Chatfield Reservoir environmental storage pool project scores $400,000 from @WaltonFamilyFdn

Chatfield Reservoir

From the Walton Family Foundation via The Villager:

The Walton Family Foundation has provided $400,000 in support of The Greenway Foundation and Denver Water pledge drive for the environmental pool at Chatfield Reservoir. If the pledge drive is successful, the foundation’s funding will purchase of 45 acre-feet of storage in the reservoir.

The pledge drive, announced last August, will add 500 acre-feet of environmental storage at Chatfield Reservoir through a community coalition. Denver Water has committed nearly $2 million to fund the purchase of 250 acre-feet of storage space in Chatfield — if The Greenway Foundation can raise the funds necessary to match that amount.

Ted Kowalski, who leads the Colorado River Initiative for the Walton Family Foundation, stated: “The foundation focuses on developing sustainable water management practices for the Colorado River basin. This innovative project pairs agricultural water users located downstream on the South Platte River with holders of existing storage located upstream at Chatfield Reservoir, to benefit both parties and the intervening riparian environment of the South Platte River. This could be a model for use throughout the Colorado River basin, and other basins.”

The 500 acre-feet of water would be added to the 1,600 acre-feet for an environmental pool being developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board through the Chatfield Reallocation Project, for a total of 2,100 feet of storage.

The environmental pool will be set aside for releases of water that will provide environmental and water quality benefits to the South Platte River below Chatfield during low-flow periods of the year when additional stream flow levels are critically needed.

In addition to the commitment from the Walton Family Foundation for the 45 acre-feet of storage, the grant to The Greenway Foundation also provides funding for the creation of a management plan to maximize the effectiveness of the water releases to the South Platte River.

“The Greenway Foundation is grateful for the very generous grant from the Walton Family Foundation as well as Denver Water’s commitment for support through the fundraising challenge” said Jeff Shoemaker, The Greenway Foundation’s executive director. “Contributions to the environmental pool are a one-time only cost for environmental, water quality, and recreational benefits that will last for generations.”

The Greenway Foundation has secured the following additional commitments toward meeting the challenge grant from Denver Water:

  • City and County of Denver – 50 acre-feet
  • The Greenway Foundation – 10 acre-feet
  • The Colorado Parks Foundation – 10 acre-feet
  • Shoemaker Family – 10 acre-feet
  • Rinehart Family – 1 acre-foot
  • Capitol Representatives – 1 acre-foot
  • Total to date (to match Denver Water challenge): 82 acre-feet
  • Arapahoe County Open Spaces Program and the cities along the South Platte River within Arapahoe County are also actively working to make a contribution to purchase 50 acre-feet to the environmental pool. The jurisdictions collaborate as members of the South Platte Working Group, which is seeking to make funding commitments by the end of this year.

    “Our goal is to enhance efforts to improve the urban reach of the South Platte River, helping to ultimately create a fishable river right in the heart of Denver,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. “We believe that with the commitment of the community, this river that has been ignored can be healthy and beautiful to help ensure Denver remains a vibrant, exciting city.”

    Outreach and engagement efforts are also underway with numerous additional public and private entities and individuals to secure the remaining support needed to meet the Denver Water challenge. The goal is to have commitments for the full 250 acre-feet by the end of August 2017.

    The environmental pool storage will be filled by a water right owned by the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, a major agricultural district downstream from Denver. Releases from the environmental pool will flow through the Denver metro area, providing environmental, recreational and water quality benefits, and then be used by Central for agriculture. Every drop of water in the environmental pool will provide multiple benefits.

    The environmental pool is part of the overall Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project which, when completed in 2019, will allow for an additional 20,600 acre-feet to be stored in the reservoir.

    WaterNews: November 2016 is hot off the presses from @DenverWater

    Chatfield Reservoir
    Chatfield Reservoir

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    5 things you may not know about Chatfield Reservoir

    Chatfield State Park is an outdoor sanctuary in Denver’s backyard. But it’s more than a beautiful place — this is one hard-working reservoir. Here’s why.

    Chatfield was built for flood control by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, after the 1965 South Platte River flood. During drought, Chatfield water can be pumped to our Marston treatment plant to supplement drinking water supplies. Only water from Denver Water is currently stored behind the dam, even though the dam is federally owned. Colorado State Parks leases the land and oversees park operations.

    Chatfield is used for water exchanges to trade downstream users with rights to the water, which allows Denver Water to keep water in the mountain locations of our reservoir system.

    Chatfield provides recreational benefits beyond the obvious. In addition to preserving levels for recreation, we use the reservoir to capture water released from Strontia Springs Reservoir. These flows keep the river at optimum levels to support Waterton Canyon’s trout fishery.

    Chatfield is about to take on even more responsibility. The Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project will increase water levels by about 12 feet. But this won’t be Denver’s water. Instead, it will help meet demands for growing Front Range communities and downstream farmers. Denver Water will still maintain its original storage pool in the reservoir. The Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Company also is working with state agencies to develop a plan for a storage “pool” within the reservoir for the environment.

    The latest Chatfield Storage Project newsletter is hot off the presses from Leonard Rice Engineers

    Chatfield Reservoir
    Chatfield Reservoir

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    After years of careful study and a step by step public review and approval process, the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project is moving forward. Eight water provider entities* formed and are operating the new non-profit Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Company (CRMC). The Board of Directors moved quickly to select a program management team and signed a Master Services Agreement and Task Order No. One on October 26, 2015. Program Manager CDM Smith and Leonard Rice Engineers immediately began work on the design process to implement the approved and required project components. Sub-consultant teams were selected and approved by the CRMC Board in the following months to develop preliminary designs. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently reviewing those preliminary designs.

    Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE
    Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

    Denver: 2100 acre-feet for South Platte environmental flows

    The South Platte River typically all but vanishes as it passes through Denver’s industrial neighborhood north of downtown, downstream of the Burlington Ditch diversion, near the Cherokee power plant. Photo/Allen Best
    The South Platte River typically all but vanishes as it passes through Denver’s industrial neighborhood north of downtown, downstream of the Burlington Ditch diversion, near the Cherokee power plant. Photo/Allen Best

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    The Denver Water and Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said they’ve obtained 2,100 acre-feet of water that they will use strictly for environmental purposes…

    “We’re trying to make the South Platte the best it can be for this city. … It’s not going to be like a Danube,” Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead said. “We can make it what it is, which is a plains river that creates an appreciation of the connection to water in this city. The city would not exist without that water supply.”

    The idea is that putting more water into the Platte at the southwestern edge of metro Denver will mimic long-lost natural flows, to the extent possible given the channelization of the Platte after the 1965 flood that destroyed buildings in the floodplain. More water also would help a fish hatchery where state wildlife workers breed rainbow trout.

    For more than two decades, Denver conservationists have worked at reviving the Platte corridor, building cycling-oriented pathways and riverside parks. It’s been complicated because metro Denver grew up around the river and, for more than a century, people exploited it as a sewer with industrial plants and discharge pipes draining into the water. Now as kayakers, surfers, skaters, waders and others flock to the river, city leaders face rising demands for more water, cleaner water and wildlife.
    But just beyond Denver, farmers await every drop of the treated wastewater metro users put back in the Platte, water used to grow food. There’s so much demand for South Platte water across booming northeastern Colorado that parts of the river run dry.

    By 2018, project leaders say, new environmental flows from Chatfield will keep that from happening — and create curves and pools favoring aquatic bugs and fish.

    “Now we’ve got some water so that we can start to build the river back to being a natural-looking river. It is limited. The river won’t have access to the true floodplain. But we can build smaller floodplain ditches so that the river will look more like a sinuous river coming through Denver,” CPW senior aquatic biologist Ken Kehmeier said.

    “The water will be used mostly during the low-flow times of the year,” the 65 or so days when water rights holders have the ability to dry up sections of the river, Kehmeier said.

    “It will mean water stays in the river downstream of Chatfield, including the hatchery. That’s where the trout will come from. And brown trout in the river now, with this extra water, will be able to reproduce naturally.”

    Lining up storage for the water proved crucial. Denver Water has committed to work with the Greenway Foundation to buy space for 500 acre-feet in an enlarged Chatfield Reservoir. This water adds to 1,600 acre-feet of water to be used only for environmental purposes that federal engineers required as “mitigation” for Colorado’s repurposing of the reservoir from flood control to water supply. The 500 acre-feet would be owned by the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, a downstream agricultural entity, which agreed to pay annual operational and maintenance costs.

    Storing water in Chatfield costs $7,500 an acre-foot, Denver Water officials said. They’ll spend $2 million to buy storage space, on the condition the Greenway Foundation does the same…

    This push to put more clean water in the Platte through Denver coincides with broader environmental efforts. Federal, state and city engineers have been mulling possibilities for restoring other metro waterways, for which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has dangled possible funding.

    Supporting Creative Use of a Dam to Meet Future Water Needs – and Save Plum Creek

    This picture is an example of a head cut on another stream (Image courtesy of the <a href="https://www.env.nm.gov/swqb/Wildfire/Viveash/index.html">New Mexico Environment Dept.</a>) and Western Resource Advocates.
    This picture is an example of a head cut on another stream (Image courtesy of the New Mexico Environment Dept.) and Western Resource Advocates.

    From Western Resource Advocates (Robert Harris):

    Better management and use of existing dams is a key tool to minimize new expensive, energy-consuming, and environmentally damaging large scale new dams or diversions from the West’s rivers.

    We are a conservation group with a priority goal of saving rivers in the West. So you would think we would be opposing anything to do with dams. But the reality is that we believe that better management and use of existing dams is a key tool to minimize new expensive, energy-consuming, and environmentally damaging large scale new dams or diversions from the West’s rivers. Which brings us to today’s story about supporting more creative management of Chatfield Reservoir and saving Plum Creek.

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently approved storing more water in Chatfield Reservoir on the South Platte River southwest of Denver to help meet Colorado’s existing and growing water needs. Western Resource Advocates, Conservation Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club support this decision because it follows the Smart Principles of water supply management by making more efficient use of existing reservoirs and local water supplies. In our view, select new-supply projects—including holding more water in the existing Chatfield Reservoir—high rates of water conservation, accelerated water recycling and reuse, and voluntary sharing of water with agriculture for other uses all can combine to meet and exceed 2050 water demands for the South Platte Basin. “Chatfield Reallocation” exemplifies the opportunities available to state water planners to meet reasonable anticipated water needs without building more costly, politically charged, large-scale concrete and steel water project proposals that cause major harm to rivers.

    However, putting more water in Chatfield Reservoir will still harm wildlife habitat provided by nearby wetlands and cottonwood stands. These habitat areas are accustomed to a lower, and less variable, water table in the reservoir. As part of the agreement to re-allocate water storage space in Chatfield reservoir, the environmental impacts must be offset, or “mitigated,” through replacement and permanent protection of other wetlands and other important wildlife habitat. To this end, the project’s beneficiaries have deposited approximately $130 million into a special bank account dedicated to environmental and recreational mitigation. Western Resource Advocates is joined by representatives of relevant state and federal agencies and other stakeholders as a member on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project, which guides implementation of the environmental protection and restoration mitigation projects.

    At its first meeting in late April, the Committee urged the mitigation company to use some of the mitigation funds to address rapidly deteriorating wildlife habitat along Plum Creek, which is above the reservoir in the park. Urban development in the Plum Creek watershed has significantly increased rain runoff flows that are scouring a deep channel into the creek bottom, and in turn, lowering the water table and draining high-quality wetlands next to the creek. This erosion, called a “head cut,” is unrelated to the Chatfield water storage project.

    This year, the head cut in Plum Creek is advancing dozens of feet upstream with each rain storm. Western Resource Advocates and the Committee unanimously urged the mitigation company to stabilize the creek and stop the head cut. This will help restore Plum Creek’s health and provide good creek-side habitat for birds and other wildlife.

    Mitigation projects like this one on Plum Creek demonstrate the potential of creative water supply solutions, including Chatfield Reallocation, to meet communities’ water needs and to fix significant local and regional environmental challenges. It also illustrates how dynamic mitigation projects can be since few anticipated that this habitat would, on its own, deteriorate so badly in such a short period of time. Without mobilizing the mitigation funding made possible by this project, Plum Creek’s wetlands might be lost for generations. Stay tuned to the Chatfield Reallocation Project as the stakeholders develop and implement this and other exciting protections for wetlands and rivers.

    Rob Harris is a Western Resource Advocates attorney representing WRA, Conservation Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project.

    Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE
    Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

    Chatfield Reservoir: Lawsuit Claims “Massive Environmental Damage” From Project — Westword

    Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE
    Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

    From Westword (Alan Prendergast):

    As we reported back in 2012, the long-simmering proposal has set off alarm bells among environmentalists, bird fanciers and many park users because it involves flooding more than 500 acres of the 5,378-acre park and raising the water level by twelve feet. Critics say that will wipe out groves of cottonwood trees, destroy bird habitat, wetlands and walleye spawning areas, and leave an unsightly “bathtub ring” of barren mud flats around the reservoir when water levels are low. The lawsuit claims that the Corps improperly evaluated the project’s impacts and dismissed a number of less damaging alternatives to the current plan.

    Chatfield draws 1.6 million visitors a year and hosts 375 different species of birds — fourteen of which are listed as protected by state or federal authorities. Audubon’s attorneys contend that the project will cost the state around $3.4 million in lost park revenues, much of which is used to support less popular parks.

    But the most intriguing claim in the suit has to do with whether the project will actually be of much use in boosting water storage for various agricultural and suburban interests. Several of the parties who initially signed on to the project, including the Parker Water and Sanitation District and the City of Brighton, have since dropped out and sought to meet water needs from other sources. Others, including the City of Aurora, “are trying to leave the project or have already left,” the complaint states.

    The reason for all those defections? While the project claims an estimated 8,539 acre‐feet of water per year as its average yield, the estimated “dependable yield” is zero. While the project has been presented as a “restoration” of the South Platte, the Corps’ own studies predict that the river’s flows would actually decrease nine months out of twelve after the project’s completion and increase only one month of the year. Much of the water storage is allocated to junior rights holders and may be available only three years out of ten.

    “It’s a bad deal for the public and for Colorado,” said Polly Reetz, conservation chairman of Denver Audubon, in an statement announcing the lawsuit.

    But the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board remain solid supporters of the project, and backers insist that the overall effect on Chatfield will be minimal. Denver Audubon and other environmental groups have said they would prefer to see more conservation measures and less drastic storage projects.

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here.

    Chatfield Reservoir water supply project OK’d by feds, faces lawsuit — The Denver Post

    Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE
    Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Federal water engineers on Thursday launched the long-planned and controversial Chatfield Reservoir water supply project, closing a deal with Colorado sponsors.

    Audubon Society opponents filed a lawsuit in federal court trying to block construction.

    A reallocation of the South Platte River water that is captured in the reservoir, created in 1975 for flood control, is expected to add 2.8 billion gallons a year to water supplies.

    But the project will inundate 10 percent of the premier state park.

    Col. Joel Cross, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha district commander, signed an agreement with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board — clearing the way for state-supervised construction after 15 years of negotiation.

    “This completes the study and gives approval to move forward. This is a huge milestone,” Army Corps of Engineers project manager Gwyn Jarrett said.

    Colorado natural resources director Mike King on Oct. 6 signed for the state. Colorado water supply planners have estimated that, by 2050, the state’s population probably will grow to between 8.6 million and 10.3 million people, up from 5 million in 2010. Today’s water supplies are expected to fall short by 390,000 to 450,000 acre-feet.

    “As we look to meet our state’s future water needs, taking advantage of existing infrastructure and maximizing yield from Chatfield is by far the most environmentally responsible option available,” King said.

    “This project will not pull any additional water from the West Slope, and the environmental impacts can and will be mitigated through an aggressive plan to ensure that Chatfield remains a tremendous recreational and wildlife viewing site,” he said. “At the same time, the new project will provide additional water to the already stressed farms and communities along the South Platte.”

    The 20,600 acre-feet of water stored in Chatfield Reservoir, located 25 miles southwest of downtown Denver, has been reallocated for municipal and industrial water supply along with other purposes, including agriculture, environmental restoration, recreation and improving fish habitat.

    Federal engineers said using Chatfield to augment water supplies is better than building a new dam and reservoir elsewhere.

    The plans say the water level will rise by up to 12 feet and the project will provide an average of 8,539 acre-feet of water (about 2.8 billion gallons) for municipal, industrial, environmental and agricultural use.

    This will inundate 10 percent of the 5,378-acre Chatfield State Park, which draws 1.6 million visitors a year.

    Lengthy reviews and negotiation among federal engineers, state officials and water users led to plans to mitigate adverse impacts.

    The plans describe new habitat for birds and replacement of park structures and roadways. State officials said water providers purchasing storage space in the reservoir must place funds to pay for mitigation work in an escrow account before construction begins. And no new water can be stored until on-site recreational and environmental work is done.

    The Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, has deemed the Chatfield project “technically sound, environmentally acceptable and economically justified.”

    Bird-watchers opposed it. Cottonwoods that serve as bird habitat likely will be lost.

    The Audubon Society of Greater Denver this week filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, arguing that federal authorities arbitrarily dismissed better alternatives and that the Clean Water Act allows only the least-damaging alternative. It argues that federal documents show the “dependable yield” of water from the project is zero and that project reviewers’ “segmentation” in evaluating impacts led to an improper analysis.

    “They need to take another look at alternatives they dismissed,” Audubon Society member Gene Reetz said. “Everybody realizes that demands for water are growing. And, especially with climate change, water is going to be very short. We all have to get more serious about conservation.”

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here.