Growing small towns along #Colorado’s Front Range plan for less #water — The Cronkite News #SouthPlatteRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

1st Street in Severance. By Jared Winkler – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66581912

From KUNC (Jodi Petersen) via The Cronkite News:

Birdsong fills the air on a sunny May morning along Severance’s cottonwood-lined main street – but it’s soon drowned out by the roar of a backhoe.

The former farm town is replacing crumbling old water lines that serve a rapidly growing population. Severance, which is about an hour’s drive north of Denver, has seen its population double in the past five years, as home buyers thwarted by soaring prices in larger Front Range cities look for more affordable options.

“(We’re) a very quickly growing community in northern Colorado, I think a really good community, but definitely have seen a lot of growth,” said the town’s community development director, Mitch Nelson.

One of the biggest challenges Severance faces as its population climbs toward 8,000 is securing enough water for continued growth.

That wasn’t something Severance had to worry about just a decade ago. Now, as drought strains much of the state and tens of thousands of newcomers move to the bustling Front Range each year, places like Severance are thinking about growth – and water usage – in ways they never have before.

“In the past, the town’s future goals, from a land use standpoint, weren’t discussed alongside water conservation,” Nelson said. “That was the first step.”

As growing towns compare their existing water supplies to the needs of the new residents and businesses coming their way, they expect they’ll need more water. But figuring out where this new water will come from is the question. Large cities on the Front Range have senior water rights and long-established supplies, whereas small towns like Severance usually don’t.

Screenshot of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project boundaries via Northern Water’s interactive mapping tool , June 5, 2019.

Severance gets its water from the Northern Weld County Water District, which in turn draws on the Colorado-Big Thompson project. The CBT, as it’s called, delivers water to more than 1 million Front Range residents each year. That water comes from the state’s Western Slope, where snowmelt in the headwaters of the Colorado River is diverted through a tunnel through the Continental Divide.

However, the cost of one unit of CBT water is approaching $65,000, double the cost just a few years ago, thanks to rapidly escalating demand and shrinking supplies due to a 20-year drought. A unit, which is enough to serve two average households in northern Colorado for one year, sold for $1,500 in 1990.

The burgeoning costs mean that towns have a financial incentive to conserve their existing water instead of simply trying to buy more. Lindsay Rogers, the Colorado Basin program manager for the WaterNow Alliance, says the choice is obvious…

Conserving water also is cheaper for homeowners; their rates don’t have to be increased to cover expensive new water sources. But conservation alone can’t meet all of a town’s future needs, Nelson said.

“You have to do both,” he said. “You have to acquire the potable water because that is what people use to drink, and reduce the usage of water for irrigation.”

That reduction in irrigation water is mostly going to happen in new developments, as Severance and similar towns work to integrate water planning into their land use planning.
Making growth water-smart from the start provides more bang for the buck…

Colorado towns can get help with planning from the state, and through such nonprofits as the Babbitt Center, the WaterNow Alliance and the Sonoran Institute. Severance participated in WaterNow’s training last winter and will get ongoing support from the group’s experts. In January, town officials approved an updated comprehensive plan.

The final plan, which will guide Severance’s land use code, incorporates water conservation throughout and is in line with state objectives for water planning. The plan identifies such opportunities as adopting water-efficient regulations for landscaping, requiring developers to secure their own water supplies for new subdivisions, and working with the Northern Weld County Water District to develop a fee structure that will encourage conservation…

Other small Front Range towns, such as Frederick, Johnstown and Evans, have created similar maps and plans. They’ve implemented water efficiency improvements and passed conservation ordinances. And they’ve bought out farms to use the water rights for more subdivisions.

Nelson said Severance is trying to avoid that.

“I think the goal is to maintain those historic uses and not dry this area up,” he said, “but allow for small scale farming all the way up to the standard agriculture operations we’ve seen historically.”

#Loveland council approves $61.3M bond issue to build #ChimneyHollow, support other #water projects — Loveland Reporter-Herald

Site of Chimney Hollow Reservoir via Northern Water.

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Max Levy):

Loveland’s City Council gave the first OK to issuing $47 million worth of bonds for the proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir on Tuesday, clearing one of the last obstacles in the way of the project breaking ground.

Between 2000 and 2020, the city contributed about $8.4 million to the construction of the 90,000-acre-foot reservoir, also known as the Windy Gap Firming Project…

Loveland’s water utility is one of a dozen Northern Colorado agencies partnering on Chimney Hollow. The city has laid claim to one-ninth of the water in the future reservoir and assumed responsibility for one-ninth of project costs, which are now expected to total about $696.2 million…

On Tuesday, the council gave the first of two affirmative votes needed to issue bonds worth $47 million, which along with $21.9 million in the Raw Water Fund already earmarked for the project and the $8.4 million already spent will be enough to cover Loveland’s stake in the project.

In addition to the $47 million in bonds issued for Chimney Hollow, the council also voted to approve the issue of $5.5 million in bonds for a new water storage tank at 29th Street and Rio Blanco Avenue, as well as the refinancing of $8.1 million in year-2013 bonds for improvements at the Loveland Water Treatment Plant, which chief financial officer Alan Krcmarik guessed will save the city about $850,000. About $523,490 in proceeds will also be spent on the costs associated with the issuance itself.

The $61.3 million in revenue bonds will be repaid through the Water Enterprise Fund, which receives payments from the city’s utility customers.

Krcmarik said the 25-year life of the bond issue was chosen as the shortest increment of time during which the city could pay the securities down without disrupting its current projection of average fee increases for customers — 7% in 2022 and 2023, then 3.5% per year until 2031.

Town Board approves updating water plant — The #EstesPark Trail-Gazette

Aerial view of Lake Estes and Olympus Dam looking west. Photo credit Northern Water.

From The Estes Park Trail-Gazette (Tim Mosier):

Safe Drinking Water

The unanimous passing of Resolution 43-21 approved a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Loan Resolution for a project that will update the Glacier Creek Water Pre-Treatment Plant which was built in 1970. Presently, Estes Park, acting by and through its Water Activity Enterprise, provides drinking water service to most of the Estes Valley through the Glacier Creek and Mary’s Lake water treatment plants.

In 2018, The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Disinfection Outreach and Verification Evaluation (DOVE) inspection resulted in the Glacier Creek Water Treatment Plant which was built in 1970 being de-rated from a ‘conventional’ plant to a ‘direct filtration’. Meaning the plant can no longer meet drinking water regulatory requirements.

According to Utilities Director Rueben Bergsten and Town Attorney Dan Kramer, the resolution will allow for the rebuilding of the existing pretreatment process to restore the conventional plant rating and bring the plant back into compliance under all operating conditions.

The improvements consist of a new pretreatment building with a rapid mix basin, flocculation, sedimentation with plate settlers, and supporting ancillary systems. The USDA will finance the total cost of the completed project with a guaranteed $7,675,000 loan at 1.375 percent interest rate over 40 years in addition to a $2,369,000 grant.

Chimney Hollow, Northern #Colorado’s biggest new reservoir, will likely be one of its last — The #FortCollins Coloradoan #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Northern Colorado is getting its biggest new reservoir in about 70 years, at the cost of diminished Colorado River flows.

Construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir will begin in August southwest of Loveland, just west of Carter Lake. An April legal settlement between project proponent Northern Water and environmental advocacy groups cleared the way for the project, which began the permitting process in 2003.

The 90,000-acre-foot reservoir is the main component of the Windy Gap Firming Project, a plan to increase the reliability of Colorado River water rights in the Windy Gap Project. The project’s 12 participants include Platte River Power Authority, Loveland, Broomfield, Longmont and Greeley. Construction is expected to take until August 2025, after which it will take about three years to fill the reservoir.

The reservoir’s water will come from the Colorado River, decreasing flows below Lake Granby by an annual average of 15%. Most diversions will take place in May and June.

The 18-year journey toward construction demonstrates the extensive maneuvering required to build new reservoirs in Colorado as rivers become increasingly stressed from climate change and heavy diversions as growing Front Range communities seek to shore up their water supplies. Northern Water won approval from key government agencies and some advocacy groups with a suite of mitigation measures and spending commitments for areas impacted by the project.

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla described Chimney Hollow as “in the right place at the right time.” The reservoir site has a few qualities that have helped Northern Water avoid some common setbacks for new water project construction: It’s near existing Colorado Big Thompson Project infrastructure, so Northern Water won’t have to build much new infrastructure for water deliveries, and there are no homes or businesses at the site, which Northern has owned since the 1990s.

“The one assumption you have to make is that water storage is part of the future way that we’re going to provide water,” Stahla said, and he thinks it is. “If you get past the ‘Do we need storage’ question, this ends up being an incredible site that will meet lots of needs, including the ancillary needs of recreation, into the future.”

[…]

Northern Water Engineering Director Jeff Drager acknowledged the new reservoir’s impact on Colorado River flows, but he said the project’s targeted mitigation efforts still offer a major value and are a key reason why it crossed the regulatory finish line.

Restoring a river channel in the Upper Colorado Basin

One of the most significant mitigation measures, known as the Colorado River connectivity channel, will involve shrinking the existing Windy Gap Reservoir in Grand County to about half its current size and building a new channel around it. The Windy Gap dam currently blocks the Colorado River, preventing movement of fish, silt and sediment.

The connectivity channel will allow the river below the reservoir to act more like “a stream without a reservoir on it” when Northern Water’s water rights aren’t in priority, Drager said. The mitigation measures will also open up a mile of stream to public fishing in an area where private landowners possess most of the land adjacent to riverbanks…

During wetter years, Lake Granby can overflow and the water that would’ve been delivered to Windy Gap users flows downstream. During drier years, Northern Water is often unable to divert the full extent of its water right because it is a junior right, meaning more senior water users get access to water first. During the 23-year period between 1985 and 2008, for example, no Windy Gap water was delivered for seven of those years.

A conversation with Brian Werner, recently retired from @Northern_Water — @WaterEdCO

Eric Wilkinson, left, and Brian Werner, on the job. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Water Education Colorado (Jacob Tucker):

Although Brian Werner has served on the WEco Board of Trustees for just over a year, he was involved with helping found the organization nearly 20 years ago. Now retired from his 38-year career as the Communications Department Manager and Public Information Officer at Northern Water, and still a life-long water historian, Brian has written and given hundreds of presentations on the role of water in the settlement and development of Colorado and the West. We spoke with Brian about Northern Water’s storage, the impacts of fire on water storage, permitting, and more.

How long have you been on the WEco board?

I’ve been involved with WEco since WEco has been around. I was involved with the first couple incarnations of water education efforts in Colorado in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and then I helped when WEco came into being in 2002. I was never on the board, until a couple of years ago. It was something I wanted to do towards the end of my career and I retired just last year in January 2020. Luckily I was appointed to the board and I’ve truly enjoyed it.

What kind of experience do you bring to the group?

I think the fact that I had a 38-year career in the water business with Northern Water is an asset. At Northern Water, I’d established relations with people from all over the state and I also coordinated probably 150 to 200 different children’s water festivals, so clearly I was into education. I’m really a big believer in the trickle up theory of water knowledge. Where if you can educate the kids, that knowledge is going trickle up to mom and dad, and those kids will somebody be parents themselves. Ultimately, I’ve been trying to build that ethic in what I’ve been about for most of my career.

How would you describe your experience being on the board?

I’ve really enjoyed being on the board. I’ve watched it and been very much involved for a long time. Both Nicole Seltzer and Jayla Poppleton worked with me at Northern Water, so I have a personal vested interest in them succeeding, and they really have. Nicole moved the organization in a wonderful direction and Jayla has just been top-notch in where she has taken WEco. It has been really interesting because we have a diverse board, and I have enjoyed getting to know people who I didn’t know previously.

Screenshot of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project boundaries via Northern Water’s interactive mapping tool , June 5, 2019.

I understand you recently retired from Northern Water, can you tell me what your role with them was and maybe what Northern Water does in a general sense?

Northern Water is the largest water conservancy district in the state of Colorado and operates a large Bureau of Reclamation project that is one of the largest in the entire western United States; the Colorado-Big Thompson project. It brings a quarter-million acre-feet a year from the West Slope into Northeastern Colorado to supplement both urban and rural supplies, meaning that it is both a municipal as well as an agricultural water supply. Now there are well over a million people that get a portion of their water supply from that project, but back in 1937, there were only 50,000 people living within Northern Water’s boundaries. So, nobody could have foreseen the growth that occurred since then. This growth has brought all sorts of issues and concerns, but Northern Water is one of the top water agencies in the state and I certainly had a wonderful career there and couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Personally, I was a public information officer for 35 of those 38 years. My role, in essence, was to be the public face of Northern Water and so I talked about Northern Water and its activities all the time. I was able to use my historical training, I have a master’s degree in history, to discuss the historical background of both water development and Northern Water. I focused very much on education, but ultimately, I spent my entire career talking all things water, which was a lot of fun.

I was also the manager of our communications department as we expanded and grew. As we grew, we brought on writers and pushed publications and annual reports, and then we got into the social media craze. So, for some time I managed that department. But really, it was about telling people what Northern Water was all about.

Perhaps a topical question, but how have the numerous forest fires affected the work that Northern Water does in trying to ensure water storage?

That is going to be Northern Water’s principal focus this coming year. Both of our major watersheds burned last year, the Upper Colorado with the East Troublesome wildfire, and then the Poudre watershed with the Cameron Peak wildfire. And both of these watersheds are where we get the vast majority of our water. Luckily, Northern Water had been looking at forest water management for years. Northern Water has been working with the U.S. Forest Service, the counties, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Parks Service. It wasn’t that these fires hit us and Northern Water had no idea what to do. We learned quite a lot from Denver Water after the Hayman Fire, with all of the issues that they had centering around water quality. Northern Water isn’t pleased, but we are certainly going to see some water quality impacts because of these fires.

We went in with our eyes open and with some plans in place for post-fire activities. We always said, ‘it’s not if, it’s when those fires hit.’

What do these fires mean for water supply and water quality now, as well as moving into the future?

One of the things that we see from these fires is a greater level of awareness in terms of forest management, not just if you have a house in a forest or nearby, but for those people living in major metropolitan areas, too. Those people in Denver, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs are all paying attention now, because they saw the two largest fires in Colorado history and what it did to our environment. And I think now there will be a lot more attention focused on the post-fire impacts, which obviously include water. People will certainly be paying attention to the water piece of the post-fire mitigation and clean-up. Overall, I think moving into the future we will have a better awareness, which is always a good thing. There is no way around it, it is going to take money, and where we are at with COVID-19 that discussion is not easy, but the state is making a concerted effort to put monetary resources and people into handling the situation.

First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit Northern Water.

How the present or future storage planning is different than what the state has done historically?

One thing I would point out is that the Federal government is no longer in the water storage building business. For years Reclamation, which had been established in 1902 helped jumpstart and build water projects, as they did the Colorado-Big Thompson Project in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. The Federal government neither has the resources nor are they paying for water storage anymore. Now, water storage is something that is having to be more or less self-funded. Meaning that the growing cities are trying to figure out how they can finance additional water for their future citizens.

We are also now looking at the multiple uses of water. Nowadays, water is being used for environmental purposes, which means that we are looking to make sure that there is enough to release into the rivers to help the aquatic habitat. This is a much larger part of the picture today. At a base level of awareness, we want people to understand why we need storage reservoirs. It is a dry year, and it sure looks like we are only getting drier, and when you have the drier years you better make sure that you store when you have the wetter periods to carry you through. I think we are going to have difficulties trying to match up the storage, which we are going to continue to need, with all the environmental issues and issues surrounding the development of water infrastructure.

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

In the past 20 years, Northern has been in permitting so can you talk about that process?

We say water project permitting works at a glacial pace. When I started working on the Northern Integrated Supply Project permitting at Northern Water, I told my wife that I thought we would have a permit in around 5 years … I’m now retired. Northern Water is going on 17 years later, and they still haven’t received that permit. That’s frustrating. This wasn’t for lack of energy; I mean we were really working hard to secure that permit. These things take much longer than you would probably expect. You have to have a lot of perseverance because the process can really drive you crazy, but my hope is that in the future this process will become much better for all parties involved.

@GreeleyWater: Dive into a look at the city’s water rights — The #Greeley Tribune

Seaman Reservoir upstream of confluence of the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):

In the past year, Greeley officials purchased about 1,000 acre-feet of water, equivalent to about 1,000 football fields covered in a foot of water. Adam Jokerst, deputy director of water resources for the city, said it’s more water than city had acquired in the past 10 years. Jokerst, who manages the water acquisition program, said the program has about a $9 million budget this year…

What is a water right?

Colorado’s waters are owned by the state and all its citizens, but water rights dictate the right to use the water. Water decrees, issued by water courts, confirm water users’ rights to that water.

Older water decrees were simple, Jokerst said, giving the example of a decree for the city’s senior direct rights, meaning the city has priority to divert water for direct application to beneficial use. Throughout the year, the city can use 12.5 cubic feet per second. That’s about it, he said.

Newer decrees can range from dozens to hundreds of pages, detailing how the water is to be diverted, measured and accounted for.

“Greeley owns a portfolio made up of many different water rights,” Jokerst said. “Some of those water rights are direct diversions from the Poudre River. Some are ownership in irrigation companies.”

Irrigation companies that historically provided irrigation water to farmers can issue shares of stock, basically selling a piece of the water rights held by those companies. The city converts that water from agricultural to municipal use to change the water right, though the city does rent some water rights to agricultural users, maintaining the historic use.

The city also owns water through the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects, as well as water diverted from the Laramie River. With a lot of variability across these different sources, the city’s water experts always plan for the worst case scenario: How much water could we provide to our customers in a drought situation?

Through the current plan, the city can provide about 40,000 acre-feet per year to its customers, well above the roughly 25,000 acre-feet of demand the city sees in a typical year. In a wet year, the city could potentially deliver up to 70,000 acre-feet, to give an idea of the impact of the planned drought.

When the city can, it rents a lot of that water to agricultural partners, renting about 20,000 acre-feet in the past year. In addition to maintaining historic use, this provides a source of revenue and supports Greeley’s agricultural economy, Jokerst said.

Jokerst said he’d consider the city’s “Big Three” sources to be:

  • Senior direct rights from the Poudre River
  • Ownership in the Greeley-Loveland Irrigation Company, which feeds the city’s Boyd Lake System
  • Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) and Windy Gap projects
  • Jen Petrzelka, water resources operations manager, added the direct and C-BT water is available year round, whereas a lot of the ditch directs only come in during irrigation season, which typically starts about now to early May and runs through the end of September or into October.

    Accounting for the city’s diverse portfolio

    The city must account for its water on a daily basis, submitting a monthly report to the state. Petrzelka said they manage about 10 different spreadsheets for all the city’s water right decrees…

    Petrzelka keeps an eye on the city’s water supply to help prevent the need for watering restrictions. In all, the city has four engineers and scientists who manage the various decrees and operations, plus three workers out in the field, according to Jokerst.

    The state ensures water users aren’t causing injury to other users’ water rights, with local river commissioners dedicated throughout the state. Jokerst compared the commissioners to a referee in a sports game.

    “Any time we change the way we’re operating, whether that be our releases or operating an exchange, we have to get their approval,” Petrzelka said.

    When agricultural water rights are changed, Jokerst said, some water is owed back to the river, just as the water historically returned to the river and groundwater after agricultural use.

    “A lot of what we do is add water back to the river to compensate for those irrigation rights that we changed,” he said.

    In addition to enforcement by river commissioners, everybody watches their neighbors, keeping track of what other users are doing on a day-to-day basis. Part of that monitoring happens in water court, where decisions about decrees are settled…

    Greeley has a steady stream of water court cases the city must defend in court, according to Jokerst, as well as cases involving other entities in which the city enters opposition to protect its water rights. As of this past week, the city was involved in 32 water court cases.

    “Water court cases are really just a structured negotiation where the applicant and the opposers reach agreement on whatever it is the applicant is trying to do,” Jokerst said. “All the parties involved negotiate an outcome that protects all their water and gets the applicant what they need.”

    Petrzelka and Jokerst estimated the city’s water court costs at about $500,000 this year, mostly covering the costs of outside attorneys and engineers. Internal legal counsel also helps guide the department, Jokerst said.

    @Northern_Water Increases Colorado-Big Thompson Quota to 70% #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Moraine Park and the headwaters of the Big Thompson River in Rocky Mountain National Park. Moraine Park is on the east side of the park and of the continental divide, near the town of Estes Park. This region has a number of areas call “parks”, which refer to open, level areas in the mountains, usage which comes from the French word parque. The names of these areas predate the establishment of the national park and are unrelated to the use of the word “park” in that context. By The original uploader was Kbh3rd at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC SA 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1009783

    From Northern Water:

    Adequate native water supplies coupled with improved Front Range soil moisture from March snowstorms prompted the Northern Water Board of Directors to increase its 2021 quota allocation for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project to 70 percent.

    The Board unanimously approved the allocation at its meeting Thursday, April 8, 2021, with several board members participating remotely because of the ongoing pandemic. The Board also directed Northern Water staff to update them in May and June to determine whether an additional allocation would be advisable during the peak demand season.

    Emily Carbone, an engineer in the Water Resources Department at Northern Water, outlined snowpack and forecasted streamflows, and the Board also heard about the available native water supplies in regional reservoirs. In addition, the Board heard a presentation about the potential water resources impacts caused by the 2020 East Troublesome Fire. Public input was also considered.

    The Board has been setting C-BT quota since 1957 and 70 percent is the most common quota declared. It was also the quota set for the 2019 water delivery season, while the 2020 quota was set at 80 percent. The quota reflects the amount of water to be delivered through the C-BT Project.

    The quota increases available C-BT Project water supplies by 62,000 acre-feet from the initial 50 percent quota made available in November. Water from the C-BT Project supplements other sources for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million-acre service area. According to recent census figures, more than 1 million residents now live inside Northern Water’s boundaries. To learn more about Northern Water and the C-BT quota, visit http://www.northernwater.org.

    @Northern_Water increases Colorado-Big Thompson quota to 70%

    Cache la Poudre River drop structure. Photo credit: Northern Water

    Here’s the release from Northern Water:

    Adequate native water supplies coupled with improved Front Range soil moisture from March snowstorms prompted the Northern Water Board of Directors to increase its 2021 quota allocation for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project to 70 percent.

    The Board unanimously approved the allocation at its meeting Thursday, April 8, 2021, with several board members participating remotely because of the ongoing pandemic. The Board also directed Northern Water staff to update them in May and June to determine whether an additional allocation would be advisable during the peak demand season.

    Emily Carbone, Water Resources Specialist at Northern Water, outlined snowpack and forecasted streamflows, and the Board also heard about the available native water supplies in regional reservoirs. In addition, the Board heard a presentation about the potential water resources impacts caused by the 2020 East Troublesome Fire. Public input was also considered.

    The Board has been setting C-BT quota since 1957 and 70 percent is the most common quota declared. It was also the quota set for the 2019 water delivery season, while the 2020 quota was set at 80 percent. The quota reflects the amount of water to be delivered through the C-BT Project.

    The quota increases available C-BT Project water supplies by 62,000 acre-feet from the initial 50 percent quota made available in November. Water from the C-BT Project supplements other sources for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million-acre service area. According to recent census figures, more than 1 million residents now live inside Northern Water’s boundaries. Learn more about the C-BT quota.

    Preliminary flood zone maps for Larimer County now available for review — The #Loveland Reporter-Herald

    September 2013 flooding via AWRA Colorado Section Symposium

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Ken Amundson):

    Property owners affected by changes in the federal flood plain maps will have a 90-day period to appeal map changes once preliminary maps reach the comment stage, which is expected to occur soon.

    Communities throughout Colorado are undergoing changes to maps as a result of new surveys. Those maps, when final, will control flood-insurance rates and local building codes.

    Rigel Rucker, project manager with engineering firm AECOM, reviewed during a city of Loveland meeting Tuesday where property owners can find information and how to navigate the process.

    The remapping process is part of the National Flood Insurance Program. Cities and counties participate in order to be eligible for federal disaster assistance should a flood occur and to permit property owners to buy flood insurance at federal rates…

    Preliminary maps can be found online at http://coloradohazardmapping.com. Users will select their county to zero in on changes specific to them.

    On a granular level, property owners can input their addresses to see whether the map changes are affecting them. In most cases, they won’t see changes.

    Changes have moved some properties in and others out of the flood zones. Rucker said 183 fewer properties are included in Larimer County but 12 more properties are listed in Loveland.

    People who choose to appeal the mapping decisions were advised to work through city or county officials, who will forward those appeals to FEMA for consideration. Kevin Gingery, senior civil engineer with the city of the Loveland, is the person to contact with questions or appeals.

    Rucker cautioned those who might appeal a decision that they must challenge errors based upon mathematical or measurement mistakes or changed physical conditions. Impacts of the 2013 flood were not the basis for the new maps, Rucker said, but rather assessments based upon aerial surveys coupled with on-ground review. A typical appeal might involve a building that was lifted out of the flood plain and is physically higher than the elevation shown on the maps.

    Once FEMA rules on appeals, a letter of final determination will be issued — which is expected by the end of 2021 — followed by a six-month period in which communities will adopt the data.

    Local Nonprofit Launches Initiative to Protect #BigThompsonRiver #Water Supplies — The North Forty News

    Moraine Park and the headwaters of the Big Thompson River in Rocky Mountain National Park. Moraine Park is on the east side of the park and of the continental divide, near the town of Estes Park. This region has a number of areas call “parks”, which refer to open, level areas in the mountains, usage which comes from the French word parque. The names of these areas predate the establishment of the national park and are unrelated to the use of the word “park” in that context. By The original uploader was Kbh3rd at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC SA 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1009783

    From The North Forty News (Steven Bonifazi):

    Peaks to People Water Fund have launched its Big Thompson Initiative in Northern Colorado to proactively treat wildfire risk through accelerated forest restoration and stewardship in the watersheds.

    The Big Thompson watershed’s water infrastructure supplies between 40 percent and 55 percent of Fort Collins, Loveland, and Greeley’s annual water needs, providing water to 30 additional towns and cities along the state’s front range. The state’s forests have become dense and overgrown after years of protection from wildfire, which has increased the risk of severe wildfires such as the Cameron Peak Fire that threaten water supplies with sedimentation and debris.

    “Living in an environment where fire is part of the natural cycle is our reality in Northern Colorado, but Peaks to People and its partners are working to return the forest to a healthy condition that minimizes the intensity of fires when they do strike,” said Alex Castino, Great Outdoors Colorado Land Protection Program Officer. “This allows people and small businesses, plants and animals, waterways and water infrastructure, to bounce back quickly and thrive in this beautiful place we all call home,” Alex said.

    East Troublesome Fire and Cameron Peak Fire map via Inciweb December 7, 2020.

    The Cameron Peak and East Troublesome wildfires west of Fort Collins emphasize the urgent need for proactive treatment with a combined cost of over $149 million to suppress them and more than 1,000 miles of river impacted. The Peaks to People Water Fund team has analyzed and determined that treating 37,000 acres within the 575,000-acre Big Thompson watershed could reduce 90 percent of severe fire risk while conserving the forests most essential for water supply.

    Peaks to People plans to invest a total of $90 million through the Big Thompson Initiative over the course of the next ten years to restore forests to their natural state and reduce the risk of severe wildfires. Treatments are costly at as much as $3,600 per acre with Peaks to People working with partners to leverage funds to stretch contributions…

    Peaks to People have partnered with the Colorado State Forest Service, Nature Conservancy of Colorado, Big Thompson Conservation District, Larimer County Department of Natural Resources, Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, Brendle Group, and the Center for Collaborative Conservation to make this initiative successful. More funding must be raised to accomplish the initiative’s goals even though some funding is already in place.

    Fishing the Big Thompson River. Photo credit: Larimer County

    Historic #Colorado Wildfire Season Could Impact Drinking #Water — CBS #Denver

    From CBS Denver (Dillon Thomas):

    The historic wildfire season of 2020 could impact drinking water for more than a million Colorado residents. Environmental researchers and natural resource specialists have conducted a BAER Survey, which stands for Burned Area Emergency Response.

    The survey evaluated how the record-breaking Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires could impact Colorado’s snowpack and watershed.

    The Colorado Big Thompson Project, which Northern Water operates for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, lies between the Cameron Peak fire, shown at the top of the map, and the East Troublesome Fire, shown at the bottom left. Credit: U.S. Forest Service

    The Poudre and Upper Colorado River Basins provide drinking water for more than a million people in northern Colorado, and soon those in Thornton. The Colorado River also flows from Willow Creek Reservoir near Granby to Las Vegas and farther southwest.

    The months-long battle with both blazes charred the natural filters along rivers and creeks, which eventually provide drinking water for most of the northern front range.

    “Our concerns really are actually about the entire watershed,” said Jeff Stahla, spokesperson for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    In an interview with CBS4’s Logan Smith, Stahla said the approach to preserving and protecting the watershed in the years to come was directly altered by the High Park Fire of 2012, where researchers learned what to do and what not to do.

    A helicopter drops water on the Cameron Peak Fire near CSU’s Mountain Campus. Photo credit: Colorado State University

    For example, pulling undersized culverts and digging water bars is more effective than reseeding or spreading hay bales.

    “This is something you won’t be able to resolve by dropping seeds from a helicopter, the scale is so large,” Stahla said. “The concern is that if there is a large weather event that occurs over that area, that you will have uncontrolled removal of debris and sediment that will go in to our reservoirs.”

    Ecologist Heidi Steltzer evaluates the site of a 2018 wildfire within 10 miles of her Colorado home. Changes in snow affect the disturbance regime of U.S. mountain regions. (Credit: Joel Dyar)

    During the fires of 2020, water conservation experts monitored how the burn scar could impact drinking water.

    “We recognized that it was no longer just a small localized event, but it was something that would effect the entire Upper Colorado River shed,” Stahla said.

    Due to the extended period the fires burned, especially the Cameron Peak Fire, not every area of the burn scars impact nearby rivers and streams equally. While some portions of the terrain were significantly burned with hot fire that “resided” in the same spot for an extended period, others were more fortunate.

    The East Troublesome fire as seen from Cottonwood Pass looking north on the evening of Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020. (Andrew Lussie via InciWeb via The Colorado Sun)

    Stahla said many local water districts are now teaming up to help protect the health of the watershed in the years to come. By unifying and prioritizing the health of the water system as a whole, Stahla said the strength of the landscape and watershed can bounce back quicker…

    Researchers hope to return to the burn scars in the spring once snow has melted to evaluate next steps. Local municipalities are working with the Bureau of Reclamation to expedite the process.

    Upper Thompson Sanitation District Plans For The Future — EPNews.com

    From the Upper Thompson Sanitation District via The Estes Park News:

    Upper Thompson Sanitation District (UTSD) was established almost 50 years ago. Since then, they have been silently supporting and growing to meet the increasing water treatment needs of Estes Park. From humble beginnings, the UTSD service operation has expanded to over 4,300 households and 96 miles of collection system infrastructure in the Estes Valley. When the plant was built in 1976, it employed some of the most innovative technologies available and provided the highest level of treatment for sensitive waterways. This technology, coupled with unwavering commitment, has enabled UTSD to continue service even through moments of crisis, from fire to flood.

    Although excellent care has been taken of the decades-old wastewater treatment facility (WWTF), the effects of age, changing building codes, and outdated equipment mean it is nearing capacity to treat wastewater to the high standards that Estes Valley’s sensitive environment requires. In addition, upcoming stringent regulatory treatment requirements related to nutrients, metals and temperature will be impossible to meet with the current facility. District Manager, Chris Bieker states, “The cost of maintaining our current infrastructure is not worth the investment because it will be obsolete nearly as quickly as it’s repaired. We also have the additional challenge of meeting treatment demand during the large fluctuations of peak visitation season in the summer. We are nearing the limits of processing ability now and need to prepare for tomorrow.” To face these challenges, UTSD has been laying the groundwork to relocate and expand the WWTF to a site near the current plant. This new facility will be able to handle community and visitor growth as well as the more stringent regulatory requirements now and well into the future.

    With the large-scale improvements necessary to continue safe and efficient water treatment, additional funding is needed to finance the project. The UTSD sewer rate increase has been assessed at 11% each year over the next three years; 2021-2023, and diminishing increases for subsequent years. In 2021 this translates into an extra $5.33/month for most customers in the District. This fee will vary from customer to customer assessed as a flat rate fee or calculated on metered water use.

    “As residents ourselves, we share this cost and are committed to use the resources we have available as responsibly and efficiently as possible” Bieker said. When completed, the new WWTF will meet upcoming strict water quality standards. The new WWTF will also serve future customer and community demands while continuing to preserve the clean water that preserves wildlife and the natural habitat. “It means we will be able to continue to be good stewards of our environment, continue to protect the headwaters, and ensure our quality of life,” states Bieker.

    “Most people don’t think about the work we do at UTSD, but it is critical to maintaining our most precious resource, our water” says Bieker. “This is our home and we want to treat it right.”

    If you have questions about the upcoming changes please visit UTSD’s website at utsd.colorado.gov.

    Aerial view of Lake Estes and Olympus Dam looking west. Photo credit Northern Water.

    A US District Court judge has ruled in favor of the Windy Gap Firming Project, clearing the way for construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir — @Northern_Water #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Here’s the release from Northern Water (Jeff Stahla):

    A United States District Court judge has ruled in favor of the Windy Gap Firming Project, clearing the way for construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir near Berthoud. This ruling should also make it possible to move forward with environmental mitigation and enhancements related to the project, including construction of the Colorado River Connectivity Channel near Granby.

    Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich dismissed a 2017 lawsuit filed by environmental groups led by Save the Colorado against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers. The ruling holds that those federal agencies complied with federal law in issuing a Record of Decision that authorizes the Windy Gap Firming Project.

    The Windy Gap Firming Project includes the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir, which will be located in a dry valley just west of Carter Lake in southwest Larimer County. The reservoir will store 90,000 acre-feet of water from the Windy Gap Project for use by 12 participants, including Broomfield, Platte River Power Authority, Longmont, Loveland, Greeley, Erie, Little Thompson Water District, Superior, Louisville, Fort Lupton, Lafayette and the Central Weld County Water District. Chimney Hollow Reservoir will make the Windy Gap water supply serving those participants more reliable and help them meet a portion of their long-term water supply needs. Each participant has also enacted a water conservation plan to comply with the Record of Decision.

    Environmental measures related to the Project also include the Colorado River Connectivity Channel, a newly proposed channel around Windy Gap Reservoir to reconnect the Colorado River above and below the reservoir. The channel will restore the ability for fish, macroinvertebrates, nutrients and sediment in the river to bypass the reservoir.

    The Record of Decision also mandates many other environmental protections, including improving streamflow and aquatic habitat, addressing water quality issues, providing West Slope water supplies and more. Northern Water and its Municipal Subdistrict negotiated with Colorado River stakeholders to develop this package of environmental protections and received a permit from Grand County and approvals from others, including Trout Unlimited and the State of Colorado, to move forward with the Project.

    Water storage such as Chimney Hollow Reservoir was specifically identified in the Colorado Water Plan as a necessary component for Colorado’s long-term water future. It joins conservation, land use planning and other solutions to meet future water needs in the state.

    “This ruling marks an important milestone for the participants in the Windy Gap Firming Project,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind. “Chimney Hollow Reservoir and the Colorado River Connectivity Channel will serve as examples of how statewide cooperation can produce water supply solutions and environmental improvements that benefit everyone.”

    Barnard Construction Co. Inc. has been chosen as the contractor to build Chimney Hollow Reservoir, and work will commence on the project in 2021. Design work is well under way for the Colorado River Connectivity Channel, and construction is anticipated to begin there in 2022.

    #Colorado mitigation “bank” to offset #wetland damage, meet Clean Water Act rules — @WaterEdCO

    Here at the confluence of the Big Thompson and South Platte rivers near Greeley, a new conservation effort is underway. It restores wetlands and creates mitigation credits that developers can buy to meet their obligations under the federal Clean Water Act to offset any damage to rivers and wetlands they have caused. Credit: Westervelt Ecological Services

    From Water Education Colorado (Sarah Kuta):

    Developers often dropped by unannounced at the Allely farm to ask if the family would consider selling their 70-acre property south of Greeley at the confluence of the Big Thompson and South Platte rivers. The answer was always no — the Allelys did not want their land, which had been in the family since in the early 1960s, to be developed, now or in the future.

    So when staff from Westervelt Ecological Services first approached the Allelys about creating a habitat preservation program on their farm roughly three years ago, the family was skeptical. But over the course of many months and long conversations, they began to warm to the idea and eventually agreed.

    Instead of selling their property to the highest bidder or leaving it to the next generation, the family established a conservation easement — a permanent agreement to never develop the land — and, for a fee, allowed Westervelt to create the new Big Thompson confluence mitigation bank. The project broke ground in late October.

    Now, a developer who disrupts wetlands or streams elsewhere along the Front Range and in parts of eastern Colorado can offset that impact by buying credits generated from floodplain and ecosystem restoration work completed on the Allelys’ land. Purchasing credits from this new mitigation bank allows developers to meet their obligations under the federal Clean Water Act.

    “It’s a very important piece of property to us as a family,” said Zach Allely, the fifth-oldest of the six children who grew up on the farm. “If there’s an opportunity for us to say, ‘No, this is a place where native fauna, native flora can thrive forever,’ we’ll take that.”

    Mitigation banks, explained

    Mitigation banks are not new in Colorado — there are some 21 pending, approved, sold-out or suspended throughout the state, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ database — but this is the first new mitigation bank approved on the Front Range in 20 years.

    Across the country, mitigation banks have become more popular since 2008, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expressed a preference for mitigation banks (over other types of mitigation) and offered clearer guidance, standards and timelines for these projects.

    Mitigation banks like this one are a byproduct of the federal Clean Water Act, first enacted in 1948 as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and then expanded and reorganized in 1972. More specifically, they relate to Section 404 of the act, which aims to protect the country’s wetlands from the discharge of dredged or fill materials during the construction of dams, levees, highways, airports and other development projects.

    Under Section 404, developers must take steps to avoid and minimize damage to wetlands and streams by adjusting the scope, location, design and type of project they wish to undertake. After avoidance and minimization, they must turn to a third mitigation type: compensatory mitigation.

    Under compensatory mitigation, developers can restore, establish, enhance or preserve wetlands at the project site or somewhere else nearby. But this type of work isn’t always practical or possible, which is where mitigation banks come into play. Instead of going to all that trouble, a developer can pay for someone else to do the heavy lifting at a different, nearby location.

    A mitigation banker, in this case Westervelt, pays for the upfront costs of finding a suitable piece of land, gaining approval from the right regulatory agencies, and doing the actual mitigation work. Then, depending on the scope and size of the project, the banker can sell a certain number of credits to offset the impacts of future development within the bank’s general vicinity.

    Restoring historical floodplain

    Today, crews are hard at work on the Allely property, re-establishing the historical floodplain to help restore the ecosystem for plants and animals and improve flood resiliency for nearby communities.

    This restoration work also creates 34.76 wetland credits and 460 stream credits — released in phases — that developers, public agencies, mining companies and others can buy to help mitigate the unavoidable damage their projects will cause to other Colorado wetlands and streams.

    Lucy Harrington, the Rocky Mountain region director for Westervelt Ecological Services, declined to say how much the company is charging for credits from the new 72.4-acre bank, citing variable pricing and bulk discounts.

    But the Colorado Department of Transportation, which regularly buys credits from mitigation banks across the state, recently paid $200,000 for a credit from the new bank to help offset the impact of its Central 70 highway improvement project, said Becky Pierce, CDOT’s wetlands program manager.

    To find potential mitigation bank sites, Westervelt staffers perform geographic information system (GIS) analyses that take into account a property’s proximity to streams, hydrology, oil and gas infrastructure, and proximity to other conserved properties, among other factors, Harrington said.

    The company, which opened its newest regional office in Centennial in 2016, also looks at community-identified areas for wetland restoration and conservation, as was the case with the new Big Thompson confluence bank. Westervelt staff worked with the Middle South Platte River Alliance to understand local priorities and identify possible sites for the new bank. The alliance helped introduce Westervelt to the Allely family.

    “It’s really a confluence of technical work, relationship-building and a little bit of luck, to be perfectly honest,” Harrington said.

    Westervelt and other mitigation bankers often buy property outright. But in this case, Westervelt paid the Allely family an undisclosed amount to use their land for the mitigation bank and, in return, the Allelys protected the property in perpetuity with a conservation easement, which comes with its own tax benefits and incentives. Westervelt and the Allelys also established a long-term endowment for the site’s management with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

    After creating a detailed plan and getting approval from regulatory agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and others, Westervelt began work.

    Credits going fast

    The company has released its first round of credits, which includes 8.69 wetland acres and 115 functional feet of stream credits. So far, the company has sold more than half of the wetland credits, Harrington said.

    “Any project, whether it’s a highway widening that may cross a river, home development that may affect ephemeral or perennial drainage, a Walmart parking lot that’s expanding, a pipeline going in, any of those development items that could impact wetlands and streams, instead of having to provide a wetland offset themselves can just come to us, write a check and just walk away,” Harrington said. “We take on all the liability of the site in perpetuity.”

    Meanwhile, the Allely family knows that their property will never be developed and is instead being restored to its historical conditions. They can also still access the land under the conservation easement, which is held by the nonprofit land trust Colorado Open Lands.

    Staff at Colorado Open Lands say they hope the success of the Big Thompson mitigation bank will inspire other landowners to conserve their land.

    “It’s just another tool, another way for us to look at getting creative about protecting open space in Colorado,” said Carmen Farmer, conservation project manager with Colorado Open Lands. “Traditionally, we protect land throughout the state using state tax credits and federal tax deductions and incentives. Sometimes the traditional model doesn’t necessarily pencil out for landowners. This is another way for us to go about incentivizing landowners to help protect their properties and make sure they’re compensated for doing so.”

    Sarah Kuta is a freelance writer based in Longmont, Colorado. She can be reached at sarahkuta@gmail.com.

    The Community Foundation of Northern #Colorado has launched a fund to help restore watersheds damaged during recent forest fires #wildfire

    Here’s the release from the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado:

    Bohemian Foundation to match first $250,000 for NoCoFires Fund

    Everyone loves a comeback story.

    Northern Colorado’s two primary watersheds – the Poudre and the Big Thompson – each face a long, hard recovery from the damage caused by our recent catastrophic wildfires.
    And with the support of the Bohemian Foundation, the NoCoFires Fund is working to get our vital rivers and streams back to sustaining wildlife, recreation, and agriculture, as well as supplying high-quality drinking water for 1,000,000 people.

    And with the support of the Bohemian Foundation, the NoCoFires Fund is working to get our vital rivers and streams back to sustaining wildlife, recreation, and agriculture, as well as supplying high-quality drinking water for 1,000,000 people.

    Here’s how it will work:

  • Bohemian Foundation has pledged to match the first $250,000 in donations made to the NoCoFires Fund.
  • Using that initial funding, the Community Foundation will leverage additional grant dollars from private, state, and federal sources.
  • The long-term goal for the NoCoFires Fund is to raise $1 million for continuing watershed restoration needs.
  • “The investment we can make together in NoCoFires Fund will have positive impacts for decades,” said Bohemian Foundation Executive Director Cheryl Zimlich. “This Community Foundation fund supports erosion control efforts that mitigate further degradation, as well as long-term restoration of vegetation and water quality. With this matching grant, we are standing with many generous Coloradans and the Community Foundation to help our region begin to heal.”

    Early estimates show that mitigation in the Poudre River watershed alone will cost around $50 million. Cameron Peak and East Troublesome Fire, the two largest wildfires in Colorado history, together burned over 400,000 acres that impact both Poudre and Big Thompson watersheds and communities downstream.

    “We’re gratified that Bohemian Foundation has signed on to match the first $250,000 raised, which we hope to further leverage into additional grant dollars; our goal is to raise $1 million,” said Mark Driscoll, chair of Community Foundation Board of Trustees.

    One Community Foundation partner is the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which is headed by Executive Director Dan Gibbs.

    In October, Gibbs was one of the 1,400 firefighters called to fight the Cameron Peak wildfire. “This was perhaps my most intense deployment in over 13 years,” Gibbs said. “The Cameron Peak wildfire burned some of our most pristine watersheds that will require both emergency protection and long-term restoration to protect our water supplies, mitigate flood threats, and preserve the outdoor economic engines Coloradoans depend on. I’m grateful for the Community Foundation’s support. These dollars fill a crucial need to support communities that are already experiencing economic stress by funding emergency protection efforts and assisting with local cost-shares that can leverage additional funding through recovery grants.”

    Another organization deeply affected by the damage to the watershed is the city of Greeley, which draws a large percentage of its water from the Poudre. Sean Chambers, director of water and sewer at the city of Greeley, hailed the attention paid to the restoration effort.

    “We are working with Larimer County to develop a watershed-scale burn assessment, and with the U.S. Forest Service on plans and permits for post-fire mitigation to protect water quality that will also protect infrastructure and habitat,” Chambers said. “A small amount of mitigation work is under way, but much work lies ahead. Stakeholders need to align with resources to prevent fire debris and sediment loading in Northern Colorado streams, rivers, wetlands, and water supply reservoirs.”

    It’s time to focus on mitigation, address the critical needs, and begin long-term recovery work. The Community Foundation has the track record, leadership, and relationships to positively impact Northern Colorado.

    Find details about how you can help the rivers make a comeback at nocofoundation.org/fires/.

    Breakout box

    Cameron Peak Fire impacts

  • 1,000+ river miles
  • 124+ trail miles
  • 40,000+ acres of designated Wilderness Areas
  • 32 miles of Wild and Scenic River corridor
  • Three watersheds
  • Five reservoirs that store and deliver water to the Front Range for agriculture and
    drinking water
  • 16 mountain communities and neighborhoods in the burn area or immediately
    adjacent to it
  • 185,000 irrigated acres rely on the Poudre River
  • Data source: Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed

    The Community Foundation of Northern Colorado has a 45-year history as a catalyst for community projects and as a service provider to philanthropists and nonprofit organizations. Through our flagship program, the Hach Center for Regional Engagement, we bring people together to collaborate on important issues – such as water – and lead visionary community initiatives for our region. nocofoundation.org.

    #Loveland council to study update to raw #water master plan, water fees, November 10, 2020 — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Looking east toward the Chimney Hollow Reservoir site, which is just this side of the red ridge. On the other side is Carter Lake Reservoir and beyond that, the Loveland area.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Max Levy):

    The plan was first approved in 2005 as a way of ensuring that the city has enough water without having to cut back, even in a once-in-a-century drought. It was updated by the council in 2012.

    Prepared by city staff members, the update includes several major recommendations. First, the city recommends using a model created by Spronk Water Engineers to continue prepping for a major drought, which was modeled based on the historic drought Colorado faced in 2002.

    While the plan encourages water conservation as a buffer and a way of ensuring water security in the event of an even more severe drought, the plan notes that it is not “a tool to directly reduce future demands in long-term planning.”

    A target of 30,000 acre-feet remains the city’s long-term goal for water demand. Currently, Loveland has access to a firm yield of about 25,210 acre-feet per year, which should increase by about 5,680 acre-feet by 2031, if the Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Loveland and the Loveland Great Western Reservoir in east Loveland are completed as recommended.

    The master plan projects the resulting 30,890 acre-feet would be enough to support the city until 2056.

    Loveland customers used about 13,129 acre-feet of treated water last year, or about 0.166 acre-foot per person.

    Points of the recommended policy on developer contributions to the city’s raw water portfolio include:

  • Requiring at least half and allowing up to 100% of most contributions to be made in the form of Colorado-Big Thompson Project water, cash-in-lieu or cash credits in the Loveland Water Bank.
  • Decreasing the value of a C-BT credit from 1 acre-foot to 0.9 acre-foot.
  • Adjusting credits for ditch shares based on the content of the Spronk analysis.
  • Removing the 5% administrative cost on the cash-in-lieu fee and placing no limit on the amount of cash-in-lieu transactions, as long as they’re dedicated to a specific project.
  • Tying storage fees to the estimated cost of storage at Chimney Hollow Reservoir.
  • Including a fee of $482 per acre-foot in the native water storage fee to cover the engineering and legal costs of changing the use of native water in Colorado’s water courts.
  • Changing the name of the native water storage fee to the “storage fee.”
  • The plan also leaves open the possibility of the city exploring the use of untreated water for irrigation, taking into account “concerns of cross-contamination and the relatively high expense of building a new utility in already developed parts of the community.”

    Updates to water-related fees would go hand-in-hand with the plan and reflect the increasing costs of the Chimney Hollow project and C-BT water.

    For the cash-in-lieu fee, in addition to eliminating the 5% administrative add-on, the new calculation would divide the average annual C-BT price by 0.9. Previously, the fee was tied to the average price over the past three to six months.

    The native water storage fee would increase by between $15,132 per acre-foot of native water to $21,772 per acre-foot, depending on the source.

    Raw water impact fees would increase for commercial, irrigation and some residential taps and would be phased in over a period of two to 10 years.

    Loveland’s council will not vote on the items Tuesday, but members will give direction to the staff before the proposal comes back for a future vote.

    Northern Front Range water supply safe in spite of fires — for now — The #Greeley Tribune

    Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

    From The Greeley Tribune (Cuyler Meade):

    …while a significant portion of the water supply that is held and accessed by the project that serves the northern Front Range communities is impacted by the fires, the water supply itself is not in danger.

    According to Jeff Stahla, public information officer for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District — or simply Northern Water — the near-term supply is fine.

    The decision to close off a tunnel — which transports water pumped from Lake Granby to Shadow Mountain Reservoir before traveling by gravity through the tunnel through Rocky Mountain National Park to Lake Estes and elsewhere, before eventually settling in Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake in Fort Collins and Loveland — will not impact the water supply that’s eventually drawn from those two reservoirs to supply much of Northern Water’s million-plus customers in Northern Colorado, including Greeley.

    That’s because, Stahla explained, the system is proactive. While new water will not be replenished quite according to the normal schedule in the Horsetooth and Carter Lake reservoirs, that water is, in essence, paying down a future withdrawal that won’t happen for a year or more…

    “The water coming out of your faucet now, if it’s this project’s water, was probably snow that fell in maybe 2018,” Stahla explained. “It ran off in spring of ’18 and filled up Lake Granby, and then around the end of 2018 into 2019, it would’ve been used to fill up reservoirs on the front range. That would’ve happened over winter of 2018-2019, and then it would’ve been in reservoirs all of 2019 and probably drawn out now in 2020. This project works on a multi-year cycle of gathering runoff, feeding reservoirs and serving the public.”

    The water is still in Lake Granby, but temporarily won’t be pumped up to Shadow Mountain because of concerns that the fire will impact the power supply to the pump at Lake Granby…

    However, that water is only a portion — a very sizable portion, close to half — of the water that is used by Greeley customers, according to city of Greeley water and sewer director Sean Chambers.

    And, truly incredibly, the other major sources of water, four in total, from which the city draws its 20,000 to 25,000 acre feet-per-year supply are also being impacted by these unfathomable wildfires.

    “We have water from four different river basins,” Chambers said. “We get water from the Poudre River Basin, that’s where the year-round treatment plan by Bellevue, northwest of For Collins is. The top of the Poudre is where the fire started. You go north and cross into Laramie River Basin — the Laramie flows north into Wyoming but we have a system of ditches and tunnels that brings water back into the Poudre. The fires burned a bit of the headwaters of the Laramie. We also get water from the Big Thompson Basin, and the Cameron Peak Fire spread southeast over the last ten days, blown over the ridge line and the divide into the Big Thompson Basin. And then the last basin is the Colorado River Basin, which is where the East Troublesome Fire comes from.”

    Chambers, marveling, called this phenomenon the first time “in recorded history” that this has happened, where all four major water sources are affected by fires at the same time…

    Further, while snow melt over burned land could well impact other water sources as well, there are plans in place, Chambers said.

    “When the High Park Fire happened, that fire had these post-precipitation water-quality events in the river, where Fort Collins and Greeley and others, who take water directly off the Poudre River for municipal treatment, we turned off our intakes and let the bad water go by, let the water quality improve. We can do that because of the beautiful supplemental supply in the Colorado Big Thompson project.”

    The flexibility requires planning, though, including, Chambers said, installing source-site filtration systems where snow runoff on its way the river systems are filtered prior to entering the water supply…

    In the immediate moment, though, the water supply even well into next year is in good shape, regardless of the fires Stahla said.

    “Not even just into early next year,” Stahla said. “Reservoirs are there for that kind of demand management that you can have some stocked away close to meet your needs. As of now, there’s no operational changes because of the wildfires to the water supply on the Northern Front Range. Those reservoirs will be refilled by next spring.”

    Horsetooth Reservoir’s water level dropping rapidly but boating will continue — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

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

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):

    Horsetooth Reservoir’s water level dropping around 4 feet per week in July and August certainly hasn’t go unnoticed by concerned boaters.

    The water level of the popular reservoir dropped from 97% full at the beginning of the season to around 60% last week. Despite the drop, all boat ramps will be usable through Labor Day weekend, but not so much come mid-September.

    Jeff Stahla, Northern Water spokesman, said an unusually dry and hot summer created an increase water demand by agriculture and municipalities, resulting in the sharp drop in water level. He said the rate of that drop is expected to lessen the rest of summer and early fall as water demand lessens…

    Mark Caughlan, Horsetooth Reservoir district manager, said he expects the South Bay boat ramp to remain usable throughout the fall but that by mid-September the Satanka and Inlet Bay ramps will be closed due to the low water level.

    Stahla said by late this week the reservoir’s water level will be at the lowest level since 2012, which was a historically dry year.

    He said lowering the water level will also help divers to safely replace a valve at Soldier Canyon Dam, which he said is routine maintenance and does not involve major construction. He said other work to the reservoir will be done at the same time by other entities…

    Stahla said Horsetooth Reservoir, which is the largest reservoir in the Colorado-Big Thompson Project East Slope distribution system, is expected to fill back up next year. He said CBT’s water storage in mountain reservoirs above Horsetooth Reservoir is in good shape with storage at more than 90% in some reservoirs.

    Say hello to @Northern_Water’s new website

    Screen shot of the new Northern Water website. Click the image to go to the website.

    Click here to to the new website. Easy to navigate and find data:

    Northern Water is proud to announce the launch of a new organizational website. The website offers a user-friendly experience with improved navigation and functionality.

    With a modern, sleek design, the new website uses enhanced functionality, features and content to tell the story of Northern Water and its commitment to delivering water to more than 1 million people and 615,000 acres of irrigated farmland in Northeastern Colorado while protecting water quality on both sides of the Continental Divide.

    Key features of the new website include:

  • Improved navigation that makes content easy to find;
  • A search engine that captures targeted results for visitors seeking specific information;
  • Mobile responsive design that allows website access from any device;
  • A new data portal that provides real-time data, water quality data and more;
  • A new customized water accounting portal that empowers water users to manage their portfolio, order and transfer water, and view important documents; and
  • A news blog to inform the public about Northern Water’s projects, programs and activities. New weekly content will ensure the public is kept up to date on the latest happenings.
  • The new website has been more than a year in the making with a primary goal of creating a user-friendly platform accessible from any device. Specifically, the goal was to make it easier for visitors to learn about the organization and its rich history, receive project updates and discover ways to more efficiently use water in their landscapes and daily lives.

    #Colorado-Big Thompson operations update

    Olympus Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation.

    From email from Reclamation (Elizabeth Jones):

    Olympus Dam near Estes Park, Colorado impounds Lake Estes. The lake is the afterbay for Estes Powerplant, a hydroelectric powerplant that can produce up to 45 MW each hour. Colorado-Big Thompson Project water from the west slope fuels the Estes Powerplant. Project water discharged from Estes Powerplant is diverted from Lake Estes, routed to additional hydroelectric powerplants on the Front Range and is then stored in Carter Lake or Horsetooth Reservoir. Project water is rarely released from Olympus Dam into the Big Thompson River.

    This is the season for snow-melt runoff into Lake Estes. In the past 10 days, natural inflow into Lake Estes has increased from a low of about 250 cubic feet per second (cfs) to a peak flow of about 1,020 cfs. Currently, natural inflow is decreasing (around 700 cfs); however, warmer or wetter days could result in natural inflow increasing again and the recent peak inflow could be surpassed.

    Olympus Dam is not an authorized flood control structure. As such, the natural snow-melt or precipitation runoff that flows into Lake Estes is released from Olymus Dam into the Big Thompson River. Under normal operations, Olympus Dam does provide the benefit of shaving off the peak inflow. One way it does so can be explained using recent operations. During two days this week when peak inflow into Lake Estes was about 1,000 cfs, maximum release from the dam was 880 cfs. This is because outflows are generally the day’s average. Outflow does not follow the within-day variation, which ranged from 714 cfs to 1,020 cfs within a 24-hour period. Releases from Olympus Dam in the near term will be driven by whatever Nature provides from the headwaters of the Big Thompson watershed.

    As the snow-melt runoff season progresses, Reclamation will provide information to the public regarding expected flows released from Olympus Dam.

    Big Thompson Parks all open for the first time since 2013 floods — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Fishing the Big Thompson River. Photo credit: Larimer County

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    The Narrows is one of a handful of small parks owned and operated by Larimer County in the Big Thompson Canyon, now known as the Big Thompson Parks. They opened for the season on May 15, most of them for the first time since the 2013 floods devastated the canyon.

    “This is a big milestone for us,” said Chris Fleming, Big Thompson district manager for the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources.

    The Big Thompson Parks start just west of Loveland with Glade Park and continue 17 miles west along U.S. 34 including Narrows, Forks and Sleepy Hollow. Over the past seven years, Larimer County worked with other land agencies to restore these parks properties to allow for river access…

    The Big Thompson River is home to native trout, and forests and wildlife surround the water.

    The parks are different than they used to be before the flood, but they are open.

    Glade, for example, previously had a parking lot and picnic area. Now, there is a pullout and a path to the river for fishing.

    Narrows is accessed by a small pull-out and features a short trail to the water’s edge.

    Most of the land in the park is fenced off with signs that it has been planted by the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition as part of a restoration project. But there is access to the river, and a peaceful place to fish, to picnic without tables, to read a book or to sit and watch the birds fly and the water flow…

    The Forks, which is just east of Drake, is probably the most dramatic change. A moonscape after the flood, the park now has a paved parking lot and bathroom, stairs down to the river and a rocky bank to walk along and fish. During the reconstruction of U.S. 34, the park was essentially home base for construction crews and filled with mounds of construction materials.

    It no longer has picnic tables, but people can access the river and enjoy nature there.

    Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 — photo via Northern Water

    Estes Park: Public Invited To Land Trust Event Focusing On The Future Of Land #Conservation

    From the Estes Valley Land Trust via The Estes Park News:

    On February 13 at 5 p.m., the Estes Valley Land Trust will host the Love Our Land Social at the Estes Valley Community Center. Drop-ins are welcome, refreshments will be provided and this event is free and open to the public.

    Since 1987, the Estes Valley Land Trust, along with its partners, has preserved nearly 10,000 acres of land in and around Estes Park. “Our first 30 years were defined by major conservation successes, such as working with landowners to help them preserve Hermit Park Open Space, Meadowdale Ranch, and the Eagle Rock School,” said Jeffrey Boring, Executive Director of the Estes Valley Land Trust. “We want to continue to engage our partners and the broader community to plan the future of land conservation across the region.”

    While many acres of land in the valley have already been preserved, there are more than 28,000 acres still available for development. The land trust is hosting a social event to receive public feedback on the types of land that are most important to preserve in the future.

    “There is a tremendous amount of support for land conservation around Estes, but we want to know what types of land the community considers the most important to conserve,” Boring said. Lands that protect the most iconic views, lands that are critical for wildlife habitat, new outdoor recreation opportunities, or lands of historic significance are all potential conservation opportunities.

    The public will be invited to complete a survey to help prioritize these conservation opportunities.

    Results from the survey will be used to develop a regional Open Space and Outdoor Recreation Plan. The plan will highlight land conservation goals and include partnerships that could be formed to preserve key areas. “The Estes Valley Land Trust Board of Directors will consider the Open Space and Outdoor Plan our strategic plan and will guide our future conservation efforts,” said Boring.

    The plan may also help guide the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan and identify where growth and development is appropriate and where it is not. “Consideration of open space and outdoor recreation opportunities is a critical part of developing a good Comprehensive Plan,” said Travis Machalek, Town Administrator, Town of Estes Park. “The Open Space and Outdoor Recreation Plan will be a valuable source document as the community works to create an updated Comprehensive Plan for Estes Park.”

    The communities of Estes Park, Allenspark, Glen Haven, Drake, and residents of unincorporated Larimer County have a long legacy of preserving land and protecting habitat. The Love Our Land Social is an opportunity to continue this legacy and chart the future of land conservation.

    The Open Space and Outdoor Recreation Plan is funded by a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado and matching funds from the Town of Estes Park, Larimer County, Estes Park Economic Development Corporation and the Estes Valley Board of Realtors.

    Aerial view of Lake Estes and Olympus Dam looking west. Photo credit Northern Water.

    @Northern_Water Symposium, November 20, 2019

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    Click here for all the inside skinny:

    Loveland celebrates $41.2 million in improvements to wastewater treatment plant

    Photo credit: City of Loveland

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Max Levy):

    Many may not care to think about what goes on in the Loveland Wastewater Treatment Plant, but the facility had plenty to brag about Tuesday, as officials showed off the fruits of a $41.02 million improvement project that wrapped up this fall.

    The plant is responsible for reclaiming and returning the water used by Loveland residents to the Big Thompson River, while disposing of other waste.

    Water and Power Director Joe Bernosky, who delivered one of the speeches at Tuesday’s “grand opening” and ribbon-cutting ceremony, described the plant as a crucial link in the water cycle that all of Loveland participates in.

    “Water is a cycle — it’s not created, it’s recycled,” he said. “What this is doing is not necessarily treating wastewater. It’s reclaiming the water we’ve used.”

    The improvements allowed the plant to be rerated to handle 12 million gallons of wastewater per day, an increase of 2 million gallons. Staff hope that increase will allow the plant to keep up with growth for an additional 10-15 years.

    Bernosky added that the city’s partnership with Garney Construction was one of the most significant in Loveland’s history. Construction of the improvements alone cost $35.06 million, and the project finished under budget…

    Improvements made to the facility include:

  • Installation of a new and reconfigured sewer collection system at the head of the plant.
  • Screening improvements with the addition of step screen technology, to remove pieces of trash such as wet wipes and hygiene products from the wastewater.
  • Mixing and aeration improvements to all six existing aeration basins.
  • A new and upsized digester facility.
  • The addition of a new return activated sludge anoxic tank.
  • Replacing pumps at the return activated sludge pump station.
  • Ultraviolet disinfection hydraulic improvements.
  • A new, 2,000 square foot maintenance building.
  • […]

    Project design began in March 2015 and construction started in April 2017. According to a city factsheet, over 2 million working hours were spent on the project.

    Big Thompson Watershed Coalition fundraiser, September 22, 2019

    Big Thompson River near RMNP

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    Coalition shifting focus to the future

    Since the 2013 floods, the Big Thompson Watershed coalition has been leveraging grant money to rebuild and improve the river corridor, making it healthier and more resilient.

    Now, the nonprofit is shifting its focus to resiliency for the future, to improvements that will prepare the community for future flood and fire impacts and to ensure long-term river health.

    As part of that effort, the coalition is reaching out into the community to make new connections, holding a fundraiser with a goal of $50,000 and has a community bio-blitz planned…

    Fundraiser

    The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition is a nonprofit that has been operating for five years on grant money and disaster-recovery funds available after the 2013 floods. Two full-time employees handle all the community outreach, grant searches and more behind the scenes for the grant-funded projects.

    To help keep a staff of two going into the future and to meet the organization’s operations needs, the coalition has a fundraiser planned for Sunday, Sept. 22, at Sweetheart Winery.

    The event, which costs $60 per ticket, will feature dinner, a live cellist, fly-fishing demonstrators, tours of an adjacent watershed project, an art auction and time to soak up the river…

    The theme centers on “inspirations and aspirations” of the river, and the event gives people a first-hand look at one of the completed river projects. Speakers also will talk about watershed issues…

    Tickets are available by making a donation online at bigthompson.co/donate or by contacting courtney.gutman@bigthompson.co…

    New connections

    A major project for the watershed forum in the coming year is to create a plan for the Big Thompson River for 15 miles through Loveland with a $180,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The coalition will lead a team looking at river health as well as the community’s needs and wants surrounding both recreation as well as responsible development along Colo. 402.

    The coalition has launched an advisory committee that includes Loveland and Larimer County officials and likely will include ditch companies as well as members of the coalition board. They plan to reach out into the community for input on needs and desires and to consider a balance between those and river health.

    The goal is to create a clear understanding of the river corridor and its many demands and to end with a prioritized list of specific projects that are feasible, could be funded with grants and achieve that balance, Gutman explained…

    Community bio-blitz

    The coalition is looking for 10 to 30 community members to participate in a bio-blitz, which is where groups fan out over different sections of the river at the same time and collect data on water quality, plants and bugs. The idea is to have a “flash understanding” of the ecosystem that morning, Sept. 28.

    The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition will not be only agency participating. In fact, volunteers will be collecting data over three different watersheds in the region and then meet in Lyons to share ideas and to have a celebration.

    The hope is that those residents, once taught to collect data, would be willing to volunteer with another piece of the coalition’s long-term goal — monitoring the success of completed projects…

    Volunteers can sign up at bigthompson.co or by emailing courtney.gutman@bigthompson.co…

    Big Thompson Watershed Coalition

    Fundraiser: 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, at Sweetheart Winery, including music, art auction, tours of a project site, speakers, dinner and drinks. $60 per ticket, available by making a donation online at bigthompson.co/donate or by contacting courtney.gutman@bigthompson.co

    Bio-blitz: 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, different locations on the Big Thompson River. Volunteers can sign up at bigthompson.co or by emailing courtney.gutman@bigthompson.co

    July 31, 1976 Big Thompson Flood — @USGS

    Big Thompson Flood, Colorado. Cabin lodged on a private bridge just below Drake, looking upstream. Photo by W. R. Hansen, August 13, 1976. Photo via the USGS.
    Big Thompson Flood, Colorado. Cabin lodged on a private bridge just below Drake, looking upstream. Photo by W. R. Hansen, August 13, 1976. Photo via the USGS.

    Click here to view the poster from the United States Geological Survey:

    In the early evening of July 31, 1976 a large stationary thunderstorm released as much as 7.5 inches of rainfall in about an hour (about 12 inches in a few hours) in the upper reaches of the Big Thompson River drainage. This large amount of rainfall in such a short period of time produced a flash flood that caught residents and tourists by surprise. The immense volume of water that churned down the narrow Big Thompson Canyon scoured the river channel and destroyed everything in its path, including 418 homes, 52 businesses, numerous bridges, paved and unpaved roads, power and telephone lines, and many other structures. The tragedy claimed the lives of 144 people. Scores of other people narrowly escaped with their lives.

    The Big Thompson flood ranks among the deadliest of Colorado’s recorded floods. It is one of several destructive floods in the United States that has shown the necessity of conducting research to determine the causes and effects of floods. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducts research and operates a Nationwide streamgage network to help understand and predict the magnitude and likelihood of large streamflow events such as the Big Thompson Flood. Such research and streamgage information are part of an ongoing USGS effort to reduce flood hazards and to increase public awareness.

    After the September 2013 floods Allen Best wrote about being part of the disaster response in The Denver Post. It’s a good read. Here’s one passage:

    I was at the Big Thompson disaster. I was living in Fort Collins then and was among scores of young men (sorry, women, those were different times) with strong backs who could be summoned in case of forest fires. My only fire was at an old sawmill site in the foothills. The joke was that one of us had set the fire because we were so desperate for minimum-wage work.

    Then came July 31. It was hot that night in Fort Collins. It hadn’t rained a drop.

    I was living above Gene’s Tavern, just two blocks from the Larimer County Courthouse. When the call came, I was at the sheriff’s office almost immediately. It was 9 p.m.

    Being among the first at the command center at the Dam Store west of Loveland, near the mouth of Big Thompson Canyon, I was assigned to a pickup dispatched to look for people in the water near the turnoff to Masonville. Already, the river was out of its banks. From the darkness emerged a figure, dripping and confused. “I went fishing at Horsetooth (Reservoir) and was driving home and then there was all this water,” he sputtered. He was befuddled. So were we.

    Our leader decided we’d best get out of there. From what I saw the next morning, that was an excellent decision. Water later covered the road there, too. I spent the night at the Dam Store as the water rose. Helicopters were dispatched, but there was little that could be done. Our lights revealed picnic baskets, beach balls and propane bottles bobbing in the dark, roiling water that raced past us, but never any hands summoning help.

    In the morning, we found those hands. The bodies were stripped of clothing and covered with mud. The first I saw was of a woman who we guessed was 18, not much younger than I was then. This thin margin between life and death was startling in my young eyes.

    Eventually, 144 people were declared victims of the flooding that night (although one turned up alive in 2008 in Oklahoma).

    Estes Park got some rain, but not all that much. The larger story was partway down the canyon, in the Glen Haven and Glen Comfort areas, where the thunderstorm hovered. In just a few hours, it dropped 10 to 14 inches of water.

    Downstream in the canyon, just above the Narrows, some people were unaware that anything was amiss until they went outside their houses and saw the water rising in their yards. It hadn’t even rained there. One cabin I saw a few days later was stripped of doors and windows but stood on its foundations, a mound of mud 5 or 6 feet high in the interior. I seem to recall a dog barking as we approached, protecting that small part of the familiar in a world gone mad.

    At the old hydroelectric plant where my family had once enjoyed Sunday picnics, the brick building had vanished. Only the turbines and concrete foundation remained. In a nearby tree, amid the branches maybe 10 or 15 feet off the ground, hung a lifeless body.

    The river that night carried 32,000 cubic feet per second of water at the mouth of the canyon, near where I was stationed. It happened almost instantaneously — and then it was gone. It was a flash flood.

    #Runoff news: Northern #Colorado rivers have likely peaked for the season

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    The Poudre and Big Thompson rivers are gushing as a wave of warm weather sends mountain snowmelt rushing toward Northern Colorado, but regional officials say flows should taper this week and don’t expect major flooding.

    The Poudre flowed about 4.3 feet high at the Lincoln Street gauge Tuesday afternoon. Its volume of 956 cubic feet per second was nearly three times the median for this time of year…

    A blast of summer heat will bring Fort Collins a string of days with highs above 90 degrees, starting Wednesday and holding on through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. Hodges said flood risk isn’t a big concern, though, because so much of the mountain snowpack that feeds the Big Thompson and Poudre rivers has already melted…

    Remaining snowpack is plummeting in both the North Platte and South Platte river basins, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service…

    The onset of summer also means people will divert more water from the Poudre, which loses over 60% of its water before it even gets to Fort Collins…

    The Big Thompson and Poudre rivers have likely already reached their peaks, Hodges said. The Big Thompson reached about 5.8 feet — action stage for flooding is 6.5 — above the canyon mouth on Thursday, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources…

    The Poudre reached about 5.7 feet at the canyon mouth Friday. Action stage is 6.5 feet. It peaked at about 5.5 feet through town on Friday, well below the action stage of 9 feet.

    From OutThereColorado.com (Spencer McKee):

    The warmer temperatures in Colorado’s mountains are expected to melt quite a bit of snowpack. Be warned that Colorado’s rivers and waterways will be swollen with fast moving and powerful water, making them very dangerous. Three people have died in three separate incidents over the past week in Colorado rivers.

    Larimer County is still waiting for $20 million from FEMA for repairs after 2013 floods

    Damage to US 34 along the Big Thompson River September 2013. Photo credit: CDOT

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Nearly six years after the Big Thompson River flood wrecked U.S. Highway 34, stranded Estes Park and wiped out bridges and homes, the U.S. government has yet to fund $20 million of repairs in Larimer County.

    The county hasn’t started construction on County Road 47 (Big Elk Meadows) and County Road 44H (Buckhorn) because of the lack of funding. The county finished work on Big Thompson River bridges destroyed and rebuilt after the flood but hasn’t been reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the project.

    The delay in FEMA funding for Larimer County’s last three flood recovery projects has county officials in a bind: As another construction season looms without federal money, so does a crucial state deadline.

    Colorado’s general fund has paid for about 13% of Larimer County’s flood restoration work since 2013. Come September 2020, state funding for the projects will dry up.

    “We will not be able to meet that deadline with the delays we’ve had because of this issue,” said Lori Hodges, Larimer County emergency management director. “Our biggest projects are at risk because we haven’t gotten the guidance we need.”

    The holdup is essentially a bureaucratic issue. Congress passed a law in October 2018 changing the way FEMA awards money for disaster recovery work.

    FEMA used to deny funding for all projects that didn’t meet a strict set of code compliance guidelines. The guidelines had little wiggle room for projects on roads and bridges in complex terrain — like the ones destroyed by the flood in the Big Thompson canyon. For example, a road repair in a narrow, rocky canyon probably couldn’t meet FEMA’s requirement for shoulder width.

    The Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 instructed FEMA to award money for projects that don’t meet the strict guidelines as long as a local engineer signs off on the work and agrees a waiver is necessary. Congress gave FEMA 60 days to give its regional offices guidance on how to award funding under the new law.

    But FEMA hasn’t done that yet, so regional officials won’t fund the implicated Larimer County projects, Hodges said. FEMA Region 8 spokesperson Lynn Kimbrough told the Coloradoan the office paused a Larimer County funding appeal as it waits for policy guidance from headquarters…

    CR 47, partially destroyed by the flood, branches off U.S. Highway 36 between Lyons and Estes Park. The road is accessible but unpaved. An 11-mile stretch of CR 44H, located in Buckhorn Canyon and the Roosevelt National Forest, was heavily damaged in the flood and the High Park Fire in 2012.

    #Snowpack/#Runoff news: @Northern_Water declares a 70% quota for the 2019 season #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR. Granby Dam was retrofitted with a hydroelectric component and began producing electricity earlier this year as water is released in the Colorado River.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Sam Lounsberry):

    Unit owners of the Colorado-Big Thompson project, which delivers Colorado River water from the wet Western Slope to the dryer Front Range, will get 70% of their quota this year, according to a Northern Water news release.

    The 70% allocation means that a farmer who owns 10 acre-feet of Colorado-Big Thompson water will get seven in a year, with the remaining three kept in storage for use in dry years…

    In wet years like this one, Northern sometimes downsizes the quota of Colorado-Big Thompson water distributed, since native streams can be full enough to provide farmers late-season growing supply, which provides Northern a storage opportunity for use in dry years.

    But the move to boost the Colorado-Big Thompson quota from 50% — the level normally set at the start of Northern’s water year in November just to get users through the winter so snowfall can inform spring allocation rates — ensures farmers will have a more flexible late growing season.

    The quota increases available Colorado-Big Thompson water supplies by 62,000 acre-feet from the initial 50% quota made available in November…

    The snow-water equivalent mark for the Upper Colorado Basin is 120% of the normal median as of Thursday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, with snowpack levels in other river basins across the southwest at even higher marks. But KUNC and The Aspen Times reported this year that despite the good snowfall this winter, officials predict spring runoff won’t be enough to replenish reservoirs across the southwest, because years of drought have left dry soil that sucks up extra drops.

    “Modeled soil moisture conditions as of November 15th were below average over most of the Upper Colorado River Basin and Great Basin,” the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center stated in its April 1 report. “In the Upper Colorado River Mainstem River Basin, soil moisture conditions were below average in headwater basins along the Continental Divide, and closer to average downstream.”

    Water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project supplements other sources for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million-acre service area, across parts of eight counties, the Northern release said.

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map April 11, 2019 via the NRCS.

    Loveland: @Northern_Water Spring Water Users Meeting Tuesday, April 9, 2019

    Click here to read the agenda.

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    Big Thompson Canyon construction named national “Best of the Best” — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Damage to US 34 along the Big Thompson River September 2013. Photo credit: CDOT

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    The reconstruction of U.S. 34 in the Big Thompson Canyon was chosen from 820 construction projects nationwide to be named Best of the Best by Engineering New Record.

    Several partners in the project — Kiewit Construction, Colorado Department of Transportation, Jacobs, the engineering firm, and a handful of subcontractors — are named on the award that was presented Friday in New York City.

    “You would not believe the projects it beat out — vertical construction, a new cadet building for the Army, other just very complicated projects,” said Doug Stremel, project manager with Jacobs.

    “It’s really exciting … It was a collaborative effort for CDOT, Kiewit and Jacobs and the others. It was a team effort. We’re happy to share in it, but it really was a collaborative effort.”

    Upper Thompson Sanitation District and the Town of Estes Park to turn dirt on sanitary sewer project

    Estes Park

    From The Estes Park Trail-Gazette (Tyler Pialet):

    Through an Intergovernmental Agreement, the Upper Thompson Sanitation District (UTSD) and the Town of Estes Park (TEP) are partnering to complete a utility infrastructure project that will impact the Fish Creek Lift Station and Mall Road.

    The work, which is expected to start on Jan. 28, will start with replacing a single, 45-year-old sanitary sewer force main with new, dual-force mains. These will extend from the Fish Creek Lift Station, located on Fish Creek Road next to Lake Estes, across U.S. 36 to UTSD’s gravity sewer main near Joel Estes Drive.

    “UTSD recognized the lift station force main was a critical piece of infrastructure, had been in operation for 40 years, and due to its design features, had received minimal maintenance,” said UTSD District Manager Chris Bieker.

    Bieker explained that force mains are pressurized sewer pipes that convey wastewater where gravity is not possible.

    “Moving the flow uphill requires a pump,” he said. “Pumping facilities called lift stations may be required to transport the wastewater through the collection system.”

    According to Bieker, “The Fish Creek Lift Station and approximately 1,000 linear feet of 14-inch diameter cast iron force main was constructed in the mid-1970s. The interior of the force main is cement mortar lined. Approximately 600 linear feet of force main is located south of Highway 36. The remaining 400 feet crosses north underneath HWY 36 and discharges to a manhole located in Mall Road. Wastewater then flows along Mall Road through approximately 1200 linear feet of gravity sewer main to the treatment facility…

    In late 2016, the District televised the interior of the force main. The video indicated cracking and delamination of the cement mortar pipe lining within sections of the force main. The televising operation prematurely ceased when the camera could not proceed any further due to the internal conditions of the pipe.”

    New piping and valves will be added to the Fish Creek Lift Station. Old, aging pipes and valves will be replaced to facilitate new parallel force mains. As the Fish Creek Lift Station manages over a third of all of the district’s water flows, these improvements are critical to UTSD operations and public health.

    #Colorado-Big Thompson Project operations update: @USBR expects releases to the Big Thompson River to increase significantly

    Olympus Dam releases June 2011.

    Here’s the release from Reclamation (James Bishop):

    The Bureau of Reclamation is forecasting a notable increase in releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River beginning on September 20, 2018.

    As of today, September 18, releases from Olympus Dam into the Big Thompson River are at 26 cubic feet per second (cfs). Between September 20th and October 12, releases are expected to rise to approximately 225 cfs.

    This forecast assumes native inflows into Lake Estes as well as irrigation demands will not change significantly from our current projections, but both are subject to unexpected fluctuations.

    “I was at the #BigThompson disaster” — Allen Best

    Here’s the Coyote Gulch 40th anniversary post from 2016. There’s a great passage from Allen Best who was part of the rescue effort back then. Click through for all the links to the Coloradoan and other online content.

    If you live in Denver subscribe to The Denver Post. Their link for Allen’s article is still up. And since I”m pitching journalism here subscribe to Allen’s Newsletter.

    Larimer County and the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition score $175,342 for river restoration

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    The county commissioners on Tuesday approved a contract to work with the nonprofit river coalition on continued revegetation in key areas of the flood-damaged canyon with a $175,342 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. To match the grant, the county and watershed coalition will put in $175,386, part in cash and part in staff and volunteer resources.

    Commissioners Donnelly and Steve Johnson voted 2-0 at their weekly administrative matters meeting to approve the contract, allowing county resources to be used for the project. Lew Gaiter, the third commissioner, was absent.

    The county’s in-kind contribution will be worth $23,490, including work by weed specialist Casey Cisneros, and its cash share will be $94,797 from the Larimer County Disaster Fund. The watershed coalition will pitch in $7,250 in cash and $49,849 of in-kind help, including volunteer labor.

    This project will focus on the Big Thompson River near Drake, Cedar Cove and Jasper Lake as well as the North Fork of the Big Thompson from Drake all the way to Glen Haven.

    Restoration projects have focused heavily on both private and public land along these areas, but additional work is needed for continued weed management and erosion control, said Shayna Jones, coalition director.

    “These are areas that received a lot of time and effort in the past,” said Jones. “This is about making sure those improvements are maintained and stay on the right trajectory. … We’ll be able to identify the key focal areas that need a little more attention.”

    This work, Donnelly said, is important to the fishery of the river, which is an economic driver for the region, to recreation along the river and to the quality of water that the river delivers to residents, including those who live in Loveland. These projects, he said, help restore the ecosystem and all river functions.

    #Snowpack news: @NorthernWater to set C-BT quota on April 12th

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 17, 2018 via the NRCS.

    From The Fence Post (Nikki Work):

    As of March 14, the state sits at about 67 percent of the average snowpack, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    Things are looking slightly better in northern Colorado, with the two basins that impact Weld County — the Upper Colorado and the South Platte — at 77 percent and 81 percent of the average year, respectively…

    Eric Brown, spokesperson for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said the dry weather is on Northern Water’s radar, just like it’s on farmers’, but there may be one saving grace — a healthy amount of water in reservoir storage.

    Northern Water’s reservoirs are at one of their highest ever levels, with storage at 121 percent of average. Across Colorado, reservoir storage is at about 117 percent of the historic average. While Brown said the water district is optimistic that, in true Colorado fashion, there’s a big spring storm a’comin’, its prepared to use some of its reserves to combat an abnormally dry year.

    “In general, farmers who have access to some sort of water in storage should be okay for 2018, as Northern Water’s C-BT Project and reservoirs across the South Platte Basin are sitting at solid levels for the most part,” Brown said. “But for the farmers who don’t have access to water that’s in storage, they really need snow and/or spring rains in the near future.”

    But for everyone, use of the water in storage this year creates uncertainties down the road, as some of the current surplus will be used up. Plus, a good, wet snow would bring some much-needed moisture to the plains and help with soil quality, which plays an important role in crop health.

    The Northern Water Board will set its quota for C-BT deliveries for the remainder of the 2018 water delivery season at its April 12 board meeting. Both snowpack and C-BT and local non-C-BT reservoir levels will factor into this decision. The board sets a quota each year to balance how much water can be used and how much water needs to stay in storage, and the historic average for the quota is 70 percent.

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    A look at the #Colorado-Big Thompson Project #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit Northern Water.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Kenneth Jessen):

    The drought of the 1930s was the impetus for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

    Work started in 1938 and would span nearly two decades to complete.

    The first project was the Green Mountain Reservoir on the Blue River. The water stored ran north into the Colorado River and is used to compensate for water that would be diverted to the Eastern Slope.

    A significant year for the project was 1944 when work ended on the Alva B. Adams Tunnel, just over 13 miles long. It carried water under the Continental Divide.

    Lake Granby, the largest reservoir in the system, stores Colorado River water during the spring runoff. A second project was the nearby Shadow Mountain Reservoir connected to Grand Lake by a short canal. The two bodies of water are nearly 90 feet higher than Lake Granby.

    The Alva B. Adams Tunnel’s west portal is on the east side of Grand Lake which, incidentally, is the largest natural water body in Colorado.

    After the spring runoff and to keep Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake filled, a pumping station brings Lake Granby water up to their level.

    Added in 1951-52 and on the west side of the Continental Divide is the Willow Creek Reservoir. A pumping station elevates the water 175 feet to a canal flowing into Lake Granby.

    The 9 ½ -foot in diameter Alva B. Adams Tunnel drops 109 feet in its 13 miles, ending at the East Portal.

    From a small lake at the East Portal, the water is carried via a siphon under Aspen Brook to the Rams Horn Tunnel and via a penstock, down to the Marys Lake power plant. This is a drop of 205 feet.

    Running directly under the summit of Prospect Mountain, yet another tunnel and penstock delivers water to the Lake Estes power plant, a drop of 482 feet.

    From Lake Estes, water flows east first through the Olympus Tunnel to the 5 ½ -mile long Pole Hill Tunnel.

    Water is delivered to the top of a canal then to a penstock. It drops 815 feet to the Pole Hill power plant. From there, the water enters the 1 ¾ -mile-long Rattlesnake Tunnel, ending on the west side of Pinewood Lake. An intake on the east end of Pinewood Reservoir takes water through the Bald Mountain Tunnel to the penstock visible from Loveland.

    Water is delivered to the Flatiron power plant at Flatiron Reservoir over 1,000 feet below.

    This is where things get complicated.

    During times of excess water, it is pumped up to Carter Lake, 277 feet higher.

    Water also flows through a short tunnel north to the Hansen Feeder Canal to Horsetooth Reservoir.

    From the south end of Carter Lake, water is delivered into the South St. Vrain Supply Canal. This long canal takes water under part of Rabbit Mountain all the way the Boulder Reservoir.

    In all, West Slope water drops nearly 3,000 feet during its journey to the East Slope.

    The Colorado-Big Thompson Project has created a dozen reservoirs, uses 35 miles of tunnels and also generates a substantial amount of electric power. These are the power plants:

    Marys Lake

    Estes Park

    Pole Hill

    Flatiron

    Green Mountain

    Big Thompson

    Trout

    @USBR to Hold Public Meeting on Estes Valley Resource Management Plan for Lake Estes, Marys Lake and East Portal

    Aerial view of Lake Estes and Olympus Dam looking west. Photo credit Northern Water.

    Here’s the release from Reclamation (James Bishop):

    The Bureau of Reclamation, in cooperation with Estes Valley Recreation and Park District (EVRPD), is seeking public input on a Resource Management Plan (RMP) for Lake Estes, Marys Lake and East Portal lands.

    The agencies will host an open house where the public can learn and ask questions about the resource management planning process, the lands affected by the plan, and provide comments. The open house will be held on Wednesday, October 25, 2017, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Estes Park High School Commons, 1600 Manford Avenue, Estes Park, Colo. Public comments will be welcomed in writing at the open house and throughout the 30-day public comment period.

    The 30-day public comment period will begin on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 and will end at close-of-business on Friday, November 17, 2017. Comments must be provided in writing and can be submitted by e-mail, fax, or regular mail. E-mail comments can be sent to EstesRMP@usbr.gov, and faxed comments can be sent to the attention of Ms. Justina Thorsen at (970) 663-3212. Regular mail comments should be sent to the attention of Ms. Thorsen at: Bureau of Reclamation, 11056 W. County Road 18E, Loveland, Colo. 80537.

    Reclamation is preparing the Estes Valley RMP. The agency will also prepare an Environmental Assessment in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Reclamation owns and operates the Colorado-Big Thompson project, which includes Lake Estes, Marys Lake, East Portal, and the surrounding federal lands. Through a management agreement with Reclamation, EVRPD is responsible for managing recreation at Lake Estes, Marys Lake, and East Portal. The RMP will guide future recreation development as well as the management of natural and cultural resources on federal lands.

    Media inquiries or general questions about Reclamation should be directed to James Bishop at 970-962-4326 or jbishop@usbr.gov. Specific questions about the resource management planning process should be directed to Justina Thorsen at 970-962-4207 or EstesRMP@usbr.gov.

    Update: Big Thompson restoration project

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    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    This stretch of the Big Thompson River, from the Jasper Lake bridge to just before the Cherry Cider Store, was scoured and severely changed during the 2013 floods. It was left too wide and entrenched, with vegetation ripped away from the banks.

    The new face of the river has a narrower channel with more areas along the banks for waters to disperse in the event of another flood.

    It has large boulders specifically placed to control the flow of the water and to create pools for fish habitat.

    There are large trees that extend from under the banks into the river, stabilizing the bank, preventing erosion and creating habitat.

    And trees, forbes and shrubs were strategically planted, again to stabilize the banks, prevent erosion and create shade and habitat.

    “We’ve really made it look like a river again,” said Shayna Jones, watershed coordinator with the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition.

    The goal was to mix several different restoration techniques — the planting, the rocks, the tree trunks — to improve the river while keeping it natural, which from the look of the river is mission accomplished.

    “It’s a really good mix of types of restoration,” added Jones.

    Even the planting is mixed for diversity and meticulously planned out. The project team chose all native vegetation and placed different shrubs, trees, forbes and grasses in different zones along the banks. The willows, live stands transplanted from the river corridor nearby, are close to and in some spots in the water, while pine trees are further away up the shore.

    The trees and shrubs are planted in clumps to mirror nature, not in neat rows as a gardener would do.

    Much of the vegetation was transplanted from the natural surroundings, while other plants were specifically grown by the Colorado State Forest Service for river restoration.

    This project is among five already completed by the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition and its partners, which have more planned this year in the Big Thompson as do other entities like the city of Loveland and Colorado Department of Transportation.

    The recently completed work, called the Jasper Lake project, spans a half mile of the river on both the north and south sides of the highway and crosses private, Larimer County and U.S. Forest Service land.

    It cost $800,000 with the money coming from a mixture of federal, state and private sources, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Rocky Mountain Flycasters and the Trout and Salmon Foundation.

    Though the river project abuts Narrows Park, that piece of public land has not yet been restored. Owned by Larimer County, that park will serve as the site of a temporary bridge crossing the river while the county replaces the Jasper Lake Bridge this fall, so restoration is planned by the county after that bridge project, according to officials involved with the restoration project.

    The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition worked with contractors and several partners, including private landowners, on this project. Walsh said one of the greatest parts was to meet the people, to listen about the river’s past and to explain the new, healthier river that was being created.

    Big Thompson Flood remembrance

    Looking west into the narrows after the Big Thompson Flood July 31, 1976

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Michelle Vendegna):

    For more than 20 years, Anderson has organized the event that commemorates the 1976 flood that started with heavy rain on July 31, 1976. It caused a massive surge of water to race down the Big Thompson Canyon with little warning, resulting in the deaths of 144 people.

    Community members have gathered yearly at the memorial outside the volunteer firehouse to remember those victims. Five candles are lit for those who were never found: Rochelle Rogers, Teresa Graham, George McCarty, Vernon Oler and Evelyn Kindred.

    Monday night, Pastor Paul Logue from Estes Park Baptist church officiated while Jerry Shaffer provided music and Daryle Klassen offered a tribute.

    Bob Graham shared his memories of losing his wife Beverly and two young daughters. Teresa and Lisa. He also lost his mother, Clara Graham.

    Graham recounted his experience both during and after the flood.

    “It would have been unbearable if not for good friends at the Loveland Fire Department,” he said.

    “The loss of one’s children is the greatest loss a parent can endure,” he added.

    Linda Marriner of LaPorte comes each year to remember her father, Doc Ealy Lee, who died in the flood.

    “He loved that river,” she said. Her father loved to fish and went every chance he got, although he would never keep his catch. Linda said he hated the taste.

    Linda was joined by her son Luke, his wife Amy and their two sons, Colby, 3, and Caden, 5.

    “It’s really about being with my mom,” Luke Marriner said. He has been to the ceremony every year.

    He said his mom always talked about his grandfather while he was growing up.

    “It was probably more me asking than her telling,” he said, and they have continued to talk about him with the two young boys as the anniversary rolls around.

    “It’s important to keep this alive,” Luke said.

    Each year, scholarships are given to living relatives of those who were lost. The scholarships come from donations, various fundraisers and sales of books “The Big Thompson Flood” and “Big Thompson Flood Disasters.”

    The four recipients for 2017 are Drew Lanig, of Missouri, who is the great-grandson Joseph Appelbaum; Haley Haskell, of Iowa, who is the great-granddaughter of William and Emma Haskell and who lost four other family members; Shannon Peistrup, of Littleton, who is the great-granddaughter of Norma Peistrup; and Trenton Drake Allison, of Kansas, who is the great-grandson of Gene and Faith Saunders.

    For more information on the yearly gathering or to donate, http://1976bigthompsonflood.org.

    Big Thompson Flood, July 31, 1976

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jason Pohl):

    All told, Colorado’s deadliest natural disaster claimed 144 lives, injured scores of others, and permanently altered memories and landscapes alike. It prompted new talks about living in flood country and became the “where were you” moment for a generation, ranking alongside Dec. 7, 1941, and Sept. 11, 2001.

    Drake: Big Thompson Memorial Service Monday, July 31, 2017, 7:00 PM

    Looking west into the narrows after the Big Thompson Flood July 31, 1976

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    The annual commemoration of the 1976 Big Thompson Flood is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the site of a flood memorial one mile east of Drake Road on U.S. Highway 34.

    The flash flood of July 31, 1976, in the Big Thompson Canyon took 144 lives, making it the worst natural disaster in Colorado’s history.

    The memorial service will include speakers, music, announcement of academic scholarships to relatives of flood victims, and light refreshments. Participants should bring a lawn chair for their comfort.

    Information: http://www.1976bigthompsonflood.org

    #Runoff news: The Big Thompson has peaked, Yampa flows too high for tubing

    From The Estes Park Trail Gazette (David Persons):

    It may not look like it as the Big Thompson River and Fall River continue to race through the middle of town and a very noticeable snowpack still looms in the high country, but experts believe the peak runoff for this current season has just occurred and that we should soon see the water levels dropping.

    “Right now what we can say is that it (the seasonal runoff) is comparable with previous years and we are pretty certain that it has already peaked, probably two days ago,” said James Bishop on Wednesday afternoon. Bishop is the Public Involvement Specialist for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Colorado…

    The flow of the Big Thompson River at Moraine Park peaked at 755 cubic feet per second (cfs) at 2:15 a.m. Sunday morning. Since then, the flow has dropped significantly to 613 cfs on Monday to 267 cfs by late Wednesday afternoon…

    Checking U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources charts finds that the Big Thompson River flow just below Lake Estes peaked at 804 cfs at 3:15 a.m. Tuesday while the Big Thompson River flow at Loveland peaked at 492 cfs at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

    From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

    It is hot and the river looks tempting, but it is still too early to safely tube the Yampa River…

    Not only is the water currently very turbulent, but it is also very cold. Steamboat Flyfisher was reporting a water temperature Wednesday of 54 degrees.

    Many in N. #Colorado welcome the @OmahaUSACE approval for Chimney Hollow Reservoir

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):

    Just last week, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the Chimney Hollow reservoir project, which will hold 90,000 acre feet of water and feed several Front Range communities, including Greeley.

    Such infrastructure is vital for future growth, regardless, [Brian] Werner said.

    The fight is not over. The conservancy district will continue to fight for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a proposed water storage and distribution project that will supply 15 northern Front Range communities with 40,000 acre feet of water. That’s been held up at the Army Corps of Engineers for more than a decade. A decision is expected next year.

    “Chimney Hollow and NISP will put a major dent into what we’ll need down the road,” Werner said. “More people are coming whether we build this or not. Our future looks a lot better having some of these storage buckets with more people than a lot more people and no storage buckets. We’ll start drying up more farms. We’ve got to have water.”

    In addition to water storage, the city of Greeley, has an intense focus on proper drainage to combat the decades-old problem of flooding in Greeley.

    Joel Hemesath, public works director, said the city has been working for the past two years with some bond money to improve drainage in and around Greeley. He said the city is gearing up for downtown projects, as well, that will route drainage to a detention pond by the Poudre River via bigger pipes.

    Since 2012, the city has spent a little more than $17 million on stormwater projects.

    The city also works hard to improve trails, dedicating just shy of $900,000 to them since 2012.

    Hemesath said the city would like to extend Sheep Draw Trail through some more western subdivisions, and extend the Poudre Trail farther east.

    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.

    #Snowpack/#runoff news: Big Thompson flows up

    Olympus Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has announced that it has begun to increase the amount of water it is releasing from Lake Estes into the Big Thompson River by way of Olympus Dam.

    The increase began Monday, according to the bureau on its Facebook page.

    The increase will go from the current level of 50 cubic feet per second (cfs) to about 100 cfs. The exact cfs released will depend on inflows into Lake Estes, but the range will be between 50 cfs and 100 cfs, the announcement said.

    A cubic foot of water is equivalent to 7.48 gallons. That means there are 748 gallons in 100 cubic feet of water. The average American home uses 400 gallons of water a day, or about half of the flow when it’s 100 cubic feet.

    The release from the lake into the river is expected to increase through the spring as the annual runoff flows increase.

    The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation owns and operates Lake Estes and Olympus Dam as part of the federal trans-basin diversion Colorado-Big Thompson water project.

    Water level and runoff information regarding Olympus Dam and Lake Estes can be found on the Bureau’s Facebook page at http://facebook.com/LakeEstesandOlyDam.

    Fish Recovery and its Economic Implications in the Big Thompson — KUNC

    Fly fishing below Olympus Dam (Colorado-Big Thompson Project) September 17, 2015 via the Bureau of Reclamation
    Fly fishing below Olympus Dam (Colorado-Big Thompson Project) September 17, 2015 via the Bureau of Reclamation

    From KUNC (Maeve Conran):

    Every fall, biologists count the fish to get an overall view of the river’s health. A healthy river means a lot of healthy fish, trout in this case, rainbow and brown. And a healthy fish population means a healthy local economy with jobs dependent on the fishing and recreation industry.

    “People come to Estes Park for a lot of reasons, and fishing is one of them,” says Jack Deloose, who has been a fishing guide in Estes Park for four years. “We get an awful lot of people. We’ll probably end up with 600 people that will fish with us this year.”

    An estimated 50,000 anglers descend on this area annually, spending on average $103 each on everything from fishing guides and equipment to lodging and food…

    About $4 million a year flows into local coffers as a result of this river. As so much tourism depends on the fish, the results of the annual fish count are closely watched.

    The biologists conduct the count at two separate sites. This area is in good shape. There are shallow spots where the fish like to spawn, and rock pools for winter habitat. Further downstream, it’s a different story.

    Immediately after the 2013 flood, the fish population there was zero. It slowly recovered, but a concrete spill into the water earlier this year during road repairs set the recovery back.

    Permanent repairs have begun on the parts of the river and adjoining highway that were most damaged by the floods, but Swigle says the repairs will also tackle problems dating back 40 years.

    “We’ve been educated from two floods, 1976 and 2013. In both cases, the flood won and the river lost,” says Swigle. “Now we’re building a road that is resilient in the face of flooding, so when it happens again—and it will—we won’t have to spend $500 million to repair the road.”

    The repairs will raise the adjoining road and create a wider floodplain. That will help the river cope with future floods.

    After collecting the fish, the task of counting, weighing and measuring them begins. The number of fish in this stretch amounts to almost 4,000 total per mile, indicating a healthy section of the river. Further downstream, as predicted, the fish count is much lower, in the low hundreds of fish per mile. But Swigle is hopeful that those numbers will improve in the future.

    “Ultimately we’d like to see the number of trout that we found here, downstream in the same abundance,” Swigle says.

    Repairs on that lower stretch started in October and will likely continue through June 2017.

    ‘As the Poudre Flows — Forest to Plains’ theme of Poudre River Forum

    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)
    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)

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jim Beers):

    The Cache la Poudre River, which flows from the mountains through Fort Collins, Timnath and Windsor to the plains east of Greeley, is at the heart of countless activities: from irrigating crops and lawns to providing drinking water for more than 365,000 people and hosting numerous recreational activities.

    Those with connections to and concerns for the Poudre River will gather on Friday, Feb. 3 for the fourth annual Poudre River Forum. After its first three years at Larimer County Fairgrounds, the forum is moving down the river to Greeley as a reminder that the Poudre River is important to all who benefit from it — from its headwaters to its confluence with the South Platte. This year’s forum — the theme is “As the Poudre Flows — Forest to Plains” — will be held from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Island Grove Events Center, 501 N. 14th Ave., Greeley. Pre-registration is required for all participants.

    Understanding the river, each other

    Sponsored by the Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group, the forum serves as a community-wide gathering of people from agricultural, municipal, business, recreational and environmental backgrounds to learn about and discuss issues related to the Poudre River.

    “The Poudre River Forum brings together those who use the river for agricultural and urban diversions and those who work to improve its ecological health. In the past those groups have not necessarily seen eye to eye,” said MaryLou Smith, PRTI facilitator. “Increasingly our participants are open to the idea that it takes collective vision and action to make the Poudre the world’s best example of a healthy, working river.”

    Once again, this year’s event will be facilitated by the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. “The Forum is a great opportunity for the communities connected by the Poudre River to come together to better understand the entire watershed, and each other,” said Reagan Waskom, director of CWI.

    Forests and water quality/quantity

    Laurie Huckaby with the U.S. Forest Service, will present “The last 1,000 years in the Poudre according to the trees,” to kick off the topic of how important the upper watershed is to water quantity and quality.

    “Water quality and forests are inextricably linked,” said Joe Duda of the Colorado State Forest Service, who will join Huckaby as one of the presenters. “Forest conditions and insects, disease and fire all can have profound impacts on water flow and quality. Only healthy, resilient forests can continuously supply clean water.”

    Global lessons for local success

    “Finding the Balance: Managing Water for People and Nature” is the message of keynote speaker Brian Richter. Richter has been a global leader in water science and conservation for more than 25 years, and currently serves as chief scientist for the Global Water Program of The Nature Conservancy in Washington D.C. Richter’s ideas about the importance of recognizing the balance of working river/healthy river are the basis for which PRTI was initially formed. He has consulted on more than 120 water projects worldwide, and has served as a water advisor to some of the world’s largest corporations, investment banks, the United Nations, and has testified before Congress on multiple occasions. Richter co-authored,with Sandra Postel, the 2003 book Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature and in 2014 wrote Chasing Water: A Guide for Moving from Scarcity to Sustainability.

    Change affects all sectors

    An afternoon panel session will probe the impacts of change — positive and negative — along the Poudre River and how they have been similarly and differently addressed by agriculture, urban, and environmental sectors. They will discuss what anticipated future changes might these three sectors see as opportunities or incentives for mutually beneficial collaboration that could result in a healthier, working river?

    “It has been said that the only thing that is constant is change,” said John Bartholow, retired ecologist from U.S. Geological Survey, and panel coordinator/moderator. “The question is, can we learn to adapt to those changes sure to come on the Poudre in ways that benefit agriculture, municipalities, and the environment?”

    The panel will include Eric Reckentine, deputy director, City of Greeley Water and Sewer; John Sanderson, director of science, Nature Conservancy of Colorado; and Dale Trowbridge, general manager, New Cache la Poudre Irrigating Company.

    Videos, displays and music too

    The day-long forum also includes “River Snapshots” highlighting more than 15 projects undertaken by a variety of groups on the Poudre last year; “My How the Poudre Has Changed,” featuring historical 1970’s footage of the Poudre; updates from both the cities of Greeley and Fort Collins on current water programs; and over two dozen river-focused displays from community organizations and agencies. The day concludes with a social hour including food, beer and other beverages, and river-themed door prizes.

    Registration is $50 and includes lunch. Scholarships for students and reduced rates are available. The deadline to register is Friday, Jan. 27 at http://prti.colostate.edu/forum_2017.shtml.

    For more information, contact event coordinator Gailmarie Kimmel at PoudreRiverForum@gmail.com or 970-692-1443.

    http://www.reporterherald.com/news/ci_30684388/big-t-river-rehab-begin

    Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 -- photo via Northern Water
    Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 — photo via Northern Water

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    This year, actual work will begin to repair habitat along and inside several stretches of the Big Thompson River through a grassroots group, The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition, that formed after the 2013 flood.

    “2017 is going to be a big year for projects happening on the ground,” said Shayna Jones, watershed coordinator with the coalition. “We’re talking millions of dollars in river restoration.”

    A couple of projects through the coalition have already begun, but several others are going to kick off in 2017. Early in the year, the coalition will put out bids for a contractor to work on a stretch about a mile long from Jasper Lake through Narrows Park, which is in the lower section of the canyon.

    Estimated to cost $900,000, the project will include stabilizing sections of the banks, planting vegetation and creating what are called flood plain benches to allow the water space to spread out in the event of a future flood, explained Jones and Tracy Wendt, assistant watershed coordinator.

    The work also includes improving fish habitat in several ways, such as building pools within the river and planting vegetation in strategic places to provide shade and cover.

    “There will be habitat improvements for all different life stages of trout,” Wendt said. “It’s all the phases of their life to help them.”

    Because of the fish habitat component, the coalition, in partnership with Rocky Mountain Flycasters, recently received a $4,500 grant from the Trout and Salmon Foundation. And the Flycasters, a local chapter of Trout Unlimited, also contributed $2,000 to the project.

    The bulk of the funding, about $500,000, will come from the Natural Resources Conservation Service with the rest of the money from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Jones explained.

    This piece of the river winds through both private and public properties and ends just before the Narrows near the Colorado Cherry Company.

    Other projects also are planned further west along the river with more money coming from the NRCS and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The exact amounts of money and grants are still being finalized, though Jones did confirm the total work would be in the millions.

    Other projects to rehabilitate the river and river corridor are occurring simultaneously including one that will begin in 2017 as a partnership with the coalition and Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch.

    Work began in October and will continue this spring on West Creek, and other improvements began two weeks ago on Fox Creek. Both, located along the North Fork near Glen Haven, are being built in partnership with Larimer County, NRCS and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    Also, Larimer County, private property owners, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Colorado Department of Transportation officials are working on separate stretches of the river, with everyone working together for overall river benefit.

    “We’re making sure our projects are complementing each other to make for an overall healthy watershed,” Jones said.

    She expects the work to continue over the next three years as the Colorado Department of Transportation completes the permanent repairs of U.S. 34, which also include massive river restoration work.

    #ColoradoRiver: @USBR Lake Estes and Olympic Dam operations update #COriver

    First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit  Northern Water.
    First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit Northern Water.

    From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    On Monday at 5:30 pm of this week diversions through the Adams Tunnel to the east slope of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project began. While this picks up, Lake Estes will rise slightly and is expected to be return to typical levels by next mid-week.

    The Olympus Dam slide gate remains set to release low-level winter flows to the Big Thompson River.

    This rate of fill will be maintained for several days to ensure safe operations below the Estes Power Plant. The majority of the water in Lake Estes enters through the power plant via the C-BT Project.

    Track Lake Estes’ water elevation at our tea cup page: http://www.usbr.gov/gp-bin/arcweb_olydamco.pl

    Olympus Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation.
    Olympus Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation.