After improvements Berthoud Reservoir is filling

Berthoud Auto Storage back in the day

From The Berthoud Weekly Surveyor (Shelley Widhalm):

The Town of Berthoud started filling Berthoud Reservoir on Wednesday after significant improvements have been made…

“This project was to deepen the reservoir, dredge it out, increase storage, and provide better water quality for the raw water treatment plant,” said Stephanie Brothers, public works director for the Town of Berthoud.

Prior to the Berthoud Reservoir Improvement Project, the water in the reservoir was safe for public consumption but carried an unpleasant taste and odor and had accumulated sediments, minerals, weeds and goose droppings, along with a problem of blue algae. Several municipalities along the Front Range struggle with blue algae resulting from shallow water usage, she said.

“It looks a little deeper, and there’s less vegetation. Hopefully with the vegetation gone, we got rid of the algae in there, and any future algae issues will be easier to control,” she added.

The sediment, which took up five to six feet of the bottom level of the reservoir, caused a loss of overall capacity. The sediment resulted from the town not dredging or cleaning out the reservoir since it took over ownership of it in 1890, according to Brothers.

The town hired Western States Reclamation, Inc., in Frederick, to dredge and improve the reservoir, spending $1.2 million on the entire project, using funds from the town’s raw water impact fee. Work began in October 2016, with the remaining work of filling the reservoir to be completed in early May.

The improvements expanded the reservoir’s capacity from 450-acre-feet to 574-acre-feet – prior to the improvements, the sediment had reduced what could be used to less than 400 acre feet.

The improvements included reconfiguring the structure of the reservoir, dividing it into two cells, with the east cell deeper than the west cell, and adding an internal dam. Once the reservoir is filled, the water in the east cell will be piped to the treatment plant and both cells will be used for storage, she said.

“The east cell allows us to have better water quality for the water plant because it’s deeper, and it makes it easier to manage,” said Mike Hart, town administrator.

#Runoff news: Cool temperatures are expected to moderate snowmelt from the recent storm

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

The report was the same from Kevin Houck, chief of watershed and flood protection for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“I think the cooler weather is going to minimize” runoff issues. “This cool air just shuts down the runoff, and while it can speed back up if we had a really big warm-up come this way, I’m not seeing any forecasts calling for that. I think it’s going to be a pretty controlled runoff. Elevated for a few days, but nothing close to flood levels.”


Snow totals across western Boulder County from the spring storm were impressive. According to the National Weather Service, 42 inches fell southeast of Allenspark, through Friday morning. A total of 41.7 inches came down northeast of Ward, also as of Friday morning. And by 7 a.m. Friday, 30 inches had accumulated northeast of Nederland.

The totals down low were less significant, with Boulder meteorologist Matt Kelsch reporting 6.1 inches of snow in the city through 7 a.m. Friday, and a total of 3.4 inches of liquid precipitation, in both rain and snow, since the storm’s onset.

“I have not seen all of the updated snowpack figures yet,” Kelsch said in an email. “We were running a little below average for this time of year as of May 1st (Coal Creek, Boulder Creek and St. Vrain Creek were 85-90 percent of average). My guess is that we are at least a little above average now.

“That does increase the risk of high flows and maybe some out-of-bank flows over the next few weeks. The extent depends on temperature and precipitation over the next few weeks. A very rapid warm-up could cause a fast melting and more risk of flooding.”

Dave Gochis, a hydrometeorologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, also issued a note of caution.

“There certainly is a heightened risk from the recent precipitation,” Gochis said in an email. “The actual occurrence of flooding will depend on how much more precipitation we get, as well as how quickly we warm up after this event moves out.

“Forecasts from the National Water Model are showing appreciable rises in streamflow across the Front Range moving into next week mostly due to melt runoff. Streams will come up, but I think more serious flooding will depend strongly on whether or not we get some heavy rain showers on top of this current condition of wet soils and wet and melting snow.”

Chimney Hollow reservoir construction may start in late 2018

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ final decision allowing Northern Water to build Chimney Hollow Reservoir southwest of Loveland, issued 14 years after the federal permitting process began means, that construction could begin in late 2018 and water begin filling in 2022.

That same year, an open space around the reservoir with trails, backcountry camping and boating should open under the management of Larimer County’s Department of Natural Resources.

The permits that allow Northern Water to finish design and begin building the $400 million reservoir on behalf of 13 municipal water providers, including Loveland, require several different actions to mitigate environmental damage or concerns.

[Eric] Wilkinson, general manager of Northern Water, summarized some of the mitigations associated with Chimney Hollow Reservoir, which will store water pulled from the Colorado River through the Windy Gap project.

• Maintaining certain water temperatures on the Colorado River to make sure the habitat for fish stays healthy.

• Paying for about $4 million worth of stream channel improvements on the Colorado River for 14 miles ending near the confluence of the Williams Fork River, to make significant enhancements to aquatic habitat.

• Flush flows every six years to move sediment and improve habitat.

• Construct a channel that will carry the water around Windy Gap Reservoir, allowing fish to migrate through that area and improving spawning conditions in the Colorado River downstream of Windy Gap.

• Replace wetlands that will be destroyed by the actual construction of the reservoir with similar acres in another location.

• Conduct stream restoration along the Little Thompson River in two locations to help restore that channel to its pre-2013 flood conditions and maintain those enhancements over the long term.

Chimney Hollow will hold about 90,000 acre-feet of water, enough for more than 90,000 households, that will be pulled from the Colorado River in wet years and stored for use in dry years.

Windy Gap Reservoir

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

The Windy Gap Firming project and its accompanying Chimney Hollow Reservoir has been approved, paving the way for more reliable water across the Front Range while also further draining the Colorado River.

The Windy Gap Project has its roots in the 1980s, and was intended to provide the Front Range with more than 40,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River. But without enough storage capacity, municipalities haven’t realized that yield every year.

“We are pleased to make it to this milestone with our partners at Northern Water and all of the other communities involved,” Greeley City Manager Roy Otto said in text message Thursday.

The firming project, centered on the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir near Carter Lake, is expected to address that problem at a cost of about $400 million.

The Army Corps of Engineers gave final approval Wednesday, and construction should start in late 2018 or early 2019.

It’s a project nearly 15 years in the making.

“We’re ecstatic,” Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said. “You get one of these (types of projects) done in your whole lifetime.”

Water for the reservoir would be pumped from the Windy Gap Reservoir on the Colorado River near the town of Granby, west of the Continental Divide, through an existing tunnel under the Rocky Mountains to the east side of the divide.

Greeley is one of 12 beneficiaries of the project, which also will create more reliable water supply for Fort Lupton, Longmont and Loveland.

Chimney Hollow Reservoir will hold 90,000 acre-feet of water, and Greeley will get about 9,200 acre-feet of water per year from the project.

An acre-foot of water is 326,000 gallons, or equivalent to a foot of water covering a football field. Greeley residents, according to the city’s new water budget, will use about 20,000 gallons per year.

Sen. Cory Gadner, R-Colo., also applauded the decision, calling the project a major component of Colorado’s longterm water needs.

“Getting to this point has been years in the making, and it is hard to state just how important it is that Northern Water can finally move forward with construction,” Gardner said in a news release.

The project’s approval was met with resistance from some water conservation advocates, though, including Gary Wockner with Save the Colorado and Save the Poudre.

“The Colorado River is on life support right now,” Wockner told the Associated Press. “If the patient is bleeding out, you don’t cut open a new artery to try and heal it. Instead, you should work to protect and restore the river, not further drain it.”

Save the Colorado is opposed to the Windy Gap project, and Wockner told The Tribune it’s likely his group will file a lawsuit in federal court to stop the project.

“Our policy is no new dams and diversions out of the Colorado River system,” Wockner said. “This is a dam and diversion, so we’re going to do everything we can to stop it.”

Wockner, who said the Colorado River is being overused, instead calls for more water conservation, including moving away from green lawns, recycling water and managing growth better.

Werner points to the endorsement of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, officials in Grand County on the Western Slope and Trout Unlimited, a trout and salmon conservation organization as proof the Windy Gap Firming project’s strong support.

Before the Windy Gap Firming project, Colorado had never endorsed a water project that has come before the federal government.

Without the project, Werner said municipalities would have to do what they’ve always done in particularly wet years: dump the excess water down the Colorado River rather than saving it for drier times.

“There is still a lot of work to do,” Otto said. “This project, along with the expansion of Milton Seaman Reservoir, are critically important to Greeley’s longterm water needs.”

@OmahaUSACE: Annual sediment flushing exercise scheduled at Cherry Creek Reservoir

Release at Cherry Creek dam during a low flush year. (Photo by USACE)

Here’s the release from the US Army Corps of Engineers Omaha office (Katie Seefus):

The annual sediment flushing exercise will be conducted at Cherry Creek Reservoir on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

Katie Seefus, water manager in the Corps’ Omaha District office, says the exercise involves high releases from each of the five main outlet gates at Cherry Creek Dam, located south of Interstate 225 in Aurora, Colo. “When the gates are opened, the high velocity of the water leaving the reservoir scours the area immediately upstream of the gates and transports sediment with the flow,” said Seefus. This sediment flush is required to allow proper operation of the outlet gates.

Cherry Creek Dam will begin releasing 50 cubic feet per second (cfs) at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23. The actual flushing exercise will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 11:10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 24 when the release will be set back to normal levels. The travel time from Cherry Creek Dam to the streamgage located at the Champa Street Bridge, is about 6 hours. The following table shows a schedule of the planned releases:

Omaha District Commander Col. John Henderson asks the public to be aware that the high flows will take some time to reach the downtown channel, and flows from the last gate opened will not reach the downtown channel until late afternoon on Wednesday. The high flows will cause higher than normal creek stages and potential flooding of bike paths and stream crossings. “In the interest of public safety, I urge the public not to attempt to cross the stream during this event,” says Henderson.

Windy Gap Firming Project gets green light from @OmahaUSACE #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Here’s the release from the US Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District (Kiel Downing/Cheryl Moore):

The Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, finalized its Record of Decision (ROD) approving the Windy Gap Firming Project on May 17, 2017. The project is proposed by the Municipal Subdistrict, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Subdistrict) and involves the construction of Windy Gap Firming Project Water Supply facilities for its customers and 13 other Front Range water providers. The Subdistrict requested a Section 404 Clean Water Act (CWA) Permit from the Corps’ Omaha District Denver Regulatory Branch. “Due to the potential for significant environmental impacts to the East and West Slopes of Colorado, this project resulted in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)” said Kiel Downing, Denver Regulatory Office Chief. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) was the lead federal agency preparing the EIS, and the Corps participated as a Cooperating Agency.

The original Windy Gap Project, constructed in the early 1980’s, was intended to provide more than 40,000 acre-feet of firm yield to the east slope, but due to operational constraints that didn’t happen. The project currently captures water from the Colorado River, pumps it to existing reservoirs on the west slope and moves the water through a tunnel system (the Colorado-Big Thompson Project operated by Reclamation) to the Front Range of Colorado. Because of the historic deficiency in water deliveries and lack of storage, the Windy Gap Project participants have not been able to fully rely on existing Windy Gap Project water for meeting a portion of their annual water demand. As a result, the participants, initiated the proposed construction of the Chimney Hollow Reservoir, which would firm all or a portion of their individual Windy Gap Project water allotment units to meet a portion of existing and future municipal and industrial water requirements. The Chimney Hollow Reservoir, as proposed, is a 90,000 AF capacity reservoir that will be dammed at the northern and southern limits.

Reclamation published the Windy Gap Firming Project, Environmental Impact Statement in November of 2011, and ROD on December 12, 2014. The State CWA Section 401 Water Quality Certification began shortly thereafter with the Subdistrict submitting its application to the State in March of 2015. The State issued the Section 401 WQC for the WGFP on March 25, 2016. This determination was necessary for the Corps determination under Section 404 of the CWA. The Subdistrict provided the Corps its Mitigation Plan for permanent and temporary impacts to Waters of the U.S. associated with the WGFP on March 17, 2017 and the Corps with continued agency collaboration, updated study information, and new Federal and State requirements, finalized their ROD shortly thereafter marking the end of the federal approval process.

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jeff Stahla):

Kiel Downing, Denver regulatory office chief for the Corps of Engineers, announced Wednesday afternoon the Record of Decision for the Clean Water Act permit for the Windy Gap Firming Project, which includes the reservoir.

With the final federal permit in hand, Northern Water officials can start planning for construction of the $400 million project, which is set to start in late 2018 or early 2019, according to Northern Water Public Information Officer Brian Werner.

“We’re smiling,” Werner said. “These things come along once in a generation.”

Berthoud-based Northern Water will manage the construction of a pair of dams in a valley west of Carter Lake that will hold approximately 90,000 acre-feet of water, or about 29 billion gallons — enough water for more than 90,000 households.

Water to fill Chimney Hollow will come from the Colorado River basin in years when its flows are above average. The water will be carried through a diversion at Windy Gap Reservoir in Grand County to Lake Granby and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

Municipalities including Loveland, Fort Collins and Greeley conceived of Windy Gap in 1970. The need for storage space for the communities involved to “firm” their ownership of the Windy Gap water rights expanded in later years to include Chimney Hollow Reservoir because in above-average precipitation years, Lake Granby often does not have enough space to store the additional water.

Rep. Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, said he was ecstatic when he heard about the Corps of Engineers’ approval, comparing it to Christmas.

In his time serving on the Loveland City Council and then the Colorado House of Representatives, he has seen how much the storage project was needed…

For cities such as Loveland, Windy Gap water fills an important role for its municipal users because it is a 365-day-a-year, deliverable water source, unlike in-basin seasonal water offered through local ditch companies. It will join the Colorado-Big Thompson Project shares in the city’s water portfolio…

McKean acknowledges that because the water has not been diverted before, questions and concerns will emerge from Western Slope water users and communities. However, because the Windy Gap Firming Project water is available only in years of above-average flows on the Colorado River, municipalities on the Front Range won’t be served until water rights holders on the Western Slope get their allocations.

He said he will be in Montrose this summer at a meeting of the Uncompahgre Water Users Association to talk about the project’s effect on the basins and in the context of the state water plan.

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott) via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

The federal government gave final approval Wednesday for a $400 million dam and reservoir in northern Colorado where 13 cities and water districts will store water from the other side of the Continental Divide.

The Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit for construction of the Chimney Hollow Reservoir in the foothills about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Denver.

The corps regulates some of the environmental impacts of big water projects.

It is the last approval the reservoir needs, said Brian Werner, a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which oversees the project.

Construction could start in early 2019, after the district refines the plans, hires a project manager and awards contracts.

Water for the reservoir would be pumped from the Windy Gap Reservoir on the Colorado River near the town of Granby, west of the Continental Divide, through an existing tunnel under the Rocky Mountains to the east side of the divide.

The 13 water providers own the rights to the water but have nowhere to store it. The project is formally called the Windy Gap Firming Project because it would firm up the water supply.

The Chimney Hollow Reservoir will store up to 90,000 acre-feet (1.1 million cubic meters). One acre-foot (1,200 cubic meters) can supply two typical households for a year.

New reservoirs are always contentious in Colorado. Water managers and urban planners argue the state needs more because it does not have the capacity to store all the water it is entitled to under agreements with other states. They also say Colorado needs more water for its growing population.

Some conservationists oppose new reservoirs because of their environmental damage and because the state’s rivers are already overtaxed.

“The Colorado River is on life support right now,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save the Colorado. “If the patient is bleeding out, you don’t cut open a new artery to try and heal it. Instead, you should work to protect and restore the river, not further drain it.”

Wockner said his group will likely challenge the Corps of Engineers permit in court.

Trout Unlimited negotiated some environmental improvements in the Colorado River near the Windy Gap Reservoir as part of the project. Mely Whiting, an attorney for the group, said she had not yet seen the final Corps of Engineers permit.

Water providers that will pay for and benefit from the Chimney Hollow Reservoir are the cities of Broomfield, Erie, Greeley, Longmont, Louisville, Loveland, Superior, Evans, Lafayette and Fort Lupton, as well as the Central Weld County and Little Thompson water districts.

Iliff Board of Trustees will likely raise water and sewer rates

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

During the board’s regular May meeting Wednesday night the Board of Trustees discussed rate hikes of $10 a month in September and another $7.50 a month in January 2018, with an increase of $2.50 a month in water rates to accompany the January sewer hike.

Mayor Amy Sorensen said she’d negotiated two loans with the U.S. Department of Agriculture totaling $414,000 to pay for new lined sewer lagoons and related structures. Iliff residents now pay $38.75 a month for water service and $26.28 for sewer for a total of $65.03. In September, under Sorensen’s plan, that would go up to $75.03 and then rise to $85.03 in January 2017 to pay off those loans.

Iliff last raised its water rates in 2015.

The town is not alone in facing skyrocketing utility rates. Fleming could be forced to virtually double their sewer rates if they end up having to build new sewer ponds; Merino already has raised water rates to pay for its new reverse osmosis water system and is looking at significantly higher sewer rates; and Peetz has been told to brace for giant leaps in rates if they, too, have to build new wastewater evaporation ponds.

Trustees were not happy with the numbers Sorensen handed them but didn’t blame the new mayor; a survey of towns the size of Iliff in Colorado shows steadily increasing sewer and water rates across the board, and Iliff is still below the average.

South Platte Master Plan: Will require a “coalition of stakeholders” — Kevin Houck

South Platte River near Kersey September 13, 2009.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The SPMP is a year-long study of flood mitigation on the lower South Platte River. Authorized and funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the plan will try to find ways to make the river more “flood resilient,” both to handle the flooding as it occurs, with minimal damage to property and structures, and to quickly recover from a flood in the aftermath.

The project area includes 130 miles of the South Platte River from the Weld-Morgan County Line to the Nebraska state line.

Friday’s meeting was organized primarily by Logan County Commissioner Dave Donaldson and hosted by Morgan County Commissioner Jim Zwetzig, but was attended by commissioners from all four counties and a variety of other water interests.

Donaldson opened the meeting by saying, as he has in the past, that he would like to see some “channelizing” of the South Platte in areas where sand bars and other sediment accumulations have caused some blockage to the river, which worsens flood damage.

Kayla Uptmor, chief of civil works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District, said any COE work done on flood mitigation would have to have a return on investment.

“Our first question is, ‘What is the need for federal investment,'” Uptmor said. “The thinking in Congress is that for projects like this, there needs to be a dollar-for-dollar return to the federal government on the investment made.”

She said that doesn’t necessarily mean revenue; in the case of flood mitigation the return would be in terms of less damage.

In any event, Uptmor said, it would be at least 2020 before any funds could even be budgeted for DOE projects on the South Platte River.

Kevin Houck, chief of watershed and flood protection for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said several times during the meeting that once the study is finished, early next year, would require a “coalition of stakeholders,” and solutions would have to be driven from the local communities, not from the state.

“Any solutions that are identified would have to involve the irrigation communities because they are a key component of what you accomplish in the river,” he said. “Ultimately, we would like to see solutions focused on the four counties (covered by the study.)”

Joe Frank, manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, which includes the same four counties as the SPMP study, again stressed the need to coordinate the SPMP with the results of a CWCB-funded study of storage possibilities on the South Platte River.

“I think that has to be an important part of it, how do we tie flood mitigation to storage,” he said.

Morgan County Commissioner Jim Zwetzig asked how the panel thought the necessary coalition might form. Brian Murphy, project director for CDM Smith of Denver, the contractor on the flood study, said the stakeholder coalition for what is called the Middle South Platte Master Plan, done on a 20-mile stretch of the South Platte from St. Vrain Creek to the confluence with the Big Thompson River, didn’t begin to form until the late stages of the study.

After the meeting Zwetzig said he thought the lower South Platte coalition would look “much different from the Middle South Platte coalition.”

“That one was 20 miles and there was a lot of municipal stuff in it, it was a lot more urban,” he said. “We’re looking at 130 miles of river with 32 (irrigation) diversions, so there will be much more of an agricultural component. Also, (Colorado Department of Transportation) and the Parks and Wildlife people will be a lot more involved.”

Donaldson said he thought the three-hour meeting had been productive and had shown stakeholders that there are information resources that can be drawn on.