#ColoradoRiver: Moffat Collection System Project update #COriver

Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS
Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

From The Wall Street Journal (Jim Carlton):

Next year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to decide whether to issue a permit to triple the capacity of Gross Reservoir in the Rocky Mountain foothills, with additional shipments of about 18,000 acre feet of water a year from the Colorado River watershed. An acre foot is enough water to meet the annual needs of an average family of five.

That is one of the last regulatory barriers for utility Denver Water’s $380 million project, for which district officials say they hope to break ground in 2019 to help ensure local water supplies.

“We have an obligation to supply water,” said Jeff Martin, Denver Water’s manager of the project, as he stood recently atop a 340-foot concrete dam that is to be raised by 131 feet under the plan. “It’s not an option to not have water.”

[…]

The Corps of Engineers is expected to decide next year on a proposed new “Windy Gap” project in Colorado, which would divert up to another 30,000 acre feet a year to the Front Range, the heavily populated area where the Rocky Mountains rise up from the plains.

In addition, more than 200,000 acre feet would be diverted for proposed projects in Utah and Wyoming…

Water officials in California and other lower basin states say they aren’t overly concerned about more diversions upstream, because a 1922 compact requires the upper basin states to deliver them about 7.5 million acre feet a year, or one half the river flow set aside for human use north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Much of that water is stockpiled in Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border.

With the Colorado running much lower than when the compact was signed, water experts say there is less water to divert.

“So long as their development doesn’t impinge on their release to us, that is their business,” said Chuck Cullom, a program manager at the Central Arizona Project in Phoenix, which pulls from the river and stands to lose a fifth of its deliveries if a shortage is declared on the Colorado. “If it falls below that, then they would have to figure out how to manage their demand.”

Don Ostler, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, which oversees use of the river in the upper basin states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, agreed that new diversions increase the risk of shortages.

“The more you develop, the more a severe drought can affect you,” said Mr. Ostler. “But we are able to live with a certain amount of shortage.”

In Denver, water officials don’t feel they have much choice but to seek more Colorado water.

In 2002, tons of sediment from a forest fire clogged one of Denver Water’s reservoirs during a drought. “We came close to running out of water in the northern end of our system,” said Jim Lochhead, chief executive officer of Denver Water, a utility that serves 1.4 million people.

That crisis helped prompt the district in 2003 to undertake the Gross Reservoir expansion, which would store more water from an existing tunnel that transfers Colorado River water from the west side of the Continental Divide.

Denver officials pledged to only take the water in wet years and release more into streams when it is dry—measures that drew praise from some conservationists…

Gov. John Hickenlooper in July gave the state’s approval, calling the dam’s expansion vital. “The state’s responsibility is to ensure we do the right thing for Colorado’s future,” the Democratic governor said at the time, “and this project is vital infrastructure for our economy and the environment.”

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

#ColoradoRiver: High-Flow Experiment Underway at Glen Canyon Dam Simulates Natural Flooding through Grand Canyon — @USBR

November 2012 High Flow Experiment via Protect the Flows
November 2012 High Flow Experiment via Protect the Flows

From the US Bureau of Reclamation (Marlon Duke):

Releases from dam help restore ecological health without affecting water commitments

The U.S. Department of the Interior today initiated another high-flow release of water from Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona under an innovative science-based experimental plan. The fourth such release, the goal is to enhance the environment in Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area while continuing to meet water and power delivery needs and allowing continued scientific experimentation and monitoring on the Colorado River.

“Healthy watersheds are critical to the economy and environment, and our science-based approach demonstrates that protecting water supplies alongside other resources tied to the river are not only compatible but instrinsically linked,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “This latest release will provide critical fish and wildlife habitat, reduce erosion of archaeological sites and enhance recreational opportunities while meeting our obligations to water users in the region.”

The 96-hour-release will pick up enough sand from tributary channels to fill a building as big as a football field and as tall as the Washington Monument, all the way to the brim. These hundreds of thousands of tons of sediment will be re-deposited along downstream reaches as sandbars and beaches along the Colorado River, mimicking natural river flow.

The high-volume experimental releases are designed to restore sand features and associated backwater habitats to provide key fish and wildlife habitat, potentially reduce erosion of archaeological sites, restore and enhance riparian vegetation, increase beaches and enhance wilderness values along the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park. The annual volume of water to be sent toward Lake Mead this year will not change as a result of the experiment – water releases in other months will be adjusted accordingly.

The decision to conduct this experiment followed substantial consultation with Colorado River Basin states, American Indian Tribes and involved federal agencies, including five Interior agencies – Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In planning the release, officials considered the amount of sediment available in the river; the condition of cultural and archaeological resources near the river; biological resources such as endangered species, the Lees Ferry recreational fishery and riparian vegetation; and seasonal demands for water and hydroelectric power deliveries. During and after the release, the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center will gather a variety of scientific data, including how beaches and sandbars change, differences in sediment concentration and composition, and water quality.

Recognizing the importance of annual water deliveries and dependable hydroelectric power generation, the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-575) directed the Secretary of the Interior to manage Glen Canyon Dam in such a way as to “protect, mitigate adverse impacts to, and improve the values for which Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area were established.”

Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar triggered the first release under the experimental long-term protocol in November 2012. The protocol calls for conducting more frequent high-flow experimental releases and timing them to occur following sediment inputs to the Colorado River downstream from Glen Canyon Dam.

Department of the Interior officials remind recreational users to use extreme caution during the high flows when on or along the Colorado River through Glen, Marble and Grand Canyons. Flow-level information will be posted at multiple locations in both Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park.

Additional information about this high flow experiment—including flow information, campsite maps and shoreline modeling—is available at the following websites:

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – http://www.usbr.gov/uc/rm/gcdHFE/index.html
National Park Service – https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/nature/hfe.htm

Before and after photos of results of the high flow experiment in 2008 via USGS
Before and after photos of results of the high flow experiment in 2008 via USGS

Healthy Rivers board works to keep water in the river — Aspen Public Radio

Roaring Fork River, Grottos, on Monday morning June 13, 2016, looking downstream, with diversions into the Twin Lakes Tunnel at over 600 cfs. While impressive at this level, the whitewater frenzy that resulted after the tunnels were closed was far more intense. Photo Brent Gardner-Smith <a href="http://aspenjournalism.org">Aspen Journalism</a>.
Roaring Fork River, Grottos, on Monday morning June 13, 2016, looking downstream, with diversions into the Twin Lakes Tunnel at over 600 cfs. While impressive at this level, the whitewater frenzy that resulted after the tunnels were closed was far more intense. Photo Brent Gardner-Smith Aspen Journalism.

From Aspen Public Radio (Elizabeth Stewart-Severy):

Healthy Rivers and Streams board members recently took a field trip to the construction zone on the Roaring Fork River, where backhoes are digging up the riverbed. By February, this should be a man-made whitewater park with two waves for boaters to surf.

Board chair Lisa Tasker said the ultimate goal of this project is to keep water in the river during low flow years, using a water right designated for recreation.

“When you get a recreational in-channel diversion water right, you have to put structures in, and then you have to prove that people are recreating in there,” Tasker said.

With a price-tag of nearly $800,000, the whitewater park is the biggest project the Healthy Rivers and Streams fund has tackled…

Now it is turning its attention to the City of Aspen, which wants to reserve the right to build reservoirs on Castle and Maroon creeks. The municipality filed last month with the state to keep its conditional water storage right.

“We’re a healthy rivers board, and we’re going to respond in favor of a healthy river and a healthy ecosystem,” Tasker said. “So, we’re going to come out probably fairly strongly, because that is our mission.”

At a meeting in late October, the river board agreed to urge Pitkin County Commissioners to formally file in opposition to the City of Aspen in water court. Commissioner Rachel Richards is not warm to the idea.

“Just forcing the city to relinquish those water rights actually does nothing to protect the long-term health of the Castle Creek or the Maroon Creek,” Richards said.

Richards said she’d like to see the city maintain the rights while researching alternatives, like digging into a deeper aquifer or working to change Colorado water law entirely.

If nothing else, Richards and Tasker agree, the issue has opened a new conversation and interest in local water issues.

“I think it’s going to cause people to become a lot more creative and a lot more imaginative as to how they’re going to handle a shortage of water in the future,” Tasker said.

The county has until Dec. 31 to file in opposition to the city.

Read Brent Gardner-Smith’s analysis of Aspen’s diligence filing.

#Drought news: Trees and shrubs do not go dormant in the winter

West Drought Monitor November 1, 2016.
West Drought Monitor November 1, 2016.

From KDVR.com (Dan Daru):

90-percent of our plants and trees are not indigenous to Colorado, and they’re going to need more water to stay growing. About 20 to 30 inches of moisture a year.

Myth buster: trees and shrubs do not go dormant in the winter. They grow all year long, with spring and fall the most important times of the year. Giving your landscape a good, thirst quenching drink of water right now will give it a fighting chance this winter, and for years to come.

On the #ColoradoRiver, #ClimateChange is Water Change — @WaterDeeply #COriver

Evaporation and transpiration graphic via the USGS
Evaporation and transpiration graphic via the USGS

Here’s an interview with Douglas Kenney from Matt Weiser writing for Water Deeply. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

A team of scientists declares in a new report explaining the effects of climate change on the Colorado River that there won’t be any “breakthroughs” to save us from water scarcity.

How low can the Colorado go? When will we get back to “normal” winters? Can we blame it all on climate change?

To address some of these questions, the Colorado River Research Group recently released a concise four-page paper explaining how climate change is affecting the river. It is a remarkably accessible summation of lots of complicated science. The conclusion is that we simply need to adapt to a future in which water scarcity is the norm.

To help illuminate this conclusion, Water Deeply recently spoke with Douglas Kenney, director of the Western Water Program at the University of Colorado. Kenney is also chairman of the Colorado River Research Group, an independent team of scholars from six public universities that explain the river’s challenges in an ongoing series of plain-language policy reports.

Water Deeply: One of the really important statements you make in this paper is that “climate change is water change.” Tell me more about that.

Kenney: We’re certainly not the first people to make that observation or even use that phrasing. Every element of the hydrologic cycle, to some degree, is temperature dependent: when it snows versus when it rains; when it melts, how much evaporates; how much water the plants use; the length of the growing seasons. It’s all temperature-dependent.

Water Deeply: You also write that the effect of temperature “overwhelms precipitation changes.” What do you mean by that?

Kenney: It gets to this point that virtually every element of the hydrologic cycle is very much influenced by temperature. You can get conditions that are maybe a little wetter or drier. But you start running those scenarios through the climate models and what you realize very quickly when you look at the output is that those modest changes in precipitation really pale in significance compared to the impact of temperature. It’s in part because temperature so much drives the natural uses of water, the natural movement of water.

There’s a great observation that two of our members – Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck – have made in recent research: Just a very slight reduction in precipitation, largely because it’s so warm, can lead to a significant 15 percent or more reduction in actual streamflow.

Front Range apple cideries buy up juice from Montezuma County — The Cortez Journal

La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain
La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

Local apples were once again pressed into juice for market during a successful pilot project held in a Lebanon orchard last month.

The event, sponsored by the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project, processed 800 bushels of apples gathered from local orchards.

“It went really well, we generated 2,200 gallons of raw juice that was sold to hard cider makers,” said MORP manager Nina Williams.

The group is studying the feasibility of using a mobile pressing unit to process apples from the many forgotten local orchards that otherwise let the fruit go to waste.

They were awarded a $42,400 planning grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to test the idea.

For two days in October, Northwest Mobile Juicing, out of Montana, set up in the Russell apple orchard in Lebanon. The unit can press, pasteurize, and package the juice for market.

For the pilot, the raw juice could only be sold to hard cider companies for fermentation. Additional permits are needed to sell pasteurized apple juice.

“We proved we can get if off the trees for sale to the hard cider market,” Williams said. “If the demand is there we can work through the regulations to sell local juice as well.”

Several orchard owners realized some profits from the project, and were paid 10 cents per pound for apples still on the tree.

A dedicated crew of twenty MORP volunteers spend 300 hours picking the apples in the weeks prior to the pressing. In all, nine apple orchard owners were paid $3,500 for their apples.

One local cider maker and four from Boulder and Denver bought the raw juice. A semi-truck was loaded with the juice for a night run to Front Range cideries.

“They were impressed with the quality,” Williams said. “The juice was a blend of local heritage apple varieties.”

Apple mash produced was hauled off by local livestock owners for feed.

MORP said they broke even on the trial run, and are studying how best to set up a local pressing facility.

“We learned that there is a lot of labor and infrastructure involved besides just the pressing equipment,” Williams said.

Commercial apple operations require warehouses, shipping docks, refrigerated cold storage to store apples, and heavy equipment such as trucks and forklifts.

MORP has been documenting once popular heritage apple varieties from the days when the area was a thriving fruit market more than 100 years ago.

They have brought many of them back to life through careful grafting and propagation techniques, and are encouraging local farmers to plant heritage apple orchards.

“Our big goals is to bring back this genetic diversity to keep heritage apples from going extinct, and to get it so people can have these trees again,” said MORP orchardist Jude Schuenemeyer. “Trees that worked here for over 100 years are really well adapted to this place.”

A recent victory for MORP was the rediscovery of the rare Colorado orange apple in a Cañon City orchard in 2012. For the last several years, local orchardists have been grafting and cultivating this near-extinct apple known for its fine flavor, hardiness, storage qualities, and cider-making potential.

There are dozens of abandoned apple orchards in the county that still produce a good crop, but have a limited market. The juice market is seen as ideal because the apples do not have to be perfect and the ones that fall on the ground can be used as well.

“One of our goals is to get local orchards back in shape by hosting workshops this winter on pruning and orchard management,” Williams said.

For more information go to http://www.montezumaorchard.org