Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

From the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District via The Pueblo Chieftain:

A hefty snowpack and relatively full municipal storage means farms will get a larger than usual share of Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water this year.

About 80 percent, or 44,000 of the 55,000 acre-feet allocated by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday, will go to irrigation companies throughout the Arkansas River basin. In addition, agricultural interests were allocated 20,000 acre-feet in return flows. A total of 28 ditches and three well groups will benefit.

That water comes on top of about 12,000 acre-feet leased earlier this year by Pueblo Water to farms, ditches or well associations…

“The extra water which the municipalities have no place to store is always welcome in Crowley County and the Arkansas Valley,” said Carl McClure, a Crowley County farmer who heads the allocation committee of the district.

The Southeastern allocation is about 25 percent above average, thanks to a snowpack that remains heavy and is still growing. The Fry-Ark water is imported from the Upper Colorado River basin through the 5.4-mile long Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake.

More than half of the water is reserved for cities, but if they have no place to store it, it is allocated to agriculture. Fry-Ark water sells for $7 per acre-foot, plus surcharges that pay for programs that benefit water users. By comparison, Pueblo Water leases averaged $55 per acre-foot this year.

The district expects to bring more than 68,000 acre-feet into the Arkansas River basin this year, but prior commitments such as the Pueblo fish hatchery, evaporation and transit loss adjustments are made before the amount of water sold can be determined.

The Southeastern district guarantees 80 percent of the water, holding back some in case the runoff fails to meet projections. The Boustead Tunnel can only take a certain amount of water at one time and only when sufficient flows, as determined by court decrees, are available on the Western Slope. The remaining 20 percent is delivered when the district determines flows will be sufficient.

That should not be a problem this year, as the Bureau of Reclamation projected imports to be about 77,000 acre-feet, well above the amount Southeastern factored in.

For municipal allocations, the Fountain Valley Authority was able to take about 7,000 acre-feet, or half of its entitlement. Pueblo Water and Pueblo West are not seeking any water. Cities east of Pueblo claimed 3,132 acre-feet, while cities west of Pueblo were allocated 1,164. Most chose not to request their full allocation.

Allocating Fry-Ark water is the primary function of the Southeastern District, which was formed in 1958 to provide supplemental water to the Arkansas River basin.

Gary Bostrom — “Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas River”

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

From the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District via The Pueblo Chieftain:

His career included shepherding Colorado Springs’ water supply through a labyrinth of changing regulations and requirements during a time when the city experienced explosive growth and environmental pressures.

Now he’s working to improve water supplies throughout the entire Arkansas River basin.

Gary Bostrom, 60, retired water services chief for Colorado Springs Utilities and now a member of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board, received the Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas River award [April 27, 2017] at the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized, and to be included among all of the past winners of this award,” Bostrom said.

The forum met last week in Colorado Springs.

“I’d like to wake on the morning they turned on the switch for Southern Delivery System, and retire in the afternoon,” Bostrom once told a reporter.

He didn’t quite make the finish line, retiring in 2015, about a year before SDS went online. The $825 million pipeline project was completed in April 2016, after a 20-year planning process that required negotiations with communities up and down the Arkansas River.

Bostrom’s concern for Arkansas Valley water issues continues. He joined to the Southeastern District board in 2009, and is now vice president.

The district annually allocates supplemental water to cities and farms in the Arkansas River basin, participates in the Upper Arkansas River voluntary flow management program, is constructing a hydropower plant at Pueblo Dam and is preparing for construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

Bostrom also is a member of the Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

He and his wife Sara have four children and three grandchildren and live in Colorado Springs.

Durango: “Solving the Water Funding Puzzle” conference recap

Animas River through Durango August 9, 2015, after the Gold King Mine spill. Photo credit Grace Hood

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

The Southwestern Water Conservation District hosted a conference titled “Solving the Water Funding Puzzle” at the DoubleTree Hotel in Durango to confront the budget crisis.

Colorado’s overriding challenge lies in how water management is funded, said Bill Levine, budget director for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Much of the state’s revenue stream for water-supply management is tied to federal energy, including severance taxes from the oil and gas industry, which exposes Colorado to the ebb and flow of the volatile oil and gas industry.

“When energy values drop, so does the revenue stream, so it is by nature volatile,” Levine said. “Revenue that is not tied to the energy industry is needed.”

Because of a weak energy market and a costly court ruling, the state’s revenues from severance taxes dropped from $271 million in fiscal year 2015 to $67 million in fiscal year 2016.

And in 2016, the state lost a lawsuit brought by British Petroleum over severance taxes. The state is refunding energy companies – $113 million so far – after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the companies qualify for a deduction the Department of Revenue had been denying them.

State and local agencies have paid a price.

The drop in revenues from federal minerals caused program budgets for the Colorado Water Conservation Board to drop from $14 million in 2015 to $8 million in 2016.

The cuts wiped out funding for boat inspection programs needed to stop invasive quagga and zebra mussels, which has limited boating at McPhee Reservoir and Totten Lake in Montezuma County.

Grant programs of the Department of Local Affairs also were cut, because they too depend on severance tax revenues.

Severance tax revenues have funded the Southwest Basin Roundtable grant program that supports water projects in southwest Colorado. Funding will suffer, and there will be less grant money, said roundtable chair Mike Preston.

In La Plata County, the basin fund helped to finance an inlet from Lake Nighthorse as part of a plan to provide municipal water for Fort Lewis Mesa, which includes the communities of Breen and Kline.

It’s been tapped to support a project improving water supply at Lake Durango, which serves Durango West communities. And the grants have supported an Animas River community forum, which is establishing emergency response protocols to protect water users in the event of a toxic spill such as the 2015 Gold King Mine disaster.

Finding funding solutions
Several potential sources of revenue for water-related infrastructure and programs were presented at the packed conference.

Emily Brumit, of the Colorado Water Congress, gave an update on legislative proposals and a ballot initiative that would support water-related budgets, including the struggling boat-inspection programs.

For example, Senate Bill 259 proposes to replace lost severance tax revenues with $10 million from the general fund to support forest restoration, species conservation and boat inspection programs. House Bill 1321, introduced this week, would create a revenue stream through a sticker fee to fund boat inspection programs.

And Initiative 20 focuses on oil and gas severance taxes. Its primary goal is to increase the severance tax rate, eliminate the severance tax credit that is based on property taxes, eliminate the stripper well exemption and require that a portion of severance tax revenue be paid for specific purposes…

Legislators are considering asking voters to approve a container tax on beverages to raise $100 million to $200 million per year for water-related needs. A vote could end-run the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, exempting it from TABOR revenue caps.

Other ideas presented at the conference included a new water fee paid by residential consumers, new water tap fees and new tourism fees…

Government specialist Christine Arbogast said the idea of private-public partnerships is popular for new money. But she does not believe they are a viable local solution locally.

“The expected rate of return of 5-8 percent from private investors is too much for the tax base of smaller communities,” she said.

La Plata County Commissioner Brad Blake urged the crowd to take a long-term vision on solving the budget crisis, like previous generations did.

“We have good water rights, but don’t have a way to move it around well,” he said. “The pioneers built dams, ditches and levees. Now we are tasked with looking ahead to provide water infrastructure in our area. We need more public involvement so we get all the help we need to overcome this monumental task.”

Pueblo West contracts for 6,000 acre-feet of storage in Lake Pueblo

Pueblo West
Pueblo West

From The Pueblo West View (Kristen M. White):

Pueblo West will have the right to store water in Pueblo Reservoir in the future, should the storage be needed, after the Metropolitan District agreed to enter into a subcontract with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

The master plan contract is between the Bureau of Reclamation and the water district, and Pueblo West now has a subcontract with water district for its storage rights.

The contract allows Pueblo West to begin paying for 10 acre feet, at the starting rate of $40.04 per acre foot of water, in 2017. But the contract gives Pueblo West the ability to store as much as 6,000 acre feet of water in the future should the storage ability be necessary.

Pueblo Dam hydropower plant should be online next year

Pueblo dam releases
Pueblo dam releases

From KOAA.com (Andy Koen):

The Pueblo Dam will soon be producing enough renewable energy to power 3,000 homes. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District plans to begin construction of the $19.5 million hydroelectric generating station later this year. The construction site will be located downstream form the Pueblo Dam River Outlet which was constructed to serve as the connection for the Colorado Springs Utilities Southern Delivery System.

“We’ll be using the water that’s flowing into the river again, we won’t be consuming any of that water,” explained Conservancy District spokesman Chris Woodka.

The District borrowed $17 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to build the plant. It will house a trio of turbines, each capable of producing electricity whether the river is moving fast or slow.

“We designed it so that it would at several different flows so that we could get the maximum production out of it,” Woodka said.

With a rating of 7.5 megawatts, the plant will create enough power for roughly 3,000 homes. It’s the kind of clean power that City leaders in Pueblo want for their community…

The Conservancy District expects to generate around $1.4 million annually from the sale of it’s electricity. Groundbreaking is expected to take place in May and Woodka said their goal is to have the power plant go online in the Spring of 2018.

Year-end precipitation levels near average — The Pueblo Chieftain

Below is the westwide basin-filled map from December 28, 2016. NRCS maps have not been updating over the holiday weekend.

Westwide SNOTEL December 28, 2016 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL December 28, 2016 via the NRCS.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jon Pompia):

As 2016 draws to a close, the yearlong precipitation level is lower than in 2015 but not far off from the average annual precipitation.

Through Friday, 2016’s precipitation level was 11.91 inches, down when compared to 2015’s mark of 16.66 inches. When compared to the average annual precipitation of 12.55 inches, however, this year’s moisture level is only slightly lower.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey water supply website, Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River are currently above average; flows were mostly above average throughout the year.

From a standpoint of moisture content in the state’s snowpack, recent holiday weather fronts proved to be a welcome gift. The fronts deposited enough snow in the mountains to put the state over the average for the year in terms of moisture content.

As of Friday, the Arkansas basin’s moisture content was at 115 percent of average, and the Rio Grande basin was at 106 percent of average.

The National Weather Service’s three-month temperature outlook indicates that Pueblo will be above average, with an equal chance of conditions being wet or dry through that timespan.

Chris Woodka of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District points out that, “We imported 59,214 acre-feet of water this year (2016) from the Fryingpan River watershed, which was just slightly above the average of 55,907 acre-feet for the Fry-Ark Project.

“It was a good year, because we were able to provide 45,000 acre-feet of supplemental water for municipal, domestic and agricultural use in the Arkansas River basin,” he said.

Statistics provided by the Board of Water Works indicate that city water consumption was higher in 2016 than the previous year: 7,900,914 gallons to 7,511,255, but under the five-year average of 8,104,317.

As far as pumpage, the water that is treated and then sent out from the plant, 8,481,644 gallons were pumped, an increase over 2015’s 7,924,727 but below the five-year average of 8,614,500.

Meanwhile Denver was drier over the past year:

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-5-28-21-am

Pueblo Reservoir: Reclamation awards master storage contract to Southeastern District

Pueblo dam releases
Pueblo dam releases

Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District has signed an Excess Capacity Master Storage Contract with the Bureau of Reclamation, culminating an effort that began in 1998.

“This is a great opportunity for the communities of the Arkansas Valley, which allows us to assist and provide them with a more secure water supply for the future,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern District board. “It’s been a very long process, much longer than we anticipated, but well worth it.”

The master contract allows participants to store water in Pueblo Reservoir when space is available. Pueblo Reservoir was built by Reclamation to store Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water and for flood control. But it rarely fills with Project water. Excess capacity contracts allow water from other sources, including Fry-Ark return flows, to be stored in Pueblo Reservoir.

The initial contract will allow 6,525 acre-feet of water to be stored in 2017, which will become the minimum number for future years. The contract allows storage of up to 29,938 acre-feet annually for the next 40 years.

For 2017, 16 communities signed subcontracts with the Southeastern District to participate in the master contract. Another 21 communities plan to join once the Arkansas Valley Conduit is built, and do not have an immediate need to join the contract.

Participants in 2017 include: Canon City, Florence, Fountain, La Junta, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Olney Springs, Rocky Ford, Penrose, Poncha Springs, Pueblo West, St. Charles Mesa Water District, Salida, Security, Stratmoor Hills, Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Widefield.

“It’s a big step for the District,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern District. “The ability to use excess-capacity storage on a long-term basis has been a goal of the District for almost 20 years. This will add certainty to the process.”

Reclamation first issued excess capacity contracts in 1986. Last year, more than 29 excess-capacity contracts were issued more than 60,000 feet – one quarter of the available space in Pueblo Reservoir. For many years, Pueblo Water, Colorado Springs Utilities and Aurora Water were the major entities that used the contracts on an annual basis.

Pueblo became the first community to get a long-term contract in 2000. Aurora first used its long-term contract in 2008. In 2011, Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West obtained a long-term contract as part of Southern Delivery System.

The next step for the Southeastern District is the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation anticipates completing the feasibility study later this year, which will allow construction to begin.
“The master contract is absolutely essential to the conduit,” Long said. “It will give us long-term reliability for a clean water supply.”

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation