Will Lake Nighthorse recreation facilities be online in by 2014?

April 9, 2013

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From The Durango Herald (Jim Haug) via the Cortez Journal:

Almost two years after the reservoir was filled in June 2011, local government officials have not allowed kayaking, bird watching or mountain biking on the 5,500-acre site. Lake Nighthorse might be a case of politics proving to be a bigger obstacle than the laws of physics.

About two miles from downtown Durango, the lake is a temptation for all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts, but it is not yet accessible to the public. Officials now are saying 2014, but they have delayed the opening before.

To venture onto the property without permission literally is a federal offense, although judging by footprints and pawprints, people and their dogs apparently have made the trek. “We’ve had to chase out people with kayaks and canoes,” said Tyler Artichoker, facilities manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation…

After budgeting almost $200,000 to open the lake this summer, Durango Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz laid out a series of complications that has moved the goal of opening the lake to the summer of 2014. The city first must annex the land so it can provide law enforcement. The Bureau of Reclamation must approve a lease agreement with the city and do an environmental assessment of the city’s master recreation plan, which was developed after much public input and consensus building about the kinds of recreation to allow. Jet skis are out. The master plan calls for a “family beach” to distinguish it from other kinds of beaches. The bureau’s environmental assessment then must be made available for public comment, which is expected to happen in April.

Once the bureau signs off on the lease agreement, the city plans to get assistance from the Colorado National Guard for help with land clearing. An entrance station and boat-inspection area also must be built with funding from a state grant…

“If you can name a governmental entity, it has a stake in Lake Nighthorse,” Rinderle said.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.


Reclamation Announces Planned Test Release from Lake Nighthorse

July 25, 2012

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Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Marc Miller):

Reclamation’s Four Corners Construction Office will conduct a test flow release on July 23, from Lake Nighthorse, to continue evaluating the performance of the improvements constructed in Basin Creek to facilitate downstream water flow.

The flow release test will continue for approximately one week depending on results, as part of the required testing and commissioning for the Animas-La Plata Project prior to the project’s transition to operational status. Released flows will range from 15 to 150 cubic-feet-per-second with the total release of water from Lake Nighthorse not to exceed 500 acre-feet. All flows released from the reservoir will pass through fish nets that ensure no escapement of live fish or eggs to the Animas River that could potentially impact endangered fish in the San Juan River.

The Basin Creek improvements consist of a series of channel improvements and small check dams, or drop structures, and were constructed as part of the Animas-La Plata Project. The purpose of the improvements is to convey water released from Ridges Basin Dam down Basin Creek to the Animas River.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.


The CWCB and the Bureau of Reclamation are finished hammering out the Animas-La Plata purchase agreement

June 21, 2012

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Tim Feehan/Ted Kowalski/Todd Hartman):

This week the State of Colorado and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation finalized a contract that allows the state to purchase of a portion of water from the Animas-La Plata (A-LP) Project in southwestern Colorado. This contract represents the completion of almost two years of intense negotiations, cooperation, and hard work on the part of Colorado Water Conservation Board staff and other stakeholders.

The Animas-La Plata Project was built to fulfill a water rights settlement between the federal government and two Indian tribes that live in southwestern Colorado: the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. But the project also has auxiliary benefits for other water users in the region as a much-needed municipal and industrial water source and reservoir for long-term storage in Lake Nighthorse. The state’s allocation of 10,460 acre-feet will go a long way toward securing a water supply for water users in the southwestern portion of the state.

In 2010, the General Assembly authorized the expenditure of up to $36 million towards the purchase of the State’s 10,460 acre-feet allocation of A-LP project water. This Bill appropriated the first $12 million installment, which was available on June 30, 2011. Subsequent legislation appropriated the remaining $24 million, which will be available July 1, 2012. After the contract was signed and executed, the State made its first payment of $12 million to the Bureau.

After July 1, 2012, the State will pay the final installment to the Bureau, retaining enough of the General Assembly’s appropriation for future operation and maintenance costs. The execution of the contract also grants membership to the State in the Animas-La Plata Operations, Maintenance and Replacement Association. Over the next few months, the State will work with other members of the Association to address issues such as engineering, modeling, water administration and protocol.

For more information or background on the Animas-La Plata project, visit http://www.usbr.gov/uc/progact/animas/ or the CWCB website at http://cwcb.state.co.us.

From the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Colorado lawmakers had authorized paying $36 million for the state’s allocation of 10,460 acre-feet from the water storage and delivery project in southwest Colorado. Money for the final payment will be available after July 1. The contract announced by the state Wednesday makes Colorado part of a group that will operate and maintain the project.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.


The Colorado Legislature intends to pony up $36 million for Animas-La Plata Project water

April 15, 2012

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From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Durango Herald:

Colorado’s Legislature has authorized paying $36 million to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for its share of 10,460 acre-feet of water, plus interest on construction costs. But the interest has been building, and the $36 million likely won’t cover everything Colorado owes.

The tribes had proposed that Colorado allow its share of water to revert back to the tribes, which weren’t assessed for construction. The tribes then would sell the water back to the state at what they say would be a much lower price than what the state would pay the bureau.

“When we heard what the state would spend to get water, our first thought was, ‘Why?’” said Peter Ortego, general counsel for the Ute Mountain Ute tribe. “We can make it cheaper for the state. Sure, it puts money in our coffers, but it keeps it in Colorado.”

However, after two years of talking with tribal representatives, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has directed its staff to move forward on contract talks with the Bureau of Reclamation, board director Jennifer Gimbel said.

Gimbel said the board took the tribes’ proposal “very seriously.” However, some board members questioned whether outside parties would challenge the proposal in court. Though legislators already have approved $36 million for project water, some board members also questioned how willing legislators would be in future years to spend on Animas-La Plata Project water.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.


Animas-La Plata Project Repayment Negotiations Continue between Reclamation and Colorado

March 1, 2012

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Ryan Christianson):

The Bureau of Reclamation and the state of Colorado are continuing negotiations on a proposed repayment contract for the Animas-La Plata Project. The contract will provide the terms and conditions by which the state will repay the construction costs associated with all or a portion of its statutory allocation of project water. The third negotiation meeting is scheduled for Wednesday August 10, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. at Reclamation’s office, 835 E. 2nd Ave., Suite 300, Durango, Colo. 81301.

The contract to be negotiated will provide for storage and delivery of project water, identify the amount of project construction costs to be paid to the federal government by the state, and provide for operation and maintenance of the project.

All negotiations are open to the public as observers, and the public will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments pertaining to the contract during a thirty minute comment period following the negotiation session. The proposed contract and other pertinent documents will be available at the negotiation meeting, or can be obtained on our website under Current Focus or by contacting Brett Griffin of the Bureau of Reclamation, 835 East Second Avenue, Suite 300, Durango, Colorado, 81301, telephone (970) 385-6531.

More Animas-La Plata coverage here and here.


Animas-La Plata Project: Colorado and Reclamation are getting close to a deal for storage in Lake Nighthorse

January 27, 2012

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From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Columbus Republic:

Colorado’s Legislature has authorized paying $36 million to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for its share of 10,460 acre-feet of water, plus interest on construction costs. But the interest has been building, and the $36 million likely won’t cover everything Colorado owes.

The tribes had proposed that Colorado allow its share of water to revert back to the tribes, which weren’t assessed for construction. The tribes would then sell the water back to the state at what they say would be a much lower price than what the state would pay the bureau…

However, after two years of talking with tribal representatives, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has directed its staff to move forward on contract talks with the Bureau of Reclamation, board director Jennifer Gimbel said.

Gimbel said the board took the tribes’ proposal “very seriously.” However some board members questioned whether outside parties would challenge the proposal in court. Though legislators have already approved $36 million for project water, some board members also questioned how willing legislators would be in future years to spend on Animas-La Plata project water.

If you’re interested in Native American issues in the Colorado River Basin please think about attending Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Speakers Series Monday night. The theme for the shindig is, “Unheard Voices of the Colorado River Basin: Bringing Mexico and Native American Tribes to the Table.” It should be a hoot, every presentation in the series so far has been.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.


Most of the storage for the Animas-La Plata Project was built to satisfy Native American water rights claims

November 10, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The project reflects a quiet but substantial shift of control over a crucial resource as the federal government tries to turn a new page with tribes. Six recent water settlements have forced the government to commit $2.04 billion for dam, pipeline and reservoir projects — giving sovereign tribes from Montana to New Mexico control over 1.5 million acre-feet of new water each year. Tribes have used lawsuits and hard bargaining to assert water rights. Now, with many Western rivers already over-subscribed, tribes are in a position to play a greater role in development…

Since 1908, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that tribes relocated to reservations in the 19th century are entitled to enough water to live on those lands. Only 29 of the nation’s 565 tribes have had claims settled. Future settlements could exhaust much of the remaining unallocated water. “The reality of water in most rivers in America, including the Colorado and Rio Grande, which are so important to Colorado, is that there’s not enough water to do everything that people want to do. We’re not going to create any more water supply,” said Salazar, a lawyer whose prior work as a U.S. Senator, state attorney general and natural resources director drew him into the issue. “Until (tribal claims for water) get quantified, there’s no certainty” for how much water will be available, Salazar said…

The total population of the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes is less than 6,000. They’re now in a position to pursue economic development, including extraction of gas, and sell water to others around Colorado. “Yes, we’re in the driver’s seat,” said Pearl Casias, chairwoman of the Southern Ute Tribe, which has about 1,481 members. There are 4,500 Ute Mountain Utes. Together, the tribes own about 70 percent of the water in Nighthorse reservoir…

Over the past three years, federal negotiating teams led by Bureau of Reclamation commissioner Mike Connor settled six claims. The most recent Aamodt settlement, for about $176 million, involves four pueblos in the Pojoaque River basin of New Mexico — providing about 8,500 acre-feet of water. A separate $88 million settlement with the Taos Pueblo is meant to deliver 2,000 acre-feet a year. Earlier this year, federal negotiators settled for $460 million with the Crow in Montana, a deal obligating the government to supply 500,000 acre-feet of water. A 2009 settlement for $1 billion with the Navajo obligates the government to provide 606,000 acre-feet…

This winter, Colorado officials and residents of Durango are expected to work at lining up shares of the water. The reservoir holds enough to sustain hundreds of thousands of people — far more than the current population of the area, Durango resident and businessman Kent Ford pointed out. “I’m all for the tribes getting their water rights,” Ford said. But building such a big reservoir for the purposes of a legal settlement may not make sense in the long run, he said. Mountain water might better have been left flowing in rivers to ensure healthy riparian ecosystems, he said. “We may come to look at this as another example of our society gone awry.”

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.


Durango voters approve ponying up $4 million for Animas-La Plata Project water

November 2, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

“We’re very pleased and grateful that the community rallied behind the proposition,” City Manager Ron LeBlanc said Tuesday. “Generations to come will benefit from this action.”[...]

The city is counting on borrowing money from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority at 1.95 percent. Over 20 years, the loan will cost almost $5 million.

City officials say additional water is needed to satisfy demand at peak periods and to prepare for population growth. In the short term, officials want to have more water available than the 60 million gallons they can store now – a seven-day supply. During peak season, daily use is 9.5 million gallons.

With the acquisition of 3,800 acre-feet of water from the Animas-La Plata Project, the city would have about 680 million gallons available.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.


Durango: Voters are being asked to approve $4 million in debt to purchase water from the Animas-La Plata project

October 16, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

As it stands, the city can store 60 million gallons of water (180 acre-feet) – a seven-day supply. In peak season, daily use is 9.5 million gallons, counting irrigation. The purchase of 3,800 acre-feet from the A-LP, as it’s known, would make 1,900 acre-feet available for consumption. Only half of any A-LP water may be used annually. The other half must remain in Lake Nighthorse, the reservoir southwest of Durango…

The cost of 3,800 acre-feet is about $6.2 million. The city has paid $1 million and has $1.2 million available from a surplus in its water fund. The $4 million balance would be borrowed. Durango paid the $1 million in 2005 in anticipation of buying A-LP water, city Director of Public Works Jack Rogers said Friday. It was cheaper to install the needed plumbing at the A-LP pumping plant while it was being built than retrofitting, he said. If the city can borrow from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, the rate would be 1.95 percent for 20 years, a total cost of almost $5 million. Debt service would be funded from water rates and plant investment fees (charged to new development).

Homeowners pay from $2.12 to $2.78 per 1,000 gallons depending on consumption. No increase in water rates is planned for 2012.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.


Durango voters are being asked to approve a $4 million loan to purchase water from the Animas-La Plata Project

September 27, 2011

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From The Durango Telegraph (Missy Votel):

This year’s ballot, which is mail-in only, will contain a measure from the City of Durango asking residents to approve a $4 million loan to be used to buy 3,800 acre feet annually from the project. City Charter requires a vote of the electorate before assuming debt. The $4 million would be borrowed from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, a state agency established to promote water and power development in Colorado. As such, the city will get a more favorable rate than it would on the open market. The 20-year loan will be at an interest rate of 1.95 percent, making for total repayment of just under $5 million…

The 3,800 acre-feet would supplement the City’s current municipal and agricultural use of about 5,000 acre-feet per year. According to a 2003 study, an additional 3,800 acre-feet is the amount needed to meet the needs of a projected population of 40,000. Currently, the City serves its nearly 17,000 residents plus another couple thousand in adjacent areas for a total of about 19,000 customers, Rogers said. However, if Durango keeps on its current growth rate – 20 percent from 2000-2010, according to U.S. Census data – it could need additional water well before reaching the 40,000 mark. Rogers estimated the City’s water capacity at 25,000 users during the summer. “That’s only 6,000 more. When we reach that number, we’ll need to invest in other supplies,” he said. In addition to concerns over meeting growing demand, Rogers said there is also concern over security. Right now, the City has only a seven-day supply of water in its reservoir on College Mesa. The A-LP purchase would ensure an additional 75 days.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.


Ty Churchwell — ‘It is not worth offending someone who agrees with me on most issues to take a stance on climate change or global warming’

September 1, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Lynda Edwards):

…conservationists have tried dozens of ways to restore trout to the Animas and its tributaries. After World War II, cowboys helping the U.S. Wildlife Service would carry hatchery or farmed trout in cast-iron jugs on their horses into the mountains, where they released the fish into Animas headwaters. Tanker trucks and helicopters with huge buckets also have been used to plop trout into the river and its tributaries…

[Ty] Churchwell, who has degrees in horticulture and chemistry, refuses to discuss climate change. He won’t even say whether he believes it exists…

“To get my work done, I need to be able to sit at the table and forge alliances with people who have very different ideas about global warming,” Churchwell said. “It is not worth offending someone who agrees with me on most issues to take a stance on climate change or global warming.”

More Animas River watershed coverage here.


Animas River watershed: Part two of series about the river, ‘Want water, take a number’ from The Durango Herald

August 29, 2011

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Here’s Part Two of the four part series about the Animas River from Dale Rodebaugh and The Durango Herald. Mr. Rodebaugh outlines how uses of the river have changed over time, from prehistoric times to the filling of Lake Nighthorse (full on June 29 this year), part of the Animas-La Plata Project. Here’s an excerpt:

Durango’s early exploitation of the Animas was as a conduit to get logs to sawmills, where they were turned into lumber and railroad ties.

Today, most of the water pulledfrom the river is for irrigation and consumption, but the city of Durango in 2007 obtained a decree that guarantees a certain amount of flow for a whitewater park at Smelter Rapid. Several entities have won such rights for recreation since legislation establishing recreation rights was enacted in2001.

Also, a certain amount of water is reserved to protect two fish species in the San Juan River – the Colorado pikeminnow and humped-back chub,which are federally listed as endangered.

Click through for the whole article and the slide show.

Here’s a look at how the USGS measures streamflow, from Dale Rodebaugh writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

The USGS maintains more than 7,000 gauging stations on rivers and lakes across the country. The Durango office manages 41 stations in La Plata, Archuleta, Montezuma, San Juan, Dolores, San Miguel, Ouray and Montrose counties.

The station near U.S. Highway 550 and 14th Street went into service in 1895, only six years after the first one ever was installed in New Mexico on the Rio Grande River to help determine whether there was sufficient water for irrigation.

The USGS computerized its gauging nationally in 1983 and first made real-time data available online in 1995.

Click through for the whole article and the video of hydrologic technician Jennifer Dansie at work on calibration chores.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is considering superfund status for parts of the upper Animas River watershed, according to Mark Esper writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

And EPA officials said that while the collaborative approach to water quality in the upper Animas spearheaded by the Animas River Stakeholders Group has been successful, the worsening situation on Cement Creek has compelled the agency to study a possible Superfund listing.

“The problem is worsening water quality,” said Sabrina Forrest, site assessment manager for the EPA in Denver. Forrest explained that while the EPA considers the problem to be worthy of the National Priorities List (NPL) under the Superfund law, local support would be required as well as a sign-off from the governor.

“It’s eligible for listing, but community support is needed for that,” Forrest said. And if the Gladstone sites were to be eventually put on the NPL “the community would still have a huge voice on how this would be done.”[...]

Meanwhile, the EPA is planning a Sept. 16 site tour at Gladstone for those interested in getting a better idea of the situation on the ground up there. Forrest says the EPA hopes it can determine by Dec. 20 if there is enough local support for NPL listing to proceed. Under that timetable, the listing could be made official by March 2012.

The preliminary assessment work focused on a cluster of mine sites at and above Gladstone, including the American Tunnel, Gold King Number 7 level, the Mogul and Grand Mogul and the Red and Bonita mines. Peter Butler of Durango, a steering committee member for the Animas River Stakeholders Group, which was formed as a collaborative approach to water quality issues in 1994, said Cement Creek has seen a steady increase in metals loading since a treatment plant at Gladstone was shut down in 2004. Up to 845 gallons per minute of acid mine drainage is pouring into Cement Creek from just four abandoned mines above Gladstone…

At this point, Butler said possible solutions include various scenarios for a water treatment plant on Cement Creek, bulkheads for the four mines discharging the most, or some combination of that. Then comes the question of who pays. Butler said options include seeking damages from Sunnyside Gold’s parent company, Kinross; luring a large mining company to reopen the Gold King and take on the cleanup liability; taking an incremental approach with a pilot treatment project that could be expanded; invoking Superfund; or a combination thereof.

Todd Hennis of Golden, who described himself as the “unfortunate owner of the Gold King and Mogul mines,” said the EPA has been spinning “fairy tales.” “The problem started in 2000 when water started coming out of the Mogul,” Hennis said. He said that was a result of the American Tunnel bulkheads causing water to back up. The water table has since risen an estimated 1,000 feet, causing acid mine drainage to seep from ever higher points on the mountain. Hennis accused state officials of engaging in “pollution trading” with Sunnyside Gold, with a consent decree letting the mining firm off the hook for water quality problems in the Gladstone area. “The state of Colorado has a huge responsibility for this situation,” Hennis said. “Sunnyside walked out of this district and their $5 million bond was returned.” Hennis said the best solution would be for a mining firm to reopen the Gold King and assume responsibility for the water quality issues. Hennis said he thinks there is $700 million in gold still retrievable from the Gold King mine.

Here’s an article that details the course of the Animas River, including the geology, from its headwaters to the San Juan River, from Dale Rodebaugh writing for The Durango Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

At one time, [David Gonzales, a professor and chairman of the geosciences department at Fort Lewis College] said, gravel impelled by a glacier created a dam to form a lake in the Animas Valley. Later erosion of the debris drained the lake but caused the relatively flat and wide channel. The farthest reaching glacier, which receded about 12,000 years ago, carried gravel as far as 32nd Street, Gonzales said.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.


Animas River watershed: ‘Our river is ailing’ part one of a four part series from The Durango Herald

August 28, 2011

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Here’s the link to part one of Dale Rodebaugh’s four part series running in The Durango Herald. The focus is mining and agricultural runoff. Here’s an excerpt:

In 1978, Lake Emma, under which miners had bored the Sunnyside tunnel, collapsed. The ensuing torrent of water spewed timbers, equipment and tons of debris from the mine. Miraculously, no lives were lost because it occurred on a weekend.

When Sunnyside Mining Co. closed its operations in Silverton in 1991, it was facing an annual expense of $800,000 to treat 1,200 to 1,600 gallons a minute of contaminated waste.

Instead, the company negotiated a court decree with the state to install bulkheads to plug draining adits.

Todd Hennis, who has an ownership stake in a couple of the leaking mines, said that agreement in the mid-’90s was a grievous error because it allowed a $5 million bond to be returned to Sunnyside despite the potential for future contamination.

Later contracts with other companies to treat waste didn’t work out, and since 2004, contaminants have been flowing freely from the mines.

Click through and read the whole article. They’re also running a slideshow and video.

More Animas River watershed coverag here


Animas-La Plata Project Repayment Negotiations Continue between Reclamation and Colorado

August 7, 2011

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Ryan Christianson):

The Bureau of Reclamation and the state of Colorado are continuing negotiations on a proposed repayment contract for the Animas-La Plata Project. The contract will provide the terms and conditions by which the state will repay the construction costs associated with all or a portion of its statutory allocation of project water. The third negotiation meeting is scheduled for Wednesday August 10, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. at Reclamation’s office, 835 E. 2nd Ave., Suite 300, Durango, Colo. 81301.
The contract to be negotiated will provide for storage and delivery of project water, identify the amount of project construction costs to be paid to the federal government by the state, and provide for operation and maintenance of the project.

All negotiations are open to the public as observers, and the public will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments pertaining to the contract during a thirty minute comment period following the negotiation session. The proposed contract and other pertinent documents will be available at the negotiation meeting, or can be obtained on our website under Current Focus or by contacting Brett Griffin of the Bureau of Reclamation, 835 East Second Avenue, Suite 300, Durango, Colorado, 81301, telephone (970) 385-6531.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.


Animas-La Plata Project: Reclamation wraps up Lake Nighthorse first fill

July 5, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The Bureau of Reclamation has pronounced the reservoir full at 123,541 acre-feet. The reservoir is a key component in the Animas-La Plata Project, which Congress authorized 43 years ago.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here.


Durango: The city is tackling the costs of their share of Animas-La Plata project water

May 26, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

[Jack Rogers, the city’s public works director] said the $3 million, 20-year loan the city needs would have an interest rate of about 2.5 percent. It beats the rate the city would get anywhere else, Rogers said. On the recommendation of a consultant, the city of Durango in 2005 asked the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority to reserve a portion of A-LP water in its name. The city has put down $1 million as earnest money. The deposit leaves the city with a bill of $5 million to $5.5 million. A healthy water fund reserve makes it necessary to borrow only $3 million, leaving money for other water projects, participants said. Because the city has only a week’s reserve of water, 1,900 acre-feet of consumable water from the A-LP would be a comfortable backup for emergencies…

A water-rate increase for city residents will be necessary – but not immediately because of money in reserve.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here.


CWCB: The board approves loans for two La Plata County water districts’ cooperative projects

May 20, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Lake Durango, which acquired a long-troubled water company with a similar name two years ago, needs more water. La Plata West has a share of Lake Nighthorse water but no way to treat it and – as yet – no way to deliver it. Now with the grant-loan approved Wednesday by the state water board, [Lake Durango Water Authority] can build a pipeline from Lake Nighthorse to its treatment plant. It will get some of the potable water, with the rest reserved for La Plata West when it builds a delivery system. [La Plata West Water Authority] also no longer needs to find $4 million to build its own treatment plant.

More CWCB coverage here.


Animas-La Plata Project: Reclamation is testing the outlet works at Lake Nighthorse

May 7, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Test releases of water, which will occur for about three weeks, accomplish two objectives, first-fill engineer Tyler Artichoker said. “If you build something, you test it to see how it functions,” Artichoker said. “But the tests also will show us how the system works when a project sponsor downstream requests water.”[...]

Test releases, ranging from 5 to 200 cubic feet per second, will show how well drop structures – basins that slow the flow of water and dissipate its energy – work. The basins in effect eliminate 200 feet of the 500-foot drop in elevation from the dam to the river, Artichoker said. There are 11 drop structures in Basin Creek from the dam outlet works to its confluence with the Animas River five miles away. The lower stretch of Basin Creek was left in its natural state except for the drop structures, built of grout-covered rip-rap. Test releases will establish how long it takes for water to reach the Animas, Artichoker said. The information will indicate to project partners in New Mexico how much lead time is required when they want water.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.


2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1274 (Water Conservation Board Construction Fund) passes state House and will allocate $12 million for Animas-La Plata Project water for southwestern Colorado

April 7, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

House Bill 1274 spends $14 million for water projects across the state, including $12 million so the state can buy water from the federal government in the reservoir southwest of Durango. The state has the right to buy 10,460 acre-feet of water in Lake Nighthorse. If it refuses to make the purchase, the water would be split between the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian tribes, each owns 33,050 acre-feet already…

The water purchase will cost around $36 million, which the state plans to pay in three yearly installments. The Legislature approved the first payment in 2010. The Colorado Water Conservation Board will decide later this year whether to buy all the water or stop this year. The board has not decided yet how it will use the water, but it could serve as a hedge against lawsuits from downstream states to force the state to supply more water to the Colorado River system.

More Animas-La Plata Projec coverage here and here.


Purchase of Animas-La Plata water would take most of the dough that the state has available

March 17, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Legislators offered support Wednesday for spending $12 million on the second installment of the purchase, which could total $36 million over three years. The state water board began buying A-LP water from the federal government last year, at the urging of former state Sen. Bruce Whitehead. The state was facing a deadline to either buy into the project and get a seat on its governing board, or lose the chance. A top water official said the Colorado Water Conservation Board will decide by early fall whether to seek the last $12 million from the Legislature or to buy only a portion of the 10,460 acre-feet set aside for the state. If the state doesn’t buy the water, Colorado’s two Ute Indian tribes would get it free of charge…

The La Plata-Archuleta Water District has talked about using Animas-La Plata water to supply drinking water to southeast La Plata County. But the Colorado Water Conservation Board is focusing on the purchase of the water from the federal government, and it is not in negotiations for what to do once it owns the water, Gimbel said. The purchase is by far the largest part of the annual water projects bill, House Bill 1274, by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. This year’s bill spends $14 million, a shadow of past years’ bills that used to be among the most expensive pieces of legislation of the year. The 2007 bill, for example, made $150 million worth of grants and loans.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here.


Proposed Lake Nighthorse recreation plan update

March 6, 2011

A picture named lakenighthorsesummer2010

From the Durango Telegraph (Leslie Swanson):

Smoothing out as many wrinkles as possible is the goal of Lake Nighthorse recreation planners. Public acceptance is, they say, a key component of the plan’s success. To that end, they have made participation in the decision-making process available through open houses, public forums, design workshops and a website where people can post comments and see everyone else’s as well. A review of public opinions expressed so far reveals that most people are willing to compromise on motors. Of all the comments received by DHM Design, the reservoir’s primary planning entity, 22 voted for no motors at all, 37 supported unrestricted motorized sports, and 38 were OK with some form of engine, as long as they are limited in horsepower, area and/or schedule. An electric-only restriction on motors was very popular among the latter group.

Joy Lujan, of the National Park Service, has been facilitating the public planning process. She explained that they are approaching a resolution by dealing with the individual components of anti-motor sentiments: primarily noise, pollution and wakes. By designating separate areas, restricting engine decibels, banning fueling stations and inspecting boats for invasive mussels, the lake’s planners believe that they can resolve anti-motor issues. The two ends of the sporting spectrum can4 peacefully co-exist, they claim, but no gas motors at all? That’s looking like a no-go.

Here is where the water gets choppy: With all the outreach and open access of the current planning process, one large and lasting decision appears to have been made with very little public input – construction of the boat ramp. Paid for by a Wallop-Breaux grant of $3 million from the State of Colorado, the ramp came with a contingency: it must allow use by gas-powered boats within three years of completion or the Bureau of Reclamation has to return the money. At a public forum last November, a bureau representative stated that repayment was not likely, in effect making motorized boating a done deal regardless of opposition. Such mandates tend to stir discontent and mistrust, and the boat ramp has caused significant local agitation.

Mark Chiarito, of the Bureau of Rec, expressed desire to resolve the confusion and offered the following explanation about the decision to construct the boat ramp: “In order to open the reservoir to public use in a timely manner, the Bureau of Reclamation and the State agreed on the need to solicit interest from other nonfederal entities to provide recreation at Lake Nighthorse. Hence, the current community planning process is being conducted and the boat ramp needs to be considered as a valid existing facility for inclusion in the recreation master plan.”

More Animas River watershed coverage here.


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