Boulder flood plan update

Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Jan Burton):

Stormwater and flood management utility capital projects are funded primarily by monthly user charges, with costs spread out using 20-year revenue bonds. The annual debt service payments associated with such bonds are factored into utility rates through the annual budget process. So, those of us living in Boulder pay for all of these projects on our water utility bills.

Examine your own bill to see your fixed monthly charge on the line “Stormwater/Flood.” The fee is used to support flood infrastructure, regulatory compliance, water quality monitoring and hazard programs. These fees have increased by 135% since 2013, and Boulder leads the area for the highest stormwater and flood rates, not surprisingly, since Boulder is the Colorado city most at risk for flash floods.

City staff presented details to the Water Resources Advisory Board on the preferred option, Variant 1, 100-year flood protection, which was found to have the least environmental impacts, the lowest cost, and the greatest probability of permitting feasibility through the various regulatory agencies. The cost of this version is projected to be $66 million. Other alternatives, a 200-year and a 500-year, are estimated at $93 million and $96 million, minimally a $27 million difference…

…three of the WRAB board members…and voted, with two other members dissenting, to accept the city’s preferred plan, suggesting that Council move forward into more detailed planning and engineering analysis. WRAB member Ted Rose said that “this is about acting, actually moving forward to protect our fellow citizens.” Board Chair Kirk Vincent and member Trisha Oeth, brought up equity concerns of differing flood protection levels across the community, the huge backlog in aging infrastructure, and the inability of many customers — renters, churches or schools — to afford rates that could double…

Planning Board is scheduled to review the plan next week, followed by the Open Space Board of Trustees and, finally, City Council, in June.

Cleanups and health care costs tied to the “forever chemicals” known as #PFAS could reach into the billions. Has DuPont found a way not to pay? — NBC News

From NBC News (Gretchen Morgenson):

…there’s a risk that [Robin Andrews] and other people with illnesses linked to the chemicals could end up with no compensation for their health problems. That’s because a major manufacturer, DuPont, recently unloaded its PFAS obligations to smaller companies that do not have the money to pay for them.

For decades, DuPont manufactured PFAS-type chemicals in a plant close to Andrews’ home in this tiny South Jersey town on marshy land near the Delaware River. Her grandfather and father both worked at the sprawling plant, known as the Chambers Works, which covers 1,400 acres of riverbank in the shadow of the bridge to Delaware.

In 2017, after she developed unexplained high liver enzymes, her well water tested positive for PFAS; she now runs it through a large filtration system in her basement and has it monitored every three months.

DuPont “could have been a great company and a very good thing for this area had they chosen to take care of people and to be responsible with the way they disposed of these toxins,” Andrews told NBC News. “But they weren’t. I believe it was an economic decision to put people at risk.”

Jeff Tittel, senior chapter director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, has watched DuPont’s moves with concern. “They are setting up other companies to take the fall on liabilities that won’t have enough money, so even if people win lawsuits, they will get nothing or very little,” he said.

PFAS are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Safe Drinking Water Act and their side effects are still being understood by scientists and the public. In February, the EPA put out a proposal to regulate two of the most common PFAS chemicals found in drinking water and is asking for comment on how to monitor them.

On Wednesday, the EPA disclosed it “has multiple criminal investigations underway concerning PFAS-related pollution.” The agency did not identify the entities being investigated and it could not be determined if DuPont is one of them.

Daniel Turner, reputation and media relations manager for DuPont, said the company had not received an information request from the EPA related to a criminal investigation…

In 2015, as problems associated with PFAS were becoming clearer, DuPont began a series of complex transactions that transformed the company’s structure. As a result of the transactions, responsibility for environmental obligations associated with the chemicals shifted onto other entities.

The first shift by DuPont occurred in 2015, when it assigned the great majority of liabilities associated with PFAS to The Chemours Company, a new entity containing DuPont’s chemicals business that was spun off to its shareholders…

In a statement provided to NBC News, DuPont spokesman Turner denied that the Chemours spin-off was an attempt to evade environmental and legal liabilities associated with PFAS. “The reason for the spin-off,” Turner said, was that DuPont “was seeking to transform itself into a higher growth, higher value company” and “saw more growth opportunities in its other businesses.”

A second spin-off was Corteva Inc., in 2019, an agriculture science company that holds other legacy DuPont operations and some PFAS liabilities.

The third transaction occurred last June when so-called new DuPont was created. Formerly known as DowDupont, its businesses include electronics, transportation and construction. Because of the two other spin-offs, new DuPont is two steps removed from PFAS obligations…

Chemours, with primary responsibility for the estimated tens of billions of dollars in PFAS obligations, does not have anywhere near the money or assets to cover them. Chemours’ net worth — its assets minus liabilities — stood at just $695 million as of Dec. 31, 2019.

If Chemours becomes insolvent, Corteva Inc. will be responsible, corporate filings show. Corteva does not have the funds to cover tens of billions in estimated PFAS costs either. Turner declined to say whether PFAS responsibilities would ultimately revert to DuPont if Chemours and Corteva are unable to pay them. A lawyer for Chemours declined to comment.

Corporate spin-offs like DuPont’s that transfer liabilities associated with problematic businesses are becoming more common, analysts say, especially in the energy and chemical fields.

“You’re seeing it again and again,” said Clark Williams-Derry, an analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “Spinning off your legacy liabilities into a separate corporation and to some other responsible party appears to be part of the standard playbook in these industries.”

[…]

DuPont is not the only PFAS manufacturer under scrutiny. Another is 3M, headquartered in Minneapolis. Both companies stopped making PFAS over a decade ago. 3M is fighting the suits and says it is cooperating with government investigators.

DuPont and 3M both face lawsuits over problems allegedly linked to PFAS. But DuPont’s shift of its PFAS liabilities to Chemours has drawn its own raft of litigation. In a complaint filed last year against DuPont by Chemours, it contended that the 2015 deal was fraudulent. DuPont knew and intentionally hid the scope of the liabilities when it dumped them into Chemours, the company alleged.

In response, DuPont says Chemours executives were well aware of the PFAS problems at the time of the spin-off and could not have been duped. Next up is the judge’s ruling on oral arguments in the case…

Legal filings allege DuPont knew for decades that PFAS posed a threat to humans…

In early PFAS cases, lawyers for plaintiffs found internal, undisclosed DuPont documents showing toxicity in PFAS. While the company has acknowledged the findings in court filings, it argued that they were either inconclusive or applicable only to employees working with the chemicals, not to people drinking tap water near DuPont facilities.

The New Jersey lawsuit alleges that DuPont began to recognize toxicity in the most common PFAS chemical in the 1960s but did not tell the state or local communities about the problem.

DuPont has not answered the New Jersey complaint but in previous lawsuits, DuPont has denied that it hid PFAS risks. DuPont spokesman Turner declined to say how long DuPont knew about the toxicity of PFAS, but said the company has provided extensive information over the years to the EPA about potential harm related to the chemicals.

The New Jersey suit also says DuPont hid the results of a 1981 blood sampling study of pregnant employees who worked with the chemicals that found one-quarter had children with birth defects…

The potential that shareholders will take on undervalued liabilities is greater in spin-offs, merger experts say. That’s because the kind of in-depth due diligence that a third-party buyer would do to to determine possible liabilities is not typically done by new owners in a spin-off. Those owners are essentially trusting the parent company to be forthcoming about the obligations.

Had DuPont instead sold its legacy chemicals businesses to another company, the buyer would have dug into the obligations associated with its PFAS production prior to the purchase. Any resulting deal would take those potential liabilities into account, resulting in either a lower sale price, an insurance policy or a right by the buyer to recover costs from DuPont later.

Because DuPont’s existing shareholders took on the liabilities in the Chemours and Corteva spin-offs, that detailed assessment was not done. The Chemours lawsuit alleges that DuPont pursued the spin-off so it “could control the transaction structure and economics” after concluding that “no rational buyer” would accept the liabilities associated with PFAS.

DuPont spokesman Turner disputed this, saying that multiple firms submitted proposals to acquire Chemours before the spin-off. He declined to provide specifics about those companies, however, or their bids.

Back in 2015, when DuPont was preparing to spin off Chemours, the parent company made insufficient disclosures about the environmental liabilities to be shouldered by the new shareholders, the Securities and Exchange Commission found. The company had to provide more details, regulatory filings show.

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

@DenverWater files appeal to #Boulder District Court ruling that the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project must go through 1041 process

Gross Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

The action filed to the Colorado Court of Appeals raised several issues to be addressed by the higher court, including whether Boulder District Court Judge Andrew Macdonald erred in his Dec. 27 decision by concluding Boulder County had not exceed it jurisdiction, abused its discretion or misapplied the law in determining it had regulatory control over the project.

“While we appreciate the district court’s consideration, we respectfully disagree with the conclusion and have decided to exercise our right to further review by the court of appeals,” Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson said in a statement.

“The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is a vital component of developing a more secure, reliable drinking water supply for a quarter of the state’s population,” he added. “In the face of the uncertainties of climate change that bring more frequent and extreme droughts and precipitation events, we’ve come together with partners on both sides of the divide to ensure the project benefits the environmental health of our entire state.”

[…]

Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

Denver Water, which serves 1.4 million customers in the Denver metro area, but none in Boulder County, had planned to start construction in 2019 on what would be the largest construction project in Boulder County history, raising Gross Dam by 131 feet to a height of 471 feet, and increasing the capacity of the reservoir by 77,000 acre-feet.

@DenverWater ‘evaluating options’ after Gross project ruling — The Arvada Press #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Gross Reservoir, west of Boulder. Photo by Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Arvada Press (Casey Van Divier):

A court ruling from the end of 2019 determined Denver Water officials must obtain an additional permit for the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — a project that Arvada is depending on so it can continue developing land…

Arvada has a contract to purchase raw water from the reservoir and, in return, is sharing the cost of the project with Denver Water…

Denver Water is one of two sources through which Arvada obtains its water, with the other being Clear Creek, said Jim Sullivan, the city’s former director of utilities.

In total, the city has the rights to roughly 25,000 acre-feet of water, with about 19,000 of that provided through its existing contract with Denver Water, he said.

“We have a comprehensive plan that shows what the city limits will eventually grow to” by 2065, when an estimated 155,000 people will live in Arvada, Sullivan said. This plan would require approximately 3,000 additional acre-feet of water, which will be provided by the expansion project.

If the project was canceled, the city would need to halt development until it could secure alternate resources, Sullivan said.

Those other resources “have been harder and harder to come by,” said Arvada water treatment manager Brad Wyant. Other entities have already laid claim to the other major water supplies in the area, he and Sullivan said.

“The next big water project will be some kind of diversion of water from the Western Slope to the Denver area,” Sullivan said. This would be a major endeavor and “there’s nothing even on the horizon at this point,” he said, making the success of the Gross project a necessity for Arvada development.

So far, the city has contributed about $3 million to the project, with plans to contribute about $100 million by 2030.

The contributions are funded through Arvada Water’s capital improvement budget, which consists of one-time tap fees that customers pay when they first connect to the Arvada Water system. Resident’s bimonthly water billing funds ongoing operations and will not be used for the Gross project, Sullivan said.

Denver Water has estimated the project will cost a total of $464 million.

New Boulder Creek stretch through Eben G. Fine Park designated ‘impaired’ by state — The Boulder Daily Camera

E.coli Bacterium

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Sam Lounsberry):

State officials last month designated a new, and popular, stretch of Boulder Creek from the mouth of Boulder Canyon through the park as “impaired” due to elevated levels of E. coli.

But tubers, swimmers, fishermen and women will still likely be able to take a dip this summer if they wish.

The new designation by the state for the creek’s west Boulder stretch adds to the existing impairment of the waterway from 13th Street east to its confluence with South Boulder Creek, according to Colorado Water Quality Control Division spokesperson Ian Dickson…

The determination was made based on a “robust” data set of measurements for the E. coli bacteria, Dickson said.

“Every two years, the (state health) department works with the (Water Quality Control) Commission to examine water quality data and identify impaired waters,” Dickson said. “… The department thanks city of Boulder for this information, and we encourage communities to continue to send data so we can work together to protect the environment.”

Boulder spokesperson Meghan Wilson said the city is working on a communication strategy for informing residents and potential creek users of the newly designated impaired stretch of creek. But unlike a swimming beach at a reservoir or other body of water, local officials have little ability to restrict human access to a stream like Boulder Creek, Wilson said…

…earlier in the week, Dickson did offer a response to Boulder Waterkeeper data the advocacy group used to assert there is a that there is a “human waste footprint” to the detected E. coli.

E. coli is a bacterial marker for fecal pollution, which lives in the intestines of humans, wildlife, cattle and dogs, but is not always harmful to humans. However, one strand, known as 0157:H7, can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and even life-threatening conditions…

“The one sample taken does not provide conclusive evidence that human source bacteria were present. The strain of bacteria the lab tested for could also come from other animals, such as raccoons and geese. Again, the lab indicated more data is needed to determine whether the strain is from humans versus other animals. At this time, even with these E.coli and human fecal bacterial levels, there is no indicator of an illicit discharge or other noncompliance with the university’s permit.”

Colorado re-mapping floodplains of most-affected waterways — TheDenverChannel.com

Flooding in Longmont September 14, 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call

From TheDenverChannel.com (Deb Stanley):

After the 2013 floods devastated communities and took several lives, the state of Colorado is remapping the regulatory floodplain of the most affected waterways in Colorado.

“It’s important to provide public and local land use managers with the most accurate flood risk information so they can make better decisions,’ explained Thuy Patton, Flood Mapping Program Manager for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

In some counties, there are areas that now have higher flood risk and other areas that now have lower flood risk, which changes which homes are in the flood plain. NOTE: these numbers are approximate, based on public information, and are subject to change.

In Boulder County, with this update, 420 new structures are in flood risk area and approx. 400 structures are now not in special flood hazard area, Patton explained.

In Jefferson County, 53 structures were added.

In Larimer County, 601 structures were added and 1,571 were removed.

In Weld County, 453 structures were added and 1,994 were removed.

In Sedgwick County, 85 structures were added and two were removed.

In Washington County, 26 structures were added and 31 were removed.

In Morgan County, 38 structures were added and four were removed.

And in Logan County, 222 structures were added, while 59 were removed.

FEMA uses Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) to set flood insurance premiums. The Preliminary FIRMs will become FEMA’s final effective FIRMs in 2021, pending any appeals received by FEMA.

Learn more about the mapping project here.

Boulder County is starting a series of public meetings about the changes. Representatives from FEMA, the mapping team, and Boulder County will be present at each session. Each open house will focus on specific reaches, but residents are invited to discuss any stream at each meeting:

  • Lower Boulder Creek, New Dry Creek, Coal Creek, and Rock Creek – Tuesday, Jan. 14 | 5 to 6:30 p.m. (presentation at 5:15 p.m.) Boulder County Recycling Center – 1901 63rd Street in Boulder County
  • Saint Vrain Creek, Lower Left Hand Creek, Dry Creek #2, and Little Thompson River – Thursday, Jan. 16 | 5 to 6:30 p.m. (presentation at 5:15 p.m.) Boulder County Parks and Open Space Ron Stewart Building – 5201 St. Vrain Drive in Longmont
  • North, Middle, and South Saint Vrain creeks and Cabin Creek – Tuesday, Jan. 21 | 5 to 6:30 p.m. (presentation at 5:15 p.m.) Highlands Presbyterian Church – 1306 Business Highway 7 in Allenspark
  • Little James Creek, James Creek, Upper Left Hand Creek, and Geer Canyon – Tuesday, Jan. 28 | 5 to 6:30 p.m. (presentation at 5:15 p.m.) Jamestown Town Hall – 118 Main St. in Jamestown. This is a joint meeting between Boulder County and the Town of Jamestown
  • Fourmile Canyon Creek, Two Mile Canyon Creek, Gold Run, Fourmile Creek, Boulder Creek and North, Middle, and South Boulder creeks – Thursday, Jan. 30 | 5 to 6:30 p.m. (presentation at 5:15 p.m.). Boulder Public Library Main Branch, Boulder Creek Room – 1001 Arapahoe Ave. in Boulder
  • Boulder District Judge Andrew Macdonald affirms Boulder County’s 1041 oversight for @DenverWater’s Gross Reservoir Expansion Project

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

    In a seven-page ruling, Boulder District Judge Andrew Macdonald stated that based on evidence placed on the record by both sides in the controversy, he found Boulder County “did not exceed its jurisdiction or abuse its discretion, or misinterpret or misapply the law,” when it asserted its permitting authority.

    That authority, Boulder County has maintained, is established by State House Bill 1041, passed by the Legislature in 1974, which allows local governments to review and regulate matters of statewide interest through a local permitting process.

    Denver Water challenged that authority by filing suit in Boulder District Court in April of this year, claiming what it termed a “zoned law exemption” which it asserted excused it from having to pass through the county process. Denver Water’s complaint claimed the zoning at the reservoir that existed at the time of the passage of the 1041 legislation — officially known as the Activities and Areas of State Interest Act — permitted its planned activities.

    Additionally, the suit stated Boulder County commissioners had exceeded their jurisdiction and/or abused their discretion at a March 14 hearing at which they unanimously upheld Land Use Director Dale Case’s finding that the county review process must apply to Denver Water.

    Macdonald’s ruling struck down Denver Water’s claim to an exemption based on prior zoning.

    “There is nothing on the record that Denver Water had any well-established development rights to expand Gross Dam and Gross Reservoir prior to May 17, 1974,” he ruled. “Any prior contemplated expansion projects cannot be determined to be well-established development rights because the proposed Expansion Project is essentially an entirely new construction project.”

    […]

    In an email Friday night, Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson said, “As we continue to follow the process of determining the appropriate permitting methods, we will review the order and evaluate our next steps. No matter the path forward, we remain committed to considering input from Boulder County and from community members to minimize and mitigate the impacts of the Project.”

    An additional hurdle remains for the project. Denver Water is still waiting for a final decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on a hydropower licensing amendment that Denver Water needs in order to go forward with its planned expansion of the reservoir.

    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    Raising a Dam — @ColoradoStateU

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Anne Manning):

    Gross Dam spillway design being put to the test by CSU civil engineers

    On any given day, the roar of water cascading over a 20-foot-high dam spillway greets visitors to Colorado State University’s Hydraulics Laboratory. Muck boots are required footwear, as water from the spray spreads across the floor, drains into an under-floor reservoir, and flows back toward an outtake pipe for recycling.

    The experimental spillway, constructed by CSU civil engineers, is a test bed for an ambitious dam-raising project in southwest Boulder County by Denver Water. CSU engineers are applying their hydraulics expertise to help verify key design and functionality aspects of the spillway, part of the public utility’s planned upgrade to Gross Dam. The reservoir impounded by Gross Dam provides water to more than 1.4 million residents along Colorado’s Front Range.

    The engineering team designing the project for Denver Water, Stantec and primary subcontractor AECOM, commissioned civil engineering professors Chris Thornton and Rob Ettema to create a 1:24 working scale model of the heightened dam’s new spillway. The spillway is the only portion of the dam over which water passes.

    A project of this magnitude requires a physical hydraulic model, Thornton said.

    “Computers have come a long way, but they’re not even close to being able to resolve what’s happening in terms of interaction of forces,” Thornton said. “Turbulence and air entrainment are very hard to model accurately.”

    Stepped spillway

    Taylor Hogan, a civil engineering master’s student and Hydraulics Laboratory manger, led the design and building of the model, which required close to 500 custom-built pieces. It is called a stepped spillway, which dissipates energy from the water as it flows over the dam. The steps slow the water, trap air bubbles, and allow water to safely descend. Adding to the model construction’s complexity is a slight arch to the spillway profile – mimicking the current profile.

    The CSU engineers are now testing and documenting performance, including capacity, flow rate, and ability to handle a major influx of water from a storm or natural disaster. When complete, Gross Dam’s will be the tallest stepped spillway in the United States.

    The planned height of the dam necessitated the stepped design. The dam is slated to be raised 131 feet over its current height of 340 feet, increasing the capacity of Gross Reservoir by about 25 billion gallons.

    “The expansion will allow Denver Water to add balance and resiliency to its water collection system, which today is at risk of damage from natural disasters such as wildfires and floods,” said Jeff Martin, Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir Expansion Project program manager. “It will also help to manage the greater uncertainty that comes with a changing climate.”

    The Stantec/AECOM team specified that the spillway be able to manage extreme high flows they estimate to be possible during the rare occurrence of a massive storm.

    “The spillway is designed very conservatively and must perform safely when exposed to extreme conditions,” Ettema said.

    Engineering students Taylor Hogan and Blake Biethman stand next to the Gross Reservoir expansion stepped spillway model, Sept. 9, 2019. Photo credit: CSU/Bill Cotton

    Remaining work

    The CSU researchers are wrapping up the modeling work for Stantec/AECOM to complete the spillway design. The remaining work includes optimizing the layout of the energy-dissipation basin at the bottom of the spillway, to ensure Gross Dam’s design meets safety requirements. Design engineering on the overall dam project is expected to extend through the end of 2020.

    Water flows through the distilling basin at the bottom of the spillway model. Photo credit: CSU/Bill Cotton
    Gross Reservoir in the mountains to the southwest of Boulder. Denver Water hopes to increase the height of the dam 131 feet, to a new height of 471 feet, to store three times as much water, which it says will help it meet increasing demands and to better weather severe droughts.

    Gross Reservoir Expansion Project update

    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    From TheDenverChannel.com (Jace Larson):

    The project will require significant construction over seven years to increase the reservoir’s holding capacity to 119,000 acre-feet of water.

    When built, the dam will be the tallest in Colorado.

    Denver Water says the additional space is needed to spread out capacity outside of Denver for the water utility used by 1.4 million people in the city and its surrounding suburbs.

    The proposed construction project is not without opposition from neighbors and environmentalists who say they will endure years of construction on a water project that will never provide water to their taps.

    “Boulder County is going to host this reservoir but gets no water from it. We derive no benefit from it. We only pay the price of having this thing in our county,” said Tim Guenthner, who lives just above the dam in a subdivision of about 1,000 people.

    Denver7 decided to take a 360 look at this issue and gathered perspectives from five people connected to the proposed construction project…

    Boulder County Commissioners have also taken a stance that Denver Water must get local permits before it can start the project.

    Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson said Denver Water doesn’t believe the law requires that and points out it has undergone numerous environmental studies and worked through the state permit process. This issue will likely be decided by another judge…

    Denver Water’s Gross Dam project manager, Jeff Martin, acknowledges the project will cause noise for neighbors.

    “Well we don’t hide from the fact there’s going to be some disruption from the noise, but we are looking at ways of minimizing that noise,” Martin said.

    As an example, Denver Water decided to move the quarry needed to make cement to a portion of the lake that will be covered by water once more capacity is added. The original plan had the quarry on a portion of land jetting out into the lake.

    Have an on-site quarry will also mean less truck traffic.

    Martin said even with conservation efforts, Denver Water needs more capacity. He said experts have provided the water utility with data showing there will be 5 million more people in Colorado by 2050.

    Denver water has 90% of its storage lakes west and south of the metro area, but only has 10% up north. This new dam project will add significantly more water storage north of the city.

    “That’s important because if we have a catastrophic event or a drought in one of the systems, it leaves us depending on the other system,” he said. “What we want to do is create a little bit more balance and put more water in Gross Reservoir. This project is going to triple the size of the reservoir.”

    […]

    Kirk Klanke is a member of Trout Unlimited, an environmental group seeking to protect and restore rivers across the country.

    His perspective is one many wouldn’t expect from a member of the environmental group. He’s a supporter of the new dam.

    “I think it’s extremely selfish to think we shouldn’t grow,” he said.

    He says Denver Water has the legal right to build more capacity someplace. Gross Reservoir is the best option.

    “Raising an existing dam has far less environmental damage than building a new one somewhere else,” Klanke said.

    He says Denver Water has agreed to put significant effort into protecting the Colorado River. When it is hot out, river temperatures rise if there’s only a little water flowing.

    Denver Water has agreed to keep water in the river during those periods and fill the lake during spring runoff. It will also draw water at different places in the river to minimize the impact to one area.

    Gross Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    @DenverWater hires contractor for Gross Reservoir Expansion Project

    The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will add 77,000 total acre feet — 72,000 for Denver Water use and 5,000 for an environmental pool that provides additional water for South Boulder Creek during low-flow periods — nearly tripling reservoir capacity.

    From Denver Water:

    Denver Water’s five-member Board of Water Commissioners on Wednesday approved a two-year, $4.5 million contract with Kiewit Barnard, a Joint Venture, for planning and pre-construction work during the final design phase of the $464 million Gross Reservoir Expansion Project.

    If the team’s performance during the planning and pre-construction phase meets Denver Water’s expectations, a separate contract to build the dam may be signed between Denver Water and Kiewit Barnard.

    “This is a major milestone in our 16-year effort to expand Gross Reservoir, as its original designers intended decades ago, to ensure a more reliable water supply in a future marked by greater uncertainty in weather patterns,” said Denver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead.

    Denver Water, the state’s largest water utility, serves 1.4 million people in Denver and surrounding suburbs.

    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will raise the height of the existing dam, completed in 1954, by 131 feet, allowing the reservoir to nearly triple in size. When complete, the reservoir will be capable of holding about 119,000 acre-feet of water to provide greater system balance and resiliency.

    The selection process for a construction manager/general contractor for the project began in August 2018 with information meetings, followed by a formal Request for Qualifications in October 2018. Three teams responded to the request and underwent extensive evaluations and interviews by a selection team that included experts from Denver Water, the project’s design engineer and subject matter experts.

    The selection team focused on a value-based competitive process that examined each team’s qualifications, project approach, technical approach and cost.

    “Kiewit Barnard met Denver Water’s high bar for doing a project that’s important not only to the 1.4 million people who rely on us for their drinking water, but also to the people who live around the reservoir,” said Jeff Martin, Denver Water’s program manager for the expansion project.

    “We were impressed by the team’s experience with roller-compacted concrete dam construction, innovative approach and commitment to safe and responsible building practices,” Martin said.

    The project calls for adding 900,000 cubic feet of concrete to the existing structure and building the first roller-compacted, concrete, arch dam in the United States. When complete, the Gross Dam will be the tallest in Colorado and the tallest roller-compacted concrete dam in the U.S.

    “Kiewit Barnard, a Joint Venture, is very pleased to have been selected to work on this important project to support water demand for the greater Denver area,” said Jamie Wisenbaker, senior vice president of Kiewit Infrastructure Co., and an executive sponsor of the project. “We believe the team’s collective infrastructure experience in dam and reservoir construction and engineering will be a huge asset and look forward to safely delivering a high-quality project on time for Denver Water and the region.”

    Kiewit is one of North America’s largest construction and engineering organizations with extensive heavy-civil experience in water/wastewater construction, including serving as lead contractor on the Oroville Spillways Emergency Recovery project in California. Kiewit is the No. 1 contractor for dams and reservoirs in the United States according to Engineering News-Record. The company also has strong roots and experience in Denver and across Colorado, including having constructed the Interstate 25 T-REX Expansion project, the U.S. 34 Big Thompson Canyon emergency repair project and the I-225 Light Rail Line project. The company also is building Denver Water’s new Northwater Treatment Plant.

    Barnard Construction Co. Inc. brings a long track record of safety and quality on infrastructure projects in the U.S., including construction on more than 80 dams, reservoirs and dikes over the last four decades. The company’s work in this area includes new construction, raising dams and conducting emergency repairs. In 2019, Barnard was honored as a “Global Best Project” award winner by Engineering News-Record in the dam/environment category for the Muskrat Falls North and South Dams project located in Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

    The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is awaiting a final federal government approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Provided the remaining federal approvals come by the end of this year, the project is slated to be complete in 2025.

    When finished, the expanded reservoir and associated mitigation projects will create what the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has described as a net environmental benefit to state water quality by generating a wide range of environmental improvements to streams, river flows and aquatic habitats.

    #Runoff news: #ClearCreek tubing and swimming ban lifted, #Boulder #TubeToWorkDay now scheduled for July 19, 2019

    From The Denver Post (Kirk Mitchell):

    Belly boaters, swimmers, inner-tubers and body surfers take note: You can now do your thing on Clear Creek in Jefferson County.

    The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has removed its ban on water activities that had been considered too dangerous on July 1 because of fast water flows.

    The ban – which had extended from State Highway 119 to Golden – has been lifted for swimmers and those using all single-chambered air inflated devices including belly boats, inner tubes and rafts, said a sheriff’s office news release Friday.

    From Westword (Michael Roberts):

    Today, July 12, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office ended all restrictions for activities on Clear Creek, including limits put in place through Golden circa July 1. Likewise, the Boulder Police Department has removed a tubing ban on Boulder Creek, which resulted in the postponement of the city’s annual Tube to Work Day…

    By the way, Boulder’s Tube to Work Day is now scheduled to get underway at 8 a.m. on Friday, July 19. Life jackets and wetsuits are strongly recommended to be worn beneath business attire, and mandatory items include helmets, closed-toe footwear and waivers.

    From The Aspen Times (Jason Auslander):

    With the North Star Nature Preserve flooded and space dwindling under bridges, county open space officials are asking boaters to put in at the popular float spot’s midway point until further notice.

    “We’re encouraging everybody across the board … to put in at Southgate,” Pryce Hadley, ranger supervisor for the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program, said Monday. “The water is high for July and people need to be careful.”

    […]

    The lack of Front Range diversions adds about 550 cubic feet per second to the Roaring Fork River, they said. That water began flowing down the Roaring Fork on Thursday evening, and the river peaked at just over 1,000 cfs July 6, Hadley said. It was running at 779 cfs Monday morning, he said…

    “That’s still well above the 300 cfs we had midday on July 4,” Hadley said.

    And that means boaters who begin at the normal North Star put-in at Wildwood are not going to be able to make it under a pedestrian bridge and a car bridge at McFarland Gulch, he said. While some stand-up paddlers might be able to make it under the bridges lying on their bellies face down, most likely cannot, Hadley said.

    Portage is not possible either, he said, because the bridges and surrounding land are on private property, he said.

    Moffat Collection System Project update: “Our problem is rooted in demand and resiliency” — Jeff Martin

    Gross Reservoir , in Boulder County, holds water diverted from the headwaters of the Colorado River on the West Slope. The reservoir is part of Denver Water’s storage system. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Colorado Sun (Amanda K. Clark):

    Raising the 55-year-old dam near Boulder is essential to keep a stable water supply in a changing climate, utility says. Residents insist conservation could be just as effective.

    Denver Water — Colorado’s largest and oldest utility company — in July 2017 received one of the final permits needed to raise Gross Reservoir Dam by 131 feet to increase water storage capacity by 77,000 acre-feet, or an additional 25 billion gallons of Western Slope water…

    The expansion, in the works for more than a decade, is part of the company’s long-term plan to help meet increasing water demands along the Front Range and buffer customers from future water-supply variability due to climate change…

    Denver Water has been met with sustained opposition from Boulder County residents and a handful of environmental groups who say the utility can address its water needs through expanded water conservation efforts on the Front Range.

    But with Colorado’s population growth showing no signs of slowing, water conservation may be inadequate to address projected shortages in the coming decades.

    Other concerns raised by opponents include sustained disruption to surrounding residents, increased traffic, health concerns and environmental impacts to fish and wildlife.

    Gross Reservoir is filled primarily from snowmelt that flows from the Fraser River, a tributary of the Colorado River. The water is transported underground from west of the Continental Divide to the east by a pipeline called the Moffat Water Tunnel.

    The controversy over the Gross Reservoir expansion, estimated to cost $464 million, echoes an all-too-familiar story: a highly contentious discussion of tradeoffs that has rippled across the Western United States for decades.

    As cities and states across the West grapple with swelling population alongside diminishing water supplies as a result of climate change, water-resource agencies such as Denver Water are faced with the delicate task of balancing the health of ecosystems with municipal, agricultural and recreational needs…

    Jeff Martin, Denver Water’s project manager for the expansion project, doesn’t skirt around the controversy. He recognizes that the project is going to cause disruption and says that Denver Water has worked with the residents to find ways to minimize the project’s impact.

    “This has been a process,” Martin said. “We started in 2004, it took 13 years to move through the environmental assessment and permitting process. And we’ve made a lot of changes and adjustments to our plans since the beginning.”

    “No single solution is out there,” he said. “Our problem is rooted in demand and resiliency, and what I mean by resilience is that we have to make sure we have the water when we need it, and where.”

    […]

    For Patty Limerick, director of the CU Boulder’s Center for the American West and former Colorado Historian, you can’t talk about water issues on the Front Range without first looking back in time.

    When early white explorers arrived here, they deemed the Front Range unfit for settlement due to lack of water. Today, 1.4 million Denver residents have access to clean drinking water due in large part to Denver Water’s enormous infrastructure web that diverts water from the South Platte, Blue, Williams Fork and Fraser river watersheds to be stored in a network of reservoirs spread over eight counties, including Dillon, Strontia Springs and Cheesman.

    “One thing that I find fascinating, and is important to talk about, is the incredible amount of engineering that had to occur to make any of this possible in the first place,” Limerick said.

    “We, as a society, have to recognize the improbable comfort that was made possible by a taken-for-granted, but truly astonishing, water infrastructure that was put in place a hundred years ago.”

    […]

    “The year 2018 was very similar to what we would expect to see under a climate change regime. And that was a very intense but short-term drought,” said Taryn Finnessey, senior climate change specialist with the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    “We saw some reservoirs in the state declined by 50 percent in a three- to four-month period. So that obviously could not be sustained multiple years in a row,” she said. “Water providers are increasingly integrating climate change models into their water supply projections. They know that what we’ve seen in the past might not fully represent what we might see in the future. Denver Water is one of the more advanced utilities when it comes to this.”

    Finnessey says it’s not just about how much precipitation falls from year to year. It also has a lot to do with increasing temperatures, contributing to the long-term drying out of the West, a phenomenon scientists are referring to as aridification. As temperatures rise, more moisture is sucked up by the atmosphere through evapotranspiration, leaving less viable water for humans-use in the system.

    “We are planning for infrastructure that will be built in the next 20 years, that is supposed to last for the following 100 years,” said Reagan Waskom, director of Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute. “Our world is changing significantly faster than that. And not in a linear way. How do we adapt to that?

    “Water managers have to plan for extremes,” he added. “A year like this year is an argument for reservoirs. Even with climate change, you’re still gonna have some good years. And we need to be able to capture it and save it for the bad years, whether that’s in underground aquifers or in reservoirs.”

    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    Gross Reservoir expansion makes sense — Boulder Daily Camera

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From the editorial board (Quentin Young) of the Boulder Daily Camera:

    Denver Water serves 1.4 million people in Denver and surrounding communities, and that figure will rise substantially in the coming decades. As more residents demand service, climate change increasingly will exert its own strain on the water supply. One of the primary ways the utility plans to meet this imminent challenge is by expanding one of its northern storage facilities, Gross Reservoir, in the foothills southwest of the city of Boulder.

    The project has met with intractable opposition. It’s the subject of lawsuits and uncertain government reviews. Neighbors are scandalized by the prospect of years of disruptive construction, and some environmentalists contend the project won’t even be able to perform its intended purpose.

    But a dispassionate consideration of the project leads to the conclusion that Denver Water’s plan to expand Gross Reservoir is a reasonable and responsible measure, provided the utility proceeds with the utmost sensitivity to the residents who would be impacted by construction and with the expectation that increased storage is no substitute for continued conservation efforts.

    The roots of the project go back to the proposed Two Forks Dam. Denver Water had proposed storing water from the Colorado and Platte rivers by building a 615-foot dam southwest of Denver near Deckers. But a coalition of environmental groups successfully opposed the project, which the Environmental Protection Agency spiked in 1990. Environmentalists argued at the time that a better option would be for Denver Water to expand a storage facility it already operated: Gross Reservoir.

    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    Now that the utility is following opponents’ former advice, environmentalists have changed their mind about Gross. The project would raise Gross Dam by 131 feet to 471 feet, roughly tripling the reservoir’s current capacity of 41,811 acre-feet (for comparison, Denver Water’s largest reservoir, Dillon, has a capacity of more than 257,000 acre-feet). Critics say the expansion would result in the state’s tallest dam, and much of the opposition focuses on the project’s substantial environmental impact. It would require years’ worth of noisy construction, traffic and the removal of about 650,000 trees. The reservoir pulls water from the headwaters of the Colorado River, and critics argue that the utility should refrain from further depleting that waterway, which runs all the way to the Gulf of California and is subject to the Colorado River Compact, an agreement that governs water allocation in seven states that rely on the river as an invaluable resource. Population growth in the Southwest has stressed the river, and climate change is expected to further compromise the river’s capacity to deliver water to users. Some Gross expansion opponents even assert that there won’t be enough water available from the Colorado River Basin to fill a bigger reservoir. And anyway, the opponents say, water needs can be met through conservation rather than dam-building.

    Construction to expand Gross Reservoir would indeed bring acute hardship to nearby residents, and concern for local environmental damage should not be dismissed. But construction is temporary, and the environmental impact seems less intolerable than merely regrettable when weighed against the project’s purpose of ensuring for decades the delivery of a vital resource to thousands of people.

    Utilities should be judicious in exercising their rights to Colorado River Basin water, but the volume associated with the proposed Gross expansion is relatively small. The entire Denver Water utility accounts for less than 2% of the state’s total water use, while it serves about 25% of the population. As part of planning for the expansion, Denver Water worked with West Slope communities in the Colorado River Basin to earn support for the project, efforts that in 2012 resulted in the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. The CRCA, which depends on final approval of the Gross Reservoir expansion, calls for Denver Water to help restore habitats and maintain flows in the Fraser River, a Colorado River tributary in Grand County. Some West Slope officials so favor implementation of the CRCA that a Grand County commissioner in March warned of “a ton of litigation” were Boulder to block the Gross expansion.

    Colorado River flows will almost certainly decrease due to climate change in future decades. A widely cited 2017 study suggests the river increasingly will be subject to droughts, and flows could drop more than 35% by the end of the century because of higher temperatures. But this doesn’t necessarily constitute an argument against expanding Gross. No one can claim with certainty that flows would drop such to render useless an expanded reservoir, but Denver Water would certainly be justified in viewing the threat of persistent droughts and lower flows as a reason to increase storage capacity, since there’s more incentive to collect water during the fewer occasions it’s available. The utility would be seen to have failed customers were it to find itself with nowhere to store precious water to which it had rights.

    That Denver Water should do more to promote conservation gets no argument here. The utility’s customers have already demonstrated that they can get by splendidly with reduced volume — they’re using about 20 percent less water today than 15 years ago, according to Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead — and there’s much room for further conservation. But conservation has limits, and Denver Water says it won’t be able to meet future demand solely by this method. In Denver alone, the current population of 729,000 is expected to swell by more than 20% in just 20 years. Besides, the project is meant not just to add yield to the utility’s system but also stability. The vast majority of Denver Water’s storage is in the south part of its system, and forest fires near those facilities, such as the Buffalo Creek Wildfire in 1996, have exposed a vulnerability that an expanded Gross would address.

    The proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir has provoked waves of protest from Boulder County residents, and the county has asserted what it claims is its right to review the project. Known as a 1041 process, the move is contested by Denver Water. But though Denver Water doesn’t serve Boulder-area residents, water users throughout Boulder County every day enjoy the use of water pulled from the Colorado River, and water customers in such Boulder County communities as Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette, Erie and Superior are participants in the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project, which involves the construction of a whole new reservoir, not just an expansion, west of Carter Lake to store water from the Colorado River Basin. (That project similarly is tied up in litigation.)

    Denver Water has already secured the bulk of required regulatory approvals for the expansion of Gross Reservoir. A final decision from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, whose staff has already recommended approval, is pending. Denver Water needs the FERC approval, because Gross also serves as a hydroelectric facility. Roadblocks include a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental groups that is led by Save the Colorado and Boulder County’s 1041 review.

    Boulder County officials have a legitimate interest in reviewing what would be the largest construction project in county history, and they are encouraged to take an exhaustive look at Denver Water’s plans. Any objections to the expansion of Gross Reservoir, however, should be based on factors intrinsic to the proposal, not on a mere preference for Gross to be left alone.

    Quentin Young, for the editorial board, quentin@dailycamera.com, @qpyoungnews

    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    Save the Colorado is allowed to intervene in @DenverWater lawsuit v. @BoulderCounty

    Workers build the Moffat Tunnel in the 1920s.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Sam Lounsberry) via The Denver Post:

    An environmental group’s motion to intervene in a dispute between Denver Water and Boulder County over the proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir was granted by a judge on Tuesday.

    Court documents show Boulder District Judge Andrew Ross Macdonald will allow the group, Save the Colorado, to enter the case as a party on behalf of Boulder County, the defendant in the suit.

    Denver Water filed the complaint against the county after it decided the utility would have to subject its controversial proposed dam expansion — which would be the largest construction project in the county’s history — through the county development approval process.

    The case is still moving through court, with Denver Water trying to avoid subjecting its project to county [1041 regulations].

    American Alpine Club library’s archive of images by early mountaineers holds clues for researchers documenting the retreat of glaciers worldwide — the #Colorado Sun

    Here’s a report from Joe Purtell that’s running in the Colorado Sun. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

    American Alpine Club Library Director Katie Sauter spends a lot of time in the climate-controlled special collections room, flipping through hundred-year-old photographs, black and white images of climbers posing in front of the world’s mountains and glaciers in the early 1900s. While the library is primarily maintained for climbers and historians, there is another interested cohort: glacier scientists.

    The Arapaho Glacier is the largest in Colorado and a key component of Boulder’s water supply. Over the last 100 years, it has receded dramatically, and climate researcher P. Thompson Davis worries it could disappear completely. Photo credit: American Alpine Club via the Colorado Sun

    Scientists periodically email the library, or even show up in Golden, looking for rare old photographs. Sauter says that while she has received requests for photos of the remote Ladakh region of India — and, closer to home, the Arapaho Glacier northwest of Nederland — they are largely focused on the same thing.

    “Glaciers, mostly,” she says, “to see how much it’s melted.”

    […]

    Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a University of Colorado and NOAA partnership, estimates the Arapaho Glacier has lost 75 percent of its ice in the last 100 years. To get an idea of the glacier’s range at the turn of the century, he turned to old photographs.

    “We probably used some of those photographs estimating the size of how the area of Arapaho Glacier has changed since the beginning of the 1900s, then moved on to satellite data more recently,” Scambos says.

    When doing his own imagery, Scambos uses high-resolution images taken from different angles to construct a three dimensional model of the glacier’s surface. His team has used ground-penetrating radar to map the glacier’s internal workings. Still, when scientists want to establish a glacier’s historic range, they are left to search through old photos…

    Beginning only a few years after the invention of the modern film camera, the Mountainview Collection offers some of the earliest available images of North American glaciers. At the time, the photographers would not have suspected their images would one day be used to recall ice flows that traversed entire ranges — ice that today appears as lakes in photos taken from the same vantage points.

    On Stressed #ColoradoRiver, States Test How Many More Diversions Watershed Can Bear — KUNC #COriver #aridification

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

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    The Colorado River is short on water. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at a slate of proposed water projects in the river’s Upper Basin states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

    The river and its tributaries provide water for 40 million people in the Southwest. For about the last 20 years, demand for water has outstripped the supply, causing its largest reservoirs to decline.

    In the Bureau of Reclamation’s 2012 Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, you can pinpoint when the lines crossed somewhere around the year 2002. It’s a well-documented and widely accepted imbalance.

    That harsh reality — of the river’s water promised to too many people — has prompted all sorts of activity and agreements within the seven Western states that rely on it. That activity includes controversial efforts in some states in the Colorado River’s Upper Basin to tap every available drop before things get worse.

    The utility that owns [Gross Reservoir], Denver Water, wants to increase the size of the dam by 131 feet, and fill the human-made lake with more water from the headwaters of the Colorado River via a tunnel that traverses the Continental Divide.

    Imagine a tractor trailer hauling dam-building materials making this turn, Long says.

    “If they truck all of this material up our canyon, people in our community are gonna get killed by those trucks. Period,” Long said. “There’s a lot of other issues here but the safety thing should really be a serious priority.”

    Long and his wife, April Lewandowski, live near the reservoir in a community called Coal Creek Canyon. Like many of her neighbors, Lewandowski commutes from the sparsely populated canyon to her job on the state’s dense Front Range. Her daily commute on the canyon’s two-lane highway is the same as a haul route for trucks needed to build the dam addition.

    Long pulls up to a small parking area that overlooks the dam. It’s a deep wall of concrete, stretched between the tree-lined canyon walls of South Boulder Creek.

    “I mean you look at how the land splays out, you can see why they want to (build it),” Long said. “It’s so much wider all the way around.”

    If the expansion goes through, the place where we’re standing will be submerged in water. The addition to Gross Dam will raise it to 471 feet in height, making it the tallest dam in Colorado…

    Denver Water first started taking an expansion of Gross Reservoir seriously after the dry winter of 2002. Exceptional drought conditions took hold across the Mountain West. The utility’s CEO, Jim Lochhead, said in the midst of those historic dry conditions, a portion of its service area nearly ran out of water.

    “This is a project that’s needed today to deal with that imbalance and that vulnerability and to give us more drought resiliency,” Lochhead said.

    Since then, Denver Water has filed federal permits to start construction, and negotiated an agreement with local governments and environmental groups on the state’s Western Slope to mitigate some effects of the additional water being taken from the headwaters.

    Before leaving office, former Colorado Democratic governor and current presidential hopeful John Hickenlooper threw his weight behind the project, giving it an endorsement and suggesting other water agencies in the West take notice how Denver Water approached the process.

    But despite the political heft behind the project, it faces considerable headwinds.

    Environmentalists are suing, arguing the expansion will harm endangered fish. A group of local activists say the additional water will spur unsustainable population growth along the state’s Front Range. In recent months, the utility began sparring with Boulder County officials over whether they were exempt from a certain land use permit.

    Building a 131-foot dam addition does come with baggage, Lochhead said. But he argued his agency has done its part to address some of the concerns, like reducing the number of daily tractor trailer trips up Coal Creek Canyon and planning upgrades to the intersection where trucks will turn onto Gross Dam Road.

    “It is a major construction project. I don’t want to gloss over that. It will have impacts to the local community,” Lochhead said.

    Denver Water staff are doing more outreach in the canyon as well, Lochhead said.

    “We are committed to the project and seeing it through. We’re also committed despite the opposition to working with the local community in doing this the right way,” he said…

    The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will add 77,000 total acre feet — 72,000 for Denver Water use and 5,000 for an environmental pool that provides additional water for South Boulder Creek during low-flow periods — nearly tripling reservoir capacity.

    The latest scuffle with Boulder County has brought the Gross Dam expansion squarely back into public view. At a county commissioner’s meeting in March, residents criticized Denver Water on all fronts, from specific concerns about the construction itself, to broader concerns about water scarcity in the Colorado River basin…

    “This project represents an effort by Denver Water … to actually grab water while they can, before federal legislation and management of the Colorado River Basin is imposed,” McDermott said.

    What McDermott is referring to is a stark disconnect in the Colorado River watershed. States downstream on the river — Arizona, Nevada and California — signed a new agreement in May called the Drought Contingency Plan that keeps them from becoming more reliant on the Colorado River. It requires cutbacks to water deliveries should levels in Lake Mead, the river’s largest reservoir, continue to drop.

    Meanwhile, upstream in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, no such agreement was made. Those states wound up agreeing to study the feasibility of a program that would compensate farmers to stop irrigating their cropland if reservoirs dropped, with no solid way to pay for it. They agreed too to better coordinate releases from their biggest reservoirs to aid an ailing Lake Powell. While they figure out how to develop those two concepts, the Upper Basin states keep inching along on their development projects to divert more from the river.

    The 1922 Colorado River Compact, the river’s foundational governing document, gives Upper Basin states the legal cover to continue developing projects like the Gross Reservoir expansion. In the compact, each basin is allocated 7.5 million acre-feet of the river’s water. Over the decades the rapidly growing and intensely farmed Lower Basin has used much more than that. The less populated Upper Basin has never reached its full allotment. Those state have been using roughly 4.5 million acre-feet for the last 13 years, with the rest flowing downstream for the Lower Basin to use as it sees fit…

    Conservation programs tend to be less expensive than massive new projects, [Doug] Kenney said. But additional water supplies stored in reservoirs give more security and reliability. It’s why water leaders push for them, even when the economics don’t make sense.

    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    CU Boulder’s Mountain Research Station: From base at 9,500 feet, scientists examine climate to top of tundra #ActOnClimate

    Professor Frances Ramaley with picnic group. Photo credit: CU Boulder Mountain Research Group

    Here’s a report from The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan) via The Loveland Reporter-Herald. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s and excerpt:

    The University of Colorado Boulder’s Mountain Research Station, within the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest and situated just a few miles west off of Colo. 72, is the jumping-off point for some of the most important ongoing research into the nuanced and changing dynamics of alpine ecology going on anywhere in North America.

    Increasingly, the focus of that work relates directly to the signals and effects of climate change — a problem not even being considered by scientists when University of Colorado biology professor Francis Ramaley launched the Tolland Summer Biology Camp in the vicinity in 1909.

    That camp, where primary tools included shotguns, shovels and butterfly nets, closed in 1919, and after the university bought the land to the north, it built what was known as the University Camp.

    It was a successor to Ramaley, biology professor John W. Marr, who in 1946 would initiate the Mountain Ecology Project, the Mountain Climate Program, and the East Slope Ecology Project, and who was key to establishing the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Ecology, which would merge in 1952 with the University Camp as the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.

    The frontier of research into the effects of a changing climate, where animals and plants are living at the extreme limits of environmental tolerance at up to 12,000 feet, has continued to be expanded there — with ground-penetrating radar and drones now displacing shotguns and shovels — for well over half a century.

    “The idea that humans could have such a pervasive impact on not just regional environment but the global environment, I don’t think was really understandable back then,” Bill Bowman, research station director for the past 29 years, said of its earliest days.

    Now, said Bowman, a professor in the CU Boulder Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, “It is the very theme of research that goes on there, the impacts of humans on the environment.”

    An alphabet soup of laboratories and agencies participate directly in research based out of the research station. They include not just INSTAAR, the National Ecological Observatory Network, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Critical Zone Observatory, but also researchers who don’t have weighty acronyms anchored to their curriculum vitae.

    “We’ve got everything from individual grad students doing their masters theses, up to the groups that have been working up there for almost 40 years now,” Bowman said. “And so really, anybody can do research up there. We don’t make a distinction about whether they are rich and famous, or just starting in science. We really take pride in that a lot of researchers get their first experience in doing research up there.”

    […]

    The Mountain Research Station base facilities, including the John W. Marr Alpine Laboratory, a family lodge with capacity for up to 32 visitors, and the Kiowa Laboratory and Classroom, with meeting space to accommodate 24, are perched at a mere 9,500 feet.

    With individual data collection points spread across a challenging terrain topping out with the highest at 12,267 feet, and snow that can pile up in some spots as deep as 15 to 20 feet, simply navigating this living laboratory can be an imposing challenge.

    But many of those who work there consider the opportunity to do so a gift. An example would be Duane Kitzis, a senior research associate for CU Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, who works for the Global Monitoring Division of the Earth System Research Laboratory at NOAA. He has been going up Niwot Ridge since 1987, collecting air samples that are used to provide calibration material for the measurement of greenhouse gases at laboratories around the world. He now makes more than 400 standard air measurements per year up there…

    Katharine Suding is the lead investigator for one of the major research programs being conducted in the breathtaking landscape above the research station. Known as the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research program, it’s an interdisciplinary research initiative aimed at building a predictive understanding of ecological processes in high-elevation mountain ecosystems, and contributing to broad advances in ecology.

    “We need long-term studying and monitoring of these complex systems to start being able to understand how they work and predict how they’re going to work in the future,” Suding said of the project, supported by funding from the National Science Foundation.

    The Niwot Ridge research program has climate records (both temperature and precipitation) dating to 1952 at four places along an elevation gradient topping out at its “D1” site; that’s the one perched at 12,267 feet.

    Suding’s project has the regular involvement of about 15 faculty, eight staff members, 25 graduate students and 10 undergraduates at CU Boulder. A few are stationed full time at the research station, and one or two rarely stray from the work under microscopes examining samples at laboratories down in Boulder. Most split their time between the city and the alpine world.

    On a recent trip — by snowcat, across the snow that still blanketed the landscape well into May — through her program’s 4-square-mile research area, Suding, a professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at CU and fellow at INSTAAR, observed the interplay of snowpack, snowmelt, changes in temperature and air quality impact the fragile ecosystem in myriad ways.

    “We know that in the forests, with a longer summer, the forests don’t do as well, because they get really stressed out in July and August, when it’s really hot and they don’t have the moisture,” she said. “We thought this tree line would go up, if the summer was longer and hotter. But it is not going up, because the young trees can’t start growing up here because it’s too dry.”

    […]

    Suding’s research territory borders on the westernmost reaches of the Boulder Watershed, where CU Boulder scientists also collect data, only working under permission from city officials. At the top of the watershed, at 12,513 feet, sits Arikaree Glacier, which Suding’s predecessor Mark Williams predicted could vanish completely in 20 to 25 years. That sobering forecast hasn’t changed.

    Predicting our climate future, according to Suding, depends on understanding how our ecology has evolved, particularly in response to the dramatic changes wreaked by the Industrial Revolution.

    CU asks city to consider different CU Boulder South flood mitigation plan — CU Boulder News

    Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

    From CU Boulder Today:

    CU Boulder today asked the Boulder City Council to consider a flood mitigation option that would support both the community’s life safety needs and the university’s need to use a reasonable amount of its CU Boulder South property in the future to meet its mission to serve Colorado.

    In a letter to council members (PDF), the university recommended that Boulder refrain from further investing in Variant I – 500, a flood mitigation option that would curtail the university’s future ability to develop its CU Boulder South property. Located at U.S. 36 and Table Mesa Drive, the 308-acre parcel of university-owned land is under consideration for annexation into the Boulder city limits.

    CU Boulder has recommended that the city seriously consider another plan—Variant II – 500—which was previously recommended by the city’s Water Resource Advisory Board and experts hired by the city.

    If the university and city reach agreement on annexation terms, CU Boulder would use the property in the future to develop limited academic buildings and housing for faculty, staff, upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students. Other planned uses include recreation fields, expanded hiking and biking trails and other value-added features for the Boulder and university communities.

    In all, CU Boulder is seeking to develop just 129 acres of the site designated as public use in the most recent Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan update, while 30 acres would be used for recreation fields. The university would donate 80 acres to the city for flood mitigation, with the balance remaining undeveloped.

    Arriving at a mutually acceptable flood mitigation plan for the land is key to the agreement between the university and the city after years of ongoing discussions. In order to make progress in the negotiation process, city officials in November asked CU to submit an annexation application ahead of schedule. CU complied by filing an annexation application on Feb. 4.

    The next day, city officials decided to move forward with a flood mitigation plan known as Variant I – 500, the only proposed flood mitigation plan among several considered by the city that the university repeatedly has said it cannot accept.

    If the city moves forward with Variant 1 – 500, the university would not be able to develop the entire 129 acres allocated for public use on its own property, said Frances Draper, CU Boulder’s vice chancellor for strategic relations and communications.

    “The university is dedicated to working with the city, and local residents whose homes are in the floodplain to achieve safety,” Draper said. “At the same time, we must be good stewards of the university’s resources for the benefit of the state of Colorado, to educate students and engage in research. The university has offered significant community benefits while striking a good balance to achieve effective use of this site to serve the needs of students in the coming decades.”

    Despite its objection to the city’s intent to pursue Variant I – 500, CU worked to create a path forward in its annexation application by offering three options that would make it possible for CU to work with the city’s chosen flood mitigation plan.

    However, in a March 28 response, the city made it clear none of CU Boulder’s alternatives would be feasible, precipitating the university’s response for a study session and further discussions.

    Spikes in E. coli levels in Boulder Creek prompt call to action — CU Independent

    Boulder Creek. Photo credit: Susan from Alameda, CA, USA – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2536150

    From the CU Independent (Robert Tann):

    Levels of the harmful bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) in Boulder Creek have spiked several times in the past three years, according to reports obtained by the CU Independent.

    The bacteria, found in mammal intestines, usually comes into contact with water sources through fecal contamination. While the majority of E. coli infections cause vomiting and diarrhea, in extreme cases, the bacteria can lead to severe anemia and kidney failure. After years of the issue, one Boulder community member is advocating for change

    Art Hirsche, a member of the Boulder-based non-profit Boulder Waterkeeper, is calling on who he refers to as the “stakeholders” for greater accountability. It includes the City of Boulder, Boulder County and the University of Colorado Boulder, all entities that own property in which the stream flows.

    “I would like to see them be transparent,” Hirsche said. “They have a responsibility.”

    E. coli is measured in colony forming units (cfu) which estimate the number of bacterial cells in a given sample, with a typical water sample size being 100 milliliters. The City of Boulder has conducted roughly 80 sample testings per year between 2015 and 2018. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that levels for fresh recreational water, like the creek, should not exceed 126 cfu. Throughout the last three years, some E. coli measurements in the creek were over 2,000 cfu, 15 times the EPA standard.

    116 of 338 samples between 2015 and 2018 exceeded EPA E. coli standards. (Robert Tann/CU Independent)

    Determined “impaired” in a 2004 study by the City of Boulder, the creek has remained a spot for E. coli concentration ever since. It took until 2011, seven years after the findings, for the first total maximum daily load (TMDL) study to be done. In compliance with the U.S. Clean Water Act, TMDL studies identify the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards. In this case, studies were done to measure levels of E. coli in the water.

    According to Aimee Konowal, watershed section manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), TMDL studies took years to be implemented as the creek was not a “priority” at the time. CDPHE has dealt with a “growing list” of impaired water sources, said Konowal.

    “We don’t always have the resources to address all of the impaired waters at any given time,” Konowal said, adding that in 2004 the department had other obligations when it came to tackling water issues.

    While TMDL studies stopped prior to 2015, a plan was funded by the Keep it Clean Partnership (KICP) to further monitor and collect data along the creek, leading to regular monitoring over the next three years. While the majority of samples show E. coli levels being under the 126 cfu maximum, exceeding levels are frequent. Of the 338 samples taken between 2015 and 2018, over a third exceeded EPA E. coli standards.

    To Hirsche, these studies show a “languishing” issue, one that is in desperate need of action.

    “What concerns me most is how [residents] don’t understand that there is a water quality standard being exceeded,” Hirsch said. “If they know and they’re willing to accept the risk, that’s one thing. But the fact is, the stakeholders have failed to adequately inform the local public about what the risks are.”

    Children and the elderly are among the more vulnerable demographics when it comes to the health effects that E. coli can cause. Children under five years old run a higher risk of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome which destroys red blood cells and causes kidney failure. About 2-7% of E. coli infections lead to this. As summer nears, Hirsche worries that increased recreational activity in the creek could spell disaster.

    2015 E. coli levels in Boulder Creek. (Robert Tann/CU Independent)

    Candace Owen, stormwater quality supervisor for the City of Boulder, assures that an implementation plan by the city is nearly finished. Owen mentioned locating specific outfalls of waste and furthering investigations into such areas as a way to help mitigate E. coli levels.

    Owen said timeline estimations for how long the plan will take to generate results are unclear at this time, although she guesses each sewer outfall could take up to two to three years to fully control. Owen hopes the plan will be ready for implementation next month but says that recent discussions could delay it as the city continues to look for more feedback.

    When asked about the high amounts of E. coli in some samples, Owen said that E. coli measurements fluctuate regularly and that it is a “challenging” process. She said that one data sample is not enough “to tell a story.”

    Hirsche disagrees, citing that it is not just one sample but many that have exceeded limits and that is is “no anomaly.”

    “Flexibility” when it comes to initiatives

    Among Hirsche’s many concerns is a perceived lack of communication between the city and entities like CDPHE and CU Boulder. To him, CDPHE has shown a “hands-off approach” for dealing with the creek.

    “[CDPHE] is asleep at the wheel,” Hirsche said.

    MaryAnn Nason, communications and special projects unit manager for CDPHE, said that the department “wants to collaborate” with entities like the City of Boulder but stated that there are “boundaries.” Nason said that data on the creek cannot be requested to a “specific degree.”

    2016 E. coli levels exceeded the EPA standard 28 times.

    2016 E. coli levels in Boulder Creek. (Robert Tann/CU Independent)

    In regards to the development of TMDL studies and why the first took so long, Nason said that studies are a result of collaboration between CDPHE and other stakeholders. However, according to Owen, the City of Boulder conducted its first TMDL study on its own as it knew that CDPHE would not be able to address the issue of the creek at the time.

    As Nason explained, CDPHE can set boundaries for municipalities like the city when it comes to water standards but wants to allow “flexibility” for the city to address the issue how they see fit.

    Certain initiatives are outside CDPHE’s control, such as signposting around the creek, which Hirsche believes would help better inform the public. CDPHE’s Amy Konowal said the decision is not typical but has been done in the past in order to warn the public, such as when Denver County posted signs around Confluence Park due to the results of a TMDL study. Nason said that while the department may not require the City of Boulder to post a sign, they would encourage it.

    According to Owen, conversations regarding signposting are “on the table,” but she also believes that the city does not yet have a “precedent” that would justify posting signs. As of now, the City of Boulder has no immediate plans to signpost.

    “The city takes this very seriously,” Owen assured. “[The city] is very receptive to feedback from the public and understands that the public has concern.”

    Hirsche is skeptical of the city’s reluctance to post signage, believing that it may reflect poorly on Boulder’s reputation as a clean and healthy environment.

    “[The city] does not want to advertise it,” Hirsche said.

    2017 E. coli levels exceeded the EPA standard 34 times.

    2017 E. coli levels in Boulder Creek. (Robert Tann/CU Independent)

    “If I’m wrong, prove me wrong”

    Aside from CDPHE and the city, Hirsche has also called on action from CU, but conversations have been mixed. Hirsche says finding reports from the university’s own studies have been difficult. He has requested an E. coli meeting with representatives but has yet to hear back.

    Joshua Lindstein, CU facilities communications and outreach specialist, told the CUI in an email that the university has been collaborating with the city since “at least 2008.” Lindstein cited an initiative years ago in which both the city and CU contributed resources to block off and clean out a storm line on East Campus.

    He wrote that the university has invested “significant effort” to mitigate E. coli entering the creek via campus storm drains. In the instance that leakage is found, CU “promptly” makes repairs, with Lindstein calling leaks a “rare” occurrence, having only happened twice in the last five years.

    Further projects include increasing sampling and investigation activities related to identifying E. coli sources, as well as revisiting CU’s animal access projects to limit wildlife impacts on storm lines, according to Lindstein.

    Hirsche understands that some initiatives have been taken, but it seems more like “little bits of projects” rather than a comprehensive implementation plan.

    “If I’m wrong, prove me wrong,” Hirsch said. “I do not believe that [CU] has gone through the full gamut of investigation.”

    According to CU, raccoons on campus may be a major contributor to fecal excretion responsible for E. coli contamination. Lindstein wrote that “significant efforts” have been made in recent years to “curtail wildlife access to storm lines.”

    2018 E. coli levels exceeded the EPA standard 26 times.

    2018 E. coli levels in Boulder Creek. (Robert Tann/CU Independent)

    Like the city, CU has not posted any signage about E. coli levels. Lindstein said that CU maintains signage at storm drain inlets on campus property to warn against illicit discharges or dumping of materials. However, Lindstein said that E. coli signage along the creek is outside the university’s jurisdiction and would have to go through the city, county or state.

    Hirsche, on the other hand, believes that CU is “just as much of a stakeholder as the city.”

    The water quality advocate said he is not “pointing fingers at anyone” but knows “we can do better.” He is disappointed that the conversation still needs to happen in order to fix such a longstanding issue.

    “Everyone waits to the last minute when there’s a problem,” Hirsch said. “Nobody does anything ahead of time.”

    Time ticks on as Hirsche and the Boulder Waterkeeper await the city’s implementation plan. Until then, Hirsche continues to push for more awareness of the issue as Boulder Creek remains a “broken stream.”

    Contact CU Independent Senior News Editor Robert Tann at robert.tann@colorado.edu

    Boulder County will not process @DenverWater’s 1041 application with lawsuit winding its way through the courts #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan) via The Denver Post:

    Boulder County has notified Denver Water it will not process the utility’s land use review application for a Gross Reservoir expansion at the same time it is defending itself in a lawsuit by Denver Water challenging the need to even submit to that procedure.

    Denver Water on April 18 filed a lawsuit in Boulder District Court claiming a zoned-land exemption should excuse Denver Water from having to submit to the land use review process for the expansion, which — should it go through — would be the largest construction project in county history.

    However, at the same time, Denver Water CEO/manager Jim Lochhead had said the utility was taking the steps to satisfy that county requirement, even while the lawsuit was pending.

    “We remain committed to finding a path forward with the county that respects the community’s needs and concerns while allowing the project to proceed, which is why we have initiated the 1041 application process,” Lochhead said at the time…

    Denver Water’s bid to participate in that process and simultaneously challenge it legally, however, is not going to work, according to Boulder County.

    In a letter to Denver Water dated April 18, Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case said, “While the County believes it will prevail in litigation, it would not be appropriate for the Land Use Department to proceed with an application under these circumstances.”

    It is Case who initially made the determination that Denver Water, although holding a permit for the expansion project from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, still needed to submit to the county’s permitting process — a judgment Denver Water already unsuccessfully appealed before the county commissioners on March 14.

    “It would be an imprudent expenditure of taxpayer dollars for the County to process an application when the process itself is the subject of a lawsuit,” Case added in his letter. “Accordingly, the Land Use Department will not accept an application for processing until the lawsuit is resolved.”

    […]

    Denver Water public documents once showed a 2019 start date on construction, but that is no longer the case, and the lawsuit against Boulder County is not the only legal hurdle to launching the project. In separate courtroom action, a coalition of six environmental groups has sued at U.S. District Court in Denver, challenging the Corps of Engineers’ July 2017 decision to issue its permit for the $464 million (in 2025 dollars) project…

    The current Denver Water project timeline now shows 2020 to 2026 for the project’s start to completion.

    Denver Water Program Manager Jeff Martin answered Case’s recent letter with an April 29 letter, stating that Denver Water nevertheless intends to submit an application to initiate a land review process, citing the “significant resources” it has already expended in preparing its application in “a good faith effort” to comply with county requirements.

    Denver Water also argues that processing the utility’s application should not put a financial strain on the county, because “Denver Water will reimburse Boulder County for its time in considering the application.”

    Erie population growth is driving wastewater plant expansion

    Erie Town Hall. By Bahooka – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32826717

    From The Longmont Times-Call (Anthony Hahn):

    Trustees earlier this month approved the foundation for such change, an expansion master plan for the site that could run the town nearly $25 million in construction costs over the next few years, and an additional $2 million for consultants to steer the early stages.

    Several factors — ranging from the predictable to the esoteric — are driving the need for the facility’s expansion, according to Adam Parmenter of HDR, Inc., the firm charged with shepherding the town through the project.

    According to Colorado Department of Health regulations, towns must begin to make expansion plans when their facilities reach 80% capacity; at 95%, construction must begin. Delays could get state regulators to slap communities with growth restrictions.

    In 2017, Erie’s North Water site hit about 81% capacity, processing roughly 1.58 million gallons of wastewater per day. By 2020, that number is expected to hit 95% of the facility’s processing capacity, equivalent to 4 ½ Olympic swimming pools…

    If Erie’s projected growth keeps pace (and with current trends, there’s no reason to expect otherwise), Parmenter said the facility’s liquid capacity would be exceeded by 2021.

    Consultants are recommending a plan out to 2028, expanding the plant into a 3.03 million gallons per day system, a 50% capacity increase from what the existing facility does now.

    The expansion will take place in steps, however, over the next decade, according to Erie Public Works Director Todd Fessenden.

    “We will be in design over the course of the next year for the expansion of the plant” he said, “then we’ll be in construction late next year or early 2021.

    “The master plan is really just laying out the next 20 years so we can have a schedule to look at,” he added, “whether that be regulatory milestones or looking at certain capacity stages, a lot of those things you have to be planning ahead for before those things hit.”

    Another of the drivers, and perhaps a more pressing matter, is the plant’s solid operations. Whereas the plant’s liquid-stream processing is more of a straightforward capacity issue, dealing with the deluge of solids on a daily basis is often rooted in the quality of the science.

    In order to get the solids that come through the plant to the designation of “Class A Biosolids” — a standard that meets EPA guidelines “for land application with no restrictions,” meaning reclaiming it to a point where it can legally be used as fertilizer or compost — the plant’s technology needs to perform a specific set of tasks.

    As it stands now, the North Water site is essentially at capacity for processing solid waste, Parmenter said, and the “system isn’t running the way it was originally designed to create Class A Biosolids.”

    Without changes, the system’s current process — which includes trucks having to move solids off-site — would cost the town roughly $1 million per year in hauling costs.

    According to officials, the costs of the expansion project will be footed by the town’s growth through its existing tap fees.

    Down on the Ground in the Anthropocene City-State — Colorado Central Magazine

    George Sibley

    Full disclosure, I have written articles for the magazine in the past.

    Here’s a look at Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project and the Boulder County Commissioner’s hearing on 1041 jurisdiction from George Sibley that’s running in Colorado Central Magazine. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    An interesting thing happened mid-March in Boulder which the media seem to have mostly missed. Commissioners from Grand County showed up at a noisy Boulder County commissioners’ hearing on a West Slope-to-East Slope transmountain water diversion project – to testify on behalf of the project. It is probably the first time ever, in the generally contentious history of Colorado water development, that the people in a basin of origin have supported a transmountain diversion project that people in the basin of destination oppose.

    Although this is a story from just beyond our Central Colorado boundaries, it is a story of interest to anyone in the West who is wondering how, or even if, we are going to finally leave the 20th century and venture into the 21st and the Anthropocene Epoch we keep trying to pretend we haven’t brought on ourselves.

    The report on the Boulder County hearing sounded like your usual 20th century public hearing on the kind of issue that seems almost structured to pit environmentalists against the developers of something or other – a hearing in which no one has to listen because everyone already knows what everyone else is going to say.

    The issue in this case pits the usual Front Range environmental organizations against a public utility that everyone loved to hate through the 20th century, Denver Water (DW). DW wants to enlarge the Gross Dam and Reservoir it built in the 1950s in the foothills near Boulder, to hold some additional water it wants to import from the West Slope – its “Moffat Firming Project” which would bring a third more water on average through its Moffat Tunnel Project from the Fraser and Williams Fork Rivers in the Upper Colorado River watersheds…

    For the West Slope and Grand County, DW is both funding and actively participating in planning and executing a Learning by Doing process – essentially, an adaptive management process of active experimentation in learning how to live with less water. Some of it is more conventional work providing funding and expertise to water treatment districts and irrigation districts needing to use less water more efficiently.

    But some of it will actually be what strikes me as “creative environmentalism”: Actually reconstructing some streams to function ecologically with a permanent reduction of water – call it “downsizing” the stream to fit the unignorable realities of the future. Channels are narrowed and deepened to cool the waters, helping both the aquatic ecosystem and the human economy of floaters and fishermen; riparian vegetation is planted to shade the stream and stabilize banks; meanders are induced to give a healthy stability and resilience for the foreseeable diminished future. Half a mile of the Fraser near U.S. 40 has been so ‘remodeled’ and is open to public inspection (and fishing). DW has committed millions to this work. (The CRCA can be found online by browsing for the name in full.)

    @BoulderCounty commissioners affirm right to review Gross Reservoir expansion plans

    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

    After more than four hours of impassioned pleas from members of the public Thursday night, Boulder County commissioners voted unanimously that Denver Water’s planned expansion of Gross Reservoir must go through the county’s review process.

    That vote, affirming an earlier finding by Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case, now poses a significant challenge for the utility, which serves 1.4 million water users in the Denver metro area — none of them in Boulder County — and claims the project is needed to meet the needs of metro population that’s just going to keep growing.

    “I think it’s just critical that local people have their say on this project that affects them the most,” said Boulder County Commissioner Matt Jones, just before the vote was taken…

    Denver Water’s plan had been to start construction this year on a project to raise the Gross Reservoir Dam in southwestern Boulder County by 131 feet to a height of 471 feet and to expand the reservoir’s capacity by 77,000 acre-feet.

    The cost of the endeavor, said to be the biggest construction project ever contemplated in Boulder County, is now estimated at $464 million (in 2025 dollars) and could take at least six years to complete.

    Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case issued a finding on Oct. 22 that Denver Water’s plans, formally known as the Moffat Collection System Project,were subject to the county’s so-called “1041” review process — that number references the state House bill passed in 1974 allowing local governments to regulate matters of statewide interest through a local permitting process.

    Denver Water however, has argued to the contrary.

    “We contend that state law exempts the expansion from the 1041 process because it was permitted under local land use codes at the time that the state enacted the law authorizing the 1041 review process,” said Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson.

    Boulder County commissioners set March 14 public hearing on Gross Reservoir expansion appeal

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Amy Bounds):

    Community members wanting to comment next month at a Boulder County commissioners hearing on whether Denver Water can move forward with an expansion of Gross Reservoir can start signing up next week…

    Online sign-ups for the March 14 hearing start Feb. 14, while in-person sign-ups will start an hour before the hearing.

    Commissioners plan to continue to take public testimony until all speakers have had an opportunity to comment, according to a news release.

    After the public hearing, commissioners will hear Denver Water’s appeal of a decision by the county’s Land Use Department that Denver Water must run the project through what is known as a “1041” review process before construction can begin.

    Named for the bill number by which it was enacted in 1974, the 1041 legislation gives local governments the right to control development by agencies beyond their boundaries through a local permitting process.

    Denver Water argues the Gross Reservoir expansion is exempt from 1041 requirements. Boulder County claims it is not.

    The public hearing will focus on the limited scope of the determination and is not a hearing or decision on the perceived impacts or merits of the reservoir expansion project, according to a news release…

    Written comments can be submitted through an online comment form available at bit.ly/GrossDamExpansion. Comments also can be mailed to the Boulder County Commissioners’ Office, P.O. Box 471, Boulder, 80306. Comments need to be received by noon March 12.

    Boulder County Land Use Director issues determination in response to @DenverWater (Gross Reservoir Dam Expansion Proposal) request

    Here’s the release from Boulder County:

    Determination states that Denver Water must obtain a permit under Article 8 – Location & Extent Areas & Activities of State Interest (1041)

    Denver Water requested that Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case determine the applicability of the Boulder County Land Use Code to Denver Water’s proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir.

    Denver Water has argued that it is exempt from having to submit its project for Location & Extent Areas & Activities of State Interest (1041) review under Article 8 of the Land Use Code.

    Director Case responded to Denver Water on Oct. 22. His determination is that Denver Water’s proposed reservoir expansion project is subject to review under Land Use Code. Before undertaking the project, Denver Water must obtain a permit under Article 8 of the Code.

    Documents:

  • Gross Reservoir Dam expansion proposal determination letter to Denver Water, October 22, 2018
  • Determination request letter from Denver Water, October 12, 2018
  • Denver Water may appeal the decision to the Boulder County Board of Commissioners as provided for under 8-406(B).

    Land Use Code Section 8-406 Determination of Whether a Proposed Activity or Development Must go Through the Permit Process states that “The Director shall determine the applicability of Section 8-400 to the conduct of any proposed activity or development. The Director shall make this determination within 10 calendar days after the Director receives a written request from the applicant stating the reasons why the proposed activity or development is not subject to Section 8-400.

    Background

    The Board of Water Commissioners for the City and County of Denver, aka “Denver Water,” is in the process of applying for a planned expansion of the Gross Reservoir Dam in southwest Boulder County. While this is not a Boulder County project, the reservoir resides entirely in unincorporated Boulder County.

    The Army Corp of Engineers issued its Record of Decision granting Denver Water a federal permit for the project in July 2017. However, before it can commence the project, Denver Water must still receive approval of its hydropower license amendment application from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

    Boulder County has intervened in the FERC application noting many reasons why the county finds the application to be deficient. In its motion to intervene, the county outlined nearly 20 points of contention with the project.

    Boulder County has intervened in the FERC application noting many reasons why the county finds the application to be deficient. In its motion to intervene, the county outlined nearly 20 points of contention with the project.

    On March 20, 2018, the county responded to FERC’s Supplemental Environmental Assessment, once again pointing out the deficiencies that Boulder County finds in Denver Water’s FERC application and FERC’s environmental assessment of the project.

    The county plans to further address impacts and concerns during a county (local) land use review process and has explained to FERC that Denver Water must obtain required county permits before it undertakes the project. Denver Water has not yet applied for a permit under Article 8 of the Boulder County Land Use Code (also known as a 1041 permit).

    A 1041 review would allow the Boulder County Planning Commission and the County Commissioners to conduct public hearings and review the application according to the criteria in the Code.

    More Information

    More information can be viewed on the county’s Gross Reservoir Dam Expansion Proposal information webpage. Also, individuals can sign-up to receive Boulder County-related hearing and meeting announcements concerning the proposed Denver Water Gross Reservoir Expansion Project. You can unsubscribe at any time.

    To receive notices about the Gross Reservoir project from Denver Water, look for the “Sign Up for Email Updates” option at the bottom of the page on the Gross Reservoir project website. All notices of meetings, minutes, and updates on the proposed project (also known as the “Moffat Collection System Project”) can be found on Denver Water’s website at https://grossreservoir.org/.

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Lawsuit filed to set aside CWCB and Boulder County floodway expansion

    Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

    From The Longmont Times-Call (Anthony Hahn):

    According to the complaint filed this week, commissioners approved the floodway expansion over the resistance of local residents, who said the re-mapping would limit development on their private properties — some of which are functioning farms — and cause their flood insurance rates to skyrocket…

    The re-drawing was performed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, with assistance from Boulder County staff, and was approved last month 2-0 by commissioners. Commissioner Cindy Domenico was absent. When the change officially takes effect Oct. 1, it will substantially widen the floodway along portions of Lower Boulder Creek northwest of Erie.

    A floodway is a narrow channel where, in the event of a flood, water will be flowing. A floodplain is where shallow water is likely to be during the event of a flood, though shallower and flowing at a lower volume, if at all, than water in a floodway.

    The former, by definition of Boulder County’s standards, is more heavily regulated than a floodplain. Land regulated under floodway status is often limited to very specific redevelopment.

    According to the complaint, plaintiffs’ efforts to have the hearing delayed to learn more about proposed expansion went unheeded…

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board in 2015 changed the definition of a floodway, triggering a review of flood-hazard areas across the state. Wheeler Open Space, however, was not reassessed, given the lack of residential buildings on the land, Boulder County Senior Assistant Attorney Kate Burke said earlier this year.

    In light of the planned oil and gas development on the site, a modeling with the new standards was performed. Under the new guidelines, the entirety of well site Section 1, which is in the open space, is within a floodway, according to documents Boulder County submitted in mid-April with its formal comments to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

    Boulder inks deal to sell hydroelectric power to Tri-State

    Small hydroelectric via City of Boulder.

    From BizWest (Jensen Werley):

    The city of Boulder signed a contract with the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association for the sale of hydroelectric power generated at five of the city’s eight hydroelectric plants.

    The deal is a 10-year agreement with an option to renew for another five years. It’s expected to generate about $500,000 per year in revenue, which will offset water utility capital improvements and operating costs that would otherwise be paid through higher water rates for customers.

    The city had previously sold hydroelectric power to Tri-State from the Boulder Canyon Hydroelectric plant. This agreement renews the contract for Boulder Canyon and adds four facilities: the Kohler, Maxwell, Orodell and Sunshine plants…

    Hydroelectric generation harnesses the energy generated during the downhill trip from water sources to the water distribution system. Boulder’s hydro program consists of eight plants that generate about 37 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power 4,600 households and displace 20,400 tons of coal.

    South Boulder flood mitigation

    Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Anthony Hahn):

    Issues surrounding the long-heralded CU Boulder South annexation plans continue to manifest most consistently within concerns over how eventual flood mitigation designs will play out on the property.

    Those concerns were clear at a joint meeting between Boulder’s Water Resources Advisory Board and Open Space Board of Trustees on Monday, where dozens of residents from Boulder’s Frasier Meadows retirement community who wore bright orange shirts reading “Save our neighborhoods” and “Stop flooding of South Boulder Creek” urged officials to take quick action on those plans.

    Upon annexation of the property by the city, the University of Colorado plans to build more than 1,000 housing units for students and employees, athletic fields and academic buildings on the 308-acre site over the coming decades. It also intends to devote nearly 100 acres of the site to a flood mitigation plan.

    The parcel has proven controversial since its purchase in 1996, as neighbors have worried that university’s plans to eventually develop the site would put nearby homes at greater risk from floodwaters.

    The chief flood mitigation concept — proposed under the South Boulder Creek Master Plan — includes a flood wall along the south side of U.S. 36 within the Colorado Department of Transportation right-of-way and a dam along the northern portion of the CU South parcel to contain flood waters, according to a staff report presented Monday.

    Under this plan, vehicle access to CU South from Table Mesa Drive would be routed to a ramp up and over a portion of the dam. The flood wall would also include an overtopping spillway, which would be designed to discharge floodwaters “that exceed the design storm.”

    “…why I support Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir Expansion project” — Lurline Underbrink Curran

    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Lurline Underbrink Curran):

    I would like to share why I support Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir Expansion project.

    While located in Boulder County, the project obtains the water from Grand County — a county that is currently the most impacted county in the state of Colorado for transbasin diversions. You must wonder why the county and its citizens, stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin, along with Trout Unlimited support this project.

    The reason is the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which is an historic agreement with statewide environmental benefits which were fought for and gained through sometimes difficult and long negotiations. It has been hailed as a new paradigm and one that will serve as an example of what can be gained when dealing with a finite resource like water. The signatories to this agreement represent the entire Colorado River Basin, and I had the honor of acting as Grand County’s lead negotiator in this agreement. I worked for Grand County for 33 years, retiring as county manager in 2015. I have lived in Grand County over 60 years and have deep roots and interest in the well-being of our waterways.

    The environmental benefits gained by Grand County, which include additional flows, river ecosystem improvements, use of Denver Water’s system, participation in an adaptive management process called Learning by Doing, money for river improvements, just to name a few, are necessary to protect and enhance the Fraser and Colorado rivers. Without these benefits, these rivers will continue to degrade, with no hope of recovery or improvement.

    Those who oppose the project offer no solutions to the already stressed aquatic environment of the Fraser and Colorado rivers. Through the Learning By Doing format and a public private partnership, partners have already implemented a river project on the Fraser as an example of what can be done. This project immediately produced improvements that were astounding. Colorado Parks and Wildlife can verify this claim. This essential work will not continue without the CRCA.

    The impacts that are associated with the construction of the Gross Reservoir Enlargement are substantial and one sympathizes with those who will experience them, but the reality is they will end. Mitigation for the construction impacts can be applied. However, without the CRCA, the impacts to the Fraser and Colorado rivers will continue with no hope of improvement.

    The environmental enhancements and mitigation that are part of the CRCA cannot be replicated without the reservoir expansion project, and the loss of these enhancements and mitigation will doom the Fraser and Colorado rivers in Grand County to environmental catastrophe.

    Boulder County asks FERC to deny @DenverWater’s Gross Dam hydroelectric permit amendment for the Moffat Collection System Project

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

    Citing the success of Denver Water’s conservation efforts since it first issued its “purpose and need” statement for the project, and the fact that no service shortfall has yet materialized for its 1.4 million customers in the metro area, Boulder County Attorney Ben Pearlman said that based on prior environmental reviews, “Boulder County does not believe Denver Water has shown that the project’s purpose and need have been met and the FERC must deny Denver Water’s application to amend its permit.”

    […]

    “We don’t think they have undertaken the duty they have (under federal environmental law) to analyze this problem thoroughly,” [Conrad] Lattes said…

    Denver Water officials on Friday answered back by reasserting the project’s merits.

    “The Gross Reservoir Expansion project represents an enormous amount of work, input and collaboration to ensure it is done in the most responsible way possible,” Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/manager said in a statement. “And Denver Water will continue to develop noise, transportation and tree removal plans with input from stakeholders to minimize the impacts to Boulder County and its residents.”

    Boulder County comes out against FERC issuing @DenverWater’s requested license amendment for Moffat Collection System Project

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Here’s the letter from Boulder County to FERC via SaveTheColoradoRiver. Here’s an excerpt:

    Boulder County is an intervenor in this action and offers the following comments on the Supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA) issued by the FERC’s staff on February 6, 2018, related to the Gross Reservoir Hydroelectric Project (FERC Project No. 2035-099).

    As detailed below, Boulder County continues to object to the FERC issuing Denver Water’s requested license amendment. The FERC staffhas failed to address significant issues related to the project; as a result, approval by the FERC is premature and would result in negative and unnecessary impacts on the residents and natural resources of Boulder County.

    The EA analyzes only those potential environmental effects of oe·nver Water’s proposal to expand Gross Dam and Reservoir which were not addressed in the 2014 Final EIS prepared by the Army Corps ofEngineers (Corps). The FERC’s staffreviewed the EA, made a finding of no significant impact, and recommended approval by the Commission, as mitigated by environmental measures discussed in the EA.

    This approach is flawed because ofthe resulting narrow scope ofthe EA, the lack ofspecificity related to adoption of mitigation measures for project impacts, and the FERC staffs wholesale and unquestioning adoption of the Army Corps of Engineer’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which FEIS was completed on April 25, 2014, and for which a Record of Decision was issued on July 6, 2017. The FERC should determine that both the FEIS and the EA fail to meet the standards ofthe National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and therefore reject staff’s unreasonable approach.

    FERC extends Gross Reservoir hydroelectric license comment period to April 9, 2018

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is weighing a Denver Water request to raise the Gross Reservoir Dam, expand the reservoir and amend its hydroelectric license for the utility, issued a supplemental environmental assessment of the plans Feb. 6. At that time, the commission set a 30-day window for public comment on the document, set to expire March 8.

    Save the Colorado and The Environmental Group of Coal Creek Canyon, through Boulder attorney Mike Chiropolos, and, separately, WildEarth Guardians, filed requests to extend that comment period by 60 days.

    “Upon consideration, we find that a 30-day extension is warranted,” the commission’s secretary notified parties in a letter on Tuesday. Comments on that supplemental environmental assessment are now due to FERC by April 9…

    Tim Guenthner and his wife, Beverly Kurtz, who live in the Lakeshore Park neighborhood on the north side of the reservoir, have studied issues around the proposed project for years.

    Guenthner, with his background in engineering, has concerns about environmental, quality of life and safety considerations relating to Denver Water’s plans for development of an on-site quarry at Osprey Point, as well as the use of roller-compacted concrete to enlarge the dam. That’s a technique that he says has never been applied to a dam project at so great a scale. Previously, a dam raise of 117 feet at San Vicente Reservoir in San Diego County was the highest using this technique — not only in the United States, but the world…

    The couple, who are part of The Environmental Group of Coal Creek Canyon, urge those interested in learning more about the $380 million Denver Water project to attend a meeting at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Coal Creek Canyon Improvement Association Community Center located at 31528 Coal Creek Canyon Road. The session will be used to plan social media campaigns and educate the public about the project’s current status and implications.

    @NOAA: 50 trips around the Sun collecting CO2 samples on Niwot Ridge

    From NOAA (Theo Stein):

    A climate science milestone on Colorado’s Continental Divide

    On January 16, 1968, in a bracing chill at 11,568 feet above sea level, a Colorado researcher collected an air sample at Niwot Ridge, on the doorstep of the Indian Peaks mountain range. The sample was carried down the mountain and then measured for carbon dioxide at a lab in Boulder, Colorado. The result: 322.4 parts per million.

    NOAA was not officially established until 1970, but this air sample produced the first measurement for NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. In the 50 years since, more than 274,000 air samples have been collected at over 60 sites around the globe, including more than 9,000 at Niwot Ridge. All have been transported to what is now NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division labs in Boulder for measurements of carbon cycle gases, like carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and other gases.

    From this inauspicious start, NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network has evolved into one of the international climate science community’s most valuable resources – a long, uninterrupted and highly accurate accounting of Earth’s changing atmosphere.

    Air samples are collected on a weekly basis from locations spanning the Canadian Arctic to the South Pole – continental sites ranging from deserts to tropical forests to barren ice caps, on small islands, and on ships crossing the oceans, by scientists and technicians, as well as soldiers, ranchers, mariners, school teachers, lighthouse keepers, a monk, and a host of other volunteers. One dedicated group of volunteers in Mongolia sends a hearty soul on a 12-hour overnight train ride once a month to deliver air samples to a shipping destination.

    Over the years measurements were refined and added, and now samples are analyzed for as many as 60 different trace gases, some at a resolution of parts per trillion. Collection and measurement methods have changed over the decades, but extraordinary steps taken to ensure accuracy mean that historical data are valid and continue to be used by researchers around the world to understand the carbon cycle.

    Thanks to that 1968 Niwot Ridge sample, NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network database is the third-longest continuous carbon dioxide record in the world, behind the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Mauna Loa, Hawaii, and Antarctic records. NOAA maintains independent sampling stations at Mauna Loa and the South Pole as well.

    On January 15, 2018, almost 50 years to to the day since the first sample was collected, a researcher sampled the air at Niwot Ridge. This time, instruments measured 410.24 ppm of carbon dioxide, an increase of 27 percent over that first sample.

    For more information on NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, contact Theo Stein: theo.stein@noaa.gov.

    Nederland budget approved

    Mailboxes are laden with snow on April 17, 2016 in Nederland, Colorado. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

    From The Mountain Ear (John Scarffe):

    A new Waste Water Treatment facility and sewer maintenance dominated the 2018, $4.9 million budget approved by the Nederland Board of Trustees during a regular meeting at 7 p.m., December 5, 2017, at the Nederland Community Center…

    Estimated expenditures for each fund: General Fund: $2,793,371; Conservation Trust Fund: $16,000; Community Center Fund: $391,068; Water Fund: $708,808; Sewer Fund: $812,422; Downtown Development Authority Fund: $30,700; Downtown Development Authority TIF Fund: $2,900. Total: $4,755,269…

    The Sewer fund capital improvements have multiple items such as manhole repairs, mains and a new vehicle. The design and engineering of the Waste Water Treatment Plant Biosolids project will get up to 100 percent in 2018 but will be reimbursed by a loan, Hogan said, and will hopefully be awarded a $950,000 grant for improvements. It is a $2 million project.

    Capital improvements from the water fund include the other half of the new vehicle, a Micro Hydro Feasibility Study with a matching $8,000 grant, and other projects, Hogan said.

    Grant activity includes a Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant for the Biosolids project, a Great Outdoors Colorado grant for Fishing is Fun; a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment grant for Pursuing Excellence Raw Water Filtration, a Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority grant for the Micro Hydro Feasibility Study with an $8,000 match and a GOCO Parks grant with a $6,000 town match…

    For the Water Fund, the changes in rates are explained in the fee schedule. Total revenue is $707,000, operating expenses are $475,000, capital improvements $91,000 and debt payments of $143,000, resulting in a net change in cash of negative $1,200.

    The Sewer Fund will also contain a fee schedule increase. Total revenue is budgeted to be $814,000, operating expenditures $527,000, capital improvements $42,000 and debt payments of $244,000, resulting in a positive net change in cash of $2,000.

    Hogan presented the 2018 Fee Schedule. Noteworthy increases include the water fee with a three percent increase, and the sewer fund with a four percent increase.

    Moffat Collection System Project will impact forest surrounding existing Gross Reservoir

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to rule early next year on what would be the biggest public works project in Boulder County history, exceeding the original construction of the Gross Reservoir Dam, which was completed in 1954.

    The tree removal plan outlined in Denver Water’s FERC application states that all trees and their associated debris on about 430 acres along 12.5 miles of shoreline will have to be removed in the course of the expansion, which is envisioned as being completed by 2025.

    Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said the agency has estimated that “the density of the forest ranges from approximately 150 to 1,800 trees per acre. Based on these initial plans, we estimate up to 650,000 trees will need to be removed in the area surrounding Gross Reservoir.”

    In a recent interview, Denver Water President Jim Lochhead vowed that every aspect of the project’s completion is being designed and executed with an eye toward mitigation of its impacts on the high country environment and those who depend on it for their recreation or call it home.

    “We recognize that this is a major construction project and it has adverse impacts to the community,” said Lochhead, whose utility serves 1.4 million in Denver and many of its suburbs — but not Boulder County.

    “We are trying to understand exactly what those impacts are, and see what the needs of the community are, and do everything we can to help address them.”

    Referencing project manager Jeff Martin, Lochhead said, “Whether it’s traffic, hauling on the roads, whether it’s noise associated with the quarry, whether it’s the tree removal issues, it’s Jeff’s job to make sure it goes in a way that we’re doing the best that we can by the local community.”

    Martin said: “We recognize the brutal aspects of the project. We don’t want to hide from those. That’s not our objective.”

    Stressing that Denver Water intends to factor the concerns of reservoir neighbors into its planning of what’s officially known as the Moffat Collection System Project, Martin said, “We look forward to getting that feedback, seeing how we can make it into the most palatable project we can, and turn it into, maybe not reducing all the impacts, but for the greater good, reducing them as much as we can.”

    […]

    A 48-page plan for the required tree removal prepared by Denver Water describes a mix of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and Rocky Mountain juniper.

    According to data the agency compiled in 2005, most of the trees at that time were 20 to 50 feet high, with a breast-high diameter ranging from 4 to 14 inches.

    “Because of the topography, e.g., very steep slopes, rock outcrops, etc., several more complex tree removal (logging) systems will need to be used, and some temporary roads will need to be constructed to remove the trees,” the plan states.

    It estimates that 50,000 tons of forest biomass are expected to be produced during the required clearing for the expansion of Gross Reservoir, which is to see its dam raised by 131 feet, expanding the reservoir’s capacity by 77,000 acre feet to a total storage capacity of 118,811 acre feet.

    While noting that, “Traditionally, most of the slash would have been piled and burned in place,” the plan acknowledges that, “Today, burning large quantities of forest residue, in close proximity to residential areas, is problematic in the extreme.”

    Allen Owen, Boulder District forester for the Colorado State Forest Service — a contracted forest resource management partner to Denver Water through the Forests to Faucets program — said he had been unaware of the number of trees Denver Water is planning to pull out of the Gross Reservoir area, or that it will involve the leveling of all growth on 430 acres of shoreline.

    He doubts it would actually reach the 650,000 figure.

    “That would mean 1,500 trees per acre over the entire 430-acre unit, and I know that’s not the case,” he said. “The stand densities vary all around the perimeter of the shoreline. There are areas that are nothing but solid rock, with no vegetation on it, to units that may have those number of trees. But there are not that many trees over the entire 430 acres. The number seems high.”

    Owen expects state foresters will be involved in plotting how the trees’ removal proceeds.

    “It’s something way beyond the ability of the Colorado State Forest Service,” he said. “I would consider that a big logging job, on very steep slopes, with very poor access. It is going to be very difficult, at best.”

    Martin discussed three different potential scenarios, including removal by truck, burning and burial of felled lumber, or some combination of those strategies.

    In cases where trees are located on small rock bluffs, Denver Water’s current removal plan notes, “the use of helicopter may be necessary.”

    Denver Water believes new emerging technologies may pose options for removal that weren’t contemplated when its plan was authored.

    “One of the things we’ve committed to is developing a process with public input … going out and getting some public input and some stakeholder input and that includes the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado state forester and Boulder County, and developing some concepts … and then seeing what fits best for the community from there, and then moving forward with the plan,” Martin said…

    Denver Water points to steps it is taking to mitigate the effects of construction wherever possible, and also emphasizes measures that it contends offers some in Boulder County a benefit. Lochhead and Martin touted the provision of a 5,000-square-foot environmental pool in the expanded reservoir, to be available for replenishing South Boulder Creek for the benefit of both Boulder and Lafayette at times when it is running dangerously low.

    “That’s kind of a neat partnership there,” Lochhead said.

    That does not mean that Boulder supports the Gross Reservoir expansion — but nor does it oppose it.

    “Boulder has a neutral position on the overall expansion,” said Boulder’s source water administrator, Joanna Bloom.

    “If the project somehow falls apart, then Boulder will continue to try to establish the streamflows on South Boulder Creek through other means,” Bloom said…

    Boulder County’s stance on the expansion is more complicated.

    The county filed extensive comments on both the draft and final environmental impact statements in the Army Corps of Engineers’ review process, and doesn’t agree that the EIS adequately addressed “the myriad of impacts” that would result for Boulder County and its citizens.

    On March 23, the county filed an unopposed motion to intervene in the FERC approval process. One of the points the county addressed at length in that intervention relates to tree removal — and its arguments are based on the presumption of a far more modest, but still significant, removal of trees, at a total of 200,000.

    “County roads (Flagstaff Road, Magnolia Road and others) are windy with low volume residential traffic and would be inappropriate for use by trucks hauling trees,” the county argued.

    “In addition, it may not be possible to safely navigate SH 72 with trucks full of trees. These heavily laden trucks will cause damage to the roads and present safety concerns for road users.”

    Moreover, the county contends Denver Water’s project must come through its land use review process, while the utility maintains that the county’s role is superseded by the FERC review process.

    Until that conflict is resolved, the county is tempering its remarks, pro or con, on the Gross Reservoir project, so that it will not be seen as having prejudged any application Denver Water might make in the future through the county’s land review process.

    Martin recalled that Denver Water worked extensively with Boulder County in 2012 exploring a potential intergovernmental agreement to facilitate the reservoir expansion.

    While such a pact was ultimately rejected by Boulder County commissioners by a 3-0 vote, Martin said, “What we did receive was a lot of information from Boulder County and the public on how we need to shape the project in order to meet the needs of both the community and Boulder County.”

    However, independent of the environmentalists’ planned federal lawsuit, there might be a need for another judge to sort out the critical question of whether Denver Water’s plans for tree removal and many other aspects of its reservoir expansion must pass through the county’s land use review process.

    “I would say that it is likely that it will take litigation, because neither party is willing to give up its position,” said Conrad Lattes, assistant county attorney for Boulder County. “We need some neutral third party to decide this for us.”

    However, on a warm and sunny day back before the chill of approaching winter descended on Colorado’s high country, Denver Water’s brass were flush with optimism.

    Martin said that for Denver Water, it’s not just about getting the project done.

    “We’re also looking at the social responsibility,” he said, “making sure that when it’s said and done, that we did it in the right way; that we could look back and say we did everything within reason and practicality to make this really the most environmentally, socially responsible project we can.”

    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    Boulder Creek back in pre-2013 stream channel #ActOnClimate

    The City of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks Department (OSMP) has begun a major restoration project that will improve native fish habitat in Boulder Creek and restore natural areas surrounding the creek. This ecological project also will repair damage from the 2013 floods by returning Boulder Creek to its pre-flood channel, and will include the planting of more than 11,000 native trees and shrubs. These plantings will help improve the creek’s sustainability and resiliency, and help mitigate damage to private and public property during future floods. These efforts are occurring in two areas east of Boulder. Photo credit the City of Boulder.

    Here’s a report from Charlie Brennan writing in The Boulder Daily Camera. Click through for the whole article and the photos. Here’s an excerpt:

    “We are at a very significant milestone,” said Giolitto, who managed the project along with her supervisor, Don D’Amico. “The creek’s flowing back through its pre-flood path. That’s a significant milestone for us. The diversion was pretty significant. We were pretty excited on the construction crew when it happened, when we finally put the creek back.”

    There was no Champagne uncorked as that benchmark was achieved several weeks back. But there was great satisfaction for those who have labored since the spring of 2014 to reverse the havoc that saw the creekbed breached, city and private funds inundated by rogue waters and sediment plugs created that impeded an effective flow in a critical drainage.

    “The other reason this is a milestone, again, (is) getting the creek to convey its flow, both water and sediment. Getting the earthwork done puts the creek in a place where it can actually convey its sediment,” Giolitto said. “Which is a really important piece to getting it back to creating more resiliency.”

    The project involved the contributions of more than 100 city staff, contractors, volunteers and private landowners, and ran to a final tab of $2,030,000. Roughly 25 percent of that was covered by partners that included the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Environment for the Americas and the Green Ditch Company.

    Boulder OSMP spokesman Phillip Yates said the city leveraged $520,000 in grants to help pay for the project, putting the city’s actual cost at $1,510,000.

    Primary contractors have been North State Environmental and Left Hand Excavating, with Five Smooth Stones Restoration and Stantec providing project design work. Support has also come in the form of labor provided through the Bridge House Ready To Work program.

    Finish line in sight

    The project, which will involve continued management efforts for at least a couple of years going forward, has included the planting of more than 11,000 shrubs and native trees — yes to the plains cottonwood, thumbs down to the non-native crack willow — improving the native fish habitat and restoring natural areas surrounding the creek.

    The project area is transected by 61st Avenue, but does not include a popular public pathway that would put it squarely in the public eye in the way that efforts at popular trail systems such as those at Chautauqua and Mount Sanitas are so visible.

    “People might see the impacts of the flood as specifically a very trails-oriented impact,” Yates said. “However, there was pretty extensive damage all across the system. There were water delivery systems that we needed to fix. There was agricultural infrastructure we needed to fix. Then, there were a lot of riparian corridors that were scoured. And then we had to go back and take some steps to have some restoration efforts to then actually make those areas better.”

    City restoration projects elsewhere, on trails such as Shadow Canyon South, as well as Mesa Trail, are ongoing, Yates said.

    “But right now we’re nearing the finish line,” he said. “And having this (Boulder Creek project) completed is so gratifying, to see that this work is now coming to fruition and we have an ability to look and maybe see the horizon on completing our flood-recovery work.”

    The enterprise along Boulder Creek has highlighted the symbiotic approach to land management that the city has strived to employ.

    For example, the project repurposed hazard trees that had to be taken down elsewhere in the city, using them for Boulder Creek bank protection and to cover over pools to improve fish habitat.

    “Those have been great ways to reuse materials and partner with other people and other departments” in the city, Giolitto.

    Conflict of interest — @DenverWater watershed funding for forest health in Boulder County?

    St. Vrain River Rocky Mountain National Park
    St. Vrain River Rocky Mountain National Park

    From the Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

    Denver Water, which serves 1.4 million people in the city and county of Denver and surrounding communities, is currently waiting for a permitting decision to be issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on its proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir, located in southwestern Boulder County.

    The USFS has filed extensive past comments critical of the Gross Reservoir project, but now says all of its concerns about that project have been resolved.

    Critics, however, point to a five-year, $4.5 million contract providing Denver Water funding for the original Forsythe project as well as numerous other Colorado forest management efforts — talks are now underway for a new five-year pact for Denver Water to help subsidize projects, including Forsythe II — and they challenge the level of transparency surrounding that wildlands management initiative.

    Denver Water touts its relationship with the Forest Service on its website, billed since 2010 as the “From Forests to Faucets” program. That partnership called for Denver Water from 2010 to 2015 to match a $16.5 million investment from the Forest Service, for a total of $33 million, for forest treatment projects seen as critical to protecting water supplies and water quality.

    A memorandum of understanding was signed by Denver Water in December for a similar new agreement between the two, setting up a new one-to-one matching effort totaling another $33 million, to cover 2017 to 2021.

    The Colorado State Forest Service was also a partner to the previous pact, and will be to its successor, along with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    Colorado saw a dramatic example of the healthy forests-healthy water link following the June 2002 Hayman fire, which filled Cheesman Reservoir — the oldest reservoir in the Denver Water system — with mud, ash and other debris.

    Denver Water was forced to spend more than $27 million on water quality treatment, sediment and debris removal, reclamation techniques and infrastructure projects in the wake of the Hayman Fire and the 1996 Buffalo Creek Fire, according to Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson.

    But Magnolia-area resident David Bahr sees the Denver Water-USFS relationship as “absolutely” representing a conflict of interest, specifically as it applies to the controversial Forsythe projects in western Boulder County.

    “How can it not be?” Bahr asked. “The fact that (USFA) employees and goods are being paid for by Denver Water means that if they weren’t doing this, those employees wouldn’t be getting paid. The Forest Service has to be aware of this, so it has to influence any decisions that they make.”

    Vivian Long, president of the Magnolia Forest Group, has long been vocal in opposition to the original Forsythe project and its planned successor, Forsythe II, which calls for thinning and controlled burns on 2,855 acres of national forest land within the nearly 19,000-acre project area, to be carried out over 10 to 15 years.

    “While they’re saying, ‘We’re taking money from Denver Water, but they have no input on what we do,’ I don’t know if that’s true or not,” Long said. “When we have asked about them taking money from Denver Water, they have tried to either downplay it, or deny, or just say they don’t know anything about it. So we’re left wondering, whose opinion is more important here: the public’s or Denver Water?”

    Paperwork documenting the Denver Water-USFS relationship was obtained by Magnolia Forest Group member Teagen Blakey through Colorado Open Records Act requests…

    Forsythe II critics point out that in March 2010, the Forest Service filed 142 pages of comments on the Gross Reservoir project with the Corps of Engineers highlighting many concerns, including the adequacy of Denver Water’s consideration for habitat and wildlife issues in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests.

    That same year, the Forest Service signed off on the five-year operating plan for Denver Water to pitch in $4,479,251 toward improving forest and watershed health on national forest lands in numerous Colorado watersheds designated as Denver Water “Zones of Concern,” including the St. Vrain Watershed, home to Gross Reservoir.

    To date, $660,000 of that Denver Water money has gone toward Forsythe work, according to Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests spokeswoman Tammy Williams.

    On Oct. 17, the Forest Service and Denver Water agreed on a lengthy agreement settling any concerns over Gross Reservoir, which it states “resolves all issues raised by the Forest Service during the consultation process” relating to the Gross Reservoir expansion

    Clark Chapman, vice president of the Magnolia Forest Group, is among those wondering why the Forest Service is seeming now to soft-pedal habitat concerns around both Forsythe II and Gross Reservoir…

    Tammy Williams, the USFS spokeswoman, said there is no conflict of interest inherent in Denver Water’s pushing for Gross Reservoir and funding Forsythe forest work at the same time.

    “Gross Reservoir was independently analyzed and considered separate and apart from the Forsythe II project,” she wrote in an email. “These projects are being proposed by different agencies, these are independent processes, with independent timelines and different decision makers.”

    […]

    The western half of Gross Reservoir, as it is currently configured, is encompassed by the southeastern corner of the Forsythe II project area. But despite their proximity, the Forest Service maintains that its evaluation of Forsythe II is not influenced by its relationship with Denver Water.

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

    Scott Hummer, general manager of North Poudre Irrigation Company, talks about how his agency worked with Fort Collins Natural Areas and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to include a fish passage when the irrigation company replaced a diversion structure on the Poudre River that was destroyed by the 2013 floods. Work was completed [in February 2016]. (Pamela Johnson / Loveland Reporter-Herald)
    Scott Hummer, general manager of North Poudre Irrigation Company, talks about how his agency worked with Fort Collins Natural Areas and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to include a fish passage when the irrigation company replaced a diversion structure on the Poudre River that was destroyed by the 2013 floods. Work was completed [in February 2016]. (Pamela Johnson / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

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

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

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

    Understanding the river, each other

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

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

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

    Forests and water quality/quantity

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

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

    Global lessons for local success

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

    Change affects all sectors

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

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

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

    Videos, displays and music too

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

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

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

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

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

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Lyons residents on flood recovery process: ‘We’re just starting to get it together’ — The Boulder Daily Camera

    Bohn Park was flooded by the St. Vrain River in Lyons, CO September 18, 2013 via Getty Images
    Bohn Park was flooded by the St. Vrain River in Lyons, CO September 18, 2013 via Getty Images

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Amelia Arvesen):

    As Lyons entered its fourth year of reconstruction following the devastating September 2013 flood, the FBI and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stopped by to seize documents and computers to probe the handling of federal flood-recovery funding.

    Communities savaged by the rushing waters have been receiving fund allocations, totaling millions of dollars from several federal sources, such as HUD and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    Late Friday, Mayor Connie Sullivan released a statement on behalf of the town’s Board of Trustees, stating that the FBI had concluded its portion of the investigation and would not be proceeding with a case.

    Also posted to the town’s website was a copy of a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, stating that a focus of its investigation was documents relating to negotiations and grant services contracts between Lyons and Longmont-based Front Range Land Solutions.

    Arvada: Rate increase in the cards?

    arvadareservoir
    Arvada Reservoir via the City of Arvada.

    From The Wheat Ridge Transcript (Shanna Fortier):

    Owners of a typical single family home in Arvada will likely have to pay $1.41 more a month — or $16.90 additional a year — for water and sewer services fees in 2017.

    The average single-family home is considered to be 3.2 people and a yard. And the average single family drinking water bill in Arvada runs about $481 annually and $291 annually for sewage.

    Jim Sullivan, director of utilities for Arvada, said the average single-family account in Arvada uses 120,000 gallons of water each year for domestic and irrigation purposes and generates 60,000 gallons of sewage. Single-family accounts form the largest customer group in Arvada, using about 60 percent of the water.

    Arvada City Council heard the proposed rate increases at the Sept. 26 workshop and will discuss the proposals during council meetings on Oct. 3 and Oct. 17, also the date of a public hearing. The rates have been raised every year over the past decade.

    When taken separately, the proposed increases amount to 2 percent for water and 3 percent for wastewater. A 1.45 percent increase for water tap fees is also proposed. Stormwater and sewer tap fees are not projected to increase, city officials said.

    The increases are needed because of rising vendor prices, new equipment and materials, and employee salary raises, Sullivan said.

    Sullivan added that over the next 10 years, water operation costs will likely slowly increase as the city prepares to contribute payment for the Denver Water Gross Reservoir expansion project.

    Sources of water

    Arvada has two sources of water. The first is a 1965 contract with Denver Water. The second source is the city’s Clear Creek water right holdings.

    But “these two sources will not be sufficient to meet the residents’ needs at buildout of the city,” Sullivan said. “The city has entered into an agreement with Denver Water to financially participate in the Gross Reservoir expansion in exchange for additional water supplies. This project should increase Arvada’s water supplies sufficiently to meet the city’s needs at buildout.”

    Gross Reservoir, named for Denver Water former Chief Engineer Dwight D. Gross, was completed in 1954. It serves as a combination storage and regulating facility for water that flows under the Continental Divide through the Moffat Tunnel and supplies water to Denver Water’s North System.

    The reservoir was originally designed with the intention of future expansion to provide necessary storage.

    With demand expected to increase in coming years, expanding Gross Reservoir will increase sustainability to the water supply as part of Denver Water’s multi-pronged approach that includes conservation, reuse water and developing additional supply to meet customers’ future needs.

    “We think we have enough money in the fund to avoid issuing debt for this project,” Sullivan told city council.

    The proposed 2017 water fund budget is $29 million, with 75 percent going toward water system operations, 8 percent for debt services and 17 percent for capital improvements. The Gross Reservoir project is the majority of the capital improvements area.

    The city’s current debt service is $2.2 million, paid mostly from tap fees, Sullivan said. He added that in 2020 the water bonds issued in January 2001 will be paid off.

    The projected increase in the operations budget for water is $656,000 or 3 percent. However, the bond repayment in 2020 will reduce operating costs by $445,000 annually. Because of this, city staff is proposing to increase water rates by 2 percent rather than 3 percent in 2017, smoothing out future rate changes.

    The proposed 2 percent rate increases the water fee part of the bill by $8.52 annually or 71 cents per month. The 3 percent increase for wastewater amounts to $8.40 annually or 70 cents per month.

    It is expected that by 2023, the 20-year program to rehabilitate the sanitary sewer system in the city will end and the $2 million needed annually will drop to $500,000 for major repairs and maintenance.

    The water tap fee increase of 1.45 percent applies to new construction and would increase by $275, bringing the total cost of a single family water tap to $19,275.

    Denver Water is seeking approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the state of Colorado to expand Gross Reservoir, which is southwest of Boulder. The 77,000 acre-foot expansion would help forestall shortages in Denver Water’s water system and offer flood and drought protection, according to Denver Water.
    Denver Water is seeking approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the state of Colorado to expand Gross Reservoir, which is southwest of Boulder. The 77,000 acre-foot expansion would help forestall shortages in Denver Water’s water system and offer flood and drought protection, according to Denver Water.

    #ColoradoRiver: The Plan to Strengthen Denver’s Water Supply — 5280.com #COriver

    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water
    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    From 5280.cm (Amy Thomson):

    Considering the Denver region is growing by an average of 4,500 new residents per month, a large sector of the population likely doesn’t remember the catastrophic 2002 drought. The most severe water shortage since the Dust Bowl, snowpack and soil moisture were at all-time lows, and we remained in a dry period until 2006. Luckily, with water restrictions in place, we never actually ran out of water—we just got really close.

    “We realized that we had an immediate need to correct a vulnerability in our system,” Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead says. That’s when Denver Water started planning the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project, and after more than a decade of negotiations, the project (which was recently endorsed by Gov. John Hickenlooper) is underway.

    But will it be enough? The short answer is yes—as long as Denverites work on strengthening their water conservation practices. Lochhead was pleased to note that when a storm comes through the Mile High City, there is a noticeable drop in outdoor water use, because well-informed residents are turning off their sprinkler systems. Denver residents have managed to reduce water consumption by more than 20 percent in the last 15 years, even with a 15 percent increase in population, according to Lochhead.

    The decrease is not enough to mitigate the risk of drought, however. As Colorado’s largest water utility, the Denver Water system is made up of two collection systems—the Northern and the South Platte—and they are incredibly imbalanced. About 80 percent of the water comes from the south system, leaving the north very vulnerable to low rainfall or wildfires. During the notable dry years of 2002 and 2013, clients in the north end were lucky their taps continued to flow.

    “We were literally only one drought away from a major problem in our system,” Lochhead says, noting that as recently as 2013, the system was virtually out of water in the north-end.

    #ColoradoRiver: “..in the Colorado Constitution, the Continental Divide doesn’t exist” — Jim Pokrandt

    Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS
    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    A proposal to divert Colorado River water to Denver recently has won the endorsement of Gov. John Hickenlooper and the approval of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    But Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir expansion project may be just as notable for its general lack of opposition west of the Continental Divide. That’s thanks to a wide-ranging agreement, effective in 2013, in which Denver Water obtained concessions including a promise that numerous Western Slope parties to the agreement wouldn’t oppose the expansion project. In return, Denver Water made a number of commitments to the Western Slope.

    Now Western Slope interests are working on a similar agreement with Northern Water and others on what’s called the Windy Gap Firming Project, which would store Colorado River water in a proposed Boulder County reservoir.

    These approaches represent a far cry from how the Western Slope used to respond to transmountain diversion proposals.

    “This is the new paradigm. It’s not the old school. In the old school it was like … we’ll see you in court,” said Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado River District, a party to the 2013 Denver Water deal.

    For Denver Water, what’s called the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement provided greater certainty for its customers through means such as resolving longtime disputes regarding West Slope water. For the Western Slope, the deal meant dozens of obligations by Denver Water, such as millions of dollars in monetary payments to various entities, protections of Colorado River flows and water quality, a commitment to further water conservation and reuse efforts by Denver Water customers, and a provision aimed at helping assure maintenance of historic flows in the Colorado River even when the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon is not operating. That hydroelectric plant has a senior right helping control flows in the river.

    Another key point in that deal is a promise that Denver Water and its customers won’t try to further develop Colorado River water without agreement from the river district and affected counties.

    The cooperative agreement has 18 signatories but more than 40 partners, primarily West Slope governments, water conservation and irrigation districts, and utilities. Among them are the Ute Water Conservancy District and multiple irrigation districts in Mesa County.

    Pokrandt said the 2013 deal is a win-win for both sides of the Continental Divide.

    “That said, yes, more water would be moving east” if the Gross Reservoir project proceeds, he said.

    The project, also sometimes called the Moffat Collection System Project, would nearly triple the capacity of the Boulder County reservoir. Denver Water is targeting water in the Fraser River, a tributary of the Colorado.

    “Right now there are some periods of time when Gross Reservoir is full at its current size and their water rights are in priority but they can’t take any more water,” Pokrandt said.

    The project has an estimated cost of $380 million, and Denver Water hopes to obtain the remaining major permits by the end of next year. CDPHE in June certified that the project complied with state water quality standards, and Hickenlooper endorsed it last week.

    “The state’s responsibility is to ensure we do the right thing for Colorado’s future, and this project is vital infrastructure for our economy and the environment,” Hickenlooper said in a news release. “The partnerships and collaboration between Denver Water, the West Slope and conservation organizations associated with this project are just what the Colorado Water Plan is all about.”

    That recently adopted plan in some respects took its lead from the Denver Water/Western Slope deal in seeking to address the state’s future water needs in a cooperative rather than confrontational manner statewide.

    Pokrandt conceded that not everyone loves the Gross Reservoir proposal…

    Trout Unlimited takes a more positive view of the Gross Reservoir project, pointing to its inclusion of a “Learning by Doing” program requiring monitoring of the health of the Fraser River and adjusting operations as needed. The Gross Reservoir proposal envisions drawing water from the Western Slope in wetter years and seasons, but providing the Colorado River watershed with extra water during low flow periods and investing in restoration projects.

    “Moreover, Denver Water has entered into partnerships on the Front Range to ensure that the project alleviates chronic low-flow problems in South Boulder Creek. Both sides of the Divide benefit,” David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said in a news release…

    Denver Water Chief Executive Officer Jim Lochhead said in a news release, “The Denver metropolitan area is tied to the economic and environmental health of the rest of the state, and Denver Water is committed to undertake this project in a way that enhances Colorado’s values.”

    Pokrandt said Western Slope water interests face the reality that under the state Constitution the right to appropriate water shall not be denied if the water can be put to beneficial use and a party can obtain the necessary financing and permitting.

    “There’s not a legal stance to say no, so that’s why the river district was even formed in 1937, was to negotiate these things, because no is not an answer in the legal arena because of the Colorado Constitution,” he said.

    When it comes to water rights, Pokrandt said, “in the Colorado Constitution, the Continental Divide doesn’t exist.”

    #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan: “Having this additional storage enables that flexibility” — Jim Lochhead #COriver

    Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS
    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    This formal backing completes the state’s environmental reviews for the Moffat project, 13 years in the making, clearing the way for construction — if remaining federal permits are issued. Denver Water and opponents from Western Slope towns and nature groups reached a compromise aimed at enabling more population growth while off-setting environmental harm.

    It is a key infrastructure project that will add reliability to public water supplies and protect the environment, Gov. John Hickenlooper wrote in a letter to Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead.

    It “aligns with the key elements of Colorado’s Water Plan,” Hickenlooper wrote. “Denver Water and its partners further our shared vision for a secure and sustainable water future while assuring a net environmental benefit in a new era of cooperation.”

    Denver would siphon 10,000 acre-feet a year, on average, more water out of Colorado River headwaters, conveying it eastward under the Continental Divide through a tunnel for more than 20 miles to an expanded Gross Reservoir southwest of Boulder. By raising that reservoir’s existing 340-foot dam to 471 feet, the project would increase today’s 41,811 acre-feet storage capacity by 77,000 acre-feet — more than doubling the surface area of the reservoir…

    For more than a decade, Denver Water has been seeking permits, including federal approval for construction affecting wetlands and to generate hydro-electricity at the dam.

    “During dry years, we won’t be diverting water. It is a relatively small amount of water. … It is a water supply that Colorado is entitled to develop,” Lochhead said in an interview.

    The increased storage capacity “allows us to take water in wet times and carry it over through drought periods. It gives us operational flexibility on the Western Slope. … Having this additional storage enables that flexibility.”

    Colorado leaders’ formal endorsement follows a recent Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment decision to issue a water quality permit for the project, certifying no water quality standards will be violated. Hickenlooper has directed state officials to work with federal water and energy regulators to expedite issuance of other permits. Denver Water officials said they expect to have all permits by the end of 2017, start construction 2019 and finish by 2024…

    …Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups call the project a realistic compromise considering the rapid population growth along Colorado’s Front Range.

    “If the state needs to develop more water, they need to do it in a less-damaging, more responsible way — as opposed to going to the pristine headwaters of the South Platte River, which is what the Two Forks project was going to do,” TU attorney Mely Whiting said.

    “We’ve put things in place that will make Denver Water be a steward of the river,” Whiting said. The agreement hashed out between Denver Water and conservationists “does not specifically say they have to tweak the flows to help the environment. It does say they have to monitor, for water temperature and macroinvertebrates. And if there’s a problem, they are responsible for figuring out why and they need to do something about it. It does not say exactly what they have to do but they have to fix any problem.”

    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water
    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    From The Colorado Independent (Marianne Goodland):

    Gov. John Hickenlooper has officially endorsed a project to expand Boulder County’s Gross Reservoir, a move he hopes will improve Colorado’s water capacity for the next several decades.

    The endorsement was considered a formality; Hickenlooper wrote to President Barack Obama four years ago, asking for the president’s help in speeding up the process for Gross and other water projects.

    Colorado is predicted to face a gap of more than one million acre-feet of water by 2050, according to a 2010 estimate that many believe may be on the low end. One acre-foot of water is the amount of water it would take to cover the field at Mile High Stadium from endzone to endzone with one foot of water. That’s 325,851 gallons of water. The average family of four uses about half an acre–foot of water per year.

    Hickenlooper couldn’t give his formal okay for the expansion of the reservoir, which is northwest of Eldorado Springs, until the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment had completed its review that certifies the project would comply with state water quality standards.

    At 41,811 acre feet, Gross is among the state’s smallest reservoirs. It’s operated by Denver Water, supplied by water coming from the Fraser River on the west side of the Continental Divide through the Moffat Tunnel.

    The expansion would allow the reservoir to collect another 18,000 acre-feet of water, enough to supply 72,000 more households per year. The estimated cost is about $380 million, which includes design, management, permitting, mitigation and construction.

    The Gross expansion has been in the works for more than 13 years, with its first permits applied for in 2003. If all goes according to plan, the permitting process will be completed in 2017,with construction to begin in 2019 or 2020. The reservoir could be fully filled by 2025, according to Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson.

    In his letter to Denver Water, Hickenlooper called the Gross project key to serving more than 25 percent of the state’s population. It will “add reliability to our public water supply, and provide environmental benefits to both the East and West Slopes of Colorado,” he said.

    Aye, there’s the rub: the Western Slope, whose residents fear that anything that will divert more water from the Western Slope to the Eastern Slope will cut into their water supplies. They also worry that more diversions of Colorado River water will make it more difficult to satisfy multi-state compacts with southwestern states that rely on water from the Colorado River, of which the Fraser is a tributary.

    But Jim Lochhead, head of Denver Water, told The Colorado Independent that any further diversions will require buy-in from folks on the Western Slope.

    It’s part of an arrangement between Denver Water and 17 Western Slope water providers that has been in development for the past six years, Lochhead said. “We’ve worked extensively with the West Slope to develop the Colorado River cooperative agreement,” which will make the environment and economy of Western Colorado better off, he said.

    The agreement addresses impacts of Denver Water projects in Grand, Summit and other counties, all the way to the Colorado-Utah border.

    Lochhead hopes the Gross Reservoir project will be a model for cooperation, with benefits for both sides of the Continental Divide.

    And the cost? The budget for the agreement starts at $25 million and goes up from there. That first funding goes to Summit and Grand counties for enhancement projects, which includes improved water supply for Winter Park, Keystone and Breckenridge ski areas. Lochhead said the locals will figure out exactly how to spend the money, and that Denver Water isn’t dictating what those counties will do with it beyond setting some parameters for protection of watersheds, the area of land that drains to a particular body of water.

    Denver Water has also committed to making improvements to the Shoshone Power Plant on the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs, and improvements to wastewater treatment plants all the way to the western state line to enhance area water quality.

    “We have an extensive list of commitments to partner with the Western Slope, to do the right thing,” Lochhead said.

    The Gross Reservoir expansion is critical to Denver Water’s future needs, as Lochhead sees it, because its improved capacity will allow the water utility to operate its system with more flexibility. That’s most important for Denver Water’s attention to environmental concerns, both on the Western Slope and for South Boulder Creek, which flows out of Gross Reservoir.

    “The state’s responsibility is to ensure we do the right thing for Colorado’s future, and this project is vital infrastructure for our economy and the environment,” Hickenlooper said in a statement today. “The partnerships and collaboration between Denver Water, the West Slope and conservation organizations associated with this project are just what the Colorado Water Plan is all about.”

    Added Lochhead in a statement Wednesday: “The Denver metropolitan area is tied to the economic and environmental health of the rest of the state, and Denver Water is committed to undertake this project in a way that enhances Colorado’s values.”

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Boulder County offers water tour of Left Hand Ditch system — the Longmont Times-Call

    Above, left: This hand drawn map is one of the original documents of Coffin V Left Hand Ditch, at the Colorado State Archives. A few original documents from the Coffin V Left Hand case can be seen at the Colorado State Archives, filed under case #885, #1103 and #1203.  Above, right: The headgate of the Left Hand Ditch on the South St. Vrain, where the famous confrontation took place.
    Above, left: This hand drawn map is one of the original documents of Coffin V Left Hand Ditch, at the Colorado State Archives. A few original documents from the Coffin V Left Hand case can be seen at the Colorado State Archives, filed under case #885, #1103 and #1203. Above, right: The headgate of the Left Hand Ditch on the South St. Vrain, where the famous confrontation took place.

    From the Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar):

    People can register to participate in a June 11 Boulder County Parks and Open Space water tour that’s to highlight the 150th anniversary of the Left Hand Ditch Company.

    The 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. tour will begin at the Plaza Convention Center, 1850 Industrial Circle, Longmont, and start with presentations on water law, the orientation of the overall Left Hand basin and the history of the Left Hand Ditch.

    Tour buses will then visit stops at sites in the Left Hand Ditch system before returning to the Plaza Center. The water tour, which will include a light breakfast and lunch, will cost $20 per participant.

    For more information and to register online, visit http://www.bouldercounty.org/os/events/pages/agtours.aspx?utm_source=redirect&utm_medium=redirect&utm_campaign=POSRedirect or contact Vanessa McCracken at vmccracken@bouldercounty.org or 303-678-6181.

    The 2016 Water Tour is supported by Boulder County Parks and Open Space, Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks, the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District and Left Hand Water District.

    September 2013 flood damage continues to ding Boulder County budget

    Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280
    Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

    From the Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar):

    Boulder County Commissioners Elise Jones and Deb Gardner signaled their support Thursday for a $53.8 million package of road, bridge, transit and trails spending, and equipment and vehicle purchases, that the county Transportation Department has proposed for this year.

    Transportation Director George Gerstle spent much of his presentation of that overall 2016 capital improvements program focusing on the $29.9 million expected to be spent by the end of the year on the latest set of repairs and replacements of roads and bridges destroyed in the September 2013 floods.

    “Road and bridge flood repairs are dominating the program in 2016,” Gerstle said.

    Officials have estimated that flood damages to Boulder County’s transportation network amounted to $120 million, and work on emergency, and then temporary, and then permanent, repairs has been underway for more than 2 ½ years.

    If things proceed as planned the rest of this year, by the start of 2017, Boulder County should have completed or at least started construction on between $50 and $70 million worth of transportation flood-recovery projects, Gerstle said.

    Already, during the first quarter of 2016, about $11 million in such flood-recovery transportation projects are being constructed, Gerstle told the commissioners.

    The Board of County Commissioners is expected to formally vote to adopt the Transportation Department’s Capital Improvement Program during one of the board’s regular business meetings next Tuesday or Thursday.

    Activists continue effort in Boulder to block Gross Reservoir expansion — Boulder Daily Camera

    Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera
    Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

    From the Boulder Daily Camera (Alex Burness):

    Environmentalists are rallying support for a renewed fight against a long-standing proposal from Denver Water to nearly triple the capacity of Gross Reservoir by diverting from the Colorado River Basin…

    Before a group of about 30 Monday night at Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place, the directors of two non-profits united in the fight against the expansion — Save the Colorado River and The Environmental Group — made presentations alleging impropriety on Denver Water’s part and soliciting donations to a legal fund.

    “They’ve been working on their decision, and we assume, feel very strongly, that (Army Corps) will issue the permit,” said Chris Garre, President of The Environmental Group, which is based in Coal Creek Canyon. “As soon as that happens, the clock starts ticking.”

    The Colorado River, the presenters said, is the most dammed and diverted on the planet. At the Colorado River Delta, there is no longer water, and there is concern that an expansion of Gross Reservoir would see some creeks and tributaries drained at the 80 percent level, with some “zero flow” dry days.

    An expansion of Gross Reservoir, which is a roughly 25-minute drive west from Boulder on Flagstaff Road, would have a significant local impact. In fact, it would be the biggest construction project in Boulder County history, and would likely take about four or five years to complete.

    The proposal seeks to increase the height of the dam by 131 feet, and would require the clearing of about 200,000 trees…

    “Caring for the environment,” Garre added, “particularly those who live in the environment, in the forest, is crucial to your experience in Boulder County. This has never been addressed by Denver Water. It’s been ignored.”

    While the universal downsides such major construction — noise and temporary aesthetic downgrade, among others — aren’t up for debate, Denver Water tells a very different story about the project.

    The public agency that serves 1.3 million people in the Denver metro area gets about 80 percent of its water from the South Platte River System, and another 20 percent from Moffat, a smaller clump up north. Expanding Gross Reservoir and thereby Moffat, Denver Water says, will help balance the existing 80/20 split.

    “This imbalance makes the system vulnerable to catastrophic events, such as the Buffalo Creek and Hayman fires, which caused massive sediment runoff into reservoirs on the south side of our system,” the agency published on its website.

    During times of severe drought, the argument continues, “We run the risk of running out of water on the north end of our system,” which would primarily impact customers in northwest Denver, Arvada and Westminster.

    Denver Water also maintains that as the Front Range continues to be one of the country’s fastest-growing areas, a shortfall in water supply is imminent unless addressed through projects like the one pitched for Gross Reservoir.

    El Dorado Springs’ Rocky Mountain spring water best tasting in US

    El Dorado Springs pool back in the day via the Denver Public Library
    El Dorado Springs pool back in the day via the Denver Public Library

    From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

    Eldorado Springs, Colorado, has won the top prize for U.S. tap water at an international tasting contest.

    The judges gave out two gold medals for Best Municipal Water on Saturday at the 26th annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting in West Virginia. They awarded the top prize among U.S. entries to Eldorado Springs, while Clearbrook, British Columbia, won first place for best in the world.

    The award for best purified water went to Bar H2O of Richmond, Michigan.

    An entry from Karditsa, Greece, Theoni Natural Mineral Water, won the top prize for bottled water, while the best sparkling water was awarded to Tesanjski Kiseljak of Tesanj, Bosnia.

    Ten judges tasted and selected from among dozens of waters from 18 states, seven Canadian provinces and five foreign nations.

    #ClimateChange: Mountains west of Boulder continue to lose ice as climate warms — CU Boulder

    alpineflowersniwotridgeviacuboulder

    Here’s the release from the University of Colorado at Boulder:

    New research led by the University of Colorado Boulder indicates an ongoing loss of ice on Niwot Ridge and the adjacent Green Lakes Valley in the high mountains west of Boulder is likely to progress as the climate continues to warm.

    The study area encompasses the Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, thousands of acres of alpine tundra, subalpine forest, talus slopes, glacial lakes and wetlands stretching to the top of the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. The Niwot Ridge LTER site, which includes Green Lakes Valley and CU-Boulder’s Mountain Research Station (MRS), is one of 26 North American LTER sites created and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and one of the initial five LTER sites designated by the federal agency in 1980.

    The decline of ice at the Niwot Ridge LTER site appears to be associated with rising temperatures each summer and autumn in recent years, said CU-Boulder Professor Mark Williams of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, lead study author. The decline is especially evident on the Arikaree glacier — the only glacier on Niwot Ridge — which has been thinning by about 1 meter per year for the last 15 years.

    “Things don’t look good up there,” said Williams. “While there was no significant change in the volume of the Arikaree glacier from 1955 to 2000, severe drought years in Colorado in 2000 to 2002 caused it to thin considerably. Even after heavy snow years in 2011 and again in 2014, we believe the glacier is on course to disappear in about 20 years given the current climate trend.”

    The new study looked at changes in the cryosphere — places that are frozen for at least one month of the year– at the Niwot Ridge LTER site going back to the 1960s. In addition to the changes occurring on the Arikaree glacier, the researchers also have seen decreases in ice associated with three rock glaciers (large mounds of ice, dirt and rock) as well as subsurface areas of permafrost – frozen soil containing ice crystals.

    The team used several methods to measure surface and subsurface ice on Niwot Ridge: ground-penetrating radar, which measures ice and snow thickness; resistivity, which measures the conductivity of electrical signals through ice; and seismometers to measure signals bounced through subsurface ice. “We found that a combination of all three methods provided the best picture of changing snow and ice conditions on Niwot Ridge,” said Williams.

    The researchers also discovered an increased discharge of water from the Green Lakes Valley in late summer and fall after the annual snowpack had melted, a counterintuitive trend that began in the early 1980s, said Williams. The increased discharge appears to be due to higher summer temperatures melting “fossil” ice present for centuries or millennia in glaciers, rock glaciers, permafrost and other subsurface ice.

    “We are taking the capital out of our hydrological bank account and melting that stored ice,” he said. “While some may think this late summer water discharge is the new normal, it is really a limited resource that will eventually disappear.”

    Scientists have been gathering information on the snow, ice and plant and animal abundance and diversity on Niwot Ridge going back to the 1940s, when CU-Boulder Professor John Marr and colleagues began studies. The two highest climate stations on Niwot Ridge, one at 10,025 feet and the other 12,300 feet, have been monitoring data continuously since 1952.

    “This study demonstrates declines in ice — glaciers, permafrost, subsurface ice and lake ice in the Niwot Ridge area over the past 30 years,” said Saran Twombly, LTER program director in NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research. “Long-term research at Niwot Ridge offers a rare opportunity to document the continuous, progressive effects of climate change on high alpine ecosystems, from ice and nutrients to plant and animal communities.”

    A special issue of the journal Plant Ecology and Diversity that includes several research papers involving CU-Boulder faculty and students is being published this month. Study co-authors on the Niwot Ridge snow and ice paper, part of the special issue, include emeritus Professor Nel Caine of CU-Boulder, Professor Matthew Leopold of the University of West Australia and professors Gabriel Lewis and David Dethier of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

    From an ecological standpoint, Niwot Ridge has seen a significant increase in alpine shrubs above treeline in recent decades, said Williams. At one research site known as “The Saddle” at about at 11,600 feet in elevation and 3.5 miles from the Continental Divide, the ecosystem has gone from all tundra grasses and no shrubbery in the early 1990s to about 40 percent shrubs today.

    “Places that once harbored magnificent wildflowers in this area are being replaced by shrubs, particularly willows,” he said. “The areas dominated by shrubs are increasing because of a positive feedback – patches of these shrubs act as snow fences, causing the accumulation of more water and nutrients and the growth of more shrubs.”

    One nutrient, nitrogen — produced primarily by vehicle emissions and agricultural and industrial operations on the Front Range and elsewhere in the West — is being swept into the atmosphere and deposited on the tundra in increasing amounts, said Williams. Nitrogen deposition also is an issue in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Niwot Ridge is part of the Roosevelt National Forest and has been designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve. The Green Lakes Valley is part of the City of Boulder Watershed and CU-Boulder’s MRS is devoted to the advancement of mountain ecosystems, providing research and educational opportunities for scientists, students and the general public.

    To view a video on snow, ice and water research on Niwot Ridge visit this CU-Boulder climate website and click on “Water: A Zero Sum Game.” For more information on the Niwot Ridge LTER program and CU-Boulder’s Mountain Research Station visit this CU-Boulder webpage.

    Boulder County officials see 2016 flood-recovery expenses approaching $76.8M — Boulder Daily Camera

    Storm pattern over Colorado September 2013 -- Graphic/NWS via USA Today
    Storm pattern over Colorado September 2013 — Graphic/NWS via USA Today

    From the Boulder Daily Camera (John Fryar):

    Ongoing or in-the-pipeline projects could cost as much as $76.8 million in 2016. Most of these projects are aimed at repairing the September 2013 floods’ damages to county roads, bridges, parks, open space areas — as well as services and programs to assist Boulder County residents and property owners still recovering from the floods.

    That estimate, from a recent county staff report to the Board of County Commissioners, would be on top of more than two years of flood recovery spending that’s expected to have totaled nearly $97.9 million by the end of this year.

    And 2016 won’t be the final year that county officials expect to devote a major portion of their spending on flood recovery.

    The county staff is sticking by its late 2013 estimates that flood recovery projects and services will have a total cost of more than $217 million by the time they are completed, so another $43.2 million might be needed beyond 2016.