Westminster: No water rate hike in 2021

Westminster

From the City of Westminster via The Northglenn-Thornton Sentinel:

Westminster councilors made a plan official that keeps the city’s water and sewer rates in 2021 the same as this year.

Councilors voted 7-0 June 22 to hold off on a planned increase due to impacts from COVID-19.

The city had been considering a 6% increase in water and sewer rates for 2021 and 2022. That would have increased water rates by about $3.31 month and sewer rates by $3.36 per month. Much of the increase was earmarked for capital work on the city’s pipes and water and sewer infrastructure.

Instead, the city was able to use savings from refinancing some city debt and claiming lower interest rates to cover the costs of the utilities. The city refunded $17.9 million in bonds it sold in 2010, reducing the overall amount owed by $3.6 million over the same term. That savings should allow the city to fund necessary operations and projects in 2021 without a rate increase.

The city will also tap into a $2 million rate stabilization fund and cut $500,000 from the money the utility pays into the general fund to pay water and sewer expenses for the next year.

Westminster offers several programs to help interested customers use less water and manage their bill.

A water bill assistance program offers income-qualified customers — including customers financially impacted by COVID-19 — a $15 per month credit toward their utility bill.

The city also offers several water conservation programs to help residents use less water outdoors including an irrigation consultation program that saves participating customers an average of $150 on their water bill.

The city has also formed an internal task force to identify innovative solutions to maintaining the city’s infrastructure while reducing costs.

Westminster to raise water and sewer rates for next two years — The #Denver Post

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From The Denver Post (Megan Webber):

Westminster’s city leaders want to replace aging water tanks and a water main and keep up with environmental regulations, and they are asking residents to fork out an extra $7 a month in their water and sewer bills to pay for it.

City Council is hosting public meetings to explain the needs and why it wants to increase rates in 2021 and 2022 for the projects. Under the proposal, the average customer will be billed an extra $4 for drinking water and $3 for sewer each month in 2021, and then again in 2022. That equates to about $168 per customer over the next two years.

The exact rate increase depends on each customer’s usage and varying usage year-round, said Westminster Public Works Director Max Kirschbaum…

The projects on the table include $16 million to replace deteriorating storage tanks for drinking water, $11.5 million to replace a water main on Lowell Boulevard and $4.6 million to meet new environmental regulations for the Big Dry Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility, according to the city’s website.

The city’s water is filtered in a plant that was built in 1970, Tom Scribner, water treatment plant superintendent, said. Age and everyday wear and tear has chipped away at the concrete and pipes. The plant still works and is expected to last another 20 years before it needs to be shut down…

The city is working on repairing infrastructure at several sites throughout Westminster, including a $16 million underground pipe project on 112th Avenue and Huron Street and a waste-water pump on Zuni Street between 84th and 88th Avenues…

For the past decade, the department has been spending about $30 million a year on maintaining infrastructure, Kirschbaum said…

The Public Works department is hosting a series of open houses to inform Westminster residents about the bill increases and changing infrastructure. The first was on Feb. 26 at City Park Recreation Center, and a second is scheduled for March 18 at the same location at 6 p.m. Refreshments will be provided.

#CentralCity councillors approve 2020 budget

Central City back in the day

From The Mountain Ear (Patrice LeBlanc):

The council looked over Resolution No. 19-32: A resolution approving a General Fund purchase of Development Fee Credits from the Water Enterprise Fund for issuance to a City Economic Development Incentive Program. The City loaned funds over a number of years from the General Fund to the Water Fund for operational and capitol expenses.

The current fiscal year end balance on the loan is $819, 205. The City intends to establish a program that can provide economic incentives to the development projects.

City Manager Daniel Miera explained the process to the Council. The payback plan will change from 20 years to 11 years. Mayor Fey asked Miera if the City is forgiving the balance of the loan from the Water Fund. Miera replied that the Water Fund will still be owed to the City, but it will come in a different form.

Alderman Aiken wanted to know if the City charges interest on the loan, and Miera reported that no interest was charged. Alderman Hidahl thought this was a creative solution and an advantage for the City to encourage development. Mayor Fey agreed and felt the incentive program should be used for the core of the city rather than exterior development. The Resolution passed 5-0…

Miera was asked if the water budget was too high. [Daniel Miera] responded the budget shows a positive operating fund, for which the city has been striving for many years. It has been in the negative in years’ past.

@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.

Eco-vandals shut down high country water diversions bound for the #FrontRange, causing $1 million in damage — @WaterEdCO

From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

Vandals caused an estimated $1 million worth of damage to the City of Northglenn’s collection system on top of Berthoud Pass earlier this month, shutting the system down for several days. As the Grand County Sheriff investigates, Northglenn water officials say they fear the damage is the work of eco-vandals, upset over ongoing diversions from the drought-stressed upper Colorado River to the Front Range.

For years, the City of Northglenn has captured water on top of Berthoud Pass and delivered it down to its customers north of Denver.

But on Aug. 2, when water should have been flowing freely, the reading on the measuring gauge on what’s known as the Berthoud Pass Ditch fell to zero. On investigation, the city found the system had been vandalized, with diversion structures torn apart and locks cut, allowing millions of gallons of water to flow back into the Fraser River, a tributary to the upper Colorado River, instead of Northglenn’s ditch.

“It seemed very intentional,” said Tamara Moon, Northglenn’s manager of water resources. “They did a doozy on us.”

Roughly $100,000 worth of damage was done to the diversion system, with another $900,000 in water lost, according to the Grand County Sheriff’s office.

Lesser damage to the structure, part of which can be accessed off a hiking trail near the old Berthoud Pass ski area, occurred in March, Moon said.

But she believes now that both efforts are linked to the political tension over transmountain diversions from the water-stressed upper Colorado River to the Front Range.

Two major expansion projects, including an effort by Denver Water to bring more water from the Fraser River and one by Northern Water to bring over more from the upper Colorado River near Granby, have sparked major lawsuits by several environmental groups, including Save The Colorado, WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club, among others. The lawsuits are pending in court…

Though Northglenn isn’t involved in either project, Moon said the fact that her city’s diversion system is pulling from the same watershed has likely exposed it to the frustration over the diversions.

The week the system was disabled, Northglenn was delivering water to the City of Golden, one of its customers on the system.

Golden lost several days’ worth of water as a result of the incident, but because its system, like most, has benefited from an abundance of water this year, the temporary cut-off didn’t affect the city’s ability to provide water to its own customers.

“It really hasn’t had an impact on us,” said Anne Beierle, Golden’s deputy director of public works. “From our perspective though, it’s a little disconcerting and it’s disappointing. If it turns out to be [eco-vandalism], it is unfortunate.”

The Grand County Sheriff’s office is still investigating the incident.

Grand County, home to Winter Park and Granby, is also one of the most heavily diverted counties in Colorado, with millions of gallons of water from the upper Colorado and Fraser rivers being diverted to the Front Range to serve dozens of communities.

“This was a purposeful, deliberate act,” said Lieutenant Dan Mayer, the Grand County Sheriff’s public information officer.

The four diversion gates that were broken were roughly one-half mile apart, Mayer said. “Somebody wanted to break these gates. You had to [hike in to] find them.

“We have a lot of water agencies running [water] out of here. But we haven’t seen any incidents like this at other systems. It makes it seem as if it could very well be some kind of eco-terrorism, and we would very much like to find out who did it.”

Mayer said the charges any suspect would face include felony theft, felony criminal mischief, and first degree criminal tampering and trespass, all of which could result in significant jail time and fines.

In addition to installing new diversion gates and locks, Northglenn’s Moon said the city is installing remote cameras in an effort to better monitor the site and to be able to identify the culprits should they return.

“We don’t even have power up there,” she said. “There’s not a lot more we can do.”

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

View down Clear Creek from the Empire Trail 1873 via the USGS

There are advantages to commuting by bicycle #Denver #Colorado

Coyote Gulch on the Clear Creek Trail near Little Dry Creek Lake in the industrial area of S. Adams County August 9, 2019.
Clear Creek Trail near Little Dry Creek Lake in the industrial area of S. Adams County August 9, 2019.

#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.

Project for rebuilding the Lower Beaver Creek Dam in Clear Creek County scores $3,987,750 from FEMA

Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

From CBS4Denver (Ben Warwick):

Today, Congressman Joe Neguse announced a FEMA grant will help rebuild the Lower Beaver Brook Dam in Clear Creek County. The dam is more than 100 years old.

The grant, worth $3,987,750, will fund a new concrete gravity dam to replace the highly-hazardous 114-year-old rockfill embankment dam. The purpose is to reduce risk of a future break and any related damage to communities downstream from a burst…

The dam is located just more than 7 miles northwest of Evergreen, on a Clear Creek tributary called Beaver Brook.

First efforts to revive populations of #Colorado’s state fish seemed fruitless. Then the #greenback cutthroat trout surprised everyone — again — @ColoradoSun

Greenback cutthroat trout photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

From The Colorado Sun (Jesse Paul):

The species — previously considered extinct — is thriving in Herman Gulch, off Interstate 70, after initial stocking attempts now appear to be successful

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists first tried to reproduce and reintroduce the greenback cutthroat trout into a stream, not far from Interstate 70 and the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel, in the summer of 2016.

When they returned the next summer, the results were grim. Researchers examining the ribbon of stream that winds down Herman Gulch found that none of the thousands of inch-long swimmers that were hauled up a steep trail by volunteers and placed in the waterway had survived.

But as history has shown, there’s never really an end to the story of the ancient, threatened greenback cutthroat trout.

A few months later, in September 2017, there was a good sign.

“Lo and behold, we found some of the fish that we stocked as young-of-year in September 2016,” said Boyd Wright, a native aquatic species biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s northeast region. “We thought that it was a failed plant. We are seeing those fish, albeit in a very low percentage of what we stocked out.”

The news for greenbacks got better from there.

The creek has been stocked five times since 2016. Last year, CPW put in older fish, some of which were about 5 inches long.

“The real success story, I think, right now is with those fish we stocked last year as 1-year-olds,” Wright said. “We’ve seen on average about 35 percent survival on those. We’re really happy with that level of success. A year later, they’ve lived through a winter, they’ve lived through a runoff cycle. That’s significant.”

State wildlife officials chose the Herman Gulch stream, near a popular hiking trail, because a barrier where it spills into Clear Creek near I-70 prevents other types of trout — browns, brooks and rainbows — from sullying the genetics of the pure greenback population.

Before stocking the greenbacks, biologists remove other trout species from the creek.

CPW says the retention rate of the greenbacks in Herman Gulch is an encouraging sign for projects that the agency is working on to reintroduce the fish in other watersheds…

Greenbacks are being stocked in Dry Gulch, near Herman Gulch, and there are two more streams where CPW is building barriers — at a cost of about $250,000 — to stock the trout and keep other species out.

“Everything we know about this system tells us that it should support a population of native trout,” Wright said of Herman Gulch. “For us, we expect to have reproductively mature fish by 2019 and will best be able to detect if those fish reproduce successfully by 2020. If we see 1-year-old fish in the system in 2020, we know we had good, successful reproduction in 2019. I think 2020 is going to be a big year for this project.”

The hope is then to replicate that success elsewhere…

That passion for the greenbacks and for fishing was on display on a recent weekday morning. Several dozen volunteers from Trout Unlimited gathered with CPW officials waiting for a truck filled with thousands of tiny greenback cutthroats to arrive from Mount Shavano Fish Hatchery near Salida.

They huddled together in the chilly wind since the truck was more than an hour late. But they didn’t care about the delay.

“It’s pretty amazing to see not only the fish take hold, but the people it brings out in support of this,” Omasta said of the different people involved in hauling the trout up to Herman Gulch. “Just this past summer we had families, we had kids from middle school and a high school, walking alongside old fishermen.”

The volunteers fashioned an informal line as they waited for sloshing, 2-foot-tall, clear-plastic bags, each filled with 500 tiny greenbacks. They stuffed the bags into backpacks and headed uphill to free them into Herman Gulch.

As volunteer Brett Piché strolled up to the stream, several 5- or 6-inch greenbacks darted back and forth in the water. Piché placed his bag of fish in the water and, after a few minutes, carefully released its contents into the crystal-clear stream.

Immediately, a larger greenback swam up and gobbled a few of its smaller brethren and darted away.

Herman Gulch via TheDenverChannel.com

Native trout hitch a ride — Colorado Trout Unlimited

From Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Last week, the endangered Greenback cutthroat trout got a major boost from Trout Unlimited volunteers and agency partners in Colorado.

Once thought to be extinct, this rare fish is making a big comeback thanks to the efforts of the Greenback Cutthroat Recovery Team – a partnership that includes the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Western Native Trout Initiative, and Trout Unlimited.

Over the course of two days in mid-July, 1,700 Year 1 Cutthroats (~4-6 inches) made their way into two headwater drainages in the Clear Creek watershed, an hour west of Denver. The Dry Gulch and Herman Gulch creeks represent the first major river populations for this threatened species since it was rediscovered in 2012.

To help agency partners stock these important little fish, over 80 Trout Unlimited volunteers carried the cutthroats in large packs up steep switchbacks and bushwacked through dense brush to get to the remote rivers. Some people hiked over six miles into the top of the drainage (over 11,500 feet)! These volunteers came from 10 different TU chapters and represented all walks of life – anglers and conservationists coming together to recover this native trout.

“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” says Paul Winkle, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist for the Clear Creek drainage. It was a major undertaking that took a lot of support from agency staff, non-profit partners, and local businesses.

At Colorado TU, we are very proud of the hard work and dedication that our chapters and volunteers provide to these projects. It shows what can happen when people focus on collaboration and overcoming differences. It didn’t matter whether someone was young or old, Democrat or Republican, a dry fly purist or never fished before – we were all side by side, climbing those steep trails together. All to save the Greenback.

The event even drew local media attention and even made it on the nightly cable news:

Colorado’s North Clear Creek & Tuthill

For 150 years, the North Clear Creek in Black Hawk, Colorado has been contaminated from historic mining. A new water treatment plant that came online in 2017 is removing 350lbs of heavy metals every day from the stream with the hopes of reestablishing a brown trout population. The facility uses Tuthill’s Blower Packages to aerate the water to remove the heavy metals more easily. Learn more about Tuthill’s products here: https://www.tuthillvacuumblower.com/i…

The facility was built and run by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Colorado Department of Transportation was integral to this project.

Westminster is creating a digital tour of their waterways

Westminster

From The Westminster Window (Scott Taylor):

The data [Duke] Douglas collects between June 25 and the end of July will be collected into public database online — not just 360 degree panoramic photographs but stream temperatures, salinity, pH balance and other factors.

“Its terabytes of data,” said Andrew Hawthorn, senior engineer for the City’s utility department. “It’s going to be 30 full days of data collection with a half-dozen or so different data points as sources that will all be sorted through and assembled into a package in post-production. That will give us a data product that will look like Google’s Street view but in the stream.”

The city has contracted with Littleton-based Enginuity Engineering Solutions to perform the survey. Project Manager Colin Barry said it’s the first time a Colorado municipality has performed this kind of stream-side survey.

Setting future projects

The survey tell city officials which waterways are in need of maintenance, like stabilizing a shore, removing trash or vegetation or seeking out pollution sources, according to Sharon Williams, Westminster’s stormwater utility manager.

“Some of this is about water quality but most of it is about observing the banks themselves and looking for what areas need maintenance,” she said. “But it can also tell us if there are sources of pollution we need to be look for, like someone dumping motor oil in a storm sewer or leaking containers somewhere.”

It’s been 11 years since the city last surveyed its stormwater drainages. That includes 63 miles miles of ditches, concrete conduits and canals feeding into broader creeks and streams, like the Big Dry Creek.

But rather than flowing from mountain snow stockpiles, many of these drainages start from within the city itself — running off when people water their lawns or wash their cars in their driveways or from rain funneling through roadside drains. Whatever is on the lawns, the driveways or the roads gets swept down the drains.

“That can mean soap or phosphates from fertilizers getting washed into the steams and into lakes, eventually,” Williams said.

That can encourage algae to grow in blooms, which can ruin a waterway and lead to dead fish.

Digital survey

It’s the kind of thing the survey is meant sniff out, and it involved staffers walking the area and inspecting it in 2007.

Today’s effort is much more high-tech — and heavy. Douglas, a Colorado School of Mines environmental engineering graduate student, shoulders the bulk of the equipment, carrying a 30-pound rig bristling with antennas, sensors and gadgetry.

“Our goal is to give them new imagry and views of the creek they have not had before,” Barry said. “The more we can get in the creek and in the middle, the better.”

A key part is a GoPro Omni quad camera that captures panoramic photos every few feet Douglas walks, linked to GPS system. Not only does it record as many as 4,000 high-resolution photographs per day, it links them to a map.

Eventually, Williams said, city officials will be able to inspect the drainages from the comfort of their own desk, looking at the photos Douglas’ rig captures they way they might Google Street View.

“It’s really helpful because we get an instantaneous snapshot of what’s happening at that place and at that point in time,” Williams said. “It’s different from what we would typically see and have to evaluate the condition.”

Douglas also carries water quality sensors, designed to test for temperature, pH balance, salinity and electrical conduction as well as an optional depth finder.

“It’s basically a lab,” Williams said. “He’s carrying a little water quality lab on his back.”

The rig can also be hooked to a fish camera that can be mounted to the bottom of the walking stick Douglas carries. It’s not necessary for shallow puddles but can show water quality in deeper waterways, like the Dry Creek.

“We did the river by the course and that’s deeper we got some great pictures and the fish,” Barry said.

Golf balls

It certainly draws attention, they said. It’s not everyday you see two men walking down the middle of creek.

“We were up in a by the Hyland Hills golf course and the golfers all wanted to know if we had scuba gear with us, and could we go diving golf balls,” Barry said.

They saw plenty of golf balls, but didn’t collect them.

“But only the bright white ones are really easy to see,” Barry said. “But we saw plenty of fish.”

Barry follows along with a handheld GPS unit, making notes and observations about the condition of the drainage. He notes when it drops down, when other drains join in and when it widens or narrows.

All that information is logged into a computer at the end of each day and will eventually become a comprehensive digital model of the city, showing where they might be problems with pollution, erosion or places that might be in need of maintenance.

“We expect a pretty constant temperature and pH balance throughout the stream, so if we see a significant drop or increase at one point it’s a clue that we need to do a little more investigation in the area,” Williams said.

City staff will use that information to plan maintenance work around the city’s watershed for the next decade. In all the project is costing $238,000 and is being paid from the city’s stormwater utility funds.

The survey won’t only aid city planners, but it’ll be available for the public to look at, too. Westminster is the first Colorado municipality to create this kind of study, but Enginuity has created similar digital tours for waterways in Texas and Washington State and around Key West in Florida.

“They can go to fishviews.com and see those sites and get a better idea of what we are hoping get,” Hawthorn said.

Douglas and Barry found examples of high phosphates almost the moment they got started, in the form of thick green algae covering the sides of the concrete Ketner tributary, the narrow concrete ditch that runs alongside the walking path that started at Oak and 102nd.

Williams said that algae is common along suburban drainages, encouraged to grow by fertilizers common to suburban lawns.

“It causes problems down streams, so if we can do something to treat our urban runoffs, we can improve the quality of natural streams down the line,” Williams said.

The #Colorado Supreme Court upholds water court decision on Coors augmentation plan

Clear Creek Canyon via Bob Berwyn

From The Denver Post (Kirk Mitchell):

Coors had appealed a water court decision that said any water not used by Coors in its augmentation plans must be returned to Clear Creek.

Coors wanted to reuse water after it left its treatment plant and lease water rights for that water to other companies, according to the appeal.

Coors’ water reuse plan was opposed by competing Clear Creek water users including the cities of Denver, Golden, Centennial, Arvada, Thornton, Georgetown and Northglenn along with private companies including the Farmers High Line Canal.

The Supreme Court ruled that Coors could not circumvent a requirement to obtain a new water right by amending its augmentation plans in order to reuse water leaving the plant.

“We further conclude that the diversion of native, tributary water under an augmentation plan does not change its character,” the court ruling says.

Currently a tributary of Clear Creek is diverted to the Coors plant. Water that is not used flows through its wastewater treatment plant and then back into Clear Creek.

Coors believed that it could reuse water leaving its wastewater plant or lease it to other users downstream.

But in 2014, the Colorado State Engineer did not approve a new lease request by Coors to send treated water to Martin Marietta Materials, Inc., according to the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court ruled that Coors’ water rights only allowed a single use of the water diverted by Coors. Any unconsumed water remains waters of the state and must be returned to the stream, the ruling says.

Northglenn water-wise landscaping program returns

The Xeriscape Garden at Denver Water. Xeriscaping is a cost-effective way to save water and beautify your yard.

From the City of Northglenn via Colorado Community Media:

The City of Northglenn is partnering with nonprofit group Resource Central on its popular ‘Garden In A Box’ program to provide low-water gardens to local residents.

The program helps Colorado residents conserve water and save money. It’s a regional water conservation program that provides an assortment of water-wise plants and flowers that can reduce outdoor water use by up to 60 percent. As a participating community, Northglenn residents can get a limited number of $25 discounts on these water-saving plants through this nonprofit program.

“Local families are rethinking their grassy yards,” said Neal Lurie, president of Resource Central, a Boulder-based nonprofit. “Traditional turf lawns are surprisingly thirsty and expensive.

After years of watering and mowing, people are starting to look at how drought-tolerant gardens can help simplify their yards.”

There are five new Garden In A Box kits this year, with a big focus on colors and pollinators. The new kits include “Hummingbird Delight,” “Butterfly Bounty,” and “Colors of Colorado.”

Additional kits focus on vegetable gardens, shaded areas, sun-loving flowers, and attracting honeybees. All gardens are Colorado-grown, pollinator-friendly, and available for pickup in May or June.

Garden In A Box is one of the largest programs of its kind in the United States, helping Front Range families transition more than 1.4 million square feet of land to beautiful, low-water landscaping. This initiative has saved more than 100 million gallons of water since the program started in 1997.

“It’s heartening to see so many people embracing this program,” said Devon Booth, water program manager at Resource Central. “Garden In A Box makes water conservation simple – change happens one family at a time.”

For more information about the program and to register for a box, visit http://ResourceCentral.org/gardens online or call them at 303 999-3820, extension 222.

Down ‘The River Of Lost Souls’ With Jonathan Thompson — Colorado Public Radio

From Colorado Public Radio (Nathan Heffel). Click through to listen to the interview:

A new book puts the Gold King Mine spill within the long history of mining and pollution in Southwest Colorado.

Jonathan Thompson will be at the Book Bar tonight. I wonder if Denver is a bit of a shock to his system even though he’s a sixth-generation Coloradan?

I am so happy to finally get to finally meet Jonathan. His new book, River of Lost Souls, is an important read. Understanding the industrialization of our state over the years will help us chart a less destructive course.

I loved the passages where Jonathan reminisces about spending time around the Four Corners and in the San Juans. He transports you to those times in your life spent next to the river or exploring what sights the land has to offer. He connects you to the Four Corners in a way that only a son of the San Juans could.

Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

Westminster hopes to bring on a new water treatment plant by 2025

Westminster

From the Nortglenn-Thornton Sentinel (Scott Taylor):

Westminster looking for spot for Semper successor

City officials will begin looking around Westminster for a good place to put a new water treatment plant with the aim of having it ready for service by 2025.

“This is the first phase of longer program and we’re calling this first phase Water 2025,”said Stephen Grooters said. “That’s designed to give us the quantity, quality and reliability goals we need to meet today’s population.

“And as the city grows and as our other treatment facilities age, the city can gauge the cost and efficacy of adding a second phase plant — when to add it and how big to make it.”

The new plant would provide backup service to the city’s two existing treatment plants, the Northwest plant and the Semper, and give the city time to consider options for replacing Semper some time in 2040.

City Councilors voted Jan. 8 to set aside $609,749 to begin the multi-year Water 2025 process. That would pay for engineering and a city-wide site selection process. The potential sites should be at a lower elevation from Standley Lake but higher than most city storage tanks.

Grooters said he hopes the city can find as many as 12 potential sites for a water treatment facility…

The budget includes $150,000 for a public engagement process to get public opinion about the facility.

Arvada water rate increase on January 1, 2018

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From The Arvada Patch (Jean Lotus):

Water rates in Arvada will increase about 2.5 percent next year, starting in Jan., 2018, the city announced. The increase will go toward expenses running the water system in infrastructure and to bolster the city’s water supplies.

“[Residents will] start seeing the increase on their March/April bills,” said Jim Sullivan, the city’s director of utilities in a video released by the city.

Sullivan said the increases should add up to about 90 cents a month per average household of three-four people, totaling around $11 a year…

The city will not be increasing rates for wastewater storm water charges, Sullivan said.

Idaho Springs approves 2018 budget — The Clear Creek Courant

Idaho Springs photo credit by Priscila Micaroni Lalli (prilalli@gmail.com) – File:Montanhas Idaho Springs, CO.jpgFirst derivative version possibly by Dasneviano (talk).Second derivative version by Avenue (talk)., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6871667

From The Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

Greenway

The city received $2 million in Great Outdoors Colorado funding this year to put toward building a greenway trail through the city, according to Marsh.

“Bottom line is with the $2 million grant, the greenway will be completed,” Marsh said. “When the construction is done, the greenway will be completed from exit 239 on the west end of the city all the way to the roundabout.”

The city is planning and looking for additional grant funding to complete the greenway trail from the roundabout on the east end of town to near the Veterans Memorial Tunnels…

Other road projects

Marsh said other road projects the city will be taking next year include reconstructing Soda Creek Road and the portion of Miner Street near the Visitors Center, with the help of a 1 percent sales-tax boost approved by city residents in 2014.

“This project will be the first big project we’re doing from the 1 percent street sales tax approved by voters,” Marsh said. “We’re not only just doing the street, but we’re also redoing water and sewer lines, storm sewer, and it also includes part of the project cost (that) will be offset by a ($250,000) grant we received from (the Colorado Department of Local Affairs) for the water and sewer infrastructure.”

[…]

Additional projects

The city is also working on expanding its wastewater treatment plant, which won’t begin construction until 2019. However, planning will begin in 2018.

“And we’re hoping to use a combination of city funds, loans through the state and grants to make this project happen,” Marsh said.

Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Clear Creek: August wet weather leads to longer rafting season

Clear Creek rafting via MyColoradoLife.com

From The Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

Local rafting businesses agree they’ve already experienced a busy and prolonged rafting season in the county, and several rafting companies were still operating in mid-August. However, some have closed for the season.

Suzen Raymond, owner of Mile-Hi Rafting, pulled her boats out of the water the week of Aug. 14.

“We’ve quit rafting because the water just got too low for us to raft,” Raymond said, “but overall the season was a really good rafting season for us.”

Raymond predicts that her business may see a 10 percent jump over last year.

“It’s a pretty good spike for us every year,” Raymond said. “We traditionally run up a little bit, except, of course, in the drought years.”

According to the Colorado Outfitters Association, late-season rafting is still going strong across the state including on the upper Colorado River and Arkansas River.

Brandon Gonski, general manager at AVA Rafting, said the business is already experiencing a longer season on both rivers.

“Clear Creek tends to end a little earlier, but (as of) Aug. 23, we’re pretty excited that we’ve stayed open this year this late,” Gonski said…

Gonski said his company has also seen a good year, which he said could be in part attributed to the prolonged season. While the end of the season differs for every company, AVA ended its season last year on Aug. 16.

Herman Gulch greenback reintroduction

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologists and volunteers each carried 10-pound bags of rare greenback cutthroat trout up steep Herman Gulch near Georgetown this week in a bid to permanently return the state fish to its ancestral waters in an alpine stream fed by snowmelt.

CPW biologists hope the fish, each a year old and about 4 inches long, will thrive and continue the long process of restoring the native greenback in its historic habitat of the South Platte River drainage and remove it from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of threatened species.

But there are no guarantees that all the hard work will succeed in rescuing the rare fish. Still, CPW and its partners at USFWS, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service, are determined to try to save the greenback, honored as the official state fish of Colorado.

Since discovering in 2012 the pure greenback population in a tiny ribbon of water known as Bear Creek on the southwest edge of Colorado Springs in the Arkansas River drainage, CPW staff has mounted a massive effort to walk Bear Creek, collect and spawn the fish each spring, rear them in hatcheries and now painstakingly stock them in a reservoir and two streams that the agency cleansed of other non-native fish to create the best conditions possible for their survival.

Despite all that work, the first stocking effort of 4,000 tiny, one-inch greenbacks on Herman Gulch and Dry Gulch last September was somewhat disappointing. A recent survey of the streams found no survivors. As a result, CPW decided to restock July 17 with 960 older, more robust greenbacks. The earlier release date also was designed to give the fish more time to acclimate and grow before winter. What CPW researchers know is that it takes approximately 3 years to restock and establish fish in a stream.

Presiding over the restocking effort were Boyd Wright, CPW’s Northeast Region aquatic conservation biologist and Paul Winkle, area aquatic biologist. Also assisting was Harry Crockett, CPW’s native aquatic species coordinator and chairman of the multi-agency Greenback Cutthroat Trout Recovery Team.

“This is a really big deal,” Crockett said of the effort that saw dozens of volunteers serve as fish Sherpas hauling bags up fish up four miles of steep terrain to find ideal spots along Herman Gulch where the greenbacks might take residence. “We need to get these fish in here and see them survive.”

To prepare the streams as greenback incubator sites, CPW staff in 2015 walked each, mile by mile, electroshocking about 600 hybrid cutthroat and carrying them out for relocation in Clear Creek. The streams were chemically cleansed of other species so baby greenbacks might thrive.

Then came the stocking of tiny greenbacks last September, the survey for survivors last week and finally the second restocking July 17. Though greenbacks stocked into Zimmerman Lake west of Fort Collins are thriving, biologists want to see them restored in their more typical habitat: cold, clear, alpine streams.

“This is a fish that evolved in streams over thousands of years.” Wright said. “Then it was almost wiped out in a century and a half of human interference. This is where we want to see them back and thriving again. Here in the wild.”

The long-term goal is to have greenbacks populating a network of streams like Herman, Dry Gulch and Clear Creek, for example, throughout the South Platte drainage. But for now, CPW biologists have to get them to survive a winter.

“The vision is a metapopulation with connected streams,” Crockett said. “But that’s a long way away. For now, we’ve got to maximize the genetic diversity that’s left and get them to take in these streams.”

The survey and stocking efforts will be repeated next year and biologists will be able to track the cutthroats by scanning them with a wand to read identifying tags inserted in each fish.

Among the nonprofit conservation organizations providing a small army of several dozen volunteers to assist in the restocking was Trout Unlimited and its member, Joe Haak of Castle Rock. He labored up the trail about four miles, determined to get his fish in the water in the two-hour window allotted by the scientists, because he feels so strongly about the CPW mission to save the greenback.

“It’s an honor to be a part of this important work,” Haak said as he gently coaxed his 10 greenbacks into a calm pool under two boulders, protected from the swift whitewater of Herman Gulch.

“I feel like I’m kind of a dad to these fish,” Haak said, watching with pride as his greenbacks hovered in the stream, surfacing to eat insects on the surface. “I wanted to be a part of history.”

Herman Gulch gets population of greenbacks

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

#Runoff news: Cool temps have dampened snowmelt

From 9News.com (Matt Renoux):

Usually peak runoff hits sometime during the first week of June but cool weather has kept snow from melting on the higher peaks with the states snowpack 191 percent of normal on June 1.

“It’s been a slow start to the season with the cold weather we have had this year,” said McGrath…

The Colorado River near Glenwood and Clear Creek near Georgetown are all below average, and Dustin Doss with Breckenridge Outfitters says the Blue River near Breckenridge is also flowing below average.

Westminster Historical Society’s latest exhibit: “The Driving Force: The story of Westminster water.”

Crews work to build a channel to guide water for Westminster residents and farms in this historic photograph. Credit Westminster Historical Society via The Englewood Herald.

From The Englewood Herald (Kevin M. Smith):

[Phil] Goedert was among the volunteers who worked on the Westminster Historical Society’s latest exhibit: “The Driving Force: The story of Westminster water.”

Six panels explain the history of the water in words, photos and maps in addition to additional panels with a timeline and summary of the water laws. There are also a few artifacts, like a cast iron pipe laid in about 1911 next to a PVC pipe that is commonly used today.

Ron Hellbusch said the exhibit is appropriately named.

Modern-era

Hellbusch was in charge of figuring out the city’s water issue in the 1960s — one of the pivotal times that created a channel to the current day Westminster.

“To see it develop it where the city has grown … a lot of it, you can point to having sufficient water to control your destiny and to control your growth and keep local decisions,” Hellbusch said.

A drought in the 1960s along with the city’s water rights at the bottom of the barrel spurred residents to campaign for change. The water Westminster received had gone through other water treatment plants first before hitting household taps here…

Hellbusch was asked to spearhead a proposal for the city’s own system because he started working for the city’s utilities department part-time in 1953 when he was a sophomore in high school. He continued working summers through high school and college.

He wasn’t an engineer, but he had more field experience than anyone in the city.

In addition to being at the bottom of water rights, city leaders feared that Denver would dictate Westminster’s growth by restricting the number and types of new buildings to stem water usage.

In 1963, a ballot question put the fate in the city of Westminster’s hands instead of Denver’s and it won — by just 170 votes, a 4.4 percent margin.

“That’s when they started to acquire surface water rights,” Goedert said.

Instead of relying on ditch water and canals running through Golden where others had first rights and wells that dried up during droughts, the city made a deal to tap into Standley Lake. Standley Lake was built and owned by Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (FRICO).

“Those guys are very protective of their water and they didn’t want any municipalities fussing around with what they could — until they started to have serious problems with the dam,” Goedert said.

The dam was cracking and FRICO didn’t have the money to repair it.

“So Westminster bought into it and said, `We’ll fix the dam and raise it if you give us half the water.’ And they said, `It’s a deal,’ ” Smith said.

And that holds true today.

Westminster added 12 acres of height to the dam. The city has rights to more than 50 percent of Standley Lake water with Northglenn, Thornton and FRICO getting the rest.

Further back

But the water issues started with the first population influx during the Gold Rush in the late 1850s.

“At the time, there were no water laws,” Goedert said. “Whoever was there first, that’s whose water it was.”

First, placer mines, which separated sand from gold, were made from ditches off Clear Creek.

“We started out with the ditches and the canals,” Smith said.

Those were dug with livestock on either side of the ditch dragging a bucket to scrape out earth.

The miners drew farmers and ranchers.

“So that started to expand the ditches,” Goedert said.

Eventually, FRICO built its reservoir in about 1907 to serve agricultural and livestock needs.

Westminster was incorporated in 1911 and included an $11,000 bond issue to drill the city’s first well.

More in the exhibit

The exhibit also covers water as recreation, like the bond issue in 1979 to build Water World and building city swimming pools.

Smith said he hopes to add to the exhibit throughout the next few months and eventually move it to city hall.

The Westminster History Center, 7200 Lowell Blvd., is open 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and by appointment. For more information, call 303-428-3993.

Standley Lake sunset. Photo credit Blogspot.com.

#Snowpack news: Water officials cautiously optimistic about #drought — The Westminster Window

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 10, 2017 via the NRCS.

From The Westminster Window (Scott Taylor):

“The big snow events in the metro area honestly do not help us,” said Emily Hunt, Thornton’s water resources manager. “We’d really much rather see the snow up in the mountains. But if we can keep cold weather down here through March, with the trees barely starting to come out in April and people not turning on their irrigation systems until May, that’s ideal for us. Ideally, we don’t want people to have to water their lawns and trees until after Mother’s Day.”

The latest reports for Colorado’s Front Range put snowpack depth at between 120 and 160 percent of annual averages, according to the National Resources Conservation Service.

It’s one of the several measurements local water officials monitor all year long as they prepare for the summer.

“It’s great when the snowpack tracks its normal route, or it’s above-normal route like this year,” Hunt said. “But the other measure is the snow water equivalent, and that really tells us how much water is actually in the snowpack. For us, that usually maxes out about 15 inches.”

NRCS measures show the Snow Water Equivalent along the Front Range at between 13 and 17 inches.

“If we get to 15 inches or higher, then we feel like we are having a normal year,” Hunt said.

Those show that the Denver metro area should avoid drought conditions and water restrictions for another summer…

Hunt said the weather down here can have just as much impact. People use more water when it gets warm. She’d prefer that waits until the local reservoirs have started filling up.

Westminster, Thornton, Northglenn and the Farmer’s Reservoir and Irrigation Company all rely on Standley Lake as one of their main water supplies, but each city has a number of other reservoirs and canals that feed municipal water treatment plants.

@denverpost: Jeffco Open Space plans to repair, reopen historic Welch Ditch

A portion of the Welch Ditch in Clear Creek Canyon. Photo credit Jefferson County Open Space via The Denver Post.
A portion of the Welch Ditch in Clear Creek Canyon. Photo credit Jefferson County Open Space via The Denver Post.

From The Denver Post (Josie Klemier):

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.

CDPHE: Water Quality Information Bulletin

Click here to read the bulletin. There will be an informational briefing concerning Clear Creek at the December 12, 2016 meeting.

Clear Creek, Standley Lake watersheds including the Standley Lake Canal Zone via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation.
Clear Creek, Standley Lake watersheds including the Standley Lake Canal Zone via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation.

Clear Creek: New water treatment under construction on the North Fork

Photo from Paul Winkle (CPW) slide show at the South Platte Forum October 26, 2016.
Photo from Paul Winkle (CPW) slide show at the South Platte Forum October 26, 2016.

From 9News.com (Next with Kyle Clark):

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.

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.

Clear Creek Watershed Festival recap

From The Clear Creek Courant (Corinne Westeman):

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.

Denver Water digs into Vasquez Canal Project — The Sky-Hi Daily News

The south portal of the Vasquez Tunnel is shown in this 1957 photo. Via Denver Water.
The south portal of the Vasquez Tunnel is shown in this 1957 photo. Via Denver Water.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Lance Maggart):

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.

Colorado transmountain diversions via the University of Colorado
Colorado transmountain diversions via the University of Colorado

#Runoff #Snowpack news: Clear Creek closed to tubing, South Platte pretty much melted-out

Clear Creek at Golden gage April 1 through June 12, 2016.
Clear Creek at Golden gage April 1 through June 12, 2016.

From KWGN (Drew Engelbart):

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.

Arkansas River at Moffat Street Pueblo April 1 through June 12, 2016.
Arkansas River at Moffat Street Pueblo April 1 through June 12, 2016.

From The Pueblo Chieftain:

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.

Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs gage April 1 through June 12, 2016.
Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs gage April 1 through June 12, 2016.

From The Aspen Times (Erica Robbie):

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.

Cache la Poudre at Canyon Mouth water year 2016 through June 12, 2016.
Cache la Poudre at Canyon Mouth water year 2016 through June 12, 2016.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

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.

southplatteriverbasinhighlo06112016

From The Greeley Tribune (Katarina Velazquez):

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.

#Runoff news: Rafting outfitters are hopeful for a good whitewater season

Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation
Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

From CBS Denver:

Colorado rafting companies excited about the summer season and they’re hoping for big crowds.

Nearly 100,000 people rafted just a stretch Clear Creek last year, but there are some safety precautions rafters need to take before they think about heading out.

“We expect to have a great year this year,” Clear Creek Rafting Company Manager Dale Drake told CBS4’s Matt Kroschel.

Dozens of commercial companies raft the waters in Clear Creek, and many more tackle other sections across Colorado.

Rafting hits high-water mark in Clear Creek — The Clear Creek Courant

From The Clear Creek Courant: (Gabrielle Porter):

The number of people taking commercial rafting trips on Clear Creek this year was likely higher than 2014, which would make 2015 the third straight year of improvement for the industry, according to the Colorado Rafting Association.

The association saw more than 72,000 commercial customers in Clear Creek in 2014. The association hasn’t finished compiling figures for 2015 year, said executive director David Costlow, but “my guess is this year it will exceed that,” he said.

“That’s big business for Clear Creek County,” Costlow said.

According to the organization’s 2014 report:

• 60,644 people took commercial rafting trips on Clear Creek in 2011.

• 35,422 took Clear Creek trips in 2012.

• 61,172 took Clear Creek trips in 2013.

• 72,224 took Clear Creek trips in 2014.

[…]

Idaho Springs-based company Raft Masters had 6,036 visitors in 2015 — up about 7 percent from last year, said owner Dennis Wied. The company has been running trips in Clear Creek for about 10 years.

“Rafting on Clear Creek is becoming really popular,” Wied said. “Initially our Clear Creek operations made up 25 percent of our total operations between Clear Creek and the Arkansas River. Now it’s more like 40 percent.”

Wied said the county’s proximity to Denver has helped boost its image, especially for people wanting to make day trips…

Costlow said other areas have higher fees than Clear Creek. He pointed to the Arkansas River, which is called the most rafted river in the world.

“The fees there are such that a lot of (rafting companies), although they still run there, they’ve transferred a lot of their business to Clear Creek …,” Costlow said. “That’s why Clear Creek County gets the increase in revenue.”

Clear Creek rafting via MyColoradoLife.com
Clear Creek rafting via MyColoradoLife.com

CPW is restoring Greenbacks to Herman Gulch in Clear Creek County

Herman Gulch via TheDenverChannel.com
Herman Gulch via TheDenverChannel.com

From CBS Denver (Matt Kroschel):

Colorado Parks and Wildlife set up a camp with more than 20 people working around the clock along the banks of the Herman Gultch in Clear Creek County. They are working to kill all the fish that live in the waterway currently, and then restock that waterway with the greenback cutthroat trout, Colorado’s state fish.

Presumed to be extinct by 1937, several wild populations of what were thought to be greenback cutthroat trout were discovered in the South Platte and Arkansas river basins starting in the late 1950s. According to the CPW, those discoveries launched an aggressive conservation campaign that replicated those populations across the landscape so that they could be down-listed from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Momentum for preserving the native jewels continued to build, and in 1996 the greenback was designated as Colorado’s state fish. Efforts to establish new populations were proceeding along a track that suggested the recovery plan benchmarks might soon be met, and the subspecies could be delisted entirely.

Currently, biologists estimate there are less than 5,000 wild greenback cutthroat in the state, but once this project is complete, they hope to double or triple that number.

“We choose this creek in particular because once we clear out the invasive fish species that live in these waters it will be impossible they will be able to get back into the creek to compete with the greenback cutthroat once we stock them here,” Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist, South Platte River basin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said.

Biologists are using a substance called rotenone to kill the fish that currently call the creek home. They add the liquid upstream of a temporary water treatment and testing center at the bottom of the stream. Once the substance does its job they then dilute and consternate the deadly substance. The process turns the water a purple color for a few hundred yards downstream of the treatment center, but water samples taken downstream from that location show the water quality is back to safe levels as it enters Clear Creek.

Right now, biologists are raising thousands of greenback cutthroats in fish hatcheries in Lake and Chaffee counties.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout
Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

West Clear Creek cleanup: “But who can make instream flow part of the deal?” — David Holm

Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation
Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

After years of delay, state and federal agencies this month confirmed they will clean the water by building a $15 million treatment plant — a project that had the goal of restoring fish habitat. The plant is a key step in a federal Superfund cleanup that has dragged on for 32 years. But fish are still out of luck.

Local town leaders want to divert the cleaned water for people, frustrating the agencies and those who want fish to return to the creek. It’s a case of how Colorado’s population growth and development boom are intensifying competition for water.

“It isn’t ideal,” said David Holm, director of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation. “Would it be better if we had a deal to ensure ample in-stream flow in North Clear Creek? Yes. But who can make in-stream flow be part of the deal?”

The mining towns-turned-gambling meccas Black Hawk and Central City have asserted that, under Colorado’s water appropriation system, they can use senior water rights that they own to tap the cleaned creek. Black Hawk plans to build thousands more hotel rooms, hiking and biking trails, a reservoir and, possibly, a golf course — all requiring more water.

More Clear Creek Watershed coverage here.

A look at the state of the whitewater business along the Arkansas River

raftingarkriver

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A nearly 7 percent increase in Arkansas River rafting business last summer bodes well for a further rebound in the industry, yet some fear the river is slowly losing its share of the market. The Arkansas River reported 191,307 boaters last summer, up 6.6 percent from 2013, according to a report issued this week by the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

While the Arkansas River remains the most rafted river in the state by a large margin, it has lost about 3 percent of its market share to other rivers, according to the rafters group.

Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation
Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

One river showing big gains is Clear Creek west of Denver. Clear Creek reported 72,224 rafters last summer, up from 61,172 in 2013 and 35,422 in 2012.

“Clear Creek has been drawing substantially because of its convenience to Denver,” said the outfitter association’s Joe Greiner of Wilderness Aware Rafting in Buena Vista. “They are taking more (of the) people who used to come to the Arkansas River from Denver.”

The main staging area for Clear Creek rafting is Idaho Springs on Interstate 70.

Greiner said rafting on the Arkansas remains “well off its peak” of just over 252,000 customers in 2001. That peak was followed by an all-time low of 139,178 boaters during the drought year of 2002.

It was a plunge that the local industry hasn’t fully rebounded from. In 2007, the river came close with 239,887 boaters. Then came the Great Recession and a string of summers marred by drought and wildfires.

Rafting is big business.

The $23.7 million in direct 2014 expenditures on Arkansas River rafting multiplies to an overall economic impact of $60.7 million when spending for items like lodging, gas and food is factored into the equation.

Greiner credits strong water flows and the absence of major wildfires as big contributors to the increased business last summer. Last summer’s river-related deaths totaled 11 — three of which were attributed to commercial rafting accidents — but were not seen as scaring away business.

“The public is more educated and not reacting to headlines like they used to. People are taking responsibility for which section of the river they choose based on their physical limitations, river conditions and experience,” Greiner said.

If the Arkansas River is to get back to its past peak season of 250,000 customers, Greiner thinks the Browns Canyon national monument status designation would do the trick. The canyon, located between Salida and Buena Vista, is being considered for the federal status. [ed. President Obama signed the executive order designating Browns Canyon as a nation monument on February 19, 2015.]

“It would put a star on the map and people would plan their trip around that. If they find out the best way to see the national monument is by raft I think it would improve the status of the river,” Greiner said.

Friends of Browns Canyon have lobbied in Washington, D.C. and gotten positive feedback.

“There is a good chance of it,” Greiner said.

Another positive sign for this year’s rafting season is the snowpack.

“It is in pretty good shape although it has been warm and we’ve lost some (snow), if you look at the three critical gauges, they are all above average,” Greiner said.

Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org
Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org

Clear Creek: A river runs though it — The Clear Creek Courant

Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation
Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Here’s part II of the series on Clear Creek from the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh). Here’s an excerpt:

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a three-part series examining the past, present and future of Clear Creek.

Through the mountains and down to the plains, Clear Creek has rushed along its jagged banks long before civilization ever found it and the gold hidden within. Its discovery led to industry, economy and community. The tie binding the stream to the people living along its banks will not be broken easily.

A commitment

Several thousand mines are estimated to crisscross the county. Lasting repercussions of the mining industry led to more than 100 efforts to clean up the stream and mitigate the mining pollution in the last decade.

According to David Holm, the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation’s executive director, stream mitigation is a “forever commitment.”

“Once you’re going down that road, you’ve really made a forever commitment for maintenance,” Holm said. “So mine drainage is like that. It is a forever problem.”

Mine waste removal and restoration of stream banks are projects that, once completed, are ultimately removed from the Clear Creek remediation radar screen, Holm said.

Clear Creek always had a “metal footprint” because of the natural mineralization in the mineral belt, which the stream cuts across, Holm said.

“So there’s no question that there would have been iron, manganese, aluminum in elevated levels, and probably a little bit of a diminished pH,” Holm said. “The tremendous increase in exposure to the weather and elements of the mineral zone, brought about by mining, definitely has increased that footprint, and we will never eliminate that additional increased footprint.”

However, the stream is cleaner today than in recent memory, thanks to efforts by the Watershed Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

A new industry

The mining industry, once so reliant on the stream, has dwindled to nearly nothing. In its place, a recreational industry has grown by leaps and bounds.

Since 1991, rafting companies using Clear Creek have experienced more than a 7,000 percent increase in customers. This increase comes at an ideal time, when the county is looking to transition to a recreation-based economy, with Clear Creek considered the area’s crown jewel.
The increase in visitors to the county had nearly a $19 million economic impact in 2013, according to the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

Association executive director David Costlow said the meteoric rise in recreation over the years is in large part due to the stream’s close proximity to Denver and to the relatively relaxed regulations for outfitters launching in Clear Creek.

Costlow said a lot of companies based on other rivers, such as the Arkansas, now bring customers to Clear Creek.

Last year, 61,000 “user days” were reported on the stream. A user day is how the rafting industry tracks customers and equates to one customer spending time on the river during one day. In 1991, the Colorado River Outfitters Association noted, Clear Creek had just 800 user days. Today the area has 15 rafting outfitters, with several owning locations in the area and putting in additional features such as zip-lines.

“You can see the growth on Clear Creek pretty rapidly. It was just 30,000 (user days) not too long ago, and now it is around 60,000,” Costlow said. “It’s a fun river, a lot of rapids per mile.”

‘Mining recreation opportunities’

County officials see the stream as a large piece in the area’s economic puzzle. In 2010, Clear Creek Open Space, with the help of funding from a Federal Highway Administration grant, created the Lawson Whitewater Park. The park includes boulders that create specialty chutes and waves for kayakers and other boaters along the 450-foot stretch of Clear Creek just upstream from Mile Hi Rafting. The park also has parking and a changing station with environmentally friendly toilets.

County Commissioner Tim Mauck said Clear Creek saw little to no rafting 15 years ago, and now it is the second busiest river in Colorado. The county is working on a Greenway Project, which it hopes one day will create an uninterrupted recreational space following the stream from one end of the county to the other.

Earlier this year, officials met for a groundbreaking ceremony for a $13.9 million project that will link Clear Creek and Jefferson counties with a 10-foot-wide concrete trail for 6 miles, improve stream access, and link the Oxbow parcel with Mayhem Gulch.

“Looking for recreational opportunities is really something we need to position ourselves to take advantage of,” Mauck said. “The stream is the lifeblood in so many ways, not just physically to the necessities of life, but we’re drawn to it in ways that just make obvious sense.”

Mauck said Clear Creek offers a diversity of recreational opportunities such as rafting, kayaking, angling and gold panning, and the county needs to continue to transform itself and take advantage of the creek, but now in a different way.

“It’s (now about) mining the recreation opportunities,” Mauck said.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Georgetown: Meter replacement project nearly complete

Georgetown Colorado
Georgetown Colorado

From the Clear Creek Courant (Beth Potter):

Georgetown is about to complete its water-meter replacement program, and rather than asking homeowners to foot the $550 installation bill, the town took out a loan and got a grant to cover the cost. The town is replacing 660 meters because they were not accurately recording how much water homeowners were using. The town board discussed the issue for two years, trying to determine the best way to foot the cost.

The town received a $170,000 grant in 2013 from the state Department of Local Affairs and has taken out a loan for $211,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to pay the rest of the cost. The loan is for 30 years at 4.1 percent interest, according to town administrator Tom Hale.

Residents will repay the debt through increases to their water bills, though Hale is unsure how much the increase will be. The $211,000 loan is part of a larger amount the town has borrowed to pay for renovations to the Georgetown Lake dam. He expects water rates to reflect the entire loan repayment in 2016.

Georgetown mayor Craig Abrahamson said having residents pay for the new water meters through small increases in their water bills would be “an easier pill to swallow” for most people.

The town hired a company from Utah to replace the meters, which will allow a meter reader to drive down the street to collect meter data.

The primary purpose of replacing the meters, Abrahamson said, is to improve their accuracy and help the town better assess how much water residents actually use.
More than 87 percent of Georgetown’s 597 water users needed new meters. The radio-read meters cost $400, and installation costs $150. The remaining 75 were installed within the last couple of years and don’t need to be replaced.
Based on readings from the new meters, the town may determine whether it can lower water rates.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Conservation front and center in Broomfield

broomfield

From the Enterprise Broomfield News:

Broomfield offers two water conservation programs to help residents save water and money. Residents and businesses could qualify for an irrigation audit and/or rebates if they receive treated water from Broomfield.

Free irrigation audits are provided by Slow the Flow Colorado, a nonprofit program of the Center for Resource Conservation. To schedule an irrigation audit, call 303-999-3820 ext. 217 or go to conservationcenter.org/.

Water rebates help offset the cost to replace inefficient toilets and irrigation components. More information on rebates, including qualifying models and residential rebate instructions, go to broomfield.org/index.aspx?NID=1098.

More information on water conservation, including lawn watering guidelines, can be found at broomfield.org/index.aspx?NID=439.

More conservation coverage here.

Westminster piloting native grasses to replace Kentucky bluegrass in some parks

kentuckybluegrassvsfescueviamowersource

From The Denver Post (Austin Briggs):

The new grass coming up on the west side of Kensington Park isn’t replacing a die-off — it’s replacing grass that was killed off.

Parks officials this year used an herbicide to kill the Kentucky bluegrass that had been there prior to planting native seeds — including fescue, rye and Canadian bluegrass.

The new ground cover will conserve water and save the city money, said Jessica Stauffer, the community outreach coordinator for the city’s Parks, Recreation and Library department.

“We went $200,000 over budget last year in watering costs for our parks,” Stauffer said. “The native grass being seeded stays greener longer and means fewer taxpayer dollars used for maintenance.”

In addition to Kensington, England and Oakhurst Park II are also being re-seeded in select spots totaling 8.4 acres away from playgrounds and high-traffic areas.

The new blend, which will grow between eight to 10 inches tall, won’t need to be mowed because it will follow a natural cycle of dormancy and growth, said parks supervisor Jerry Magnetti.

“We’ll do a second seeding this fall,” Magnetti said. “It’s a low-grow, low-maintenance seed mix that will fill in and look beautiful, especially in the fall and cooler months.”

While it’ll take another year or two for the grasses to establish, the goal is to see how this experiment works and perhaps apply it to a citywide program amid a long-term drought and rising water costs.

In 2005 the Department of Parks, Recreation and Libraries used 216 million gallons of water at a cost of $863,675 and in 2012 this grew to 319 million gallons and $1,362,975.

An acre of established native grass with trees and shrub beds costs about $500 a year to maintain, compared to $2,100 for Kentucky bluegrass.

More conservation coverage here.

Clear Creek Courant series [Part 1] about the past, present and future of Clear Creek

Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation
Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Check out Ian Neligh’s retrospective about Clear Creek and the heydays of mining and logging (The Clear Creek Courant). Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Editor’s note:This is the first installment of a three-part series examining the past, present and future of Clear Creek…

Gold

There’s a monument in Idaho Springs hidden away in the parking lot of the former middle school. The giant boulder pays tribute to George Jackson, an adventurer and fortune hunter, who discovered gold in Clear Creek 155 years ago.

According to Don Allan, vice president of the Idaho Springs Historical Society, Jackson’s curiosity to follow the creek west into the mountains with only a couple of dogs by his side led to the country’s second largest gold rush.

Like a row of dominoes, Jackson’s discovery led to an onslaught of pioneers and ultimately in 1876 to the formation of a state.

“(Jackson) decided to go over and take a look down at the crick, and his curiosity brought him here to the confluence of Chicago Creek and Clear Creek,” Allan said. “When I talk with people about our community and how we got here, it was because of one man’s very good curiosity and a piece of gold.”

Jackson discovered gold in January, and by June, more than 400 people had settled in the area.

Natural hot springs drew more people into the area. Allan said in the Idaho Springs museum’s photography collection, there’s a photo of more than 50 employees standing in front of the hot springs.

“Once the stream was panned out, they panned all the gold out of the crick. Then they had to dig and make mining mills,” Allan said. “And this crick was integral to the milling of all the gold and silver in this area.”

The creek was used to support the mining industry such as the Mixel Dam in Idaho Springs, which was formed to help power mining mills and to create electricity. In 1864, silver was discovered to be the main mining mineral in Georgetown, and by 1877, the railroad reached Idaho Springs.

According to “A History of Clear Creek County,” the area at one point had 48 different towns with names such as Red Elephant, Freeland and Hill City. It is estimated that several thousand mines crisscrossed the mountains around Clear Creek as people sought their fortunes first along its banks and then in its mountains.

Those unlucky in gold sometimes found their way into the county’s second largest industry: logging. Early photos of the surrounding hillsides show them stripped of trees. But in time, the mining and logging industry waned, the frenzy slowed and the towns disappeared until there were only four municipalities left: Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Empire and Silver Plume. By World War II, the county’s mining industry has come almost to a complete halt.

But the stream once called Cannonball Creek, Vasquez Fork and lastly Clear Creek remained.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s “Urban Waters Bike Tour” recap


It was a grand time the other day cycling along the South Platte and hearing about current projects, operations, hopes and plans.

The tour was from the Confluence of Clear Creek and the South Platte River to Confluence Park where Cherry Creek joins the river.

Along the way we heard about Clear Creek, water quality in the South Platte Basin, infrastructure investments, and education programs.

A recurring theme was the effort to reach out to a younger generation through the school system.

Darren Mollendor explained that the program he honchos attempts to get the students to connect to their neighborhood parks. This includes an understanding of pollution, pollution abatement, and habitat improvement. He invited us all to go camping at Cherry Creek Reservoir when students from the upper and lower Cherry Creek watershed get together later this summer.

Michael Bouchard (Denver Parks and Recreation) detailed planned improvements along the river through Denver. Most of the new facilities will also have an education focus, including native flora at some locations.

Metro Wastewater is one of the largest clean water utilities in the nation, according to Steve Rogowski. The Metro District is directing a huge investment to comply with tougher treatment standards.

At the Burlington Ditch diversion Gray Samenfink explained operations under the ditch. The ditch is a supply for Barr Lake, other reservoirs, and direct irrigators. Several municipalities also take water off the ditch. The new diversion and flood control structure replaced the old dam at the location.

Caitlin Coleman (Colorado Foundation for Water Education) was tasked with keeping the tour on track. That was no easy task. When you get young and older, students, water resources folks, educators, conservationists, scientists, attorneys, engineers, and ditch riders together there’s going to be a lot of stuff to talk about.

Click here to go to the CFWE website. Become a member while you are there. That way you’ll know about these cool events in advance so you won’t miss the fun.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

Clear Creek: Colorado’s hardest working river?

Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation
Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

From All Wet: The Colorado Water Blog (Allen Best):

Dave Holm called Clear Creek “perhaps the hardest working river in Colorado,” and to back up that statement he noted that it provides water for 400,000 people and has the second most numbers of rafters in Colorado.

As for fish? Well, not so good. “It’s a rough and tough stream, and it’s tough on fish,” he said at a March 20 presentation before the Colorado Renewable Energy Society. “They really get beat up.”

Holm directs the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, which was set up in 1990. He explained that after just a handful of people at the first meeting, 100 people were affiliated with the group by 1994.

The foundation seeks to clean up and improve Clear Creek, no small task. It was the site of Colorado’s first industrial-scale mining, first placer operations and then tunneling. This occurred at Central City, on the north fork of the creek, and also at Idaho Springs. Other mining towns in the drainage include Black Hawk, Georgetown, and Silver Plume…

The foundation has done 80 projects altogether, but the creek still has major troubles. Interstate 70 probably has the “biggest physical impact.” The creek has been channelized to make roof for the four-way highway, creating what amounts to a “rip-rap gulley.”

Holm also described how the doctrine of prior appropriation benefits the creek. “Colorado’s—rococo comes to mind—legal framework for administering water rights,” he said. But that first-in-right means that most of the water in Clear Creek gets left there until far downstream, where it issues from the foothills into the piedmont of the Front Range.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

Restoration: North Empire Creek acid mine drainage mitigation

Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation
Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

The Clear Creek Watershed Foundation will spend $536,000 to remove the waste and re-vegetate the area between April and August. David Holm, the foundation’s executive director, hopes the mitigation will begin to make the water less acidic, eventually allowing plants to grow along the creek’s banks and fish to live in its waters.

However, he doesn’t want to mislead people into thinking the creek will be perfect when the work is complete.

“So how will it look afterward?” Holm asked. “We hope the stream corridor is going to look pretty good. There’s not going to be mine waste in it. It is going to look like a natural stream, and it is going to have vegetation on both sides as far out as we can get it.”

Empire Mayor Wendy Koch lauded the effort, saying the stream does not currently support life of any kind.

Koch said an Empire resident once questioned why he could never find deer, elk or any wildlife in that area.

“Well, that’s why,” Koch said of the stream and its acidity level. “(The project) will support our various wildlife, everything from bears to birds and anything in between.”

The project will be paid for by Miller Coors, which gave $394,000; the watershed district; the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety; and in-kind donations from the county, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited.

Holm said the stream has a pH of 3, compared to a neutral pH of 7.
“When you get down to pH 3, you’re into 10,000 times more acidic than what you’re really going for,” Holm said. “So acidity is a real problem in North Empire Creek. There are very high elevations of copper and zinc. Both of those are very toxic to aquatic life.”

Holm said the stream also has toxic levels of iron, aluminum and manganese…

Holm said the area has an interesting history, being one of the earliest mining sites in the state.

“Initially, they did hydraulic mining in this area, which involves high-pressure hoses that are used, essentially, to wash the unconsolidated soil and subsoil … which in this area had disseminated gold deposits,” Holm said. “But it is a brute-force, ugly kind of mining that results in the hill slopes really not having a growth medium when it is said and done.”

More water pollution coverage here.

Georgetown: DOLA grant will help rate payers pay costs of replacement meters

Hidr%C3%B4metro.JPG/250px-Hidr%C3%B4metro.jpg

From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

Georgetown mayor Craig Abrahamson signed an agreement on July 9 to accept a $170,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs to help subsidize the cost of its water meter replacement program. “It a pretty big project, and obviously we’re very pleased and grateful to the department of Local Affairs for their continued support in modernizing our infrastructure,” Abrahamson said.

The grant provider still has to sign its portion of the agreement before it is made official. Installation will get underway sometime in 2014. Approximately 600 meters need to be replaced at a cost of $550 each. The grant will pay for roughly half of the price. The town has to fund the additional $230,000 of the project’s cost. The town board will decide in the coming weeks how much of the town’s matching funds will come from the municipality, or if homeowners will need to pay a portion of the cost for equipment and installation.

More infrastructure coverage here.

CDPHE and Cotter Corp agree on a plan to end the Schwartzwalder Mine’s pollution of Ralston Creek with uranium — pumping and treating groundwater

schwartzwalderminedivisionofreclamationminingandsafety.jpg

The two parties have agreed on the geology and now believe they can pump enough water to lower the levels of water in the main shaft 150 feet below the Ralston Creek alluvium. The same approach being used at California Gulch; the perpetual pumping and treating of groundwater. Proof that the energy costs for uranium extraction sometimes never end. Here’s a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

The latest test data show that highly toxic water in the Schwartzwalder mine’s main shaft seeps underground into Ralston Creek, which flows to Ralston Reservoir.

A settlement deal requires Cotter to pump and treat millions of gallons of water and lower the level to 150 feet below the top of that 2,000-foot-deep shaft. This is intended to prevent uranium — in concentrations up to 1,000 times the health standard — from contaminating water supplies.

Cotter also must provide $3.5 million in financial assurance money to ensure cleanup of the mine west of Denver is done and pay a civil penalty of $55,000. Another $39,000 in penalties is to be waived.

The deal, approved by state regulators, ends Cotter’s lawsuits challenging state orders to clean up the mine and the creek. A state judge ruled in favor of regulators and Cotter appealed the decision.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Ceratium and gomphosphaeria are blooming in Arvada Reservoir

arvadareservoir.jpg

From the Arvada Press (Sara Van Cleve):

Because of the extreme heat this summer, several kinds of algae, specifically ceratium and gomphosphaeria, have sprouted in Arvada Reservoir. “It’s the extended period of it that’s causing it to grow,” said Wendy Forbes, communications manager for the city of Arvada. “There is not enough fluctuation in temperatures.”

As the algae dies, it releases into the water a harmless chemical that causes the change in smell and taste, Forbes said. Though some residents have tasted and smelled the algae’s effects in their water, Forbes said, it is completely harmless.

“Arvada Water is adding carbons to the system to help with some of that,” she said. “It should stop once the algae is gone.” It takes about four days for water to pass through the purification system completely, so it takes about that long to collect enough data to see if the extra carbon is helping.

More water treatment coverage here.

Clear Creek Watershed Festival September 15

clearcreekwatershedmap.jpg

Click here to go to the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation website for all the skinny on the celebration. Here’s an excerpt:

Join us for our fourth annual family-oriented event to learn about the Clear Creek Watershed. Lots of fun & entry is FREE!

• fishing • gold panning • face painting • food • live music

• 30 environmental education PASSPORT STATIONS with engaging activities

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here and here.

CDPHE: Cotter Corp diverted Ralston Creek past its Schwartzwalder Mine to minimize discharge of uranium into creek

schwartwalderpipelinecotterralstoncreek.jpg

From TheDenverChannel.com (Thomas Hendrick):

The Colorado health department had ordered Cotter to divert water from the creek away from the Schwartzwalder Mine so that pollutants wouldn’t get into the creek water. Ralston Creek flows into a Denver Water reservoir that provides drinking water.

The health department’s water quality control division says Cotter completed a pipeline Tuesday to divert up to 8 cubic feet per second of creek flows past the mine.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Cotter plans to route Ralston Creek through a temporary pipeline around the Schwartzwalder Mine

schwartzwalderminelocationmap.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Nobody wants Cotter Corp.’s re-routing of Ralston Creek to be permanent. Federal biologists say the pine-studded creek corridor through a picturesque canyon is habitat for the endangered Preble’s Jumping Mouse

Cotter work crews on Monday were completing a 21-foot-deep concrete-and-steel structure designed to channel all surface and shallow groundwater through an 18-inch-diameter black plastic pipeline running 4,000 feet around the Schwartzwalder Mine, once the nation’s largest underground uranium mine. As a condition of its 10-year federal permit, Cotter must irrigate the creek corridor to ensure that trees and wildlife survive. “This is a temporary bypass that will allow us to do the permanent fix,” Cotter vice president John Hamrick said. “We really are trying to do the right thing here.”[…]

Cotter also has agreed to use excavators and seven sump pumps to remove uranium from contaminated groundwater near the mine’s 2,000-foot-deep shaft, where uranium levels top 24,000 ppb. The sump pumping and subsequent treatment of contaminated groundwater over the past 18 months has removed about 1 ton of uranium that otherwise could have flowed into metro drinking water. That uranium sits in a guarded facility here until it can be trucked to a radioactive-waste dump…

State mining inspectors say uranium-laced water inside the mine shaft “is finding other ways out of the mine pool” and into groundwater and the creek beyond the mine. “The only way to fix that,” [Loretta Pineda, director of Colorado’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety] said, “is to draw down the mine pool and treat it.”

Cotter favors a different approach. While Hamrick acknowledged there may be some underground pathways between the mine shaft and Ralston Creek, he and Cotter health physicist Randy Whicker on Monday said pumping toxic water out of the mine makes no sense.
Such a project would require construction of a large plastic-lined waste pond, with the cost likely to exceed $10 million, and perpetual pumping of groundwater that would continue to fill up the mine shaft and turn toxic through contact with exposed minerals.

Better, Cotter contends, would be to keep the super-toxic water inside the mine shaft and treat it in there. Mixing molasses and alcohol into uranium-laced water would cause bacteria already present inside the mine shaft to multiply, Hamrick and Whicker said. These bacteria would bond with uranium particles, separating uranium from water so that it could settle deep underground.

More nuclear coverage here. More Schwartzwalder Mine coverage here.