Here’s the release from the US Army Corps of Engineers Omaha office (Katie Seefus):
The annual sediment flushing exercise will be conducted at Cherry Creek Reservoir on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.
Katie Seefus, water manager in the Corps’ Omaha District office, says the exercise involves high releases from each of the five main outlet gates at Cherry Creek Dam, located south of Interstate 225 in Aurora, Colo. “When the gates are opened, the high velocity of the water leaving the reservoir scours the area immediately upstream of the gates and transports sediment with the flow,” said Seefus. This sediment flush is required to allow proper operation of the outlet gates.
Cherry Creek Dam will begin releasing 50 cubic feet per second (cfs) at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23. The actual flushing exercise will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 11:10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 24 when the release will be set back to normal levels. The travel time from Cherry Creek Dam to the streamgage located at the Champa Street Bridge, is about 6 hours. The following table shows a schedule of the planned releases:
Omaha District Commander Col. John Henderson asks the public to be aware that the high flows will take some time to reach the downtown channel, and flows from the last gate opened will not reach the downtown channel until late afternoon on Wednesday. The high flows will cause higher than normal creek stages and potential flooding of bike paths and stream crossings. “In the interest of public safety, I urge the public not to attempt to cross the stream during this event,” says Henderson.
From The Pagosa Springs Sun (John Duvall):
Abby Burk, Western Rivers Pro- gram lead for Audubon Rockies, will be the featured speaker at the Weminuche Audubon Society’s meeting on Wednesday, May 17.
Burk brings extensive ecological land management experience to her work with state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, businesses and community leaders. She is committed to advancing riparian habitat and stream resiliency through environmental river flow awareness and advocacy.
She will review Audubon’s work for western rivers and will address the goals and the implementation of crucial aspects of the Colorado water plan.
The meeting will be held at the Community United Methodist Church at 434 Lewis St. Refresh- ments and socializing begin at 6 p.m. Burk’s presentation will be- gin shortly afterwards. Everyone is welcome to attend what will be an interesting and rewarding evening.
The Middle Colorado Watershed Council, MCWC, aims to protect the stretch of Colorado River from the mouth of Glenwood Canyon to De Beque at the western edge of Garfield County. We work with everyone who uses water from the agricultural community, to city water users (including tooth-brushers and lawn-waterers), to oil and gas developers and every governmental agency in between to encourage wise water use and ensure safe water quality for everyone involved.
Working with the Colorado River District for the State of the River was a great reminder that navigating these diverse interests and subsequent water uses is a common thread for the entire river, from the headwaters of the Colorado down to the river terminus. Through education, dialog and exchange of information we have a chance to better understand and manage the finite resource.
The MCWC has a few projects on the ground and on the horizon that aim to connect our stretch of river to the larger river system. These efforts involve riparian restoration, a nice term for fighting invasive species like tamarisk and ensuring native plants have a chance to grow back, and water quality management.
Tamarisk Coalition chose the MCWC as one of nine programs to join their Restore Our Rivers campaign. The campaign provides tools and funding for river restoration programs that combat tamarisk and Russian olive and more…
This summer the MCWC will begin a few restoration projects and will continue to monitor existing projects. It is our way of working along our 75 mile stretch of river and understanding how we fit into the larger picture.
As for water quality monitoring, we are undertaking a citizen science program to establish a baseline for what is in our water in the middle Colorado River and its tributaries. Upstream and downstream of us, many groups already test water quality, and therefore again, we are tasked with understanding how our section of river fits into the larger system. Our citizen science program is designed to find out what water quality looks like today, see how that compares to the past, and allows for the opportunity to evaluate trends into the future. How are we affecting water quality and are there opportunities to improve? The data we and our stakeholders collect will help us understand our basin better, but will also provide service to everyone downstream of us.
Our little, but significant, stretch of river is ours to take care of. Managing the entire Colorado River might seem like a daunting task, but we can be stewards for our stretch, from Glenwood Canyon to De Beque. The steps we take to protect our water helps our little basin, but also, we are working a much larger system throughout the west, because we are all in this together.
Annie Whetzel is community outreach coordinator at the Middle Colorado Watershed Council. To learn more about the council, go to http://www.midcowatershed.org. You can also find the council on Facebook at http://facebook.com/midcowatershed.
From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Julia Rentsch):
More than 4 million acre-feet of water has left the state via the South Platte River since 2009, and in an arid environment like the Northern Front Range of the Rockies, a drop unused inside the state boundaries is considered a drop wasted – especially as the area grows in population and demand for water subsequently increases.
Experts say that the growth of Northern Front Range towns and cities will not be limited by physical access to water – the supply exists. What is up for debate is how we allocate the resource to provide a sustainable supply of water to meet both human and environmental needs.
One attempt to solve this problem is the Northern Integrated Supply Project, also known as NISP – a proposed water storage plan that has been in the stages of federal permitting and review since 2004. It may be the most famous – or, depending on who you ask, infamous – water project in the region…
On the surface, debate over the project seems to be gridlocked as participants wait for the final Environmental Impact Assessment to be complete. Discussion has stagnated over the basic question of whether the NISP project is in fact a dam on the Poudre.
However, at the heart of the debate are larger questions about how to manage growth on the Front Range without sacrificing the health of the region’s rivers and agricultural land.
“It’s really a deeper question of what do we want Northern Colorado to look like and how do we want to get there,” said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado State University Water Center and the Colorado Water Institute.
The current project plan calls for the building of two reservoirs: Glade in Larimer County and Galeton in Weld. Additionally, there would be a small reservoir for temporary storage near the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, three pump plants and pipelines to deliver the water to the participants and updates to an existing small canal.
Designed to provide a reliable 40,000 acre-feet supply of water annually to the fifteen participating cities and water districts to meet needs through the year 2030. The project’s participant list includes the cities of Dacono, Eaton, Erie, Evans, Firestone, Fort Lupton, Fort Morgan, Frederick, Lafayette, Severance and Windsor; participating water districts are Central Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland, Left Hand and Morgan County Quality. Per Northern Water’s estimates, these 11 towns and four districts serve about 240,000 residents in total.
In order to do this, Northern plans to divert water from the Poudre during wet periods of the year — under projected conditions, the June rise of the river would be considerably lower than ecologists say is healthy. Northern Water is working on a plan to abide by guidelines that will be set by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, but what constitutes a healthy flow is up for debate.
“We’re willing to work on a flushing flow plan because we know it’s a big enough issue,” said Brian Werner, a public relations officer for Northern Water.
NISP was originally expected to cost $500 million; at this price, participants will pay about $12,500 per acre-foot of water they receive from the project. An equivalent amount of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson costs around $40,000 to $50,000 per acre-foot.
However, more recent changes to make the project plan more feasible and sustainable have pushed the estimated price up to around $800 million.
The project’s effects on the Poudre are of particular concern to ecologists.
“The Poudre … is a working river, and it’s been developed to meet human needs since the late 1800s,” said Leroy Poff, a doctor of aquatic ecology at CSU. “But it continues to function ecologically in the lives of the citizens of Fort Collins… Proposed future development of the Poudre presents strong challenges to sustaining the ecosystem that we have today.”
Planning the future of the Front Range
The Colorado Department of Local Affairs reports that population in Larimer and Weld counties is forecast to increase by 92 percent from 2015 to 2045, exceeding the 53 percent growth forecast in the statewide population. In addition to the increased municipal demand for water, this level of growth has been attributed as responsible for traffic problems, both local and statewide housing shortages, and increasingly unaffordable housing.
Despite the region experiencing a slight economic dip due to layoffs in the oil and gas industry as the price of oil lowered, the estimates of the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization say that employment in the region is projected to increase by 80 percent between 2010 and 2040.
The rising cost of living associated with these trends is causing people who hold jobs in metropolitan areas, but who cannot afford the high price tag of living within city limits, to move to smaller communities to take advantage of the more affordable sprawl. These ‘bedroom communities,’ as they’re termed, predominantly consist of residences, schools and churches and lack the commercial development that characterizes a healthy, balanced city.
“We’re pushing people who don’t have two good incomes out of Fort Collins because of growth,” Waskom said. “What happens is that growth is now occurring in those places that weren’t here (before) and developed water supplies early on in the game.”
Growth in these areas indicates that there is a lot of logistical work ahead for the various entities coordinating the region’s infrastructure. In addition to issues of water supply, there must also be planning to ensure adequate water quality, air quality and transportation to support the population. Numerous infrastructure improvement plans are in the works, but none have been as publicly contentious as NISP.
While some opponents of NISP say that stopping the project, and therefore limiting the supply of water available to these developing communities, might be a solution to curb growth, experts say that this is not the case. If absolutely no action is taken, agricultural water rights would be on the hook to make up the difference.
“I think it’s true and evident that water is probably not going to be what limits sprawl or growth in this area,” Waskom said. “It’s just got to come out of ag, and it comes out of the environment. Those are the two sectors that are at risk, and the economics of it are such that, as agriculture dries up and houses grow on top of what were cornfields, the economy grows. It doesn’t skip a beat.”
Some groups are seeking to transcend the back-and-forth over NISP by way of compromise.
Rather than depending on large new reservoirs and diversions, the nonprofit group, Western Resource Advocates, proposes an alternative plan with a diverse water supply portfolio. WRA’s ‘A Better Future for the Poudre River’ plan would, like NISP, provide 40,000 acre-feet of water to participants annually, but would utilize conservation, reuse, water transferred as a result of growth onto irrigated agricultural lands and voluntary agreements with agriculture.
The Poudre Runs Through It, a group of professionals facilitated by CSU’s Colorado Water Institute, is looking at ways to bring together the diverse stakeholders on the river and to explore the continuing challenges and opportunities for collaboration.
“I think until we start to engage more people in that discussion and more groups in that discussion, this is going to be a real tough thing to crack,” said Kehmeier, who is also a member of The Poudre Runs Through It. “It’s going to take more of the water users on the system than just one to make this work.”
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tommy Purfield):
As part of the 1041 permit for SDS, Colorado Springs is obligated to pay the Fountain Creek district $10 million per year through 2020, for a total of $50 million, which would pay for flood or erosion control measures along the creek that benefit Pueblo County. The district already has received $20 million for 2016 and 2017.
“This is the first of what we hope are many projects utilizing the money from the land-use permit for SDS for the betterment of Fountain Creek,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart, who represents the county on the Fountain Creek district. “The purpose is to do everything we can to limit the amount of flood waters, the amount of sedimentation and the amount of damage that flows south on Fountain Creek into Pueblo County.
“The Masciantonio project is the first one where we’re literally taking knowledge that we’ve gained from past experiences and applying it. If it works successfully the way the engineers think it will, it could be a model that is used all along the creek and protect lands for generations to come. We’re very excited to get the first one going.”
The district has a budget of $3 million for the project on the Masciantonio property to encompass all costs through completion.
“The district’s goal is to stop the erosion, stop the loss of farmland, reduce downstream sedimentation and improve water quality,” said Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek district.
The project on the Masciantonio property includes constructing seven bendway weirs — or rock diversionary structures — along the west bank of the creek just downstream from the mouth of Young Hollow Tributary. The weirs are intended to redirect the flow of water as it comes into the bend, slow its velocity and help redeposit sediment behind the weirs.
“As water flows over the weirs, water slows down and sediment drops out,” Small said. “It helps the creek bank build back up, weir-to-weir.”
A “bench” will be constructed at the base and abutted against the bank to anchor the weirs, which will be 7-8 feet wide at the base and run 8 feet deep into the creek bed. The length of each weir varies, to maintain a fixed radius from the center of creek flows.
“It’s a pretty prominent, stable structure,” Small said, “almost a pyramid structure.”
Although Young Hollow is dry most of the year, strong storms can cause it to run as high as 6,000 cubic feet per second, which rushes into Fountain Creek with strong force just upstream from the location of the project. Small said the placement of the first two weirs in the series of seven are important to redirecting water as it comes out of Young Hollow.
As the land above the creek slopes from west to east, a berm also will be constructed above the structure to prevent erosion from the back side of the bank.
“Rains get pretty heavy down there and it doesn’t take a whole lot to start the damage again,” Small said.
Small hopes to complete the competitive bid process and have a contract in place by June. Work could start in July, with the weir structures, and their required large rocks, accounting for the bulk of construction. Flow conditions on Fountain Creek will factor heavily into when work can be conducted and how long the project may take to complete.
The last stage of the project will include revegetation along the bank with the planting of cottonwood and willow along and above the “bench,” which likely will take place next March. The roots will help anchor soils and rocks, providing another layer of protection against erosion.
From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):
A water-and-fish dispute that began in 1994 just ended. A federal judge in Denver on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed in 2011 by Fort Collins-based Water Supply & Storage Co. over a U.S. Forest Service decision about the management of Long Draw Reservoir and requirements to restore the native greenback cutthroat trout in the reservoir and surrounding streams.
Long Draw Reservoir sits below the east side of the Continental Divide, about 35 miles west of Fort Collins in the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. Some of its water comes from the Western Slope via the Grand River Ditch, which traverses a section of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Water from the reservoir is released into La Poudre Pass Creek, a tributary to the Poudre River. The water goes toward downstream agricultural and municipal uses. The reservoir was built in 1929 and expanded in 1974.
That 53-acre expansion was the root cause of the ensuing fight. The original 300-acre reservoir was permitted under a permanent easement, said Dennis Harmon, general manager of the irrigation company: The expansion required a separate, renewable easement and permit.
In 1994, Trout Unlimited sued the Forest Service over an Environmental Impact Statement for the permit that would have allowed La Poudre Pass Creek to be dry during the winter.
In 2004, a U.S. District Court threw out the permit, forcing the Forest Service to start the permitting process over and include a plan to protect trout habitat and restore the greenback cutthroat trout to the watershed.
A deal to make that happen involving Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Water Supply & Storage was reached in 2010. But the forest supervisor at the time said the irrigation company would have to be responsible for full cost of the restoration project.
That prompted another lawsuit and more years of haggling. Under the new deal, Water Supply & Storage will put $1,250,000 into a trust that will pay for the restoration program.
Trout Unlimited will be the trustee. It will work closely with the Forest Service, the National Park Service and Colorado agencies to implement the largest trout restoration project in state history.
The work will entail building barriers in the reservoir and more than 40 miles of streams to block out non-native fish species. Once non-native fish are eliminated section-section from streams, the waters will be restocked with greenback cutthroat trout.
The project is likely to last more than 10 years, said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. It could cost more than the earmarked $1,250,000, he said, but fundraising and in-kind donations from volunteers and government entities should help get the work done.
Water Supply & Storage is glad to have the matter settled after so many years, Harmon said. It wound up with a 30-year easement agreement to continue managing the reservoir.
He declined to say how much the company paid in legal fees.
Nickum said the restoration work will be challenging, especially given the limitations on equipment that may be used inside designated wilderness areas. But it will be worthwhile for the environment and people who enjoy fishing.
And the greenback cutthroat trout – the Colorado state fish and a threatened species – will be back in it home waters.