@CFWEwater — Barr Milton Urban Waters Tour

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I rode along with the Barr Lake and Milton Reservoir Watershed Association and the Colorado Foundation for Water Education on their Urban Waters Tour of the South Platte River last Wednesday. These rides are educational and fun and well worth the time. It was great to meet some new folks from the water community. Thanks to Amy Conklin for organizing the ride.

We started at Johnson Habitat Park where the Greenway Foundation has located their SPREE outdoor school. We learned about efforts to increase the volume of water in the river through the Chatfield Reallocation Project which will provide environmental flows through the City of Denver. Joe Shoemaker, Jr. explained the genesis of the Greenway Foundation and how the area we were in was one of Denver’s dumps during his youth. The educational effort was in full swing with young students plying the waters for macro-invertebrates and other life.

A representative from Trout Unlimited conveyed his excitement about landing big carp from the river. He also told us that a fisherman recently pulled a 24 inch rainbow from the river just upstream from the park.

Further downstream at Weir Gulch the focus was on widening the channel to more a more natural flood plain to help manage stormwater and improve river and riparian health. The South Platte through here, back in the day, was a braided, meandering stream with a flood plain that was sometimes as wide as a mile.

A Denver Parks representative explained the big project at Confluence Park — the replacement of the original structures from the first project in the South Platte revitalization effort. Kudos to the contractor that stayed with the project as their profit dried up due to the discovery of coal tar on site. The Denver representative said that the company believed in the project and the benefits to the community.

The last stop was at the site of Globeville Landing Park. There was a lot of construction going on to build an outfall for stormwater management. Denver is building their Platte to Park Hill Project to mitigate flooding caused by construction and development over the years.

I highly recommend these tours. You’ll learn a lot, get a bike ride in, and meet some interesting folks. The South Platte River through Denver is a great ride. What a success story.

Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project update

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

From The Castle Rock News-Press (Alex DeWind):

The $130 million project, called the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project, approved in 2014will allow water storage for eight municipal water providers and agricultural organizations across the Denver metro area and northeast Colorado. Construction is expected to begin late this year and will take up to two years to complete.

“The ability to store in that much space gives Highlands Ranch new surface water supplies,” said Rick McCloud, water resources manager of Centennial Water and Sanitation District in Highlands Ranch, one of eight participants. “We can use that water instead of non-tributary (non-renewable) groundwater.”

Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Co., formed in 2015 to implement the project, hosted a May 30 open house at ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch for the public to learn about upcoming changes at Chatfield Reservoir and the surrounding state park, which is a major recreational draw for Front Range residents.

The following are five things to know about the reallocation project.

History

In 1975, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built Chatfield Reservoir at the confluence of the South Platte River and Plum Creek to control flooding following the disastrous 1965 flood.

The main purpose of the reservoir, which currently has the ability to store more than 350,000 acre-feet of water, is flood control, but it also provides space for multiuse water and maintains fisheries and wildlife habitat.

In response to a growing demand for water — the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, commissioned by the state Legislature, estimates by 2030 Front Range water demand will exceed supply by 22 percent — the corps determined Chatfield Reservoir could accommodate additional storage space.

“We are taking advantage of an existing federal structure,” said Colleen Horihan, the corps’ project manager.

Who will benefit

The project is a partnership among eight water providers and environmental organizations: Colorado Water Conservation Board, Centennial Water and Sanitation District, Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, Castle Pines North Metro District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Castle Rock, Center of Colorado Water Conservancy District and Castle Pines Metro District.

Participants will fund upward of $130 million over the next two years for construction of the project. Each provider will receive a varying amount of the additional 20,600 acre-feet of storage space for surface water in Chatfield Reservoir once the reallocation is complete.

The project allows participants to have access to renewable water supplies at an existing water storage reservoir, according to Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Co. It also provides renewable water supplies for paying customers in several communities, such as Highlands Ranch, Castle Pines and Castle Rock.

Recreational impact

In order to prepare for the reallocation project, many recreational facilities will be modified in phases starting this fall. Most modifications include moving and elevating public areas for increased flood protection and updating existing structures, including picnic structures and bathrooms. A list of detailed designs is available at chatfieldreallocation.org/recreation.

Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Co. encourages park users to follow the project on Facebook and Twitter and to ask questions and receive updates on closures and construction schedules.

“Social media channels are critical platforms,” said Ben Waymire, social media consultant of the project. “These are channels for residents to engage.”

Environment

On-site and off-site environmental mitigation will be done at Chatfield State Park to address impacts of storing more water in the reservoir, according to Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Co.

Mitigation will include an adaptive tree-management plan for the reservoir to remove dead trees and debris along the shoreline and to identify a long-term tree-monitoring program. A $424,000 budget is set aside for pre-construction weed control. Off-site mitigation is being explored for bird and Preble’s meadow jumping mouse habitats. Depleted water channels and wetlands will be restored using vegetation and structures.

“We are creating more wetland habitat than we are impacting with the project,” said Barbara Biggs, project manager.

Timeline

The reallocation project will begin in fall of this year and is expected to be complete by 2020, after which the reservoir will be able to store up to 20,600 acre feet of additional water.

Construction will be done in 12 phases, starting with the north boat ramp of the reservoir, to minimize impact on Chatfield State Park — the most visited state park in Colorado with more than 1.6 million visitors per year, according to the mitigation company. The final phase will be wetland and bird habitat mitigation of Mary Gulch, an eastern tributary of the South Platte River.

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