@NorthernWater is drawing down Horsetooth for Soldier Canyon Dam outlet works maintenance

Horsetooth Reservoir looking west from Soldier Dam. Photo credit: Northern Water.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

In all, Horsetooth dropped 32 feet between Aug. 1 and Sept. 13. The reason for the decrease is two-fold, according to reservoir manager Northern Water.

One reason for the level change is the approaching end of the irrigation season. Water users often didn’t need to take advantage of their water rights earlier in the summer, when storm clouds dropped rain on Northern Colorado several times a week.

But as the weather’s dried up, Northern Water has delivered more water to ditch companies for irrigation, spokesman Brian Werner said. The Poudre and South Platte Rivers are running lower now that snowpack has waned, so irrigation water is coming out of storage at Horsetooth.

The Soldier Canyon Dam is located on the east shore of Horsetooth Reservoir, 3.5 miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado. The zoned earthfill dam has an outlet works consisting of a concrete conduit through the base of the dam, controlled by two 72-inch hollow-jet valves. The foundation is limey shales and sandstones overlain with silty, sandy clay. Photo credit Reclamation.

The releases are also necessary because Northern Water is planning maintenance on the Soldier Canyon Dam outlet works in early November, Werner said. Lower water levels make it easier for divers to access dams for repairs.

Horsetooth stood at 5,391 feet on Wednesday morning, which is about average for this time of year, Werner said. On Aug. 1, Horsetooth’s elevation was 5,423 feet, or 7 feet below full…

Northern Water plans to draw down Horsetooth another 4 feet but will do so more gradually during the coming weeks, Werner said. The reservoir will probably reach more of an “equilibrium” between inflows and outflows this weekend, he added.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

“Lack of water doesn’t stop growth” — Eric Wilkinson

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Rebecca Powell):

The panel last week gave its unanimous support to Northern Colorado Water
Conservancy District’s plan, which set out to address the impacts of the Northern Integrated Supply Project on fish and wildlife.

Concerns about the plan have centered on peak water flows and whether flows outlined in the plan will be enough to allow for a flushing that is vital to the Poudre River’s health…

Both Fort Collins City Council and Larimer County commissioners reviewed the plan, which was released in June.

Council sent comments back to the commission with recommendations, such as guaranteeing three days of peak flows on the river for critical flushing.

Commissioners opted not to send feedback to the commission, and its members said they were comfortable with the plan…

Northern Water is working with 15 Front Range partners who seek to build the project to meet water demands brought upon by future growth.

“Lack of water doesn’t stop growth. It just changes where it comes from,” Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson told the Coloradoan Editorial Board on Monday. “In Colorado, it’s going to come from ag. … Without this project, there are 100 square miles of farms that will be dried up to provide that water.”

[…]

Now NISP must go through more water quality mitigation as part of the Federal Clean Water Act.

An Army Corps of Engineers decision on whether to allow the nearly $1 billion project is expected in 2018, after the proposal has cleared regulatory hurdles in Colorado.

CPW okays NISP wildlife mitigation plan

Aerial view of the roposed Glade Reservoir site — photo via Northern Water

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice) via The Fort Morgan Times:

The plan that was approved Thursday addresses the impacts to fish and wildlife due to the development and water diversion associated with NISP. Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water, said Friday the approval is a significant advancement of the plan.

“This was a significant step, there’s no question about that,” he said. “This is a big box we can check off, but there are still a few boxes ahead of us.”

The plan now goes to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which could give its approval to the project as early as the Sept. 20 board meeting, and then to the governor’s desk for signature.

There are plenty more boxes to be checked after that; the Environmental Impact Statement could be finished by the spring of 2018, Army Corps of Engineers approval could come sometime in early 2019, and then it’s back to the state level for what’s called a 401 Water Quality Certification.

Northern’s Werner said it could be 2021 or 2022 before anybody starts moving dirt. He said a proposed law to shorten the length of time it takes to bring water projects online wouldn’t affect NISP..

According to a CPW statement released on Thursday, the agency has been talking with Northern Water about the concept of this project for the last decade. Northern Water, CPW and the Department of Natural Resources have been discussing the fish and wildlife mitigation and project in earnest since October 2015. After more than two years of discussions, Northern Water presented and released a public draft of the plan at the June commission meeting. Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist with CPW, said Thursday he thinks the plan “provides a reasonable solution for fish and wildlife mitigation.”

“We understand the public’s concern for the river which is why CPW staff has been engaged in discussions for close to a decade,” he said. “If we were not involved from the onset, the level of mitigation, enhancement and protection of the river corridor and aquatic habitat would not be such a large part of Northern’s plans.”

A significant part of the mitigation plan, Kehmeier said, is what’s called the “conveyance refinement” flow, or year-round baseline flow plan for the river. The conveyance refinement intended to eliminate existing dry-up points on a 12-mile stretch of the Poudre River through Fort Collins. Average winter flows at the Lincoln Street Gate will be nearly doubled compared with current levels.

“The conveyance flow program is significant to the fishery and aquatic life because it keeps water in the river on a year round basis,” Kehmeier said. “Overall, the conveyance flow will significantly benefit the aquatic life in the river during the low flow times of the year.”

As part Northern Water’s plan, a new reservoir will be created for water storage and recreation opportunities for the public. Northern Water has agreed to provide $3 million plus an additional $50,000 per year for CPW hatchery expansion so that the new Glade Reservoir can be managed as a recreational fishery. Additional fishing opportunities will benefit the local and Colorado economy, as the fishing industry generates $1.9 billion in economic activity annually.

Northern Water has also agreed to provide wildlife habitat mitigation and enhancements on the west side of the reservoir, including the purchase of 1,380 acres to protect the reservoir drainage area and big-game habitat from development. This is critical winter range habitat for a non-migratory elk herd.

From email from Northern Water:

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan submitted by Northern Water for the Northern Integrated Supply Project at its meeting Thursday in Steamboat Springs.

The plan will protect the environment, fish and other wildlife in and near the Cache la Poudre River during and after NISP construction.

Read the CPW press release.

“This is a significant milestone for us,” said Jerry Gibbens, Northern Water’s NISP mitigation coordinator.

“We believe the plan is one of the most robust, if not the most robust, mitigation and enhancement plans ever proposed for a water project in Colorado,” said Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson.

After years of discussion and multiple modifications to the proposed plan, CPW staff and commissioners expressed satisfaction with the updated plan.

“If you look at this as a package, we’ve hit a balance,” said Ken Kehmeier, CWC’s senior aquatic biologist. “This is a reasonable approach.”

Northern Water incorporated CPW’s recommendations into the revised plan to help minimize impacts to fish and wildlife habitat during all phases of the project. Northern Water also agreed to minimize the impacts of NISP operations on peak flows in the Poudre River, including adjusting water diversion rates gradually to avoid sudden changes in river flows.

The peak flow mitigation is a first-of-its-kind commitment to maintain peak flows in the Poudre River nearly every year for geomorphic and aquatic habitat purposes.

The refined conveyance portion of the plan “will get us water in the river 24/7, 365,” said Kehmeier.

This year-round baseline flow plan will be crucial for the river’s aquatic habitat and connectivity. The conveyance refinement flow is intended to eliminate existing dry-up points on a 12-mile stretch of the Poudre River through Fort Collins. Average winter flows at the Lincoln Street Gage will be nearly doubled compared with current levels.

In addition, wildlife habitat mitigation and enhancements will be made on the west side of Glade Reservoir. This includes the purchase of 1,380 acres that will be used to protect the reservoir drainage area from development and to preserve big-game habitat, including that of non-migratory elk.

Trout Unlimited also supports the NISP Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan. David Nickum, executive director of Trout Unlimited said at the meeting Thursday, “We feel this is a solid mitigation plan.”

After a decade of conceptualization and two years of serious discussion, CPW’s approval was made possible by the dedicated efforts of both Northern Water and CPW staff.

“The NISP participants want to thank all who have worked on this mitigation plan, CPW and Northern Water staff, for developing a plan we all can stand behind,” said Chairman Chris Smith of the NISP participants committee. “The plan makes for a better Poudre River.”

Thanks to all NISP supporters who sent comments to the CPW prior to yesterday’s vote!

Read the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan.

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

CPW Commission unanimously approves NISP Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan @NorthernWater

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has unanimously approved the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan submitted by Northern Water for the Northern Integrated Supply Project on the Poudre River in Northeast Colorado. This plan is designed to address the impacts to fish and wildlife due to the development and water diversion associated with NISP.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) staff has been talking with Northern Water about the concept of this project for the last decade. Northern Water, CPW and the Department of Natural Resources have been discussing the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan project in earnest since October 2015. Following more than two years of discussions, Northern Water presented and released a public draft of the Plan at the June Commission meeting.

CPW staff feel that Northern Water’s plan provides a reasonable solution for fish and wildlife mitigation.

“We understand the public’s concern for the river which is why CPW staff has been engaged in discussions for close to a decade,” said Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist with CPW. “If we were not involved from the onset, the level of mitigation, enhancement and protection of the river corridor and aquatic habitat would not be such a large part of Northern’s plans,” said Kehmeier.

Northern Water has made modifications to its project design and operations, and has committed to work with CPW. Recommendations by CPW are aimed at minimizing impacts to fish and wildlife habitat during all phases of the project. Some of these include:

  • Peak Flow Operations Plan, pg. 46
  • the “conveyance refinement” flow, or year-round baseline flow plan for the river;
  • the retrofit of four diversions that currently do not allow fish passage or sediment transport;
  • Big game habitat mitigation and enhancements
  • The Peak Flow Operations Plan will minimize the impacts of NISP operations on peak flows, higher flows in the spring. Peak flow is important for maintaining spawning habitat for fish and aquatic life. Northern Water has agreed to ramping water diversions gradually to avoid sudden changes in river flows and allow fish to adjust.

    The conveyance refinement is crucial for aquatic habitat and river connectivity. This process is intended to eliminate existing dry-up points on a 12-mile stretch of the Poudre River through Fort Collins. Average winter flows at the Lincoln Street Gate will be nearly doubled compared with current levels.

    “The conveyance flow program is significant to the fishery and aquatic life because it keeps water in the river on a year round basis,” Kehmeier said. The conveyance flow will also meet the Fort Collins River Health Assessment Framework flow of 20 cfs 97 of the time at the Lincoln Street Gage.

    “Overall, the conveyance flow will significantly benefit the aquatic life in the river during the low flow times of the year,” Kehmeier said.

    As part Northern Water’s plan, a new reservoir will be created for water storage and recreation opportunities for the public. Northern Water has agreed to provide $3 million plus an additional $50,000 per year for CPW hatchery expansion so that the new Glade Reservoir can be managed as a recreational fishery. Additional fishing opportunities will benefit the local and Colorado economy, as the fishing industry generates $1.9 billion in economic activity annually.

    Northern Water has also agreed to provide wildlife habitat mitigation and enhancements on the west side of the reservoir, including the purchase of 1,380 acres to protect the reservoir drainage area and big-game habitat from development. This is critical winter range habitat for a non-migratory elk herd.

    CPW recognizes that the water quality mitigation is not complete and the proposed project still needs to go through a 401 certification as part of the federal Clean Water Act process. This certification will be conducted by Colorado Department of Health and Environment. As part of a recommendation prompted by the Colorado Water Plan, CPW staff will participate in that process and feel that it will further enhance protection of the Poudre River.

    Temperature issues occur in the river on a year-round basis; the conveyance refinement and multi-level outlet tower at Glade Reservoir will aid in mitigating the temperature issues and other potential water quality issues, for example, sediment transport during low flow. The releases from the reservoir will be aerated and the multi-level outlet will allow water to be mixed if it is needed at a particular temperature.

    The Poudre River Adaptive Management Plan, pg 97, will allow a collective group of interested parties that include the City of Fort Collins, Northern Water, CPW, Larimer County and others to go back and make corrections to the plan and operation if any are necessary. The plan will also allow CPW and other parties to continue conducting projects to benefit the river to include floodplain connection, fish habitat enhancements and mitigate sediment transport.

    The Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan will now go to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for review.

    The full Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan can be found here: http://www.northernwater.org/sf/docs/default-source/default-document-library/2017-08-22-nisp-fwmep_draft-final-1.pdf?sfvrsn=90f38624_2

    Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

    @Northern_Water: “We will deliver day in and day out, every single day of the year, 18 [CFS]” — Jerry Gibbens

    Poudre River Bike Path bridge over the river at Legacy Park photo via Fort Collins Photo Works.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    [Tom] Donnelly and Lew Gaiter met with representatives of Northern Water during their administrative matters meeting Tuesday to consider input previously given to the commissioners from the Larimer County Environmental and Science Advisory Board.

    The volunteer citizen members of the committee expressed several concerns with the plan, including the plans for flushing the river, the flow levels and what advisory members considered to be “fuzzy at best” plans for paying for promised mitigations and enhancements.

    From Northern Water, general manager Eric Wilkerson and project manager Jerry Gibbens explained to the commissioners Tuesday that those issues had been addressed. They showed figures explaining how the mitigation plan improves the frequency of flushing the river and how it will ensure water in the river through all seasons as opposed to now when there are times that certain sections in Fort Collins are dried up.

    “We will deliver day in and day out, every single day of the year, 18 (cubic feet per second) in the winter and 25 cfs in the summer down river,” said Gibbens…

    As far as the funding, Northern Water is committing to $53 million in mitigation and improvements. They agreed to pay $13.8 million outright, Gibbens said. While Northern Water will look for partners and other funding sources for the rest ($39.2 million), they will make sure that every aspect of the plan is completed, according to Gibbens…

    After hearing from Northern Water, the commissioners decided not to forward any comments to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, which will vote on the plan next week. They said they appreciate the concerns brought forward by their advisory commission and are satisfied that Northern Water has addressed them to the county’s satisfaction.

    Commissioner Lew Gaiter said he was pleased that the information presented by both the environmental board and Northern Water served as education for the community…

    The wildlife mitigation plan is available online at http://www.gladereservoir.org and information on how to submit comments, due this Friday, is available at http://www.cpw.state.co.us.

    @Northern_Water signs off on Broomfield/Larimer County ATM agreement

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    From The Broomfield Enterprise (Jennifer Rios):

    The final nod was received by Northern Water last week, following earlier approvals by Broomfield and Larimer counties.

    The agreement includes Broomfield buying 115 Colorado-Big Thompson water units for $25,550 each from Larimer, which would save Broomfield $109,250 if bought at open-market value.

    It also includes an “Alternate Transfer Mechanism,” or ATM, that would give Broomfield the right to use 80 C-BT units a minimum of three out of 10 years, while paying an additional fee to use the water in those years to add to the farm’s viability.

    The effort is a drought-protection effort that could be increased to five out of 10 years in extreme drought years. That period would be a rolling 10 years, meaning once Broomfield pulls water, the clock starts…

    The ATM is the first of its kind in Colorado where water is shared from agricultural to municipal use in perpetuity.

    “By piloting this agreement, we’ve demonstrated that, by working together and sharing valuable resources, it’s possible to conserve fast-disappearing farmland at a reduced cost while securing a source of water for Colorado’s growing cities,” Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Program manager for Larimer County, said in a Larimer Department of Natural Resources news release this week. “Hopefully, this creates a model for farmers and municipalities to work together and avoid simple ‘buy and dry’ of farmland.”

    Through the agreement, Larimer County was able to conserve 211 acres of productive farmland, along with the farm’s agricultural, historic, scenic, community buffer and educational values, the release states, while reducing the cost of buying the farm and its water by 46 percent.

    “Broomfield values a partnership approach to both water conservation and securing future water resources,” David Allen, director of Public Works for Broomfield, said. “We were pleased to work with Larimer County to bring this innovative Alternative Transfer Method to both of our communities.”

    Larimer County retained 45 units of C-BT water unencumbered, along with native Handy Ditch water.

    According to studies funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program, the water that will remain on the farm will be enough to keep it profitable and productive, according to the release. It will grow corn or sugar beets in wet years and water-efficient crops in dry years. In very dry years, when the farm might normally struggle to grow a profitable crop, the farm may now be better off financially with the ATM in place because it will bring in revenue from the ATM payment associated with the sharing of the water, the release states.

    A controversial bill would weaken states’ control over water — @HighCountryNews

    Here’s a report from Josh Zaffos writing in the The High Country News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

    The bill, H.R. 23, would basically block or override several state water laws — contrary to conservatives’ often-stated goal of reducing the federal government’s role and giving states greater power to manage resources. “They are trying to pre-empt the state from managing its rivers to balance the benefits to the economy with the need to protect the environment,” says Doug Obegi, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    The bill would override environmental rules set by California’s laboriously negotiated San Francisco Bay Delta Accord, an agreement meant to protect water quality in the Delta while guaranteeing reliable supplies for farms and cities. Instead, managers delivering water to the Central Valley would follow a less restrictive, temporary order from 1994 and do so “without regard to the Endangered Species Act.” That would prohibit the state from keeping water in the Sacramento or San Joaquin rivers solely to benefit chinook salmon, green sturgeon and delta smelt, all protected under the Endangered Species Act.

    It would also repeal and replace the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement — a state-federal partnership to recover salmon — with a new farmer-friendly arrangement that allows irrigators to dry up a 60-mile stretch of the river, harming fish habitat. Overall, such measures to pre-empt state water laws are “huge and unprecedented,” says Brian Gray, an emeritus law professor now with the Public Policy Institute of California.

    Outside California, the GROW Act would also fast-track permitting for new dams across the West. It would make the Bureau of Reclamation the lead agency for permitting all new water-storage projects on federal lands, and accelerate environmental review, even for complex projects with expansive effects on rivers, fish and wildlife. Environmental impact statements, which agencies complete to weigh project costs and impacts, often take years to finish, particularly if conservation groups or local governments file appeals or lawsuits. The act would require the review process to be completed within 13 months, effectively limiting critics’ ability to raise concerns.

    Such expedited permitting would help water agencies like the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, whose plans for two large new reservoir projects have been under review since 2004. Chimney Hollow Reservoir, to be built on the eastern side of the Rockies, will store water diverted from the Colorado River to supply booming northern Colorado. It received federal approval this May — after 13 years of federal review that required numerous plan revisions to address potential environmental impacts. The district’s Northern Integrated Supply Project still awaits a final decision.

    Northern Water hasn’t endorsed the GROW Act, but spokesman Brian Werner says that better agency coordination — between federal authorities and state fish and wildlife managers, for instance — and swifter decisions would help water suppliers address criticism in a more timely, less piecemeal way. Delays are also costly, particularly if construction costs rise, and leave water-needy towns in limbo.