Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District board meeting recap — Sterling Journal-Advocate

South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

Owners of 12 so-called “gap wells” in Sedgwick County won’t be double-billed for being in two augmentation plans thanks to an agreement in the works with the Republican River Water Conservation District.

Left unanswered is the question of whether the wells would have to be curtailed if the Republican District is required to shut down its wells.

Joe Frank, manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, told his board of directors Tuesday that the Republican District has met with the Sedgwick County well owners to discuss an agreement that would prevent them from having to pay the per-acre fee to that district as long as they’re included in another augmentation plan. Eleven of the wells are in the LSPWCD’s augmentation plan and the twelfth well is another plan.

The proposed agreement is the upshot of state legislation establishing new boundaries for the RRWCD to include wells in Kit Carson, Cheyenne and Washington counties that are impacting the Republican River. When the Colorado Department of Water Resources used the U.S. Geological Survey’s data to redraw the boundaries, however, it was found that the 12 “gap wells” in Sedgwick County, originally thought to be in the South Platte River basin, actually were inside the Republican River basin. One of those wells is physically less than a mile from the South Platte River…

Wells within the district are assessed an annual fee of $14.50 per irrigated acre to pay for augmentation of the Republican River to keep Colorado in compliance.

Frank said that he doesn’t know whether that agreement has been signed yet. The Journal-Advocate had not been able to contact the Republican District Tuesday afternoon.

While the agreement over fees would be a fairly easy fix – the legislation adopting the new boundary has nearly identical language in it protecting those well owners – the question of curtailment is stickier. Frank said a practical solution would be to not curtail the Sedgwick County wells, since they have so little impact on the Republican River…

In other business, the LSPWCD formally adopted it 2020 budget on a voice vote.

The district’s proposed budget is $1,173,586, about a 4 percent increase over the 2019 budget. Most of the increase is accounted for by increased personnel costs and an anticipated increase in legal costs.

Again this year the budget is swollen by a quarter-million-dollar grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to fund the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative. Irrigators and other water users often have augmentation plans to offset the effects water well pumping has on the river. These plans can result in users having credits, or excess water available, that they can’t use. Rather than just lose the credits downstream, NCWC helps transfer those credits to someone who needs them in an efficient manner. Members of the cooperative also work to find ways to develop infrastructure for water exchanges, primarily when water augmentation plans are involved.

“If we can’t save the rivers in Grand County, every river in Colorado is doomed” — Kirk Klancke #ColoradoRiver #COriver

From The Colorado Sun (Moe Clark):

For decades, the Fraser River has struggled with low flows, rising stream temperatures, sediment build-up, plummeting fish populations and degrading aquatic habitats due in large part to Front Range water diversions that drain 65% of the river.

But after years of heated negotiations — and the formation of a partnership between environmentalists, Grand County officials and Front Range water diverters — some stretches of the Grand County tributary of the Colorado River have started to show improvement.

Some are heralding the success as the beginning of a new era of collaboration between historically fraught Front Range and Western Slope water stakeholders…

Proponents of the collaboration have rejoiced at the results of the work, saying that it’s the first time that major Front Range water diverters have participated in meaningful river restoration projects, and have taken responsibility for damage done to Colorado’s rivers. The partnership, dubbed the Grand County Learning By Doing Cooperative Effort, or LBD, includes the two biggest water utilities in the state, Denver Water and Northern Water, as well as Trout Unlimited, Grand County officials and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The partners celebrated their first success in 2018: the completion of a $200,000 restoration project called the Fraser Flats Habitat, which rehabilitated a mile of the river near Tabernash by narrowing the streambed to increase the river’s depth and velocity, to improve the aquatic ecosystem.

A winter wonderland in Winter Park, Colorado, near the west portal of the Moffat Tunnel, which delivers water from the Fraser and Williams Fork River basins, under the Continental Divide and on to the Moffat Treatment Plant in Lakewood, Colorado. Photo credit: Denver Water. (Photo taken in winter of 2016-2017.)

For decades, the Fraser River has struggled with low flows, rising stream temperatures, sediment build-up, plummeting fish populations and degrading aquatic habitats due in large part to Front Range water diversions that drain 65% of the river.

But after years of heated negotiations — and the formation of a partnership between environmentalists, Grand County officials and Front Range water diverters — some stretches of the Grand County tributary of the Colorado River have started to show improvement.

Some are heralding the success as the beginning of a new era of collaboration between historically fraught Front Range and Western Slope water stakeholders. But with future restoration projects being contingent on two new water diversion projects that will siphon even more water from the Fraser to the Front Range, some worry that the efforts might only be a mirage.

“They’re basically putting a Band-Aid on the issue, they’re not helping the underlying cause of the problem, which is that too much water is being taken out of a river to meet human needs,” said Jen Pelz, wild rivers program director for the organization WildEarth Guardians.

Proponents of the collaboration have rejoiced at the results of the work, saying that it’s the first time that major Front Range water diverters have participated in meaningful river restoration projects, and have taken responsibility for damage done to Colorado’s rivers. The partnership, dubbed the Grand County Learning By Doing Cooperative Effort, or LBD, includes the two biggest water utilities in the state, Denver Water and Northern Water, as well as Trout Unlimited, Grand County officials and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The partners celebrated their first success in 2018: the completion of a $200,000 restoration project called the Fraser Flats Habitat, which rehabilitated a mile of the river near Tabernash by narrowing the streambed to increase the river’s depth and velocity, to improve the aquatic ecosystem.

Kirk Klancke, pictured Aug. 21, 2019, in front of the Fraser Flats area, was the visionary for the restoration efforts that improved fish habitat along the 1-mile stretch of the Fraser River. The efforts, which were partially funded by Denver Water, involved narrowing parts of the river to create deeper channels and faster flows. (Matt Stensland, Special to The Colorado Sun)
Seeing the river flowing again brought tears to the eyes of Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado headwaters chapter of Trout Unlimited and longtime resident of Grand County.

“It was like I was looking at a completely different river,” said Klancke, who has been an integral part of the collaborative. “In the 48 years I’ve lived in Grand County, it was the first time that I saw the river actually looking healthier.”

“We’ve got the most heavily diverted county in Colorado, about 300,000 acre-feet a year comes out of Grand County. The next highest competitor is Pitkin County, with 98,000… We consider ourselves ground zero. If we can’t save the rivers in Grand County, every river in Colorado is doomed.”

The River The Land, The People, The Cache — Greg Hobbs

The River The Land, The People, The Cache

We are the land, the river keepers,
the public who owns the water resources,

We are those who live along the waters,
those whose duties require running the water
through the ditches to those who own use rights,

We are those who own the bed, the banks
of the stream, the lands through which
the arteries of the ditches run,

We are the look, the feel, the faces, the hands
of Colorado, the bundle of rights and duties
that inter-depend upon each other,

We are the Cache – for and with each other –
for all the creatures who must rely

On our best creative judgment,
always shaping.

Greg Hobbs 11/8/2019

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City of Denver, Army Corps launch $11 million+ rehab program on the #SouthPlatteRiver — @WaterEdCO

Ducks patrol the South Platte River as construction workers shore up bank. Oct. 8, 2019. Credit: Jerd Smith

From Water Education Colorado (Dan England):

A stretch of the South Platte River that has been hampered for years by construction, pollution and debris has been approved for a major face lift, thanks to a new agreement between the City of Denver and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The 2.4-mile, $11 million project was approved by the agencies in mid-September. The idea is to offset damage to the river caused by Bear Creek Lake and Chatfield dams, as well as urbanization, according to Jennifer Williams, who leads the project for Denver Public Works.

The Southern Platte Valley Project will restore natural flows and habitat in a stretch from West Yale Ave. to West Mississippi Ave., Williams said.

Natural river flows support conditions that provide shelter for fish and breeding grounds for organisms that feed them. They also help keep the river cool. Plants along the banks help filter trash and sediments from runoff before it flows back into the South Platte.

But rivers that thread their way through cities battle for the room and the flows they need to remain healthy.

“We’ve just encroached on the river and made it less efficient as a hospitable place for animals,” Williams said.

The new rehab project comes as Denver voters and politicos have vowed to improve and expand the city’s natural areas. In 2018, voters said yes to a new sales tax that will raise an additional $46 million a year, part of which will be used to restore waterways in the city.

This project is especially exciting, Williams said, because it will stitch together other scattered restoration projects along the Denver reach of the South Platte.

“This will tie all the projects together and really leverage that previous investment we’ve made and turn it into a great corridor for birds and fish,” she said.

The project will restore 22 acres of aquatic habitat and 11 acres of riparian habitat, Williams said. The area is along the Central Flyway, and visited by more than 400 bird species every year, including 14 that are of special concern in the eyes of the federal government, which means they may receive special management considerations but not yet formal protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Perhaps just as importantly, the project could make residents proud and more willing to keep the river clean.

“Our goal is to get people living there connected to the river,” said John Davenport, a member of Trout Unlimited Denver, who keeps a close eye on the South Platte.

Studies show that perception, more than the economic welfare of an area and its residents, tends to determine whether a natural area stays clean: Once people recognize it as a special place, they try to keep it that way, he said.

The project will take roughly three years to complete, Williams said, and she is cautiously optimistic that there will be enough money to begin the design this year, with hopes of starting construction in 2021.

Davenport is satisfied with the way the South Platte looks now, but he believes it has room for improvement.

“We have a river that could really be something,” he said.

Dan England is a freelance writer who lives in Greeley and the media adviser for Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo.

#Wyoming Governor Gordon appoints Greg Lanning Wyoming State Engineer

Lower Green River Lake

Here’s the release from Governor Gordon’s office:

Governor Mark Gordon announced today he has appointed Greg Lanning Wyoming State Engineer. Lanning takes over for Pat Tyrrell, who retired in January after serving as State Engineer for 18 years.

The State Engineer is a position established by the Wyoming Constitution and has a term of six years. The State Engineer serves as the chief water official in the state and is responsible for the general supervision of Wyoming’s waters, including technical, policy and regulatory matters concerning its beneficial use. The search process involved numerous stakeholders including experienced water industry professionals and representatives of rural water users; agriculture; the mining, oil and gas industries; and environmental organizations.

“Finding the right State Engineer was a challenging process, as the position requires a unique set of technical, policy and political skills,” Governor Gordon said. “Greg’s background expertly balances these requirements and I can think of no one better to hit the ground running to lead the way in managing Wyoming’s water. I look forward to welcoming Greg back to his home state of Wyoming.”

A Casper, Wyoming native, Lanning previously served as Deputy State Engineer under Tyrrell from 2012 to 2014. His broad background in civil engineering and water resource management includes time spent as Public Works Director for communities both in Wyoming as well as neighboring states. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and his Masters in Business Administration degrees at the University of Wyoming. He holds a Masters in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University and is a registered Professional Engineer.

“It is an honor to once again serve this great state,” Lanning said. “I look forward to re-introducing myself to our Wyoming water users and stakeholders and returning to our dedicated team of more than 120 employees at the State Engineer’s Office.”

Lanning will start his new position November 25.

Wyoming rivers map via Geology.com

2019 #SouthPlatte Forum

It was a great forum again this year. The last speaker yesterday presented his project Platte Basin Timelapse: A Watershed in Motion and most of the folks that stuck around were moved and inspired. Click on the screenshot below to go to the website.

Click here to view the Tweets from the hash tag #spforum. Click here to view my Twitter feed @CoyoteGulch.

As usual the forum program was well thought out and the presenters were informative and interesting.

Thanks for another great experience South Platte Forum.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

Two Logan County men were recognized Wednesday as Friends of the South Platte during the 30th Annual South Platte Forum in Westminster.

Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, and Jim Yahn, manager of the North Sterling Irrigation District and Prewitt Reservoir, received the awards during the first day of the two-day conference.

Don Ament, former Colorado Agriculture Commissioner and long-time friend of both men, said he was honored to introduce Frank and Yahn, and asked that those in attendance think about the hours of volunteer work the two men have put in on behalf of water users in the South Platte Valley.

“When people volunteer, just think about the time they spend away from their jobs, the time away from their families, from their communities,” Ament said. “These guys give a lot, all the time, in service of those of us who live and work and farm along the South Platte River.”

Frank told the conference it was an honor just to get to work with Yahn…

Yahn joked that, because people in the water community often confuse the two men, the selection committee probably gave the award to both, just to be safe.

#SouthPlatte Forum Day 2

Joe Frank and Jim Yahn received the “Friend of the South Platte” award from the forum committee. Don Ament had a bit of fun gently roasting both recipients.

Yesterday’s presentations were informative and entertaining. I especially liked Mary Powell’s explanation of current stream restoration techniques. She walked us through the history of Interstate 70 construction from above Dillon through Vail Pass and ending in Glenwood Canyon demonstrating how construction impacts evolved over time. Then she showed the same type of evolution on Little Dry Creek in the Denver suburbs.

Follow along today at the hash tag #spforum or on my Twitter feed @CoyoteGulch.