@USBR Announces Public Scoping Meetings for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, Proposed First Increment Extension, Environmental Assessment

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Brock Merrill):

The Bureau of Reclamation is preparing an environmental assessment (EA) for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, Proposed First Increment Extension. Reclamation, working with the states of Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska, water users, and environmental and conservation organizations, proposes to extend the First Increment of the basin-wide, cooperative Recovery Implementation Program by 13 years. Reclamation is doing this to meet its obligations under the Endangered Species Act.

The purpose of this action is to continue implementing projects that provide additional water, in order to accomplish the following:

  • Reduce flow shortages in the Platte River aimed at conforming with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service target flows
  • Continue land management activities necessary to provide habitat for target threatened and endangered species
  • Continue integrated monitoring, research, and adaptive management, in order to assess the progress of the program and inform future management decisions
  • Reclamation will hold four public scoping meetings during the 45-day scoping period to gather information from other agencies, interested parties, and the public on the scope of alternatives for the EA. The public is encouraged to attend the open house EA scoping meetings, to learn more about the proposal and to assist Reclamation in identifying issues.

    The public scoping meetings on the EA are scheduled as follows (All meetings will be held 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.):

  • October 4, 2017, at Goshen County Fair Grounds, 7078 Fairgrounds Road, Torrington, Wyoming
  • October 5, 2017, at The Ranch Events Complex, 5280 Arena Circle, Loveland, Colorado (Located in the Larimer County Conference Center; park in Lot B)
  • October 11, 2017, at Hotel Grand, 2503 S. Locust Street, Grand Island, Nebraska
  • October 12, 2017, at Platte River Recovery Implementation Program Executive Director’s Office, 4111 4th Avenue, Suite 6, Kearney, Nebraska
  • At each meeting, the public will have the opportunity to provide written input on resources to be evaluated, significant issues or concerns, and potential alternatives.

    Written comments are due by close of business November 2, 2017. Members of the public may submit written comments at the public scoping meetings, via email to platteriver@usbr.gov, or by mail to:

    Bureau of Reclamation
    Attention: Brock Merrill
    P.O. Box 950
    Torrington, WY 82240

    For additional information, please visit the project website at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/nepa/platte_river/index.html.

    #Colorado sues U.S. Army/USFWS over Rocky Mountain Arsenal clean up

    Rocky Mountain Arsenal back in the day

    From CBS Denver:

    The arsenal stopped production of chemical weapons and pesticides in the early 80s. Cleanup was finished seven years ago and now much of the area has been turned into a wildlife refuge but many toxic compounds remain.

    Colorado says the potential for trouble is still there unless the property has proper control.

    “It was referred to as one of the most contaminated pieces of property on the planet,” said Colorado Department of Health and Environment spokesman Doug Knappe.

    Knappe manages the hazardous waste program for the state health department.

    Now, the agency he works for is suing the U.S. Army, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Shell Oil. The lawsuit claims that an area called “Basin F” still poses a potential threat, “all of these constitute threats to human health and environment.”

    He says the state needs proper management of the site.

    “We don’t have control of that and we therefore can’t ensure for the protection of humans, health and environment,” said Knappe.

    Much of the hazardous waste remains in landfills or contained under covers. The state says even though some ground water remains contaminated, it is treated.

    @CWCB_DNR stream recovery work nears completion four years after 2013 floods

    Air search for flood victims September 2013 via Pediment Publishing

    From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Todd Hartman):

    Colorado Water Conservation Board joins partners for innovative approach to restore stream channels, protect property and improve ecological conditions

    The record-smashing floods of 2013 ravaged Front Range waterways, rerouting and flattening stream channels, eroding streambanks, degrading fish habitat and stripping trees and vegetation from riparian areas.

    Four years later, many of those waterways have been repaired, restored and even improved due to efforts led by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and myriad partners at the state, federal and community level.

    With most attention properly focused on the recovery of communities, reconstruction of homes and property as well as road, bridge and infrastructure repair, CWCB and its partners have quietly redesigned and rebuilt stream channels in a way that has improved stream flows, boosted fish habitat and created more resilient waterways in the event of future floods.

    Work is expected to be largely complete by the spring of 2018 on numerous waterways well-known and important to many communities. Coal Creek, Fountain Creek, the St. Vrain, Fish Creek, Fall River, the South Platte and other streams have benefited from intensive planning and channel construction work that reflects unprecedented collaboration to recreate streams in a way not only protective of nearby property, but with high ecological function.

    That meant not only repairing and replanting streamside habitat but also creating stream channels that work for a variety of flows. A narrow interior channel allows for better passage of sediment and healthier flows even during periods of low water, a feature that can also benefit aquatic life. Those channels were constructed within wider channels to accommodate larger flows that might fill the banks or extend onto floodplains.

    “This was a new way of doing business,” said Kevin Houck, chief of CWCB’s watershed and flood protection section. “Typically, after events like this, you’ll see efforts to simply armor the stream bank quickly, for purpose of safety and protecting property. We took a different, more holistic approach and we’re excited to see the results on the ground.”

    Shortly after the floods, the CWCB assembled a team of experts at all levels of government to help communities develop short-term and long-term plans to stabilize and recreate damaged stream channels. This team quickly determined that stream rehabilitation would best be guided by a master-planning process at the watershed level, directed by an array of local stakeholders.

    Master plans were developed for Fish Creek and Fall River by the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition, Big Thompson River (Big Thompson River Coalition), Little Thompson River (Little Thompson River Coalition), St. Vrain Creek (St. Vrain Creek Coalition), Left Hand Creek (Left Hand Watershed Oversight Group), Fourmile Creek (Fourmile Creek Coalition), Coal Creek (Coal Creek Canyon Watershed Partnership), Middle South Platte (Middle South Platte Watershed Alliance), and Fountain Creek (Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District).

    Since the development of the master plans, the CWCB has partnered with the State Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and local sponsors to implement projects identified within the plans. The CWCB and DOLA are managing over $100 million in recovery funds directed towards stream rehabilitation. Money for the work has come from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (NRCS) and Housing and Urban Development, state and local entities and private foundations. The majority of the funding is going towards implementation, but some of it has supported project design and capacity for the local watershed coalitions that are managing many of the projects.

    As of the four-year anniversary, most of the projects are complete or under active construction at this time. A detailed description of all projects and many images of the work can be found at the website for the Colorado Emergency Watershed Protection Plan, http://www.coloradoewp.com. The public can also follow progress on Twitter by following @ColoradoEWP.

    I don’t know how I missed the great website and Twitter feed.

    Scott Hummer, general manager of North Poudre Irrigation Company, talks about how his agency worked with Fort Collins Natural Areas and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to include a fish passage when the irrigation company replaced a diversion structure on the Poudre River that was destroyed by the 2013 floods. Work was completed [in February 2016]. (Pamela Johnson / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

    Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District 2018 budget numbers

    The Platte River is formed in western Nebraska east of the city of North Platte, Nebraska by the confluence of the North Platte and the South Platte Rivers, which both arise from snowmelt in the eastern Rockies east of the Continental Divide. Map via Wikimedia.

    From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

    The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s budget will exceed $1 million for the first time in 2018.

    The district’s Board of Directors Executive Committee got its first look at the proposed budget during Tuesday’s meeting.

    District manager Joe Frank pointed out that the budget is somewhat inflated by two grants totaling more than $341,000 the district has received, one from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and one by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The CWBC grant will be used to match the USBR grant to help develop a marketing plan for the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative.

    The district also will enjoy about a 4 percent increase in general property tax, mostly from increased valuations on real estate.

    Total increase in the budget is about $70,000, or roughly 6.8 percent over this year’s budget, which also contained large water study project grants.

    The Bureau of Reclamation grant of $236,245 is one of nine the bureau awarded earlier this month as part of its WaterSMART Water Marketing Strategies program.

    LSPWCD will use the funds to help the NECWC find ways to develop infrastructure for water exchanges, primarily when water augmentation plans are involved…

    …pumps and pipelines cost money, Frank said, and a lot of it, and that means heavy participation by everyone who needs water. The “water marketing strategy” the NECWC has in mind would try to expand participation with municipalities and industrial water users who are not yet part of the cooperative.

    That’s all part of an effort established by the Colorado Water Plan unveiled in November 2015 to address a looming gap in water supplies. Without water development, the gap between supply and demand in the South Platte River Basin is expected to grow to 196,000 acre feet by 2050. That, according to the Bureau of Reclamation’s statement on the grants, “is creating a growing incentive to identify creative solutions, driving up interest in water marketing by multiple types of water users.”

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

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

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

    Evening Visits — Greg Hobbs

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    Evening Visits

    Lord, help us understand
    what we cannot know for sure,
    every day’s a gift,

    Every evening an opportunity,
    to practice grace and thankfulness,
    to place our faith in community,

    For all we have, for all the nows
    and now, is the chance
    of being, day and evening,

    Together and alone,
    to walk the shore and mountain path,
    to lift our voices,

    Work for peace,
    honor hope,
    love greatly.

    Greg Hobbs (written 9/11/2001)
    (Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Colorado Mother of Rivers, Water Poems at 75)

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

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

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Rebecca Powell):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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