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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
A view of the location of the proposed Chimney Hollow dam and reservoir site in the foothills between Loveland and Longmont. The 90,000 acre-foot reservoir would store water for nine Front Range cities, two water districts and a utility, and is being held up a lawsuit challenging federal environmental reviews. Graphic credit: Brent Gardner-Smith
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.
This graphic, provided by Northern Water, depicts Chimney Hollow Reservoir, located southwest of Loveland, after it is built.
Site of Chimney Hollow Reservoir via Northern Water.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Site of proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir — Windy Gap Firming Project via the Longmont Times-Call
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 email@example.com.
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/.
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
Five reservoirs that store and deliver water to the Front Range for agriculture and
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.
The Cameron Peak fire soon after it started on Aug. 13, 2020. By Sept. 11, the fire had grown to more than 102,000 acres (now >200,000 acres) and was not expected to be considered out until Oct. 31. Photo credit: InciWeb via The Colorado Sun
East Troublesome Fire. Photo credit: Brad White via The Mountain Town News
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.
…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.”
FromThe 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org…
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…
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 email@example.com…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Specific questions about the resource management planning process should be directed to Justina Thorsen at 970-962-4207 or EstesRMP@usbr.gov.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Site of Chimney Hollow Reservoir via Northern Water.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Chimney Hollow Reservoir site via the Bureau of Reclamation
Site of proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir — Windy Gap Firming Project via the Longmont Times-Call
Windy Gap participants (2012)
Windy Gap Reservoir
Windy Gap Reservoir
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
The C-BT Project water year ended on Oct. 31. C-BT Project storage levels on Nov. 1 were above average for a third consecutive year, with 548,274 acre-feet in active storage. The Nov. 1 average is 444,177 AF. Deliveries increased in 2016 over 2015 levels, with 204,078 AF delivered (including quota, Carryover Program and Regional Pool Program water). Forty-six percent of the deliveries were from Horsetooth Reservoir, 40 percent from Carter Lake and the remaining 14 percent went to the Big Thompson River, Hansen Feeder Canal and the South Platte River. Estimated deliveries to municipal and industrial users totaled 102,157 AF, while agricultural deliveries were approximately 101,921 AF.
Starting Oct. 27, officials from the Bureau of Reclamation turned off the water diversion tunnel from the West Slope to the Colorado-Big Thompson Project that feeds many of the lakes and reservoirs in Larimer County. The reservoir levels have also been lowered through the release of water to storage downstream.
According to a news release from the agency, the shutdown has allowed for the inspection of dams at Marys Lake and Lake Estes near Estes Park, and Flatiron Reservoir west of Loveland.
While the reservoirs are at low levels, crews are also looking at the power generation facilities at the Marys and Pole Hill power plants and the Charles Hansen Feeder Canal.
According to agency officials, the work will continue on the reservoirs and facilities throughout November, with water diversions through the Adams Tunnel from the Western Slope slated to resume in mid-December.
FromAspen Journalism (Allen Best) via The Aspen Daily News:
Nobody disputes that the Colorado-Big Thompson project has changed Grand Lake, the state’s largest, deepest natural lake. How could it not?
In the 1940s, Grand Lake was integrated into the giant C-BT, what the late historian David Lavender called a “massive violation of geography.” It’s Colorado’s largest transmountain diversion project. By one tally in the 1990s, it delivers an average 231,060 acre-feet annually from the headwaters of the Colorado River to cities and farms east of the Continental Divide. This compares to the 105,024 acre-feet from three tunnels through the Sawatch Range east of Aspen.
Almost immediately after the C-BT was completed in 1953, locals began to complain that the project shoehorned into the lake had sullied the lake’s clarity by introducing algae and sediments. This is, they insist, a violation of federal law.
The controversy pivots on Senate Document 80, a part of the Congressional authorization for project funding in 1937. The document describes the needs of irrigation, industrial and power production but also warns against impacts to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.
The lake, if outside the park, has one of Colorado’s most memorable backdrops. The document specifies the need “to preserve the fishing and recreational facilities and the scenic attractions of Grand Lake…”
On that, say many locals, the C-BT has failed, and they say that until recently they got little response from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that built the C-BT.
But now, in a reversal, the bureau is working with 18 other stakeholders in an effort to solve the problem. Parties include Northern Colorado Water, the agency that manages the diversions for cities and farmers of northeastern Colorado, Grand County and other state and local organizations.
Grand Lake’s story fits into a broad theme of changed sensibilities in Colorado about 20th century river alterations. Restoration and remediation projects are starting or underway on the San Miguel River in Telluride, on the Eagle River at Camp Hale and on the Fraser River near Winter Park.
“It’s possible that at one time, the impacts of the CBT Project on Grand Lake clarity were thought to be just part of the price we pay for valuable water projects,” said Anne Castle, a fellow at the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “Now, we are more inclined to believe that the environmental values have significance, including economic significance, and that operations can and should be adjusted to better accommodate these values.”
The work at Grand Lake also illustrates the power of persistence and spunk by advocates of environmental protection. And it involves a collaborative process called adaptive management that emphasizes consensus-based decision-making in solving stubborn issues involving water diversions.
Nobody thinks solving this problem will be easy, though. In April, after several years of working together, the Grand Lake stakeholders submitted a plan to the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. The plan approved by the commission sets an interim clarity goal for summer pumping during the next five years.
During that time, the Bureau of Reclamation is to develop a plan for long-term solutions. Alternatives include expensive new tunnels, possibly bypassing Grand Lake altogether. A preview of the alternatives may emerge at a meeting of stakeholders in late November.
Not everybody in Grand Lake thinks that reduced clarity is a problem. “There are people who think there’s a problem, but there is no problem,” says Jim Gasner, a member of the Grand Lake Board of Trustees, the town’s elected body, and a fishing “teacher” at Rocky Mountain Outfitters.
But Elwin Crabtree, a real estate agent and former Grand County commissioner, sees something different. “It’s adverse to its natural being,” he said in early August in an interview at his office along the town’s main street of knotty-pined stores and lodges. “I think we look at it as a moral issue,” he added. “I think we believe in having responsibility to be good stewards of our environment.”
The C-BT is an effort to address what one historian in the 1950s called “nature’s error.” Even as Aspen was putting on its silver-lined britches in the 1880s, farmers along the South Platte River and its tributaries were struggling with inadequate water in late summer to finish their corn and other crops.
Irrigators set out to remedy this. The first large-scale transmountain diversion from the headwaters of the Colorado River began in 1890. Called the Grand River Ditch, it’s beveled into the side of the Never Summer Range in what is now Rocky Mountain National Park, collecting water like a rain gutter from a roof.
Then came the 1930s, the decade of the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression and the New Deal. Farmers in northeastern Colorado had long been agitating for added infusions of water from the Colorado River headwaters. But they couldn’t get it done themselves. They needed federal funding.
The flawed design
But the work along the Continental Divide from 1939 to 1953 created a wound at Grand Lake. In retrospect, the design was flawed.
The C-BT at the Colorado River headwaters consists of three main bodies of interconnected water. Only one, Grand Lake, is natural.
Farthest downstream is Granby Reservoir, which is Colorado’s third largest, capable of holding 539,758 acre-feet of water during runoff of spring and early summer. This compares to Ruedi Reservoir’s 102,373 acre-feet and Dillon’s 257,304 acre-feet.
From Granby, water is pumped upstream as needed by Eastern Slope diverters to Shadow Mountain Reservoir. Shallow, no more than nine feet deep, Shadow Mountain is directly connected through a short canal to Grand Lake.
The canal occupies the original path of the Colorado River emerging from Grand Lake. From the interconnected Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir, water is then pumped through the 13.1-mile Alva Adams Tunnel underneath the national park to the Estes Park area for storage in reservoirs there and along the northern Front Range.
Shadow Mountain is a problem, though. Its shallowness allows water to be easily warmed in summer, producing algae that can float into Grand Lake. The shallowness also allows lake-bottom sediments to be disturbed more easily and dispersed into Grand Lake.
Evidence for the historic, pre-construction clarity of Grand Lake is scant: Just one measurement, taken in 1941, of 9.2 meters (30 feet).
Detailed observations during the last decade show clarity down to 6 meters (19.6 feet), but no more.
The standard adopted in April by the state agency specifies a minimum of 2.5 meters and an average of 3.8 meters (8.2 feet to 12.4 feet) during summer diversion season.
“I think the clarity standard has really elevated the discussion,” says Lane Wyatt, co-director of the water quality/quantity committee in the Northwest Council of Governments. “This is the only clarity standard in Colorado. It’s the first one we’ve ever done.”
Clarity is not the only issue, though. Water must be delivered to farms and cities. As it is flows downhill toward the Great Plains, it generates electricity distributed by the Western Area Power Authority. Purchasers of this low-cost power include Aspen Electric and Holy Cross Energy.
Canton “Scally” O’Donnell, president of the Three Lakes Watershed Association, remembers a more pristine past.
As a boy, his family summered at Grand Lake. That was in the 1930s and 1940s. “We drank the water right out of the lake, and many families did that,” O’Donnell said.
The first complaint about the sullied water was filed in 1954, the year after the project’s formal completion. In 1956, Grand Lake trustees adopted a resolution that informed Colorado’s congressional delegation of problems. The resolution was aimed at the Bureau of Reclamation.
“I think it’s fair to say that up until seven or eight years ago, the bureau pretty much stonewalled,” O’Donnell said. “They just did not want to recognize the problem, and Northern Colorado Water, the same.”
Movement has occurred during the last decade. One avenue for local protest was a proposed expansion of an existing diversion of the Colorado River at Windy Gap, about 15 miles downstream. Completed in 1985, the Windy Gap dam uses the C-BT infrastructure to deliver additional water to the Rawhide power plant north of Fort Collins, Greeley, Boulder and other cities.
The Windy Gap Firming, or expansion, plan was formally introduced after the drought of 2002. It proposes diversion of remaining water rights owned by a string of northern Front Range cities.
The effect of persistence
O’Donnell, of the Three Lakes Watershed Association, thinks the changed attitudes is explained by the persistence of individual public officials.
He singles out Lurline Underbrink Curran, then the Grand County manager. “She’s smart and she’s tough,” he said. “She just kept on beating on everybody to make it happen.”
He also points to the influence of Anne Castle, a long-time Denver water lawyer who served from 2009 to 20014 as assistant secretary for water and science in the Interior Department. Her responsibilities included oversight of the Bureau of Reclamation.
“I think part of the reason it has attention now is the fact that the Windy Gap Firming Project required the federal government to pay attention to Senate Document 80 and both C-BT and Windy Gap Firming Project do have an impact on Grand Lake’s recreation and scenic attraction. Calling attention to that issue, as both Lurline and I did, with prodding from Scally, had an impact,” Castle said.
But again, agreeing there is a problem is not the same thing as finding a solution.
“There is a lot of uncertainty about how our operations affect clarity,” said Victor Lee, an engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation.
The precise circumstances that cause algae and sediments to degrade clarity are poorly understood. Northern has been altering its diversion regimes, to see if that will improve clarity.
This year, from July until late August, pumping was conducted about 15 hours a day at 250 cubic feet per second. Clarity degraded, though. Algae growth was suspected. So the pumping was accelerated to about 20 hours a day with two pumps. Results were mixed.
It was a success, said Lee, in that they learned something. Clarity readings exceeded the minimum but did not meet the average standard. “I would say the experiment was successful, but we did not meet our objective,” he said.
Esther Vincent, water quality manager for Northern Water, said the effort to address Grand Lake’s muddled clarity is attracting attention across Colorado by water professionals. Spurring their interest, she said, is the possibility of other bodies of water being assigned clarity standards.
There’s also interest in the adaptive management process created for Grand Lake. It’s similar to but separate from Learning By Doing, which was created in response to expanded water diversions from both Windy Gap and by Denver Water’s Moffat Tunnel collection system.
Vincent also points out a deeply philosophical question. In 1937, when adopting S.D. 80, did Congress have the same notion about what constitutes “scenic attraction” as we do today?
“I am an engineer,” she said. “Asking an engineer to define what beauty is, is an interesting dilemma. It’s not a concept that lends itself very well to science.”
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on coverage of Colorado’s rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.
I hear your concerns about the water quality and taste and odor issues we are experiencing in Loveland. My goal is to be as transparent as possible by sharing information about what is causing the taste and odor issues in Loveland and what Loveland Water and Power (LWP) is doing to resolve the problem.
Loveland has been abuzz for months about the unusually large, stubborn algae bloom at Green Ridge Glade Reservoir, one source of Loveland’s drinking water. Although this bloom is fierce, the drinking water in Loveland still meets federal regulatory requirements, plus even more-stringent state standards, for drinking water.
This algae bloom in particular is the largest we have ever seen. As a result of the 2013 flood, more nutrients have entered into runoff as it makes its way to our reservoir. The extreme heat and abundant sunshine we have had this summer developed into the perfect storm for an enormous algae bloom.
This bloom has revealed new algae species that reproduce more quickly and produce stronger geosmin, the compound that causes taste and odor issues. Additionally, the Big Thompson River is now afflicted with a significant level of the same algae. We cannot treat the free-flowing river water in the same way as we do the reservoir. And at this time, we are blending water from both the river and the reservoir at the Water Treatment Plant (WTP).
LWP water quality specialists are closely monitoring water quality by testing water samples at the Water Treatment Plant as well as at homes and businesses throughout the city on a daily basis. We are also treating the reservoir with a hydrogen peroxide-based algaecide that was developed as an environmentally safe alternative to copper-based algaecides. The only end-products of the treatment we use are oxygen and water. In addition, we are using a safe, absorbent activated-carbon compound inside the treatment plant to remove as much taste, odor and color from the water as possible.
Our technical staff continues to explore safe alternatives for treating algae blooms in the future while walking a thin line between the price tag of new technology and reasonable rates for our customers. Next week, LWP will begin a feasibility study to evaluate options for algae mitigation. The study will include permanent aeration or oxygenation system in the reservoir. We will also do a preliminary design of a larger system to store and dispense the activated carbon compound at the WTP. Unfortunately, those large capital costs are currently not budgeted.
The safety and quality of our drinking water is one of LWP’s most important goals. We recognize the vital role water plays in our daily lives. LWP takes water quality very seriously and will continue to produce safe, clean drinking water for our customers. We ask for your patience while we work to resolve this problem and find a way to prevent it in the future.
An algae bloom in Green Ridge Glade Reservoir, the worst Loveland’s Water and Power division has experienced, is to blame for the unsavory taste and odor plaguing the city’s water supply. The blue-green algae is harmless, health-wise, according to state lab test results.
While the minuscule taste-and-odor compound released by the algae makes the taste disgusting, a lucky 25 percent of residents think the water’s fine because they can’t taste or smell the compound.
Soon, the other 75 percent of the city will have better-tasting water. The first hard freeze will mean a slow die-off of the algae bloom, water treatment manager Scott Dickmeyer said. After that, the water’s taste and smell should return to normal within a week or two.
But Loveland will have to invest in some new mitigation methods to keep the algae at bay.
Green Ridge Glade has always been susceptible to algae growth because it’s deep and relatively still. It’s not a recreation hub like Horsetooth Reservoir, from which Fort Collins gets its water, and water doesn’t flow in and out of it at a rapid rate like at Horsetooth because Loveland is its sole user.
So as temperatures rise, the reservoir’s deeper, stiller water produces nutrients that promote the growth of anabaena, a type of algae common in water systems.
Loveland officials use a hydrogen peroxide-based product to kill the algae, but the issue has gotten worse since the 2013 Big Thompson floods because of the nutrient influx and the mysterious introduction of a new species of algae that’s harder to kill.
That’s why even though the algae issue is nothing new, many residents noticed it for the first time late this summer…
The city’s been using powder-activated carbon to remove the taste-and-odor compound from the water and funneling more Big Thompson River water into its treatment plant, but each method has drawbacks.
Powder-activated carbon removes only 50 to 60 percent of the compound because it’s not great at trapping such tiny particles. Loveland’s treated water contains about 20 to 40 parts of the compound per trillion parts of water…
“It’s a very, very small amount, but most people are very, very sensitive to it,” Dickmeyer said. “It only takes about 5 parts per trillion for our customers to start noticing it.”
And within the last few weeks, algae started cropping up in the Big Thompson River, so diluting the taste with another water source wasn’t an option.
Loveland Water and Power is considering adding oxygen to the reservoir to discourage algae growth. The division is also considering more aggressive treatment options that won’t “cost a fortune,” Dickmeyer said.
Students from Estes Park High School teamed up with ecology experts from the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition on Wednesday to help rebuild the ecosystem along lower Fish Creek. That area was devastated by the flood in 2013, washing away vegetation, eroding the banks, destroying the utility infrastructure, and damaging homes.
The Coalition has been working for the last year to restore areas damaged by the flood. They selected this area of Fish Creek as their first project, according to Molly Mills, Coordinator of the Coalition. Nearly a year ago, she met with Chuck Scott, principal of the high school, and asked if the Coalition could work on restoring the river banks adjoining school property.
“I asked him for permission to work on school property,” she recalled, “and he said, ‘Only if you involve the kids and make this a learning experience,'” said Mills.
Mills agreed at once to the plan, and she took the responsibility for securing grant funding and obtaining legal permission to work on the river banks. That required several months, since there are numerous overlapping jurisdictions involved in the Fish Creek watershed.
With guidance from teacher Alex Harris, the high school’s Environmental Club began planning and recruiting their classmates for this event. Mills did some training with the students, teaching them about riverine ecology, and the proper techniques for planting trees. The students in the club then created training materials for the student volunteers.
“This has been a student-run project the whole way,” said Mills. “I brought the idea to them, and the funding; they organized the volunteers, mapped it out, and got the logistical support.”
Beginning early in the morning on Wednesday, students transported plants and supplies in pickup trucks to three areas along Fish Creek. More than 300 students arrived and split into teams to get to work on the riverbank. They began by pulling and bagging noxious weeks that have proliferated since the flood. They also cleared the banks of accumulated flood debris and trash.
The Coalition brought in 3,000 trees, provided by the Colorado State Forest Service. The specific species had been selected by Mills in consultation with ecology experts. They included river birch, alder, chokecherry, and cottonwood. Mills’s ecology consultants marked the locations for each tree. Working in teams, the students dug holes, planted the trees, and carried buckets of water from Fish Creek to water them.
Nearly the entire student body has been involved in this project, including the Culinary Arts class, which planned and prepared lunch for the students, teachers and volunteers. Students in the Film Studies are making a documentary to tell the story of the project. The faculty and administrators also supported the project…
Randy Mandel, representing the Colorado Water Conservation Board, walked among the groups of students. A water and ecology specialist, Mandel explained to the students how their efforts would improve the watershed. Mandel noticed a student struggling with the root ball of a tree. He bent down and guided her in the proper technique.
Gary Miller, President of the Coalition, said that the flood impacted Fish Creek more severely than any other area in the Estes Valley, and therefore was chosen as the first project.
“The Coalition was formed to bring together organizations interested in sustainable restoration of the flood damaged areas,” he said. The Estes Valley has seen three 500 year floods since 1979, and Miler predicted that we should expect more in the future. “We need to be prepared for the next huge event,” he said. He pointed out that this project has served to educate the students about the broader problem of environmental disasters.
Mills said that this is the first phase of the revegetation of the Fish Creek watershed. The next phase will be putting up fencing around the young trees to encourage the elk and deer to browse elsewhere.
“Otherwise,” she said, “they will eat everything we’ve planted.”
In the next few months, the Coalition will be mulching the area and broadcasting native grass seeds to improve the ground cover.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
C-BT Project Update
Going into September, C-BT Project storage continued to be above average. On Sept. 1, 2016, total active storage was 619,418 acre-feet, which is approximately 128,000 AF above average for this time of year.
For the 2016 water year, 142,579 AF has been delivered with 42 percent of the deliveries 0 from Carter Lake and 49 percent from Horsetooth Reservoir. The remaining nine percent is delivered from the Big Thompson River and the Hansen Feeder Canal.
From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:
Colorado communities that rely on water from dozens of glaciers and glacier features in Rocky Mountain National Park are concerned because the glaciers are shrinking as temperatures climb and winter snowfall becomes more uncertain.
Water from the Poudre, Colorado and Big Thompson rivers get meltwater from dozens of glaciers and glacier-like features around the park.
Park glaciers always vary in size depending on the seasons, but low snowfall amounts could keep them from being replenished. A change of a few degrees when temperatures are near the freezing point can turn snow into rain.
Between the 1990s and 2005, the glaciers started to shrink at an increasing rate. Rocky Mountain National Park’s glaciers were already small by comparison.
The biggest glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park is about 31 acres (13 hectares), according to a study in 2007.
A two-year study is underway to find out how the glaciers have changed in area and volume since 2005. Scientists will be using historic maps, climate records, photographs and measurements to better understand what’s happening.
Scientists will also study how glacier melt influences rivers, by measuring streamflow and collecting water samples to see how much water glaciers contribute to rivers…
Even a small loss in the snow and ice that feed rivers in northern Colorado could have a big effect on water supplies to Fort Collins and other nearby communities.
Paul McLaughlin, an ecologist at the park’s Continental Divide Research Learning Center, said changes in the amount of water and temperatures could also damage delicate river ecosystems.
The project, spearheaded by Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, is wrapping up, and a crew of teens attending a fly-fishing camp this week planted trees, shrubs and grass on a section of the river about 2 miles above Drake as part of the final touches…
The Big Thompson River and the North Fork suffered severe damage during the September 2013 flood. Torrents of water wiped out homes, sheds, trees, boulders and anything else in their path and left behind destruction that, in many places, resembled a barren moonscape…
During the aftermath of the flood, Wildland Restoration Volunteers began reaching out to find ways to help restore trails, wildlands and sections of the river.
They connected with Chenoweth and other landowners and applied for state grants to redesign and rehabilitate a 2.5-mile section of the North Fork to be studied and used as an example for future projects. Most of the land in the project is owned by the Chenoweth family and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
With $360,000 in grants and $140,000 worth of donated time and supplies, crews and volunteers have realigned and regraded the river channel to make the river and surrounding habitat healthy and more able to survive a future flood.
This included specifically designing the depth of pools in the river, carefully placing rocks to create ripples in the water and to stabilize the bank and creating areas along the river that will allow water to slow down and spread out in the event of another flood.
The next step was to plant vegetation along the river to enhance habitat and to protect the banks from erosion.
The teens from the Rocky Mountain Flycasters Fly Fishing Conservation Camp worked on the planting this week, putting in willows, cottonwoods, dogwoods, chokecherry trees and native grasses.
Luke McNally, who works for Wildland Restoration Volunteers, pointed out to the teens the trees that survived the flood as well as grasses that have returned since. But, he noted, the amount of plant life is nothing compared with what was there before the flood…
The goal of the camp, which is in its seventh year, is for the teens to learn about fishing as well as ecology and conservation and to stir in them a love of the outdoors and a desire to protect the lands, noted Dennis Cook, camp director and a member of Rocky Mountain Flycasters.
Here’s the release from Larimer County (Kerri Rollins):
Larimer County Department of Natural Resources purchased a 211-acre farm southwest of Berthoud, along with its valuable water rights. The deal closed Monday, August 8.
Using Help Preserve Open Spaces sales and use tax dollars, Larimer County Department of Natural Resources purchased the property, known previously as the Malchow Farm, to conserve its agricultural, historic, scenic, community buffer and educational values. General public access is not permitted at this time. Larimer County plans to continue leasing the property as an active agricultural farming operation.
The Town of Berthoud provided $100,000 to Larimer County to help purchase the farm, which will also help leverage a potential Great Outdoors Colorado funding request being submitted later this month.
“We’re excited to acquire this farm and its myriad of conservation values,” said Gary Buffington, director of Larimer County Department of Natural Resources. “The property helps us further our mission to conserve working lands and foster an appreciation for our agricultural heritage in Larimer County.”
This property is located one mile southwest of Berthoud, just north of the Little Thompson River and adjacent to U.S. 287 on the highway’s west side. It consists of high-quality agricultural soils, with approximately 188 irrigated, 18 pasture and 5 farmstead acres. Located just north of the Larimer-Boulder county line, the property serves as a gateway to Larimer County and a doorstep to the town of Berthoud, with sweeping views of Longs Peak and the Front Range. The property contains several historic features, including a pioneer gravesite, beet shack and a big red barn that can be seen for miles. The Overland Trail once crossed the property.
The property, infrastructure and minerals were purchased along with the valuable water rights, including 240 units of Colorado-Big Thompson, or C-BT, water, 16 shares of Handy Ditch native water rights and 20 shares in Dry Creek Lateral Ditch.
Larimer County is actively seeking partners to engage in a water sharing agreement on this property that will provide partnership funds toward the purchase of the water, keep the farm in active production and allow water partners to share some of the water in drought years. This water sharing agreement, known as an Alternative Transfer Mechanism, or ATM, is a cooperative solution encouraged by the Colorado Water Plan to share water across uses without permanently drying up high-quality working farms, such as this farm near Berthoud.
Larimer County has developed a stewardship plan for the property and will develop a full management plan with public input within the next several years. The property was purchased from the Malchow family, but an official name for the property, now that it’s a Larimer County open space, will be chosen at a later date. Public tours of the property are planned for later this year.
For additional information, contact Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Program manager, at (970) 619-4577.
Larimer County now officially owns the 211-acre Malchow farm south of Berthoud and its associated water rights — a unique agreement that includes a water sharing component.
The $8.4 million sale from the Malchow family to the Department of Natural Resources closed Monday.
The county bought the property to conserve its agricultural, historic and scenic values and plans to continue leasing the fields as an active farm.
One unique aspect of the sale was that the county also bought the water rights, including 240 units of Colorado-Big Thompson water, with the intention of entering into a water sharing agreement.
Under such an agreement, the farm may vary its crops over several years, so in drought years, some of the irrigation water can be sold.
This allows the farm to stay in production for the long-term and is an arrangement encouraged by the Colorado Water Plan.
The farm is located along U.S. 287 one mile southwest of Berthoud, and along with rich farmland, it includes historic buildings and a pioneer grave site believed to be tied to the Overland Trail, which once crossed the property…
The farm will not immediately be open for public access. However, a management plan that will be developed within the next few years could include an educational component in which the farm may be used to teach the public about agriculture.
The town of Berthoud pitched in $100,000 toward the purchase of the property, and Larimer County will be applying for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant to help with the cost.
The auction room was packed with bidders, but only 13 — including the City and County of Broomfield — emerged from the Larimer County Fairgrounds with a piece of the Reynolds portfolio. Municipalities, developers and farmers all grabbed some units of Colorado-Big Thompson water, while developers and growers signed deals for land.
The auction was of high interest, given the land’s location in the path of northern Front Range development and the large amount of water attached to it.
Although the numbers are still preliminary, Hall and Hall Auctions partner Scott Shuman said 276 CB-T units brought in the largest chunk of money, about $7.6 million or an average of $27,356 each. The CB-T units, already trading for high sums, were expected to be the most pricey given their scarcity and the ability to use the water for uses such as agriculture, development and industrial processes, including oil and gas extraction.
According to Pat Soderberg, finance director for Broomfield, the city and county placed a bid for 120 shares at $26,000 per share, plus a 4 percent processing fee.
That puts Broomfield’s purchase at $3.24 million, with a 10 percent down-payment of $324,480. The balance will be paid at closing, Soderberg said.
But on a per-share basis, the 15.75 Highland Ditch shares stole the show, averaging $148,900 each for an estimated total of $2.3 million. All the shares were sold to farmers or investors.
Although CB-T water got most of the attention prior to the auction, Shuman said the ditch shares provide more acre-feet of water than CB-T and are not limited to a specific geography. CB-T water, which is conveyed from the headwaters of the Colorado River near Grand Lake, can be used only within the boundaries of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.