@Northern_Water fall water users meeting recap

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

From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

The Northern Integrated Supply Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project, both projects managed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, have been decades in the making, and once they’re complete, they’ll result in three new reservoirs intended to address a growing Front Range population.

During the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s fall water users meeting Wednesday in Fort Collins, officials took an audience through the progress of both projects.

The Northern Integrated Supply Project, which would affect Windsor and Evans, hit a major milestone in July after an Environmental Impact Statement was released.

“In 2019, we’re hoping for a really big, exciting year, in addition to the really big year we had this year,” said Stephanie Cecil, water resources project engineer for Northern Water.

The Windy Gap Firming Project, which would affect Greeley, is moving forward even as the project has been hit with a federal lawsuit.

In July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final Environmental Impact Statement on the project — a process that took 14 years.

“It’s a really significant step in the project to be able to have all of those things done,” Cecil said.

Right now, the group is focused on design, particularly for the Glade Reservoir and the Galeton Reservoir. One pressing step in the project will be to relocate a section of U.S. 287 to allow for construction of the reservoir.

Additionally, the organization is working on mitigation projects, including one to help pass fish though a diversion structure and measure the amount of water the group is handling.

The group is also working on permitting with counties and the state, and developing a financing plan.

“How is this over $1 billion project going to be financed, and how is the construction schedule going to line up with the financing plan?” Cecil asked.

Construction could start by 2021, Cecil said, and the projects that will likely get started first are the Glade Reservoir and the U.S. 287 relocation. Cecil said the group hopes that the reservoir will be filled in 2026 and able to serve water in 2030.

“We’re looking at about a five-year timeline, but it’s dependent on weather,” she said. “Hopefully by 2026, we’ll have some really wet years and we can fill it really fast.”

[…]

A graphic from Northern Water showing the lay out of Windy Gap Firming Project.

The Windy Gap Firming Project, a collaboration between 12 northern Colorado water providers, including Greeley, will result in a new reservoir — the 90,000 acre-foot Chimney Hollow Reservoir — and the largest dam on the Front Range.

When it’s complete, the project intends to make water supplies more reliable by installing the reservoir west of Carter Lake in Larimer County.

For the past year, the project has been in the middle of a lawsuit filed by environmental groups against federal agencies. The lawsuit questions the need for the project, saying it would make significant water diversions from the Colorado River, and that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Crops of Engineers did not have enough information before they issued initial permits to the district.

Still, Jeff Drager, director of engineering for Northern Water, said the project hasn’t been stalled by the lawsuit, especially because funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service requires the group to use the money within the next five years…

Right now, the project is in the permitting process. So far, the organization has $11 million and is seeking ways to fund the final $4 million…

The project has been in the process of permitting the project for 15 years, Drager said…

Drager said the group hopes to start construction in 2021 or 2022.

Sterling councillors hear about water supply and water law

Photograph of Main Street in Sterling Colorado facing north taken in the 1920s.

From The Sterling Journal Advocate (Sara Waite):

The Sterling City Council — and those attending their regular Tuesday night meeting — got a lesson on Colorado water law and Sterling’s water supply this week.

Alan Curtis, a water attorney with White & Jankowski LLP, which has represented the city for 39 years, explained the basic tenets of Colorado’s water laws before getting into Sterling’s water rights and the pro-active approach the city has directed them to take in water cases. Curtis noted that over the past four decades, Sterling has taken part in over 180 water court cases and has gone to trial in only three, all of which ended with favorable outcomes for the city. Right now the city is involved in six pending cases…

Water engineers Jon George and Kristina Wynne of Bishop-Brogden Associates Inc. also spoke, giving an overview of the city’s existing water supply and augmentation plan. Wynne explained that in 2014, they developed a long-range plan to project the city’s future water needs. However, the last several years the city has not used as much water as projected, and she suggested that it would be appropriate to revise the long-range plan to make it more accurate going forward.

The three experts had some suggestions for projects the council should consider in the near future, including construction of a storage reservoir for augmentation.

They also noted that the city’s wastewater recharge pond represents an unknown. It has been an integral part of the city’s augmentation to offset its water use in the past, but for the past year the city has not been able to discharge wastewater to the pond because of violations of public health standards. If the city is unable to resume pumping to the recharge pond, it may need to develop other augmentation resources.

“This application is the latest episode in Aaron Million’s decade-long effort to profit off of the private sale of #GreenRiver water” — Ariel Calmes #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Recreation, in progress, on the Green River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The Division of Water Rights last week heard from project proponent Aaron Million and from numerous entities that oppose it, before deciding to request more information from Million before a decision can be made.

Million, a Fort Collins resident, filed the Utah application through the company Water Horse Resources LLC, seeking to divert 55,000 acre-feet a year and pipe it east to Wyoming and then south to Colorado…

The idea is being opposed by federal agencies including the Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Fish and Wildlife Service. Other opponents include western Colorado’s Colorado River District, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District in Colorado, multiple water conservancy districts in Utah, conservationists, and notably the Utah Board of Water Resources and Division of Water Resources. That board works to conserve and develop the state’s water, and is worried that the proposal would let Colorado benefit at Utah’s expense…

Peter Fleming, general counsel for the Colorado River District, questions the project’s economic feasibility.

“Water Horse’s application has not shown that it has any significant committed recipients who are willing to pay for the water that’s supposed to be diverted,” he said…

The decision on Million’s water right application will be made by Utah’s state engineer, who heads the state’s Division of Water Rights.

Million said he thought the hearing went well and he’s awaiting a letter from the state engineer detailing what additional information is needed…

He said probably one-third or one-half of the 28 or so objectors didn’t show up at the hearing.

In the case of those who testified, “every point they made we’ve already looked at inside and out and so we’ll answer the issues related to the permit and move on,” he said.

A 30-day comment period will be provided after Million responds to the request for more information.

Ariel Calmes, a staff attorney for Western Resource Advocates, said in a news release after the hearing, “This application is the latest episode in Aaron Million’s decade-long effort to profit off of the private sale of Green River water. Million is proposing to divert water from Utah to the detriment of multistate water agreements, the recovery of endangered species, and millions of dollars in recreation spending.”

Green River Basin

New @DenverWater rates start Feb. 1

Northwater Treatment Plant — Denver Water is upgrading and modernizing the northern portion of its water system that was built in the 1930s. The utility is building a new water treatment plant, as seen in this rendering, installing a new pipeline, and redeveloping its Moffat Treatment Plant site. Photo credit: Denver Water

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Travis Thompson):

At its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted rate changes to fund essential upgrades and new projects to keep Denver Water’s system running smoothly. The new rates take effect Feb. 1, 2019, and monthly bills for most Denver residents will increase by 55 cents if they use water the same as they did in 2018.

“While the cost to maintain and upgrade the water system continues to increase, rapid development inside the city of Denver has brought in more fees from new taps sold, helping to minimize the 2019 rate increase for Denver customers,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/Manager. “The surrounding suburbs, however, had less development than in the past, reducing the amount collected from new tap fees, which means we’ll need to collect more revenue from suburban water rates in 2019.”

Suburban customers who receive water from one of Denver Water’s 65 distributors will see an additional monthly increase added to their volumetric charges. The Denver City Charter requires that suburban customers pay the full cost of service, plus an additional amount. Learn more about how this works: “Why Denver water costs more in the ‘burbs.”

If you live outside Denver and receive water from a distributor under contract with Denver Water, you can expect to see an annual increase between $23 and $41, which is between $1.90 and 3.40 a month (based on an annual use of 102,000 gallons of water).

Pat Fitzgerald, general manager of four Denver Water distributors including the Platte Canyon Water and Sanitation District and chairman of the suburban districts’ Technical Advisory Committee, which reviews Denver Water’s rates annually, provided this statement:

“The advisory committee supports the rate increase. The cost-of-service study used to determine the difference between inside city and outside city customers is fair and reasonable, and the committee had no objections to the results. The expenses are going up, but they’re all projects that are necessary to provide a reliable and safe source of water.”

The major multiyear projects that water rates fund include building a new, state-of-the-art water treatment plant, installing a new 8.5-mile water pipeline to replace a pipeline that was built in the 1930s, expanding Gross Reservoir to provide a more reliable future water supply, constructing a new water quality lab to ensure the highest water quality standards, investing more than $100 million to repair and replace water pipes, and more. There are 158 major projects identified in Denver Water’s five-year, $1.3 billion capital plan.

A customer’s bill is comprised of a fixed charge, which helps ensure Denver Water has more stable revenue to continue the necessary water system upgrades to ensure reliable water service, and a volume rate. The fixed monthly charge — which is tied to meter size — in 2019 is increasing by 55 cents for most residential customers both inside the city and out.

Denver Water’s rate structure includes a three-tiered charge for water use (called the volume rate). To keep water affordable, indoor water use — like for bathing, cooking and flushing toilets — is charged at the lowest rate. Essential indoor water use is determined by averaging the customer’s monthly water use on bills dated from January through March each year. This is called average winter consumption. Water use above the average winter consumption — typically for outdoor watering — is charged at a higher price.

Volume rates for Denver residents will remain the same, but will increase on suburban bills.

Denver Water operates and maintains more than 3,000 miles of pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 20 dams, 22 pump stations, 30 underground storage tanks, four treatment plants and more. The water provider’s collection system covers more than 4,000 square miles, and it operates facilities in 12 counties in Colorado.

Denver Water does not make a profit or receive tax dollars, and reinvests ratepayers’ money to maintain and upgrade the water system. The utility is funded by water rates, bond sales, cash reserves, hydropower sales and fees for new service (called System Development Charges).

Customers will see more information about 2019 rates in their bills and on Denver Water’s website over the next few months.

Gross Reservoir — The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will raise the height of the existing dam by 131 feet, which will allow the capacity of the reservoir, pictured, to increase by 77,000 acre-feet. The additional water storage will help prevent future shortfalls during droughts and helps offset an imbalance in Denver Water’s collection system. With this project, Denver Water will provide water to current and future customers while providing environmental benefits to Colorado’s rivers and streams. Photo credit: Denver Water

Aurora Water purchases innovative new water source — @AuroraWater

Here’s the release from Aurora Water (Greg Baker):

Water rights purchase provides environmental benefit

Aurora Water has finalized the purchase of water rights associated with the London Mine, located near Alma, in Park County. 1,411 acre feet (af) of water has been acquired at price of $22,000 per af, with additional costs of $2 million for an option to acquire additional water rights as they are developed and $1M for an easement. An acre foot of water is 325,851 gallons, enough water to serve 2.5 households on average. The seller of the rights is MineWater Finance, LLC and No Name Investors, both Colorado companies. The total value of this initial purchase is $34,042,000. The sellers are confident that the source of the rights could ultimately result in additional water that Aurora has the exclusive option to purchase for $21,500 per acre foot.

The source of this water is from a basin that is recharged from snowmelt on London Mountain. A geologic fault contains the water underground and prevents it from discharging into South Mosquito Creek, a tributary of the South Platte River. This water is pumped from the basin to a water tunnel in the London Mine and from there, discharged into South Mosquito Creek, which is upstream of Aurora’s Spinney Mountain Reservoir. Since this water is not naturally connected to the streams, it is decreed under Colorado Water Law as non-tributary. This has special meaning as this water is fully reusable and can be recaptured utilizing Aurora’s Prairie Waters system, a potable reuse system.

Aurora Water has been a national leader in water efficiency, including an acclaimed Prairie Waters water reuse system, and a nationally recognized water conservation program. Water acquisition is still necessary to meet future demands.

“Looking for new water supplies in the arid west requires innovative thinking,” said Marshall Brown, Director for Aurora Water. “This is a supply that historically has not been tapped by water providers, but the easier supplies are gone.”

The environmentally positive aspects of purchase have resulted in praise from organizations such as the Boulder-based Water Resource Advocates (WRA).

“New water supplies in Colorado are extremely limited and, at the same time, nearly 2,000 miles of streams in Colorado are polluted by mines,” Laura Belanger, Water Resources and Environmental Engineer with WRA stated. “We commend Aurora Water for taking a leadership role in finding this inventive and environmentally beneficial solution to meeting its customers’ water needs.”

Aurora Water completed substantial due diligence prior to this initial closing. Additional water rights under the option provision will be purchased as they are adjudicated and decreed through Colorado’s Water Courts.

Aurora Water is only purchasing the water rights. MineWater will continue to be responsible for the mine property, wells and associated permits. Questions regarding the mining operations, including the permits, should be directed to the MineWater contact listed above.

Click here to read the London Mine Purchase and Sale Agreement Fact Sheet.

Click here to read the mine water attachments to the release.

From The Aurora Sentinel (Kara Mason):

From 1874 until the 1940s, the London Mine was one of the top-producing gold mines in the state. It also produced lead, silver and zinc. In 1991 the mine eventually closed, but a fault within the mountain created a natural reservoir, one that fills with snowmelt.

In the nearly three decades since the mine has been closed, the state health department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have had their eye on the mine and its previous owners. In 2009, 2011 and 2013 CDPHE cited the mine for violating the discharge permit. A treatment plan for the mine was created, but it failed. And in 2016 CDPHE slapped the owner previous to MineWater with a $1.1 million fine.

Water officials and MineWater have studied the water, and will continue to do so, to make sure it’s a safe source.

MineWater, which has completely reworked the plumbing of the mine, will still continue its operations and hold all mine permits. Aurora water is only purchasing the water rights.

Thornton plans to release 3,000AF for Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins

Cache la Poudre River from South Trail via Wikimedia Foundation.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Thornton leaders plan to lend up to 3,000 acre-feet of water to the ailing Poudre River.

The effort is part of a long-term plan to create a virtual barter market on the Poudre, where cities, farmers and ditch companies can lend their water rights to a stretch of the river before taking it back at a downstream point. Thornton is working with Fort Collins, Greeley, Northern Water and other stakeholders on the so-called Poudre Flows project.

The Poudre Flows project still needs sign-off from Colorado’s water court. Thornton leaders and other stakeholders previously told the Coloradoan they’re planning to carry out the project without infringing on other people’s water rights.

Drilling Application Under Standley Lake Withdrawn

Standley Lake sunset. Photo credit Blogspot.com.

From CBS4 Denver (Rick Sallinger):

Highlands Natural Resources announced on Thursday afternoon that it had withdrawn its application from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission relating to Standley Lake.

Many of those who live around Standley Lake were not thrilled with the idea of drilling beneath the lake…

Fant claimed it wasn’t worth the risk of drilling, “Standley Lake provides water for 300,000 in Thornton, Northglenn and Westminster. To me that doesn’t make it worth the risk for small profits for a London based foreign drilling company.”

[…]

Highlands Natural Resources CEO, Robert Price, released this statement, “Through the process of communicating with various stakeholders and upon further consideration of its development plans in Jefferson County, Highlands Natural Resources has withdrawn its drilling and spacing unit application, Form 2A, and all Applications for Permit to Drill from the COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) relating to Standley Lake.”

[…]

While the withdrawal may include the state’s largest dog park, plans for drilling under Rocky Flats, the former nuclear weapons site, are still on.

That has neighbors like Walker worried, “If you are going to disturb it and especially underground I’m worried about the plutonium.”

The battle of Standley Lake may be over, but others may be yet to come.

The City of Westminster issued the following statement, “The City of Westminster is truly appreciative of the level of engagement we saw from our residents as they made their concerns known to the COGCC. We also want to assure them that the city will always work to protect the interests of our citizens, our water supply and our open spaces.”