average.

    The increases will mean more water delivered to irrigators with senior water rights in the Grand Valley. It will also provide water to four endangered fish in an area known as the 15-Mile Reach near Grand Junction.

    Flows in the Fryingpan River are expected to remain at 400 cfs through the end of September.

    @USBR: Releases from #Ruedi Reservoir Increasing September 4, 2018 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #drought #aridification

    The dam that forms Ruedi Reservoir, above Basalt on the Fryingpan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth)

    The release from Ruedi will be increased Tuesday morning by approximately 45 cfs. After this change, the flow at the Fryingpan River gage below Ruedi Reservoir will increase from 178 cfs to approximately 223 cfs.

    This flow increase was requested by the USFWS to support fish recovery efforts in the 15-Mile reach of the Colorado River.

    This release rate will continue until further notice.

    @USFSRockyMtns opposes Fry-Ark conditional water rights in Holy Cross Wilderness — @AspenJournalism

    Pristine Halfmoon Lake, shown here under hazy skies in August 2018, is on Lime Creek within the Holy Cross Wilderness and is near the location for a potential diversion dam and tunnel back toward the existing Fry-Ark Project to the south. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    The U.S. Forest Service is questioning whether the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District ever will be able to get approval to build six potential diversion dams and related tunnels and conduits in the Fryingpan River basin that are located on USFS land above 10,000 feet within the Holy Cross Wilderness.

    In a statement of opposition filed last month in Division 5 water court in Glenwood Springs, attorneys for the USFS said it “cannot authorize development of these six conditional water rights … because they lie within a congressionally designated wilderness. Only the president has authority to approve water developments within the Holy Cross Wilderness.”

    The USFS statement of opposition, which was the only one filed in the case (18CW3063), also said “as currently decreed, the subject water rights raise questions as to whether they can and will be perfected within a reasonable time.”

    The opposition statement was submitted July 31 in response to a periodic diligence application filed with the water court by Southeastern on May 28.

    Southeastern is seeking to maintain its conditional water rights that are part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. The rights were decreed in 1958. Six of the rights are within the Holy Cross Wilderness, which was designated in 1980, but most are outside of it.

    Southeastern, which is based in Pueblo, owns and manages the water rights for the Fry-Ark Project, which was built by the Bureau of Reclamation.

    A detail of map of the Fry-Ark Project prepared by the Colorado River District, showing potential diversion points as purple circles. The map does not show the wilderness boundary.
    A map prepared as part of a study by Wilson Water Group showing the locations of six potential diversion dams in the Holy Cross Wilderness, shown in light purple. The diversion points would be connected with tunnels and conduits and connected to the existing Fry-Ark Project system at Carter Creek, the most northern dam and tunnel in the existing system.
    A map filed as part of Southeastern’s diligence application that shows the extent of the Fry-Ark Project. On its southern end, it diverts water from creeks near Aspen. The conditional rights within the Holy Cross Wilderness are on its northern end.

    375 cfs

    The six diversion dams inside the Holy Cross Wilderness would allow for the diversion of 10 cubic feet per second from an unnamed tributary of the North Fork of the Fryingpan River, for diversion of 135 cfs from Last Chance Creek and for 10 cfs from an unnamed tributary to Last Chance Creek, for 85 cfs from a creek called Slim’s Gulch and for 85 cfs from an unnamed tributary of Slim’s Gulch, and for 50 cfs from Lime Creek.

    In all, the six conditional rights in the wilderness would allow for 375 cfs of additional diversions in the Fry-Ark Project.

    The diversion structure on Lime Creek would be near pristine Halfmoon Lake, which is above Eagle Lake.

    Chris Woodka, who is the issues management coordinator at Southeastern, said the conditional water rights in the wilderness “are like a bargaining chip that we really don’t want to give up.”

    “If they could be developed at some point, we would still be interested in developing them, as far as getting the yield from there,” Woodka said. “But can we get more of a yield from the system using the mechanisms we have in place? Probably.”

    The entrance to the Chapman Tunnel on the creek in Chapman Gulch, part of the existing Fry-Ark diversion system.

    Maximizing limited yield

    The Fry-Ark Project today includes 16 diversion dams and 26 miles of tunnels and conduits on the Western Slope that move water from the Hunter Creek and Fryingpan River basins to the centrally located Boustead Tunnel, which can divert as many as 945 cfs under the Continental Divide.

    The water is sent to Turquoise Reservoir near Leadville and then farther into the Arkansas River basin for use by cities and irrigators.

    The six potential dams and tunnels in the Holy Cross Wilderness would connect to the existing Fry-Ark Project at the Carter Creek dam and tunnel, which is the most northerly point of the system. It was completed in 1981.

    James DuBois, an attorney in the environment and natural resources division at the Justice Department and who filed the USFS statement of opposition, said he could not discuss the case.

    DuBois filed a similar statement of opposition in a 2009 diligence filing for Southeastern’s conditional rights.

    In that case, the USFS eventually agreed, in a 2011 stipulation, that Southeastern would study “the potential for moving its conditional water rights off of wilderness lands” during the next six-year diligence period, which ended in May.

    It also would look at other ways to increase the project’s “authorized yield.”

    A view of the Slim’s Gulch area in the upper Fryingpan River basin. The Lime Creek basin is on the other side of the jagged ridge in the background, and a tunnel under the mountain would move water from Lime Creek to Slim’s Gulch.

    Yield limits

    Under the project’s operating principles, the authorized yield of the Fry-Ark Project is limited to diverting 120,000 acre-feet in any one year, and to diverting no more than 2.35 million acre-feet over a 34-year rolling average, or an annual average of 69,200 acre-feet.

    From 2010 to 2015, the project diverted an average of 63,600 acre-feet, indicating there is more yield to be gained.

    This year, a dry year, about 39,000 acre-feet was diverted. In 2011, the last really wet year, 98,900 acre-feet was diverted, according to an annual report on the Fry-Ark Project prepared by the Bureau of Reclamation.

    A view of the Last Chance Creek basin in the upper Fryingpan River basin. The main stem of Last Chance Creek wraps around the forested mountain in the middle of the photo, and a tributary to the south is off to the right, just out of view in the photo. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism

    Improving existing facilities

    In accordance with the 2011 stipulation, a study on how to get more water out of the system was done by Wilson Water Group and presented to Southeastern in April.

    In the presentation slides, Wilson Water told Southeastern’s board of directors that “analysis indicates contemplated project yield could be met through existing infrastructure and software upgrades.”

    Another option studied was to move the six rights in the Holy Cross Wilderness downstream and out of the wilderness. However, Wilson Water said it would require pumping stations to lift the water back up to Fry-Ark system and the “cost per-acre feet is likely prohibitive.”

    Despite the finding that improving the existing system would increase the yield on the project, Southeastern voted in April to file for diligence on the six conditional rights within the wilderness, along with other conditional rights, telling the court that “while the construction of certain conditionally decreed project features has not yet been started, there is no intent to abandon these features or any of the conditional water rights … .”

    A sign marking the boundary of the Holy Cross Wilderness in the Last Chance Creek basin. The trail up the basin does not see a lot of hiking traffic. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism

    ‘Inappropriate location’

    Upon learning of the diligence application this week, Will Roush, the executive director of Wilderness Workshop in Carbondale, said “the Holy Cross Wilderness is a completely inappropriate location” for the development of the conditional water rights.

    “Lime Creek, Last Chance Creek and the surrounding lands and tributaries provide amazing opportunities for solitude and the rare opportunity to experience a landscape and alpine watershed free of human infrastructure and without the diversion of water,” Roush said.

    An informational memo on the diligence case was presented to the Southeastern board of directors on Aug. 16, and there was no discussion of the case by the board.

    An initial status conference in the diligence case has been set for Sept. 18.

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is covering the Roaring Fork and Colorado river basins in collaboration with The Aspen Times. The Times published this story on Saturday, August 19, 2018. This version of the story corrected the date of the earlier stipulation between Southeastern and USFS, which was reached in 2011, not 2012, when the case was closed.

    @USBR approves “coordinated” approach to increase #ColoradoRiver streamflow in the Grand Valley #COriver

    Fryingpan River downstream of Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

    From The Aspen Times:

    The Colorado River District is working with state and federal water managers to increase flows in the Fryingpan River by as much as 100 cubic feet per second (cfs), helping trout in the watershed survive warm temperatures while supplying water for downstream irrigation needs in the Grand Valley.

    Anticipated releases are expected to range between 50 cfs and 100 cfs and will be coordinated between the River District, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase flows in the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers downstream from Ruedi Reservoir.

    “This should significantly benefit flows below Ruedi Reservoir,” said John Currier, chief engineer for the district. “We expect that the supplement flows may also help to mitigate water-quality problems anticipated from fire-related ash and debris flows stemming from the Lake Christine Fire on Basalt Mountain.”

    Technically, the water will be delivered downstream for Grand Valley irrigation needs while creating environmental benefits as it flows downstream. Green Mountain Reservoir releases will be reduced by an equal amount in order to conserve storage for late-season releases, which in turn will be needed to help endangered fish near Grand Junction.

    The coordinated approach was given final approval by the Bureau of Reclamation on Monday. In order to boost Fryingpan levels while the plan awaited approval, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service implemented a 50 cfs release from its dedicated endangered fish pool in Ruedi on Friday. Those flows were supplemented by 30 additional cfs Monday, bringing the flow in the Fryingpan to 200 cfs.

    Both Ruedi and Green Mountain reservoirs contribute water to the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. In this case, the changed water release plan will benefit trout below Ruedi while endangered fish still receive water from upstream Colorado River reservoirs.

    Increased flows of cold water out of Ruedi should also help to alleviate some stress on trout fisheries in the watershed brought on by higher-than-normal water temperatures. Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced voluntary fishing closures earlier this month on sections of the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers.

    Basalt: @USBR to Host Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations Public Meeting, August 9, 2018

    Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    The Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled the annual public meeting to discuss the Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations for the 2018 water year.

    The meeting will be held on August 9, 2018, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the following location:

    Roaring Fork Conservancy River Center
    22800 Two Rivers Road
    Basalt, CO 81621

    The meeting will provide an overview of Ruedi Reservoir’s 2018 projected operations for late summer and early fall, which are key tourist seasons in Basalt. Also, representatives of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will give a presentation on the upcoming implementation of the Ute Water Conservancy District lease of Ruedi Reservoir water to the Board for instream flow use in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River. The meeting will include a public question and answer session.

    For more information, please contact Tim Miller, Hydrologist, Eastern Colorado Area Office, by phone or e-mail: (970) 962-4394, or tmiller@usbr.gov.

    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    “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

    @CWCB_DNR OKs leases for Ruedi Reservoir water to help endangered fish — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    A map of the Fry-Ark system. Aspen, and Hunter Creek, are shown in the lower left. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project western and upper eastern slope facilities.

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board on Wednesday approved two leases of water from Ruedi Reservoir designed to help different types of fish populations in the Colorado and Fryingpan rivers.

    For the fourth year in a row the state agency will lease water from the Ute Water Conservancy District to bolster flows in what’s known as the “15-mile reach” of the Colorado River between the Palisade area and the confluence of the Gunnison River in Grand Junction. That stretch of the river is critical habitat for native endangered fish species, including the humpback chub.

    This year’s renewed lease agreement will allow the CWCB, which was meeting this week in Glenwood Springs, to release from Ruedi Reservoir 6,000 acre-feet of water held for the Ute Water Conservancy District by the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the reservoir.

    At $7.20 per acre-foot, it will cost $43,200 and come out of the CWCB’s species conservation trust fund. The water releases will take place during September and October, according to Linda Bassi, chief of the CWCB’s stream and lake protection department.

    “It’s really important for us to be providing water to the 15-mile reach,” Bassi told the directors of the CWCB. “Every drop counts.”

    The directors of the CWCB met Wednesday and Thursday as part of their practice of meeting in different parts of the state. On Tuesday, the agency’s board of directors took a tour of Ruedi Reservoir and attended an informational event at the Aspen Yacht Club on the reservoir hosted by the Southeastern Water Conservancy District.

    On Wednesday, Bassi described for the directors some of the drastic impacts that low flows can have on fish, including making fish more vulnerable to avian predators, leaving them stranded in small pools or even causing them to get sunburned.

    Large diversions on the Colorado River above Palisade that send irrigation water to the Grand Valley, along with other diversions upstream on the river system, can cause the 15-mile reach flows to plummet to detrimental levels.

    To help offset the diversions, officials with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program have set a low-flow target of 810 cubic feet per second this year. The leased water aims to help meet that target.

    Since the beginning of July, the flows in the 15-mile reach have fluctuated between about 400 to 500 cfs, well below the target of 810 cfs.

    A condition of the lease between Ute Water and the CWCB is that releases from Ruedi will not exceed 300 cfs and will not cause flows in the lower Fryingpan River below the reservoir to exceed 350 cfs, as flows at that level can make it difficult for anglers to wade in the popular fly-fishing river.

    The lower Fryingpan on Wednesday flowed at 150 cfs.

    WINTER FLOWS IN FRYINGPAN

    The CWCB board also approved a lease from the Colorado River Water Conservancy District to increase winter flows on the lower Fryingpan. The proposal was first introduced in May.

    The lease will boost the minimum instream flow below Ruedi Reservoir between Jan. 1 and March 31 from 39 cfs to 70 cfs in an effort to prevent the formation of anchor ice.

    Low streamflows, combined with frigid temperatures, can lead to ice forming on the bottom of the river. This has a negative effect on aquatic insects, which are food for the brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout that call the lower Fryingpan home.

    Under the agreement, the CWCB will pay $65.25 per acre-foot to lease up to 3,500 acre-feet from the River District, for a total cost of $228,775.

    The district owns a total of 11,413.5 acre-feet of water in Ruedi, with 7,500 acre-feet of that available for leasing. Of the total the district owns, 5,412.5 acre-feet is to support flows for the endangered fish recovery program.

    The proposal to maintain a healthy food source for the “gold medal” fishery’s population of trout was a collaboration between the River District and the Roaring Fork Conservancy, which is based in Basalt.

    “We are excited to see [the lease] approved and to partner with the CWCB and the River District,” said Heather Tattersall Lewin, watershed action director for the Conservancy. “It’s really the first lease of its kind.”

    DIFFERING COSTS

    Although the CWCB board unanimously approved the Ruedi water leases, two board members raised questions about the differing cost per acre-foot for the two projects.

    At more than $65 per acre-foot, the River District water costs roughly nine times more than the water leased from Ute Water.

    Over the previous three years, the CWCB has spent a total of $194,400 on the Ute Water lease for a total 27,000 acre-feet.

    Board member Patricia Wells, who represents the city and county of Denver, said she was trying to reconcile the dramatic difference in price.

    Jim Yahn, the current CWCB chair, who represents the South Platte River basin, asked whether CWCB staff had negotiated the cost of the lease with the River District. They did not, Bassi said.

    “It struck me, the price difference,” Yahn said.

    River District Chief Engineer John Currier explained that earlier this year, in response to the leasing proposal, his organization created a third use-category in addition to its existing categories of agriculture and municipal/industrial: in-channel use.

    The River District then decided to market the water at the same price as they do for agriculture use.

    “The River District runs a water marketing enterprise,” Currier said. “It’s my job to make sure that enterprise runs in the black.”

    Ute Water External Affairs Manager Joe Burtard said the water provider does not try to generate revenue with its leases; instead it simply wants to cover its costs associated with operation and maintenance of the reservoir.

    The cost of the River District water didn’t seem to bother board member Russ George, who represents the Colorado River basin on the CWCB board. He said the instream flow leases demonstrate the importance of Ruedi as a storage unit.

    “I’m delighted the River District bought the water and we have it for use today,” he said.

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times and Glenwood Springs Post Independent on the coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

    Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

    Pitkin County and West Slope close to securing 1,000 AF of water for upper Roaring Fork

    The upper Roaring Fork River, east of Aspen, near the river’s confluence with Difficult Creek. The stretch of river between Difficult Creek and Maroon Creek is often plagued by low flows in late summer and fall.

    By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

    As a way to settle a 2009 state water court case led by Pitkin County and the Colorado River District, the Front Range city of Aurora has agreed to let as much as 1,000 acre-feet of water run down the upper Roaring Fork River each year instead of diverting the water under Independence Pass.

    The pending settlement could mean that about 10 to 30 cubic feet per second of additional water could flow down the river through Aspen in summer and fall.

    It’s an amount of water that Pitkin County Attorney John Ely said would be “visibly noticeable” and would help bolster flows in the often water-short stretch of the Roaring Fork between Difficult and Maroon creeks.

    “It’s exciting,” Ely said. “It’s not very often you get to put water into the upper Roaring Fork. These opportunities are pretty limited, and I’m not sure if we’ll ever see another one.”

    A June 13 memo from Ely on the agreement states that “the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board has long recognized this reach of the Roaring Fork as one of the most stressed reaches of the Roaring Fork” and that “the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s State of the Watershed report identifies the upper Roaring Fork just above Aspen and heading into town as being severely degraded.”

    The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners is expected to approve the settlement in the form of an intergovernmental agreement with Aurora on Wednesday.

    Aurora’s city council also is expected to approve the agreement, as is the Colorado River District board of directors at its July meeting. A Water Court judge has set a July 20 deadline for the parties to file the settlement.

    Officials with Pitkin County and the Colorado River District see the deal with Aurora as a victory, especially as some estimates, according to Ely, place the value of water in Aurora at $50,000 an acre-foot, which makes the 1,000 acre-feet of water potentially worth $50 million.

    The settlement is also of high value to officials at the Colorado River District, who led the efforts of the West Slope entities in the case.

    “I think it’s a big deal,” said Peter Fleming, the general counsel for the Colorado River District, which represents 15 counties on the Western Slope. “I think it’s going to be a good deal for Pitkin County, the Roaring Fork River, and the West Slope as a whole. And frankly, I think it’s a pretty good deal for Aurora, as well.”

    But Tom Simpson, a water resource supervisor with Aurora, said it’s a “bittersweet” deal for the growing Front Range city.

    “We’ve worked hard on this agreement over the last year,” Simpson said. “It is bittersweet, but we are happy that we are finally there.”

    The deal lets Aurora retain its current use of 2,416 acre-feet of water it diverts on average each year from the top of the Fryingpan River Basin, but Aurora also is giving up 1,000 acre-feet of water it now diverts from the top of the Roaring Fork River Basin.

    Aurora also is agreeing to abide by operating protocols and future potential use of the senior water rights on the Colorado River now tied to the Shoshone hydropower plant in Glenwood Canyon. That agreement could limit the amount of additional water Aurora can divert in the future from the Colorado River Basin.

    The provisions of the agreement relating to the Shoshone water right also include an acknowledgement that the senior water right might someday be changed to include an instream flow right rather than the water being diverted out of the river and sent to the hydropower plant.

    “Aurora will not oppose an agreement between a West Slope entity or entities, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and any other entity entered for the purpose of adding instream flow as an additional use of the senior hydropower right,” the agreement states.

    Simpson agreed the overall deal represented a “haircut” for Aurora’s water rights in the Colorado River Basin.

    “Yes, we’re going to get the 2,416 acre-feet out of Busk, but we’re going to make these other deliveries on the Roaring Fork, and we might lose just a little bit of water on the Shoshone protocol,” he said. “It’s a haircut, absolutely.”

    On the other hand, Simpson said “while this agreement is not perfect, we feel like it is a good agreement, and preserves some of our Busk-Ivanhoe water and lets us all move forward.”

    A view of Ivanhoe Reservoir, where water from the upper Fryingpan River headwaters is collected before being sent under the divide to Busk Creek, Turquoise Reservoir, and then the Front Range.

    Started in 2009

    In December 2009, Aurora filed a water rights application in Division 2 Water Court in Pueblo to change the use of its water rights in the Busk-Ivanhoe transmountain diversion system in the Fryingpan River headwaters.

    The system, built in the 1920s, gathers water from Ivanhoe, Pan, Lyle, and Hidden Lake creeks and diverts the water through the Ivanhoe Tunnel to Turquoise Reservoir near Leadville before it is sent to East Slope cities. The system was built to deliver water to irrigators in the lower Arkansas River basin.

    The water rights to the system carry appropriation dates from 1921 to 1927, which makes them junior to the senior water rights on the Colorado River near Grand Junction known as the “Cameo call.”

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works bought half of the Busk-Ivanhoe system in 1972, and Aurora gradually secured its half-ownership in the system between 1986 and 2001.

    In its 2009 application, Aurora told the water court it wanted to change the use of its water in the Busk-Ivanhoe system from irrigation to municipal use.

    However, it also conceded it had already been using the Busk-Ivanhoe water for municipal purposes in Aurora, even though its water-right decree limited the use of the water to irrigation in the lower Arkansas River valley. It also came to light that Aurora was first storing the water in Turquoise Reservoir without an explicit decreed right to do so.

    That caught the attention of Pitkin County, the Colorado River District, a host of other Western Slope water interests, and the state engineer’s office, which administers water rights.

    As Ely put it in a June 13 memo to the Pitkin County commissioners, “In 1987, Aurora began using Busk-Ivanhoe water for undecreed municipal and residential purposes in an undecreed area, the South Platte Valley, after storing the water in an undecreed manner in Aurora system reservoirs.”

    Aurora’s stance was that since the water had been diverted under the Continental Divide, it didn’t matter how it used or stored the water, as it should make no difference to the West Slope. But an array of West Slope entities, including the Colorado River District, disagreed with Aurora’s position.

    In July 2013 the Western Slope entities and the state took Aurora to a five-day trial in Div. 2 Water Court in Pueblo, arguing that Aurora should not get credit for its 22 years of undecreed water use and storage.

    “It was always an issue of fact at trial as to how much water was in play because it depends on how you calculate the yield of the project,” Ely said.

    In 2014, thought, the district court judge in Division 2 ruled in Aurora’s favor, and the West Slope interests then appealed to the state Supreme Court.

    The appeal process prompted a host of entities on both sides of the Continental Divide to come forward and argue aspects of the case before the court. It also prompted a scolding of Aurora by former Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs over the use of undecreed water rights.

    In 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision, ruled in favor of the Western Slope, and remanded Aurora’s original change application back to the lower court.

    “The Supreme Court wrote that notwithstanding the fact that the change application and original decree concerned developed transmountain water, water used for undecreed purposes cannot be included in a calculation for historic consumptive use and is therefore excluded from water available for change of use,” Ely wrote in his June 13 memo.

    So, rather than going back to Water Court and continuing to fight over the potential size of the Busk-Ivanhoe rights, which the West Slope now saw as being between zero and well-less than 2,416 acre-feet, Aurora began negotiating in January 2017 with the Western Slope entities still in the case, which included Pitkin County, Eagle County, the Colorado River District, the Grand Valley Water Users Association, the Basalt Water Conservancy District, Eagle County, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, and Ute Water Conservancy District.

    Today, each of those entities is also a party to the intergovernmental agreement expected to be submitted to the water court in July, along with a proposed decree for Aurora’s Busk-Ivanhoe rights.

    Ely said Pitkin County didn’t start out in the case with an eye on securing 1,000 acre-feet for the Roaring Fork, but did have a local interest in the operation of the Busk-Ivanhoe project.

    “We weren’t doing it to obtain an end result, we were doing it because the [Busk-Ivanhoe] project is in our backyard and we felt it was the right thing to do,” Ely said. “And all the other dialogue developed after the trial and the Supreme Court decision.”

    At the time of the 2016 Colorado Supreme Court decision, Pitkin County had spent $353,000 in legal and other fees in the case, using money brought in by a tax to fund the county’s Healthy River and Streams program, which includes litigation in water court.

    Since then, Ely said the county had spent an additional $27,300 for hydrology and engineering work, but had not spent more on additional outside legal help, as he and Assistant County Attorney Laura Makar handled the settlement negotiations for the county.

    The dam across the main stem of the upper Roaring Fork that diverts water from Lost Man Creek and the Roaring Fork into a tunnel under Green Mountain and, eventually, into Grizzly Reservoir and the tunnel under Independence Pass to the Arkansas River basin. Some of the water owned by Aurora will be bypassed at this point to run down the Roaring Fork.

    Pan, or Fork?

    For Pitkin County and other Western Slope entities, it made more sense to negotiate with Aurora for some of the water it owns in the Independence Pass-Twin Lakes system rather than the Busk-Ivanhoe system, as any water bypassed by the Busk-Ivanhoe system would be scooped up by the Fry-Ark Project, which sits below the Busk-Ivanhoe system in the upper Fryingpan valley and also diverts water to the East Slope.

    Aurora owns 5 percent of the shares in the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., which operates the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System. Its share of the water diverted each year from the top of the Roaring Fork equals about 2,100 acre-feet a year, so the 1,000 acre-feet of water equals about half of Aurora’s water in the Twin Lakes company.

    In the 10 years from 2007 through 2016, Twin Lakes Co. diverted a total of 485,762 acre-feet of water from the upper Roaring Fork River Basin through its diversion system, putting the 10-year average for that period at 48,567 acre feet. 2011 was the biggest year of diversions since 2007, with 67,463 acre-feet diverted, and 2015 was the lowest year since 2007, with 18,374 acre-feet diverted.

    Colorado Springs owns 55 percent of the shares in Twin Lakes Co., Pueblo 23 percent, Pueblo West 12 percent, and Aurora 5 percent. There are also other minority shareholders, holding 5 percent of the shares, still using the water from the system for agriculture.

    Twin Lakes is not a party to the intergovernmental agreement between Aurora and the West Slope entities, but it is willing to work with all involved to make the water deliveries as beneficial as possible for the Roaring Fork River.

    Ely said Pitkin Country was grateful for the willingness of the Twin Lakes Co. to work with the county and the Colorado River District to release the water in a way that benefits the river, even if it means more work for the operators of the Independence Pass-Twin Lakes system.

    According to Kevin Lusk, the president of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. and a senior engineer at Colorado Springs Utilities, the company is simply responding to the desires of a shareholder in the company, Aurora.

    He also said it’s legal under a 1976 water-rights decree held by Twin Lakes to bypass water for use on the West Slope instead of diverting it under the Continental Divide.

    “The decree allows for this type of operation and so really all we’re doing as a company is accommodating the request of one of our shareholders to do something that was contemplated and provided for in the decree,” Lusk said.

    And as part of the agreement, representatives from Pitkin County, the Colorado River District, Aurora, and Twin Lakes will meet each year to agree on a delivery schedule for the water that describes the “desired rate, timing, amount, location and ultimate use of the water, as well as the operational needs and constraints” of the Independence Pass-Twin Lakes diversion system.

    In a letter attached to the agreement laying out how Aurora and the Twin Lakes Co. plan to manage the releases, Aurora said it “would prefer the water to be delivered at times of the year and at locations that will provide the most benefit to the Roaring Fork River stream flow. Typically this will be in the second half of the summer, beginning July 15, through the fall season.”

    And Pitkin County feels the same way, according to Ely.

    “We would like it delivered later in the year when the flows of the river start to go down,” he said.

    However, Lusk at Twin Lakes said if the West Slope entities wait too long in the season to bypass the water, it may not be there to bypass.

    “I know that there is a great interest in saving a lot of this water and bypassing it at the end of the season,” Lusk said. “But it’s going to be a bit of a balancing act. You’ve got to take the water when it’s there, because if you don’t take advantage of it there won’t be any to release later.”

    Lusk also said that if the West Slope really wanted to take full advantage of the water, it might consider building a reservoir above Aspen to store the water at peak runoff and then release it later in the season.

    Grizzly Reservoir on Lincoln Creek, well above its confluence with the Roaring Fork River at Lincoln Gulch Campground. The reservoir briefly stores water before it is diverted under the Continental Divide.

    Flows on the Fork

    According to a draft resolution to be voted on by the Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday, there were several factors that went into the county’s goal of acquiring 1,000 acre-feet per year of water for the upper Fork, including “the expected amount of yield for Aurora in the Busk-Ivanhoe system; existing in-basin and out-of-basin diversions from the Roaring Fork River between Independence Pass through the City of Aspen; potential future demand on the river; extent of existing conditional water rights; and the results of a stream analysis and channel measurement study.”

    If the deal is approved, as soon as next year 700 acre-feet of Aurora’s water is expected to be captured briefly in the Independence Pass system, which includes dams on Lost Man Creek, the main stem of the Roaring Fork River, and on Grizzly Creek, and then released down either the Fork or Lincoln Creek toward Aspen.

    Another 200 acre-feet of Aurora’s Twin Lakes water will be held in Grizzly Reservoir on Lincoln Creek, which holds 570 acre-feet of water. That water will then be released late in the year, after most transmountain diversions have stopped, to bolster late-season flows in the river.

    “So it’s actually reservoir release of previously stored water, while the [700 acre-feet] is a true bypass of water that would have gone through the tunnel that day to the other side,” Lusk said. “It’s new for us. We typically don’t operate the reservoir that way. Typically we would run that reservoir quite a bit lower, just for safety-of-dam reasons. But this change in operation is going to be holding the reservoir up much fuller for a lot longer, and we just need to watch the behavior of the dam.”

    Another 100 acre-feet of water could also eventually be left in the Roaring Fork each year after a complicated exchange-of-water arrangement is worked out with Aurora and other parties on the Fryingpan River, which brings the potential total water left in the Fork to 1,000 acre-feet.

    There is also a drought contingency provision which will allow Aurora to bypass 100 acre-feet less than they would have under the deal if the water level in their system of reservoirs falls below 60 percent on April 1 in a given year. So in a dry year, that could bring additional flows in the Roaring Fork back to 900 acre feet.

    The upper Roaring Fork River at the Cascades at about 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after Lincoln Creek surged into the Fork, about an hour after the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed. When the Twin Lakes system is closed for whatever reason, as it has been the past several seasons, the Roaring Fork River leaps to life with renewed intensity.

    Other provisions

    The pending Busk-Ivanhoe settlement also includes a provision that allows the Basalt Water Conservancy District to store 50 acre-feet of water in Ivanhoe Reservoir, which holds 1,200 acre-feet of water and serves more as a forebay for the Ivanhoe Tunnel diversions than a storage reservoir.

    And, in a provision to Aurora’s benefit, the West Slope entities, including Pitkin County, have agreed not to fight, at least on a wholesale basis, the permitting of two potential reservoirs that Aurora is working on, Wild Horse Reservoir in South Park and Box Creek Reservoir, which could hold between 20,000 and 60,000 acre-feet on private land on the south flank of Mt. Elbert.

    “Any participation in the permitting processes by the West Slope Parties will not seek to prevent the project in its entirety and comments or requests may be raised only for the purpose of addressing water related impacts caused directly by either of the two above specified projects on the West Slope,” the draft agreement between Aurora and the West Slope says.

    The concession from the West Slope is significant as Box Creek Reservoir will be able to store water from the West Slope.

    The West Slope entities also agree not to oppose changes in diversion points tied to the Homestake transmountain diversion system in the Eagle River Basin, not to oppose Aurora’s efforts to repair the Ivanhoe Tunnel, which is also called the Carlton Tunnel. The tunnel was originally built as a railroad tunnel, and then used as a highway tunnel.

    Finally, the parties to the deal have agreed, in what’s called a “diligence detente,” not to challenge in water court for 15 years a list of conditional water rights, held by both East Slope and West Slope entities, that are required to periodically file due-diligence applications with the state.

    The list of conditional water rights includes rights held by Aurora tied to the Homestake project and rights by the Southeastern Water Conservancy District tied to the Fry-Ark Project. They also include rights held by the Colorado River District on a number of West Slope water projects, including the potential Iron Mountain Reservoir near Redcliff and the Wolcott Reservoir near Wolcott.

    Notably, the agreement does not include provisions to legally shepherd the water from the Independence Pass-Twin Lakes system all the way to the confluence of Maroon Creek, so it’s possible that diverters on the river near Aspen, such as the Salvation Ditch, could pick up the water left in the river.

    However, Ely said the county will seek cooperation from diverters on the river near Aspen.

    “We’ve had some conversations with water users on this side of the hill, and we’ve had conversations with the Division 5 engineer’s office, and we’re hopeful that when the water is being bypassed and put in the river and there is an increase of flow, folks won’t take advantage of that and we’ll be able to get it down through Aspen,” Ely said. “And eventually, you know things will change, and we hope to have that water associated with its own water right, so we can call it further down, but that won’t be the case right away.”

    An additional benefit to the deal, according to Ely, is that the management of the 1,000 acre-foot pool of water from Aurora may also lead to better management of a 3,000 acre-foot pool of water also available in the Independence Pass-Twin Lakes system.

    That pool was created to mitigate the impacts to the Roaring Fork River from diversions by the Fry-Ark Project on Hunter, Midway, and No Name creeks, which drain into the Fork in central Aspen. And while Twin Lakes releases the water down the Roaring Fork, releases from the Fry-Ark Project replace the water in Twin Lakes Reservoir, where both transbasin diversion systems can send water.

    For years, the water from the 3,000 acre-foot pool has been released at a rate of 3 cfs on a year-round basis and has not been timed to help bolster low-season flows. Now, given the greater cooperation over the management of the 1,000 acre-foot pool from Aurora, how the 3,000 acre-foot pool from Fry-Ark is managed may also change, to the benefit of the river.

    Aspen Journalism is collaborating on the coverage of rivers and water with The Aspen Times. The Times ran a shorter version of this story on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.

    @CWCB_DNR Proposed Acquisition of Contractual Interest in Ruedi Reservoir Water for ISF Use

    The dam that forms Ruedi Reservoir, above Basalt on the Fryingpan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

    DATE: May 16, 2018

    RE: Proposed Acquisition of Contractual Interest in Ruedi Reservoir Water for ISF Use on Fryingpan River, Eagle & Pitkin Counties

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board will be considering a proposal from the Colorado River Water Conservation District, acting through its Colorado River Water Projects Enterprise (“CRWCD”) to enter into a one-year renewable short-term lease of a portion of water that CRWCD holds in Ruedi Reservoir for instream flow (“ISF”) use to boost winter flows in the Fryingpan River below Ruedi Reservoir. The Board will consider this proposal at its May 23-24, 2018 meeting in Salida. The agenda for this Board meeting can be found at:
    http://cwcb.state.co.us/public-information/board-meetings-agendas/Pages/May2018NoticeAgenda.aspx

    Consideration of this proposal initiates the 120-day period for Board review pursuant to Rule 6b. of the Board’s Rules Concerning the Colorado Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program (“ISF Rules”), which became effective on March 2, 2009. No formal Board action will be taken at this time.

    Information concerning the ISF Rules and water acquisitions can be found at:

    Click to access Final%20Adopted%20ISF%20Rules%201-27-2009.pdf

    The following information concerning the proposed lease of water is provided pursuant to ISF Rule 6m.(1):
    Subject Water Right:

    RUEDI RESERVOIR
    Source: Fryingpan River
    Decree: CA4613
    Priority No.: 718
    Appropriation Date: 7/29/1957
    Adjudication Date: 6/20/1958
    Decreed Amount: 140,697.3 Acre Feet

    Decree: 81CW0034(Second Filling)
    Appropriation Date: 1/22/1981
    Adjudication Date: 12/31/1981
    Decreed Amount: 101,280 Acre Feet

    Bureau of Reclamation Contract: 079D6C0106
    Contract Use: Supplement winter instream flows in the Fryingpan River
    Contract Amount: 5,000 Acre Feet
    Amount Offered for Consideration: 3,500 Acre Feet

    Proposed Reaches of Stream:

    Fryingpan River: From the confluence with Rocky Ford Creek, adjacent to the outlet of Ruedi Reservoir, downstream to its confluence with the Roaring Fork River, a distance of approximately 14.4 miles.

    Purpose of the Acquisition:

    The leased water would be used to supplement the existing 39 cfs ISF water right in the Fryingpan River to preserve the natural environment, and used at rates up to 70 cfs to meet the Roaring Fork Conservancy and Colorado Parks and Wildlife flow recommendations to improve the natural environment to a reasonable degree.

    Proposed Season of Use:

    Water stored in Ruedi Reservoir will be released to the Fryingpan River during the winter time period. The existing instream flow water right is decreed for 39 cfs from November 1 – April 30. The objective of the lease would be to maintain Fryingpan River flows at a rate of 70 cfs to prevent the formation of anchor ice at times when temperatures and low flows could otherwise combine to create anchor ice, which adversely impacts aquatic macroinvertebrates and trout fry.

    Supporting Data:

    Available information concerning the purpose of the acquisition and the degree of preservation of the natural environment, and available scientific data can be found on CWCB water acquisitions web page at: http://cwcb.state.co.us/environment/instream-flow-program/Pages/RuediReservoirFryingpanRiver.aspx

    Linda Bassi
    Stream and Lake Protection Section
    Colorado Water Conservation Board
    1313 Sherman Street, Room 721
    Denver, CO 80203
    linda.bassi@state.co.us
    303-866-3441 x3204

    Kaylea White
    Stream and Lake Protection Section
    Colorado Water Conservation Board
    1313 Sherman Street, Room 721
    Denver, CO 80203
    kaylea.white@state.co.us
    303-866-3441 x3240