YMCA of the Rockies inks $1.9M #water deal with #EstesPark — @WaterEdCO

Statue at YMCA of the Rockies: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Jerd Smith):

Sometimes, when you’re a small nonprofit, the high price of water is a good thing.

The YMCA of the Rockies, an historic Estes Park resort founded more than 100 years ago, has entered into a multimillion-dollar agreement with the Town of Estes Park in which it will transfer water rights valued at roughly $1.9 million to the town, in exchange for a perpetual water treatment contract.

Chris Jorgensen, the YMCA’s chief financial officer, said the agreement allows the resort to forego the high cost of building a modern water treatment plant and gives Estes Park a more robust water portfolio and delivery system that has better economies of scale.

“The cool thing about it is the collaborative nature of it,” Jorgensen said. “Our existing plant is within a mile of theirs. We’re going to go from operating two water plants to one. It speaks to good stewardship of our natural resources, and it benefits both of us.”

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

The YMCA has 312 shares in the federally owned Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) Project water system, according to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which manages the C-BT Project. Flowing straight from the Alba B. Adams Tunnel under the Continental Divide from Grand Lake to the Front Range, the water is among the most highly valued in Colorado. Clean and easily delivered and traded, its value has skyrocketed in recent years.

Under the agreement, the YMCA is transferring 32 shares of its C-BT water to the Town of Estes Park. According to Northern Water, the value of the water varies, but recent sales have been priced at $60,000 to $65,000 per share. Just four years ago the price was closer to $30,000 per share.

That puts the water value of the deal at $1.9M with the YMCA also agreeing to pay the town $1 million over the next 10 years in system development charges.

Reuben Bergsten, Estes Park utilities director, said the town is making an effort to incorporate more small communities who lack modern water infrastructure into their treatment network.

“The town sees it as a civic duty,” Bergsten said.

What the YMCA plans to do with its remaining water rights isn’t clear yet. Jorgensen declined to comment on any other potential sales, but said the resort’s water portfolio is being used fully now to serve customers.

And Jorgensen said the value of the water isn’t the most important piece of the transaction.

“It’s a tremendous relief to be out of the water treatment business,” he said. “Now we can maximize the value of our business for our guests.”

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.

The March 2022 Northern Water E-Waternews is hot off the presses

Screenshot of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project boundaries via Northern Water’s interactive mapping tool , June 5, 2019.

Click the link to read the newsletter on the Northern Water website. Here’s an excerpt:

Registration Full for Spring Water Users Meeting on April 13

The Northern Water Spring Water Users Meeting is now at capacity and accepting names for a waitlist. The annual meeting is from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on April 13 at the Embassy Suites in Loveland.

The meeting includes time for water users throughout Northern Water boundaries to provide input regarding the 2022 quota level for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Information gathered at the meeting will be included in the data used by the Northern Water Board of Directors to set the quota at its monthly board meeting on April 14. If you would like to provide feedback regarding the quota via email, please email generaldelivery@northernwater.org by 5 p.m. on April 13.

In addition, the meeting will provide an opportunity to learn about the latest activities being carried out by Northern Water, such as the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir, the restoration of lands damaged by the 2020 Colorado wildfires and the future of our forested source watersheds.

To add your name to the wait list or if you have registered and are now unable to attend, please email events@northernwater.org.

#Wellington Makes a Decision on #Water and #Wastewater Rates — The North Forty News

Looking west on Cleveland Avenue in Wellington. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47841975

Click the link to read the article on The North Forty News (Annie Lindgren):

Wellington residents and business owners will not be seeing an increase in water rates at this time. The Town has decided to maintain the current rates and tiers established in October of 2020 and January of 2021. They accomplished this through a General Fund transfer of $653,000 to the Water fund, through 2021 Water fund operational savings of $400,000, and through continuing to identify operational efficiencies and cost-saving opportunities. They also decided to use the available $2.6 million American Rescue Fund Act (ARPA) Tranche II funds towards the water fund…

Sewer base rates and usage rates have remained the same since 2016. That is $20.63 for up to 3,000 gallons and an additional $6.50 per thousand gallons over that. Starting in April of 2022, that base rate will go up to $31, with the additional usage rate of $10 per thousand gallons over 3,000 gallons. An example bill for an average resident using 4,000 gallons of water shows a change from $122.70 a month to $136.57 a month, including water, sewer, and storm fees.

The plan is for a stepped base and usage rate increase with a 5% annual increase to base and tier rates for the subsequent three years. In 2023 folks can expect another increase to $44 for the base rate and $13 for the amount per thousand gallons over 3,000. However, a utility rate study will happen before this Year 2 projection is finalized. This plan included a $390,000 General Fund transfer to the Sewer Fund, and there will be a shortfall in the Town fund balance reserve that will remedy with time and should be back above the red line in 2026.

Construction on the Wastewater plant will begin mid-2022. The goals for this project are that the capacity for the Wastewater treatment plant expansion must align with the Water Treatment Plant expansion, and the new Wastewater plant will meet the more stringent compliance standards. The project is set for completion in mid-2024 when the new plant should be ready for processing our sewage.

The next steps are for the Town is to engage in a comprehensive rate study happening in 2022. Water and Sewer usage rates, impact fees, and indirect costs will be evaluated. The goal is to ensure an equitable impact on residential and non-residential customers and plan annual reviews and updates into the future. In addition, the Town is continuing to support and promote the Hardship Utility Grant (HUG) and the Water Efficiency Program and is looking into other financial solutions…

The Rate study will look at regional trends and provide a holistic review of the water and wastewater rate needs and implications. It will answer the equity question of how to handle commercial vs. residential rates and share options on how best to proceed with future rate changes. It seems that the affordability of water and utilities is affecting Colorado in general, and it is a hot topic currently with the Colorado Municipal League. This discussion topic is far from over, so stay tuned for further details on the progression.

North Weld considers partial lifting of tap moratorium as more developers threaten legal action — The #Greeley Tribune

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

Click the link to read the article on The Greeley Tribune (Christopher Wood I). Here’s an excerpt:

The district’s board of directors will consider a proposal to lift partially the moratorium that it imposed on Sept. 29, when it blamed the 1041 regulatory process in Fort Collins and Larimer County for potentially delaying the proposed NEWT III pipeline, which would extend from North Timberline Road in Fort Collins 5.3 miles eastward into unincorporated Larimer County.

The tap moratorium prompted the town of Severance to impose a moratorium on building permits.

The North Weld County Water District’s board of directors Monday will consider lifting the moratorium in four identified zones within the district — Zones 1, 2, 7 and 7B — but would still limit tap sales to 120 per year.

North Weld to control excess #water use by ag, commercial users — The #Greeley Tribune

North Weld County Water District service area. Credit: NWCWD

Here’s the release from the North Weld County Water District:

The Western United States has been in 22 consecutive years of drought. In just five years, reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin have dropped to their lowest levels on record. Lake Mead and Lake Powell have lost 50% of their capacity. This past summer, the U.S. government declared the first-ever water shortage at Lake Mead and initiated Tier 1 federal drought restrictions on three states and Mexico. A second round of federal water restrictions may affect Colorado in the relatively near term and potentially result in Colorado River supply curtailments.

This enduring drought situation is affecting North Weld County Water District (“NWCWD” of “District”), which is now considered to be in an extreme drought according to the National Drought Mitigation Center and Colorado Department of Natural Resources. We do not anticipate this situation to improve in the foreseeable future.

In response, NWCWD has been conducting hydrologic river modelling to evaluate our drought readiness and prepare mitigation measures. The District’s water supply portfolio is derived from Colorado Big Thompson (C-BT) units, as well as some native water rights. The majority of the native water rights are associated with irrigation ditch share ownership in the Cache la Poudre River basin and trans-basin rights. When extreme drought conditions occur for an extended period, the NWCWD water supply will be limited

Many agricultural business customers within the District currently operate using District surplus water supply. If the drought conditions continue to persist and/or Colorado River drought mitigation measures affect the amount of water available to NWCWD from the Colorado river, NWCWD’s ability to provide this surplus water will be diminished or eliminated altogether. NWCWD recommends that customers who operate on NWCWD supply begin to prepare for drought conditions and not rely solely on NWCWD water supply to supplement their allocated water.

Due to the potential severity of an enduring drought, NWCWD will be placing flow control devices on water meters to ensure that district supply is not being used to supplement demand beyond customers’ allocations. We understand that this shift in water availability may present a challenge for customers and NWCWD is willing to assist you in identifying new water allocations and potential alternatives for supply or infrastructure. However, we strongly recommend that customers hire professional services to navigate this challenge.

Please also be aware that NWCWD is making some adjustments to its fee schedule. Please refer to the NWCWD web page for updated rates and fees.

Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

From The Greeley Tribune (Christopher Wood I):

The North Weld County Water District, which has maintained a moratorium on new water taps since last fall, will install flow-control devices on water meters to prevent agricultural and commercial users from using more than their allocation of water in times of drought.

The district announced the new policy in a Tuesday posting on its website addressed to “Agricultural Business Owners.”

“This enduring drought situation is affecting North Weld County Water District … which is now considered to be in an extreme drought according to the National Drought Mitigation Center and Colorado Department of Natural Resources,” the district stated. “We do not anticipate this situation to improve in the foreseeable future.

“If the drought conditions continue to persist and/or Colorado River drought mitigation measures affect the amount of water available to NWCWD from the Colorado river, NWCWD’s ability to provide this surplus water will be diminished or eliminated altogether.”

#Runoff from land scarred by wildfires can contaminate drinking #water #FortCollins, #Colorado, was forced to adjust its water treatment system to cope with polluted water — Yale #Climate Connections

(Photo credit: A. Torres, USDA / CC BY 2.0)

From Yale Climate Connections:

Increasingly extreme wildfires are raging across the West – leaving behind barren, charred areas and threatening drinking water.

Jill Oropeza is director of sciences for water quality services for Fort Collins Utilities in Colorado.

She says in a healthy forest, trees and shrubs buffer the impact of rain on the ground. Pine needles and detritus on the forest floor help retain water.

“That is the sponge that soaks up and holds a lot of that moisture and allows the precipitation to percolate downwards,” she says.

If this vegetation burns up, melting snow and rain run across the land instead of seeping into the soil. And as the water flows, it picks up ash, sediment, and other debris.

“And those substances in the soil itself and the ash are dissolved and carried in the river and into reservoirs,” Oropeza says.

She says Fort Collins was forced to adjust its water treatment system to cope with influxes of contaminated water. And it’s using helicopters to spread mulch in burned areas to help plants start growing again.

Doing so is expensive but critical to providing people with clean water as the climate warms.

History of Horsetooth Reservoir: From stone quarry to quenching thirst of fields, cities — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

A view of Stout from Larimer County Highway 38E taken in June 1946, one month before construction began at Horsetooth. Highland School is on the hill in the center.
Bureau of Reclamation

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Horsetooth Reservoir stands as one of Fort Collins’ treasured trinity that includes the Poudre River and Horsetooth Rock.

A million visitors flock annually to its water cradled in the arms of four dams and its 25 miles of shoreline while hikers, mountain bikers and climbers recreate in the scenic foothills surrounding the 6.5-mile-long jewel.

But Horsetooth Reservoir was never meant to be a recreational paradise…

Though it’s become the state’s third-most visited reservoir, Horsetooth Reservoir’s main mission from the beginning was to provide water for agricultural fields on the Eastern Plains and increasingly thirsty Front Range cities such as Fort Collins.

That mission started 71 years ago on Jan. 10, 1951, when water diverted from the Western Slope began flowing into Horsetooth Reservoir as part of the massive Colorado-Big Thompson water diversion project.

Much has changed at the reservoir as well as in surrounding area since then.

In 1951, Fort Collins’ population was about 15,000 and an acre-foot of Horsetooth water sold for $4.50…

Today, Fort Collins’s population is about 174,000 and an acre-foot of Horsetooth water goes for $100,000.

In the beginning, 99% of the water went to agricultural fields and 1% to cities.

Today, that split is closer to 50-50, which is about the split Fort Collins takes from its two water sources — Horsetooth Reservoir and the Poudre River.

Here is a short history lesson of Horsetooth Reservoir’s humble beginnings, gathered from historical books, newspapers and water manager Northern Water.

Horsetooth history starts out dry

The area under what now is Horsetooth Reservoir was once where part of a town by the name of Stout was located.

Back in the day, Stout was the center of a large sandstone quarry from which deliveries still grace buildings from Fort Collins to Denver to Omaha, Nebraska, to St. Louis. They were even used in Chicago’s World’s Fair buildings.

Remnants of the once flourishing town (now the Horsetooth Heights subdivision) are visible at the south end of Horsetooth Reservoir.

Decades after the sandstone market dried up, the thirst for a consistent source of water for agricultural fields and growing cities emerged and the Colorado-Big Thompson water diversion project was born.

It entails a series of pump plants, tunnels, pipelines and canals that move more than 200,000 acre-feet of water per year from the Upper Colorado River basin to Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Reservoir in Grand County before pumping it to the Front Range.

The project consists of 12 reservoirs, 35 miles of tunnels and 95 miles of canals, with the 13.1-mile long Alva B. Adams Tunnel beneath the Continental Divide serving as the key to the entire project.

As part of that project, four dams and a dike were used to wall off canyons just west of Fort Collins for Horsetooth Reservoir, which is the project’s largest Front Range reservoir.

Horsetooth Reservoir timeline

Here is a timeline on the history of how Horsetooth Reservoir came to be, gathered from historical books, newspapers and Northern Water:

1870: Irrigation history begins in Northern Colorado with the Greeley colony serving as the epicenter.

1881-82: Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific Railroad Co. (Union Pacific) builds a rail line connecting the quarries at Stout to Fort Collins, Greeley and Denver. A trestle that bridged Spring Canyon and where a dam is now located was the largest of the 32 bridges at 262 feet long and 45 feet high.

1883: Stout boasts a population of more than 900.

1884: State engineer E.S. Nettleton conducts the first preliminary survey of a possible diversion project to import Western Slope water to the Front Range.

1893: The heyday of the stone quarry has passed, but some quarrying lingers.

1900: Stout is a ghost town.

1908: Stout post office closes.

1933: Discussion of what will become the Colorado-Big Thompson water diversion project begins amid the Dust Bowl.

1936: Congress officially renames the Grand Lake Project the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

1937: Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District forms to build and manage the C-BT project. It is now called Northern Water.

1937: Congress approves $900,000 to build the C-BT project.

1938: C-BT construction starts. Cost of the project is about $160 million.

1940: Construction begins on the Continental Divide Tunnel (later named the Alva B. Adams Tunnel) with one crew beginning from Grand Lake on the Western Slope and a second team tunneling from a location near Estes Park. When complete, the tunnel is the longest ever built from two separate headings.

1942: CB-T construction halts due to World War II.

1943: CB-T construction resumes.

1944: The two tunnel crews meet after tunneling through the Continental Divide. NBC radio broadcasts the event live to the nation. A check of the center line and grade reveals the two sides are off by the width of a penny.

1946: Gravel road (Larimer County Road 38E) is built around the south end of Horsetooth Reservoir to Masonville to aid in construction of the reservoir.

1946-49: Construction of Horsetooth Reservoir takes place at a cost of $20 million for the reservoir and canals.

1947: First CB-T water is delivered to the Front Range.

1951 (Jan. 10): First water starts spilling into Horsetooth Reservoir.

1951 (July 21): First water releases from Horsetooth Reservoir were made to the Poudre River. An estimated 500 people line the railings for the release ceremony at the Horsetooth outlet canal at the north end of the reservoir.

1954: Larimer County assumes management of recreation at Horsetooth, Carter Lake and Pinewood Reservoir. Recreational fees that year generate $1,200.

1954: Proposal made for a road along the east side of Horsetooth Reservoir from Horsetooth Dam on the north to Soldier Canyon Dam on the south. It would later become Centennial Drive.

1956: Horsetooth Reservoir reaches full capacity.

1967: Colorado Game Fish and Parks (today’s Colorado Parks and Wildlife) purchases the 2,300-acre Howard Ranch, which became Lory State Park in 1975, on the west side of the reservoir.

1972: Annual fees at Horsetooth Reservoir include $12 for boating, $5 for vehicles and $2 for a three-day pass. Fees expected to generate $70,000.

1973: First major improvements at reservoir include 75 parking spaces, 125 campsites and four boat-in campsites and new toilets completed mostly in what now is the South Bay area.

1976: A July flash flood on the Big Thompson River kills 145 people and causes more than $35 million in property damage. Flood water and debris destroy the 240-foot-long Big Thompson Siphon (visible at the mouth of the Big Thompson Canyon), halting C-BT Project water deliveries to Horsetooth Reservoir.

1977: Drought hits northeastern Colorado, resulting in Horsetooth Reservoir reaching its lowest level since it was first filled at 15,240 acre-feet. The current capacity is 156,735 acre-feet.

1980: An estimated 200,000 visitors come to Horsetooth Reservoir.

1981: Larimer County purchases the 2,100-acre Soderberg Ranch for $3 million. The site would become Horsetooth Mountain Park just west of the reservoir.

1983: BLM predicts that if one of Horsetooth Reservoir’s dams failed, a 30-foot wall of water would rush toward Fort Collins, reaching CSU, the Poudre River and Interstate 25 in less than hour, Timnath in two hours, Windsor in three hours and Greeley in five hours.

1986: Horsetooth Rock Trail to the top of Horsetooth Rock is completed.

1987: About half of the two roads along the south and east sides of the reservoir are paved.

1988: Proposal to turn Horsetooth, Carter and Pinewood reservoirs and Horsetooth Mountain over to the state to become state parks dies.

1988-89: Horsetooth Reservoir’s Horsetooth, Soldier Canyon, Dixon and Spring Canyon dams raised 3 to 8 feet, increasing the reservoir’s ability to store water from major flood events and address safety concerns. It had been discovered in 1984 that the original dam faces had settled 3 feet. Cost of the project is $1.8 million.

1992: In February, a 9News helicopter crashes into the reservoir in heavy fog, killing two people and leaving pilot Peter Peelgrane, 46, fighting for his life.

1992: Horsetooth Falls Trail is built.

1996: First flush toilets installed at reservoir.

2001-03: Northern Water Conservancy District (now Northern Water) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation work to modernize Horsetooth Reservoir’s four 50-year-old dams to make the structures more earthquake resistant and reduce seepage. Cost of the project is $77 million. The work required the water level to be reduced by 70 feet to to “dead pool” storage — about 7,000 acre feet, or roughly 5% capacity.

2021: Construction of the 90,000-acre-foot Chimney Hollow Reservoir begins west of Loveland with completion of the project expected in 2025. It’s Northern Colorado’s first new reservoir in about 70 years and is expected to relieve some of the recreational pressure from Horsetooth Reservoir.

Screenshot of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project boundaries via Northern Water’s interactive mapping tool , June 5, 2019.

#Greeley, Weld County #water managers look to collaborate as scarcity concerns grow — The Greeley Tribune

New Cache La Poudre Irrigating Company service area map.

From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):

As growing communities across the state require more water, supplies are becoming increasingly scarce.

This gap can slow the growth of younger communities and has others buying up water rights from areas including Weld County, resulting in the drying of local farms.

All this pressure has the state’s water law system coming under increasing scrutiny. Though some seek to change the system, water officials in the Greeley and Weld County area are hopeful collaboration will lead to innovative ways of managing this increasingly scarce resource inside the existing doctrine…

…farms — which typically own relatively senior water rights — are often targets of “buy and dry” transactions in which a water provider buys a farm to use its water for industrial or municipal purposes.

Preventing buy and dry transactions is one of the major challenges faced by the New Cache La Poudre Irrigating Company, a stockholder company that operates the Greeley No. 2 Ditch, which provides water for about 350 farmers on 32,000 acres of farms. General Manager Dale Trowbridge expects homes and municipal growth to eventually replace some farms in the system, but the biggest unknown is what will happen with the water.

“You can work (agriculture) around some houses and stuff like that, but if a third of the ditch is dry … now what do you deal with?” Trowbridge asked.

If the ditch’s water supply is severely limited by buy and drys in a couple decades, Trowbridge’s concern is the feasibility of operating the ditch when it was built to hold more water.

As things stand, the system is already short on water. Trowbridge said more dense ag operations mean there’s a greater need than there was when they started the system, which was issued its first water right decree in 1870.

To make up for the shortage, New Cache has relied on renting out water rights from cities like Greeley and Fort Collins, which have historically built a strong portfolio of water rights with drought protection to prevent supply issues for city residents. In the last year, though, they were only able to rent about half of what the farmers requested. The impacts of wildfire on water supplies meant cities weren’t able to rent out as much water, in an effort to reduce costs of treating water contaminated by runoff after the fire…

New Cache tries to help farmers acquire water in dry years, but when it comes to a situation like the last year, it’s up to farmers to alter their cropping patterns or not plant.

Agricultural operations aren’t the only ones hurting due to a lack of water supplies. Evans City Manager Jim Becklenberg called water “the biggest challenge to the city’s growth.”

While northern Colorado cities like Loveland, Greeley and Fort Collins — the latter two having set the stage for the state’s formalization of the prior appropriation system in an early water dispute — have been able to strategically buy water over the years, medium- and small-sized cities like Evans haven’t had the same resources for such a strong water planning history, Becklenberg said…

With a less robust water portfolio, Evans requires developers to bring water to the city. The city maintains a list of individuals with vouchers for previously dedicated water rights who could sell to prospective buyers, but there aren’t many left in the city, Becklenberg said.

In Greeley, the city can take cash in place of dedicated water rights, thanks to the city’s extensive water planning. The city’s water portfolio hasn’t stopped growing, either. The city recently purchased about 1,000 acre-feet of water, equivalent to about 1,000 football fields covered in a foot of water — more than it had acquired in the decade prior. The city’s also filed for storage rights for gravel pits, giving the city its youngest water rights, which date to the early 2000s.

To bolster the city’s drought protection, Greeley officials recently closed on an aquifer containing 1.2 million acre-feet of water, also defeating proposed City Charter changes that could have prevented use of the groundwater. For comparison, the city’s current demands average about 25,000 acre-feet per year.

With its robust portfolio of water rights, Greeley officials can facilitate development that would be more difficult for smaller communities. Water is a major cost for developers, and prices have only gone up. Greeley-Weld Habitat for Humanity Executive Direct Cheri Witt-Brown, also a member of the Greeley Water and Sewer Board, described water as “a very expensive line item” on her budget as a home developer.

Witt-Brown gave an example of a home they built in Milliken where they paid $45,000 for the lot and were set to pay $60,000 for a share of water they had to bring to the lot.

“We were very fortunate,” she said. “We went to a water auction, and it was a big farm being sold off in Frederick. Somehow, toward the end of that, I think there was $22 million traded that day. We walked away with one share of water — ultimately donated by the farming family to Habitat.”

The increasing price of water is impacting housing affordability. Witt-Brown said water resources like those in Greeley help bring security to the local economy…

Working collaboratively to get all needs met

Northern Colorado leaders believe regional collaboration is key to a secure water future for local communities. More than a dozen cities, towns and water districts are collaborating on a project to help secure water for different interests well into the future.

The Northern Integrated Supply Project, spearheaded by Northern Water, is an effort to build two storage reservoirs and lay pipelines for cooperative water exchanges that would help both municipal and agricultural interests. The project is still in the permitting phase, with hopes to get construction started by 2023.

One of the approved permits on the project is under litigation by Save the Poudre and other neighborhood groups. Save the Poudre argues the project would “drain so much water out of the Poudre that the river would resemble a muddy stinking ditch in Fort Collins.”

Northern Water notes on its website projects like NISP are subject to strict environmental laws and regulations and that Colorado’s Water Quality Division found “no significant degradation” expected from the project…

Other environmental groups, like Ducks Unlimited, have taken the view that the state’s water laws haven’t presented an obstacle they can’t overcome, according to Greg Kernohan, director of Ducks Unlimited’s conservation programs. Ducks Unlimited works to restore wetlands to support waterfowl populations, often using water decreed for irrigation use. Kernohan said acquiring water is “brutal.” Water can cost about half a million dollars for a single project, he said, not including water court costs.

With water only becoming more expensive, the nonprofit has been working with the New Cache La Poudre Irrigating Company to determine an equitable way to lease water short term. Greeley officials have also been in discussion with the irrigating company for its water marketing program.

To prevent buy and dry while helping everyone get their water needs met, New Cache has been working to develop an alternative transfer method to tie the water rights to farmland. In return for giving up the ability to sell their water rights to other interests, the farmer would be paid.

But those other interests would still need water too. To get them the water they need, they would be able to lease water a few years every decade. Though the farm would go dry in drought years when another user, like a city, needs to lease the water, the water remains with the farm in the long term.

There are a few roadblocks remaining for the project. The growing value of water can make it a difficult sell for a farmer to tie up the water rights with the land. And for some, taking a year off farming every now and then doesn’t sound like the best lifestyle. They would be paid, Trowbridge said, but it leaves some wondering, “What am I going to do when the water is being leased?”

For NISP’s water exchange system to work, agricultural water needs to remain in northern Colorado — despite continuing efforts by growing Denver metro communities to buy water and deliver it south. As part of the project, Northern Water is working to tie water rights to the agricultural land in the area…

Though prior appropriation makes for a competitive system, those who have found success through collaborative projects like this worry a different system would introduce uncertainty.

“I don’t know how we can operate without the certainty of the water,” Trowbridge said. “It’d be unsustainable around here if the prior appropriation system was changed.

Greeley Water and Sewer Board Chairman Harold Evans shares Trowbridge’s concern, noting everybody there are set rules of the game under prior appropriation. Though water shortages may increase political pressure to change the system, it gives water providers better certainty about what to expect.

Fort Collins-area #water districts investigate ‘ongoing acts of sabotage’ — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

South Fort Collins Sanitation District treatment facility.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Fort Collins-Loveland Water District and South Fort Collins Sanitation District said they are working with law enforcement to investigate “ongoing acts of sabotage from unknown parties” that have reportedly caused serious harm to district and employee property.

The alleged acts of sabotage are tampering with critical pump stations, emptying of primary storage tanks and fire hydrants, and malicious vandalism of employee property, the districts said in a news release. The first instance was discovered in September 2019 and may have occurred prior to that time, and the issues have continued since then, according to district officials.

District leaders are asking anyone with information about the incidents to contact local law enforcement or email communications@fclwd.com. The districts want to hear about any suspicious activity at district hydrants, tanks and pump stations.

The quality of water and reclamation services delivered by the districts haven’t been compromised, leaders said, and district infrastructure is safe. The districts are working with legal counsel, outside advisers and law enforcement to investigate the activities, which district officials said are felony criminal offenses…

It’s not clear which law enforcement agencies are involved in the referenced investigation. The districts wouldn’t answer that question. Representatives of Larimer County Sheriff’s Office and Loveland Police Department said their agencies aren’t involved, and Fort Collins Police Service representatives said they assisted with an investigation in 2019 but haven’t been involved recently. The Coloradoan also reached out to the FBI but hadn’t received a response as of Friday afternoon…

District officials said they haven’t been able to share information publicly until now because of the sensitive nature of the investigation. They added they’ve invested in more advanced equipment to prevent situations like this one from happening again. A dedicated FAQ about the investigation is posted at http://fclwd.com/saysomething.

#FortCollins City Council narrows scope of 1041 regulations, hears #climate progress update — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

from The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

1041 regulations and moratorium

After heavy public comment and debate, council voted 6-1 to change the scope of the city’s pending 1041 regulations and the moratorium they plan to put in place while staff is working on the regulations.

Both the one-year moratorium and the eventual regulations will now apply only to water and sewage treatment projects and highway/interchange projects that will be located in city parks or natural areas. The parks and natural areas component is the new part. Council narrowed the scope of the proposal in hopes of quelling concerns from developers and water providers while honoring the views of commenters who want the city to advocate for natural resource conservation.

The 1041 regulations provide an avenue for municipalities and counties to have more stringent oversight of certain types of “state interest” projects, a broad category that can include everything from water pipelines to mass transit to nuclear detonations. But the localities have to opt into the process, designate the state interest areas they want to regulate and draft their own regulations. The council majority that favors 1041 regulations sees them as an alternative to the city’s SPAR (Site Plan Advisory Review) process, which provides for nonbinding review of developments of state interest.

Now that council has designated areas of interest, a moratorium will take effect immediately and last until council adopts the 1041 regulations. It will prevent construction or development review of any water/sewer treatment or highway project that would be located wholly or partly in city parks or natural areas. The city is engineering an exemption process that may allow for some projects to bypass the moratorium, and 1041 review. Council will only exempt projects if they think adverse impacts can be avoided without a binding review process and the project meaningfully addresses an important community need that can’t be put off.

When council last discussed this topic in September, the 1041 regulations and moratorium were expected to apply to all water/sewer and highway projects in city limits. The initial scope inspired intense opposition from several developers and water districts in the region. A particular point of concern was the potential impacts of a moratorium on the NEWT III water pipeline project (short for North Weld County and East Larimer County Water Districts Water Transmission Pipeline Project). That pipeline will deliver water to many new housing developments in the region. The news of the moratorium led the North Weld County Water District board to issue a temporary moratorium on all tap sales and plant investment sales, and East Larimer County Water District leaders said they would likely do the same if a moratorium took effect.

Others who opposed or voiced concerns about the 1041 regulations and moratorium included Severance Mayor Matt Fries, the town of Timnath and the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce.

Those who supported 1041 regulations and an immediate moratorium included representatives of Save the Poudre, Sierra Club and the Fort Collins Audubon Society…

Council ultimately supported the narrowed scope of regulations, paired with the immediate moratorium, 6-1. Council member Shirley Peel was the opposing vote, citing the potential for unintended repercussions to development and utility projects.

While city staff said the narrowed 1041 regulations are unlikely to affect the NEWT III pipeline, they will likely impact the Northern Integrated Supply Project. NISP is a project going through the permitting process that would take water from the Poudre and South Platte Rivers for storage in two new reservoirs. NISP organizer Northern Water plans to put some components of NISP in city natural areas, a plan the city rejected during SPAR review. But SPAR review, again, is only advisory, so Northern Water’s governing board overrode the decision. Still, the moratorium means that Northern Water would be barred from beginning work on the components in city natural areas. And the project would likely be subject to 1041 review if the regulations come to fruition as council is currently envisioning.

More to come on that. In the meantime, we can expect a one-year moratorium as staff works on the city’s new 1041 regulations. Council will have the last word on those regulations and is planning a six-month check in…

Climate progress report

Fort Collins exceeded its 2020 climate goals to reduce community and municipal greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, according to preliminary estimates presented to council Tuesday.

The 2020 goals are a step along the way to the city’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% in 2030 and 100% in 2050. The goals apply to both municipal emissions and the community as a whole.

Fort Collins met its municipal benchmark for 2020 three years ahead of schedule, in 2017. As of 2020, it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 44% of 2005 levels.

The city met its 2020 community goal with a 24% reduction in emissions, up from a 7% reduction in 2019. The improvements came mostly from the Roundhouse Renewable Energy Project, a new wind farm that drove a 10% reduction in emissions; reduced vehicle travel, which drove a 3% decrease; and a 2% reduction in industrial emissions. Another 2% in reduced emissions were due to weather and other unspecified factors. City staff said the travel reductions were related to the stay-at-home order. It’s not yet clear what exactly drove the reduction in industrial emissions, and final numbers are expected in early 2022.

The community’s per-capita residential emissions were down 41% in 2020 compared to 2005 levels, staff said.

Staff expect Fort Collins to reach a 26% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for 2021, based on current forecasts.

To reach the 2030 communitywide goal, the city will need to enact critical strategies — increased renewable electricity adoption, transit reductions and universal composting — plus all the other strategies identified as “next moves” in the latest update to Fort Collins’ Our Climate Future Plan.

Representatives of Fort Collins Sustainability Group, a local organization that advocates for climate action, said in a statement that they were “very pleased” to see that estimated emission reductions had topped the 2020 goal…

The group is advocating for bigger climate investments in the 2022 budget, such as doubling funding for Fort Collins Utilities’ Energy Services programs and transportation-related offers that would reduce emissions. Energy Services includes incentive programs for energy efficiency and electrification, energy code development and related initiatives. It’s a particularly important focus area for greenhouse gas emission reductions because emissions from electricity and natural gas make up most of the community’s emissions (about two-thirds in 2019).

After receiving feedback from the community and council, staff added a few more climate items to the proposed 2022 budget expected to bring 2022 greenhouse gas reductions from 2.7% to 2.9%. Staff said they weren’t recommending the more substantial boost to Energy Services funding suggested by Fort Collins Sustainability Group because that will require a larger conversation about changes to the program’s portfolio and responses to local workforce capacity and supply chain challenges.

When A #Wildfire Ends, The Work To Protect #Water Is Just Getting Started — KUNC

Aerial mulching. Photo credit: Colorado State Forest Service

From KUNC (Alex Hager):

It’s been almost exactly a year since the Cameron Peak Fire tore through the foothills outside of Fort Collins, Colorado, on its way to becoming the largest fire in state history. Now, restoration efforts are underway. About 1 million people rely on water moving through this canyon, and one of the most effective ways to protect the area’s watershed uses these helicopters. Instead of scooping up water to drop on flames, pilots dip low and pick up bulging nets full of wood mulch to dump on the charred hillside.

Randy Gustafson, water resource administrator for the City of Greeley, looks on as a helicopter hovers near the ground, rumbling loudly over a pile of mulch bigger than a house. Then, it’s off as quickly as it came, zipping back and forth into the burn scar with heaving payloads in tow…

Even though Greeley is a two-hour drive away from this “aerial mulching” operation in Poudre Canyon, this is where the city’s water comes from. Snowmelt and rain make their way down from the foothills into the Cache la Poudre River before that water is piped over to the city. But Gustafson said a charred slope is slick like a frying pan. Water will run off of it, carrying dirt, ash and other debris into that water supply. So his team has to stabilize the hillside with mulch.

“I look at the Poudre as a living organism,” Gustafson said. “How do you keep it functional and operational and make it produce good, clean water for everybody down below?”

[…]

A burnt sign on Larimer County Road 103 near Chambers Lake. The fire started in the area near Cameron Peak, which it is named after. The fire burned over 200,000 acres during its three-month run. Photo courtesy of Kate Stahla via the University of Northern Colorado

Gustafson’s team is just one part of the city’s strategy to keep the water clean. Another effort is underway above Chambers Lake, less than a mile from where the fire began. Here, fire debris threatens to cause harmful algae blooms in the reservoir. So big bundles of spongy wood shavings, held together by biodegradable nets, are laid out on the hillside.

“They form a baffle,” Gustafson said. “They stop the debris, soil, ash, and keep it from coming down into the reservoir.”

On a visit to the site, Gustafson shows how the baffles are successfully holding back sludgy piles of gray dirt in one of the most severely burned parts of forest…

In the grand scheme of things, though, these efforts could be little more than a Band-Aid. The expensive and time-consuming mulching work can only cover a fraction of the burn’s sprawling footprint. And more are likely on the way…

“These megafires are unfortunately not going to be going anywhere anytime soon,” said Hally Strevey, director of the Coalition for the Poudre River watershed. “We’re trying not to lose hope. There are plenty of things we can still do, working together collaboratively.”

That includes her organization’s precautionary forest management in areas prone to burning. The fact it’s carried out by a watershed group just further emphasizes how deeply water and fire are connected. Even after a fire is put out, it takes a lot of work to keep the water clean.

But restoration projects like the one in Poudre Canyon are not cheap. Keeping just one helicopter in the air costs $87 per minute. Greeley’s deputy water director, Adam Jokerst, says the high costs are worth it for two reasons…

The money spent on recovery work is also a precautionary measure against purification costs that could be incurred if ash finds its way into the water supply…

Greeley’s water team says restoration work will carry into the next few years, but because of the size and severity of the burn, it may never truly be the same as it was before the fire.

Chambers Reservoir July 2016. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

Chimney Hollow, two other projects in Larimer County get state stimulus #water grants — The #Loveland Reporter-Herald

Preparing the site of the future construction office complex at Chimney Hollow Reservoir. Photo credit: Northern Water

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Michael Hughes):

Three water projects in the region will get $4.7 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The board’s giving doubled this year due to COVID-related stimulus funds.

Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Berthoud is getting $3.8 million toward connecting the Windy Gap reservoir in Grand County to one at Chimney Hollow in Larimer County…

Restoring a river channel in the Upper Colorado Basin. Graphic credit: Northern Water

The grant goes for the [bypass] channel, which is still being designed.

“Colorado River Connectivity Channel is a major modification to Windy Gap Reservoir,” Stahla said. He said the channel’s funding is nearly complete. The grant “isn’t the final piece. We anticipate all the pieces coming together” by mid-2022…

Two other area projects got grants.

Bypass structure Grand River Ditch July 2016. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

A “Poudre Headwaters Restoration — Grand Ditch Barrier” effort by Colorado Trout Unlimited in Denver got about $300,000 toward restoring 38 miles of stream and 110 acres of lake habitat.

The specific project involves the greenback cutthroat trout.

Efficient irrigation systems help save water and decrease leaching of salts. Photo credit: U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

A $1.2 million irrigation infrastructure effort got half its costs from this round of water board funds. The grantee is Colorado State University, through its Fort Collins campus, to use on work to boost water and energy efficiency and agricultural production.

The specific project is to build storage ponds, upgrade the existing equipment and add irrigation systems and other infrastructure for research on soil and crops and to launch a farm management competition to improve agricultural profitability.

Both projects are in Larimer County.

Rare September 2013 flood was one of #Colorado’s worst natural disasters — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 — photo via Northern Water

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):

Eight years ago this week, Colorado experienced one of its worst natural disasters when a week of rain flooded 20 counties, caused nearly $4 billion in damages, killed nine people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

Not only was the devastation staggering, but it marked only the second time in Colorado weather history that such a flood happened in September.

The National Weather Service ranked the 2013 flood its top weather story of the 2010-19 decade…

On Sept. 10, it started raining and didn’t stop for virtually a week, dropping copious amounts of precipitation from the Colorado-Wyoming border to Colorado Springs…

Fort Carson near Colorado Springs set a state record of 11.85 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, according to the National Weather Service. Boulder received 9.08 inches in one day and 18.16 inches in the week, which equates to more than the area’s average precipitation for a year.

Fort Collins reported 5.3 inches, Buckhorn Mountain west of the city 9.87 inches and Estes Park 9.31 inches for the week. For Buckhorn Mountain, 7.62 inches of that rain fell Sept. 11-12…

At one point, [Fort Collins] was cut off with all roads leading in and out impassable, including Interstate 25 where it crosses the Poudre River and the Big Thompson River near Loveland.

The flood is one of the reasons the I-25 bridge over the Poudre River is being raised 8 feet as part of the North I-25 Express Lanes project.

The devastation was staggering:

  • The flood covered 4,500 square miles, or the size of more than 10 Rocky Mountain National Parks
  • The damage estimate reached nearly $4 billion
  • More than 19,000 people were evacuated
  • 26,000 homes were damaged
  • 200 businesses were destroyed and 750 were damaged
  • 200 miles of road were damaged or destroyed, including U.S. Highway 34 in the Big Thompson Canyon
  • 50 major bridges damaged
  • […]

    Storm pattern over Colorado September 2013 — Graphic/NWS via USA Today

    Schumacher said a blocking ridge of high pressure parked over the Pacific Northwest and western Canada prevented other weather patterns from moving into the area.

    A low pressure sat stationary in the Four Coroners area drawing up large amounts of tropical moisture and swinging that moisture out east then back west, creating an upslope condition against the foothills and mountains.

    It rained early that week but then on the evening of Sept. 11 a weak disturbance coincided with the showers and thunderstorms, resulting in a slow and almost stationary area of heavy rain along the Front Range that lasted through much of Sept. 12.

    The rain intensity lightened up, but rain continued through Sept. 16 with many areas of the Front Range receiving 6 to 18 inches of rain over the week.

    Schumacher said another anomaly of the storm was at how high of elevation it rained. He said conventional wisdom is that intense rain rarely happens above 7,500 feet because in upslope conditions the moisture is pushing up the mountainsides, running out of moisture as it moves up in elevation.

    However, the 2013 storm produced up to 10 inches of rain at 10,000 feet and higher…

    Schumacher said the only other September rain that comes close to 2013 was in May of 1938.

    South Fork of the Republican River

    He said heavy rain flooded the Republican River in eastern Colorado then. In 1938 and even in 1997 when Fort Collins was flooded, rainfall measurements were taken by measuring rain found in buckets, old tires or anything that collected rain, Schumacher said.

    Some measurements in 1938 recorded more than 20 inches of rain, but the measurement never became official because the rain was not recorded in a gauge…

    For more information about the 2013 flood, read the Bulletin of American Meteorlogical Society [report].

    July floods caused $2M in damage for Larimer County; some ponder selling properties — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):

    Two Larimer County floods in July caused $2 million in damages to roads and other infrastructure and prompted a report that concluded the risk to residents of Black Hollow from another flood is too great for them to stay overnight in their homes.

    Lori Hodges, the county’s director of Emergency Management, said most of the damage to county roads and culverts has occurred in Buckhorn Canyon west of Fort Collins and the Retreat area just east of Glen Haven. About 6 miles of the newly rebuilt Buckhorn Road from the 2013 flood sustained damage.

    Because of the ongoing risk of another flood in the Cameron Peak Fire burn scar, the county will take a wait-and-see approach to rebuilding the roads and replacing culverts, she said, which were damaged during July 20 and July 30 flash floods.

    “We have a few more weeks to get through the monsoon season, and so we will have to figure out the best way to rebuild to better be able to withstand more flooding,” she said.

    She said a Colorado Geologic Survey assessment of the Black Hollow neighborhood in the upper Poudre Canyon stated the danger from the instability of the area is so great that no one should spend the night.

    @Northern_Water overturns #FortCollins’ denial of #NISP pipeline — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

    Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Northern Water’s board of directors unanimously overturned the city of Fort Collins’ denial of infrastructure associated with the Northern Integrated Supply Project, clearing the way Wednesday for construction of a pipeline and Poudre River diversion in city limits.

    Fort Collins’ Planning and Zoning Commission rejected a SPAR (site plan advisory review) application for NISP infrastructure in a 3-2 vote on June 30. But state law allows governing boards to overrule denials of SPAR applications for public infrastructure with at least a two-thirds majority vote.

    The Northern Water board’s decision means the water district, after getting the necessary city permits, should be able to build a river diversion on the Poudre at Homestead Natural Area and about 3.4 miles of pipeline in city limits. The diversion and pipeline are part of Northern Water’s plan to release between 18-25 cubic feet per second of the project’s Poudre River diversions through a 12-mile section of the river in Fort Collins before piping it to NISP participants.

    NISP would take water from the Poudre and South Platte rivers to deliver an estimated 40,000 acre-feet of water annually to 15 small municipalities and water districts in Northern Colorado, including Fort Collins-Loveland Water District and Windsor. The water would be stored in two new reservoirs: Glade Reservoir, with a capacity of 170,000 acre-feet located northwest of Fort Collins at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, and Galeton Reservoir, with a capacity of 45,600 acre-feet located northeast of Greeley.

    Chimney Hollow Reservoir poised for construction — @Northern_Water #ColoradoRiver #COriver #SouthPlatteRiver #aridification

    Members of the Northern Water Municipal Subdistrict Board of Directors turn ground at the site of Chimney Hollow Reservoir on Friday, Aug. 6. From left are directors Don Magnuson, Sue Ellen Harrison, David Nettles, Todd Williams, Vice President Bill Emslie, President Dennis Yanchunas, Mike Applegate and Dale Trowbridge. Photo credit: Northern Water

    Here’s the release from Northern Water (Jeff Stahla):

    Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict celebrated the groundbreaking for Chimney Hollow Reservoir on Friday, culminating a 20-year permitting process to add resilience to the water supply for more than 500,000 northeastern Colorado residents.

    The groundbreaking also triggers a host of environmental efforts that will occur in the headwaters of the Colorado River on the West Slope. Those include construction of the Colorado River Connectivity Channel to reconnect portions of the river located above and below Windy Gap Reservoir, wastewater treatment plant upgrades in the Fraser River Valley, environmental improvement projects through the Learning By Doing coalition, and other work providing water and storage that can be used for environmental purposes.

    “Today marks a long-awaited milestone that required years of hard work and cooperation among many groups with diverse interests to achieve a project that has benefits for everyone in Colorado,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind.

    The addition of water storage is a key component of the Colorado Water Plan. Our population continues to grow as climate change brings higher temperatures and greater precipitation variability to the Colorado River headwaters. Construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir gives the regional Windy Gap Firming Project participants a reliable water supply during dry years.

    Since the Windy Gap Project was envisioned, water managers have recognized the need for additional storage specifically dedicated to storing Windy Gap water. Currently the Windy Gap Project depends on Lake Granby to store water when the project’s water rights are in priority. However, Lake Granby’s first priority is to store Colorado-Big Thompson Project water.

    Chimney Hollow Reservoir is a key component for these Windy Gap Firming participants: Broomfield, Platte River Power Authority, Loveland, Greeley, Longmont, Erie, Little Thompson Water District, Superior, Louisville, Fort Lupton, Lafayette and Central Weld County Water District. Each of the reservoir project participants that provide residential water service has committed to reduce per capita water supply through water conservation.

    Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict and Larimer County cooperated to purchase the Chimney Hollow property in 2004 from Hewlett-Packard. Chimney Hollow Reservoir will provide a much-needed outdoor recreational opportunity that can be enjoyed by everyone in Northern Colorado.

    In recent weeks crews have been preparing the site for construction by bringing water and power to temporary administrative offices. In addition, the Western Area Power Administration relocated a high voltage power line from the footprint of the reservoir to a location up the hillside to the west.

    Full dam construction activities are planned to begin Aug. 16. Barnard Construction Co. Inc. of Bozeman, Montana, is the general contractor for the four-year project. The cost of dam construction is estimated at $500 million, with the complete project including West Slope improvements at $650 million. The 12 project participants are paying its cost.

    This graphic, provided by Northern Water, depicts Chimney Hollow Reservoir, located southwest of Loveland, after it is built.

    When the dam is built, it will rise about 350 feet off the dry valley floor. The dam incorporates a technology common in Europe but less so in the United States. Its water-sealing core will consist of a ribbon of hydraulic asphalt instead of the clay that serves that purpose at the Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir dams. Geologists discovered there wasn’t enough high-quality clay material within the footprint of Chimney Hollow Reservoir, and instead of bringing it in from elsewhere, the hydraulic asphalt core option was chosen. The dam’s rock-fill shoulders will use material mined from the reservoir footprint, which will reduce costs, pollution and increase storage capacity.

    This new storage project allows us to supply clean water reliably, even in times of drought, to the people of northeastern Colorado from the existing Windy Gap Diversion. Starting construction on Chimney Hollow Reservoir is a major step to address water supply shortages for our growing population, much like our visionary predecessors did for us, while demonstrating that modern storage projects can also improve the environment.

    For more information, go to http://www.chimneyhollow.org.

    Site of Chimney Hollow Reservoir via Northern Water.

    From The Greeley Tribune

    More than 500,000 Coloradans across the Front Range can look forward to a more resilient water supply in the near future, after a groundbreaking Friday set in motion a $650 million project that will give water providers more reliable access to a vital resource that’s become increasingly scarce due to growing populations and climate change.

    A crowd of about 200 gathered Friday morning for the groundbreaking of the Chimney Hollow Reservoir, a 90,000 acre-foot reservoir at least 20 years in the making. The reservoir will be located west of the Flatiron Reservoir in Larimer County.

    A dozen municipalities, water providers and a power authority are participating in the Northern Water project, which boasts a price tag of $650 million, $500 million of which is for the dam construction. Other costs are going to environmental and water quality improvements in collaboration with affected communities. Adding in things like permitting costs, project manager Joe Donnelly said the total program costs were about $690 million.

    Greeley is one of the participants, making up about 10% of the project. Other participants include Longmont, Fort Lupton, Central Weld County Water District, Broomfield and more. Greeley Water and Sewer director Sean Chambers said the city is putting about $57 million toward the construction…

    The project had relied on Lake Granby to store water when the project’s water rights were in priority, but the lake’s first priority is to store Colorado-Big Thompson water. Over time, it became clear Front Range water providers would need a way to store Windy Gap water because the water wasn’t available when Front Range communities needed it the most…

    Northern Water cooperated with Larimer County to purchase the Chimney Hollow property from Hewlett-Packard in 2004…

    Drager and other speakers detailed numerous setbacks, including years of federal litigation after environmental groups filed a 2017 lawsuit. A judge in December dismissed the lawsuit, according to BizWest. The biggest setback, according to Drager, was needing to get a 1041 permit from Grand County. State officials also took issue when project officials hadn’t developed a mitigation plan with the state.

    “We kind of argued a little bit, but we came to the conclusion that to really make this thing work, we would have to give something,” Drager said.

    Restoring a river channel in the Upper Colorado Basin. Graphic credit: Northern Water

    In a meeting with a Division of Wildlife official, they eventually settled on stream restoration for the Colorado River — one of many environmental considerations and concessions that helped pave the way for the partnerships that made the project possible…

    Though some environmental work is being done at the site, most is at the headwaters of the Colorado River, according to Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla. The environmental mitigation and improvements will cost more than $90 million, including about $45 million to provide water for the river when it’s running low. Other improvements include helping the town of Fraser upgrade its wastewater treatment plant and stream restoration projects.

    “These are things that wouldn’t have happened if this project doesn’t get built,” Stahla said. “By doing these things, it’s … mitigation and enhancement, because we’re not just mitigating for the effects of this project, but we’re enhancing what’s already there.”

    The site will also serve as an outdoor recreational opportunity managed by Larimer County.

    Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

    How a step forward is also a step back in headwaters of the #ColoradoRiver — Big Pivots #COriver #aridification

    The confluence of the Fraser River and the Colorado River near Granby, Colorado. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50012193

    From Big Pivots (Allen Best):

    Settlement involving Windy Gap yields $15 million for science-based work

    In the early 1980s, when a dam on the Colorado River near its headwaters was proposed and Andrew Miller was a writer for the Winter Park Manifest, he wrote an editorial called “Requiem for a Cottonwood Grove.”

    The headline was premature because the dam at Windy Gap, where the Fraser River flows into the Colorado, had not yet been constructed. But it soon was, causing the cottonwood trees to be felled and allowing water from the new reservoir to be pumped uphill to Grand Lake. From there the water flows into diversion under the Continental Divide called the Alva Adams Tunnel to be distributed among cities and some farms in the northern Front Range.

    But that story almost 40 years later continues, as news of a settlement suggests. The Grand Foundation will soon receive $15 million remediation for work in Grand County, where the Colorado River originates. The money will be used to try to create strategies for preserving trout and other aquatic life in the warming but ever-more shallow waters.

    The big story here is of incremental depletions of the Colorado River at its headwaters by growing Front Range cities now colliding with the impact of the warming climate, hotter and drier. The two, each powerful, leave in doubt how long cold water-loving trout can survive.
    “Trout need water temperatures below 70 degrees, and we are regularly bumping up against 70 degrees in our rivers,” says Miller, now a contractor and president of the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group.

    The $15 million will come from the municipal subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District responsible for this incremental diversion. The district built Windy Gap to divert the waters to the northern Front Range. A subsequent project spurred by the distressing drought of 2002 and those of later years yielded an expansion of the diversions at Windy Gap.

    This graphic, provided by Northern Water, depicts Chimney Hollow Reservoir, located southwest of Loveland, after it is built.

    The additional water will be stored, in part, at a new reservoir snuggled among the foothills rising from the Great Plain southwest of Loveland. The dam to create that 90,000-acre-foot reservoir, called Chimney Hollow, has not yet been constructed.

    The political subdivision responsible for the new diversion consists primarily of towns and cities, from Broomfield, Superior and Fort Lupton on the south to Loveland and Greeley on the north.

    Save the Colorado and the Sierra Club, among other groups, in 2017 had sued Northern, arguing that the process used to review the impacts was deficient in failing to adequate address cumulative impacts. In December 2020 a federal court ruled in favor of Northern, but the environmental groups appealed.

    In April, a compromise was announced. The environmental groups dropped the lawsuit and Northern agreed to the $15 million settlement in what Northern described as a productive alternative to costly litigation.

    The financial documents of the settlement agreement are to be signed by directors of Northern on Aug. 6 and by the Grand Foundation on Aug. 10. Because of delays in signing, Northern will transfer the first payment totaling $5 million immediately after the Grand Foundation signs, says Gary Wockner, of Save the Colorado and an allied group, Save the Poudre.

    Administering the $15 million grant will be the Grand Foundation, which is to consist of three members from Miller’s organization, the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group. In addition to Miller, Dave Troutman the treasurer, and Geoff Elliott, the staff scientist, will be on the committee responsible for overseeing allocation of the grant. Northern Water has authority to name the three other members.

    “Our charge over the next 10 years is to spend $15 million in ways that improve Grand County’s watershed in a collaborative process,” explained Miller. “In some ways, we are on opposite sides of the fence,” he said, referring to the Northern District’s appointment members. “But in many of the important ways we are on the same side. We both depend upon high-quality water, Northern almost more than us.”

    Other measures in the agreement address water quality and provide more water for Western Slope users.

    Restoring a river channel in the Upper Colorado Basin

    Separately, Northern plans to create a new channel around Windy Gap Dam, to allow the Colorado River to flow without impoundment. The channel is intended to allow fish, macroinvertebrates, nutrients and sediment in the river to bypass the dam and reservoir. The project is called the Colorado River Connectivity Channel. The bypass channel will be the result of a settlement negotiated by Trout Unlimited and others, says Wockner. No draft environmental assessment has been released. “It remains to be seen if the channel will be permitted, funded or built,” he says.

    Because of its proximity to the northern Front Range farms and cities and its relative plentitude of water-producing snow, Grand County has been the go-to place for trans-mountain diversions since the late 1880s. The two most significant are those accomplished by the 6.2-mile pioneer bore of the Moffat Tunnel, which allowed diversions from the Winter Park and Fraser area to begin in 1936; and the 13.1-mile Adams Tunnel, which began delivering water to the Estes Park area in 1947.

    Miller sees pressing task of the foundation set up to administer the settlement funds will be to lay down a baseline of existing conditions. The existing data, says Miller “really aren’t that good.”

    Beyond that, the challenge will be more difficult, perhaps impossible.

    “Basically we need to figure out how to run a watershed when we only have 30% of the natural water, which is about all we have left after the diversions by the Front Range.”

    In addition to the stepped-up diversions by Northern Water, Denver Water also wants to take additional water through the Moffat Tunnel for impoundment in an expanded Gross Reservoir.

    By at least some estimates, 70% of the native water of eastern Grand County currently gets exported to the Front Range. With these new diversions, exports will increase to 80%.

    When these incremental diversions were first conceived not quite 20 years ago, the science of global warming was firming up but the effects were not yet evident, at least not like now. Even a decade ago, after significant drought had begun and temperatures had clearly started rising, the big picture was more tentative.

    Miller’s group contends no water remains available from the Grand County headwaters of the Colorado River for additional diversion.

    “I don’t think anybody realized how persistent this drought would be,” says Miller. “It could be a forever thing. We have created a new climate, and we will never see the rainfalls and snow we have in the past.”

    #Wellington water issues frustrate residents; town asks for patience — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Pat Ferrier):

    Wellington faces a Catch-22, caught between its desire for growth and the water issues that threaten to slow it to a crawl.

    The town of about 12,000 has plenty of water — the lifeblood of any community — to serve thousands of new homes. But the cost of water is rising rapidly and the town currently lacks the capacity to store it, treat it or flush it. Both its water and wastewater treatment plants are overextended.

    Expansions are underway but still three years away from completion.

    It’s not a new problem for Wellington, which earlier this year raised water rates to pay for an expansion of its water and wastewater treatment plants, imposed water restrictions and limited new residential building permits to about 100 per year until the expansions are complete.

    The very measures it’s taking to create that infrastructure have raised water rates to the highest in Northern Colorado, which could, in turn, adversely affect growth as builders consider their options.

    It’s a fragile balance that’s frustrating residents who are now paying about double what they were two years ago and has the town asking for patience.

    Residential water and sewer taps, the largest slice of new development impact fees collected when a building permit is issued, went from $5,500 to $7,500 for a typical home tap and sewer taps increased from $7,500 to $9,700.

    Those fees, which also pay for things like parks, streets, water and sewer lines, are typically passed on to the homebuyer or business, which is one reason the cost of homes is going up in Wellington…

    Continuing to increase impact fees while at the same time limiting the number of residential permits to stay within treatment capacities “could reach a point where developers or buildings are unwilling to build in Wellington,” the town wrote on its website, “and could result in a slowdown or stop to new development, shifting the cost of paying for improvements onto existing residents…

    When treatment plant expansions are done in 2024, they will be able to support Wellington’s expected growth for about 20 years, when the population is expected to double to about 24,000, Town Administrator Patti Garcia said.

    Plant expansions won’t bring rate relief, however, she said. Base water rates were raised $31 — to $66 a month — in January to pay the debt service on the water treatment plant. To get the loan, the town had to prove it could pay it back, Garcia said…

    For comparison, Fort Collins’ base water rate is $18.30 with a charge of $2.83 per 1,000 gallons of water up to 7,000 gallons. Like Wellington, it has tiered rates that go up the more water used. The charge for water over 13,000 gallons is $3.75 per 1,000 gallons.

    That means a Wellington resident using the average 7,000 gallons per month would pay $97.92 per month compared to $38.11 for the same amount of water through Fort Collins Utilities…

    It won’t help rates, but finishing the treatment plant expansions should ease water restrictions and lift the moratorium on building permits…

    Wellington is served by the North Poudre Irrigation Co., whose share costs have risen 40% since 2018, when the town wrote in its resolution to increase rates. That resolution passed in August 2020. NPIC water currently sells for $200,000 or more per share.

    In response to past increases and hedging its bets against future increases, Wellington increased its raw water rates from $19,285.50 to $67,586 for 0.58 acre feet of water — the amount of water it requires for every developed dwelling unit.

    “Once we have capacity in the water treatment plant we will be fine,” Garcia said. “We have plenty of water, the issue is having the capacity to provide it, store it, use it and flush it. We’re looking forward to what 2024 can bring.”

    ‘Water Is Smelly’: Drinking Water Has #Johnstown Residents Concerned About Safety — CBS 4 #Denver

    Lonetree Reservoir near Loveland, Colorado | Photo credit photokayaker via Flickr.

    From CBS 4 Denver (Conor McCue):

    At Hays Market, gallon jugs of drinking water have been flying off the shelves for the better part of two weeks. According to grocery manager Daniel Gehring, the store has gone from ordering several cases of water to palates of it, and not because of the hot weather.

    “The town’s water is smelly, funny and has a dirt taste to it, so people are buying the heck out of the gallon water,” Gehring said.

    For the grocery store, the business is a plus, but around town, folks like David Salls are concerned. He’s recently turned to filtering all of the water anyone in the family drinks, including his dogs…

    Town manager Matt LeCerf says the odor is harmless, and the result of chemical compounds created by algae blooms in the Lone Tree Reservoir, the city’s main water source.

    Normally, the water travels into town via a pipeline and drainage ditch, but this year the drainage ditch is not being used because of the nearby Cameron Peak and East Troublesome Fire burn scars…

    According to LeCerf, the ditch into town naturally aerates and filters the water more than the pipeline.

    “We’re basically in a position where we have to run our water through the reservoirs where we do have that standing water that’s causing some of the taste and odor issues,” LeCerf said.

    After hearing similar concerns in the past, the town approved a new $2 million granular activated carbon system earlier this year, which LeCerf said is 90% effective in removing the taste and odor. Construction has been underway for more than two months, and the system is expected to be online Wednesday…

    The carbon filtration system isn’t the only improvement in the works for Johnstown. According to LeCerf, the town is also upgrading its water treatment plant and putting special buoys in the reservoir that use ultrasonic wavelengths to help mitigate algae growth.

    #FortCollins planners, worried about #PoudreRiver impacts, reject Northern #Water’s plan for 3-mile pipeline through the city — The #Colorado Sun #NISP

    Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

    Disclaimer: I work for the City of Thornton.

    From The Colorado Sun (Michael Booth):

    Rejection of the NISP pipeline is yet another skirmish in a series of water and pipeline battles playing out in the northern Front Range.

    The Fort Collins planning commission on Wednesday rejected an application by Northern Water to run more than three miles of pipeline in a 100-foot-wide construction zone through city parks and neighborhoods as part of the complex Northern Integrated Supply Project.

    The 3-to-2 rejection may not stall the massive project for long, as state law allows Northern Water’s own board to override the decision by a two-thirds vote, which it is sure to get. But the unrest in Fort Collins is another skirmish in a series of water and pipeline battles playing out this year in northern Front Range counties.

    Water developers say they need supply to meet the demands of growing cities and suburbs, while many residents are objecting to the cost to the environment and to their own wallets.

    “What happens during that construction will forever change the activity of wildlife, the patterns of wildlife, and they may never come back to those areas,” Fort Collins planning board member Per Hogestad said before he voted against the NISP pipeline application.

    Fort Collins city planners launched the night’s hearing by recommending the board reject the NISP pipeline. Among other objections, city staff said its construction would cut down important riparian cottonwood stands without rebuilding them, and that the plan lacked detailed restoration plans for other areas in the proposed easement…

    Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind told the planning commission that the water agency, which serves more than 1 million people in parts of eight counties on the northern Front Range, has made numerous changes to the $1.1 billion NISP to accommodate the steady stream of objections made over more than 10 years. Most importantly, he said, the new system of water buckets and delivery pipes that make up NISP will put a steadier, stronger flow of water into the Poudre River through Fort Collins, improving the health of an overused river that nearly dries up in summer…

    Friday morning, Northern Water issued a statement saying in part that it would “look closely at the concerns raised by the City of Fort Collins staff, planning and zoning commissioners and public commenters. We look forward to working with the city to address those concerns while keeping the long-term goal in sight” of building the water delivery project. The board will consider its next steps at a meeting in August, spokesman Jeff Stahla said…

    The list of Front Range water fights is long

    NISP is one of the longest-running of a growing number of water delivery disputes pitting neighbors against city and county planning boards, and cities and counties against each other.

    Thornton wants to build a 74-mile underground pipeline from water it owns in a Larimer County reservoir, through Weld County and onto city treatment plants. After similar years of wrangling, Weld County listened to neighbor and landowner objections and voted against a permit through county space. But Thornton, in Adams County, on Tuesday overrode the decision, which state law allows the applying entity to do when it is financing and building the pipeline.

    In Westminster, many residents are furious at city council members for a series of steep increases in domestic water prices, among other planning decisions, and their anger has helped fuel an ongoing series of recalls and marathon voting sessions. Some longtime city residents say the council and city utilities have botched long-term planning for adequate water resources and failed to maintain treatment plants and other infrastructure.

    Brighton is also in a series of battles over water use and water prices, including conflicts over power sharing between the city manager and elected officials on water questions.

    The Fort Collins planning decision is not likely to be a major hurdle for Northern Water, which is close to breaking ground on the reservoir-and-pipe system that makes up NISP but has more regulatory problems to solve.

    The Northern Integrated Supply Project has navigated a tangled route of permits since at least 2004. Fifteen communities that are part of Northern Water want to build new reservoirs called Glade and Galeton, bracketing Fort Collins on the west and east, and connect them through the Poudre and a series of farm water ditches with complex withdrawal and return pipelines.

    As part of the overall plan, Northern Water would let about 22 cubic feet per second out of its newly-stored pool in Glade to keep a steady flow in the Poudre through most of Fort Collins, for most of the year. The pipeline under debate Thursday night would then take that water back out of the river and carry it to a separate pipeline that runs on the north side of the project.

    Conservationists ridicule that plan, saying Northern Water’s gesture toward the environment would turn the Poudre into a weedy, low-flow “ditch” populated by carp.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    The Fort Collins Planning and Zoning Commission denied a development application for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, leaving the ball in Northern Water’s court for a possible overriding vote.

    Commission members voted 3-2 on Wednesday to deny the Site Planning Advisory Review (SPAR) application for NISP infrastructure that would be located in Fort Collins city limits.

    The components are part of Northern Water’s plan to run a portion of the project’s water deliveries through a 12-mile section of the Poudre River in Fort Collins. A river intake structure at Homestead Natural Area would take the water back out, and a 3.4-mile section of pipeline would shuttle the water southeast to meet up with another pipeline outside city limits.

    The decision presents an obstacle to the proposal to take water from the Poudre and South Platte rivers for storage in two new reservoirs, but it isn’t binding…

    Commission members who voted against the application — chair Michelle Haefele, vice chair Ted Shepard and member Per Hogestad — agreed with city staff, who recommended denial because of impacts to city natural areas and insufficient detail about several aspects of the project…

    Degradation of wildlife and riparian habitat was of particular concern for some of the commission members who voted to deny the application. City staff said the pipeline location would damage restored wetlands and prohibit replanting of cottonwoods the city has worked to restore in riparian corridors. The pipeline route passes through Williams, Kingfisher and Riverbend Ponds natural areas…

    Jeff Hansen and Jeff Schneider, the commission members who voted to move the application forward, said they had faith in Northern Water’s ability to address staff feedback. They also wanted to support the agency’s effort to mitigate some of the impacts of NISP by running between 18 and 25 cubic feet per second of water through a portion of the river, which would eliminate some dry-up spots on the river during low flow periods.

    “They don’t have to do this pipeline at all,” Schneider said. “They could pull this water out and not even run it through the river. I think there’s some good intent that they’re trying to supply water to the Poudre instead of just pulling it directly out.”

    Other points from city staff’s recommendation to deny the application stated that Northern Water didn’t adequately consider protection of natural resources and wildlife when it evaluated alternative routes. Staff also said the application didn’t include enough information about proximity of the NISP pipeline to city-owned utilities; downstream and floodplain impacts of the river intake structure; and how Northern Water will mitigate construction impacts to private property, historic and cultural resources.

    Shepard said Northern Water should consider running the water through the river until it intersects with another project pipeline planned for the Larimer-Weld county line.

    Brad Yatabe of the city attorney’s office interjected at that point in the meeting to caution commission members against suggesting alternative actions, which he said isn’t in the city’s purview for SPAR.

    Northern Water staff described the diversion structure and pipeline as the culmination of a concerted effort to blunt NISP’s impacts on the Poudre through Fort Collins. Northern Water staff picked the diversion point for stability and with a goal of going as far downstream as possible while preserving water quality for drinking, project manager Christie Coleman said…

    Northern Water expects that requirements associated with other permits for NISP, including the anticipated record of decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will address some of the planning commission’s concerns about environmental impacts, Stahla said. He added that Northern Water will take a closer look at concerns about the construction easement’s impacts to city natural areas.

    #Thornton #Water Project update

    New Thornton Water Treatment plant June 2021. Photo credit: Emily Hunt

    Disclaimer: I work for the City of Thornton.

    From Colorado Community Media (Liam Adams) via The Colorado Sun:

    Thornton can start building a segment of a water pipeline in Weld County, even though the Weld County Board of Commissioners told the city “no” two months ago.

    Thornton City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution that overrides Weld County’s denial of a permit to build a segment of the Thornton Water Project, and authorized the start of construction.

    The 74-mile Thornton Water Project will deliver water from a reservoir near Fort Collins, nearly doubling the city’s current water supply. Twelve miles of the pipeline will run through Larimer County, 34 miles through Weld County, and 5 miles through Adams County. The rest of the pipeline will pass through towns and cities in those counties…

    The council was [approved the measure on June 29, 2021]…

    Thornton Water Project route map via ThorntonWaterProject.com

    Weld County landowners, including Hicks and her daughter, have been influential opponents of Thornton as the city moved through the permit application process. In 2019, the Weld County Planning Commission recommended approval of the project, but landowner protests caused the panel to reverse its recommendation in 2020. Residents’ complaints were also cited by commissioners as a reason for denying the permit at at a hearing on May 5.

    The Weld County commissioners also said in a resolution dated June 3 that the pipeline would negatively affect future growth and that it was inconsistent with a new county comprehensive plan.

    Some Weld County residents want Thornton to build its pipeline in the right-of-way, or literally underneath a county road, instead of on private land next to the road.

    But since the beginning of the process, Thornton has pursued the private-land option, which was supported by Weld County staff.

    Building in the right-of-way requires an easement from the county, while building outside of the right-of-way requires easements from private landowners. Thornton has obtained easements from 98% of landowners. Some were obtained through eminent domain proceedings, frustrating specific landowners and further provoking their protest.

    The pipeline, which runs from Terry Lake near Fort Collins to just east of Cobb Lake in Weld County and then south to the Wes Brown Water Treatment Plant in Thornton, will be buried and the city will compensate any landowners, especially farmers, whose land and crops are damaged by construction…

    City spokesman Todd Barnes confirmed that the city has already reached an agreement with Hicks’ family to construct part of the pipeline on their land…

    Weld County negotiated terms with Thornton after the county recognized the city was able to override the denial. The terms still require the city to apply for road construction permits in areas where the pipeline crosses streets, to regularly communicate with county staff about the progress of construction, and to be diligent about dust management.

    The city hasn’t said yet when it plans to break ground.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):

    The Thornton Water Pipeline is closer to becoming reality in Weld County following a unanimous vote Tuesday night by Thornton City Council to override the county commissioners’ denial of a use by special review permit to construct the pipeline.

    State law allows political subdivisions to override restrictions of county or municipal zoning regulations in certain cases. The board anticipated the city’s ability to override the decision, sending a letter acknowledging as much to Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann earlier this month.

    The letter, signed by Weld County Commission Chairman Steve Moreno, requested that the city council include a commitment to comply with terms and conditions set forth by the county in its override decision. In overriding the county’s decision, the city council agreed to adhere to the terms and conditions.

    Commissioner Mike Freeman said the board denied Thornton’s permit for a number of reasons, including being inconsistent with the county’s comprehensive plan and going through multiple Opportunity Zones. Doing so will negatively affect development on those properties, Freeman said.

    Thornton included in its resolution a response to the county’s concerns. The city responded that the pipeline and fiber optic cable will be buried so that it is compatible with the existing industrial zoned properties and heavy industrial use. It also worked with property owners to develop a pipeline alignment that would minimize impacts to those properties, according to the resolution. The city also said impacts to industrial properties will be of limited duration during construction.

    Freeman said the county found that the permit application didn’t show that all reasonable efforts had been made to avoid irrigated cropland or minimize negative impacts to agriculture. Weld is the state’s leading producer of beef cattle, grain, sugar beets and dairy, according to the county’s website.

    Thornton responded that the pipeline will be buried below the plow line to prevent interference with continuing agricultural and estate land uses. Effects on agricultural uses will be temporary during construction and are anticipated to be minimal after construction, according to the city. Thornton also said it worked with property owners to locate the pipeline, including minimizing effects to the operations of irrigation equipment.

    Additional measures the city will take include stripping and storing topsoil separately from excavated trench materials and seeding or leaving land fallow in accordance with the property owner’s agreement for reclamation procedures following pipeline construction.

    Another finding by the county that led to the commissioners’ unanimous denial of the permit was that the pipeline could have an undue adverse effect on existing and future development in areas along the municipal limits of Dacono, Firestone, Frederick, Johnstown, Platteville, Severance, Timnath and Windsor.

    The city reiterated the pipeline will be buried and that impacts will be temporary during construction and are anticipated to be minimal after construction. Property owners are also compensated for any impacts to future residential, commercial and industrial development if that is the highest and best use of their property, the city added.

    Finally, the county found that all reasonable alternatives to the proposal hadn’t been adequately addressed and that the pipeline isn’t consistent with the best interests of the people in Weld County. Multiple property owners have expressed opposition to the pipeline, with at least seven appearing at the Board of County Commissioners’ meeting on May 5, when the commissioners denied Thornton’s application.

    The city responded that the pipeline will not have long-term impacts to continuing agricultural uses. It noted that two property owners who opposed the pipeline have since agreed Thornton accommodated their requests. For four property owners whose relocation requests weren’t feasible, the city argues the pipeline will not hinder the property owners’ future development plans.

    “What we’re supposed to be looking at on applications is, ‘Is the application in the best interest of Weld County citizens?’ and obviously this pipeline doesn’t benefit Weld County at all,” Freeman said. “At the end of the day, this board did not approve an application that wasn’t in the best interest of the citizens of Weld County, but we can’t prohibit Thornton from doing what they did.”

    […]

    While the council did not address Weinmeister’s concerns, Kulmann said the city remains committed to working with communities to the north. In a pointed message, she said, “We remain committed to cooperating with you on our project … we do take their concerns seriously.” She also said the city is committed to securing access to water that it bought back in the 1980s and soon will need for its growing population.

    #Thornton Water Project update

    Thornton Water Project route map via ThorntonWaterProject.com

    From Colorado Community Media (Liam Adams):

    Following the Weld County Board of Commissioners’ decision to deny the city of Thornton’s application to build a water pipeline through the county, Thornton intends to use a state statute to overrule the commissioners’ decision.

    Thornton City Council will vote on a resolution at a June 29 meeting directing the city to bypass the board’s denial and commence pipeline construction, according to a meeting agenda posted Thursday. If approved by the city council at that meeting, Thornton will skip past an otherwise lengthy and cumbersome process for getting the pipeline approved at a point where the city feels like time is wearing thin…

    Thornton’s goal is to complete the entire Thornton Water Project, a 75-mile-long pipeline from a reservoir near Fort Collins, by 2025. So far, the city has built six miles of the pipeline in other municipalities where Thornton has negotiated agreements. However, the two biggest sections – one in unincorporated Larimer County and the other in unincorporated Weld County – have faced setbacks.

    The Larimer County Board of Commissioners denied Thornton’s application for a “1041 permit” to build the pipeline in 2019, leading to a series of ongoing court battles between the city and Larimer County board. Then in May, the Weld County board denied Thornton’s application for a “use by special review” permit, causing Thornton to file a complaint against the board in Weld County District Court.

    Thornton began to seriously consider using a state statute that would essentially reverse the board’s decision right after the Weld County commissioners’ denial, said city spokesperson Todd Barnes. Colorado Revised Statutes 30-28-110(1)(c) allows a utility that is financing and authorizing the construction of a project to overrule a denial by a county board of commissioners.

    Thornton can use the statute for the denial in Weld Co., but not in Larimer Co. because the two permit application processes are different. Barnes said the city’s legal challenge in Weld County District Court “remains in place to preserve Thornton’s rights.”

    The Weld County board was made aware of Thornton’s intentions to overrule the commissioners’ decision before the June 29 city council meeting agenda published, and the board negotiated with the city certain terms and conditions for the pipeline’s construction. Board Chairperson Steve Moreno issued a response to the city that was included in the agenda packet.

    Moreno said, “Clearly, the Thornton City Council has statutory authority to override the Board’s decision.” Moreno asks the city to comply with the newly negotiated terms and conditions that are “based upon the original Conditions of Approval and Development Standards of USR 18-0130 (use by special review permit) but have been modified to better fit the circumstance of an override by Thornton.”

    Save the Poudre, No Pipe Dream sue over #FortCollins’ review of #NISP — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

    Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Citizen groups Save the Poudre and No Pipe Dream are suing to stop the city of Fort Collins from processing an application for Northern Integrated Supply Project infrastructure in city limits.

    The two groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the city and the Northern Integrated Supply Project Water Activity Enterprise over Northern Water’s SPAR (site plan advisory review) application for the controversial Poudre River reservoir project. The complaint argues that SPAR is the wrong way for the city to review NISP infrastructure and seeks to terminate the SPAR application. It also seeks to cancel the Fort Collins Planning and Zoning Board review of the application set for June 30…

    At the heart of the dispute is whether NISP, which seeks to divert flows from the Poudre and South Platte rivers for two new reservoirs, is an appropriate fit for the SPAR process. SPAR is a type of development review intended for “improvements to parcels owned or operated by public entities,” according to the city’s land use code.

    SPAR, compared to the more commonly used development review process, puts the city’s P&Z board in an advisory position rather than giving Fort Collins City Council the final say on a proposal. The governing board of a SPAR applicant can override P&Z’s vote and proceed with the development over the city’s wishes.

    The P&Z board must review a SPAR application within 60 days of the city accepting it. The city deemed Northern Water’s SPAR application complete on May 21.

    The city directed Northern Water to submit a SPAR application for components of NISP within city limits: the Poudre intake diversion structure, a river diversion that would be located in Homestead Natural Area northwest of Mulberry Street and Lemay Avenue, and a 3.4-mile length of pipeline running from the river diversion to the southeast, passing through Fort Collins and unincorporated Larimer County land as well as three city natural areas (Williams, Kingfisher Point and Riverbend Ponds)…

    The complaint also argues that Northern Water doesn’t meet the state’s legal guidelines for an entity that can overrule a municipal body’s decision on a development. The state gives that authority only to “the city council of a city … the board of trustees of a town, or any other body, by whatever name known, given authority to adopt ordinances for a specific municipality,” the complaint states…

    City attorney Carrie Daggett said the city is still reviewing the complaint and declined further comment. Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla affirmed that the water district will continue to pursue SPAR review for NISP as city staff directed…

    Fort Collins’ review of NISP is not the last step for the project. The project is awaiting a crucial record of decision from the Army Corps of Engineers that’s expected to come this year. An affirming record of decision would likely trigger another legal appeal.

    Two additional lawsuits filed by Save the Poudre, No Pipe Dream and Save Rural NoCo related to Larimer County’s approval of NISP infrastructure are also working their way through the courts.

    #Thornton #Water Project update

    Thornton Water Project route map via ThorntonWaterProject.com

    From Colorado Community Media (Liam Adams):

    City takes same legal action it did against Larimer County

    The city of Thornton formally went to court against the Weld County Board of Commissioners after the board denied the city’s application to build a water pipeline through the county.

    The board’s decision, “exceeds its jurisdiction and/or is contrary to law, misinterprets and misapplies its criteria, and was arbitrary and capricious because its findings lack competent evidence to support the BOCC’s denial,” read the complaint filed June 2 in Weld County District Court.

    As Thornton nears its deadline to construct a pipeline from a reservoir near Fort Collins, the quickest and most direct way for the city to get approval for a Weld County pipeline is through the courts, rather than submitting a whole new application. The city asks in the complaint for a district court judge to intervene and overturn the board’s decision.

    Thornton started the process for the Weld County section of the Thornton Water Project in 2015. In 2018, the city formally submitted its application to build a pipeline through 34 miles of unincorporated county land. The city then went before the county’s planning commission twice and the board of commissioners four times. That fourth meeting, May 5, is when the board unanimously voted to deny the application…

    The city is engaged in a separate legal battle — currently in the Colorado Court of Appeals — with the Larimer County Board of Commissioners, who denied a similar application from Thornton in 2019. The complaint Thornton filed in Weld County is the same kind that it filed in Larimer…

    In both the Larimer and Weld County cases, Thornton argued the boards of commissioners didn’t have the jurisdiction to deny the city’s application because it has owned the WSSC rights for decades. What’s different about Thornton’s argument against Weld County is that it’s simpler, according to legal filings.

    Weld County staff, the planning commission and the board initially told Thornton to not construct the pipeline in the right-of-way, or literally underneath county roads. Instead, they suggested planning to build on privately owned land next to the road. However, the planning commission and board later asked the city to consider areas for the pipeline in the right-of-way. Thornton did that and over time, submitted several amended applications.

    The board asked also Thornton to obtain more construction easements from private landowners before the board reached a decision. So, by the May 5 board meeting, Thornton obtained easements for 95% of the total stretch of the pipeline.

    Thornton described itself in the complaint as a good partner to Weld County, despite larger changes along the way. Still, the board denied the application. The city also argued that the board didn’t “orally find or conclude” that Thornton failed to meet five of eight criteria that the board is supposed to consult in its decision-making.

    The city added in the complaint that the board still hasn’t issued Thornton a written denial…

    The main reason for Thornton’s haste is rapid growth. The City council won’t approve applications related to large developments, such as Parterre, without the assurance of water from Larimer County.

    #Thornton #Water Project update

    Thornton Water Project route map via ThorntonWaterProject.com

    From CBS Denver (Dillon Thomas):

    Crews have started installing a 42-inch welded steel pipeline through portions of northern Colorado with the goal of bringing clean water to Thornton through 2065.

    However, even though Thornton legally purchased the water rights from the Cache la Poudre River northwest of Fort Collins in the 1980s, the counties it needs to pump water through are preventing the pipeline from becoming a full reality, for now.

    “We got the water in 1985. That is all done. We have the permission to move the water, we just need the facilities to move it,” said Mark Koleber, Water Supply Director for Thornton…

    Thornton needs to install more than 80 miles worth of pipes from the river near Ted’s Place all the way to the Denver suburb. However, in Larimer County, they have come across issues getting permits to install the pipeline along roadways…

    While Thornton navigates the next steps of building their pipeline through unincorporated Weld and Larimer counties, they have been given permission to start construction through towns like Timnath, Windsor and Johnstown.

    Timnath and Windsor have seen a dramatic spike in residents in the past few years, and many homes are being built along WCR-13 in Windsor, right where Thornton planned to build their pipeline…

    To avoid the stresses of more disruption, Thornton was granted permission to install their pipeline along the roadway before the neighborhoods were completed.

    “We can do that so we can get ahead of the development,” Koleber said. “That is really important for us, to make sure we don’t impact the communities any more than we have to.”

    […]

    More than seven miles worth of pipeline have been installed through Windsor and Johnstown. Some of that stretch has already been installed, reclaimed and built over.

    The Raindance Community in Windsor has already built homes along the now-hidden pipeline, with sidewalks and landscaping covering where the construction was completed.

    Following the state’s orders, Thornton had to develop a plan to cross over two rivers in Northern Colorado without disturbing them.

    Koleber’s team dug massive holes on each end of the Poudre and Big Thompson rivers. Then machinery was lowered into the holes. The machinery then dug itself under the rivers, sending back carts full of mud as it continued to burrow. The pipes were then lowered into the holes and slid through the makeshift tunnels, leaving the Poudre and Big Thompson unscathed.

    “That will allow us to move the water under the Poudre without disturbing the Poudre at all. We can cross it without touching the Poudre,” Koleber said.

    Thornton has engaged in legal action against Larimer County, hoping the courts can help them claim what they legally purchased decades ago. The city has not ruled out taking similar action in Weld County if common ground cannot be reached in a timely manner.

    CBS4 contacted Larimer County commissioners for comment on this article. However, multiple commissioners wrote back saying they could not comment on the story due to ongoing litigation.

    Chimney Hollow, Northern #Colorado’s biggest new reservoir, will likely be one of its last — The #FortCollins Coloradoan #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Northern Colorado is getting its biggest new reservoir in about 70 years, at the cost of diminished Colorado River flows.

    Construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir will begin in August southwest of Loveland, just west of Carter Lake. An April legal settlement between project proponent Northern Water and environmental advocacy groups cleared the way for the project, which began the permitting process in 2003.

    The 90,000-acre-foot reservoir is the main component of the Windy Gap Firming Project, a plan to increase the reliability of Colorado River water rights in the Windy Gap Project. The project’s 12 participants include Platte River Power Authority, Loveland, Broomfield, Longmont and Greeley. Construction is expected to take until August 2025, after which it will take about three years to fill the reservoir.

    The reservoir’s water will come from the Colorado River, decreasing flows below Lake Granby by an annual average of 15%. Most diversions will take place in May and June.

    The 18-year journey toward construction demonstrates the extensive maneuvering required to build new reservoirs in Colorado as rivers become increasingly stressed from climate change and heavy diversions as growing Front Range communities seek to shore up their water supplies. Northern Water won approval from key government agencies and some advocacy groups with a suite of mitigation measures and spending commitments for areas impacted by the project.

    Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

    Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla described Chimney Hollow as “in the right place at the right time.” The reservoir site has a few qualities that have helped Northern Water avoid some common setbacks for new water project construction: It’s near existing Colorado Big Thompson Project infrastructure, so Northern Water won’t have to build much new infrastructure for water deliveries, and there are no homes or businesses at the site, which Northern has owned since the 1990s.

    “The one assumption you have to make is that water storage is part of the future way that we’re going to provide water,” Stahla said, and he thinks it is. “If you get past the ‘Do we need storage’ question, this ends up being an incredible site that will meet lots of needs, including the ancillary needs of recreation, into the future.”

    […]

    Northern Water Engineering Director Jeff Drager acknowledged the new reservoir’s impact on Colorado River flows, but he said the project’s targeted mitigation efforts still offer a major value and are a key reason why it crossed the regulatory finish line.

    Restoring a river channel in the Upper Colorado Basin

    One of the most significant mitigation measures, known as the Colorado River connectivity channel, will involve shrinking the existing Windy Gap Reservoir in Grand County to about half its current size and building a new channel around it. The Windy Gap dam currently blocks the Colorado River, preventing movement of fish, silt and sediment.

    The connectivity channel will allow the river below the reservoir to act more like “a stream without a reservoir on it” when Northern Water’s water rights aren’t in priority, Drager said. The mitigation measures will also open up a mile of stream to public fishing in an area where private landowners possess most of the land adjacent to riverbanks…

    During wetter years, Lake Granby can overflow and the water that would’ve been delivered to Windy Gap users flows downstream. During drier years, Northern Water is often unable to divert the full extent of its water right because it is a junior right, meaning more senior water users get access to water first. During the 23-year period between 1985 and 2008, for example, no Windy Gap water was delivered for seven of those years.

    A conversation with Brian Werner, recently retired from @Northern_Water — @WaterEdCO

    Eric Wilkinson, left, and Brian Werner, on the job. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Water Education Colorado (Jacob Tucker):

    Although Brian Werner has served on the WEco Board of Trustees for just over a year, he was involved with helping found the organization nearly 20 years ago. Now retired from his 38-year career as the Communications Department Manager and Public Information Officer at Northern Water, and still a life-long water historian, Brian has written and given hundreds of presentations on the role of water in the settlement and development of Colorado and the West. We spoke with Brian about Northern Water’s storage, the impacts of fire on water storage, permitting, and more.

    How long have you been on the WEco board?

    I’ve been involved with WEco since WEco has been around. I was involved with the first couple incarnations of water education efforts in Colorado in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and then I helped when WEco came into being in 2002. I was never on the board, until a couple of years ago. It was something I wanted to do towards the end of my career and I retired just last year in January 2020. Luckily I was appointed to the board and I’ve truly enjoyed it.

    What kind of experience do you bring to the group?

    I think the fact that I had a 38-year career in the water business with Northern Water is an asset. At Northern Water, I’d established relations with people from all over the state and I also coordinated probably 150 to 200 different children’s water festivals, so clearly I was into education. I’m really a big believer in the trickle up theory of water knowledge. Where if you can educate the kids, that knowledge is going trickle up to mom and dad, and those kids will somebody be parents themselves. Ultimately, I’ve been trying to build that ethic in what I’ve been about for most of my career.

    How would you describe your experience being on the board?

    I’ve really enjoyed being on the board. I’ve watched it and been very much involved for a long time. Both Nicole Seltzer and Jayla Poppleton worked with me at Northern Water, so I have a personal vested interest in them succeeding, and they really have. Nicole moved the organization in a wonderful direction and Jayla has just been top-notch in where she has taken WEco. It has been really interesting because we have a diverse board, and I have enjoyed getting to know people who I didn’t know previously.

    Screenshot of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project boundaries via Northern Water’s interactive mapping tool , June 5, 2019.

    I understand you recently retired from Northern Water, can you tell me what your role with them was and maybe what Northern Water does in a general sense?

    Northern Water is the largest water conservancy district in the state of Colorado and operates a large Bureau of Reclamation project that is one of the largest in the entire western United States; the Colorado-Big Thompson project. It brings a quarter-million acre-feet a year from the West Slope into Northeastern Colorado to supplement both urban and rural supplies, meaning that it is both a municipal as well as an agricultural water supply. Now there are well over a million people that get a portion of their water supply from that project, but back in 1937, there were only 50,000 people living within Northern Water’s boundaries. So, nobody could have foreseen the growth that occurred since then. This growth has brought all sorts of issues and concerns, but Northern Water is one of the top water agencies in the state and I certainly had a wonderful career there and couldn’t have asked for anything better.

    Personally, I was a public information officer for 35 of those 38 years. My role, in essence, was to be the public face of Northern Water and so I talked about Northern Water and its activities all the time. I was able to use my historical training, I have a master’s degree in history, to discuss the historical background of both water development and Northern Water. I focused very much on education, but ultimately, I spent my entire career talking all things water, which was a lot of fun.

    I was also the manager of our communications department as we expanded and grew. As we grew, we brought on writers and pushed publications and annual reports, and then we got into the social media craze. So, for some time I managed that department. But really, it was about telling people what Northern Water was all about.

    Perhaps a topical question, but how have the numerous forest fires affected the work that Northern Water does in trying to ensure water storage?

    That is going to be Northern Water’s principal focus this coming year. Both of our major watersheds burned last year, the Upper Colorado with the East Troublesome wildfire, and then the Poudre watershed with the Cameron Peak wildfire. And both of these watersheds are where we get the vast majority of our water. Luckily, Northern Water had been looking at forest water management for years. Northern Water has been working with the U.S. Forest Service, the counties, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Parks Service. It wasn’t that these fires hit us and Northern Water had no idea what to do. We learned quite a lot from Denver Water after the Hayman Fire, with all of the issues that they had centering around water quality. Northern Water isn’t pleased, but we are certainly going to see some water quality impacts because of these fires.

    We went in with our eyes open and with some plans in place for post-fire activities. We always said, ‘it’s not if, it’s when those fires hit.’

    What do these fires mean for water supply and water quality now, as well as moving into the future?

    One of the things that we see from these fires is a greater level of awareness in terms of forest management, not just if you have a house in a forest or nearby, but for those people living in major metropolitan areas, too. Those people in Denver, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs are all paying attention now, because they saw the two largest fires in Colorado history and what it did to our environment. And I think now there will be a lot more attention focused on the post-fire impacts, which obviously include water. People will certainly be paying attention to the water piece of the post-fire mitigation and clean-up. Overall, I think moving into the future we will have a better awareness, which is always a good thing. There is no way around it, it is going to take money, and where we are at with COVID-19 that discussion is not easy, but the state is making a concerted effort to put monetary resources and people into handling the situation.

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

    How the present or future storage planning is different than what the state has done historically?

    One thing I would point out is that the Federal government is no longer in the water storage building business. For years Reclamation, which had been established in 1902 helped jumpstart and build water projects, as they did the Colorado-Big Thompson Project in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. The Federal government neither has the resources nor are they paying for water storage anymore. Now, water storage is something that is having to be more or less self-funded. Meaning that the growing cities are trying to figure out how they can finance additional water for their future citizens.

    We are also now looking at the multiple uses of water. Nowadays, water is being used for environmental purposes, which means that we are looking to make sure that there is enough to release into the rivers to help the aquatic habitat. This is a much larger part of the picture today. At a base level of awareness, we want people to understand why we need storage reservoirs. It is a dry year, and it sure looks like we are only getting drier, and when you have the drier years you better make sure that you store when you have the wetter periods to carry you through. I think we are going to have difficulties trying to match up the storage, which we are going to continue to need, with all the environmental issues and issues surrounding the development of water infrastructure.

    Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

    In the past 20 years, Northern has been in permitting so can you talk about that process?

    We say water project permitting works at a glacial pace. When I started working on the Northern Integrated Supply Project permitting at Northern Water, I told my wife that I thought we would have a permit in around 5 years … I’m now retired. Northern Water is going on 17 years later, and they still haven’t received that permit. That’s frustrating. This wasn’t for lack of energy; I mean we were really working hard to secure that permit. These things take much longer than you would probably expect. You have to have a lot of perseverance because the process can really drive you crazy, but my hope is that in the future this process will become much better for all parties involved.

    #FortCollins: Water Shortage Watch and Voluntary Water-Saving Actions Effective April 29 — The North Forty News

    Cameron Peak Soil Burn Severity map. Map credit: Roosevelt National Forest

    From The North Forty News (Jonson Kuhn):

    Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry signed a Declaration and Order for a voluntary Water Shortage Watch pursuant to Fort Collins City Code Section 26-167(a) and the Water Shortage Action Plan (WSAP). The Water Shortage Watch and corresponding voluntary water restrictions (water-saving actions) went into effect Thursday, April 29 for Fort Collins Utilities water customers.

    The Water Shortage Watch has been enacted due to possible limitations on Utilities’ ability to treat Cache la Poudre River supplies following the Cameron Peak Fire. Runoff and thunderstorms may cause sediment and ash from the burn area to flow into the river. This erosion, in addition to irrigation demands during what is projected to be a hot and dry summer, has the potential to create a water shortage.

    Upon determination that a watch is no longer needed or that conditions have worsened, the city manager will publish another Declaration and Order, either declaring the end of the watch or indicating the need for mandatory water restrictions following guidelines identified in the WSAP. For more information on the WSAP, visit fcgov.com/WSAP.

    A Water Shortage Watch is a voluntary action level in the WSAP, used when our community is experiencing conditions that may lead to a water shortage. During a watch, all Fort Collins Utilities residential and business customers are encouraged to voluntarily reduce water use based on best practices for efficient outdoor and indoor water use. There are no water rate increases or citations associated with a watch.

    The voluntary water-saving actions implemented during a Water Shortage Watch follow measures under WSAP Action Level I, including limiting lawn watering to two days a week, no watering between 10 a.m. and 6 ppm, and using a shutoff nozzle on hoses, including while hand watering and washing vehicles at home.

    @GreeleyWater: Dive into a look at the city’s water rights — The #Greeley Tribune

    Seaman Reservoir upstream of confluence of the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):

    In the past year, Greeley officials purchased about 1,000 acre-feet of water, equivalent to about 1,000 football fields covered in a foot of water. Adam Jokerst, deputy director of water resources for the city, said it’s more water than city had acquired in the past 10 years. Jokerst, who manages the water acquisition program, said the program has about a $9 million budget this year…

    What is a water right?

    Colorado’s waters are owned by the state and all its citizens, but water rights dictate the right to use the water. Water decrees, issued by water courts, confirm water users’ rights to that water.

    Older water decrees were simple, Jokerst said, giving the example of a decree for the city’s senior direct rights, meaning the city has priority to divert water for direct application to beneficial use. Throughout the year, the city can use 12.5 cubic feet per second. That’s about it, he said.

    Newer decrees can range from dozens to hundreds of pages, detailing how the water is to be diverted, measured and accounted for.

    “Greeley owns a portfolio made up of many different water rights,” Jokerst said. “Some of those water rights are direct diversions from the Poudre River. Some are ownership in irrigation companies.”

    Irrigation companies that historically provided irrigation water to farmers can issue shares of stock, basically selling a piece of the water rights held by those companies. The city converts that water from agricultural to municipal use to change the water right, though the city does rent some water rights to agricultural users, maintaining the historic use.

    The city also owns water through the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects, as well as water diverted from the Laramie River. With a lot of variability across these different sources, the city’s water experts always plan for the worst case scenario: How much water could we provide to our customers in a drought situation?

    Through the current plan, the city can provide about 40,000 acre-feet per year to its customers, well above the roughly 25,000 acre-feet of demand the city sees in a typical year. In a wet year, the city could potentially deliver up to 70,000 acre-feet, to give an idea of the impact of the planned drought.

    When the city can, it rents a lot of that water to agricultural partners, renting about 20,000 acre-feet in the past year. In addition to maintaining historic use, this provides a source of revenue and supports Greeley’s agricultural economy, Jokerst said.

    Jokerst said he’d consider the city’s “Big Three” sources to be:

  • Senior direct rights from the Poudre River
  • Ownership in the Greeley-Loveland Irrigation Company, which feeds the city’s Boyd Lake System
  • Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) and Windy Gap projects
  • Jen Petrzelka, water resources operations manager, added the direct and C-BT water is available year round, whereas a lot of the ditch directs only come in during irrigation season, which typically starts about now to early May and runs through the end of September or into October.

    Accounting for the city’s diverse portfolio

    The city must account for its water on a daily basis, submitting a monthly report to the state. Petrzelka said they manage about 10 different spreadsheets for all the city’s water right decrees…

    Petrzelka keeps an eye on the city’s water supply to help prevent the need for watering restrictions. In all, the city has four engineers and scientists who manage the various decrees and operations, plus three workers out in the field, according to Jokerst.

    The state ensures water users aren’t causing injury to other users’ water rights, with local river commissioners dedicated throughout the state. Jokerst compared the commissioners to a referee in a sports game.

    “Any time we change the way we’re operating, whether that be our releases or operating an exchange, we have to get their approval,” Petrzelka said.

    When agricultural water rights are changed, Jokerst said, some water is owed back to the river, just as the water historically returned to the river and groundwater after agricultural use.

    “A lot of what we do is add water back to the river to compensate for those irrigation rights that we changed,” he said.

    In addition to enforcement by river commissioners, everybody watches their neighbors, keeping track of what other users are doing on a day-to-day basis. Part of that monitoring happens in water court, where decisions about decrees are settled…

    Greeley has a steady stream of water court cases the city must defend in court, according to Jokerst, as well as cases involving other entities in which the city enters opposition to protect its water rights. As of this past week, the city was involved in 32 water court cases.

    “Water court cases are really just a structured negotiation where the applicant and the opposers reach agreement on whatever it is the applicant is trying to do,” Jokerst said. “All the parties involved negotiate an outcome that protects all their water and gets the applicant what they need.”

    Petrzelka and Jokerst estimated the city’s water court costs at about $500,000 this year, mostly covering the costs of outside attorneys and engineers. Internal legal counsel also helps guide the department, Jokerst said.

    @Northern_Water increases Colorado-Big Thompson quota to 70%

    Cache la Poudre River drop structure. Photo credit: Northern Water

    Here’s the release from Northern Water:

    Adequate native water supplies coupled with improved Front Range soil moisture from March snowstorms prompted the Northern Water Board of Directors to increase its 2021 quota allocation for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project to 70 percent.

    The Board unanimously approved the allocation at its meeting Thursday, April 8, 2021, with several board members participating remotely because of the ongoing pandemic. The Board also directed Northern Water staff to update them in May and June to determine whether an additional allocation would be advisable during the peak demand season.

    Emily Carbone, Water Resources Specialist at Northern Water, outlined snowpack and forecasted streamflows, and the Board also heard about the available native water supplies in regional reservoirs. In addition, the Board heard a presentation about the potential water resources impacts caused by the 2020 East Troublesome Fire. Public input was also considered.

    The Board has been setting C-BT quota since 1957 and 70 percent is the most common quota declared. It was also the quota set for the 2019 water delivery season, while the 2020 quota was set at 80 percent. The quota reflects the amount of water to be delivered through the C-BT Project.

    The quota increases available C-BT Project water supplies by 62,000 acre-feet from the initial 50 percent quota made available in November. Water from the C-BT Project supplements other sources 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. According to recent census figures, more than 1 million residents now live inside Northern Water’s boundaries. Learn more about the C-BT quota.

    Two-year review of Watson Lake fish ladder indicates it has been a success — @COParksWildlife

    Watson Lake fish ladder. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Jason Clay):

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife monitoring efforts of the fish ladder installed on the Cache la Poudre River at the Watson Lake State Wildlife Area two years ago shows it has been a success across several fronts.

    The fishway was designed to allow passage around a diversion structure in the river for multiple species of fish. This project is a realization of a partnership formed between private and public entities.

    “Overall, we are happy with the project and have documented fish moving upstream and downstream in the structure,” said CPW Aquatic Biologist Kyle Battige. “The fish ladder has improved conditions on the river and reconnected over two miles of river habitat by providing upstream movement opportunities for fish that had not existed at the Watson Lake Diversion Structure location since it was built in the 1960s.”

    Watch trout swim in the fish ladder and hear more from aquatic biologist Kyle Battige

    Two separate Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tagging efforts helped CPW in monitoring fish movement up and down the river after the ladder was installed. CPW tagged 71 fish on April 26, 2019 that were released in the downstream half of the fishway for initial evaluation. Researchers with Colorado State University also tagged fish downstream of the fishway as a part of a larger movement study on April 4, 2019.

    Data from the PIT tags documented successful upstream and downstream movement with 41 of the 71 CPW tagged fish utilizing the ladder and 36 of those fish successfully ascending the entire structure. The other five fish were recorded on one of the other two operational antennas within the structure, but not at the top antenna. Our detection data indicates that 51 percent of fish tagged by CPW successfully ascended the entire structure.

    Additionally, eight brown trout tagged by CSU and released 50 meters or further downstream have been documented using the fishway.

    “Documenting 51 percent of the CPW-tagged fish along with CSU- tagged fish utilizing the structure over the course of several months is exciting,” Battige said. “The fish ladder is performing as designed and is allowing fish to move freely up and downstream through the reach as they want. Further evaluation is warranted to investigate movement success across a broader size range within each fish species, but to date we have documented adult fish successfully navigating the fishway”

    Of the three species of fish tagged – longnose sucker, brown trout and rainbow trout – at least one individual across all tagged species has successfully navigated the fishway.

    Other areas monitored that indicate a successful project are measured water velocities in the fishway, discharge measurements in the fishway and water delivery to the hatchery. In addition, the cone screen constructed above the fish ladder where water gets delivered to the hatchery prevented fish entrainment by screening water delivered to the hatchery and that has not clogged during the fall leaf seasons, decreasing CPW staff time spent cleaning old inlet infrastructure. The cone screen is powered by a solar panel and has been an overall benefit to hatchery operations while not impacting water delivery.

    In order to satisfy measurement of Northern Water’s potential future augmentation flows from Glade Reservoir, the fishway was designed to carry up to 30 cubic feet per second (cfs) before spilling over the dam. Based on CPW measurements since construction was completed in the spring of 2019, the fishway more than meets that criteria, with its overall capacity being closer to 50 cfs.

    Morning Fresh Dairy, one of the project partners, is also utilizing the structure to measure future water flows.

    There was a seamless collaboration between public and private entities who came together on the project to improve the river and its habitat. Along with CPW and Morning Fresh Dairy, noosa yoghurt, Northern Water and Poudre Heritage Alliance all were key partners in the project.

    Learning lessons gleaned from this project that can be applied to help future ladder designs include careful consideration of tradeoffs between flow measurement and fish passage along with minor design tweaks to optimize water velocities in fish ladders.

    Preliminary flood zone maps for Larimer County now available for review — The #Loveland Reporter-Herald

    September 2013 flooding via AWRA Colorado Section Symposium

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Ken Amundson):

    Property owners affected by changes in the federal flood plain maps will have a 90-day period to appeal map changes once preliminary maps reach the comment stage, which is expected to occur soon.

    Communities throughout Colorado are undergoing changes to maps as a result of new surveys. Those maps, when final, will control flood-insurance rates and local building codes.

    Rigel Rucker, project manager with engineering firm AECOM, reviewed during a city of Loveland meeting Tuesday where property owners can find information and how to navigate the process.

    The remapping process is part of the National Flood Insurance Program. Cities and counties participate in order to be eligible for federal disaster assistance should a flood occur and to permit property owners to buy flood insurance at federal rates…

    Preliminary maps can be found online at http://coloradohazardmapping.com. Users will select their county to zero in on changes specific to them.

    On a granular level, property owners can input their addresses to see whether the map changes are affecting them. In most cases, they won’t see changes.

    Changes have moved some properties in and others out of the flood zones. Rucker said 183 fewer properties are included in Larimer County but 12 more properties are listed in Loveland.

    People who choose to appeal the mapping decisions were advised to work through city or county officials, who will forward those appeals to FEMA for consideration. Kevin Gingery, senior civil engineer with the city of the Loveland, is the person to contact with questions or appeals.

    Rucker cautioned those who might appeal a decision that they must challenge errors based upon mathematical or measurement mistakes or changed physical conditions. Impacts of the 2013 flood were not the basis for the new maps, Rucker said, but rather assessments based upon aerial surveys coupled with on-ground review. A typical appeal might involve a building that was lifted out of the flood plain and is physically higher than the elevation shown on the maps.

    Once FEMA rules on appeals, a letter of final determination will be issued — which is expected by the end of 2021 — followed by a six-month period in which communities will adopt the data.

    Construction of #Thornton Pipeline underway in #Windsor and #Johnstown — The #Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Thornton Water Project route map via ThorntonWaterProject.com

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    Contractors are building 7 miles of the Thornton Pipeline in Windsor and Johnstown, including boring a 250-foot-long section under the Poudre River.

    “We’re doing sections in jurisdictions where we have agreements,” said Todd Barnes, spokesman for the city of Thornton.

    “We wanted to get this in the ground before their developments, so we wouldn’t have to tear up new developments. We wanted to make it as efficient and effective as possible,” he said…

    That elected board, in February 2019, denied the required permit for construction of the pipeline piece north of Fort Collins.

    Thornton appealed that decision in 8th Judicial District Court. Last month, a judge upheld that denial based on three land use criteria. He did rule in Thornton’s favor on an additional four land use points, but the net ruling was to uphold the decision to deny the permit.

    Officials with Thornton have not said if they plan to appeal that ruling, a request that would need to be filed by April 5, or change its permit request and reapply in Larimer County…

    But they have said they are committed to transporting their water to Thornton.

    For the sections of the pipeline running through unincorporated Weld County, Thornton has applied for a special review permit. That is scheduled before the Weld County commissioners May 5.

    And in Windsor, Johnstown and Timnath, the city worked out construction and permanent easements that allow work to be underway, Barnes said.

    In early 2020, construction began in both Johnstown and Windsor, 3.5-mile-long stretches of the pipeline in each of the towns, with Scott Contracting of Centennial as the general contractor.

    The Johnstown piece is nearly complete, with one major section left that involves boring a tunnel for the 42-inch-diameter pipeline below the Little Thompson River, according to information from project manager Michael Welker and Justin Schaller, construction manager with Ditesco, a company hired by Thornton for onsite construction management.

    Construction is active in Windsor, running parallel to County Road 13 on the east side of the road from just north of Colo. 392 to Crossroads Boulevard.

    Crews on Wednesday were actively boring and building a horizontal shaft under the Poudre River for the pipeline.

    Working from a site along the Poudre River Trail, workers had bored about 85 feet of the 250-foot section that will extend under the river. They are building a support structure and placing the pipeline inside. The pipe itself is metal with a concrete lining, with 50-foot-long sections welded together.

    A week ago, crews finished boring the pipeline under Colo. 392…

    The overall $428 million project is expected to be completed in 2025, Barnes said, with other sections completed as Thornton receives permits.

    Once the pipe is laid, crews will reclaim the land, whether it is returning vegetation, working on wildlife mitigation or preparing fields for planting or grazing.

    #Thornton Moves Forward With Water Pipeline Construction — CBS #Denver

    From CBS Denver (Audra Streetman):

    The city of Thornton is building sections of a water pipeline in northern Colorado despite Larimer County’s decision to deny a building permit…

    Crews are working on the pipeline this week in Windsor. About five miles of pipeline is already in the ground, according to officials…

    The dispute with Larimer County is centered around how Thornton will move that water south to its residents…

    Thornton Communications Director Todd Barnes released the following statement to CBS4:

    “We are certainly disappointed and disagree with elements of the Larimer County District Court’s decision. Although, we agree with the court’s decision that the commissioners exceeded their authority to require any consideration of a non-pipeline alternative such as sending Thornton’s water down the Poudre River. Thornton was hopeful to move forward in Larimer County with the process of bringing the quality water Thornton owns via pipeline to our residents. We remain committed to ensuring the people of Thornton get the water they own and after taking sufficient time to review the judge’s decision we will determine our next steps.”

    Larimer County judge rules against #Thornton in [1041 Permit] case — The #Westminster Window

    From The Westminster Window (Liam Adams):

    Judge Stephen J. Jouard of Larimer County District Court ruled in favor of the Larimer County Board of Commissioners’ decision to deny the city of Thornton’s application to build a water pipeline in the county, a major blow to the city in its years-long effort to complete the Thornton Water Project by 2025.

    The ruling forces Thornton to appeal the decision with the Colorado Court of Appeals or submit a new application, creating new problems for the 26-mile stretch of proposed pipeline in Larimer County.

    Jouard’s decision arrived after three years of back-and-forth conversations between Larimer County and its citizens to determine the least disruptive route for Thornton’s pipeline, which the city has determined is necessary to adequately supply water to residents in the future.

    “We are certainly disappointed and disagree with elements of the Larimer County District Court’s decision,” said Thornton spokesperson Todd Barnes. “We remain committed to ensuring the people of Thornton get the water they own and after taking sufficient time to review the judge’s decision we will determine our next steps.”

    […]

    Thornton filed its first application for the stretch in Larimer County on Jan. 5, 2018. The route in the application was one of four viable paths the pipeline could travel. Larimer County staff said the first application met all the criteria, according to the city’s complaint in Larimer County District Court. However, the county planning commission recommended that the board of commissioners deny the application, which it ultimately did.

    In subsequent months, the city revised its application several times over, proposing the alternate routes it initially identified. None of the alternative routes involved diverting water down the Poudre River in place of a pipeline, a suggestion the city has vehemently rejected. However, some citizens and county commissioners have endorsed the Poudre River alternative.

    Ultimately, the board issued its final rejection of Thornton’s application March 19, 2019 and said the city’s application didn’t meet seven of the 12 criteria required for approval. The board cited the Poudre River alternative as a reason for its denial. The city filed its civil case in Larimer County District Court April 16, 2019.

    Though Jouard ultimately sided with the county commissioners, he didn’t do so completely. He said three of the criteria the board used to deny the application were valid, such as the pipeline being inconsistent with the county master plan and that the pipeline would have “significant adverse effects on associated land without adequate mitigation.” Meanwhile, the judge said there wasn’t enough evidence to support the other four criteria the board cited in its denial.

    One of Jouard’s big findings the city celebrated is that the board could not deny the application because of the Poudre River alternative. “We agree with the court’s decision that the commissioners exceeded their authority to require any consideration of a non-pipeline alternative such as sending Thornton’s water down the Poudre River,” Barnes said.

    Barnes said the city doesn’t anticipate delays in the overall timeline for the Thornton Water Project’s, which the city plans to complete by 2025. “We’ve prioritized other sections of the project so we have time to work on the issues in Larimer County,” he said.

    So far, the city has completed five miles of it in Johnstown and Windsor. Thornton will go before the Weld County Board of Commissioners May 5 for approval of the pipeline’s other major section.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Sady Swanson and Jacy Marmaduke):

    Jouard’s decision, released Monday, said Thornton officials did not meet three of the criteria required: The plan submitted was not consistent with the county’s Master Plan, did not provide reasonable design or siting alternatives, and did not provide an adequate mitigation plan to any adverse environmental effects of the land, according to court documents.

    “Thornton was hopeful to move forward in Larimer County with the process of bringing the quality water Thornton owns via pipeline to our residents,” Thornton’s Communications Director Todd Barnes said in an email statement. “We remain committed to ensuring the people of Thornton get the water they own and after taking sufficient time to review the judge’s decision, we will determine our next steps.”

    Barnes did not say if Thornton officials plan to appeal this decision…

    Larimer County commissioners included Thornton’s lack of consideration of the Poudre River alternative in their initial denial. In Monday’s court decision, Jouard found the commissioners had no authority to deny the permit because Thornton officials didn’t explore that specific alternate path for the pipeline.

    However, Jouard upheld their decision because the application failed to meet multiple criteria.

    While disappointed with the court’s ruling, Barnes said Thornton agrees with the court’s decision that the county “exceeded their authority to require any consideration of a non-pipeline alternative such as sending Thornton’s water down the Poudre River.”

    Larimer County’s rejection of Thornton’s permit application applies only to the proposed path through unincorporated parts of the county. Thornton has intergovernmental agreements with Windsor and Timnath allowing pipeline construction and is crafting an agreement with Johnstown, Barnes previously told the Coloradoan.

    #Greeley irrigation company responds to ‘Fill the Love’ campaign to keep Lake Loveland — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Lake Loveland

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Max Levy):

    ‘We have shareholders, and when there’s high demand, they’re entitled to use the water.’

    As a citizen campaign presses elected officials to intervene in the depletion of Lake Loveland, the Greeley Loveland Irrigation Co. this week responded to criticisms and concerns about the water level in the city’s central lake.

    Lake Loveland was transformed from a natural depression into a man-made reservoir around 1900. Today, GLIC operates the lake and owns the land it covers, which fills up in April and May. The company starts delivering water to clients around June, and drainage stops at the end of the irrigation season, around October.

    When the lake is drained, parts of the lake bed may become exposed, generating aesthetic complaints from residents as well as clouds of airborne dust.

    Greeley Loveland Irrigation Co. general manager Dan Kammerzell said Thursday that the lake was then 38% full, or about 20 feet deep at its deepest point (he said if the lake was filled enough to reach the edge of the landscaped area next to U.S. 34, it would be about 42 feet deep).

    He said he believes the frustrations fueling the recent Fill the Love campaign are due to a “misunderstanding” of the fact that the lake is a water storage resource. He added that water levels have always fluctuated with the piping of water to the company’s clients in Weld County…

    After a regular meeting of the company’s governing board on Wednesday, Kammerzell declined to answer additional questions about levels relative to past years but sent the newspaper a statement in which he said the lake is generally around 40% full when drainage stops in the fall.

    He added in the statement that one factor causing levels to drop in recent years was a 2018 decree by the Northern Water Conservancy District limiting how Colorado-Big Thompson water may be stored…

    In 2018, a rule introduced by the district ensured that project partners would only be able to store C-BT water if the water was released and used the same year, Kammerzell wrote. Greeley previously stored about 5,000 acre-feet of C-BT water in the Lake Loveland, a significant share of the lake’s 12,000-13,000 acre feet of storage capacity, but has since stopped…

    Loveland Water and Power director Joe Bernosky and City Manager Steve Adams sent a memo to the City Council last week laying out the city’s analysis the problem of “fugitive windborne sand” blowing off of the lake bed,

    Council members last held a closed-door meeting on Jan. 19 to talk about the water level of the lake as well as threats of lawsuits from nearby property owners because of the blowing dust. Loveland owns rights to less than 1% of the water and uses it to irrigate city parkland.

    The memo states that water levels were lower in 2018-19, when Greeley and GLIC were working on the hydraulic gates that allow filling and drainage of the lake.

    A 2020 analysis by Loveland Water and Power’s Water Quality Laboratory shows the dust is primarily comprised of quartz, making up about 60% of the material by weight on the north side of the lake and 56% to the south.

    The lab also tested the sediment for potentially toxic chemicals such as aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and iron, but “none were detected at concentrations of concern.” Further analysis showed that less than 5% of the lake bed dust was 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller — small enough to be breathable…

    Ultimately, the memo dismisses the possibility that the city could regulate the problem on its own or add its own water to the lake to cover more of the sand.

    It recommends that “the Lake Loveland Recreation Club Inc. and affected lakefront residents work with the GLIC to implement lake bed controls such as silt fences or roughening the surface through harrowing or chiseling” to stop the dust from becoming airborne.

    Save the Poudre, No Pipe Dream and Save Rural NoCo are suing the Larimer County Board of Commissioners to contest the board’s approval of the 1041 permit for the #NISP — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    The lawsuit, filed in Larimer County District Court, contends that former commissioners Steve Johnson and Tom Donnelly were biased in favor of the project and shouldn’t have voted on the 1041 permit. The suit also argues that commissioners’ 2-1 approval of the permit in September violated criteria of Larimer County’s land use code…

    The lawsuit argues that Johnson and Donnelly demonstrated bias in several ways, citing a photo of Donnelly speaking at a “Farmers for NISP” event and an online news release from NISP proponent Northern Water reading “Larimer County Commissioners support NISP.”

    The complaint also references August 2019 text messages from Donnelly to Northern Water spokesperson Jeff Stahla that read, according to the lawsuit: “You guys are getting ready to blow this deal …” and “Northern has no idea what is in store for them if they let this slide into the next boards (sic) term.”

    Stahla told the Coloradoan that Donnelly “reached out to me … when we were in the middle of the (intergovernmental agreement) process.” The county and Northern Water had been drafting an intergovernmental agreement to cover the siting of Glade Reservoir and associated pipelines before they pivoted to the 1041 permitting process.

    “… at that point, we were having open discussions with commissioners regarding this project, so we had not yet moved into” the 1041 part of the project, Stahla said on Tuesday…

    Stahla, the Northern Water spokesperson, said the NISP 1041 permit application was robust and addressed all the county’s criteria…

    He also noted that the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission in December rejected Save the Poudre’s appeal of the state water quality certification. That certification addresses NISP’s anticipated impacts on Poudre River water quality and includes 30 conditions.

    He added that it wouldn’t be appropriate for the new class of commissioners to reconsider NISP’s 1041 permit.

    “If you file a permit application and county staff recommends approval, the county planning commission recommends approval, and then you get approved by the county commissioners — well then, how far down the road can you have all of those votes changed at a long future date?” Stahla said. “We felt that we met the criteria, and the commissioners, acting in their role properly, approved the application for a 1041 permit, and so we feel we have our permit.”

    […]

    Karen Wagner of lawsuit co-plaintiff No Pipe Dream told the Coloradoan that the group had hoped the commissioners would apply their 1041 criteria as thoroughly as they did in their ruling on the proposed Thornton pipeline permit — which commissioners rejected after heavy opposition from No Pipe Dream…

    While the county 1041 permit is an integral milestone for the project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to issue a final record of decision on NISP. That decision is expected in the first quarter of 2021 after years of delays, Stahla said. The Army Corps’ decision could also be contested in court.

    No Pipe Dream, Save Rural NoCo Corp. and Save the Poudre challenge Larimer County’s #NISP decision in court — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

    U.S. Highway 287 runs through the future site of Glade Reservoir. The Larimer county Board of County Commissioners approved the 1041 Land Use Permit for NISP in September, 2020. Photo credit: Northern Water

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    No Pipe Dream, Save Rural NoCo Corp. and Save the Poudre filed a lawsuit in 8th Judicial District Court last week against the county commissioners, naming former commissioners Tom Donnelly and Steve Johnson specifically, as well as the NISP Water Activity Enterprise.

    The lawsuit asks the judge to reverse the decision to grant a 1041 permit for the project, throw it out or send it back to the Larimer County Board of Commissioners for a new hearing.

    It targets Johnson and Donnelly, the two yes votes in a split decision, saying that both Republican commissioners, who have since left office, should not have voted on the permit because of a “decade-long” record of advocacy and support for the proposed reservoir project.

    And the suit also offers 44 examples of why the organizations believe the permit exceeded the county’s jurisdiction or abused its discretion, ranging from decisions around streamflow to pipeline routes to the number of alternatives considered.

    The suit claims that the commissioners did not adequately look at the overall picture of how the project would affect residents, the environment, wildlife and the Cache la Poudre River…

    Jeff Stahla, spokesman for Northern Water, pointed out that county staff members and the nonpartisan appointed Larimer County Planning Commission recommended approval of the permit based on the county’s regulations and the specific criteria that county officials were required to consider.

    “We’re confident that the strength of the entire permitting process, local, state and federal, will prevail,” said Stahla…

    “Basically the lawsuit is total crap,” Johnson responded in a text message. “Tom (Donnelly) and I were no more biased in favor of the project than John (Kefalas) was biased against the project. But as we said in the hearing, we put aside all of our opinions of the project and commented completely and exclusively on the criteria in the land use code.

    “I am confident the county will have no problem defending the propriety of our actions,” he said.

    Stahla pointed out that Save the Poudre also appealed the state water quality certification that was granted for the project, and the Colorado Water Quality Control Division rejected that challenge.

    He added, “We look at this as another attempt to delay an important project for the long-term water supply in Northern Colorado.”

    #CameronPeakFire’s threat to #PoudreRiver a concern for #FortCollins water supply — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):

    Mesmerized by miles of mountainsides of blackened trees and seared soil that hugs the banks of the upper Poudre River, it’s difficult not to reflect on the 2012 High Park Fire and 2013 flood.

    You can’t help but wonder, given the steepness of the slopes and the severity of the riverside scar left by the Cameron Peak Fire, if Northern Colorado is poised for a repeat of history regarding the Poudre River.

    Come spring, snowmelt, rainfall and potential flash floods are almost certain to wash large amounts of ash from Colorado’s largest wildfire, soil and even entire trees into the river that serves as a source of drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people in Fort Collins and the surrounding area…

    A recent Burned Area Emergency Response assessment for the Cameron Peak Fire indicated a 90% to 100% chance that water quality would be impacted by ash- and sediment-laden runoff, nutrient loading and potential debris flows within the first few years following the fire.

    And that’s only the half of it.

    Fort Collins receives half of its water from the Poudre River and the other half from Horsetooth Reservoir, whose water quality could be impacted by the East Troublesome Fire in Grand County.

    An assessment for the East Troublesome Fire estimated 53% of the burn area suffered moderate (48%) or high (5%) soil burn severity compared to 36% — 30% moderate and 6% high — for the Cameron Peak Fire. The Cameron Peak Fire assessment also showed more than half the soil tested to be repellent to water absorption…

    By the time the 112-day Cameron Peak Fire’s flames were finally extinguished on Dec. 2, a watershed recovery collaboration of area municipalities, Larimer County, federal and state agencies, water providers and organizations such as the coalition, was already meeting to start planning efforts to address the fire’s impact.

    This isn’t the first fire for many of those stakeholders, and lessons learned from the High Park Fire are helping the group quickly prepare for this spring’s impacts.

    That being said, the Cameron Peak Fire was more than twice the size of the High Park Fire and paired with the 193,812-acre East Troublesome Fire — the second-largest wildfire in state history — delivered a massive one-two punch to several watersheds, making recovery even more daunting…

    Mark Kempton, the city of Fort Collins’ interim deputy director of Water Resources and Treatment, said the city has implemented steps since the High Park Fire to better equip it to handle the after-effects of a major fire.

    He said the city has installed warning systems along the Poudre River that alert it several hours ahead of water turbidity issues so workers can turn off the water supply. When the city turns off the Poudre River supply, it can draw on Horsetooth Reservoir water. That was the case for 100 days during the High Park Fire.

    The High Park Fire taught recovery leaders to include the use of shredded tree mulch instead of straw mulch to better prevent the mulch from blowing away for soil and slope stabilization. Strategically increasing culvert size also reduced damage to roads.

    Kempton said another key component will be workers removing sediment by flushing the water treatment system more often and removing sediment from the river intake system and catch basins.

    #CameronPeakFire assessment contains sobering news for watershed, recreation — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):

    Two assessments conducted by Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests officials offered a sobering look into the devastation the Cameron Peak Fire left on Larimer County’s landscape and recreational sites.

    The Burned Area Emergency Response studies were released Dec. 17 as part of the initial fire recovery process.

    While the Cameron Peak Fire had a fire perimeter that enclosed nearly 209,000 acres, the impacts on the landscape by the largest wildfire in Colorado history varied widely, ranging from swaths that went unscathed to areas that were severely burned.

    The survey showed an estimated 36% of the area within the Cameron Peak Fire perimeter suffered high (6%) or moderate (30%) soil burn severity. That indicates an increased risk of erosion and flooding caused by the soil being less able to absorb moisture, along with a lack of vegetation to absorb water and roots to stabilize the soil…

    Another 44% of the area suffered low burn severity and 20% was unburned.

    The assessment said determining soil hydrophobicity, or the ability to repel water, was hampered by snowfall during the assessments. However, it estimated 55% of the burn area could contain water-repellant soil.

    The assessment said there is a 90% to 100% chance that water quality would be impacted by post-fire ash and sediment-laden runoff, nutrient loading and potential debris flows within the first few years following the fire.

    Options to reduce the impacts to stream flows, soil erosion and debris flows are limited due to the nature of the burn and slope characteristics, the assessment noted. It stated treatment recommendations should focus on minimizing life/safety threats and damage to property through road and trail closures, trail stabilization, campground treatments and warning signs.

    A burnt sign on Larimer County Road 103 near Chambers Lake. The fire started in the area near Cameron Peak, which it is named after. The fire burned over 200,000 acres during its three-month run. Photo courtesy of Kate Stahla via the University of Northern Colorado

    Given all the recreational sites in or near the burn area, the assessment said the consequences for potential impacts on life and safety are “major.”

    Where it burned hottest

    Soil burn severity is the result of fire progression and intensity. The longer the fire remains in an area, the higher the likelihood of high and moderate soil burn impacts. Areas burned during large runs from the wind-driven fire generally suffered lower soil burn severities due to the fire moving more through the tree canopy than on the ground.

    The assessment’s soil burn severity map shows the area around the starting point on the west side of the fire near Chambers Lake suffered high soil burn severities. Other high soil severity burn areas occurred north of the Colorado State University Mountain Campus east into the Buckhorn Road area and in the northern section of Rocky Mountain National Park.

    The Thompson Zone of the East Troublesome Fire that burned over the Continental Divide to near Estes Park burned mostly in the low to moderate category.

    Most of the fire’s rapid growth was driven by high winds usually preceding precipitation events, mostly snow. The map shows the area to the east of the fire’s initial starting point suffered low soil burn severities during such an event.

    Cameron Peak Soil Burn Severity map. Map credit: Roosevelt National Forest

    When #Wildfire Burns A High Mountain Forest, What Happens To The Snow? — KUNC

    A burnt sign on Larimer County Road 103 near Chambers Lake. The fire started in the area near Cameron Peak, which it is named after. The fire burned over 200,000 acres during its three-month run. Photo courtesy of Kate Stahla via the University of Northern Colorado

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    To understand, and possibly predict what happens after a river’s headwaters goes up in flames, researchers are descending on newly created burn scars across the West to gather data in the hopes of lessening some of the impacts on drinking water systems.

    On a sunny winter morning, a team of researchers led by Colorado State University hydrologist Stephanie Kampf roamed through the steep drainage of Tunnel Creek, a tributary to the Poudre River. Much of the creek burned this summer and fall during the Cameron Peak Fire west of Fort Collins, Colorado…

    For more than an hour and a half, Kampf’s team searched for a flat spot to construct a temporary weather station. The university received a National Science Foundation grant to put instruments into the field quickly, before snows began to accumulate in the burned area. At more than 208,000 acres, the burn scar is the state’s largest on record.

    Two other nearby fires broke size records in 2020 as well. In late October the East Troublesome Fire exploded near the headwaters of the Colorado River, burning 193,812 acres, killing two people and causing thousands to flee their homes. To the north, the Mullen Fire on the Colorado-Wyoming border topped out at 176,878 acres. Downstream on the Colorado River, the Grizzly Creek Fire torched 32,631 acres in and around Glenwood Canyon. And in the Book Cliffs north of Grand Junction, Colorado, the Pine Gulch Fire burned nearly 140,000 acres.

    In the case of Cameron Peak, which acts as the headwaters for the Poudre River, Kampf and her colleagues want to know: what happens to the snow that falls on a burned area this high in elevation and this big?

    “Some of these streams have burned so much, like the whole riparian zone is burned. And so there’s nothing alive at all,” Kampf said…

    Existing research shows fires can affect snowpack in different ways. With fewer trees, and without their full, bushy branches, more snow tends to accumulate on the ground. Snow that’s caught in trees often blows off or turns immediately to vapor. So when a wildfire moves through a forest, scientists say to expect more snow to pile up on the ground.

    But the lack of tree cover also causes that accumulated snow to behave differently. Without a shaded canopy above it, the snow is more exposed to the sun, and in the spring, melting can become erratic. Mid-winter melting can occur, which means a lessened runoff come spring.

    These general findings can change, depending on the type of forest that burned, the direction the burned slope is facing, and the severity of the burn in that area…

    Studies of dust on snow have shown its dramatic effect on the timing of snowmelt. The same is true of snow that’s been mixed with charred debris and smoke particles, [Anne] Nolin said. “All that black guck on the snow makes it melt a lot faster,” she said.

    A mis-matched timing of snowmelt makes the job of reservoir management much harder, Nolin said. Many water providers use long-term models to gauge when to release and store water. A burned drainage area makes those historical data less reliable…

    With water supply margins already tight in many portions of the West, Boisrame said, water providers, agriculturalists and environmental groups are realizing, “that we actually need to know” the detailed effects of how each individual burn scar will affect the water cycle.

    That’s because no two fires are alike. Depending on weather and fuel loads, each fire burns a landscape with varying severity. And that severity matters, not just for forest recovery, but also for water quality immediately following it, said Ben Livneh, a University of Colorado-Boulder engineering professor.

    “The most severe impacts actually come from moderate severity fires,” Livneh said.

    In fires with lots of high severity burn, much of the vegetation is completely combusted. Dissolved organic carbon can be one of the biggest headaches for water treatment facilities following a fire. Treating it can also result in byproducts found to be carcinogenic, Livneh said. But if there’s not much organic material left in a burned area — because it all burned — it doesn’t cause as many problems.

    “And so maybe somewhat counterintuitively, the most severe fires aren’t necessarily the most damaging, at least from a water treatment and water quality perspective,” Livneh said.

    Research has shown too that forest management can play a big role in lessening the impacts of fire on water systems. The Desert Research Institute’s Boisrame looked closely at one creek in Yosemite National Park. In that watershed, land managers have been more hands-off with fire suppression, and allowed smaller fires to burn more frequently…

    One hurdle in understanding the relationship of burn scars and snowpack is that it’s a challenge to get good data from such dynamic environments. Landslides and floods after a fire can destroy scientific instruments.

    That was top of mind for Colorado State University’s Kampf as she traversed the Cameron Peak burn scar. Finding a site for a weather station is like looking for a proper campsite. Researchers want something flat, on stable ground and free from large hazards like falling rocks and trees. That’s often hard to find in a recently burned forest…

    The weather station along Tunnel Creek will be compared to another site untouched by fire. Other stations will look at impacts at higher and lower elevations. They’re likely to collect data on soil moisture, solar radiation and precipitation for the next three to four years, Kampf said, though long-term funding hasn’t yet been secured.

    Larimer County approves development agreement for #NISP — The #Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Haystack rock near LaPorte. Photo credit: Active Rain

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    Larimer County has approved a development agreement that delves into details surrounding construction of certain aspects of the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

    The county commissioners on Tuesday voted 2-1 to approve the agreement with the Northern Integrated Supply Project Water Activity Enterprise, putting into writing some of the specific requirements that the elected board had put into place earlier in approving a 1041 permit for the water supply project…

    The agreement focuses on recreational facilities for Glade Reservoir, and the amount of money Northern Water committed to that piece, as well as pipeline details, environmental mitigations and requirements surrounding the relocation of U.S. 287.

    It puts in writing that the county will be involved in construction meetings and inspections and lays out some safety requirements.

    “This agreement really protects the interest of Larimer County … whether one supports this project or not,” said Commissioner Steve Johnson, who along with Commissioner Tom Donnelly voted to approve the development agreement. (Both commissioners also voted in September to grant the 1041 permit, which allows the county some input on certain aspects of this water storage and pipeline project.)

    The county does not have final say over whether the Northern Integrated Supply Project will be built. That approval would come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the federal agency’s decision is expected soon, following more than a decadelong environmental process.

    Johnson stressed that the county does not have final say but that he wants to have some say on safety, recreation and construction that will affect residents…

    Larimer County has agreed to manage the recreation on and around Glade Reservoir, with Northern Water committing to $20.6 million for recreational facilities and with either the county or another yet-to-be-identified partner bringing $3.775 million to the table.

    The money would cover parking lots, boat ramps, a visitors center, camping areas and environmental mitigations at the reservoir and on the surrounding land.

    Commissioner John Kefalas, the sole Democrat on the board and the lone vote against the 1041 permit in September, also voted against the development agreement Tuesday. He said he understands the purpose is to describe the water developer’s obligations to the county and “to enhance the general welfare of the county,” but that he had concerns about some pieces of the agreement and could not vote in favor of it without further information.

    The development agreement was included on the consent agenda at the commissioners’ weekly administrative matters meeting. The consent agenda typically is a list of actions approved without discussion and all by a single vote. Kefalas moved the item from that single vote so the board could discuss it.

    “My rationale for pulling this item from the consent agenda is first to highlight that approval of the NISP project is indeed one of the most significant decisions made by this board of county commissioners, one that will impact Larimer County and future generations in many ways,” Kefalas said. “As such, this development merits public attention and scrutiny and, from my perspective, it is necessary for the people to see how this NISP agreement seeks to mitigate the potential unintended consequences of the proposed Glade Reservoir.”

    He also expressed “serious concerns” about the overall project and said two provisions in the agreement add to those worries. He highlighted wording in the agreement that stresses that recreation is a secondary use to the water supply and that Northern Water, which will manage the project, may vary water levels and may modify design and location, at its sole discretion, for operations, maintenance or other issues to prioritize water supply over recreational uses.

    “So I ask the question: What will happen to the recreational benefits of the NISP project if it takes 10 years to fill the reservoir perhaps due to higher temperatures, extended droughts and reduced snowpack?” Kefalas said. “Without a science-based answer to this question today, I cannot support this NISP development agreement.”

    Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

    Historic #Colorado Wildfire Season Could Impact Drinking #Water — CBS #Denver

    From CBS Denver (Dillon Thomas):

    The historic wildfire season of 2020 could impact drinking water for more than a million Colorado residents. Environmental researchers and natural resource specialists have conducted a BAER Survey, which stands for Burned Area Emergency Response.

    The survey evaluated how the record-breaking Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires could impact Colorado’s snowpack and watershed.

    The Colorado Big Thompson Project, which Northern Water operates for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, lies between the Cameron Peak fire, shown at the top of the map, and the East Troublesome Fire, shown at the bottom left. Credit: U.S. Forest Service

    The Poudre and Upper Colorado River Basins provide drinking water for more than a million people in northern Colorado, and soon those in Thornton. The Colorado River also flows from Willow Creek Reservoir near Granby to Las Vegas and farther southwest.

    The months-long battle with both blazes charred the natural filters along rivers and creeks, which eventually provide drinking water for most of the northern front range.

    “Our concerns really are actually about the entire watershed,” said Jeff Stahla, spokesperson for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    In an interview with CBS4’s Logan Smith, Stahla said the approach to preserving and protecting the watershed in the years to come was directly altered by the High Park Fire of 2012, where researchers learned what to do and what not to do.

    A helicopter drops water on the Cameron Peak Fire near CSU’s Mountain Campus. Photo credit: Colorado State University

    For example, pulling undersized culverts and digging water bars is more effective than reseeding or spreading hay bales.

    “This is something you won’t be able to resolve by dropping seeds from a helicopter, the scale is so large,” Stahla said. “The concern is that if there is a large weather event that occurs over that area, that you will have uncontrolled removal of debris and sediment that will go in to our reservoirs.”

    Ecologist Heidi Steltzer evaluates the site of a 2018 wildfire within 10 miles of her Colorado home. Changes in snow affect the disturbance regime of U.S. mountain regions. (Credit: Joel Dyar)

    During the fires of 2020, water conservation experts monitored how the burn scar could impact drinking water.

    “We recognized that it was no longer just a small localized event, but it was something that would effect the entire Upper Colorado River shed,” Stahla said.

    Due to the extended period the fires burned, especially the Cameron Peak Fire, not every area of the burn scars impact nearby rivers and streams equally. While some portions of the terrain were significantly burned with hot fire that “resided” in the same spot for an extended period, others were more fortunate.

    The East Troublesome fire as seen from Cottonwood Pass looking north on the evening of Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020. (Andrew Lussie via InciWeb via The Colorado Sun)

    Stahla said many local water districts are now teaming up to help protect the health of the watershed in the years to come. By unifying and prioritizing the health of the water system as a whole, Stahla said the strength of the landscape and watershed can bounce back quicker…

    Researchers hope to return to the burn scars in the spring once snow has melted to evaluate next steps. Local municipalities are working with the Bureau of Reclamation to expedite the process.

    A US District Court judge has ruled in favor of the Windy Gap Firming Project, clearing the way for construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir — @Northern_Water #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Here’s the release from Northern Water (Jeff Stahla):

    A United States District Court judge has ruled in favor of the Windy Gap Firming Project, clearing the way for construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir near Berthoud. This ruling should also make it possible to move forward with environmental mitigation and enhancements related to the project, including construction of the Colorado River Connectivity Channel near Granby.

    Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich dismissed a 2017 lawsuit filed by environmental groups led by Save the Colorado against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers. The ruling holds that those federal agencies complied with federal law in issuing a Record of Decision that authorizes the Windy Gap Firming Project.

    The Windy Gap Firming Project includes the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir, which will be located in a dry valley just west of Carter Lake in southwest Larimer County. The reservoir will store 90,000 acre-feet of water from the Windy Gap Project for use by 12 participants, including Broomfield, Platte River Power Authority, Longmont, Loveland, Greeley, Erie, Little Thompson Water District, Superior, Louisville, Fort Lupton, Lafayette and the Central Weld County Water District. Chimney Hollow Reservoir will make the Windy Gap water supply serving those participants more reliable and help them meet a portion of their long-term water supply needs. Each participant has also enacted a water conservation plan to comply with the Record of Decision.

    Environmental measures related to the Project also include the Colorado River Connectivity Channel, a newly proposed channel around Windy Gap Reservoir to reconnect the Colorado River above and below the reservoir. The channel will restore the ability for fish, macroinvertebrates, nutrients and sediment in the river to bypass the reservoir.

    The Record of Decision also mandates many other environmental protections, including improving streamflow and aquatic habitat, addressing water quality issues, providing West Slope water supplies and more. Northern Water and its Municipal Subdistrict negotiated with Colorado River stakeholders to develop this package of environmental protections and received a permit from Grand County and approvals from others, including Trout Unlimited and the State of Colorado, to move forward with the Project.

    Water storage such as Chimney Hollow Reservoir was specifically identified in the Colorado Water Plan as a necessary component for Colorado’s long-term water future. It joins conservation, land use planning and other solutions to meet future water needs in the state.

    “This ruling marks an important milestone for the participants in the Windy Gap Firming Project,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind. “Chimney Hollow Reservoir and the Colorado River Connectivity Channel will serve as examples of how statewide cooperation can produce water supply solutions and environmental improvements that benefit everyone.”

    Barnard Construction Co. Inc. has been chosen as the contractor to build Chimney Hollow Reservoir, and work will commence on the project in 2021. Design work is well under way for the Colorado River Connectivity Channel, and construction is anticipated to begin there in 2022.

    The Community Foundation of Northern #Colorado has launched a fund to help restore watersheds damaged during recent forest fires #wildfire

    Here’s the release from the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado:

    Bohemian Foundation to match first $250,000 for NoCoFires Fund

    Everyone loves a comeback story.

    Northern Colorado’s two primary watersheds – the Poudre and the Big Thompson – each face a long, hard recovery from the damage caused by our recent catastrophic wildfires.
    And with the support of the Bohemian Foundation, the NoCoFires Fund is working to get our vital rivers and streams back to sustaining wildlife, recreation, and agriculture, as well as supplying high-quality drinking water for 1,000,000 people.

    And with the support of the Bohemian Foundation, the NoCoFires Fund is working to get our vital rivers and streams back to sustaining wildlife, recreation, and agriculture, as well as supplying high-quality drinking water for 1,000,000 people.

    Here’s how it will work:

  • Bohemian Foundation has pledged to match the first $250,000 in donations made to the NoCoFires Fund.
  • Using that initial funding, the Community Foundation will leverage additional grant dollars from private, state, and federal sources.
  • The long-term goal for the NoCoFires Fund is to raise $1 million for continuing watershed restoration needs.
  • “The investment we can make together in NoCoFires Fund will have positive impacts for decades,” said Bohemian Foundation Executive Director Cheryl Zimlich. “This Community Foundation fund supports erosion control efforts that mitigate further degradation, as well as long-term restoration of vegetation and water quality. With this matching grant, we are standing with many generous Coloradans and the Community Foundation to help our region begin to heal.”

    Early estimates show that mitigation in the Poudre River watershed alone will cost around $50 million. Cameron Peak and East Troublesome Fire, the two largest wildfires in Colorado history, together burned over 400,000 acres that impact both Poudre and Big Thompson watersheds and communities downstream.

    “We’re gratified that Bohemian Foundation has signed on to match the first $250,000 raised, which we hope to further leverage into additional grant dollars; our goal is to raise $1 million,” said Mark Driscoll, chair of Community Foundation Board of Trustees.

    One Community Foundation partner is the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which is headed by Executive Director Dan Gibbs.

    In October, Gibbs was one of the 1,400 firefighters called to fight the Cameron Peak wildfire. “This was perhaps my most intense deployment in over 13 years,” Gibbs said. “The Cameron Peak wildfire burned some of our most pristine watersheds that will require both emergency protection and long-term restoration to protect our water supplies, mitigate flood threats, and preserve the outdoor economic engines Coloradoans depend on. I’m grateful for the Community Foundation’s support. These dollars fill a crucial need to support communities that are already experiencing economic stress by funding emergency protection efforts and assisting with local cost-shares that can leverage additional funding through recovery grants.”

    Another organization deeply affected by the damage to the watershed is the city of Greeley, which draws a large percentage of its water from the Poudre. Sean Chambers, director of water and sewer at the city of Greeley, hailed the attention paid to the restoration effort.

    “We are working with Larimer County to develop a watershed-scale burn assessment, and with the U.S. Forest Service on plans and permits for post-fire mitigation to protect water quality that will also protect infrastructure and habitat,” Chambers said. “A small amount of mitigation work is under way, but much work lies ahead. Stakeholders need to align with resources to prevent fire debris and sediment loading in Northern Colorado streams, rivers, wetlands, and water supply reservoirs.”

    It’s time to focus on mitigation, address the critical needs, and begin long-term recovery work. The Community Foundation has the track record, leadership, and relationships to positively impact Northern Colorado.

    Find details about how you can help the rivers make a comeback at nocofoundation.org/fires/.

    Breakout box

    Cameron Peak Fire impacts

  • 1,000+ river miles
  • 124+ trail miles
  • 40,000+ acres of designated Wilderness Areas
  • 32 miles of Wild and Scenic River corridor
  • Three watersheds
  • Five reservoirs that store and deliver water to the Front Range for agriculture and
    drinking water
  • 16 mountain communities and neighborhoods in the burn area or immediately
    adjacent to it
  • 185,000 irrigated acres rely on the Poudre River
  • Data source: Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed

    The Community Foundation of Northern Colorado has a 45-year history as a catalyst for community projects and as a service provider to philanthropists and nonprofit organizations. Through our flagship program, the Hach Center for Regional Engagement, we bring people together to collaborate on important issues – such as water – and lead visionary community initiatives for our region. nocofoundation.org.

    @ColoradoStateU team lands NSF award to study streams, #snowpack in #CameronPeakFire area

    The Cameron Peak Fire burns on the ridge between Beaver Creek and the south fork of the Cache la Poudre River one mile east of
    Colorado State University’s Mountain Campus, in mid-October. Photos: William A. Cotton/CSU Photography

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Mary Guiden):

    A team of scientists at Colorado State University has received an award of nearly $50,000 from the National Science Foundation to study snowpack, streams and sediment in waterways in the areas affected by the largest wildfire in Colorado history.

    Stephanie Kampf, principal investigator and a professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, said the team came up with the study concept as they watched the Cameron Peak Fire begin to burn northwest of Fort Collins in August 2020.

    The fire was at 92% containment as of Nov. 18.

    “Given that the fire was burning in our local watershed, everyone is curious about what would happen with our waterways,” she said. “The Cameron Peak Fire has been unique, since it started at and burned a large area at high elevation.”

    Kampf said the fire is the fifth largest in a high-elevation persistent snow zone in the Western United States since 1984.

    “As researchers started looking for examples of other high-elevation fire studies, we realized that not much research has been conducted,” she said.

    CSU Assistant Professor Sean Gallen and Professor Sara Rathburn, Department of Geosciences, and Assistant Professor Ryan Morrison, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, are co-investigators on this project. Kampf said that scientists from the United States Geological Survey will also collaborate on the research.

    Historic wildfire provides unique research opportunity

    A helicopter drops water on the Cameron Peak Fire near CSU’s Mountain Campus. Photo credit: Colorado State University

    Morrison, who will study how stream channels and floodplains in the Cache la Poudre River basin are impacted by changes in sediment transport and flow after the fire, agreed that the Cameron Peak Fire had unique aspects to study.

    “The Cameron Peak Fire in northern Colorado has burned nearly 20% of the upper Cache la Poudre River basin, which supplies water to meet municipal and agricultural needs in the region,” he said. “The fire has also expanded to lower elevations, burning both transitional and intermittent snow zones.”

    Morrison said water providers, including cities in northern Colorado, are concerned about the impacts of erosion on streams and reservoirs. Snowpack is crucial for the water supply in Colorado.

    “This project will collect critical data for the first snow accumulation and melt season after the fire to address how the fire affects snow processes, flow paths and sediment movement,” he said.

    Kampf said previous research on the impacts of wildfires on snowpack have been quite variable.

    “When there’s a fire, we can see increased snow accumulation, due to fewer trees intercepting the snow,” she said. “But this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes greater exposure of the snow to the sun leads to lower snowpack after fire.”

    And while snow melt doesn’t usually create high elevation snow hazards, Kampf said it’s possible that having greater snowpack in the burn area may cause other hazards like debris flows.

    The research team only recently received approval to go into the burn area and begin field work. They hope to complete as much research as possible before there’s a lot more snow on the ground.
    Additional researchers on this project at CSU include Paul Evangelista and Tony Vorster (Natural Resource Ecology Lab), Dan McGrath and Ellen Wohl (Department of Geosciences), Peter Nelson (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Steven Fassnacht (Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability), and Kristen Rasmussen (Department of Atmospheric Science).

    #Thornton warns of looming #water shortage that could hamper long-term growth in the northern suburb — The #Denver Post

    From The Denver Post (John Aguilar):

    …city leaders say they are increasingly frustrated by Larimer County’s unwillingness to let them build a critical pipeline that would carry the water from the Cache La Poudre River near Fort Collins to Thornton — so much so that they have started alerting developers that the city may have to stop issuing building permits.

    The new language warns that “the City does not guarantee capacity in its water or wastewater systems for proposed or future developments.”

    Among the projects at stake for the state’s 6th largest city is dense multi-family housing planned around new N-Line rail stations that just went operational in September.

    That’s frustrating to Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, who points to the thousands of acre-feet of water the city owns free and clear in the Cache La Poudre River northwest of Fort Collins — water rights it purchased more than three decades ago…

    The answer goes back to February 2019, when the Larimer County commissioners unanimously voted to deny Thornton a permit for a 72-mile-long pipeline the city wants to install to carry that water to this suburb of 140,000. Jeff Coder, Thornton’s deputy city manager of city development, said the denial essentially holds Thornton’s growth plans “hostage.”

    The city has enough water in its portfolio to supply 5,000 additional housing units, he said, or approximately 160,000 residents. The city’s long-term vision is for a population of 240,000 by 2065.

    While no builders have pulled out of the city, Coder said, that day may not be far away. Maybe as soon as 2024 or 2025, he said.

    “It’s understandably creating a great deal of concern,” he said. “In fairness to those who are making significant investments in our community, we don’t want someone who has gone through the approvals process expecting to get a building permit to have us at the last minute tell them we can’t because of this water issue.”

    We want to prepare people for a worst-case scenario.”

    […]

    Fort Collins community members kayak and sit on the shore of the Poudre River during the grand opening of the Poudre River Whitewater Park off of North College and Vine Drive Oct. 12. (Alyssa Uhl | The Collegian)

    The obvious solution, [Gary Wockner] said, is for Thornton to let its water flow down the Poudre through Fort Collins — “use the river as a conveyance” — and take it out further downstream near Windsor, obviating the need for a $450 million pipe that will require trenching and burial across 26 miles of Larimer County…

    The city counters that allowing its share of water to flow through Fort Collins — and past several water treatment facilities — would severely degrade its quality and cost the city dearly to clean it. Emily Hunt, deputy infrastructure director for Thornton, said the river option was merely one of a number of alternatives the city put on the table as it was firming up plans to access its water.

    “We specifically picked a site that was above urban impacts and the price we paid reflected that,” she said. “If we wanted a low-quality source that we clean up later, we could have done that and paid less money.”

    According to the city, Thornton paid $578 million for 289 shares of water and storage rights in the Poudre River, along with $92 million for more than 18,000 acres of farmland in Larimer and Weld counties, where it has been sending its Poudre shares by ditch over the last 30 or so years.

    But that level of investment wasn’t enough to sway the commissioners in Larimer County last year.

    Outgoing Commissioner Steve Johnson said then that the proposed 48-inch diameter pipe, which would run across the northern edge of Fort Collins to Interstate 25 before turning south toward Thornton, ranked as one of the most contentious issues he had ever seen raised in the county.

    But just this past September, the same commissioners voted 2-1 to approve a 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a controversial $1.1 billion water storage initiative that would create Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and a second reservoir out on the eastern plains.

    It also involves several water pipelines running through Larimer County.

    Thornton recently included the NISP approval in its court filings appealing Larimer County’s denial of its pipeline project, citing it as evidence that the commissioners’ 2019 decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

    Fort Collins Utilities raising water rates 2%, electricity rates 3% in 2021 — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    The Cameron Peak fire soon after it started on Aug. 13, 2020. By Sept. 11, the fire had grown to more than 102,000 acres (now >200,000 acres) and was not expected to be considered out until Oct. 31. Photo credit: InciWeb via The Colorado Sun

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Fort Collins City Council members approved the rate increases, 3% for electricity and 2% for water, with some hesitation in light of COVID-19’s continued economic impacts on the community. For the typical household in Fort Collins, the rate increase will mean an average monthly increase of $2.36 for electricity and $0.96 for water.

    Several council members said the city should consider a possible moratorium on service shut-offs if COVID-19 risk factors trigger another stay-at-home order. Cases and hospitalizations continue to mount in Larimer County, and the health department elevated restrictions on public gatherings Wednesday.

    Fort Collins Utilities recently notified about 4,000 customers that service shut-offs will resume after Nov. 13. The city is encouraging residents and businesses to apply for financial assistance with their bill or set up a payment plan…

    The 3% electricity rate increase will cover a bump in wholesale power costs and bolster Utilities reserves to prepare for future capital improvements. The 2% water rate increase is a result of the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome wildfires, which have ripped across Fort Collins’ watershed and are expected to cost the city between $1 million and $4.3 million in mitigation costs…

    The city had planned to request a 2% water rate increase for 2022, but moved it ahead one year because of the fire, said Lance Smith, Utilities strategic finance director. Utilities is likely to propose another modest rate increase for 2022.

    The Cameron Peak Fire, approaching full containment at nearly 209,000 acres, is the biggest fire in Colorado history. Utilities staff said earlier in October they expect its impact on the city’s water quality to be similar to the 2012 High Park Fire, which filled the Poudre River with ash, soil and sediment and infamously turned the stream black for a brief period. The 2013 flood eventually washed out much of the remaining debris, but city leaders consider it unlikely that Fort Collins will get another flood of that magnitude again soon…

    That means the Cameron Peak Fire’s fallout will probably persist for longer, degrading water quality in the river that makes up about 50% of Fort Collins’ water supply. The city’s share of post-fire recovery work will drain an estimated $1 million to $4.3 million from Utilities funds, and the projected 2021 rate increase will produce roughly $600,000 to offset that cost.

    Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell said he understands the necessity of the unexpected water rate increase given the “extraordinary” circumstances…

    The electricity rate increase will cover a 0.3% wholesale cost increase from Platte River Power Authority and partially address a gap between Utilities’ revenues and operating expenses. Utilities has also put a hiring freeze in place and won’t give salary increases in 2021 to address the gap between revenue and expenses…

    Council members agreed to approve the rate increases but keep the door open for future discussion about lingering utility rate issues. The time-of-day rate structure, which charges customers higher rates for electricity used during peak-use hours, has been in place for about two years. But council members are still hearing from residents who are dissatisfied with the perceived unfairness of the change and uncertain about how to navigate the rate structure without significantly disrupting their daily routines.

    Time-of-day rates, which use cost signals to flatten the community’s peak electricity demand, make “logical, connect-the-dots, engineering sense,” council member Ross Cunniff said, “but it has not made intuitive sense for most of our residents, and that’s risky.”

    Northern Front Range water supply safe in spite of fires — for now — The #Greeley Tribune

    Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

    From The Greeley Tribune (Cuyler Meade):

    …while a significant portion of the water supply that is held and accessed by the project that serves the northern Front Range communities is impacted by the fires, the water supply itself is not in danger.

    According to Jeff Stahla, public information officer for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District — or simply Northern Water — the near-term supply is fine.

    The decision to close off a tunnel — which transports water pumped from Lake Granby to Shadow Mountain Reservoir before traveling by gravity through the tunnel through Rocky Mountain National Park to Lake Estes and elsewhere, before eventually settling in Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake in Fort Collins and Loveland — will not impact the water supply that’s eventually drawn from those two reservoirs to supply much of Northern Water’s million-plus customers in Northern Colorado, including Greeley.

    That’s because, Stahla explained, the system is proactive. While new water will not be replenished quite according to the normal schedule in the Horsetooth and Carter Lake reservoirs, that water is, in essence, paying down a future withdrawal that won’t happen for a year or more…

    “The water coming out of your faucet now, if it’s this project’s water, was probably snow that fell in maybe 2018,” Stahla explained. “It ran off in spring of ’18 and filled up Lake Granby, and then around the end of 2018 into 2019, it would’ve been used to fill up reservoirs on the front range. That would’ve happened over winter of 2018-2019, and then it would’ve been in reservoirs all of 2019 and probably drawn out now in 2020. This project works on a multi-year cycle of gathering runoff, feeding reservoirs and serving the public.”

    The water is still in Lake Granby, but temporarily won’t be pumped up to Shadow Mountain because of concerns that the fire will impact the power supply to the pump at Lake Granby…

    However, that water is only a portion — a very sizable portion, close to half — of the water that is used by Greeley customers, according to city of Greeley water and sewer director Sean Chambers.

    And, truly incredibly, the other major sources of water, four in total, from which the city draws its 20,000 to 25,000 acre feet-per-year supply are also being impacted by these unfathomable wildfires.

    “We have water from four different river basins,” Chambers said. “We get water from the Poudre River Basin, that’s where the year-round treatment plan by Bellevue, northwest of For Collins is. The top of the Poudre is where the fire started. You go north and cross into Laramie River Basin — the Laramie flows north into Wyoming but we have a system of ditches and tunnels that brings water back into the Poudre. The fires burned a bit of the headwaters of the Laramie. We also get water from the Big Thompson Basin, and the Cameron Peak Fire spread southeast over the last ten days, blown over the ridge line and the divide into the Big Thompson Basin. And then the last basin is the Colorado River Basin, which is where the East Troublesome Fire comes from.”

    Chambers, marveling, called this phenomenon the first time “in recorded history” that this has happened, where all four major water sources are affected by fires at the same time…

    Further, while snow melt over burned land could well impact other water sources as well, there are plans in place, Chambers said.

    “When the High Park Fire happened, that fire had these post-precipitation water-quality events in the river, where Fort Collins and Greeley and others, who take water directly off the Poudre River for municipal treatment, we turned off our intakes and let the bad water go by, let the water quality improve. We can do that because of the beautiful supplemental supply in the Colorado Big Thompson project.”

    The flexibility requires planning, though, including, Chambers said, installing source-site filtration systems where snow runoff on its way the river systems are filtered prior to entering the water supply…

    In the immediate moment, though, the water supply even well into next year is in good shape, regardless of the fires Stahla said.

    “Not even just into early next year,” Stahla said. “Reservoirs are there for that kind of demand management that you can have some stocked away close to meet your needs. As of now, there’s no operational changes because of the wildfires to the water supply on the Northern Front Range. Those reservoirs will be refilled by next spring.”

    With 5 reservoirs in #CameronPeakFire burn area, #Greeley Water officials plan for erosion control — The Greeley Tribune

    From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):

    With five of Greeley’s six high mountain reservoirs in the burn area, erosion is expected to carry sediment into Greeley’s water supply. Left untreated, that could affect the city’s water quality. But officials are already planning to make sure that doesn’t happen.

    The Cameron Peak fire ignited on August 13 on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest near Cameron Pass and Chambers Lake. Credit: Inciweb

    “When fires burn, if they’re hot enough, they can actually burn underbrush and soil,” said Adam Jokerst, Greeley’s deputy director of Water Resources, adding that vegetation is burned up as well. “With the lack of the vegetation … you can get increased erosion when it rains or when the snow melts.”

    That erosion carries sediment into the Poudre River, which pulls water from the reservoirs to supply water for the city. Water with high sediment content can be harder to treat, Jokerst said, but it is possible to treat safely.

    For better or for worse, Jokerst said, Greeley water officials have a lot of experience handling erosion into the water supply after dealing with the impacts of the High Park Fire in 2012. That fire burned more than 87,000 acres, making it the sixth-largest in state history.

    There are at least a few steps to take to mitigate erosion impacts: aerial mulching, felling trees and adding flocculants during the treatment process. For aerial mulching, crews drop shredded wheat chips or straw from a helicopter. The mulch reduces erosion and helps with revegetation. Cutting down the burned trees and letting them fall into the gullies and rills — the channels created in the soil by water erosion — prevents stormwater and meltwater from carrying added erosion into the water supply.

    Jokerst said it’s common to see the water get murkier during the runoff season every year. To provide clean, clear drinking water when that happens, crews use more flocculants, which are chemicals that help to separate the water from the sediment, in the treatment process. If there’s very high sediment content at the Bellvue Treatment Plant, officials can turn off the plant so it stop pulling water from the Poudre, Jokerst said. The city can then use the Boyd Treatment Plant…

    If the fire keeps on into snowfall season in the winter, Jokerst said crews will have to wait until the spring to start on erosion control measures. Greeley officials are working with the city of Fort Collins, Northern Water and the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed, a nonprofit Jokerst said will be a key entity in the post-fire recovery.