The unique trail is one of a few projects planned at the mouth of Clear Creek Canyon
Jefferson County Open Space will be hosting a community meeting in January looking at a handful of projects planned for the mouth of Clear Creek Canyon.
Among them are development of the Welch Ditch Trail, a unique project reviving a trail atop an irrigation ditch first built in the 1870s to divert water from Clear Creek to around 4,000 acres of farmland in Jefferson County.
In a presentation created for the meeting, Jefferson County Open Space calls it “one of the most remarkable engineering achievements in Jefferson County.” The Golden Historic Preservation Board listed it as one of the most endangered sites in the area in 2003 and 2006.
Parts of the ditch are wooden flumes handbuilt in the 1930s and are elevated above the creek, particularly where it begins near Tunnel One in Clear Creek Canyon, offering a unique overhead view, said Nancy York, a planning supervisor for Jefferson County Open Space.
“It is an absolutely magical experience,” York said.
The ditch, in Jeffco Open Space’s Clear Creek Canyon Park, used to be open to hikers but much of it was closed in 2013 due to hazardous conditions.
York said it is an exciting project for its history — Open Space hopes to work with local historians to install educational signs along the way — but it is also an opportunity for a hiker-only trail alongside the Peaks to Plains Trail being built through the canyon.
York said Open Space is exploring the possibility of a suspension bridge connecting the ditch to the Peaks to Plains trail via a suspension bridge near the popular Twilight Zone and canal Zone climbing areas.
The community meeting, scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Golden Community Center, 1470 10th St., Golden, will also provide updates on the ongoing work on the Peaks to Plains Trail, which received grants from Great Outdoors Colorado and the Colorado Department of Transportation, according to a Jeffco Open Space release.
There’s another orange, rusty flow of water coming from our Colorado mountains, this one on the North Fork of Clear Creek near Black Hawk.
A viewer sent Next a question about this, asking what was going on.
We found out that environmentalists know about it, and have known for a few years.
It happens when rocks, which have been buried for years in Colorado’s mines, reach ground water. These rocks have likely never been exposed to oxygen because of that. Once rocks touch groundwater, iron is oxidized and acid is formed. The oxidized iron turns the water orange, but the acid is the concern. Acid dissolves necessary metals in the water, and can kill off wildlife in a stream.
The substance dilutes once reaching the main stem of Clear Creek, but there is not currently wildlife living in that fork.
The water treatment plant being built will take care of all that by treating the water with lyme, which will neutralize the acid in the water. The plant opens in January.
The good news is we won’t have a repeat of the Animas River incident from 2015.
“The two point sources that are contributing to this right now have been open and they are just openly leaking into the stream continuously, and so there’s not that build up like we saw with the Animas River,” said Elizabeth Traudt, from the Colorado School of Mines. “Instead, since these have been continuously leaking, that’s why this stretch of the stream has been continuously orange and continuously contaminated.”
That’s right. The water has been orange for a while.
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.
Saturday’s eighth annual Clear Creek Watershed Festival was a fun and educational experience for children and their parents. More than 20 local businesses, government agencies and nonprofits put together booths and stations for families to visit. For each station visited, the attendee would have her “passport” stamped. A full passport book earned a prize.
The event was started as a way to celebrate and educate the community, specifically children, on the importance of the watershed and how best to keep it clean…
Organizers Chris Crouse and Dave Holm said the festival is a way to teach attendees about watershed use and cleanliness factors, including wildlife/urban balance, high altitude, land-use impacts. The Clear Creek watershed not only supplies water for several communities, they said, it also supplies several breweries and Water World in Federal Heights.
This year, Crouse and Holm said, they tried to promote the event at schools as much as possible, as an opportunity to stimulate learning outside the classroom. And, overall, they anticipated about 500 people to visit the festival throughout the day…
Cannon said the festival is a great way to “get people exposed to what’s going on” in terms of water cleanliness. Cannon displayed various types of bugs from Clear Creek. He said the presence of certain bugs is “used as an indicator of healthy water,” and that it’s important to keep Clear Creek clean and safe.
“Anything that keeps kids connected to the environment is a good, healthy thing,” he said.
The Vasquez Canal Project is a multi-year multi-million dollar project that continues efforts by Denver Water to improve existing water diversion infrastructure. Work on the Vasquez Canal Project focuses on removing sections of the existing Vasquez Canal and replacing removed sections with a 114-inch diameter concrete reinforced pipe.
Work on the project has occurred in previous year with Denver Water replacing between 5,000 and 6,000 feet of the Vasquez Canal over the past two decades. Officials from Denver Water say they plan to replace about 2,000 feet of the Vasquez Canal in 2016, leaving roughly 15,000 feet to be replaced in the future.
Officials from Denver Water did not provide an overall projected cost on the project pointing out that, “funding allocation for this project is reassessed annually”. In previous year the project averaged around $750,000 per year in costs. Future projected cost estimates on the Vasquez Canal Project total between two to three million dollars annually.
Monies used for the project come directly from Denver Water which is funding operation, as it does all operational and capital projects, through water rate fees, bond sales, cash reserves, hydropower sales and system development charges for new services.
Work on the Vasquez Canal Project consists primarily of excavation and earth moving to facilitate the canal upgrade. “Crews will demolish the old concrete liner and covers, excavate the area and install the new 114-inch pipe, piece by piece,” stated Denver Water Communication Specialist Jimmy Luthye. Luthye explained Denver Water plans to, “work aggressively to complete this project in the next few years in an effort to replace aging infrastructure and improve the safety and strength of the entire water system.”
Ames Construction is the contractor of record for the project. For the past 20 years though, as previous sections of the Vasquez Canal have been replaced, employees of Denver Water performed the upgrade work. According to Denver Water this is the first year work on the project has been contracted out.
The Arapaho National Forest prepared an environmental assessment of the Vasquez Canal Project. All construction work on the project is being conducted entirely on National Forest System Lands. According to Denver Water that environmental assessment determined, “there would be no significant environmental impacts.” Officials from Denver Water went on to state, “They approved the project along with required best management practices, design criteria and monitoring designed to protect the area during construction.”
The Vasquez Canal is part of Denver Water’s historic water diversion network that brings mountain runoff to the Front Range and Denver Metro area. The original canal was completed in the late 1930s. According to Denver Water, information on the original construction of the canal is fairly limited but officials from the municipal water supplier stated, “we suspect that some of it (Vasquez Canal) was originally dug by hand because the canal had to be cut into the side of a steep mountain… making it difficult for machines to access.”
In the late 1950s Denver Water covered the originally open Vasquez Canal, effectively creating a tunnel. A drought during the early 1950s prompted the action, which was intended to mitigate evaporation as water traveled through the diversion system.
Water utilized by the Denver Water’s diversion system follows a zigzagging path of infrastructure as it descends from snowmelt in the high Rockies to homes along the Front Range.
Diversion structures in the Upper Williams Fork River send water through the Gumlick Tunnel, formerly known as the Jones Pass Tunnel, where the water passes under the Continental Divide. From there water travels through the Vasquez Tunnel, which brings the water back through to the other side of the Continental Divide, where it enters into Grand County and Vasquez Creek. The water is then diverted through the Moffat Tunnel back under the Continental Divide for a final time and into South Boulder Creek, feeding into Gross Reservoir, a major water storage reservoir for Denver Water.
Park Rangers were enforcing and informing visitors of the tubing and swimming restriction along Clear Creek on Saturday.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office announced the restriction on Thursday, citing dangerous conditions because of high water.
These temporary restrictions apply to Clear Creek in unincorporated Jefferson County, as well as those portions of Clear Creek within the City of Golden, including Vanover Park.
Colorado’s Own Channel 2 spotted two people with tubes ready to hop in the water were stopped short by onlookers who informed them tubing was restricted.
Water activities prohibited by the order include all single-chambered air inflated devices such as belly boats, inner tubes, and single chambered rafts, as well as “body-surfers” and swimming.
Kayaks, paddle boards, whitewater canoes and multi-chambered professionally guided rafts and river boards are exempt, but are encouraged to observe extreme caution due to the safety concerns surrounding swift moving water and floating debris.
Authorities said the water of the Arkansas River where the rescue happened [ed. 3 young people rescued from the Arkansas River Tuesday, June 7] was flowing fairly fast. Earlier in the day, it was measured at 4,300 cubic feet per second — fast but not unusual during the annual spring runoff.
Rapids on the Roaring Fork River are expected to peak this weekend, said Aspen Fire Department Chief Rick Balentine, citing information from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center.
Balentine said the currents are “dangerously high” now and cautioned those on the water to wear some form of safety flotation device.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 88 percent of people who drown in boating accidents are not wearing a life vest, Balentine said.
He cited another Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stat noting alcohol is a factor in 70 percent of water-recreation accidents.
“These are pretty stark facts,” Balentine said. “If you see somebody about to do something stupid, say something…
On Thursday, the river flow hit around 1,640 cubic feet per second, Ingram said.
River officials often draw a parallel between one cubic feet per second and one basketball — meaning 1,640 cubic feet per second is the equivalent to about 1,640 basketballs rushing down a river at once.
Ingram expects the Slaughterhouse area, one of the faster, more thrilling sections of the river, to reach between 1,800 and 2,200 cfs this weekend.
The National Weather Service in Denver extended a flood advisory for the Poudre in Larimer County and Weld County. The river isn’t projected to reach flood stage through early next week, but residents can expect minor flooding of low-lying areas along the river, according to the advisory.
South Platte River Basin snowpack sat at 194 percent of its historical average on Friday morning and was even higher earlier this week thanks to remnants from spring snows. That’s significant for the Poudre, which is fed by mountain snowpack in addition to water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project.
As temperatures soar into the 90s this weekend, snowmelt will push the river to 6.7 feet at the canyon mouth by Sunday morning, the advisory said. Flood stage is 7.5 feet, and the river stood at 6.2 feet Friday morning.
At 6 feet, water covers the bike path and trail along the river in and near Fort Collins.
Colorado has twice as much snowpack than normal for this time of year, according to the latest snowpack report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The cool, wet weather in May contributed to the exceptional water supply Colorado appears to have heading into the summer. According to the report, as of June 6, the state was at 201 percent of the average for snowpack, compared to last year’s 95 percent.
“This should be a good year waterwise for cities and for farmers; that’s the bottom line,” said Brian Werner of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
The fact that snow is still visible in the mountains at this time of year means the runoff should last longer than it usually does, which in turn means less water will be pulled from reservoir storage later in the year, he said.
And the snowpack is especially good in the northern Colorado area. The majority of remaining snowpack in Colorado exists in the northern mountains, especially in watersheds such as the South Platte and Upper Colorado, which are above 10,000 feet.
As of June 6, both river basins that feed into northern Colorado — the Upper Colorado River Basin and the South Platte River Basin — were above 200 percent of the median snowpack.
As for reservoir storage, the state is currently at 108 percent of average, according to the June 1 update from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This is exactly where the state was last year, as well.
The Upper Colorado River Basin is at 110 percent of average for reservoir storage and the South Platte River Basin is at 112 percent of the average.
Werner said the Colorado-Big Thompson project is 20 percent above normal, which is promising at this point in the year. The Colorado-Big Thompson project is a series of reservoirs, pipelines, diversions and ditches that provides water to municipalities, farmers and other water users throughout northeastern Colorado.
Werner said going into summer, farmers and cities should be in good shape if nothing drastic occurs within the upcoming months.
“We shouldn’t have any major water worries this year,” he said.