Flaming Gorge pipeline: Frank Jaeger (Parker Water and Sanitation District) and others are urging the state to continue looking at the proposed project


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“While we are encouraged that the Flaming Gorge discussion sponsored by the roundtables and state of Colorado will attempt to foster agreement on key issues and take a fair look at the project, we are concerned that many groups are engaging in a political attempt to intimidate the participants and bias or terminate the process,” Parker Water and Sanitation Manager Frank Jaeger wrote in a recent letter to key state officials.

Environmental groups last month announced opposition to the study of the project by roundtables…

The [Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Supply Project] is awaiting U.S. Bureau of Reclamation modeling of the Colorado River basin, expected to be complete later this year, before it wraps up its feasibility study launched in 2010. Since then, the group has further defined its needs: 105,000 acre-feet annually from the project to meet growth estimates to the year 2070…

The Colorado-Wyoming Coalition’s proposed project helps meet several positions taken on water by Gov. John Hickenlooper, Jaeger said. Those include:

– Protecting agricultural water.

– Providing an adequate supply of water to promote a strong economy.

– Helping to fill the municipal water gap identified in the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative.

– Supporting the portfolio of strategies identified by the Interbasin Compact Committee: reuse, conservation, alternative agriculture-municipal transfers, completing identified projects and developing new projects.

More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Supply Project coverage here.

Federal funding may become available for the south Metro suburbs, Aurora and Denver to use for the WISE project


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Suburban water authorities said the project [Water Infrastructure Supply Efficiency or WISE], designed to reduce reliance on dwindling underground water, will cost about $558 million.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said “rural water supply” funds may be available for the project, if it survives a detailed feasibility review. Congress would need to authorize the federal funding, which could decrease the bill passed on to water customers. “What we’re looking at: Is this project capable of being completed? Is the cost-benefit going to work out? Is it going to be beneficial?” Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Peter Soeth said.

Meanwhile, a crucial wastewater purchase deal with Denver and Aurora has yet to be done. How much wastewater could be diverted, and how often, remains under negotiation. The suburbs told federal officials the WISE project would deliver 5,000 to 11,000 acre-feet a year for the first five years, then as much as 37,000 acre-feet a year…

The federal rural water-supply funds could be used because suburbs with populations under 50,000 are deemed “rural,” said Mark Shively, executive director of the Douglas County Water Resource Authority. “We have very aggressively pursued this opportunity,” Shively said. “We’re now about 20 percent into the feasibility study.”[…]

Beyond pipeline construction, the proposed project involves new storage of treated wastewater in surface reservoirs and by injecting it into depleted aquifers. “We have a couple reservoirs we’re looking at,” Shively said. “Between the Chatfield and Rueter Hess (reservoirs) we have a good amount of storage.”

Here’s the report from Reclamation.

More WISE project coverage here.

The Parker Water and Sanitation District snags the ‘Outstanding Water Laboratory’ award from AWWA — Rocky Mountain Section


From the Parker Chronicle:

In addition to receiving highest marks in a broad spectrum of water-quality tests and analysis processes, the award was also given to the district for its fieldwork performed beyond its customer service area of about 16,000 customers. The district’s lab technicians have been called to assist other districts in Arapahoe, Douglas and Elbert counties with water-quality testing and analysis due to inadequate on-site lab capabilities or under-trained personnel. Water district winners in all categories will be recognized at the Joint Annual Conference of the American Water Works Association on Sept. 18-21 in Loveland.

More Parker coverage here.

Parker conservation program: Evapotranspiration based irrigation controllers limit water use by 20-50%


From YourHub.com (Clayton Woullard) via The Denver Post:

“What we’ve found is by getting that message out and continually beating that message home with our users, people are starting to get it,” said [Craig Miller water efficiency expert for Parker Water and Sanitation], who added that he can walk down the average Parker street and see that three out of four of the houses are following the water restrictions.

He also holds about 30-40 educational programs a year at the Parker Library and at Tagawa Gardens teaching about wise water use and xeriscape gardens. That thirst for education has also resulted in the agency being overbooked on water audits, he said.

“So they’re realizing that the power of a water audit is to be able to understand how to set my sprinkler controller correctly, how often should I be watering, what kind of equipment should I be retrofitting to and word of mouth gets around,” he said.

To help them realize those savings they might discover on a water audit, Parker Water and Sanitation offers rebates on ET-based irrigation controllers. The controllers have sensors, which measure solar radiation, wind, temperature and other weather information and generate a precise watering schedule for each user based on their soil composition. Miller said that can result in 20-50 percent in savings.

More conservation coverage here.

Parker Water and Sanitation and Stonegate are in merger discussions


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

…utility managers propose to merge water systems to spread debt and increase efficiency. It’s the sort of consolidation that industry leaders anticipate, in Colorado and nationwide, as problems with water supply and aging pipes intensify. But the Parker-Stonegate deal has set off a political storm. On Wednesday night, more than 170 Stonegate residents attended the latest informational meeting, and a majority indicated in an informal vote that they opposed the merger. “Nobody in our neighborhood understands what is going on,” said Stonegate resident Lisa Nejedlow, whose residential water pressure recently decreased sharply. “I don’t want to go with Parker. I don’t trust them. I think they have too much debt ($214 million) and they are trying to go into other people’s pockets.”[…]

If Parker (population 45,000) and Stonegate (11,000) were to merge their water systems, it would be the first signficant consolidation in the south metro area. There are more than 25 water utilities on the Front Range. Suburban developers created most of these special-use districts. Some serve as few as 25 people…

Stonegate and Parker residents would face property-tax hikes as well as rising water bills whatever they do. But hooking up with Parker’s system could solve Stonegate’s problem of having to upgrade its sewage-treatment system — estimated to cost at least $10 million. That expense would add to Stonegate’s $30 million debt from sinking 13 super-deep municipal wells, building a pool and community center and other spending, said Stonegate metro district manager Mitch Chambers…

Stonegate board members are divided. “We need to explore other options,” said Mike Sjobakken, one of two board members who are opposed, noting that a former Parker utility-board member who resigned amid controversy has been hired to help Parker project who would pay what if the utilities merged. “It would make sense to consolidate,” but maybe with multiple entities, not just Parker, he said.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: The IBCC and CWCB are watching closely to see if alternative ag transfers can be a model for the South Platte Basin as well

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s water adviser, said a proposed trial lease by the Super Ditch to El Paso County water users next year is a better way to test the proposal than state legislation proposed this year. “HB1068 was shot down in short order, and for good reason because it wasn’t well vetted,” Stulp said. “The sponsors have thought of a way to do it without going to the Legislature.”

“The rest of the state is looking to this part of the state to see how the lease-fallowing program works,” Stulp said. Stulp, along with Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director Jennifer Gimbel, addressed the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board at its monthly meeting Thursday…

He praised the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, one of nine set up in 2005 when the IBCC was formed, for showing leadership at the state level. Among its accomplishments was the formation of a Flaming Gorge pipeline task force in conjunction with the Metro Roundtable. The task force will meet June 29 to decide how the state should proceed on two proposals to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline. The pipeline is the brainchild of Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million. A Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Parker Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority is doing its own study about whether to pursue a Flaming Gorge pipeline. “We’ll look at the pros and the cons, but it’s an appropriate time to get that started,” Stulp said.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here.

Parker Water and Sanitation District board election recap

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From the Parker Chronicle (Ashley Dieterle):

Two positions are now filled on the Parker Water and Sanitation District board of directors after an all mail-in ballot election. Current board president Mary Spencer earned the most votes, with a total of 1,327 followed by candidate Darcy Beard earning 1,166 votes. Both women earned four-year terms.

More Parker coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Colorado-Wyoming Coalition makes it official becoming the Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project

Proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline

It’s official now. Aaron Million and the Million Resources Conservation Group now have another obstacle to overcome in their quest to move water from the Green River Basin to the South Platte Basin and Arkansas Basin. Frank Jaeger (Parker Water and Sanitation) and several Front Range and Wyoming water providers have announced a study aimed at determining the feasibility of building the same pipeline with public dough and public partners. When Million first heard about Jaeger’s plans some time around the Colorado Water Congress’ convention in 2009 he told The Pueblo Chieftain’s Chris Woodka, “Let’s be clear: They’re trying to steal the project. I don’t understand the deal. They’re supposed to be men of honor. They should act as such.” Here’s a report about yesterday’s announcement from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Each utility in the coalition will contribute $20,000 to a feasibility study for a massive municipal water pipeline project called the Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project, which would pipe water for 532,000 people from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Front Range. The coalition of utilities includes the town of Castle Rock, the Donala Water-Sanitation District in Colorado Springs, Parker Water and Sanitation District, the South Metro Water Supply Authority and Douglas County in Colorado and Laramie County, Wyo., and the Wyoming cities of Cheyenne, Torrington and Rawlins.

The project may mirror Million’s proposed 500-mile long pipeline, which would take about 250,000 acre feet of water from the Green River above Flaming Gorge Reservoir, pipe it over the Continental Divide along Interstate 80 and deliver it to thirsty Front Range water providers, mostly agricultural. The difference is that Million’s project is private and concerns only Colorado water organizations, while the Colorado-Wyoming project has the cooperation of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and would serve only municipal water utilities in two states.

Parker Water District Manager Frank Jaeger said in a statement that Million’s proposed pipeline does not meet a federal requirement calling for Million to specify the recipients of the project’s water. Jaeger said letters of interest from various utilities throughout the Front Range lack commitment. “Given (Million’s) project cost, it is our belief that a massive subsidy from municipal users would be necessary to pay for the water,” Jaeger wrote. He said it’s bad public policy for Colorado to support Million’s project because it allocates limited Colorado River Basin water for agriculture without meeting the water needs of cities…

The utilities have “no preconceived notion” about the feasibility of a Flaming Gorge pipeline going into the two-year study, which will show how much water the interested cities and counties need in the future, how water would be piped from Flaming Gorge and how much the project might cost, said Bruce Lytle, one of the consultants working on the study…

At a news conference Thursday at the Capitol, the announcement was met with enthusiastic support from several state lawmakers, including Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton; Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Douglas County; Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker; and Rep. Su Riden, D-Aurora.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“This would develop the compact rights of two states. Those Colorado River rights have not been developed much for municipal and industrial uses,” said Frank Jaeger, Parker Water and Sanitation District manager at a press conference at the state Capitol Thursday. “This is the first move of the group to see how we develop the water for two states.”[…]

The Colorado users are almost entirely dependent on water from the Denver Basin aquifers which have been depleted as Front Range communities have grown. They are looking at new sources of water, including buying agricultural water rights in the Arkansas River Basin. For example, Donala last year purchased a Lake County ranch for the water rights, and the South Metro district included a possible pipeline from the Arkansas basin in its long-range water supply plan. “We are looking at the project and other alternatives,” said Rod Kuharich, manager of the South Metro District, which encompasses 14 water providers serving 300,000 people. Of the coalition, he said: “This is an unprecedented level of cooperation.”

Wyoming has looked at developing water from the Green River Basin since the 1970s. Bringing water to the eastern part of the state would address water quality and supply issues. It also would alleviate pressure on the state from Nebraska under a North Platte River compact with Nebraska, said Torrington Mayor Leroy Schafer…

The pipeline concept is similar to Aaron Million’s plan, announced in 2006, and now being evaluated as the Regional Water Supply Project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Million proposes a 560-mile pipeline that he says could be developed for about $3 billion. Last year, he accused Jaeger of trying to “steal” the project. Although Million and Jaeger tell the story differently, it nearly came to blows outside a meeting last year — Million says he was threatened, while Jaeger claims he was provoked. Jaeger brushed aside a question from the media Thursday about whether the coalition’s project is in competition with Million’s plan. “I don’t like to hear ‘competition,’ ’’ Jaeger said. “We are end users with a need for the water. . . . How’s he going to build it without end users?”[…]

The coalition’s plan could differ in details from Million’s, said Bruce Lytle, president of Lytle Water Solutions, the lead consultant. “This is the first phase. We don’t know the size, type of structures or feasibility,” Lytle said. “We’re talking to member agencies to understand what their needs are.” The project will be developed with the Bureau of Reclamation to address needs for the environment and power at Flaming Gorge. It would look at exporting variable amounts of water, more in wet years, less in dry, Lytle said. The project could use three existing reservoirs on the North Platte River, new off-channel storage in the South Platte and existing structures like Parker’s Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a 75,000 acre-foot vessel just beginning to fill and designed to accommodate new water brought into the South Platte Basin. “The ultimate purpose of the feasibility study is to provide enough information to providers so they know how much it costs,” Lytle said, noting that work will begin immediately and will take 18-24 months to complete…

While Million has spent the last four years pitching his project around the state, major water suppliers have been cautious about supporting it. Earlier this month, the Arkansas and Metro basin roundtables agreed to ask the Colorado Water Conservation Board for funding to study setting up a task force proposed by the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority to look at both projects. At its meeting last week, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District agreed with that approach, rather than endorsing either project.

More coverage from the Associated Press (Ben Neary) via the Laramie Boomerang. From the article:

The project, if it goes forward, would require permission from Congress, but participants don’t believe they would have to renegotiate the Colorado River Compact, which allocates the river among Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Although it would be drawn from Wyoming, the water would come from Colorado’s allocated share of water in the Colorado River system. “The state of Colorado’s own State Water Supply Initiative clearly says that even with all the water projects currently in the pipeline, the Front Range and Platte River Basin will face significant water shortages in just a few decades,” said Frank Jaeger, general manager of Parker Water and Sanitation District, who organized the coalition.

Leroy J. Schafer, mayor of Torrington, Wyo., and a member of the coalition, said the project faces opposition from other Wyoming communities like Rock Springs and Green River that depend on the Colorado River Compact to ensure they get the water they need, but he believes they will support the project if it can be shown that it will allow them to use more water in drought years…

Jaeger said last year his district was meeting with entities in Colorado and Wyoming trying to start a similar, competing project to Million’s proposal. Jaeger said he believed that such a large project should be built by the public and he was concerned about the possibility of water speculation…

Participants and their projected water needs include the Parker Water and Sanitation District, 125,000 people; Castle Rock, 85,000; the South Metro Water Supply Authority, 190,000; Douglas County, 45,000; the Donala Water and Sanitation District, 7,000; Cheyenne, Wyo., 55,000; Torrington, 5,000; and Laramie County, 20,000.

More coverage from The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The idea could affect the whole Western Slope because it would use water from Colorado’s share of the Colorado River Compact…

Western Colorado water officials have been skeptical about the Flaming Gorge plan, because it would use water from Colorado’s share of the seven-state Colorado River Compact. Jaeger said there’s nothing wrong with studying the option. “The Colorado River Compact was set up to develop water for the entire state of Colorado and the entire state of Wyoming, so I don’t think we’re out of bounds in investigating it,” Jaeger said…

No one can agree how much water is left to Colorado under the compact. In the worst-case estimates of long-term droughts or a warmer climate, Colorado already is using all of the water it legally owns. The state government is working on a model to get a better answer to the question. Leaders at the Western Slope’s largest water district have no problem with Front Range utilities doing a study, but they hope it takes into account climate change and drought, said Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “It doesn’t matter who’s looking at the project, the same issues stand. We need to get further into the Colorado River Water Availability Study to see how much water is left to develop,” Pokrandt said.

More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project coverage here. More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

State Engineer approves Rueter-Hess fill

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From the Parker Chronicle:

On Feb. 24, the State Engineers Office of Dam Safety approved a request by Parker Water and Sanitation District to allow the first water to be stored in Rueter-Hess. Before the approval, water within Newlin Gulch was pumped around the construction site. With the approval, the water will be stored behind the dam. The approval allows for water to be stored to a depth of 43 feet, which will allow up to 5,000 acre-feet of water. While construction of the dam is not slated to be complete until February 2012, storing water now will save the district money and allow for future use of that water to district customers. Over the next two years while construction is completed, an additional $34 million will be spent by PWSD on the project employing about 100 workers. Jim Nikkel, assistant district manager for Parker Water and project manager for the Rueter-Hess project, said the approval will allow the district to save about $10,000 a month in pumping costs.

More Parker coverage here and here.

Parker: Rueter-Hess Reservoir ready to store water

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From The Denver Post:

Parker Water & Sanitation District officials announced that construction of the Rueter-Hess Reservoir — which is 180 feet deep and spans 1,400 acres — has reached a stage where water can be received. State officials have approved a request to allow water in nearby Newlin Gulch to be stored in the reservoir.

More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Douglas County Commissioners are on board for the project no matter who builds it

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A conflict between entrepreneur Aaron Million and the South Metro Water Supply Authority has spilled over into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ evaluation of a 560-mile pipeline proposed from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Colorado’s Front Range. After Douglas County commissioners wrote a letter expressing interest in the project, South Metro President Charlie Krogh and Executive Director Rod Kuharich sent a letter to the Corps saying the district has “no interest” in the Million Project. “The South Metro Water Supply Authority future water supply plans do not include, nor do we wish to be considered part of this project,” the letter stated…

Last year, Million accused Parker Water Director Frank Jaeger and the South Metro district of attempting to “high-jack” the project.

Douglas County commissioners in a Dec. 29 letter to the Corps said the project would be interested in 40,000 acre-feet from the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline. It was one of a series of letters identifying the need for more than 375,000 acre-feet of municipal or agricultural water in Colorado and Wyoming…

[Commissioner Steve Boand] confirmed that Douglas County remains interested in any water supply that brings in more water. “We view the Flaming Gorge Project(s) as a single enterprise regardless of whether it is called the ‘Million’ or ‘Jaeger’ project,” Boand said.

Meanwhile the project’s visionary, Aaron Million, is touting the potential for preventing ag dry-ups as a reason that the Arkansas Valley should get on board, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“The project has tremendous benefits to preventing ag dry-ups,” said Aaron Million, who heads a group of investors hoping to build the 560-mile pipeline. “The water coming into the Arkansas River basin would have conservation restrictions that would benefit agriculture.”[…]

“This is a tremendous opportunity to alleviate pressure on the water supply around Denver and up north,” Million said, adding this would also reduce the chances of more diversions from the Arkansas basin. “The Corps of Engineers has agreed to move the project forward. This is without question the largest base of water users in Colorado that has come together for a project.”[…]

Million wants to develop the project privately, but tailor its use for public benefit, in the same way toll roads like E-470 have been developed. Private efficiencies can reduce costs and clear hurdles that have stifled public water development, Million said. “Other projects have been postponed because they rely on public funding,” he said.

Tim Walsh, a partner in the project, said the comments raised during the Corps scoping period already have changed the project. The route of the pipeline will come from the west side near the northern end of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, hooking up with a river intake just above the reservoir, but below Green River. That eliminates other points above Green River and a southerly route that would take water from the southern part of Flaming Gorge Reservoir near the dam. “The route we’re looking at addresses about 85 percent of the negative comments,” Walsh said.

Because the water is coming in from another basin, there would be increased reliability of supply. Also, once the water is used in Colorado, the return flows could benefit downstream users because imported water can be used to extinction. There also are possibilities for hydroelectric power generation because of the drop in elevation of 3,500 feet at one point along the pipeline route as it moves from Lake Hattie in Wyoming to the South Platte River, and again as the pipeline drops after crossing the Palmer Divide into the Arkansas River basin.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Parker: Recall of Parker Water and Sanitation board fails

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A proposed water-rate hike last year prompted the campaign to oust four members as irresponsible. Board members backtracked, but campaigners pushed on. The results — board president Mary Spencer survived by 30 votes, Root by 7, Mike Casey by 58 — won’t be final until Dec. 30, Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith said. At least one race requires a recount.

Parker’s 12-month tussle reflects rising tension over water in Front Range suburbs, where water managers are struggling to obtain and divert renewable water from mountain rivers as local groundwater supplies dwindle. “This is the kind of battle we’ll see played out with greater frequency as the demands on these finite water resources intensify,” said water expert David Getches, dean of the University of Colorado law school and former state director of natural resources. “We’ve allowed, in Colorado, whole subdivisions and whole communities to be built on nonrenewable water supplies.” Parker’s five-member board oversees the water supply for more than 22,000 people southeast of Denver who rely on 30 wells, from 51 to 2,745 feet deep, that draw fewer and fewer gallons per minute. State data show water tables falling 30 feet a year…

Frank Jaeger, the water-district manager, is leading a drive to divert upper Colorado River Basin water to Denver suburbs from western Wyoming. The $230 million Rueter-Hess reservoir under construction near Parker — one of Colorado’s biggest water- storage projects in decades — would hold that water, along with creek runoff and reused water treated at a new high-tech chemical plant. Jaeger’s district, established in 1962, is one of dozens created after developers built subdivisions across semi- arid terrain and left decisionmaking to the residents. Now, boards face difficult decisions as economic doldrums limit residents’ abilities to pay higher water rates…

“What we learned is, we weren’t doing a very good job of educating the public,” [accountant Darcy Beard] said. “The cost of water in Colorado is never going to go down. We live in a high-desert environment.”

More Parker coverage here.

Parker: Recall of Parker Water and Sanitation Board failing according to early results

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From The Douglas County News Press (Ashley Dieterle):

Board president Mary Spencer had 1,976 votes to retain her in office, edging out the 1,946 votes to recall her by only 30. Mike Casey earned 1,983 votes to keep him in office versus the 1,925 votes to recall him. Sheppard Root had the narrowest lead Tuesday night with the 1,962 votes to retain his seat beating the recall tally of 1,955 by only seven votes. The one vacant position will be filled by Randall Huls wining 1,415 votes over Darcy Beard (1,217) and Tracy Hutchins (753).

More Parker coverage here.

Parker Water and Sanitation recall election Tuesday

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From the Parker Chronicle (Ashley Dieterle):

Three board positions are being targeted by the recall election. Board president Mary Spencer, and board members Sheppard Root and Mike Casey. Former member Jason Mumm’s position is also open as a vacant position after his resignation on Oct. 15. Other than the vacant position voters will decide whether or not the current board member should be recalled. If the voters choose yes, then they vote for a person running for that position.

Darcy Beard, Tracy Hutchins and Randall Huls are candidates running for the vacant position. Rick Coe is the candidate running to succeed Mary Spencer’s position, Arnie Reil is the candidate running to succeed Sheppard Root’s position and Bill Wasserman is the candidate running to succeed Mike Casey’s position.

For more information in the Parker Water and Sanitation District recall election visit www.douglascountyvotes.com.

More Parker coverage here.

Parker: Rueter-Hess Reservoir update

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So far Parker and its partners in Rueter-Hess Reservoir — currently under construction southwest of the city — do not have enough surface water to fill the 77,000 acre-foot reservoir. Here’s a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The prospect of what critics call an empty bathtub is generating anxiety around Colorado as water managers clash over the last unclaimed mountain river flows. Most water to fill the Rueter-Hess reservoir “will have to be imported,” said Frank Jaeger, manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, who for 25 years has led the effort to supply 450,000 suburban residents. Importing water would require multibillion-dollar pumping and piping from rivers running down the western side of the Continental Divide, such as the Colorado, back across mountains to Front Range residents, Jaeger said. Though huge, the costs likely would be less than for alternatives such as trapping and treating contaminated water from the South Platte or Arkansas rivers, he said. The option Jaeger and a Colorado-Wyoming coalition of municipal suppliers favor — one of four being considered by state natural resources officials — would divert water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in western Wyoming along Interstate 80 to Colorado…

Yet Colorado Western Slope leaders see the $230 million Rueter-Hess reservoir as folly — and bristle at talk of diverting more water across the mountains to fill it. The reservoir “is 20 times more expensive, and 10 times as big as they need. It’s going to be a little bit of water in a big bathtub,” said Eric Kuhn, manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, based in Glenwood Springs. The financing, based on tap fees from anticipated housing construction, “is the water equivalent of a Ponzi scheme,” Kuhn said…”There’s a very good chance that, in the long run, there’s not going to be any more water available on the Western Slope. And, if they’re having trouble now paying for Rueter-Hess, how are they going to pay for moving water from the Western Slope? That’s why I say this is a fairy tale,” Kuhn said…

This month, more construction vehicles are rolling into action to build up the 7,700-foot-wide Frank Jaeger Dam at the reservoir. Critics “can make their claims,” but the reservoir will be crucial to sustain population growth, Jaeger said. Paying off the debt for the construction now underway all depends on tax revenues from future growth, he said. “To say, ‘We’ll just shut off growth’ will only exacerbate problems,” he said. “If you don’t pay off debt, what do you do? What does that do to the economy of the whole state? We need steady, controlled growth. All our needs for a reasonable lifestyle are tied into this.”

More Rueter-Hess coverage here and here.

Colorado’s water future dependent on new transmountain diversions?

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The Colorado Department of Natural Resources is looking at four pipeline concepts and two agricultural fallowing and dry up concepts as possible solutions to watering the unbridled growth along the Front Range. Here’s a report, from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post, about the pipeline plans from Flaming Gorge and the Green River proposed by the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition and the Million Resource Group. From the article:

Colorado municipal water suppliers are in discussions with their Wyoming counterparts exploring the feasibility. Separately, a private entrepreneur’s proposal to build a pipeline is under federal review. Colorado government officials — who have met with both contingents and are talking with Wyoming officials — recently included the “Flaming Gorge concept” among four options for diverting Western Slope water to the Front Range…

Huge hurdles remain, including financing and Colorado’s and Wyoming’s obligations to downriver states under an interstate compact. Conservationists object to the potential environmental impact of withdrawing the water…

The pipeline concept originated with entrepreneur Aaron Million and his Million Conservation Resource Group. In 2008, the group applied for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates construction in waterways and wetlands. An environmental review has begun, and engineers are sifting through a deluge of public comments, said Rena Brand, regulatory specialist for the agency. “The majority of letters are against it” and “push for the idea of conserving more along the Front Range,” Brand said. Federal wildlife officials are among those questioning possible impacts on endangered species and migratory birds…

Million must provide a list of likely customers by January to establish a need for the pipeline, Brand said. Last week, Million said that “ongoing negotiations with 20-plus” potential customers in Wyoming and Colorado “are going well.” He declined to name them. The project could be done in five years, he said. He wasn’t invited to the municipal suppliers’ discussions at a country club, a slight he calls unfortunate. “The lack of collaboration is problematic. It was the private sector that developed the water in the West” before federal agencies got involved, he said. “This is a return to the historical development of water resources, using the efficiency of the private sector to get things accomplished.”

Meanwhile, the municipal suppliers’ group was to continue discussions in Wyoming this week. They are close to formalizing a coalition, Jaeger said. He declined to name participants.

Colorado’s top natural resources officials say they’ve talked with Million and Jaeger. The state’s emerging strategies for meeting projected demand — which include conservation, the re-use of water and rethinking low-density versus high-density growth — assume that importing some water between river basins will be necessary, said Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Whether it is a public or a private project, it must incorporate public benefits,” Sherman said. “Sometimes it’s easier to incorporate public benefits with a public project, because the sponsoring entity is the public, and it will be focussed on public benefits. But it’s not impossible for a private project to incorporate a wide variety of public benefits. “

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. Colorado-Wyoming Coalition coverage here.

Flaming gorge pipeline: Does Million Resource Conservation Group have any customers?

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Colorado water law includes an anti-speculation doctrine. Here’s a short explanation from a Coyote Gulch reader:

The doctrine basically says water may not be held for future sale. The Colorado Constitution says no water right will be denied, if the water is put to beneficial use. The one exception to this is referred to as the Great and Growing Cities Doctrine (c. 1916) that says cities can appropriate (or purchase water rights in a change case) water for future needs.

An individual or corporation cannot claim or buy water without an immediate or historic beneficial use.

So that is the conundrum that Aaron Million is in: He hasn’t named any customers for the water that he plans to deliver from the Green River so many are pointing the speculator finger at him and his proposed project. He has frightened off some potential customers by also being secretive about the eventual cost of the water.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of completing an environmental impact statement for the project but needs to know where the water will be put to beneficial use in order to evaluate the impacts. Million has said that he will provide the names of users in Wyoming and Colorado, “…but is not in a position to provide them yet,” according to this report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. More from the article:

“I think the Corps is trying to shore up its information and narrow down the focus of the project so it can develop alternatives,” Million said. “Obviously, we’re going to do everything we can to cooperate. The project’s on a positive path.” Rena Brand, regulatory specialist for the Corps, had a similar comment.

“In order to define the need, the Corps must understand who the water users are and verify their specific needs for water,” Brand said. “Water users could be cities, irrigation districts or industries.”[…]

The Colorado Water Conservation Board estimates the state has 440,000-1.4 million acre-feet of water to develop under the [Colorado River Compact and Upper Colorado River Compact], but is investigating things like the location and timing of flows. Million’s project would minimize elevation changes as it bypasses the Colorado Rockies and moves water along existing utility corridors.

There is strong opposition to the project in Wyoming. “I’m not sure they have adequate definition of the need for the project to even do the analysis,” Gov. Dave Freudenthal said last week. “I think this is just a rich guy who just wants to move water.”

Million countered that Freudenthal’s opposition was not expected, and said he is ignoring possible benefits to the state.

There is also interest by others in the state in the concept. The CWCB has included it in a study of possible water supply alternatives, and the South Metro Water Supply Authority has been looking at a similar alternative [Colorado-Wyoming Coalition] in its long-range planning.

More Coyote Gulch Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Parker: Searching for dough to complete Rueter-Hess

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The collapse in real estate in Parker has had a negative impact on funds for Parker Water and Sanitation’s Rueter-Hess Reservoir. Here’s a report from Chris Michlewicz writing for the Parker Chronicle. From the article:

When the housing market began its long slide into the abyss in 2006, district officials immediately began to notice the impact. The number of tap fees collected went from 1,700 in 2005 to suddenly 600 the following year. Last year, just more than 300 taps were connected. This year, as of June 4, only 18 taps have been sold. “All of our planning was based on a worst-case scenario of 600 taps per year,” [Frank Jaeger Parker Water and Sanitation District’s longtime manager] said during an interview in late April. “This thing has escalated on us.”[…]

Unfortunately for the district — and for its customers, it turns out — the end came into sight much quicker than ever thought possible. Between 2005 and 2008, Parker water collected $65.9 million in taps fees. The money funded capital projects, built up reserve funds, and was also used to pay debt service on the $105 million in revenue bonds issued in 2004. (Money for the expansion was paid up front by Castle Rock, Castle Pines North and Stonegate, who entered into a partnership to buy water storage in Rueter-Hess, which is still under construction just southwest of Parker’s town boundary). Counting the 5.118 percent interest rate on the bonds, Parker water is responsible for paying $12 million per year on its debt. To date, according to its finance director, the Parker Water and Sanitation District has paid only $4.1 million of the loan principal. That means the outstanding principal for Rueter-Hess alone stands at $101.3 million. And there is little in the way of revenue coming in right now. Enter last December’s proposed rate and fee increase of 28 percent on the water district’s 12,900 customers…

Conversely, prospective residents have a new quandary to consider. They, along with the existing population, will be responsible for covering the remaining costs for Rueter-Hess Reservoir, plus another $80 million in outstanding district debt, unless development picks up soon. Those who eventually move into The Canyons, a massive planned residential development just north of Castle Rock that will also be served by the Parker water district, will pay the high cost of water and eat the tap fee expense that is passed on from the developer. “People moving into Parker who haven’t got their homes built right now are in for that same surprise,” Jaeger said. “There’s no getting away from the cost of developing water.” One study conducted by a district consultant showed that the Parker area will need roughly 31,000 acre-feet of water as an indefinite supply. Jaeger is still exploring options — some very promising — for obtaining water for the future. “I’m looking 100 years down the road,” he said. “This community is not going to go away, and it’s going to need a water supply.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Parker: Group seeking to remove Parker Water and Sanitation board members appeals decision to throw out recall petition

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Here’s an update on the recall petition for Parker Water and Sanitation board members, from Chris Michlewicz writing for the Parker Chronicle. From the article:

Transparency Advocates for Parker Water and Sanitation filed an appeal earlier this month to have a Douglas County District Court judge review whether there was a legal basis for throwing out the petition, which contained more than 500 signatures. Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith ruled that false or misleading information was used when the group was circulating the petition. Now the Transparency Advocates are challenging the grounds for the dismissal because they say county officials misinterpreted the scope of their duties. “It pains me to point the finger at Jack Arrowsmith because I think he relied on faulty legal advice,” said Merlin Klotz, a member of the recall group.

In one claim, TAPWS did not accuse the water board members of legal wrongdoing, but rather suggested that they violated the public trust by circumventing Colorado’s open meetings law. The law requires public notice when three or more board members meet to discuss business. Some board members have admitted to speaking individually with one another about rescinding a water rate increase that was approved in December. The group says Arrowsmith should not have reviewed the allegation and dismissed the petition because his ruling stated that the evidence was insufficient to prove that the law was broken.

Arrowsmith could have scheduled a recall election that enables the public to decide whether four out of the five Parker Water and Sanitation District board members should be unseated…

The petitioners said Arrowsmith also failed to notify the recall petition targets on the day the petition was approved. The letters to the board members about the approval were dated March 11, four weeks later than required by law.

In its appeal to Douglas County District Court Judge Vincent White, TAPWS outlined several other examples of what it calls improper interpretations of the law when deciding to throw out the petition, which was submitted in February. Klotz said the clerk and county attorneys might have used the dismissal to cover up possible legal errors. County officials declined to address any specific allegations in the pending case. Arrowsmith dismissed the petition April 23 after finding that information on the opposition group’s Web site could have unfairly swayed the opinions of those who signed it. TAPWS maintains that the information was accurate.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Too many Colorado water projects?

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Does Colorado have too many water projects in the works? Is there enough water left in the rivers to satisfy requirements? Will agriculture survive municipal growth? These are among the questions that some are asking. While water development is largely a bottom-up process — someone files for a decree on a stream and gets a priority or a group buys water from a willing seller — there is little top-down coordination of the cumulative effects of the separate projects. In every sense the race goes to the swiftest and the groups with the deepest pockets. Here’s a report from Mark Jaffe writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

…from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, the projects are moving forward, powered, attorneys and water managers say, by Colorado water law’s first-come-first-served principle. “In water law, it is still the Wild West,” said Sarah Klahn, a water attorney and University of Denver law professor. “You can be a dreamer, and if you make it come true, it’s yours.”

The concentration of projects worries federal officials who are left to sort out the multiple impacts. “It is the combined projects’ effect on water quality that concerns us,” said Larry Svoboda, environmental assessment director in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Denver office…

Among the plans moving forward are:

• Projects by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the cities of Fort Collins and Greeley on the same reach of the Cache La Poudre River.

Denver Water and Northern Colorado Water both are developing projects on the Colorado River and tributaries in Grand County.

Aurora Water and East Cherry Creek Valley Water and [Sanitation] District both have projects with 30-mile- long water pipelines running to the Brighton area. In some cases the lines are just a few hundred yards apart…

And even with all these projects, by 2030 the region may be short by 29 billion gallons, according to state projections. In this atmosphere everyone is guarding their own interests, said Dave Little, Denver Water’s planning director. “Everyone can agree on the need, but as soon as you try to identify a project, the parochial interests kick in,” Little said.

Still, as opportunities for water projects dwindle and costs rise, communities are cooperating more, said Eric Wilkinson, Northern Colorado Water’s general manager. For example, Denver Water, Aurora Water and South Metro Water Supply Authority are exploring the possibility of a joint project, said South Metro executive director Rod Kuharich.

Rights and projects are decided on a case-by-case basis in the state water courts and seniority rules. Unlike some other states, in Colorado the legislature and the administrative agencies have no role. It is all settled in water court, Klahn said.

“We don’t have a water plan; prior appropriation is our plan and it’s every man for himself,” said Melissa Kassen, a director of Trout Unlimited’s Western Water project.

Since 2005, through the Intrabasin Compact Committee and nine basin roundtables, the state has tried to do more water planning and forge voluntary agreements. “It is an experiment,” said Harris Sherman, director of the state Department of Natural Resources…

Critics argue that this is still a piecemeal approach as the federal agencies do not set priorities on projects or assess overall water needs. “As we get closer to appropriating the water that’s left in Colorado, we really ought to be able to set priorities,” Trout Unlimited’s Kassen said.

Until there is change, prior appropriation rules. “The state has been reluctant to support one project over another,” said the Department of Natural Resources’ Sherman. “As we enter water scarcity, that may change.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Parker: Recall petition for Parker Water and Sanitation board thrown out

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith dismissed the petition, submitted in February by opposition group Transparency Advocates for Parker Water and Sanitation, after finding that the information could have swayed the opinions of those who signed it. The group launched a campaign to oust four of the five acting board members after the board unanimously approved increases in water fees and rates in December. The increase was later rescinded in favor of a formal water rate study.

According to the dismissal order issued by Arrowsmith April 23, the transparency group used outdated figures for salary increases that were originally listed in the district’s 2009 budget. It posted the numbers on its recall campaign Web site. A phone call to Merlin Klotz, who helped lead the recall effort, was not immediately returned…

Arrowsmith also accused the group of presenting insufficient evidence that three or more members of the board violated the state’s open meetings law by having a closed-door meeting without the public’s knowledge, as alleged in the petition. TAPWS collected more than 500 signatures supporting the recall, but the “substantially misleading” information might have caused some to sign under false pretenses, Arrowsmith said.