The San Juan Water Conservancy District and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District target 11,000 acre-foot size for the #SanJuanRiver Headwaters Project — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Derek Kutzer). Here’s an excerpt:

The reservoir would be a joint project between SJWCD and the PAWSD called the San Juan River Headwaters Project. In 2008, SJWCD and PAWSD collaborated on the purchase of the property, also known as Running Iron Ranch, with the goal to even- tually build a water storage facility on the parcel of land, which is more than 600 acres. The proposed reservoir would be an “off-channel” water storage facility being fed by a pre-existing agricultural ditch, Park Ditch…

According to the district’s strategic plan, “In 2004, the District and PAWSD applied for a junior water right for a larger reservoir in Dry Gulch, a refill right, and specific filling sources and rates for it. Trout Unlimited opposed those claims, leading to protracted litigation and new standards from the Colorado Supreme Court for evaluating conditional water rights owned by municipal providers. The District, PAWSD, and Trout Unlimited eventually stipulated to a decree providing for a maximum storage capacity of 11,000 acre-feet for Dry Gulch Reservoir and other limitations on its use.”

More recently, SJWCD sought more accurate information on projections for future water needs, hiring the Lakewood-based water consultant company Wilson Water Group to conduct the analysis. The resulting study was a 24- page “analysis of current and future water supply and demand through 2050 in the Upper San Juan River basin.”

The San Juan Mountains receive 52 inches of snow, schools close — The #PagosaSprings Sun #snowpack #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #ardification (January 22, 2023)

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

Heavy snows came to Pagosa Country this week, causing Archuleta School District to call snow days on Jan. 17 and 18, among other disruptions. Sites in Archuleta County received between 22.4 and 35.6 inches of snow in the storms be- tween Saturday Jan. 11 and Jan. 18, according to the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network website. Snowfall totals varied throughout the county, with the highest amount reported near Village Lake. A report from Wolf Creek Ski Area indicates that Wolf Creek had received 16 inches of snow in the previous 24 hours and 52 inches from the latest storm as of approxi- mately 6 a.m. Jan. 18, bringing the midway snow depth to 106 inches and the year-to-date snowfall total to 219 inches.

According to the U.S. Depart- ment of Agriculture National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 22.2 inches of snow water equivalent as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

The Wolf Creek summit was at 131 percent of the Jan. 18 snowpack median.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 152 percent of the Jan. 18 median in terms of snowpack.

Bipartisan bill aims to extend protections of endangered fish: Upper #ColoradoRiver and #SanJuanRiver Basins Recovery Act targets preservation of native species — The #Durango Herald #COriver #aridification

Endangered Razorback sucker. Photo credit: Reclamation

Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald website (Megan K. Olsen). Here’s an excerpt:

U.S. Sens. John Hickenlooper and Mitt Romney, along with Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse, have teamed up to ensure the continuation of conservation programs aimed at protecting native and endangered fish species through the Upper Colorado and San Juan Basins Recovery Act. The recovery act has been included with the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Government Funding Bill that has already been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and is awaiting approval from President Joe Biden…

The Upper Colorado and San Juan River Recovery Programs are set to expire on Sept. 30. The recovery act would extend any programs that currently study, monitor and stock four endangered fish species of the Upper Colorado and San Juan rivers through the end of 2024…

{Senator] Romney also showed interest in the impact of human activity and climate change on the Colorado River and its native species in 2021, when he went on a rafting trip with Sen. Michael Bennett and the Colorado River Commissioner and director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Becky Mitchell.

#WolfCreek receives 59 inches of snow — The #PagosaSprings Sun (January 8, 2023) #snowpack #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

Sites in Archuleta County received between 6.3 and 17.8 inches of snow in the storms be- tween Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, and Jan. 4, according to the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) website. Higher snowfall totals were concentrated in the northern and southern portions of the county, with the highest reported precipitation amount located east of Chromo, according to CoCoRaHS. A Jan. 4 report from Wolf Creek Ski Area that was issued at approximately 6 a.m. indicated that Wolf Creek had received 11 inches of snow in the previous 24 hours and 59 inches in the last week, bringing the midway snow depth to 83 inches and the season-to-date snowfall total to 154 inches.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 15.9 inches of snow water equivalent as of noon on Wednesday, Jan. 4. The Wolf Creek summit was at 106 percent of the Jan. 4 snowpack median. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 125 percent of the Jan. 4 median in terms of snowpack…

River report

Stream flow for the San Juan River at approximately 10 a.m. on Jan. 4 was 73.8 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geological Service National Water Dashboard. This reading is up slightly from last week’s reading of 72.5 cfs at 10 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2022.

Reeling in the last of last year’s news: Dying coal; parking vs. people; housing silliness; snow, snow, snow — @Land_Desk #snowpack (January 3, 2023)

Click the link to read the newsletter on The Land Desk website (Jonathan P. Thompson). Here’s an excerpt:

Aridification Watch

Okay, “aridification” may be the wrong header this time, since the West is getting battered by atmospheric rivers and bomb cyclones and power grid-wrecking snows and winds and rains. It’s record-breaking craziness — at least it seems that way, since we haven’t had much like it in a bit. But is it really all that unusual? Here’s a mini-Data Dump on early winter snowpack levels to help us figure it out: 

19: Number of monthly precipitation records broken during the first 28 days of December 2022 in the Western climate region (the final three days aren’t yet recorded in the system). 

8.2: Inches of precipitation recorded during a 24-hour period at Sierraville Ranger Station in California on Dec. 2, 2022, shattering the previous all-time record set in 1913. 

27: Inches of new snow that fell in the Tahoe City, California, area on Jan. 1, 2023. It contained about 3.33 inches of water. On Dec. 11 the area received 31 inches of snow in one day. 

210,000: Approximate number of utility customers who lost power along the West Coast as a result of the late December storms. 

30,000: Number of utility customers who lost power in the Northwest after vandals attacked four electrical substations in Washington state on Christmas day. 

3: Number of people killed by avalanches so far this season, including two skiers/snowboarders in Colorado and a snowmobiler in Montana. 

Further inland, the moisture is giving a needed boost to the giant snowpack “reservoir” that feeds the beleaguered Colorado River system. After tracking close to median levels for the first three months of the 2023 water year, this year’s Upper Colorado Basin snowpack shot up to 142% of the Jan. 3 “normal.” It may be a little too early to get excited, though — last year’s snows followed the same early season abundant pattern before dropping off in January.

Zooming in on the San Juan Mountains and Southwest Colorado we see a similar but slightly less wet pattern. Levels are above the median, but still below last year and 2020.

And zooming in even further to our three go-to SNOTEL stations, all located in Southwest Colorado, we find that snowpack levels are about at the average for each station’s period of record (which varies from station to station), but are still tracking ahead of 2019, which turned out to be a BIG snow year.

All of which is to say, it’s too early to really know what winter will bring us. So be sure to enjoy the snow while it’s here!

Navajo Dam operations update January 3, 2023: Bumping down to 300 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The outflow at the bottom of Navajo Dam in New Mexico. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation Susan Novak Behery:

In response to sufficient flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 300 cfs for Tuesday, January 3rd, at 4:00 AM.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Snow falls in region, more in the forecast — The #PagosaSprings Sun #snowpack

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

According to the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) website, sites in Archuleta County received between 2 and 5.5 inches of snowfall over Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. A Dec. 28 report from Wolf Creek Ski Area indicated that, as of about 6 a.m.,Wolf Creek had received 4 inches of snow in the previous 24 hours, bringing the midway snow depth to 43 inches and the year- to-date snowfall total to 95 inches. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Na- tional Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 10.9 inches of snow water equivalent as of noon on Wednes- day, Dec. 28. The Wolf Creek summit was at 78 percent of the Dec. 28 snowpack median. The San Miguel, Dolores, Ani- mas and San Juan River basins were at 78 percent of the Dec. 28 median in terms of snowpack.

Pagosa Area #Water & Sanitation District approves budget and $38 million in loans, discusses rate increases — The #PagosaSprings Sun

The water treatment process

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors approved its 2023 budget and a loan agreement for $38,444,000 for the expansion of the Snowball water treatment plant. The board also discussed rate increases and potential additional fees to fund the plant’s construction…

The group then circled back to discuss the rate increases further, with [Justin] Ramsey indicating that the staff recommendation is to implement the 6 percent water rate increase in 2023, as recommended by the 2018 study, move up the 2.5 percent wastewater rate increase in the 2018 study up a year to 2023 and hold off on any other rate increases for the Snowball plant until the new rate study is finalized.

San Juan Water Conservancy District discusses budget and public access along the #SanJuanRiver — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Derek Kutzer). Here’s an excerpt:

On Thursday, Dec. 14, the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) held a meeting where it conducted a public hearing and discussed its 2023 budget and discussed the possibility of a public take-out point along the San Juan River, among other items.

Engineering/Studies/Surveys appeared as the largest line-item expenditure in the proposed 2023 budget, amounting to $45,000. And since the board did not entertain reducing this item, it will “pull $20,000 out of sasvings” to pay for it and also maintain a zero deficit, explained Tedder.

Public access to the San Juan River

At the same meeting, the board heard about efforts to have public access to the river on land owned by the SJWCD and Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD). [Al] Pfister, and possibly a representative from PAWSD, will be sitting down with representatives from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW ), mainly to discuss fishery issues and potential funding, according to Pfister.

“This is basically being done under the watershed enhancement project,” Pfister said.

San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

Sambrito Wetlands restoration project beginning in January at Navajo State Park — #Colorado Parks & Wildlife #SanJuanRiver

The Sambrito Wetlands at Navajo State Park will undergo a project to restore 34 acres of the wetlands and streamside habitat beginning the first week of January. John Livingston/CPW

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website (John Livingston):

A project to restore an additional 34 acres of wetland and streamside habitat is set to begin its final phase in January at the Sambrito Wetlands Complex at Navajo State Park. The area will be closed to the public during construction and will be well marked with closure signs.

This project, coordinated by the Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Ducks Unlimited, will bring to life the vision of a myriad of partners who have participated in various planning efforts for the project during the last decade.

“We are happy to see this project come to fruition after multiple years of work and planning,” said CPW Deputy Southwest Region Manager Heath Kehm. “Through the work of key partners and funding through several grants, we are eager to see this area of Navajo State Park restored for the benefit of wildlife, wildlife viewing and waterfowl hunting here in southwest Colorado.”

The Sambrito Wetlands are on federal land owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and managed under agreement by CPW. Sambrito is part of a wetland complex in Colorado that was enhanced to benefit wildlife during construction of Navajo Dam on the San Juan River.

Since its construction, the water infrastructure and ditches have fallen into disrepair, resulting in diminished environmental and recreational benefits.

In 2012, CPW commissioned a management plan that identified several areas where infrastructure improvements could be made to restore wetland function and increase recreational opportunities. In 2013, CPW funded an initial phase of work which was completed in 2016.

This current project will continue and complete all work identified in the management plan published in 2013 to restore the Sambrito Wetlands to full functionality.

The Sambrito and adjacent Miller Mesa Wetlands Complex were intensively managed for wildlife between 1964 and 1993 through habitat improvements, food production units and wetland creation and enhancements. However, the complexes were not as actively managed in the intervening years and became dilapidated because of limited resources.

The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius luteus) is native to the southern Rocky Mountains. It is 7 to 9 inches long including its tail, which is more than half of its length. The mouse is a jumper, making use of its inch-long back feet. It lives among dense, tall, herbaceous (non-woody) plants that are next to flowing streams and eats a variety of plant material, such as grass seeds and flowers. Photo credit: National Park Service

The current project will reinvigorate waterfowl habitat and improve recreational opportunities by renovating and repairing the existing water diversion and conveyance system, which will deliver water from West Sambrito Creek (Vallejo Arroyo) to five wetland impoundments. The project will also restore hydrologic functions to a section of West Sambrito Creek and potentially benefit the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

Strategies to avoid and minimize impacts to the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse and its habitat guided development of the project, and Bureau Reclamation staff will be onsite to monitor construction activities occurring in critical habitat.

Ducks Unlimited designed and engineered the wetland improvements and will lead as the project manager. Geringer Construction, a contractor from the San Luis Valley experienced in wetland restoration, will work on the project from early winter through spring 2023.

“We are very excited to move forward with this project,” said John Denton, Colorado Manager of Conservation Programs for Ducks Unlimited, Inc. “The habitat improvement work in this unique and important wetland complex will highlight this great conservation partnership and will pay dividends for wildlife and the public for years to come.”

CPW will provide any ongoing management and maintenance for the wetlands.

Funding for this project has come through the Colorado Water Conservation Board Water Supply Reserve Fund grant, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant and the CPW Colorado Wetlands and Wildlife Program grant.

The Southwest Wetlands Focus Area Committee has also been a champion for the project through its continued leadership and support.

CPW’s ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Wetlands for Wildlife Program is a voluntary, collaborative and incentive-based program to restore, enhance and create wetlands and riparian areas in Colorado. Funds are allocated annually to the program, and projects are recommended for funding by a CPW committee with final approval by the Director.

For more about the CPW wetlands project funding, go to: https://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/WetlandsProjectFunding.aspx

Navajo State Park is a major recreational facility in southwest Colorado, drawing more than 300,000 visitors every year. The 2,100-acre park offers boating, fishing, trails, wildlife viewing, 138 camp sites and three cabins.

The next coordination meeting for the operation of the Navajo Unit is scheduled for Tuesday, January 17th 2023 — Reclamation #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Navajo Dam. Photo credit: Reclamation

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

The next coordination meeting for the operation of the Navajo Unit is scheduled for Tuesday, January 17th 2023, at 1:00 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be held as a hybrid meeting with the following attendance options: 

  • In-person: Farmington Civic Center, 200 West Arrington, in Farmington, New Mexico.  
  • Virtual attendance: For those who wish to remain remote, there is a Teams video option at this link. This link should open in any smartphone, tablet, or computer browser, and does not require a Microsoft account You will be able to view and hear the presentation as it is presented.  
  • Phone line: You can call-in from any phone using the following information: (202) 640-1187, Phone Conference ID 775 074 607#. You will not be able to see the presentation with this option.  A copy of the presentation will be distributed to this email list and posted to our website prior to the meeting for those who wish to listen by phone. 

We hope the options provided make it possible for all interested parties to participate as they are able and comfortable.  If you are using a virtual/phone option, please try to log on at least 10 minutes before the meeting start time. For technical issues, feel free to call the number below.   

A copy of the presentation and meeting summary will be distributed to this email list and posted to our website following the meeting. If you are unable to connect to the video meeting, feel free to contact me (information below) following the meeting for any comments or questions.  

The meeting agenda will include a review of operations and hydrology since August, current soil and snowpack conditions, a discussion of hydrologic forecasts and planned operations for remainder of this water year, updates on maintenance activities, drought operations, and the Recovery Program on the San Juan River.   

If you have any suggestions for the agenda or have questions about the meeting, please call Susan Behery at 970-385-6560, or email sbehery@usbr.gov.  Visit the Navajo Dam website at https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/cs/nvd.html for operational updates.

Upper #SanJuanRiver #snowpack and streamflow report — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

A Dec. 14 snow report from Wolf Creek Ski Area indicated that Wolf Creek had received 13 inches of snow in the previous 48 hours, bringing the midway base depth to 50 inches and the year-to-date snowfall total to 91 inches. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Wa- ter and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 10.2 inches of snow water equivalent as of 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 14. The Wolf Creek summit is at 100 percent of the Dec. 14 snowpack median. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 98 percent of the Dec. 14 median in terms of snowpack…

River and water report

Stream flow for the San Juan River on Dec. 14 at approximately 10 a.m. was 60.4 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) National Water Dashboard. This reading is down from last week’s reading of 81.9 cfs at 10 a.m. on Dec. 7.

The #PagosaSprings Sanitation General Improvement District approves 2023 budget — The Pagosa Springs Sun

Pagosa Springs. Photo credit: Colorado.com

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

At Dec. 6 meetings, the Pagosa Springs Town Council and Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID) held public hearings and approved the town and sanitation district budgets for 2023…

PSSGID budget

At the later PSSGID meeting, the town council, acting as the PSSGID board, was briefed by Phillips on the 2023 budget. Phillips explained that the total resources for the district in 2023, including $817,089 in carryover funds and $1,254,454 in revenue, are budgeted as $2,071,543. She added that the district antici- pates spending $1,397,564 in 2023, thus spending into reserves by $143,110…

She indicated that the district is also planning to begin design and engineering on additional headworks equipment, including an automated bar screen, as well as work on rebuilding outdated lift stations near Apache Street and the Visitor Center. She noted that the budget would likely not contain enough money to accomplish the lift station rebuilding projects and that additional funds would need to be found.

Phillips also indicated that the 2023 revenues assume that the dis- trict board approves an increase in the monthly service fees to $53.50, as suggested by a 2018 rate study, as well as an increase in the tap fee to $4,995 per equivalent unit. She added that the budget assumes that the district will receive 15 new taps and customers in 2023, although she stated that the district likely would surpass this number due to development occurring in the area. Phillips also noted that the budget includes funding for phased replacement of collection lines and money to pay the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) for treat-ment of waste pumped to its plant.

The Jicarilla Apache Nation, #NewMexico Interstate Stream Commission and The Nature Conservancy Enter Next Phase in Historic #Water Supply Agreement: Water expected to be released into the #SanJuanRiver in 2023 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Map credit: USBR

From email from the Nature Conservancy (Lindsay Schlageter and Maggie Fitzgerald):

Today [December 14, 2022] the Jicarilla Apache Nation (Nation), New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (NMISC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announced the next phase in their Water Supply Agreement (agreement) that was reached earlier this year.  With final federal and state approvals secured, the NMISC has placed an order for all 20,000-acre feet of water and the Nation has approved and reserved the water to be released from Navajo Reservoir to the San Juan River in 2023. 

In January 2022, the partners signed a first-of-its-kind agreement that allows the NMISC to lease up to 20,000-acre feet of water per year (for 10 years) from the Nation to benefit threatened and endangered fish and increase water security for New Mexico. As the western US faces its driest period in 1,200 years, this agreement demonstrates how Tribal Nations and state governments can work on a sovereign-to-sovereign basis–with support from conservation organizations–to find collaborative solutions that benefit multiple interests and users of the San Juan and Colorado rivers.

“The Jicarilla Apache Nation looks forward to the implementation phase of this project and hopes that this transaction can serve as a model across the Basin for collaboration with conservation organizations, negotiation of arms-length sovereign-to-sovereign agreements, and development of creative solutions that serve multiple interests,” said Jicarilla Apache Nation President Edward Velarde.

The partners are exploring multiple options about when and how the water will be released in 2023. The decision on timing will be made by the lease agreement parties with input from scientists to determine the best outcome for endangered fish species. Scientists are working on a plan to monitor how the habitat for endangered fish reacts to the release and will use the information garnered to help make decisions for future releases. 

“The NMISC is pleased that we are able to support this important project through New Mexico’s Strategic Water Reserve,” said NMISC Director Rolf Schmidt-Petersen. “We want to be sure we’ve carefully thought through the logistics of the first water release and seize the opportunity to measure benefits to the razorback sucker and Colorado pikeminnow.”

This project will use the Nation’s water temporarily placed in the State of New Mexico’s Strategic Water Reserve for the two purposes of the Strategic Water Reserve:  1) to assist the State in complying with interstate stream compacts and court decrees, and 2) to assist the State and water users in water management efforts to benefit threatened or endangered species.

“The Colorado River is in an unprecedented crisis,” said Celene Hawkins, Colorado River tribal partnerships program director for The Nature Conservancy. “Communities must proactively work together, focusing on water conservation and management. This project is a step toward those goals, and we are thrilled to be a part of this great partnership.”

Snowfall brings Wolf Creek Pass #snowpack to 99 percent of median — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Click the link to read the article on The Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

An 8 a.m. Dec. 7 report from Wolf Creek Ski Area indicated that Wolf Creek had received 7 inches and 11 inches in the previous 48 hours, bringing the base depth to 39 inches and the season-to-date snowfall to 71 inches. The Wolf Creek summit was a 99 percent of the Dec. 7 snowpack median. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were 88 percent of the Dec. 7 median terms of snowpack…

River report
Stream flow for the San Juan River on Dec. 7 at approximately 1 p.m. was 84.5 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) National Water Dashboard. This reading is up from last week’s reading of 59.2 cfs at 1 p.m. on Nov. 30.

Colorado Snowpack basin-filled map December 10, 2022 via the NRCS.




#NewMexico: #GoldKingMine spill settlement fund draws 17 proposals totaling $28 million — The Farmington Daily Times #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

Click the link to read the article on The Farmington Daily Times website (Mike Easterling). Here’s an excerpt:

New Mexico officials received 17 proposals totaling more than $28 million for the $10 million in Gold King Mine spill settlement money between the state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that has been set aside for restoration projects. The deadline for submitting proposals for the settlement money was Oct. 28, a date that was extended from its original deadline of Sept. 30 by the New Mexico Office of the Natural Resources Trustee, the state agency that is coordinating the process. Maggie Hart Stebbins, the New Mexico natural resources trustee, said her agency has begun the process of vetting the proposals and will be analyzing them to determine if additional information is needed from any of the entities seeking the funding…

The $10 million is part of a $32 million settlement the state reached with the EPA earlier this year to compensate New Mexico for damages related to the August 2015 incident, during which millions of gallons of toxic waste were released from the abandoned Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, eventually winding up in the Animas and San Juan rivers. A total of $18.1 million from that settlement was designated for response costs, while $3.5 million was set aside for water quality and cleanup activities through Clean Water Act and Superfund grants. The remaining $10 million has been earmarked for restoration of injured natural resources, much of which state officials said would be used to fund outdoor recreation opportunities in northwest New Mexico…

The list of proposals includes several projects submitted by government entities in San Juan County, as well as those associated with the Navajo Nation and the state of New Mexico. San Juan County submitted three proposals, while the City of Aztec submitted two, and the cities of Bloomfield and Farmington submitted one each. New Mexico State Parks led the way with four proposals, while the New Mexico Tourism Department submitted one.

New Mexico Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources via Geology.com.

#SanJuanRiver #snowpack and streamflow report — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website. Here’s an excerpt:

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 5.7 inches of snow water equivalent as of noon on Tuesday, Nov. 22. The Wolf Creek summit is at 88 percent of the Nov. 22 snowpack median. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 93 percent of the Nov. 22 median.

River report

Stream flow for the San Juan River on Nov. 22 at approximately 11 a.m. was 75.1 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geological National Water Dashboard, These numbers are down from a nighttime peak of 108 cfs at 10:15 p.m. on Nov. 21. This reading is also slightly down from 84.5 cfs at 11 a.m. on Nov. 15.



Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and the San Juan Water Conservancy District boards discuss gravel pit lease extension — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

San Juan River from Wolf Creek Pass

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Dorothy Elder). Here’s an excerpt;

At a Nov. 15 joint work session, the boards of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and the San Juan Water Conser- vancy District (SJWCD) met to discuss the terms of a lease exten- sion agreement that would give the Weber family another year to operate the gravel pit at the Run- ning Iron Ranch. Both PAWSD and SJWCD are the technical landlords of the property, which is the same site being proposed to house a reservoir commonly referred to as the San Juan River Headwaters Project (SJRHP) or Dry Gulch.

In April, PAWSD originally decided to not extend the Webers’ lease, citing reasons like pricing, the benefit to PAWSD customers and the reclamation timeline of the site. However, in September, the board reconsidered after the Webers offered new lease exten- sion terms. In the new terms, Andy and Kathy Weber proposed that the lease be extended for one year at a cost of $48,137.78 with the po- tential to renegotiate or extend the lease at the end of the year. The lease terms also include that the Webers would complete structural restoration on the current gravel pit site within the year.

San Juan Basin Public Health offering free well testing for #PFAS chemicals — The #PagosaSprings Sun

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org.

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Megan Graham). Here’s an excerpt:

San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) has received a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to address contaminants in drinking water. The funding will be used to provide free testing for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which is a broad group of manmade chemicals in industry and consumer products sometimes known as “forever chemicals” because they do not easily break down in the environment or the human body…

La Plata County and Archuleta County residents can now have their private wells sampled and tested for PFAS chemicals at no cost. The program is targeting areas in the counties close to fa- cilities where PFAS chemicals are known to be used or stored, but all well owners in both counties are encouraged to have their wells tested. Facilities that may have stored or used PFAS chemicals in- clude airports, landfills and some fire stations. If you receive water from a municipality, water district or shared delivery system, contact your water provider for PFAS infor- mation. Several local public water providers have already tested their systems for PFAS contamination. SJBPH Environmental Health staff will be available to discuss test results, which will be processed by a certified independent labora- tory and can take up to 45 days to receive. Staff will assist well owners with determining next steps based on the test results. To have your well water tested, please contact us at eh@sjbpublichealth.org or (970) 335-2060…

There are several education events planned to help share in- formation on PFAS chemicals and testing options. Join us from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Durango Public Library, 1900 E. Third Ave., Durango. Additional education events in Archuleta and La Plata counties will be an- nounced in the weeks to come.

Navajo Dam operations update (November 23, 2022): Bumping releases to 350 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to falling flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 350 cfs for today, November 23rd, at 4:00 PM.  

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. 

A kayaker makes her way down the San Juan River, which delivers water from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

#SanJuanRiver #snowpack and streamflow report — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Click the link to read the article on The Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

Snow

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 5.6 inches of snow water equivalent as of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16. The Wolf Creek summit was at 108 percent of the Nov. 16 snow pack median. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 112 percent of the Nov. 16 median in terms of snowpack.

River report

Stream flow for the San Juan River at approximately noon on Nov. 16 was 75.1 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) National Water Dashboard. These numbers are down from a nighttime peak of 123 cfs at 1:15 a.m. on Nov. 16. This reading is also down from last week’s reading of 141 cfs at noon on Nov. 9.


Snowball water plant cost assessment: $37 million — The #PagosaSprings Sun

The water treatment process

Click the link to read the article on The Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

On Nov. 10, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors heard an update from William Canter- bury, of Canterbury Construction Management Services, on his assessment of the costs of the Snowball water treatment plant expansion. Canterbury began his assessment by highlighting that PAWSD is currently in a construction man- ager at risk (CMAR) arrangement for the construction of the plant, with PCL Construction Services Inc. as the construction firm. He explained that he performed an independent cost estimate on the elements of the expansion.

Canterbury stated that, to his assessment, the project is indeed a $37 million job instead of a $25 million job, although he indicated that there are some elements of the project that he still wanted to speak with PCL about and that his final report would not be finished until the next week.

“Overall … they’re pretty much on the mark,” Canterbury stated. “I don’t see anything that jumps out at me.”

Floating a plan: Flotilla of stakeholders coalesce on comprehensive plan for #AnimasRiver — The #Durango Telegraph #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Tubing the Animas River via Flipkey.com

Click the link to read the article on The Durango Telegraph website (Jonathan Romeo). Here’s an excerpt:

For years, several nonprofits, government agencies, citizens and other stakeholders have spearheaded attempts to improve the Animas River. But now, it appears these stakeholders are interested in merging their respective efforts under an SMP, which could better organize projects and increase opportunities for grant funding.

“I think we could be entering a new phase of the Animas River,” Laura Spann, programs coordinator with Southwestern Water Conservation District, said. “(An SMP) might be a way to build a broader vision with all the groups.”

Stakeholders are in the very early stages, just gauging whether there’s public interest to develop an SMP for the Animas. In other parts of the state, the plans have been used to improve fish habitat, increase river access and restore riparian areas.

“These plans are specifically designed to look at the needs of a river basin, or part of a river basin, as it relates to recreational and environmental needs,” Warren Rider, coordinator of the Animas Watershed Partnership, which is leading the SMP process, said. “About a year ago, we started to think now could be a good time.”

[…]

After organizers complete interviews with stakeholders, they’ll draft a “scope of work” document that outlines what the SMP could cover. From there, it’ll depend if there’s enough community support for the plan to progress into actual work on the ground. While a lot remains to be determined when it comes to the Animas River’s SMP, one thing is clear: creating one may have incredible benefits, especially as climate change and drought take their toll on environmental conditions.

Archuleta County hears river restoration project update, funding request — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver

View to the south into the snaking West Fork of the San Juan River as seen from US 160, halfway up to the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. By User:Erikvoss, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61976794

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

At its Nov. 8 work session, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners heard an update and funding request from the Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership (WEP)…Pfister then explained one of these projects, the Pagosa Gateway Project, which focuses on river restoration work on the San Juan River starting near Bob’s LP and continuing 2.5 miles upstream. Pfister stated that the restoration work would focus on forming more distinct channels in the river with rock jetties and weirs to improve the river’s condition in warming and drying conditions.

He stated that the overall project would likely cost approximately $1,260,000 and that WEP has secured $775,000 in grants, primarily from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and the CWCB Southwest Basin Roundtable and is working on securing $485,000 in matching funds.


#Snowpack and #SanJuanRiver report — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 5.1 inches of snow water equivalent as of 1 p.m. on Wednes- day, Nov. 9. The Wolf Creek summit was at 138 percent of the Nov. 9 snowpack median. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 217 percent of the Nov. 9 median in terms of snowpack.

Stream flow for the San Juan River on Nov. 9 at approximately noon was 141 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) National Water Dashboard. These numbers are up from last week’s reading of 99 cfs at noon on Nov.9.

Accelerated rate increases and projects topics of Pagosa Area #Water & Sanitation District budget meeting — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Near Pagosa Springs. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

At its Oct. 20 meeting, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors held a public hearing of the district’s proposed 2023 budget and dis- cussed potential accelerated rate increases. PAWSD Director of Business Services Aaron Burns opened the hearing by explaining that he would begin by discussing the summary sheet for the budget distributed to the board before discussing the details of the budget…

Burns explained that the changes in spending in the water and wastewater funds are partially driven by the work on the state- mandated expansion of the Snowball water treatment plant and state-mandated engineering for the potential Vista wastewater treatment plant upgrade, as well as a variety of other larger maintenance item expenditures. He highlighted that the 2023 budget meets debt services requirements and reflects the rate increases prescribed by a 2018 rate study, as well as accelerated rate increases that he and District Manager Justin Ramsey had agreed are necessary due to the additional costs of expanding the Snowball plant. Burns explained that, as part of the financing process for the Snowball plant, the state recommended an additional $8 per equivalent unit, also commonly referred to as EUs, charge for water rates on top of the 6 percent increase recom- mended by the rate study. He added that the rate study had recommended a 2.5 percent in- crease in wastewater rates in 2024, which Burns and Ramsey had decided to move forward to 2023.

He commented that the PAWSD 2021 audit indicated that the district’s rates are low and these changes would address this, as well as preparing PAWSD for the increasing costs of its upcoming projects.

Supreme Court agrees to weigh Navajo Nation #water rights battle — NBC News #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Navajo Nation. Image via Cronkite News.

Click the link to read the article on the NBC News website (Lawrence Hurley). Here’s an excerpt:

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a dispute between the Navajo Nation, the Biden administration and three states over the increasingly important question of whether the tribe has the right to draw water from the Colorado River. The justices will hear two appeals — one brought by the federal government and another by the states of Arizona, Nevada and Colorado in addition to several California water districts — that arise from the Navajo Nation’s efforts to assert rights to the river that flows alongside the reservation’s northwestern border. The tribe’s land, the largest Native American reservation, is mostly in Arizona but also crosses into New Mexico and Utah.

The Biden administration and the three states appealed after the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Navajo Nation in February, saying it could sue the government for an alleged failure to carry out its duties on behalf of the tribe. The dispute is over whether the government had a legal duty that the tribe can enforce in court. The tribe, which first signed a treaty with the United States in 1849, argues that under its agreements with the federal government that assured it would have access to land, it was assumed that the government also has a duty to provide necessary water.

Navajo Dam operations update (November 1, 2022): Bumping releases down to 300 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Aerial view of Navajo Dam and Reservoir. Photo credit: USBR

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to sufficient flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 300 cfs for tomorrow, November 1st, at 4:00 AM.  

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.  

San Juan Water Conservancy District indicates support to pursue Dry Gulch Reservoir — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Dorothy Elder). Here’s an excerpt:

The San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) Board of Directors discussed, at length, potential future actions for pursuing the creation of the Dry Gulch reservoir at its Oct. 24 meeting. The discussion stemmed from the board’s continued efforts to reevaluate its strategic objectives, especially in light of the results of the recently commissioned Wilson Water Group supply and demand study. While these new objectives have not been formalized, the board did make a motion assigning the task to board members Candace Jones and Rachel Suh…

As the conversation about strategy unfolded, there was clear consensus about the need to determine SJWCD’s official stance on support for a reservoir.

“We really need to determine as a board where we stand on the reservoir. That really needs to happen before we move forward on the strategic plan in general,” Suh said. “If we don’t have cohesion as a board, what are we really working on?”

Board member Rod Proffitt ex- plained that, technically, that decision has already been made. In 2011, the SJWCD Board of Di- rectors passed a resolution to build the reservoir, and then entered a three-way contractual agreement that SJWCD would head the effort to build the reservoir with the state of Colorado and with Pagosa Area Water & Sanitation District, Proffitt explained.

“PAWSD has made it clear that they do not want to be a part of this, and every effort I’ve made to make amends with PAWSD to move them in a direction to support this reservoir has been met with disdain,” Proffitt said, adding, “The sooner we get rid of PAWSD as a potential partner in this, the better off we’re going to be.”

San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

Navajo Dam operations update (October 26, 2022): Bumping releases down to 400 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Navajo Lake

From email from Relamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to sufficient flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 550 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 400 cfs for tomorrow, October 26th, at 4:00 AM.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. 

Archuleta County hears collaborative wildfire mitigation update — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

At its Oct. 11 work session, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) heard an update on the 2-3-2 Cohesive Strategy Partnership from Mountain Studies Institute (MSI) Director of Forest Programs Dana Guinn and Wildfire Adapted Partnership Archuleta County Coordinator Bill Trimarco…

Trimarco then discussed risks of fire in the area, highlighting the work that has been done to protect communities in the region from fire and the potentially vast economic damage that would result from a fire entering Pagosa Springs or a similar area…

Trimarco then discussed risks of fire in the area, highlighting the work that has been done to protect communities in the region from fire and the potentially vast economic damage that would result from a fire entering Pagosa Springs or a similar area…

Guinn and Trimarco also dis- cussed the two Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Programs (CFLRPs) — both large-scale, fed- erally funded forest restoration programs — in the region, includ- ing the Southwest Colorado CFLRP and the Rio Chama CFLRP, both created in 2022. Trimarco noted that the Rio Chama CFLRP would involve $30 million in federal funding and that the 2-3-2 Partnership would be involved in organizing and coordinating this project.

The San Juan Water Conservation District Board of Directors discuss potential reservoir sizes, strategic plan — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Click the link to read the article on The Pagosa Springs Sun website (Dorothy Elder). Here’s an excerpt:

The San Juan Water Conservation District (SJWCD) Board of Directors began consideration of updates to its strategic plan at its Sept. 19 special meeting. The updates are being considered in light of the results from a recently commissioned study by Wilson Water Group(WWG)which forecasted the supply and demand of water through 2050 in the Upper San Juan River Basin…

The study, which calculated potential future municipal, agricultural and recreational water demand and shortages in ranges based on population and climate projections, suggested that a 1,600 acre-feet reservoir would be need- ed to meet low demand and a 10,000 acre-feet reservoir would be needed to meet mid-range demand. It concluded that no feasible reservoir could meet the highest demand calculated…

Board members suggested a deeper look into private property owners and existing or planned water wells; a deeper understanding of population projections and municipal water demand; more data on the agricultural demand analysis due to the limitations of the WWG study; and a cost-benefit analysis of a potential reservoir, factoring in recreational demands. They also made it a long-term goal to continually monitor water data emerging from other entities, especially given the limited economic resources available to the SJWCD to commission large data analyses.

San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

Navajo Dam operations update (October 13, 2022): Bumping up to 600 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Navajo Dam spillway via Reclamation.

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to dry weather and decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 450 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 600 cfs for tomorrow, October 13th, at 4:00 AM.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. 

Navajo Dam operations update (October 8, 2022): Bumping releases down to 450 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #aridification

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to wet weather and sufficient flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 550 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 450 cfs for tomorrow, October 8th, at 4:00 AM.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

The San Juan Generating Station in mid-June of 2022 The two middle units (#2 and #3) were shut down in 2017 to help the plant comply with air pollution limits. Unit #1 shut down mid-June 2022 and #4 was shut down on September 30, 2022. Jonathan P. Thompson photo.

Community groups react to San Juan Generating Station closure and transition issues — Western Resource Advocates #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

San Juan Generating Station. Photo credit: Jonathan Thompson

Click the link to read the release on the Western Resource Advocates website (James Quirk):

In 2017, majority owner and operator Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) announced that the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station was too expensive to operate and that the last two of the plant’s four units would be retired in 2022, rather than operating until 2053. On-the-ground communities and advocates had long since called attention to the plant’s expense as well as its damage to health, air and our climate.

In 2019, New Mexico passed the Energy Transition Act (ETA) to build on PNM and Tucson Electric’s closure decisions by enabling use of low-interest bonds to save customers money and provide economic transition benefits to plant and mine workers and the community. About $40 million in funding through the Energy Transition Act has been or will be disbursed to plant and mine workers and the impacted community. Four Corners residents encouraged state agencies to act urgently to use the $20 million earmarked for community funding to invest in local, sustainable projects that move the region forward.

As PNM and the other owners retire the plant (which was shuttered sometime early this morning, when the coal stockpile ran out), community organizations issued the following statements:

“The plant closure has significant positive and negative implications. One positive impact is the anticipated release of ETA funds to help secure the self-sustenance of communities that were impacted by the plant,” said Duane “Chili” Yazzie of ToohBAA, a Shiprock Farmers Cooperative. “Our farmers group in Shiprock applied for the funds in the hope that it will help address one of the great needs that our farmers have, with the provision of skilled labor. With the funds, we expect to acquire equipment operators, diesel mechanics, planners and administrators who will help organize our farming activity to optimize our agricultural potential. We look forward to an expedited release of those funds.”

Community organizations also focused on the need to properly reclaim, decommission and clean up the plant, rather than allowing it to continue to pollute under Enchant, which has failed to obtain the permits, buyers or funding to operate with carbon capture, a technology that has failed in every commercial coal plant where it has been tried. At its peak, San Juan Generating Station used more water than the entire city of Santa Fe. Some of the water rights from the plant have now been allocated to run in the San Juan River.

“We now have an opportunity to protect and manage water sources in the Four Corners region,” said Jessica Keetso of Tó Nizhóni Aní, Navajo Nation. “A transition to solar, wind, renewable, clean-energy investments helps eliminate the waste and misuse of water. Precious water sources have been used to feed giant power plants all over the Four Corners region for over half a century. These water sources are limited and have been compromised in many regions. It’s time to make sure that transition and cleanup happen in an organized and speedy manner, and that ETA investments bring an opportunity for coal-impacted communities to drive economic diversification.”

“As Four Corners residents, we want to see the negotiated replacement power, solar and energy storage, and we want the ETA implementation money to go to the impacted coal workers and communities,” said Mike Eisenfeld of San Juan Citizens Alliance. “Enchant Energy has been disingenuous and unaccountable on the progress of their project, which joins a long list of failed carbon-capture and sequestration projects funded through the Department of Energy. City of Farmington has expended nearly $2 million in legal fees supporting Enchant’s failed project with timelines now extending to 2027.  We’re looking at the immediate need for past and current owners to carry out their decommissioning and reclamation responsibilities within 90 days of SJGS and San Juan Mine closure.”

“Today marks a pivotal moment in our Four Corners region with the decline of fossil-fuel production.  We regard this moment as a transformation for the environment in less CO2, methane, NOx, VOCs, coal ash, and other toxic pollutants. We welcome a return of cleaner air and water for the health of tribal communities and climate,” said Ahtza Chavez, Executive Director of Naeva.

“Abandonment and remediation will be difficult. Over 50 years of damage was done to the environment,” said Norman Norvelle, former San Juan Generating Station plant chemist and Farmington resident. “From releasing plant wastewater effluent into the Shumway arroyo, to air pollutants and mercury into the San Juan River watershed and the fish of quality waters. Also, plant solid and liquid waste disposal into unlined surface mine pits. Even after the plant is shut down there will be need for extensive cleanup and monitoring to verify cleanup of the contaminants. Sampling and monitoring should be done by 3 or 4 different organizations to assure completeness and honesty.”

“If not done adequately, the San Juan Generating Station chemical contaminants will go into the San Juan River near the Hogback. All of the contaminants from the plant plus the biological contaminants from San Juan County, such as fecal bacteria, will flow into the San Juan River Basin onto the Navajo Reservation to Lake Powell,” Norvelle said.

“The San Juan Generating Station has been a source of jobs and revenues in Four Corners for more than half a century, but it can no longer be operated in a manner that is fiscally and environmentally responsible,” said Cydney Beadles, Managing Senior Staff Attorney of Western Resource Advocates’ Clean Energy Program. “The Energy Transition Act helps mitigate the impacts on local workers and communities and ensures that ratepayers get the cost savings that come from shutting down an inefficient coal plant, and the Public Regulation Commission issued an order requiring bill credits upon abandonment. Unfortunately, those credits have been temporarily suspended by the state Supreme Court at PNM’s request, but we remain hopeful that the court will soon lift that stay.”

“The solar and storage replacement power approved in 2020 will provide $1 billion in investment in the communities most impacted by San Juan,” added Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Director. “With pandemic supply-chain and other delays, it is incumbent upon PNM to work with developers of the solar and storage replacement power to overcome these obstacles and get those projects online as soon as possible. Analyses showed that the San Juan Solar project, to be sited in the same school district, will replace 100% of the property-tax base of San Juan.”

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District hires independent consultant to look at water plant cost — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike)

At its [September 8, 2022] meeting, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) discussed a proposal from Canterbury Construction Management Services for an independent cost assessment for the planned Snowball water treatment plant expansion. PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey opened the discussion by mentioning that, at the last PAWSD meeting on Aug. 18, the district had received a cost estimate from PCL Construction, the construction manager at risk for the plant, placing the cost at approximately $38 million, while the initial engineering estimate by SGM Engineering had placed the cost at approximately $25 million. Ramsey explained that the Canterbury proposal would include an analysis of whether the costs suggested by PCL are accurate and would cost $36,200…

Ramsey commented that building a smaller, expandable plant would be viable and could be included in the Canterbury assessment…The board then unanimously approved contracting with Canterbury to perform the cost assessment and examine the possibility of an expandable plant.

The water treatment process

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District discusses extension of Dry Gulch lease — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

At its [September 8, 2022] meeting, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors dis- cussed a potential lease extension for Weber Sand and Gravel Inc. on Running Iron Ranch, the site of the Dry Gulch reservoir.

In the Aug. 25 letter proposing the renegotiate or extend the lease at the extension, addressed to both PAWSD board chair Jim Smith and San Juan Water Conservancy District president Al Pfister. Andy and Kathy Weber propose that the lease be extended for one year at a cost of $48,137.78 with the potential to renegotiate or extend the lease at the end of the year.

Pagosa Springs Panorama. Photo credit: Gmhatfield via Wikimedia Commons


Pick your #ColoradoRiver metaphor — @BigPivots #COriver #aridification

On a day in late May [2022] when wildfire smoke obscured the throat of an ancient volcano called Shiprock in the distance, I visited the Ute Mountain Ute farming and ranching operation in the southwestern corner of Colorado. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

The river is in deep doo-doo, and worse may very well come. So why such a sluggish reaction?

On a day in late May when wildfire smoke obscured the throat of an ancient volcano called Shiprock in the distance, I visited the Ute Mountain Ute farming and ranching operation in the southwestern corner of Colorado. It was my first visit.

Turning off the paved highway, I drove about 10 miles around the toe of Sleeping Ute Mountain, past a few irrigation ditches, one carrying water, and a lot of fields and center-pivot sprinklers. I knew the runoff the San Juan Mountains, the source of water for the 7,700-acre farming operations by the Utes, was bad. I didn’t realize just how bad it was.

Unlike many tribal rights in the Colorado River Basin, the water rights of the two Ute tribes in Colorado were negotiated in 1986. The agreement resulted in delivery of water to Towaoc, where I ate at the casino restaurant twice on that trip. Before, potable water had to be trucked in.

Mike Preston, filling in for a Ute leader at the Colorado Water Center conference this week, remembers a time before that delivery of water. “There were stock tanks sitting in people’s yards, and a water truck would back up and fill those tanks, and people would go out with buckets to get their potable water.”

The Utes got other infrastructure, too, including water from the Dolores River stored in the new McPhee Reservoir that allows the Utes to create a profitable farm enterprise. But to get the use of McPhee water, the Utes conceded the seniority of their water rights. It worked well for a lot of years, but now in a warmer, drier climate, it leaves the Utes in a hard, dry place: They got 10% of their full allocation in 2021 and 40% this year.

They have been forced to adapt. Instead of planting alfalfa, they planted corn and other crops that use less water and can be fed to cattle. They culled cattle from their herd of 650. The tribe – as are others in Colorado – is exploring the viability of kernza, a new perennial grain created at The Land Institute in Kansas.

Still, some adaptation is impossible. The agricultural enterprise has laid off about half of its employees. And last year, despite securing all available government grants created to allow farmers to make it through hard times, the operation lost $2 million.

On a day in late May when wildfire smoke obscured the throat of an ancient volcano called Shiprock in the distance, I visited the Ute Mountain Ute farming and ranching operation in the southwestern corner of Colorado. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Listening to that story related by Preston in a video feed to the conference on the campus of Colorado State University, I wondered whether this was a metaphor for what faces the 40 million people who, in one way or another, depend upon water from the Colorado River.

During this same conference, “Living with the Colorado River Compact: Past, Present and Future,” I heard allusions to hospital emergency wards and over-drafted bank accounts. The latter came from Jim Lochhead, who had several decades of Colorado River experience before arriving at Denver Water as chief executive in 2010.

“No wonder Lakes Powell and Mead are in the condition that they are in today,” he said after accounting the over-drafting of the two big reservoirs, now down to 24% and 26% of storage respectively. “The bank account has been drawn down,” he said, “and we’re looking at a zero balance with no line of credit.”

By now, the 21st century story of the Colorado River has become familiar in its broadest outlines, part of the national narrative of despair. The pivoting reality came on hard in 2002, when the Colorado River carried just 4.5 million acre-feet of water.

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck. Credit: Brad Udall via Twitter

To put that into perspective, as Eric Kuhn, co-author of “Science Be Dammed,” did at this conference, those who framed the Colorado River Compact in 1922 assumed 20.5 million acre-feet as they went about apportioning the river’s flows. In the 21st century, the river has averaged 13 million acre-feet.

Alarm has been sounded but…

Now, scientists are warning that river managers should plan for no more than 11 million acre-feet, a reflection of the new hotter, and in some places, drier climate. Some think that figure is overly optimistic.

The seven basin states – particularly the thirsty states of California and Arizona – have cinched their belts with various agreements. But they have not responded in ways proportionate to the risk they now face. There is a very real danger of the reservoirs dropping to just puddles of dead pool, too little to be released downstream. Imagine the Grand Canyon without water. Imagine no water below Hoover Dam. Do these images leave you dumbstruck?

A public official on the Western Slope recently confided to me that he and others had grown weary of what they called “drought, dust and dystopia” stories. That troubled me, leaving me to wonder how my own stories are being received.

At the conference this week on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, I heard something of the same self-doubt.

“With all due respect to my fellow panelists, I live in an area where some of the topics that are mentioned, we’re not uniformly and broadly received,” said Perry Cabot, the lead researcher at Colorado’s State University’s Western Colorado Research Center near Grand Junction. “I think as researchers, we tend to believe that just more educating is going to change the dynamics of the narrative.”

Other panelists agreed with Cabot’s observation that new narratives, not just information, would better convey the gravity of the situation.

“I think the scientific community has gotten its head handed to itself,” said Brad Udall, who has dome some of the pioneering research that shows that “aridification” – as much or more than drought itself – is driving the reduced flows. Drought ends, but aridification resulting from atmospheric greenhouse gases? Not any time soon.

That has gone against the grain of water managers. A decade ago, there was still skepticism about climate change, and water always has been variable. Surely, good winters would return in the mountains of Colorado and other upper basin states that produce 90% of the river’s flows. Colorado alone is responsible for 60%.

After all, every batter goes through slumps, every best-selling author can tell of rejection slips.

By now, however, a clear trend has become evident. Even in good snow years, the runoff lags.

Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, described various outcomes of a river with continued declines in flows. Photo/Allen Best

At the Colorado River Water Conservation District’s annual seminar in Grand Junction, Brendon Langenhuizen offered no hope for refilling the glass that is now far less than half-full in the coming year. It will be the third La Nina in a row, he pointed out, likely producing above-average temperatures and hence below-average precipitation.

Even so-so precipitation has been coming up as something worse. For example, the snowpack in the Gunnison River watershed last year was 87% of average, but the runoff was only 64%.

Dry soils have sopped up moisture, and then there is the heat. The last year has been among the six warmest in the last century in Colorado, said Langenhuizen, a water resources engineer for the River District. Summer rains the last two years have helped. Still, the reservoir levels drop, the seven basin states so far unable to apportion demand to match supply. After all, there’s money in the bank, and for probably a year more, enough water in the reservoirs to generate electricity.

At water meetings, an element of collegiality has remained, at least until recently. Testiness has crept in, an element of what Andy Mueller, the general manager of the Glenwood Springs-based River District, calls finger-pointing.

Colorado water officials, Mueller included, are doing some of that themselves.

They point out that Colorado and the other upper-basin states get nicked for 1.2 million acre-feet in evaporative losses in their delivery of water to Lake Mead, outside of Las Vegas. California, Arizona, and Nevada do not. “It’s like running two sets of books,” said Mueller.

Mueller was negotiating with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on the day of the conference in Fort Collins. His stand-in, Dave Kanzer, explained that the Law of the River —the Colorado River Compact and other agreements – don’t necessarily apply anymore. It is “based on long-term stable water supply, and we no longer have that,” he said.

Herbert Hoover presides over the signing of the Colorado River Compact in November 1922. Members of the Colorado River Commission stood together at the signing of the Colorado River Compact on November 24, 1922. The signing took place at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover presiding (seated). (Courtesy U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation)

Renegotiate the compact?

The Colorado River Compact assumed too much water and also used precise numbers when ratios would have been better, Mueller has observed. Instead, those who gathered in Santa Fe in November 1922 apportioned

7.5 million acre-feet to each of the two basins, upper and lower. In practice, the lower-basin states have been using twice as much water as Colorado and other upper-basin states.

Colorado’s average annual consumption from the Colorado River and its tributaries is 2.5 million acre-feet. In terms of the compact, what mattes entirely is when the diversion began, before or after the compact.

About 1.6 million-acre feet- mostly older agriculture rights – are pre-compact, but 900,000 acre-feet came later. This includes water for Western Slopes cities and the nearly all of the 500,000 acre-feet diverted across the Continental Divide to cities along the Front Range and farms in the South Platte and Arkansas River valleys. This water is most imperiled.

Kuhn, the former general manager of the Colorado River District, said he does not believe it’s practical to attempt to amend or renegotiate the Colorado River Compact.

“But within a few years, maybe after we have figured out how to get out of the current crisis, we’re going to essentially ignore all of the provisions of the compact except perhaps article one, which defines the purpose and the signatures page.”

Lochhead has much the same opinion about the much-disputed element of the compact about the obligations of Colorado and other upper basin states to deliver water. It really won’t matter, he said. The real problem is that the basin states need to align demand with supply that, during the last few years, has been close to 11 million acre-feet. (Keep in mind, the compact assumed more than 20 million acre-feet).

“We’re literally in a situation of triage,” said Lochhead. “Something needs to be done in the very near term to lay a foundation for actions that can be taken in the medium and longer term to manage the river to a sustainable condition.”

The feds need to step up

Lochhead outlined three possibly overlapping alternatives.

First: involuntary regulations and restrictions. The federal government – although it has been using it with restraint – does indeed have authority to regulate use of water that enters into Mead. The U.S. Supreme Court has characterized its power as such. The Bureau of Reclamation must be seen as delivering a coherent threat.

“That gives the U.S. government enormous authority over what happens in the lower basin,” Lochhead said. This is unlikely to happen until after the November election, he said, but it absolutely must happen.

Voluntary agreements must also occur. The Bureau of Reclamation imposed an August 2022 deadline for agreements. If the deadline had been a hard one, the states would have failed. Lochhead said it came down to finger pointing. Arizona and California “stared across the river at each other, seeing who’s going to blink first.”

The federal government has now put $4 billion on the table – through the Inflation Reduction Act —to “grease” the skids in terms of voluntary agreements. (Think, perhaps voluntary retirement of water rights). “They’re going to have to buy down demands in the lower basin,” said Lochhead, conjecturing on deals involving the Imperial Irrigation District, the giant ag producer just north of the border with Mexico.

We will need to sort through what grasses we want and can afford, both in residential settings and in pubic areas, such as Colorado Mesa University, above. That will extend to grasses grown to feed livestock. Top, the Colorado River at Silt, Colo. on Sept. 17. Photo/Allen Best

Lochhead also described the need for reductions in water use in the municipal sectors. Denver Water and several other water agencies in Colorado – but also in Nevada and California and Arizona—announced an agreement in August in which they will try to pare their consumption. For example, Denver wants to end irrigation of medians along roads and highways and crimp the amount of water used for turf. But Denver and other cities need to continue to have trees, said Lochhead.

More cities will join this pact to reduce water use for residential consumption in coming weeks and months, Lochhead said.

But he said Colorado may need state legislation to ensure that real-estate developers can’t create landscaping in the future that requires lots of water, offsetting these gains.

That brings me back to the Ute Mountain Ute lands that I visited in May. By virtue of their 1986 agreement, reality has smacked them hard. There is pain, but there is also adjustment. They have had to adjust.

Something of the same thing must occur in the broader Colorado River Basin. So far, it’s easier to postpone action. But another so-so year – or worse? While the states are trying to make the cuts necessary for  a river that is delivering 12 million acre-feet per year, Mueller warns that the plans must contemplate a 9 million acre-foot river, as some scientists have said may come to pass.

But in Grand Junction, one of the scientists pointed out to me that it’s just possible the river may deliver 7 million acre-feet – and that could be next year and the year after.

Then, we may need a new metaphor, something worse than an empty bank account.

Reclamation awards $73 million construction contract for continued progress on the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project’s San Juan Lateral

What the Tsé Da’azkání Pumping Plant and Tó Ałts’íísí Pumping Plant will look like during construction. Credit: USBR

Click the link to read the release on the Reclamation website:

The Bureau of Reclamation today announced the award of a $73,056,845 contract to Archer Western Construction of Phoenix, Arizona, to convey reliable drinking water to Navajo communities and the city of Gallup in northwest New Mexico. This award marks significant progress toward the completion of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.

These areas currently rely on a rapidly depleting groundwater supply of poor quality to meet the demands of more than 43 Navajo chapters, the southwest area of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, and the city of Gallup. The NGWSP consists of two main pipeline systems: the San Juan Lateral and the Cutter Lateral. This contract award is for the Tsé Da’azkání Pumping Plant and Tó Ałts’íísí Pumping Plant on the San Juan Lateral. These drinking water pumping plants are two of 13 water transmission pumping plants on the San Juan Lateral.

“This is a significant milestone for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project and illustrates the Department of the Interior’s commitment to Tribal and rural communities,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo. “We are excited to leverage the resources in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to make further investments that ensure that clean, safe drinking water is a right in Tribal communities.”

Both plants will be located in the Navajo Sanostee Chapter in New Mexico’s San Juan County and will operate in concert with the other pumping plants on the San Juan Lateral, pumping San Juan River water that has been treated to Safe Drinking Water Act requirements at the San Juan Lateral Water Treatment Plant to the north and delivering to downstream communities to the south. Each plant will have four equally sized pump and motor units with a combined capacity of approximately 51.5 cubic feet per second, or 23,100 gallons per minute. Work under this contract will begin this fall with groundbreaking in early 2023 and completion expected by the fall of 2025.

“Reclamation is pleased to begin construction on the Tsé Da’azkání and Tó Ałts’íísí pumping plants,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “With the Cutter Lateral delivering water to Navajo homes and construction of the San Juan Lateral now more than 50% finished, this construction contract continues our progress toward meeting the United States’ obligation to the Navajo Nation under the nation’s water rights settlement agreement on the San Juan River Basin in New Mexico, where over a third of households still haul drinking water to their homes. That importance has been underscored by our pandemic experience. A good water supply is essential to public health and safety.”

The Tsé Da’azkání and Tó Ałts’íísí pumping plants will further the progress of the NGWSP. When the full project is completed, it will include approximately 300 miles of pipeline, two water treatment plants, 19 pumping plants and multiple water storage tanks. Construction on the Cutter Lateral is complete and water deliveries are currently being made to eight Navajo communities and soon to the southwestern portion of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, serving 6,000 people or 1,500 households.

This contract continues many years of hard work by Reclamation, the Navajo Nation and other project partners constructing the NGWSP to improve the lives of residents and provide opportunities for economic development and job creation.

Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project

Navajo Dam operations update (September 22, 2022): Bumping down to 500 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Map credit: USBR

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to wet weather and increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 650 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 500 cfs for today at 12:00 PM.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. 

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors and the #Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID) Board of Directors joint work session recap — The Pagosa Springs Sun

Pagosa Springs. Photo credit: Colorado.com

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

Pagosa Springs Town Manager Andrea Phillips began the meeting by providing an update on the pumps the PSSGID recently purchased for the pipeline running from downtown to the PAWSD Vista wastewater treatment plant. She added that the project has experienced additional costs since its installation in 2015, including spending on odor-control devices, an underground storage vault to store overflow waste and the new pumps, which had cost PSSGID approximately $800,000. Utilities Supervisor Lucian Brewster also provided an update on the pumps, indicating that the system has been fully switched over to the new pumps and the pumps have been running well.

Phillips added that she anticipates that the PSSGID will have to perform an additional $500,000 in pretreatment screening upgrades to ensure the new pumps continue to perform effectively throughout their lifetimes. She also stated that the PSSGID is working on an emergency liner for one of the previously used lagoons by Yamaguchi Park to provide additional wastewater storage, an addition that would likely cost another $100,000…

PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey then gave an update on PAWSD’s efforts to acquire a delay on a state-mandated upgrade to the Vista wastewater plant that was originally mandated to be completed by 2025 and would cost approximately $20 million. He indicated that PAWSD is hop- ing to get the deadline for the implementation of certain nutrient- filtering upgrades delayed to at least 2027, although the delay had already been requested and rejected once by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)…

The group then moved on to discuss the possibility of construct- ing a joint sewer plant for the PSS- GID and PAWSD, which Ramsey suggested could be a solution to PAWSD’s difficulties in upgrading the Vista plant.

Navajo Dam operations update (September 14, 2022): Turning down to 850 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to a cooler weather pattern and sufficient flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 900 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 850 cfs for tomorrow, September 14th, at 4:00 AM. 

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.  This scheduled release change is calculated to be the minimum required to meet the minimum target baseflow.

San Juan Water Conservancy (#NM) official says status of local watersheds is better than other areas of Southwest — The Farmington Daily-Times #CRWUA2022

New Mexico Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources via Geology.com.

Click the link to read the article on the Farmington Daily-News webisite (Mike Easterling). Here’s an excerpt:

A presentation for San Juan County commissioners on the status of local watersheds on Sept. 6 illustrated that while the Four Corners region remains locked in the grip of a long-running drought, it is in relatively good condition compared to other parts of the Southwest. The 14-minute presentation delivered by Aaron Chavez, executive director of the San Juan Water Commission, was designed to bring commissioners up to speed on the health of the county’s two main watersheds, those associated with the Animas and San Juan rivers.

New Mexico Drought Monitor map September 6, 2022.

But Chavez, who is beginning a two-year term as president of the Colorado River Water Users Association, also devoted a significant amount of attention to the status of that watershed, which serves as a crucial water supplier to tens of millions of residents of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico…Chavez began his presentation by noting that while last winter’s snowpack in southwest Colorado was close to normal, it did not yield the kind of runoff one might have expected because the soil moisture content in the region was down substantially after years of substandard precipitation…

Nevertheless, most of the indicators Chavez examined this year were an improvement over the recent past, he said, as he noted the Four Corners area has had a good monsoon season this year that has helped make up for the relatively poor spring runoff. Most river basins in the area, he said, are at 90% to 100% of average…

According to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cited by Chavez, Navajo Lake was 55% full as of Aug. 24 — a level that was roughly equal to other local reservoirs, as Vallecito Lake northeast of Durango, Colorado, was at 49% and McPhee Reservoir north of Cortez, Colorado, was at 53%. The good news was that Lake Nighthorse west of Durango was listed at 99% full…But those figures stood in sharp contrast to the Southwest’s two mammoth reservoirs fed by the Colorado River. Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona was only 26% full, while Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona was at only 28% of capacity.

Pump replacement for town’s sanitation district remains a success, staff ‘cautiously optimistic’ — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Dorothy Elder). Here’s an excerpt:

At its Sept. 6 meeting, the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID) Board of Directors heard an update about the district’s major pump replacement project that relayed that the pumps are, so far, a success. The project, which began during the last week of June, was meant to address a history of broken parts and inefficiencies within the system. At this point, the new pumps are achieving flows “near to what is desired,” the agenda brief explains. However, the project has come with costs, with a total cost to date of $780,000, according to the brief. Town Manager Andrea Phillips explained that the project “may be slightly over budget” due to having to order some additional parts and retrofits.

However, the town will seek reimbursement from a $400,000 grant from the state, Phillips explained…

Some of these improvements include additional pretreatment that “may be needed in order to ensure that the longevity of the pumps continue,” such as a grit removal system or moving to an automated bar screen, Phillips explained.

Wastewater Treatment Process

Navajo Dam operations update (September 8, 2022): Bumping up to 850 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Fly fishers on the San Juan River below the Navajo Dam.U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to a hot dry weather pattern and continued decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 750 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 850 cfs for tomorrow, September 8th, at 4:00 AM. 

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.  This scheduled release change is calculated to be the minimum required to meet the minimum target baseflow.

Facing ‘dead pool’ risk, #California braces for painful #water cuts from #ColoradoRiver — The Los Angeles Times #COriver #aridification #LakeMead #LakePowell

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck. https://twitter.com/bradudall/status/1449828004230664195

Click the link to read the article on The Los Angeles Times website (Ian James). Click through for the photo gallery, here’s an excerpt:

Managers of districts that rely on the Colorado River have been talking about how much water they may forgo. So far, they haven’t publicly revealed how much they may commit to shore up the declining levels of Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir.But state and local water officials say there is widespread agreement on the need to reduce water use next year to address the shortfall. Without major reductions, the latest federal projections show growing risks of Lake Mead and Lake Powell approaching “dead pool” levels, where water would no longer pass downstream through the dams. Though the states haven’t agreed on how to meet federal officials’ goal of drastically reducing the annual water take by 2 million to 4 million acre-feet, the looming risks of near-empty reservoirs are prompting more talks among those who lead water agencies…

Though [Tanya] Trujillo and [Camille] Touton have stressed their interest in collaborating on solutions, they have also laid out plans that could bring additional federal leverage to bear. Their plan to reexamine and possibly redefine what constitutes “beneficial use” of water in the three Lower Basin states — California, Arizona and Nevada — could open an avenue to a critical look at how water is used in farming areas and cities. How the government might wield that authority, or tighten requirements on water use, hasn’t been spelled out. The prospect of some type of federal intervention, though, has become one more factor pushing the states to deliver plans to take less from the river…

Because most water rights fall under state law, developing a new definition of “beneficial” would be complicated and could lead to lawsuits, Larson said. What might qualify as “waste” would also be hard to pin down, he said, because “one person’s waste is another person’s job.”

[…]

Arizona and Nevada are calling for a look at “wasteful” water use as a way of prodding large California agencies like the Imperial Irrigation District to agree to substantial cutbacks, [Rhett] Larson said. It’s an indirect way, he said, for the two states to send a message that “California, your agriculture needs to be more efficient.”

#Durango to explore pipeline from Lake Nighthorse to Terminal Reservoir — The Durango Herald #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

Click the link to read the article on the Durango Herald website (Christian Burney). Here’s an excerpt:

The proposed solution is a new water pipeline from Lake Nighthorse to Durango’s Terminal Reservoir, on College Mesa, which stores water short term until it is pumped into the city’s treatment facility and made ready for use. The pipeline would allow the city to access its share of water at Lake Nighthorse in the event its access to the Florida or Animas rivers is compromised or those waters become unavailable or unsafe for use.

City Council approved an allocation of $500,000 to the city’s water fund for a feasibility study and a preliminary design report. Justin Elkins, Durango utilities manager, said on Thursday he hopes the study will be completed by the end of the year. He said the feasibility study is intended to determine if a pipeline from Lake Nighthorse to Terminal Reservoir can be installed and, assuming it can be, what materials would be used and the size of the pipe; where it would be installed; any land-use or zoning obstacles; and how much the project would cost. The study will also examine if Durango is using its water in the most efficient way or if it will need to adapt in the future, he said…

“From the two watersheds that we draw from – the Animas and the Florida watersheds – we do have statistically significant reduction over the past 20 water years in precipitation, in total runoff, in the watershed’s ability to convert runoff,” he said.

[Allison] Baker said at the City Council meeting August 2, 2022 that the downward trend started in 1980. [ed. emphasis mine]

“Personally, what I look at more than the trends … is that there is a lot of extreme years where we are extremely high or extremely low (in precipitation),” she said.

Flows in #SanJuanRiver remain above median — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh PIke). Here’s an excerpt:

Stream flow for the San Juan River on Aug. 31 at approximately 9 a.m. was 162 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) National Water Dashboard. This is down from a nighttime peak of 195 cfs at 7:45 p.m. on Aug. 30.

The NIDIS also indicates that the levels of drought in the county have declined significantly from July and early August, with only 36.2 percent of the county being affected by drought, down 64 percent from last month, although there has been no change since last week.

Navajo Dam operations update (September 2, 2022): Bumping up to 750 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Navajo Reservoir, New Mexico, back in the day.. View looking north toward marina. The Navajo Dam can be seen on the left of the image. By Timthefinn at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4040102

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to a warmer drier weather pattern and continued decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 650 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 750 cfs for tomorrow, September 2nd , at 4:00 AM. 

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.  This scheduled release change is calculated to be the minimum required to meet the minimum target baseflow.

#Colorado landowner’s takings claim against EPA advances after judge denies motion to dismiss — The Ark Valley Voice #AnimasRiver #GoldKingMine

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5, 2015. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

Click the link to read the article on the Ark Valley Voice website (Jan Wondra). Here’s an excerpt:

On Tuesday, August 30, Judge Armando Bonilla of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued a decision from the bench in favor of New Civil Liberties Alliance’s (NCLA) client and denying a motion to dismiss in Todd Hennis v. The United States of America.

“Today, the Court of Federal Claims recognized what we have long known. EPA must answer for the bad decisions it has made and the unlawful actions it has taken since 2015, said New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) Litigation Counsel Kara Rollins. “We are pleased that Mr. Hennis’s case is moving ahead, and we look forward to presenting the facts about what the EPA did to him—and took from him.”

Hennis filed a lawsuit against the United States for the physical taking of his property without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He took this step after years of waiting for action. On August 5, 2015, EPA destroyed the portal to the Gold King Mine, located in Silverton, Colorado. Upon doing so, the agency released a toxic sludge of over 3,000,000 gallons of acid mine drainage and 880,000 pounds of heavy metals into the Animas River watershed. According to Hennis, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) caused an environmental catastrophe that preceded and culminated in the invasion, occupation, taking, and confiscation of Hennis’s downstream property. Ever since, he has been trying to recover damages.  This ruling means the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is allowing Mr. Hennis’s lawsuit to go forward to discovery, and ultimately to trial…

[The EPA] eventually mobilized supplies and equipment onto Hennis’s downstream property to address the immediate after-effects of its actions, but it apparently ignored Hennis’s explicit instructions on how to protect the land and the scope of the access that he granted. Instead, the EPA constructed a multimillion-dollar water treatment facility on his land, without permission, compensation, or even following a procedure to appropriate his property for public use. After seven years, Hennis says the U.S. Government has been “squatted on his lands”, and he wants financial compensation. Hennis says he didn’t voluntarily give EPA permission to construct and operate a water treatment facility on his property. It was built without his knowledge or consent, and it later coerced him into allowing access to his lands by threatening him with exorbitant fines (over $59,000 per day) should he exercise his property rights. When Hennis  refused to sign an access document, the EPA preceded to occupy his property by operation of the agency’s own administrative order—and threatening him with fines if he challenges it.

Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter