Morgan County Commissioners give green light to #solar farm #ActOnClimate

Photovoltaic Solar Array

From The Fort Morgan Times (Paul Albani-Burgio):

The Morgan County Commissioners voted 3 to 0 Tuesday to approve a conditional use permit and variance for the construction of a solar farm on 20 acres of land near the intersection of County Road 21 and County Road N southeast of Fort Morgan.

The farm is being built by Starlight Energy Corporation on land owned by Peter V. and Karen V. Anderson. Commissioner Mark Arndt said Starlight is proposing to sell the electricity that is generated from the farm to the Morgan County Rural Electric Association to provide power for Morgan County residents but a power purchase agreement has not been finalized. Arndt said Starlight has also talked about Fort Morgan Light and Power as a possible buyer of the electricity that will be generated.

The facility is expected to generate about 2 megawatts of solar power per year and a half of a megawatt of natural gas power. Though the number of homes powered by a megawatt of solar energy depends on average sunshine, electricity consumption, temperature and wind in a given area, it is estimated that one megawatt can power about 650 homes.

Starlight Energy CEO Brian Bentley said the company was hoping to have the solar farm constructed and operational in the first quarter of 2018. Bentley said a portion of the facility that will generate natural gas when not enough solar power is being generated should be operational by the fourth quarter of this year.

Fort Morgan should be able to avoid watering restrictions this season

First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit Northern Water.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board of Directors on Thursday approved increasing the Colorado-Big Thompson Project water pipeline quota to 80 percent, according to a news release.

Fort Morgan receives its water from that , with water availability subject to the quota set periodically by the Northern Water Board. It had been adjusted to 50 percent last November.

Such quota changes do not affect city water rates, which are set by the Fort Morgan City Council. But it does affect the amount of water available to the city for use.

This new quota is one that means good news for Fort Morgan water customers, according to Nation…

Lots of data was taken into account by the Northern Water Board in setting this latest quota, according to the news release.

“The Board considered snowpack totals, stream flow runoff projections and input from farmers and municipal and industrial water providers in setting the quota,” the release stated. “C-BT supplements other sources of water for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million-acre service area.”

That includes Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District.

For Fort Morgan, the increased quota likely even means having more C-BT water available than will be needed by city residents and businesses, according to Nation.

“The higher quota also allows the city to lease out excess water above our projected needs for the year,” Nation said. “In most cases this water is leased by farmers to help complete their water supplies for the year.”

…the precipitation that fell in March within the water district’s collection area was 27 percent below what would be considered normal for that month, according to Northern Water.

Wiggins trustees approve hitching up with the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative…augmentation credits

Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.
Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The Wiggins Board of Trustees voted to buy a share of the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative during its monthly meeting Wednesday night. That will cost $2,000.

On any one day, an individual or group with an augmentation plan might have more water credits than the person or group can use or less than it needs, and having the option of sharing credits could help those who are part of the cooperative, said agricultural producer Mike Groves. As it is, if a person or group has excess water credits, the individual or group has to just let it go down the river without use, but the cooperative may change that, he noted.

“It’s something that’s never been done before, but I get sick and tired” of seeing water lost because it cannot be used, Groves said.

Members could transfer water credits to help out those who need them, he said.

Even a little bit of water can make a difference at times, Groves said.

The copperative became official as of Jan. 1, after about seven years of work to put it together, he said. So far, a number of people and groups have become members, said Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District. There are two kinds of members: voting and non-voting, which cost $2,000 or $1,000 respectively for shares. That money becomes capital, and would buy one share of cooperative stock, just like other agricultural cooperatives, Frank said.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Morgan County Conservation District annual meeting recap #COWaterPlan

fortmorganrainbowbridge

From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

As the Colorado population grows — from people moving here or new families starting — water must be found to meet that hugely increasing demand, said Jim Yahn, manager of the North Sterling and Prewitt reservoirs.

He was speaking during the annual meeting of the Morgan Conservation District at the Country Steak Out in Fort Morgan on Thursday evening. After speaking on the history of Colorado water-law, he addressed the challenges facing water use in the state.

Between the year 2000 and today, Colorado’s population grew by about 500,000, and is expected to grow another 5 million by 2050, Yahn said.

More specifically for Morgan County, demographers project that the population will increase by 73 percent along the South Platte River Basin, he said.

Water leaders are trying to find ways to meet the water needs of the state, but also trying to avoid just selling off agricultural water rights to meet the needs of Colorado’s cities, Yahn noted.

If agricultural water rights were just bought up and transferred to city use, as has been the historical trend, from 22 to 32 percent of agricultural water along the South Platte River would be taken for use by cities by 2050, he warned.

That would mean the loss of production on 180,000 to 270,000 acres, Yahn said.

It is the state population that uses the water, not agriculture, because the water that goes into agricultural products eventually goes back to people in the form of food, he said. Water that does not go into the food largely soaks back into the underground aquifers after use for crops.

That means the state needs to develop new water strategies, and that is underway as various groups work on a state water plan, Yahn said.

Those working on the plan hope to address the expected water shortages in ways that will not dry up farm land and still preserves the state’s rivers.

The basin implementation plans which will be part of the overall plan are due back to Gov. John Hickenlooper this coming summer, and the draft of a state water plan is expected by the end of the year, Yahn said.

The trick is creating a plan that will be of actual use, not just another glossy report on the shelf, he said.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Morgan Conservation District’s Annual meeting February 6 #COWaterPlan

Fort Morgan vintage photo from Moody's Vintage Collectible Postcards
Fort Morgan vintage photo from Moody’s Vintage Collectible Postcards

From The Fort Morgan Times:

Jim Yahn, manager of North Sterling and Prewitt Reservoirs and the past chairman of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, will be speaking at the Morgan Conservation District’s Annual meeting on Thursday, Feb. 6.

Yahn will speak on the Past, Present and Future of Colorado’s Water.

This is a very important meeting to attend if you are concerned about your water rights.

Yahn is responsible for overseeing the diversion and distribution of water to farmers. He also serves as one of the two South Platte Basin Roundtable representatives Statewide Interbasin Compact Committee.

It is not too late to RSVP to Morgan Conservation District’s Annual meeting which will be held at the Country Steak-Out Restaurant in Fort Morgan at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $25.

Please RSVP to the conservation district office at 970-867-9659, x 3.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Fort Morgan: City Council hopes to score some grant money to study stormwater needs

fortmorgan.jpg

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The Fort Morgan City Council on Tuesday directed city staff to seek out grants to cover the cost of a study for how to implement a stormwater fee.
“The recommendation from the (Stormwater) Ad Hoc Committee was to assess a fee to address stormwater issues,” Wells said. But he said that staff were not sure yet what fee would need to be to cover everything it would need to cover, or if that was what the council wanted.

“If we do this, we want to make sure we do it the right way,” he said, suggesting a study. He said that some Colorado municipalities had put in place stormwater fees without studies, leading to questions from the people paying fees and even ballot issues eliminating the fees…

The third option, which was the one that was recommended by the committee, would be to create a stormwater utility and assess a monthly fee to city residents. Wells explained that a big issue with this was how the money would be allocated in the budget between a new enterprise fund and where it used to come out of the general fund…

The council did direct Wells and staff to find out more about the costs of study for stormwater fees, as well as seek grants to pay for that type of study. Wells did say that a stormwater fee study likely would cost between $30,000 to $50,000, but that grants may be available to cover about half of that cost.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Sterling: The 2013 draft budget is out, staff recommends spending down excess revenues in the water fund

windfarmsterlingvialogancounty.jpg

From the Sterling Journal Advocate (David Marinez):

Water fund

Some major changes are coming to the water fund, as the city weans off major water line expenditures and increases its water plant expenditures.

Total expenditures for water line construction and improvements will drop from $16.5 million in 2011 and $14.3 million in 2012 to only $2.65 million in $2013.

The biggest changes in that budget come from a combined $786,000 drop in consultant fees and legal expenses. The city paid $236,000 this year for water consultants during construction — $25,000 in 2013 — and $575,000 in water court issues.

Kiolbasa said the city, like farms or other water users, has to protect its rights to use water for 15 to 20 years into the future. The court fees this year reflect an effort to secure the city’s rights to water until 2035.

On the other side, expenditures on the water plant will increase from $198,000 in 2012 to about $4.5 million in 2013, as almost every budget expenditure item will either be new or greatly increased for the coming year.

All things considered, the total water fund equity will decrease from about $10.6 million in 2012 to about $8.9 million next year.

More infrastructure coverage here and here.