El Paso County water master plan warns about Denver Basin Aquifer depletions

Denver Basin Aquifer System graphic credit USGS.

Click here to go to the El Paso County website for the project.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Rachel Riley):

The document says the county’s current water supply is about 146,000 acre-feet per year, but demand is expected to increase to about 160,000 acre-feet per year by 2040 and 206,000 acre-feet per year by 2060…

The plan, prepared by Englewood-based engineering firm Forsgren Associates Inc., makes a variety of recommendations for closing the gap, including monitoring groundwater well levels, exploring ways to reuse water, finding new water sources and considering changes to the county’s land use approval process.

The county is home to more than 21,300 permitted groundwater wells and roughly 70 water providers, from small districts to municipal departments, according to the plan.

Water providers in once rural parts of the county, such as Monument, face mounting concerns about how to ensure that residents have enough water as the population continues to rise.

The primary water source for areas that are not served by Colorado Springs Utilities is the Denver Basin. Experts say it’s hard to pinpoint the rate at which water levels are falling in the system of aquifers, which were filled by precipitation over many years.

By 2060, the county’s current annual supply would be enough to serve a little more than half of the projected population, according to the plan. More residents could potentially be served by Denver Basin groundwater, but only if it’s still economical to pump, the plan states.

Per state law, county commissioners generally decide if there’s sufficient water to serve a new development during final platting, the stage of the land use approval process in which lots are created, said Mark Gebhart, deputy director of the county Planning and Community Development Department.

But the plan suggests that the county consider changing its rules so that determination can be made earlier, such as when a preliminary plan or zoning change is approved, to help ensure that new developments are planned with water supply in mind.

The plan also recommends that the county re-evaluate a subdivision regulation that requires developers to prove that they have a 300 years’ supply of water. The requirement, three times as stringent as a state standard that requires proof of 100 years’ supply, could be waived if developers agree to conservation-minded practices, such as reuse of captured wastewater to offset demands, the plan suggests…

The plan also advises that the county encourage water providers to find more reliable water sources that are replenished regularly by precipitation, rather than deep groundwater sources that are slow to recharge. One possibility might be importing water from the Arkansas River, the plan states.

Denver: Heron Pond redevelopment poses environmental challenges

Proposed Heron Pond Park via the City of Denver.

Click here to read the master plan.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The 2-foot-deep pond holds toxic sludge laced with lead, arsenic and cadmium. Contaminated stormwater runoff from surrounding work yards worsens the brew…

Denver’s willingness to embrace such a site for future parkland reflects the increasingly difficult challenge of establishing enough public green space to keep pace with population growth and development. Denver has fallen behind other U.S. cities in urban parks and open space. This is causing discomfort, hurting public health, exacerbating heat waves and risking costly problems with stormwater runoff.

City officials interviewed by The Denver Post said they see establishing new green space as essential but, perhaps, impossible given the rising price of land. Yet voters recently ordered a sales-tax hike that will raise $45 million a year for parks and open space. This has compelled planners to pore over thousands of acres that could be preserved as green space.

The problem, city officials said, is competing with private developers for land. Developers since 1998 have installed buildings, paved over natural terrain and otherwise overhauled vast tracts of the city — profiting from shopping plazas and upmarket apartments that eventually sell as condominiums. They’ve built higher, lot-line-to-lot-line in some areas, leaving less space to even plant trees.

Turning to marginal industrial land, city officials said, may be Denver’s best hope for stabilizing a decline in green space per capita.

Chief parks planner Mark Tabor said that, after establishing the new green space around Heron Pond, Denver officials could try to purchase the land around the Arapaho power plant south of downtown and in the rail yards northwest of downtown for preservation as large green space where natural ecosystems could be restored.

This approach hinges on cleanup.

It can be done, not just by excavating and hauling away contaminated soil but by using modern cleanup methods that remove acidity and toxic metals, said Fonda Apostopoulos, a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment engineer who managed decontamination of the Asarco smelters and 862 residential properties near Heron Pond.

“The low-lying fruit of clean property in Denver is few and far between. ‘Brownfields’ are pretty much the only property people are developing,” Apostopoulos said.

“It is all about exposure pathways” — the ways contamination can reach people, he said.

Around Heron Pond, cleanup included excavation and replacement of soil around homes. Nine new monitoring wells will be installed between the smelter site and the South Platte River to make sure toxic metals no longer contaminate groundwater, Apostopoulos said, pronouncing the area safe for at least passive recreational activity.

While cleaning up industrial wasteland costs hundreds of millions of dollars, “there are a lot of private-public partnerships that could do that,” he said. “Denver could get extra federal funding. They could get cleanup grants.”

Proposed Heron Pond boundary via the City of Denver.

Cache la Poudre: Fish ladder coming to the Poudre River at Watson Lake — #Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Construction begins on Cache la Poudre River for fish ladder near Watson Lake. Photo credit: Jason Clay/Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

CPW partners with noosa yoghurt, Northern Water and Morning Fresh Dairy on project

[In December 2018] a project [broke ground] that will help reconnect a fragmented Poudre River.

In a collaborative effort, Morning Fresh Dairy, Northern Water and noosa yoghurt are partnering with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to put in a fish ladder at the Watson Lake Diversion. They hope this will be one of many ladders along the Poudre River that will allow fish to travel freely, improving the health of the fishery and the ecosystem.

This Watson Lake fish ladder will reconnect over two river miles. The stretch contains important spawning habitat and deep pools that provide refuge for aquatic life.

Watson Lake Diversion Structure is a channel spanning structure that represents a complete barrier to all upstream fish movement in the Poudre River. The structure delivers water to Watson State Fish Hatchery and is owned and operated by CPW.

“We appreciate the collaboration from the project partners on this important fishway that will reconnect over two miles of stream habitat for the aquatic species,” said Kyle Battige, aquatic biologist for CPW. “Supporting fish passage at Watson Lake aligns with CPW’s goal through improving several facets: ecosystem health, angler access, public safety and public education.”

Designed by OneFish Engineering, the fish ladder will provide upstream fish movement through the diversion structure for all species present within the river reach including longnose dace, longnose suckers, white suckers, brown trout and rainbow trout. The State Wildlife Area and Hatchery, where this project is located, receives a lot of visitors whether they are fishermen, birders, or families enjoying nature. Onsite educational material discussing fish passage will be an important component of the project providing a learning experience for school children and all other visitors.

“The Poudre River has been an integral part of our family farm for over 100 years. We would like to be part of the solution for fish passage along the Poudre River, starting at Watson Lake,” says Rob Graves, owner of Morning Fresh Dairy and co-founder of noosa yoghurt. “We would like to find additional community partners and reconnect the river from Fort Collins all the way up through the Poudre Canyon.”

The new fish ladder also fulfills one of the promises made by the participants of the Northern Integrated Supply Project to improve the Poudre River, outlined in the NISP Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan.

“This project shows the commitment of project participants to address the overall health of the Poudre River,” said spokesman Jeff Stahla. He noted that participants have committed to spending $50 million on a state of Colorado Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan that includes minimum daily flows on the Poudre River through downtown Fort Collins, the construction of fish bypasses and other measures throughout the area

The project started in December 2018 and will be completed in March 2019 before spring runoff begins on the Poudre River. One of the goals is to help move other fish passage projects forward on the Poudre River. Local ditch companies will be able to observe one of these projects first-hand and see that there is no negative impact to water delivery. This will be an important resource to move fish passage initiatives forward with other diversion structures.

MEDIA CONTACTS

Morning Fresh Dairy
Stephanie Giard
970.402.8982
Stephanie@ForwardComs.com

Northern Water
Brian Werner
970-622-2229
bwerner@northernwater.org

Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Jason Clay
303-829-7143
jason.clay@state.co.us

noosa yoghuer
Stephanie Giard
970.402.8982
Stephanie@ForwardComs.com

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

#Colorado Open Lands and Morgan County rancher ink conservation easement deal for 1,218 acres

A view of Washington Avenue in Orchard, Colorado. Orchard is in Morgan County. Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Kara Morgan):

Morgan County resident John Yocam and Colorado Open Lands ended 2018 with a deal.

Yocam decided about a year ago that he wanted to conserve his family’s ranchland to make sure it stayed the thriving ranch land and habitat site that they had worked for many years to maintain. He approached Colorado Open Lands, a nonprofit land trust, to figure out how best to ensure the land would continue on as it has…

Yocam said in the past his land has been a site of interest by outside parties, and he wanted to ensure that it stayed the ranchland it has been. As both Yocam and Farmer explain, the land is both ranchland and an important habitat site for local and migrating wildlife…

Yocam explained some of the history of his land and why a conservation easement made sense for him.

“It’s been a long time coming actually. It started back in the ’70s when they were going to put in Centennial Wildlife Refuge here,” he said.

Yocam said the land has been in his family for about 70 years or so, since the mid-1950s, and he himself has lived there since 1976.

“Pressure has just got to so much here from different water projects, recharge projects. I’ve been in court about three times and so I just got tired of fighting off everybody,” he explained. “So I donated it into a land trust.”

[…]

‘Rare and Unusual’

Describing the recently conserved land, Yocam said with some pride, “It was deemed rare and unusual and must be protected, was the rating they gave it.”

Farmer explained how this land is valuable in many ways, more than ranchland.

“In addition to being highly productive, the ranch also provides excellent waterfowl habitat with its wetland and upland features,” she said.

The land is located outside of the town of Orchard, Farmer said, and it plays an important role for the wildlife living in the area, especially birds.

“Occurring within the ‘Golden Triangle,’ an area in Morgan and Weld counties defined by Empire Reservoir, Jackson Reservoir and Riverside Reservoir, the ranch and surrounding agricultural lands provide populations of ducks and geese with important upland/agricultural foraging grounds during their migration and over-wintering in the South Platte Basin,” Farmer explained.

For bird migration in the area, this location is critical, she said.

“This region is one of the most important wetland complexes in the South Platte Basin along the Central Flyway Migration Corridor,” Farmer said.

Yocam painted a picture of the land diversity across his property: “It’s river bottom, into a riparian habitat. I’ve got a large sub-irrigated meadow. It’s got a big chunk of wetlands on it and then it goes into the uplands.”

Credit Wikimedia.com.

Job opportunity: Colorado Division of Water Resources Augmentation Plan Auditor & Accounting Operations Specialist Team Lead for Division 1

The upper South Platte River, above the confluence with the North Fork of the South Platte. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click here to apply. From email from DWR (Michael Hein):

This job opportunity is for a vacant Colorado Division of Water Resources Augmentation Plan Auditor & Accounting Operations Specialist Team Lead for Division 1 located in our Greeley, CO office. This position is at the Physical Science Researcher/Scientist IV level (PSRS-IV) and is currently open to the public for application through January 25, 2019 or until 50 applications are received, whichever comes first.

Here is the Link for the position: Augmentation Plan Auditor & Accounting Operations Specialist Team Lead

Description of Job

This position provides leadership, guidance and oversight as a work leader to the Division 1 operations group responsible for Augmentation Plan coordination and administration. This group supports water rights administration by developing methodologies to collect and analyze water diversion and delivery data to verify augmentation plans and water diversions are operated in compliance with all applicable court decrees, statutes, rules and regulations. This position identifies and determines applicable professional standards and concepts incorporated into governing water court decrees and provide written protocol and guidance to staff regarding proper analysis of Augmentation Plan operation in accordance with water court decree requirements. This position, when necessary, provides recommendations for new process and procedures to collect, report, analyze and coordinate practices to allow compliance of these plans with the applicable decrees. This position prepares expert reports and expert testimony in Water Court trials not related to enforcement actions. Position is the work leader of three or more full-time positions.

San Luis Valley water export [and augmentation] plan presented — The Valley Courier

The northern end of Colorado’s San Luis Valley has a raw, lonely beauty that rivals almost any place in the North American West. Photo/Allen Best

From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

As predecessors before them, Renewable Water Resources spokesmen on Thursday outlined plans for a 22,000-acre-foot water export project stemming from the northern San Luis Valley to customers in the south metro Denver area.

“This will be a win-win,” Sean Tonner told the Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) board during a special meeting Thursday morning.

Tonner is a managing partner with Renewable Water Resources (RWR), a Colorado company with support from former Governor Bill Owens (for whom Tonner worked as deputy chief of staff when he was governor), former State Senator Greg Brophy, Greg Kolomitz and others. Tonner said he purchased the former Gary Boyce holdings encompassing 11,500 acres in the northern part of the Valley. Boyce, who died of cancer in 2016, had proposed a similar water export project.

Accompanying Tonner were RWR attorney Kevin Kinnear and Jerry Berry, who manages the RWR property and has been farming in the northern part of the Valley since 1996. Berry said he has been part of the Moffat community most of his life, serving on the school board there and on the RGWCD Sub-district #4 board.

Tonner said RWR wants to partner with the water district in identifying the best sources of water to provide the one-for-one replacement for the 22,000-acre-foot export while meeting the water district’s goals of reducing irrigated acreage and bringing balance to the hydrology of the Valley. The project would budget $60 million for that water acquisition.

Tonner said RWR estimates water could be purchased at about $2,000 an acre foot, depending on the water rights. RWR will be purchasing both surface water and groundwater, he said.

Berry said there are local residents interested in selling their water.

RGWCD Board Member Peggy Godfrey added she would not be surprised that there were people in the northern part of the Valley willing to sell their water, because they have not been able to use it to the full extent they should have been able to, and what RWR could offer them might help them afford to continue doing what they love to do.

Tonner said RWR would rather work with the water district than have an adversarial relationship. He said this project would return “one for one plus”, making up for the 22,000 acre feet that would be exported, “plus” for a total of 30,000-35,000 acre feet. In addition, RWR would set up a $50 million community fund…

Water would be piped from the Valley, with the buyers footing the bill for that pipeline, Tonner said. He added that RWR was requiring the buyers to limit the size of the pipe to no more capacity than the 22,000 acre feet.

He said currently the estimated cost of building the pipeline is $550-600 million.

RGWCD Board President Greg Higel said he doubted that Aurora and Castle Rock would want to build a pipeline just for 22,000 acre feet of water, and if it were constructed for more water, “that’s the beginning of the end.”

Tonner said the partners have been clear about the pipeline restrictions and the sellers are fine with it.

“Honestly, that’s hard for me to believe,” Higel said.

RGWCD Board Member Cory Off, who extensively questioned the RWR representatives, asked how long it would take to capitalize a project of this magnitude, and Tonner said “roughly five years.”

Regarding the project timeline, Tonner estimated close to 10 years “start to finish.”

Tonner said partners have been working on this proposal for about four years and hope to file something in water court in 2019 but would be fine with it taking longer if necessary. He said those involved have been working with individuals on both sides of the hill — potential waters sellers in the San Luis Valley and potential water buyers in the Denver metro area.