#ColoradoRiver: The Grand River Ditch — Greg Hobbs #COriver

The Grand River Ditch

A State Engineer Map of 1907-8 shows the Grand River Ditch diverting from Water District 51, upper Colorado River drainage, across the Continental Divide into Water District 3 in the upper Poudre River drainage (shown in red middle left hand side); also showing Chambers Lake (upper left hand side of map)


July 20 inspection of Grand River Ditch led by Dennis Harmon, General Manager, Water Supply and Storage Company. From left to right Randy Gustafson (Water Rights Operation Manager, City of Greeley), Dennis Harmon, and Michael Welsh (Historian, University of Northern Colorado).


The Grand River Ditch has an appropriation date of 1890 for 524.6 c.f.s of water diverted from the Colorado River Basin to irrigate 40,000 acres of land in the Poudre Basin through the Larimer County Ditch. The water flow of the ditch is continuously measured at this gauging station on La Poudre Pass.


West of the Divide, the Grand River Ditch contours towards and around the Never Summer Range in Rocky Mountain National Park (established in 1915 after construction of the Grand River Ditch) for 14.77 miles to Baker Gulch.


A wetland at the western side La Poudre Pass,


gives birth to the baby Colorado River.


Discarded horse slip scrapers bolted together perhaps to armor the spillway of a small now-breached dam in the vicinity of the ditch.


The Grand River ditch is located above the Little Yellowstone Canyon with spectacular views of the Never Summer Range.



The mining town of Lulu City was located down in the valley where, not far beyond, Lake Granby now gathers water for delivery east to Northern Colorado through the Adams Tunnel.


In the early 21st Century a stretch of the Grand River Ditch was washed away and repaired. Rehabilitation of the mountainside is proceeding under supervision of the National Park Service. Water Supply and Storage Company contributed $9 million in settlement of NPS claims.




The easement Water Supply and Storage Company owns for the Grand River Ditch also serves as a hiking path along a number of gushing creeks.



The ditch is fitted with gates that are opened to bypass creek water after the summer season comes to a close.


The water flowing through La Poudre Pass drops into Long Draw Reservoir located in the Roosevelt National Forest east of the Continental Divide.


Moose and deer share wetland meadows of a long summer evening.



Water Supply and Storage Company stores Poudre River water in Chambers Reservoir.


Greg Hobbs and Dennis Harmon on the Continental Divide.


Greg Hobbs, July 20, 2016.

Cool photo of the week so far: Long Draw Reservoir spilling in 2010

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We love a good reservoir spilling photo here at Coyote Gulch. Here’s a picture of Long Draw Reservoir spilling in 2010. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a larger view.

Poudre River watershed: ‘The Poudre Runs Through It’ final installment — public dialogue — April 11

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From the editorial staff of the Northern Colorado Business Report:

The final public dialogue portion of the program will be held in two sessions in Fort Collins: Monday, April 11, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Timberline Church on South Timberline Road, and Saturday, April 16, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at The Drake Center on West Drake Road. These sessions, facilitated by CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation, will be where we all can discuss alternatives for Northern Colorado’s water future.

To prepare for the public deliberation and to see recordings from previous sessions of The Poudre Runs Through It, go online to www.univercityconnections.org/.

More Poudre River watershed coverage here.

‘Poudre runs through it’ forum recap

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

Mary Lou Smith, a policy and collaboration specialist with the Water Institute, said the main message of the forum was to get people with diverse opinions about the region’s water future talking together. “The message was it’s important for us to look at the various values we bring to the table when we look at the future of the water supply in this area,” she said. “We said how can we work together? That really set the tone.”[…]

Smith said the purpose of the forum was not to push any particular agenda as to how the region’s future water needs should be met. One ongoing controversial water issue in the region is whether Glade Reservoir – a proposed new storage project- should be built just outside Poudre Canyon. Smith said Glade may or may not be part of the solution. “There’s a whole portfolio of solutions, including storage,” she said. “This isn’t about building Glade – it’s much broader than that. It’s about realizing there are trade-offs and helping the public better understand how water law works and forming educated opinions.”

Three more educational sessions are set to continue the discussion on Feb. 24, March 10 and March 24. All three will be held in the Larimer Courthouse, 200 W. Oak St., from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.

‘Poudre runs through it’ forum recap

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

More than 300 people turned out Thursday night at the Larimer County office building in Old Town to consider the best ways to keep the various future needs of Poudre River water from being fodder for a fight as part of a UniverCity Connections-sponsored series of public forums called “The Poudre Runs Through It: Northern Colorado’s Water Future.”

Author Laura Pritchett suggested people find “the radical center,” the place where those with sometimes drastically different ideas about the river can meet to civilly discuss their views and find solutions to the region’s water needs without fighting. The radical center, she said, should be that middle ground where people discover there isn’t just one solution for the water – either store it in Glade Reservoir or not at all. Those in the radical center, she said, seek to find a “portfolio” of solutions…

The fundamental threat to the Poudre River is urban growth, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. “Much of the future water demand will be right here in the Front Range corridor,” he said. “We haven’t as a society decided if we want to control that growth yet.”[…]

Lynn Hall of Fort Collins said her biggest fear is losing the wildlife habitat along the Poudre River through the city. “To have a natural river with as much wildlife habitat as it has a few blocks from downtown is really a miracle,” she said. “We need to be really clear to figure out how we can make this accessible to humans, but not as an urban construction.”

The second part of the series of forums will be three education sessions scheduled for Feb. 24, March 10 and March 24 at the Larimer County office building, 200 W. Oak St. Those will be followed by two public dialogue sessions on April 11 and 16.

More coverage from the Rocky Mountain Collegian (Vashti Batjargal):

The public forum served as a place for residents to discuss the value the Poudre River holds and how water should be allocated to each of the region’s competing needs. “We have a fixed resource and it’s all about trade-off,” said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute. “In everything we choose, we also choose not.”[…]

George Reed, owner of 62 acres of land 10 miles north of Fort Collins, said he’d like a reservoir. “We could learn a lesson from the squirrels: You have to put some water away,” Reed said. “I’ve never seen a reservoir I didn’t like.”[…]

The forum was designed to get community input for decisions on water distribution and conservation for growth and agricultural needs. CSU associate professor of history Mark Fiege said the decisions the community will ultimately make concerning water distribution will have an effect on future generations. “It will impose a burden and responsibility that we cannot fully predict,” he said.

More coverage from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The initial session turnout surprised organizers, but only a small percentage of the crowd offered public comment. Organizers, including UniverCity Connections, Colorado State University and the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, collected comments from the crowd as they left. Those comments will be compiled and used at educational sessions later this year. MaryLou Smith, a policy and collaboration specialist with the CSU Colorado Water Institute, said the sessions were conceived as a city of Fort Collins event, but she realized, from the turnout, that other communities along the 126-mile stretch of the river should also be included.

Reagan Waskom, director of the water institute at CSU, said the Poudre River, as well as others in northern Colorado, face serious demands in the future. Much of those demands will come from expected growth along the Front Range. To meet those demands, he said, an additional 500,000 to 800,000 acre feet of water a year will be needed; an acre-foot of water is considered enough to supply two families with a year’s supply of water. The annual flow of the Poudre is about 275,000 acre feet…

Tom Moore is a local farmer and business owner who said cities in the area are willing to pay $10,000 an acre-foot for water. “It’s hard to put an agricultural value of one-third that,” he said, adding it is the quality of water in the region that draw people and businesses.

More Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.

Long Draw Reservoir operations update

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Fort Collins-based Water Supply & Storage Co. plans to appeal a U.S. Forest Service decision released Sept. 3 that would make it fully responsible for implementing a 15-year plan to restore the greenback cutthroat trout in the reservoir and surrounding streams. The mitigation program’s cost could be considerably higher than the approximately $800,000 projected by the Forest Service in an environmental impact statement, said Dennis Harmon, general manager of the irrigation company. But even that figure would be more than the company should have to pay in order to keep its permit to operate the reservoir, which was built in 1929 and expanded in 1974. “We just think this is way out of line for something that is already permitted,” he said. “We haven’t changed how this facility operates since the ’70s. “We think this mitigation is more appropriate for a new reservoir in the wilderness than on 53 acres of existing reservoir.”[…]

An effort to renew a Forest Service permit for the expanded portion of the reservoir turned into a decade-long fight when Colorado Trout Unlimited sued in 1994 over a plan that would keep La Poudre Pass Creek dry during the winter. In 2004, a U.S. District Court threw out the permit, forcing the Forest Service to start the permitting process over and to come up with a plan that would protect trout habitat. The revised environmental study came up with a plan for restoring the greenback cutthroat trout to more than 40 miles of streams in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. The plan called for eliminating invasive fish species and building barriers to keep them from getting re-established in the Poudre headwaters. Trout Unlimited worked with Water Supply & Storage and other entities, including the Colorado Division of Wildlife, to come up with a way to fund the mitigation program, which would be the largest native trout restoration project in state history.

But the decision by Glenn Casamassa, supervisor of the Arapaho and Roosevelt national forests, puts the responsibility for funding the restoration program on Water Supply & Storage because it holds the permit for the reservoir…

The National Park Service is expected to release its record of decision on the project within the coming weeks, said Larry Gamble, chief of planning and compliance for Rocky Mountain National Park. The decision will mirror the directions laid out by the Forest Service, he said.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here.

The Forest Service and Water Supply and Storage Company ink the deal for the irrigation company’s Long Draw Reservoir operations

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From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

The decision gives the Water Supply and Storage Co. a 30-year easement for operations at Long Draw Reservoir, near the top of the Poudre Canyon. It requires the company to participate with the U.S. Forest and Park Services in the restoration of native trout populations and the installation of an early warning system to provide around-the-clock monitoring at the dam at the reservoir…

The decision signed Thursday, according to a news release from the U.S. Forest Service, includes a description of the background of the project that includes the Environmental Impact Statement. It will be posted online at www.fs.usda.gov/arp.

More Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.

Long Draw Reservoir: Decision on reservoir’s future and greenback habitat restoration due January 2010

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Sitting between [Rocky Mountain National Park] and the [Roosevelt] national forest, Long Draw Reservoir, built in 1929 and enlarged in 1974, was up for a land-use permit renewal from the Forest Service in the early 1990s. After the agency issued the permit in 1994, Colorado Trout Unlimited sued because it included a plan that would keep La Poudre Pass Creek below the reservoir dry during the winter, damaging trout habitat. A decade later, a court sided with Trout Unlimited and threw out the permit, forcing the Forest Service to start the permitting process over again and to come up with a plan that would protect trout habitat.

Long Draw Reservoir, which sits below the Continental Divide on the northwest boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park, stores spring runoff and releases it during the summer and fall. The dam does not operate in the winter, drying up the stream below it. Forest Service officials said during a public involvement phase of planning for the project in 2008 that releasing water from the reservoir into La Poudre Pass Creek during the winter would be dangerous for workers having to operate the icy dam in the winter and might cause the dam to fail.

The new plan requires a compromise: Keep La Poudre Pass Creek dry during the winter, but restore more than 43 miles of trout habitat in the Poudre River Watershed, mostly in Rocky Mountain National Park. “It’s something scientists have been pushing for, for a long time,” said David Nickum, director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “The chance to try to put that science in action and do what would be the largest native cutthroat trout restoration project ever in Colorado – we’re excited about that prospect.”

The restoration project, he said, would take more than a decade and requires poisoning existing brook trout fisheries and restocking them with cutthroats. Instead of restoring La Poudre Pass Creek, which has no trout habitat, “we’ll do something different with greater biological benefit,” Nickum said…

Rocky Mountain National Park is allowing public comment on the proposal through Dec. 31, with a decision expected to follow in early 2010.

More Long Draw Reservoir coverage here

Greg Evans: Solutions do exist when organizations sit down to talk

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The settlement over managing the streams around Long Draw Reservoir sets the stage for the largest native fish restoration in the United States, according to this comment from the Greg Evans published by the Fort Collins Coloradoan. He writes:

What the judge remanded was absolutely remarkable and a victory for the people of Colorado. He said put the water back in the stream or mitigate – make up for your sins. Winter water flow to La Poudre Pass Creek was impossible because of a dam enlargement, so it forced an historic compromise. The USFS, Trout Unlimited and the Water Conservation District had to sit down and hammer out a compromise to please the judge. Amazingly, that is what they did.

Now, partially funded by the Water Conservancy District and in coordination with the USFS and Rocky Mountain National Park, the largest native fish restoration in the United States will occur in our backyard. The watershed above Long Draw will be repopulated with Greenback Cutthroat Trout. TU volunteers will help. This historic victory proves something. Solutions do exist when organizations sit down to talk. I applaud the courageous individuals who helped it happen: Doc Sheets, Paul Fromme, Dave Piske, Ken Eis and other local heroes who care!

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Long Draw Reservoir: USFS to stock cutthroat

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The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a plan to kill non-native fish species and replace them with cutthroats in Long Draw Reservoir, according to a report from Trevor Hughes writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Trout Unlimited in 2004 sued the U.S. Forest Service, which permits the reservoir, to force changes. Trout Unlimited argued the reservoir was harming fish and other wildlife downstream. In response, the Forest Service is proposing mitigation efforts known as Alternative 3 that include killing all fish in sections of area streams and creeks, then replacing them with the threatened greenback cutthroat trout. The Forest Service released a draft environmental impact statement about a year ago and has now issued a final statement, with a formal decision expected within the next few months. “This alternative does not change the physical damage that occurs from the ongoing operations but rather Alternative 3 changes the residents of the area stream from a non-native trout species to a listed native trout species and applies conservation biology concepts to connect habitat in a manner that makes the physical damage irrelevant.”

The proposal lacks a request made by Trout Unlimited: Release water from the reservoir during the winter to improve trout habitat downstream. Forest Service scientists are recommending against releasing water from the dam in winter, largely because it would require major changes to the dam. It’s a nearly 10-mile trip from Colorado Highway 14 to the dam, according to the Forest Service. Further, the Forest Service concluded that “unnatural” flows of water released from the reservoir during the summer make La Poudre Pass Creek below the dam a poor habitat for native fish. “High energy requirements for small trout to move, rest or feed in these flows would reduce the condition of any trout that reside in La Poudre Pass Creek,” the statement says. “Use of the habitat in La Poudre Pass Creek by fish would be incidental during high summer flows and non-existent during zero-winter flows…

Long Draw was completed in 1929. The reservoir was later enlarged, and the dam rebuilt in 1974. The reservoir stores water imported from the Colorado River Basin by the Grand Ditch. It also stores water from La Poudre Pass Creek, a tributary of the Cache la Poudre River. The Forest Service issued a special permit for Long Draw in 1978. The permit expired in 1991 but was extended to 1994.

In 1994, following an environmental impact study, the Forest Service issued a plan that allowed Water Supply and Storage to operate Long Draw without providing bypass flows to La Poudre Pass Creek below the dam. Under the 1994 plan, the Greeley-owned Barnes Meadow reservoir releases water to the Poudre in the winter. Trout Unlimited sued, claiming the Forest Service should have required a bypass flow from Long Draw as a condition of use and that not requiring one would harm fish and wildlife in the Poudre basin. A judge in April 2004 reversed the Forest Service’s decision and told the agency to rewrite the permit.

More Coyote Gulch coverage

Long Draw Reservoir: USFS to decide future use

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Here’s an update on the Forest Service’s plans for Long Draw Reservoir, from the Longmont Reporter-Herald. From the article:

The U.S. Forest Service expects to decide in April or May whether to allow continued use of Long Draw Reservoir. The reservoir and dam were enlarged in 1974 for [Water Supply and Storage Company] to provide water for irrigated farmland in Larimer and Weld counties. The permit to operate that expired in 1991. A subsequent extension was overturned by a court challenge, so the water company has been using the ditch under a special use permit while the federal environmental assessment process proceeded. That process, which lasted more than four years and solicited public input more than five times, is nearing its end with release of the final environmental impact statement.

The options are:

• Continuing to operate the reservoir and dam as it has been since 1974.

• Changing flows in the La Poudre Pass Creek to mitigate potential environmental damage.

• Maintaining the current operation and water flows but mitigating damage by restoring greenback cutthroat trout in Rocky Mountain National Park and the in the national forest in streams connected to the creek and the reservoir.

• Maintaining current operations and using water from the upper Colorado River basin to restore wetlands within the national park.

The assessment is online at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/arnf/projects/ea-projects/clrd/longdraw/index .shtml.

The final decision, which could be any of the four options, is expected in the next two months.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.