Lower Ark district joins federal lawsuit against #Colorado Springs — @ChieftainNews

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has joined a federal lawsuit against Colorado Springs for not controlling stormwater flooding and discharging pollutants into Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

The lawsuit was filed last month in U.S. District Court in Denver by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment.

Essentially, the suit argues that Colorado Springs has continued to violate federal clean water standards with discharges into Fountain Creek that sometimes contain high levels of E. coli bacteria and fecal coliform.

The lack of stormwater controls isn’t in question. Colorado Springs officials have negotiated a deal with Pueblo County to spend $460 million over 20 years on flood control.

When the lawsuit was filed, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers complained that any money the city spends fighting lawsuits over stormwater flooding would be better spent on fixing the problems.

But the Lower Arkansas board decided last month that too little has been done. Its lawyers urged the board to join the lawsuit to make certain the district participates in any negotiated settlement with Colorado Springs over flooding problems on Fountain Creek.

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

#ColoradoRiver District: The 2017 Grant Program cycle opened December 1, 2016 — @ColoradoWater

Deadline for submission of a grant application is January 31, 2017

Grant applications for projects that protect, enhance or develop water resources in the 15-county area covered by the District are eligible for funding consideration. This includes all watersheds in north- and central- western Colorado, except the San Juan River basin.

Colorado River District land area.
Colorado River District land area.

Eligible projects must achieve one or more of the following:

  • develop a new water supply
  • improve an existing water supply system
  • improve instream water quality
  • improve water use efficiency
  • reduce sediment
  • implement watershed and riparian management actions
  • Past projects have included the construction of new water storage, the enlargement of existing water storage or diversion facilities, rehabilitation of non-functioning or restricted water resource structures, implementation of water efficiency measures and other watershed improvements. Such projects that utilize pre-1922 water rights will be given additional ranking priority over similar projects that do not. Each project will be ranked based upon its own merits in accordance with published ranking criteria.

    Annual Grant Program Standard Guidelines and Criteria

  • 2017 Grant Program Application (PDF fillable)
  • 2017 Grant Program Application (PDF printable)
  • For more information please contact Dave Kanzer or Alesha Frederick at 970-945-8522; Colorado River District, 201 Centennial St., Glenwood Springs, CO 81601 or by e-mail to grantinfo@crwcd.org.

    Please note: The River District is not responsible for lost and/or undelivered applications. The sponsor of the application will receive a confirmation from the River District when an application is received.

    CDPHE: Water Quality Information Bulletin

    Click here to read the bulletin. There will be an informational briefing concerning Clear Creek at the December 12, 2016 meeting.

    Clear Creek, Standley Lake watersheds including the Standley Lake Canal Zone via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation.
    Clear Creek, Standley Lake watersheds including the Standley Lake Canal Zone via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation.

    #ColoradoRiver: @USBR Lake Estes and Olympic Dam operations update #COriver

    First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit  Northern Water.
    First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit Northern Water.

    From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    On Monday at 5:30 pm of this week diversions through the Adams Tunnel to the east slope of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project began. While this picks up, Lake Estes will rise slightly and is expected to be return to typical levels by next mid-week.

    The Olympus Dam slide gate remains set to release low-level winter flows to the Big Thompson River.

    This rate of fill will be maintained for several days to ensure safe operations below the Estes Power Plant. The majority of the water in Lake Estes enters through the power plant via the C-BT Project.

    Track Lake Estes’ water elevation at our tea cup page: http://www.usbr.gov/gp-bin/arcweb_olydamco.pl

    Olympus Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation.
    Olympus Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation.

    2016 Colorado Ag Water Summit recap


    From the Community Agriculture Alliance (Todd Hagenbuch) via Steamboat Today:

    On Tuesday, people from across the state convened for the 2016 Colorado Ag Water Summit at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds near Denver. Northwest Colorado was well-represented by folks who live and work in both the Yampa and White River basins.

    The subject of this year’s summit was ATMs. No, not the machines that dole out cash, but Alternative Transfer Methods. ATMs are creative ways to work within the confines of Colorado water law to enable water rights to be used temporarily for uses other than what they are decreed for.

    You might remember that there are specific uses attached to an individual’s water right in Colorado – an irrigation right can only be used to grow crops, and a municipal right can only be used to provide water for a specific, set-area of residences, business, etc. If a water right is purchased for a use other than the decreed use, the owner must go to Water Court to get the decreed use changed.

    When approved, these change cases typically take agricultural uses and turn them into municipal uses, enabling thirsty cities to provide water for an ever-increasing number of customers. This ‘Buy and Dry’ approach takes irrigated farm land out of production. Because these rural areas are losing agricultural productivity, they also lose farmers, farm implement dealers, local bankers, the local grocery store, etc. Eventually, entire communities disappear.

    Landscapes also change from an environmental and scenic perspective when they are no longer irrigated. John McKenzie, who represented the Ditch and Reservoir [Company] Alliance at the summit, summarized it well when he said, “We’ve created a constructed landscape and environment we all really like.” That change was because we started irrigating otherwise arid lands.

    ATMs aim to let one user (usually a municipality) use another’s right (usually a farmer’s) temporarily. Legislation passed recently allows for these arrangements three out of every ten years.

    Since the legislation was passed, several new ATMs have been created. The Ag Water Summit featured panels of speakers who shared their experiences of participating in ATM projects. Ag producers, municipality and industrial, and environmental and recreational interests were represented.

    Most of the panelists were pleased with their ATM experiences, although panelists also talked about the challenges that need addressed if this type of water sharing is to succeed in the intermountain west. Some of those challenges include: cost, risk and uncertainty, lack of infrastructure to store and convey water from one user to another and the need for all parties to have a long-term agreement in order to make plans for the future (investments, contracts, etc.).

    Regarding those challenges, Andy Jones, a lawyer specializing in water law out of northern Colorado, said “Think of ATMs as a big water supply project: they will need the same infrastructure, investment, etc. as any ‘new source’ project.”

    Colorado will continue to be challenged by more demand for water than we have supply to accommodate, but thinking of new ways to share it will help us to meet more of those needs. And continuing to bring people together to discuss it will help, too.

    Todd Hagenbuch is the agriculture extension agent for Colorado State University Routt County Extension.

    Fixes underway to remedy high lead levels in Denver, Jeffco and Cherry Creek school water — Chalkbeat

    Roman lead pipe -- Photo via the Science Museum
    Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

    From Chalkbeat (Ann Schimke):

    A small proportion of sinks and water fountains in Denver, Jeffco and Cherry Creek schools have been taken out of service because of high lead levels found after school district testing in the summer and fall.

    So far, results are back for one-third of Denver schools, mostly elementaries. They show that about 4 percent of samples came back high. Some schools have no sinks or fountains with elevated lead levels, while others — such as Cory and Greenlee elementaries, and Denver Montessori Junior/Senior High School — have four or five.

    “We haven’t really found anything alarming,” said Joni Rix, environmental services manager for DPS. “Certainly we’ve found lead, but it’s not widespread.”

    Fixes, which are expected to cost around $500,000, will happen at every school with elevated lead levels, she said.

    That’s not the case in Jeffco, where testing revealed that about 80 percent of schools have at least one sink or water fountain with high lead levels.

    While smaller fixes have been or will be made, district officials say voters’ rejection of the district’s $535 million bond issue earlier this month will make extensive plumbing repairs impossible.

    “If it’s any kind of big fix it’s probably not going to happen,” said district spokeswoman Diana Wilson. “It’s probably going to be easier to shut some sinks down.”

    In Cherry Creek, where testing was conducted this fall, some schools had elevated levels. In most cases, fixes have already been made, though more systemic problems surfaced at the 1980s-era Creekside Elementary. Water samples from 10 locations in the school had elevated lead levels and samples from most other locations also showed some lead, though not above the federal limit.

    District spokeswoman Tustin Amole said via email that students there are drinking bottled water until repairs can be completed — probably over winter break.

    The risk of lead poisoning from school water is relatively low, according to experts in Colorado. Still, they say school officials are right to be aware of it given that high lead levels can severely impair children’s physical and mental development.

    School districts aren’t required to test their water for lead unless they’re considered public water systems. (That’s the case in some rural districts and on a limited basis in Jeffco, which provides water to six mountain schools.)

    Still, in the wake of the lead-poisoning crisis in Flint, Mich., last year, Colorado’s five largest school districts all decided to test their water.

    Douglas County School District launched its effort last spring at 19 older schools, and had no samples above the federal 15-parts-per-billion threshold, according to district records provided to Chalkbeat last summer.

    Jeffco began districtwide lead-testing in June and Denver followed in August. In Jeffco, testing is now complete save for a small number of re-tests in locations where fixes have been made.

    Aurora Public Schools began testing school water in October, and so far results are available for two early childhood centers, according to the district’s lead-testing web page. Neither have elevated lead levels.

    Results for the remaining two-thirds of Denver’s schools will be back by the end of January. Rix said she expects a similar proportion of those samples — 4 to 5 percent — to have elevated levels. All told, district staff collected more than 4,000 water samples this fall.

    Starting this Saturday, DPS will also test some schools’ service lines — the pipes that run from buildings to the city’s water mains under the street — to determine whether they are made of lead. That testing, which involves drilling into the ground to reach the service lines, will start at Newlon, Cowell, Goldrick, Schmitt and Knapp elementary schools.

    The five, all built in the 1950s, are among 69 district schools that may have their service lines tested this year. The $572 million bond Denver voters passed earlier this month will provide $800,000 to replace lead service lines.

    Will-O-Wisp’s water project 1041 permit for Tanglewood Reserve Planned Unit Development revoked — Fairplay Flume


    From The Fairplay Flume (Lynda James):

    Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District’s water project 1041 special development permit for the now nullified Tanglewood Reserve Planned Unit Development was revoked on Nov. 3.

    The county 1041 permit, approved in 2008, was to minimize impacts from the metro district developing infrastructure to pump water from Elk Creek and pipe it up Mount Evans Boulevard to the Tanglewood PUD.

    The final plat for the 400-plus lot high density Tanglewood, located adjacent to Pine Junction on both sides of U.S. Highway 285, was conditionally approved in 2006 and nullified in 2015 for not fulfilling the conditions of approval.

    The land was slated to be the second phase of the WOW subdivision development in the 1980s, is in WOW service area and WOW was going to use its Elk Creek water rights to provide water.

    Phase 2 was never developed and the land has been through several owners since then.

    At the Nov. 3 meeting, Park County Attorney Lee Phillips said the 1041 permit stated that if substantial material changes occurred after approval, the commissioners shall suspend the permit and set a hearing to determine whether new requirements are needed or if revocation was appropriate.

    Phillips said the commissioners suspended the permit in June and decided to schedule a hearing to determine if it should be revoked since the PUD plat had been nullified.

    Phillips said the county received a letter from WOW in August asking that the permit be kept active.

    WOW’s attorney Richard Toussaint attended the Aug. 25 commissioners meeting and asked the commissioners not to revoke the district’s water project 1041 permit.
    Toussaint said the permit was needed so WOW could continue to show the state that it was completing due diligence on the conditional water right WOW owned on Elk Creek.

    He said a possibility exists that WOW could lose their water rights if the 1041 permit was revoked and WOW could not continue its due diligence.

    By state water law, due diligence means actively doing something to reach the point where the water rights are put to beneficial use. Once beneficial use is established, the water right becomes absolute, instead of a conditional water right.

    Toussaint said WOW wants to start building the infrastructure in Elk Creek as part of its due diligence. (See “Residents pack room for … ” in the Sept. 2 issue of The Flume).

    A hearing was set for Sept. 22, but continued to Nov. 3 because Doug Windemuller, whose property would have been impacted the most, was gone in September.

    Neither Toussaint nor anyone from WOW attended the Nov. 3 hearing.
    Windemuller owns one of the three lots in Woodside Park subdivision where infrastructure was proposed both on land and in the creek.

    At the hearing, he recommended revocation and that if a different land development on that property was permitted, then WOW could reapply for a 1041 to meet that development’s water needs.