I finished Eric Kuhn and John Fleck’s new book in the hotel last night on my way to Las Vegas for the Colorado River Water Users Association Annual Conference.
It’s a page-turner that charts the history of the “Law of the River” and how politics and enthusiastic engineers that loved the big projects mostly trumped science in the debate and decisions since the Colorado River Compact negotiations. That trumping set the stage for we users of the Colorado River going forward. The book has praise for current decision makers and the deliberate effort to listen to the scientists regarding the hydrology of the river and the acidification in the basin due to the climate crisis.
Click here to order your copy of “Science be Dammed”.
Montana-based Barnard Construction Inc. has been selected by the board of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to build the Chimney Hollow Reservoir dam west of Carter Lake, the district announced in a press release Friday.
The Bozeman firm will enter into a $485.4 million contract to build the dam for the 90,000-acre-foot reservoir. The company has previous experience working on water infrastructure projects, including the Keeyask Generating Station in Manitoba and a reservoir in central Florida.
The firm was chosen from two price bids because it had previous experience with similar dams, had a strong safety record and offered the best value for its work, Northern Water spokesperson Jeff Stahla said…
Construction could begin as early as May, the release said, and is expected to take four years. The material for the dam will be quarried from the property that will house the reservoir…
Barnard Construction will also build a 40-foot-tall saddle dam at the south end of the valley, opposite from the main dam at the north end, which will significantly increase the amount of water that the reservoir will be able to store.
As part of the permitting process for Chimney Hollow, Northern Water is also building the $18 million Colorado River Connectivity Channel in Grand County to the west of the Continental Divide. The channel is an environmental enhancement and mitigation project that will connect ecosystems above and below the Windy Gap Reservoir, just west of Granby.
Rate increases tied into planning for possible NISP construction, city officials say
Brent Nation, the city’s director of water resources and utilities, proposed to City Council members on Tuesday night rate increases that would mean that city customers will pay 8% more for water utilities and 2% more for sewage utilities starting in January 2020.
The Fort Morgan City Council then unanimously voted to approve those higher rates during the regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
“Looking at your average water bill for a resident in the City of Fort Morgan, it would go from $84 per month up to $90.75 per month, is what (our consultant) was projecting the change would be,” Nation said.
That expected average increase of $6.75 per month for residential customers represents an 8% increase to the monthly consumer charge and a $0.29 bump in the commodity charge per 1,000 gallons of water. The consumer charge for a 3/4-inch water meter will increase from $42.39 to $45.78, and the charge for a 1-inch water meter will rise from $74.05 to $79.97 with the new rates.
Sewer collection rates will increase, as well, in January 2020, with a $0.42 increase in the monthly charge for a 3/4″ residential water meter. The metered consumption charge per 1,000 gallons collected is rising 4 cents or 5 cents depending on the water meter size.
The city is enforcing those higher rates as per the recommendation of a consulting firm Fort Morgan commissioned in 2018 to develop a 10-year water utility financial plan and a five-year sewer utility financial plan. Raftelis Financial Consulting gave the city a report that called for the two recent water rate increases and the sewer rate increase.
Last year, the city also raised water consumer charge rates by a similar 8% across the board…
Nation said the higher rates are necessary to better position the city and its cash reserves for completing the Northern Integrated Supply Project in the coming years, and to support the bond payments that project will require. NISP, which is entering its 16th official year in 2020, could provide up to 40,000 acre-feet of municipal water supplies for 15 cities in the Northern Colorado region by building two large water storage facilities.
Fort Morgan committed to paying a $900,000 portion of NISP’s $10 million budget for the upcoming year during Tuesday’s council meeting.
Earlier this yr, the seven states that depend upon the Colorado River made historical past. For the primary time, Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico agreed to search out methods to cut back the quantity of water they draw from the river as ranges drop additional at Lake Mead, the most important reservoir within the nation.
The Colorado River gives water for 40 million folks. However its flows are shrinking because the planet heats up, decreasing the snowpack that feeds the river and inflicting extra water to evaporate because the river snakes its approach from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California.
However even when local weather change weren’t a difficulty, the Colorado would in all probability nonetheless be in hassle. Again in 1922, when states initially divvied up water from the river, they grossly overestimated the quantity of water flowing via it. This set in movement a collection of selections that led to the shortages immediately. States are dipping into Lake Mead’s reserves, overdrawing 1.2 million acre toes of water yearly — sufficient to quench the thirst of a pair million households for a yr.
As standard knowledge has it, the states have been counting on unhealthy knowledge after they divided up the water. However a brand new guide challenges that narrative. Flip-of-the-century hydrologists truly had a fairly good concept of how a lot water the river may spare, water consultants John Fleck and Eric Kuhn write in Science be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River. They make the case that politicians and water managers within the early 1900s ignored proof concerning the limits of the river’s assets.
In 1916, six years earlier than the Colorado River Compact was signed, Eugene Clyde LaRue, a younger hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, concluded that the Colorado River’s provides have been “not ample to irrigate all of the irrigable lands mendacity throughout the basin.” Different hydrologists on the company and researchers finding out the difficulty got here to the identical conclusion. Alas, their warnings weren’t heeded.
I caught up with Fleck and Kuhn to study why LaRue and others have been ignored and what historical past can train us concerning the selections being made on the river immediately. This interview has been condensed and edited for readability.
Q. When did you each notice that the traditional knowledge concerning the framers of Colorado River legislation utilizing unhealthy knowledge was incorrect? Was there an “aha” second?
A. Fleck: The “aha” second for me was when I discovered the transcripts of LaRue’s 1925 congressional testimony, when he stated, as clear as could possibly be, that there’s not sufficient water for this factor they have been making an attempt to do. It erased any doubt I had that the studies have been too technical and other people didn’t actually perceive them. He was there testifying earlier than Congress, and so they simply selected to disregard it. Not one of the senators adopted up. They have been clearly selecting to willfully ignore what LaRue was saying.
Kuhn: He wasn’t alone. There was USGS hydrologist Herman Stabler, an engineering professor from the College of Arizona, and a really high-level fee appointed by Congress, headed by a well-known Military Corps of Engineers’ lieutenant normal, and so they got here to the identical conclusion. The shock to me was how widespread the knowledge was among the many consultants on the time. There was by no means even sufficient water within the system for what we wished to do earlier than local weather change turned a difficulty.
Q. So why didn’t folks hearken to the researchers?
A. Fleck: The short-term incentives have been at all times to faux that there was extra water so all people can construct the stuff they wished to — dams, canals, cities, and farms. Everybody knew, in the event that they have been being real looking, that the issues would fall on future generations. Folks weren’t as invested sooner or later as they have been within the current.
Q.Some states are nonetheless contemplating constructing dams and pipelines to attract extra water out of the Colorado. Do you suppose we’ve realized our lesson?
A.Kuhn: I believe we’ve realized from historical past, however we haven’t had a chance to use that to creating some sensible selections. Up to now, many of the states besides California have been depending on federal cash in Congress. It’s a must to put collectively coalitions to get tasks via congressional appropriations. It was a lot simpler to divide up a bigger pie politically than it was to take care of actuality.
Immediately, congressional appropriations are nonetheless vital, however new tasks are largely being dealt with by the massive municipalities or the states, like Utah’s Lake Powell pipeline. This coalition course of that labored in allocating the river, in offering cash and water — now we’re overusing that water, and we’re in all probability going to need to shrink what persons are getting. What’s the method? There isn’t one.
For those who don’t begin desirous about that fundamental downside, we’re not going to get the job finished. It’s nonetheless very tough to promote again house to state legislators and governors, as a result of they’ve been advised we nonetheless have further water.
Q. Do you suppose knowledge is getting ignored within the Colorado River basin immediately?
A.Kuhn: One place the place the information is being ignored is with municipal calls for. Las Vegas immediately is serving 40 to 50% extra folks with much less water than it was in 2003. Denver Water has doubled the dimensions of its service space with about the identical quantity of water it was utilizing within the early 1980s. Calls for have been happening. We’re a lot, way more environment friendly in how we use water, and that has but to get into the tradition of the basin.
Working example is the 2012 Colorado River Basin examine by the Bureau of Reclamation. Nearly all of the states took the identical place they did in 1922, which was “Effectively, we want extra water.” They ignored what was occurring again house and went again to conventional sport principle — in case you’re going to be negotiating with anyone, you’ve obtained to overstate your calls for.
Fleck: On the constructive aspect, we’re seeing planners be way more efficient at growing the instruments to include an evaluation of local weather change danger into the modeling. However the flip aspect is that you’ve got a bunch of water customers who’re actually uncomfortable with being real looking of their evaluation of the truth that their wants are declining and their water provide is declining. So, it’s getting the science message to permeate that political barrier in the identical approach that it was tough again within the 1920s.
Q.The final line of the guide says that with local weather change, there’s much less and fewer water, and “we don’t understand how far beneath us the ground lies.” How do you propose for the long run in case you don’t know the place the underside is?
A. Kuhn: The continued reliance on this idea of an entitlement that was primarily based on a a lot completely different river has to go away, and the administration has to develop into extra versatile. We spent 100 years slicing the pie and giving all people a chunk. Within the subsequent hundred years, we’re going to need to put the pie again and make a brand new one. The authorized entitlements add as much as greater than what’s within the river, and the administration system is designed on assembly these authorized entitlements. That has to basically change. There must be a paradigm shift.
Fleck: I’m optimistic about our skill to do that. Now we have seen the event, over the past 20 years, of the instruments we have to start to unravel this downside. We’re seeing municipalities use much less water. We’ve seen agricultural water customers be very profitable in recognizing the alternatives offered and never making an attempt to cling to those outdated allocations and this “water is for combating over” fantasy.
We will do that if we are able to negotiate some collaborative items collectively. If, alternatively, we cling to the outdated water allocation guidelines that have been written a century in the past, and all people digs of their heels and says, “Yeah, however I would like all that water,” then the entire thing may blow up, and it will be a disaster within the West.
This story was initially printed by Grist with the headline Politicians knew the inconvenient fact concerning the Colorado River 100 years in the past — and ignored it on Dec 3, 2019.
I picked up my copy of Science be Dammed on Saturday at the Tattered Cover in Denver. So far it’s a page turner, well written, not just charts and graphs.
With the clock ticking on moving its conditional water-storage rights, the city of Aspen is taking steps toward developing a water integrated resource plan, or IRP.
City Council last month approved spending $81,674 to hire Broomfield-based Carollo Engineers as a consultant for the first phase of the IRP. A main goal of the plan will be to decide where to move the city’s conditional water-storage rights after a water court judge in June approved the city’s settlement with opposing parties in two water court cases. The decrees issued by the judge in those cases rule out the possibility of the city building dams or reservoirs on upper Castle or Maroon creeks.
The city has six years to finalize a plan to move the water rights and associated storage to new locations. That and the increasing effects of a hotter, drier climate, which means less water in streams, have the city feeling a sense of urgency when it comes to figuring out its water supply.
“We do have a sense of urgency, but we also recognize we are only going to get one chance to make such a large change to our system,” said Margaret Medellin, Aspen’s utilities resource manager. “We want to do it right.”
Conditional water rights
All 10 parties who settled with the city in water court, one of which was environmental group American Rivers, agreed not to oppose the city’s efforts to change its conditional water-storage rights to different sites.
Instead of flooding two pristine valleys to create reservoirs, the city has identified five other locations to where it could possibly store water. Those sites are the city golf course; the Maroon Creek Club golf course; the city’s Cozy Point open space; the Woody Creek gravel pit; and a 63-acre parcel of land next to the gravel pit, which the city bought in 2018.
“We don’t have any issue with Aspen’s plan to move forward with those conditional water rights,” said Matt Rice, director of American Rivers’ Colorado Basin Program. “That’s a decision for them and local stakeholders to make.”
Carollo Engineers was one of five firms that responded to the city’s summer request for proposals. The more than $81,000 that the City Council approved will pay for Carollo to complete only Phase 1 of the IRP, which will define goals and develop a detailed scope of work. Phase 2 would create the IRP using community input.
“Normally, when we do an IRP, we are looking at what the future looks like in terms of water needs and trying to characterize those and predict them out several decades,” said John Rehring, senior project manager and vice president of Carollo Engineers.
City officials maintain that a lack of reservoir storage is a problem.
Medellin said the lack of water-storage facilities is a big weakness in the city’s water system and that it is controversial to build dams and reservoirs “because every valley up here is beautiful.”
But, Medellin said, climate change may increase the need for water storage.
“We’ve acknowledged these storage rights are very important to the future of Aspen, especially as we start to see climate-change implications,” she said.
Carollo Engineers agrees with that assessment.
“Clearly, the city of Aspen’s system lacks the water storage it needs to reliably meet demands through a range of supply-and-demand conditions even now — before the impacts of climate change have fully taken hold,” the proposal reads.
The issue of storage came to the forefront in the Aspen community in 2012 when news broke that the city was contemplating using its conditional water-storage rights to build dams and reservoirs in Castle and Maroon valleys.
Consultants have come to different conclusions about how much water storage the city actually needs. A 2017 report by Deere and Ault Consultants, which was based on conclusions in a risk analysis by Headwaters Corporation, said Aspen needs 8,500 acre-feet of water storage. But a 2016 study by Wilson Water concluded Aspen does not need any storage.
Two other areas that the IRP will address is the vulnerability of Aspen’s water supply to natural disasters such as 2018’s Lake Christine Fire and last winter’s historic avalanches in Castle and Maroon valleys, as well as how to decrease customers’ demand for water. Even though Aspen has taken steps to reduce the use of water for outdoor irrigation through a landscape ordinance, those gains could be wiped out because in a warmer future, there will be less water flowing in local streams.
“It’s almost like you are playing this game where you, on one hand, lower the level of demand but, on the other side of the equation, climate change is decreasing our supply,” Medellin said.
Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of water and rivers. This story appeared in the Nov. 26 edition of The Aspen Times.
FromThe Chaffee County Times (Max R. Smith) via The Leadville Herald:
In the mid-1960s, a partnership between the cities of Colorado Springs and Aurora installed a diversion dam in the Arkansas River south of Granite near Clear Creek Reservoir as part of a pipeline system bringing water from the western slope of the Continental Divide to the Front Range.
The presence of the diversion dam caused that portion of the river to be non-navigable, requiring portaging of one’s raft or kayak.
By the end of this year, however, Colorado Springs Utilities is on schedule to complete a three-year project to build a new river diversion that will allow boaters to float right through, meaning that the 2020 rafting season will be the first in over 50 years in which the entirety of the Arkansas can be travelled without portage.
“We’ll see how the snow treats us over the next couple weeks, but we’re really down to some final boulder work in the river and general site cleanup at this point,” said CSU project manager Brian McCormick.
The intake that pumped water out of the Arkansas (which, legally speaking, comes from the Eagle River Basin as part of the Homestake Project), destined for Aurora and Colorado Springs, “as with anything in the river for 50-plus years, it took some wear and tear,” McCormick said. “By about the mid-2000s, the cities recognized we needed to rehabilitate this structure to keep it as a reliable facility and ensure safety of the river users.”
Construction on the new $9.1 million diversion project began in 2016 after a number of years of planning, budgeting, and engineering. Support for the project included $1.2 million in grant funding from the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board…
Significant to water consumers in Colorado Springs and Aurora, the project utilizes a new intake and piping structure to send water to the Otero pump station, he said.
Significant to boaters is a chute constructed of boulders and mortar with six two-foot drops that will allow them to pass the intake facility without exiting the river. McCormick said that CSU put the call out to members of Colorado’s river recreation community to participate in a trial run down the chute in November, testing the Arkansas’s newest whitewater feature…
Significant to the scaled, Omega-3 rich denizens of the Arkansas who swim upstream to spawn every year, the new diversion also features a fish ladder: a sequence of weirs and pools that give brown and rainbow trout a route to move up the river to their spawning grounds.
From the Associated Press via The Mohave Valley Daily News:
Native American tribes, environmentalists, state and federal agencies, river rafters and others say they have significant concerns about proposals to dam a Colorado River tributary in northern Arizona for hydropower…
The Navajo Nation owns the land, and the projects won’t move forward without the tribe’s OK. The tribe wrote in comments posted online Monday that the dams could negatively impact its land, water, wildlife and cultural resources. Cameron, the Navajo community closest to the proposed projects, already has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to deny the permits.
The Hopi, Hualapai and Havasupai tribes also said they are concerned about possible impacts to sacred and historical sites and want to ensure the federal government keeps them in the loop on the proposals.
“A project such as this would forever disturb a traditional cultural landscape that maintains historic and sacred value and that is part of the cultural identity of the Hualapai people and other neighboring tribes,” Hualapai Chairman Damon Clarke and Peter Bungart, the tribe’s historic preservation officer, wrote in their comments.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has no hard deadline to act on the request for the preliminary permits. Construction would not start on the dams for at least a decade if they ultimately are licensed.
The projects would create power by moving water between upper and lower reservoirs, known as pumped storage. Such projects are seeing renewed interest as a way to supplement the electric grid.
Irwin said the Navajo Nation is an ideal location because of the steep canyon walls and the water source. But he said he is willing to tweak the proposals in response to comments. He also has said it’s unlikely both proposed projects will be built…
More than 100 comments were filed on each of the two proposals. People across the country urged the federal government to consider the impacts to recreation, an endangered fish, the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River downstream, the solitude of the region and water rights.
The Little Colorado River is the subject of a long-running water rights case in Arizona.
The river flows intermittently and can carry heavy sediment during the spring runoff and monsoon season. It’s also the primary spawning habitat for the endangered humpback chub in the lower Colorado River basin. Two-thirds of that habitat could be destroyed if the dams are built, the Interior Department wrote in its comments.