Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area celebrates 25 years #ArkansasRiver

October 29, 2014

arkansasheadwatersrecreationarea
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Abbie Walls):

The public is invited to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Join us for the festivities from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Nov. 7 at the Salida SteamPlant Ballroom, courtyard and the nearby Salida boat ramp.

“It’s only appropriate that the AHRA extend an invitation to the entire Upper Arkansas Valley community to help us celebrate our 25th Anniversary,” said AHRA Park Manager, Rob White. “They are the ones that helped establish the AHRA and it’s these citizens, along with local officials, employees and volunteers, who continue to make the AHRA the success that it is today.”

For 25 years CPW has worked together with the BLM and USFS to provide residents and visitors alike with some of the best recreational opportunities found in the country, while continuing to safeguard the significant natural resources of the upper Arkansas River Valley.

“The AHRA partnership has been instrumental in developing the Arkansas River into the gem that it is today,” said John Nahomenuk, BLM’s river manager. “The resources along the river are in better condition today than at any point since the inception of AHRA.”

Bring the family and try some of the activities that make the AHRA so popular! Youth activities will be open to the public from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the SteamPlant and the surrounding area. Activities include gold panning, fly fishing lessons, wildlife and geology touch tables and OHV demonstration rides. Refreshments will be served in the SteamPlant Ballroom at noon, followed by presentations from former Gov. Roy Romer and other state and local officials, including CPW Director Bob Broscheid and BLM State Director Ruth Welch.

WHAT: AHRA 25th Anniversary Celebration

WHERE: Salida SteamPlant Ballroom, 220 W Sackett Ave., Salida

WHEN: 10:30 am – Noon: Youth Activities
Noon – 12:30 pm: Light Refreshments
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm: Formal Presentations

WHO: You! Bring the whole family for a day of fun!

###

Fun Facts about AHRA:

  • The AHRA manages 152 miles of the Arkansas River and claims first place for providing more commercial whitewater trips than anyplace else.
  • AHRA offers a choice of six campgrounds and 102 campsites along the Arkansas River.
  • The Arkansas River through the AHRA is Colorado’s newest Gold Medal Waters Fishery
  • The Arkansas River within the AHRA, between Granite and Lake Pueblo, has almost 100 named rapids, Class II-V, with names like: Pea Shooter, Zoom Flume, Gosh Awful, Lose Your Lunch, Sledgehammer and Piglets Nightmare.
  • There are 14 mountains over 14,000 feet bording the western side of the AHRA. This is more than 25% of the 14ers in the entire state of Colorado and the most that can be found in any one location.
  • AHRA visitors can enjoy fishing, hiking, camping, picnicking, wildlife watching, mountain biking, rock climbing, off-highway vehicles and even gold panning!
  • For more information contact Abbie Walls (CPW) at 719-227-5211 or Kyle Sullivan (BLM) at 719-269-8553.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    EPA Announces Partial Deletion of California Gulch Superfund Site from National Priorities List

    October 26, 2014

    From The Targeted News Service (Joann Vista) via 4-Traders.com:

    The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final rule announcing the deletion of the Operable Unit 4, Upper California Gulch; Operable Unit 5, ASARCO Smelters/Slag/Mill Sites; and Operable Unit 7, Apache Tailing Impoundment, of the California Gulch Superfund Site located in Lake County, Colorado, from the National Priorities List (NPL). This final rule is effective on Oct. 24…

    This partial deletion pertains to the Operable Unit 4, Upper California Gulch (media of concern–waste rock and fluvial tailing piles); Operable Unit 5, ASARCO Smelters/Slag/Mill Sites (media of concern–slag and soil); and Operable Unit 7, Apache Tailing Impoundment (media of concern–tailing and soil), of the California Gulch Superfund Site (Site). Operable Unit 2, Malta Gulch; Operable Unit 8, Lower California Gulch; Operable Unit 9, Residential Populated Areas; and Operable Unit 10, Oregon Gulch were partially deleted by previous rules. Operable Unit 1, the Yak Tunnel/Water Treatment Plant; Operable Unit 3, the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company Slag Piles/Railroad Easement/Railroad Yard; Operable Unit 6, Starr Ditch/Penrose Dump/Stray Horse Gulch/Evans Gulch; Operable Unit 11, the Arkansas River Floodplain; and Operable Unit 12 (OU12), Site-wide Water Quality will remain on the NPL and is/are not being considered for deletion as part of this action. The EPA and the State of Colorado, through the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, have determined that all appropriate response actions under CERCLA, other than operation, maintenance, and five-year reviews, have been completed. However, the deletion of these parcels does not preclude future actions under Superfund.”

    For more information, contact Linda Kiefer, Remedial Project Manager, EPA, Region 8, 1595 Wynkoop Street, Denver, Colorado; 303/312-6689, kiefer.linda@epa.gov.

    More California Gulch coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update

    October 22, 2014
    Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

    Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A regional water conservation plan already is opening doors for participants in the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District has worked with the communities to develop strategies to improve water systems in advance of the conduit’s construction. Benefits include measuring how water is used, plugging leaks and managing pressure.

    “The need is the infrastructure, and that’s what we’re trying to focus on,” said Jean Van Pelt, project coordinator for the Southeastern district. “When the conduit is completed, we don’t want it to connect to aging systems with leaking pipes.”

    The conduit will take clean drinking water 130 miles from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads. Along the way, 40 small communities are expected to tap into the line to bring water to 50,000 people. The $400 million project is at least a decade away from completion.

    The district also is seeking a master contract for storage in Lake Pueblo for conduit participants and other water users in the Southeastern district.

    One of the requirements placed on the communities by the Bureau of Reclamation is to ensure that water is not wasted, so conservation plans are needed.

    “We went out and interviewed all of the conduit participants and we are in the process of integrating the master contract participants as well,” Van Pelt said.

    Large utilities have more resources to employ strategies like rate structures, leak detection, metering, system audits and consumer education.

    The Southeastern district also offers a tool box on its website where communities can pick and choose from ideas for reducing water waste in their systems.

    The regional conservation plan also gives a leg up to private water companies seeking grants to improve their water supply, which require both conservation plans and governmental structure to administer the grant.

    “The plan needs to be in place,” Van Pelt said.

    The conservation plan and tool box have been under development since 2011 at a cost of $50,000-$60,000 per year using grants from Reclamation and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


    Stormwater measure picks up broad support as opponents point out flaws — The Colorado Springs Gazette #COpolitics

    October 21, 2014
    Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

    The campaign on stormwater has become a David vs. Goliath match in terms of spending and visible support.

    Proponents of El Paso County Measure 1B, which would spend $40 million a year to plan, build and maintain drainage and flood control projects in four cities and portions of the county, have raised nearly $200,000 for their messaging, including television and radio commercials and billboards. The proposal has endorsements from the Regional Business Alliance, local construction and development companies, the Housing and Building Association and the Downtown Partnership.

    “We are very pleased with the support we’ve gotten from the community,” said Kevin Walker, co-chairman of the regional stormwater task force that led the charge in developing the proposal. “It’s a lot of people who recognize there is a need to address this issue, and it’s past time to do that.”

    The opposition is tougher to gauge. There is no splashy television campaign against 1B – just a handful of signs placed near the billboards. Douglas Bruce, the author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and the man who coined the phrase “No Rain Tax” in 2008, has a website and has been handing out fliers at events and around downtown.

    Bruce said the stormwater proposal is flawed because it attempts to catch up on an estimated $700 million in backlogged projects but does not require future development to pay for flood control. Further, he said, no price tags are attached to the 114 projects listed as part of the plan, and there’s no guarantee that the projects will be built or in which order.

    “In my 50 years of being involved in political activity, I have never seen a worse ballot issue,” he said.

    Voters in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Green Mountain Falls and parts of El Paso County will be asked to create the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority, a governmental entity that would collect fees to pay for planning, building and maintaining flood control projects such as channels, detention ponds and curbs and gutters. The proposal would allow the authority to collect fees based on the size of a property and its impervious surface, meaning driveways, parking lots and rooftops.

    This month, the El Paso County Commission approved a resolution of “advocacy” in favor of the stormwater proposal.

    “This plan has gone through an arduous development process to make it the most responsible plan possible. Ultimately, the people will decide, but we have to stand up as elected officials to explain to them how big the stormwater problem has become and how important it is to our to public safety, to our roads and bridges, to the protection of private property and to economic development,” said Commissioner Amy Lathen, who was a member of the stormwater task force.

    The key question organizers of the proposal have been asked is, “how much is this going to cost me?” The proposed ballot question says the average residential property owner would pay $7.70 per month – $92.40 per year on the residential property tax bill.

    The problem with the proposal is that fees would apply to nonprofit agencies and schools, said Vince Rusinak, a retired Air Force civil engineer and member of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments. He has been on the board of directors for nonprofit agencies such as the Boys and Girls Club and said that the proposed stormwater fees would take money from programs. A chart of estimated rates shows nonprofits could pay from $41.58 a year to $3,750 a year depending on the amount of impervious surface.

    “That is a huge amount to those organizations,” Rusinak said.

    It’s true that a stormwater fee would dip into program budgets for nonprofit organizations, said Dave Somers, executive director at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence. But the proposed fee structure, he said, is fair to nonprofit groups and schools and is lower than fees that would be imposed on commercial, industrial and government properties.

    In an unprecedented move, the Center for Nonprofit Excellence weighed in on the election issue, giving the proposal its endorsement.

    “With the last few years of floods, our board and staff and members recognized the importance of the community coming together in identifying a solution,” Somers said.

    Organizers of the initiative believe the authority could collect about $40 million a year. Fifty-five percent of the money collected would be spent on capital projects and that portion of the fee would sunset after 20 years. However, 45 percent of the money, which would be used for administration, maintenance and emergency needs, would continue on until the authority retired it, organizers of the initiative said.

    Mayor Steve Bach, who issued a proclamation in August detailing his opposition to the stormwater proposal, is uncomfortable with a never-ending portion of the fee. In his proclamation, he also said the authority could raise fees without voter approval.

    Bach, who had been the most visible opponent of the proposal but recently stepped back from public comments on the issue, has said the proposal creates an unnecessary layer of government. Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins agrees. She said the city of Colorado Springs spent $46 million on stormwater projects in the past two years. An authority, she said, would shave 1 percent of the money collected off the top for administration costs.

    Bruce, who finds himself aligned politically with Bach for the first time, applauded the mayor’s proclamation and added that if voters approve the stormwater fee, it will be attached to their annual property tax bill and a property owner could not refuse to pay it or the county would put a lien on their property.

    “It’s on a property tax bill,” he said. “If you don’t pay the bill, it’s a threat to your home.”

    Colorado Springs tried to solve its stormwater issue in 2008 when the City Council approved the creation of a Stormwater Enterprise – a property fee used to pay for drainage projects. The enterprise was phased out and ended by 2011 after voters approved the Bruce-sponsored Issue 300, and the enterprise was viewed as an illegal tax imposed without voter 
approval.

    In August 2012, El Paso County commissioners and the council convened a summit to talk about flooding and drainage problems across the region and how to pay for them. The November ballot issue is modeled after the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, created in 2004 by voters in Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls. The PPRTA collects a 1 percent sales tax for transportation and transit improvements.

    In November, the stormwater task force commissioned the Washington, D.C.-based WPA opinion research firm to survey 400 registered voters – 80 percent in Colorado Springs and 20 percent elsewhere in El Paso County – to find out if flood control is on residents’ radar. Ninety-five percent of respondents said flood control is important, and two-thirds of those said it is very important. An additional 81 percent said there should be a dedicated funding source to pay for drainage projects.

    Bruce said that same survey showed that 44 percent of the respondents agreed with the fee.

    “Any ballot issue that starts out under 50 percent before the opposition even surfaces is doomed,” Bruce said. “Ballot-issue support always slides; it doesn’t rise.”

    Walker said the 44 percent is the amount of survey respondents who said they would prefer a fee compared with a sales tax or a property tax. It was meant as a research question and not a ballot question, he said. Once the task force settled on a fee structure, it did not conduct another 
survey.

    “We are optimistic that we can win,” Walker said. “But it’s not over until it’s over.”

    More, from The Gazette:

    5 things to know about 
Measure 1B

    1. If the measure is approved, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Green Mountain Falls and parts of El Paso County would form the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority. The governmental agency would have an 11-member board of directors made up of elected officials from each entity.

    2. The authority would collect fees on all property. The fee is based on the amount of impervious surface – driveways, rooftops and parking lots.

    3. The authority expects to collect about $40 million a year. Of that, 55 percent of the money would be used for a list of 114 projects identified as high priority for the region; 35 percent of the money would be used for maintenance and operations; and 10 percent would be set aside for emergencies. At the end of 20 years, the portion of the fee – 55 percent – used for capital projects would sunset. The rest of the fee would remain in place until the authority dissolved it.

    4. Fees would be added to annual property tax bills. Unpaid property tax bills trigger a lien process.

    5. For more information, go to http://PikesPeakStormwater.org or http://NoRainTax.net

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.


    “If I have 24 hours of floodwater on the Colorado Canal, I’m going to take it. I need it” — Matt Heimerich

    October 20, 2014
    Fountain Creek Watershed

    Fountain Creek Watershed

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A district formed to improve Fountain Creek last week made an appeal for those with water rights to get involved in the early stages of a study to build flood control structures.

    “Water rights protection is something we should do before we get into any other aspect of flood control on Fountain Creek,” Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District told ditch company board members Friday.

    Small spoke during the annual meeting of the winter water storage program, bringing experts in to talk about the issue of public safety vs. water rights.

    “We’re not working in a vacuum,” said Mark Pifher, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the state Water Quality Control Commission.

    Denver’s regional Urban Drainage Authority and the city of Aspen have raised questions with the Colorado Division of Water Resources over how floodwater detention rules work in the state, Pifher explained.

    State Engineer Dick Wolfe has adopted policies that say that single-site developments can hold water for 72 hours, but that regional floodwater control projects must augment any water detained with equivalent releases under a substitute water supply plan. That same principle was applied to Fountain Creek when the city of Pueblo built a detention pond behind the North Side Walmart as part of a demonstration project. The city learned it needed an augmentation plan after the project was well underway. Urban Drainage and Aspen officials are not pleased with the policy and are looking at potential state legislation to force a change in that policy, Pifher said.

    Short of a blanket change that would allow the 72-hour rule to apply, the Fountain Creek district wants to study whose rights would be affected by holding back a large flood.

    A study by the U.S.

    Geological Survey completed last year provided solid numbers about how much water dams or detention ponds would hold back at certain points on Fountain Creek. That in turn can be applied to the flows at the Avondale gauge on the Arkansas River, which is upstream from every major ditch except the Bessemer below Pueblo Dam.

    Flood stage

    After Pueblo Dam went into operation 40 years ago, it was determined that flood stage at Avondale was 6,000 cubic feet per second. Floods upstream of Pueblo Dam are contained by curtailing releases to that level.

    The last time flood control protection from that type of event was in 1999. Flows on Fountain Creek are measured and Pueblo Dam can be cut back to prevent that flooding from affecting Avondale as well, said Bill Tyner, assistant division engineer.

    “You can have those huge flashy flows on Fountain Creek and find ways to cut back at Pueblo Dam to protect downstream communities,” Tyner said.

    Reservoirs on Fountain Creek would have to perform differently, because there would not be Bureau of Reclamation staff on hand to open or shut release gates, he said.

    Quenching all thirst

    Several storm events that occurred in the past four years caused the Avondale gauge to top 6,000 cfs for several hours.

    “Those spot events did not satisfy everyone’s needs downstream,” Tyner said.

    That doesn’t matter if you’re a farmer.

    “If I have 24 hours of floodwater on the Colorado Canal, I’m going to take it. I need it,” said Matt Heimerich of Crowley County.

    “Those floods are the only way we get water in storage,” said Donny Hansen, president of the Holbrook Canal.

    The direct rights downstream from Avondale and above John Martin Reservoir can be met with about 4,115 cfs, but storage rights on the canals total 3,631 cfs, he explained. Water rights below John Martin require another 1,534 cfs to be met.

    So, all water rights below Avondale on the Arkansas River total about 9,282 cfs.

    The 6,000 cfs at Avondale might be enough to satisfy all those rights, since the return flows of one ditch are reused downstream, a factor of about 1.5 times, he said.

    But the envisioned dams on Fountain Creek are aimed at stopping monster 100-year floods — the type where heavy rain falls for several days. In the USGS study, a large dam or series of dams upstream of the Fountain Creek confluence would cut in half the peak flow of a 100-year flood — 44,000 cfs, or five times the amount of water needed to fulfill all downstream water rights.

    The 100-year flood flow at Avondale, coincidentally, is 44,000 cfs, according to the USGS.

    Moving ahead

    The Fountain Creek district is not the only agency working at flood control in the Pueblo area. The Pueblo Conservancy District, in the headlines recently for its plan to rebuild the Arkansas River levee through Pueblo, also is responsible for the flood plain from Pueblo to the Otero County line.

    “The high flows on Fountain Creek are a source of erosion that affects the land in our district down below,” said Bud O’Hara, a retired water engineer who is on the Pueblo Conservancy District board.

    O’Hara showed graphs that point out about a dozen smaller events this year that created the potential for minor erosion events.

    Farmers, on the other hand, generally like the erosion on Fountain Creek because it is part of the process that carries sediment downstream to help seal ditches. Many still grumble about the “clear water” that resulted from the construction of Pueblo Dam. In effect, it meant the erosive properties of the river were transferred downstream as more erosion occurred within ditch systems.

    Abby Ortega, an engineer for Colorado Springs Utilities working with the Fountain Creek district, asked the farmers to provide suggestions for consultants to study the issue.

    “We’re looking at how to build structures and not injure water rights,” she said. “We’re asking for your input.”

    “I think the model we should use is the irrigation efficiency rules that was hosted by Dick Wolfe,” Heimerich responded. In that process, farmers and others affected by proposed rules guiding ditch improvements met for 18 months and were able to give immediate feedback. “It’s just too important not to do it right.”

    More Fountain Creek coverage here.


    Souteastern Water winter water storage meeting recap

    October 18, 2014

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Lower Arkansas Valley water users could face a different sort of challenge next year, especially if it’s a wet winter: Finding places to store the water. The possibility was discussed Friday at the annual meeting of the winter water storage program, hosted by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    “I think the way we’re managing reservoirs is shifting a bit,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We need to start planning. If one area gets full, you can’t move the water there.”

    The winter water program is a court-decreed plan that allows most major ditch companies east of Pueblo to store water from Nov. 15 to March 15 each year. Rather than irrigating during the winter months, the companies can store the water for use later in the season.

    But the storage is not all in one place.

    About one-third of last year’s water was stored in Lake Pueblo, with the rest being stored by individual canal companies or in John Martin Reservoir.

    Not all ditch companies have storage.

    Lake Pueblo has more water than usual going into the winter water storage season because cities were able to beef up their storage in Fryingpan-Arkansas Project space this year. In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation is moving water from Turquoise and Twin Lakes to Lake Pueblo to make room for next spring’s transmountain imports.

    If rainfall and snowpack are above average in the Arkansas River basin, Lake Pueblo could fill more. If it gets too full, some water would have to be evacuated, or “spilled,” next spring in order to leave space to contain potential floods.

    It’s a problem the valley hasn’t really faced since 1999. In 2011, the Southeastern District got permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to delay releases of water from the flood pool by several weeks because of conditions at the time.

    Roy Vaughan, Fry-Ark Project manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, said a spill is unlikely next year if weather conditions remain in the average range. But Lake Pueblo should be nearly filled to the flood pool level by next spring.


    Lake Pueblo State Park: Proposed new pumping rules to be discussed November 17 #ArkansasRiver

    October 17, 2014

    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Groundwater rules that could help certain farmers avoid some of the cost of water court applications are being considered for the Arkansas River basin.

    “We’re not necessarily committed to this idea, but it may have benefits,” Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. “The public needs to weigh in.”

    The first chance to do that will be at a meeting at 1 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Lake Pueblo State Park visitors center auditorium.

    The rules would apply to water replacement plans for post-1985 pumping, new uses for wells drilled prior to 1985 or new wells. They would provide an administrative alternative to water court, which can be too expensive for individual water users to navigate.

    Witte reviewed the history of legal issues surrounding wells in the Arkansas Valley, including the 1972 attempt to reconcile surface and groundwater use, the Kansas v. Colorado case filed in 1985 that led to the 1996 well rules and the Simpson v. Bijou decision by the state Supreme Court in 2003 that took many well augmentation plans out of the hands of the state engineer.

    “Decreed plans for augmentation costs have been so prohibitive in the South Platte that thousands of wells remain shut down to this day because of Simpson v. Bijou,” Witte said. There have also been instances in the Arkansas River basin, he said after the meeting.

    On the same day that the Simpson v. Bijou ruling came, the state Legislature entered the Arkansas Valley well rules into law. In 2003, it also gave the state engineer’s office authority to approve five-year substitute water supply plans and to develop future rules.

    Nearly 1,800 wells in the Arkansas Valley are covered by Rule 14 group augmentation plans under the 1996 rules, and those would stay in place even if new well rules are adopted.

    The new rules could benefit a farmer who wants to use his own surface water rights to replace water pumped from wells, revegetation projects or even someone drilling a new well for a business, Witte said. At the same time, they would protect downstream water users and Colorado’s obligation under the Arkansas River Compact.

    Witte acknowledged that there might an “augmentation gap” that makes finding sources of replacement water difficult, as discussed by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable recently. Permanently changing water uses still would require a trip to court.

    But he said the purpose of the rules would be to give farmers a new tool to stay in business while complying with water law.

    “We’re relying on data that were developed 30 years ago,” Witte said. “Life goes on and we need to think of ways to adjust and not be hampered by things already in place.”

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


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