Breckenridge: “We can’t just sit up here and say we have all the water, now we’ll use it” — Tim Gagen #ColoradoRiver

May 9, 2014
Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

The town council is considering legislation that would cap outdoor use at three days a week. It’s part of an effort to put a new emphasis on water conservation and efficiency, says Tim Gagen, the town manager.

“We have to walk the talk,” says Gagen. “We can’t just sit up here and say we have all the water, now we’ll use it.”

Breckenridge is not alone. Other mountains towns in Colorado are devoting more attention to water conservation and efficiency. A coalition in the Roaring Fork Valley is assembling plans for public outreach to elevate water efficiency. The Vail-based Eagle River Water and Sanitation District began crimping water use in 2003. Aspen’s water-efficiency measures go back even further, to the 1990s…

Colorado’s Front Range cities, where 85 percent of state residents live, have become more efficient with existing supplies. But they have also expanded supplies in recent decades by buying farms in the South Platte and Arkansas River valleys for their water rights, and allowing the farms to then dry up. They have also purchased mountain ranches in such buy-and-dry transactions.

Front Range water providers also want to retain the option of going to the Colorado River and its tributaries for one final, big diversion. Western Slope water leaders urge caution. But to have credibility, leaders in the mountain valleys realize they first must put their own houses in order.

“The Western Slope needs to be goosed,” says Chris Treese, director of external affairs for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “Frankly, the Front Range has led most of the water-conservation efforts in Colorado to date.”[...]

Gagen says that Breckenridge has been nibbling at water conservation efforts for several years. Leaking segments of existing pipes, which can cause loss of 8 to 15 percent of all the municipal water supply, are being replaced. Sprinklers in parks are being changed out in favor of more efficient devices. And the town is now looking at narrowing irrigation at its golf course to avoid watering of the roughs.

Breckenridge, in its municipal operation, has also adopted more xeriscaping, using plants that don’t require irrigation, reducing irrigation of remaining turf, and, in some cases, installing artificial turf.

Still on the agenda is elevating rates for high-consumption users. The average water bill in Breckenridge is just $35 every two months, not much more than dinner at one of the town’s higher-end restaurants. As such, most people probably pay little, if any attention, to the idea of conserving water in order to reduce their costs. They just write the check, says Gagen.

While Breckenridge has broad goals of improved sustainability, Gagen says the plan to reduce outdoor lawn irrigation to three days a week was pushed by two council members who have been persuaded by books they’ve read: “Blue Revolution,” by Cynthia Barnett (2011), “Cadillac Desert,” by Marc Reisner (1986), and “Getting Green Done,” by Auden Schendler (2011)…

Eagle River Water and Sanitation District has achieved a 20 percent per capita reduction in use, according to Diane Johnson, communications director. That’s in line with the reduction in water use since 2000 by Denver Water’s 1.3 million direct and indirect customers.

However, Eagle River has not pushed indoor water savings. Because 95 percent of indoor water is treated and released into the Eagle River, explains Johnson, the impact is small on the valley’s creeks and rivers. This compares with just 15 to 40 percent of water returned to streams after outdoor irrigation. Given limited resources for messaging, the better return is to hammer home the message of reduced outdoor use.

“What we really try to work with local people to understand is that their outdoor use affects how much water is in the rivers,” says Johnson. “If you are using water indoors, save yourself some money and be efficient, but most of that water comes back to the treatment plant and returns to the river.”[...]

In adopting its regulations on outdoor lawn watering, Eagle River Water was motivated by the searing drought of 2002. But laws also provide incentives. When seeking permits for new or expanded reservoirs, county regulations ask about “efficient use” of existing resources. State and federal regulations approach it with different wording, but essentially the same intent. “Efficient use of resource is going to be a consideration in any of those permitting processes,” says Johnson.

Eagle River Water has also adopted tiered rates, charging higher rates per 1,000 gallons as consumers step up consumption. But what do you do about those pockets of consumers for whom money is no deterrent?

That’s an issue in the Vail Valley that water officials are starting to wrestle with. Aspen recognized years ago that price was no object to some homeowners—and charges nosebleed rates.

Aspen’s municipal utility, which delivers both electricity and water, uses the income from high-use water customers to pay for front-end renewable energy programs and demand-side energy efficiency, says Phil Overeynder, the former utilities director and now the utilities engineer for special projects.

Aspen in the early 1990s approached the forked paths of water use. But instead of continuing to build capacity for existing water demands, the city instead reined in use. Last year, Aspen used the same amount of water as it did in 1966, despite having three times as many residents. (See more detailed story).

Now, an effort has been launched to frame a broad water efficiency strategy for the Roaring Fork Valley. The seed was planted in 2010 by the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, or CORE, a non-profit founded in the mid-1990s. The effort has several motives—including energy.

Formation of the group was at least partly influenced by the writings of Amory Lovins, a resident of the area, who for decades talked about “negawatts”—the idea that efficiency in energy was as good as new supply. The group he co-founded, Rocky Mountain Institute, further applied this idea of a soft path to water efficiency.

CORE’s Jason Haber explains that saving water also saves energy in several ways. Developing water resources requires energy, but it also takes energy to pump water. Energy is also embedded in treatment of sewage, he points out. Typically, water and sewage are the largest components of any municipality’s energy budget…

Whether Colorado truly has any water to develop on the Western Slope is debatable—and has been debated frequently in state-wide water forums. The Colorado River Water Conservation District has suggested that major new diversions would be risky, simply because of the lack of certainty of legally entitled water in future years. Colorado’s use of the river that bears its name is tightly capped by two inter-state water compacts and one international treaty.

More conservation coverage here.

Walkers win Leopold Award — The Pueblo Chieftain

April 23, 2014

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

For more than two decades, Gary and Georgia Walker have been transforming a “rundown ranch” into a productive cattle ranch that provides wildlife habitat and environmental buffer against Fort Carson for Pueblo West. On Tuesday, they were honored with the Colorado Leopold Conservation Award, recognizing their continued stewardship for the 65,000-acre ranch. The award is named for Aldo Leopold, who called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own in his 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac.”

“The Walkers’ passion for caring for the habitat and rare plant species on their land, near a growing urban community, sets a remarkable example of conservation leadership,” said Sand County Foundation President Brent Haglund.

The Walkers most recently made headlines for becoming the first ranchers in the United States to allow a release of an endangered species, the black-footed ferret, on their land under the federal Safe Harbor Act. But the conservation ethic goes back much further.

“Georgia and I started buying small ranches in the late 1970s,” said Walker, 68. “In those early days my only income was the check she brought home for teaching at District 60 in Pueblo. I also had an on and off income for helping dad. But our main plan was to seek out inexpensive ranches that needed a lot of cleaning up, buy and resell them. I was lucky as the banks in those days put a lot of value in the word and knowledge of a man and would make loans based on that and not only on his assets.”

In 1992, they bought the Turkey Creek Ranch from Walker’s father, the late Bob Walker. At the same time, they purchased 20,000 acres of adjacent state land in a tax-free exchange and gave up on fixing up ranches in order to concentrate on expanding their own property. Over the years, they have added more land through 75 purchases that doubled the size of the ranch.

“In my lifetime we have run everything that grew hair,” Walker said.

At one time his father ran 15,000 yearlings on four ranches in two states, but in recent years, the drought has decimated the herd. Since the drought began in 2000, they’ve sold and rebuilt their Black Angus herd three times. It reached its peak in 2012 at 1,100 cows, but dropped to 350 during the drought. After the rains last fall, they expanded to about 500 head.

The Walkers also own Twin Lakes water shares, among the most valuable and reliable water sources in the Arkansas River basin, in order to maintain water levels on ponds used by wildlife on their property.

“The Walkers balance a love of the land and a dedication to preserving wildlife with cattle ranching,” said Gene Manuello, president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “The 14 years of sustained drought have put unfathomable pressure on producers in Southeastern Colorado; the Walkers’ forethought and planning included the installation of pipelines, water storage tanks and stock ponds which have played an integral part in the long-term viability of the Turkey Creek Ranch as a home to livestock and wildlife.”

The Leopold Award is jointly sponsored by the Sand County Foundation, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Peabody Energy, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, American AgCredit, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Farm Credit, DuPont Pioneer, The Mosaic Company and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Walkers will receive the award and a $10,000 check at the Protein Producer Summit June 16 in Colorado Springs.

Here’s the release from the Sand Country Foundation via The Cherry Creek News:

The Turkey Creek Ranch owned and operated by Gary and Georgia Walker has been selected as the recipient of the 2014 Colorado Leopold Conservation Award. The Pueblo-based ranch consists of approximately 65,000 deeded acres and is managed for both wildlife and livestock.

The acts of cattle ranching and wildlife management go hand in hand, and the life’s work of the Walkers proves it. Under an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they re-introduced Black Footed Ferrets, which were once thought to be extinct, in eastern Colorado.

“The Walkers’ passion for caring for the habitat and rare plant species on their land, near a growing urban community, sets a remarkable example of conservation leadership,” said Sand County Foundation President Brent Haglund.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes private landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The Walkers will receive a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold, and $10,000 at the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s Protein Producer Summit on June 16 in Colorado Springs.

The award recognizes private landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. It is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, Peabody Energy, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, and American AgCredit.

“The Walkers balance a love of the land and a dedication to preserving wildlife with cattle ranching,” said Gene Manuello, President of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “The fourteen years of sustained drought have put unfathomable pressure on producers in southeastern Colorado; the Walkers’ forethought and planning included the installation of pipelines, water storage tanks and stock ponds which have played an integral part in the long-term viability of the Turkey Creek Ranch as a home to livestock and wildlife.”

The Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. It inspires landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

Award applicants are judged based on their demonstration of improved resource conditions, innovation, long-term commitment to stewardship, sustained economic viability, community and civic leadership, and multiple use benefits.

The Leopold Conservation Award is possible thanks to generous contributions from many organizations, including Peabody Energy, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Assoc., American AgCredit, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Farm Credit, DuPont Pioneer, The Mosaic Company, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

More conservation coverage here.

Arkansas River Basin update on Colorado River Basin imports this season #ColoradoRiver #COdrought

July 28, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Imports of water from the Colorado River basin are providing a substantial amount of water to the Arkansas River basin during the drought. Almost 98,000 acre-feet of water have been imported through the three largest transmountain tunnels — Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Twin Lakes and Homestake — and more than 7,000 acre-feet through smaller tunnels and ditches. In all, the diversions added 105,500 acre-feet to the Arkansas River system this year. That amounts to about 144 cubic feet per second of river flows all day long, every day of the year in the Arkansas River. That’s a lot, considering that the flow near Salida is only around 600 cfs in the middle of summer. It’s been around 100 cfs through Pueblo most of the year, and was languishing at 270 cfs at Avondale last week.

To put it in other terms, it’s nearly four times as much water as Pueblo runs through its treated water system in a year, and about the average amount used by the Catlin Canal. According to preliminary figures from the Colorado Division of Water Resources:

The Fry-Ark Project brought over more than 46,300 acre-feet this year. It provides supplemental water to cities and farms in the Arkansas River basin.

Twin Lakes, mostly owned by Colorado Springs, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Aurora and Pueblo West, brought in 34,000 acre-feet this year.

Homestake, which delivers water to Colorado Springs and Aurora, brought in more than 17,600 acre-feet.

Busk-Ivanhoe, a tunnel owned by Pueblo and Aurora, added 3,792 acre-feet.

Columbine Ditch, near Fremont Pass and owned by Aurora and Climax, added 1,459 acre-feet.

Pueblo’s Wurtz and Ewing Ditches contributed another 2,273 acre-feet.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

Arkansas River: Voluntary flow program to be honored by the Palmer Land Trust on October 9

July 26, 2013


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A program that keeps flows for fish and recreation in the Upper Arkansas River is being recognized by the Palmer Land Trust with an innovation in conservation award. The award will be presented Oct. 9 in Colorado Springs. It recognizes unique partnerships that protect natural heritage.

The voluntary flow program allows transfer of water in the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project in a way that benefits fish on the Arkansas River. Water brought from the Colorado River basin is stored in Turquoise and Twin Lakes and moved to Lake Pueblo under the Fry-Ark Project. In 1990, a program was established to move the water at opportune times in order to control temperature and spawning conditions for fish, as well as to boost flows for rafting during the summer months. During the drought, the water has been crucial to meeting flow targets on the river. “This year we’ll move 14,000 acre-feet,” said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fry-Ark Project for the Bureau of Reclamation. “It’s water that we would have to move anyway.”

The program is coordinated by Reclamation, which controls river releases; Colorado Parks and Wildlife; the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District; and the Arkansas River Outfitters Association, along with other water users and groups in the Arkansas River basin.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

‘Even though these two sets of water molecules are separated soon after birth, their fates remain closely tied’ — Hannah Holm

July 4, 2013


Here’s an in-depth look at Ruedi Reservoir administration from Hannah Holm writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Take, for example, a few water molecules that begin their terrestrial journey as snow in the mountains just East of Aspen. In the spring, they melt and flow into the Frying Pan River, a tributary to the Roaring Fork.

Some of these molecules are captured early and flow east into a tunnel bound for the Arkansas River Valley. Once across the Divide, they may help float a raft or two on their way to a cantaloupe field in Rocky Ford. Other molecules keep flowing west, until they are captured a little ways downstream in Ruedi Reservoir.

Even though these two sets of water molecules are separated soon after birth, their fates remain closely tied.

The molecules in Ruedi Reservoir will stay there, helping provide a pleasant boating and fishing environment, until they are released to flow down to the Roaring Fork and then the Colorado River en route to a Palisade peach orchard that has been relying on water out of the Colorado River since long before any of those tunnels to the Arkansas were drilled.

The ability to store and release water from Ruedi is what permits those other molecules to keep flowing across the Divide, even when water is needed downstream by users with more senior, and therefore higher priority, water rights.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

Twin Lakes operations update: 1370 cfs in Lake Creek

June 12, 2013


From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Today [June 11] we continue the wrap up of native exchanges. As a result, we bumped up releases from Twin Lakes Dam to Lake Creek (Lake Creek flows into the Arkansas) in several stages:

  • This morning, June 11, 11 a.m. releases bumped up by 250 cfs to around 1160 cfs.
  • This afternoon, around 4 p.m. we will bump up approximately another 200 cfs to about 1370 cfs.
  • For both increases, releases stage up in roughly 15 minute increases starting at the top of the hour.

  • Turquoise Reservoir and Twin Lakes operations update

    February 9, 2013


    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Still hoping for snow this weekend. In the meantime, we started moving water from Turquoise Reservoir down to Twin Lakes today, February 8. We’re moving it through the Mt. Elbert Conduit. We are sitting below average in storage for this time of year at both reservoirs. Water moving through the Conduit also moves through the Mt. Elbert Forebay and generates hydro-electric power at the Mt. Elbert Power Plant before entering Twin Lakes.

    Meanwhile, Ms. Lamb has started blogging at kara lamb. Check out her first post That Doesn’t Hurt, i.e. The Joy of Sport where she examines the pervasiveness of pain and injury in sports. Kara is a sports fan. She often does play by play via her Twitter account @klamb.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

    Twin Lakes Reservoir and Irrigation Canal Co. is the lone objector standing in Pitkin County instream flow change case

    February 2, 2013


    Change of water rights cases often drag on until all parties come to agreement and stipulate out. In many cases objectors raise issues with the proposed change that can only be settled at trial in water court. It looks like a change case by Pitkin County — to leave agricultural water in the stream for riparian purposes — is heading to court because Colorado Springs wants to make sure that the change won’t leave them water short at Twin Lakes if there is a rebound call from downstream seniors or a Colorado River Compact call. Here’s an in-depth look at the issue from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article for the great detail and analysis along with graphics that help illustrate the issues at hand. Here’s an excerpt:

    Pitkin County and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) are finding it’s not easy to leave water in a river for environmental purposes.

    The two entities have been working since mid-2010 to reach agreements with various opponents to a plan that would leave 4.3 cubic feet per second (cfs) of county water in lower Maroon Creek and the Roaring Fork River, instead of diverting it for irrigation purposes to the Stapleton Brothers Ditch near the base of Tiehack.

    They’ve reached agreements with 10 opponents so far, but the 11th, an entity controlled by the city of Colorado Springs called the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., is proving to be challenging.

    On Thursday, attorneys for Pitkin County asked a judge in Division 5 Water Court in Glenwood Springs to set a trial date as the parties have not yet resolved their differences. Judge James Boyd set the five-day trial for Feb. 3, 2014. The case number is 10CW-184.

    The trial results from an agreement between Pitkin County and the Colorado Water Conservation Board that was announced in 2009.

    Mr. Gardner-Smith has published a shorter version of the story in conjunction with the Aspen Daily News. Here’s an excerpt:

    “We have been in active settlement discussions with the applicants and have every intention of reaching agreement prior to trial,” said Kevin Lusk, a principal with Colorado Springs Utilities, the city’s water utility that controls Twin Lakes. “We believe that we have made significant progress and do not feel that the remaining issues are in any way insurmountable.”

    Lusk also serves as president of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., which diverts significant amounts of water off the top of the Roaring Fork River basin each year, sending it in tunnels underneath the Continental Divide to Twin Lakes and eventually the Front Range.

    “Twin Lakes has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to protect its interests,” Lusk said. “Because of this, Twin Lakes routinely objects to water rights cases on the Roaring Fork when they are of significant size or if there is significant precedent involved.”

    Lusk said Twin Lakes is concerned that a change to the county’s water right from irrigation to an instream-flow right may indirectly lead to a situation where Twin Lakes is allowed to divert less water off the top of the Roaring Fork River basin.

    But the county and state say there will be no injury to Colorado Springs’ water rights if the 4.3 cfs is left in the river instead of being used for irrigation, especially as monthly flow limits have been placed on the water right consistent with its historic use.

    “The maximum and average uses proposed … will prevent any expansion of use of the Stapleton Brothers Ditch water right,” stated engineers from Bishop-Brogden Associates, Inc., the firm working with the county and the CWCB, in a report submitted to the court.

    The county owns a total of 8 cfs of water in the Stapleton Brothers Ditch, which diverts that amount and more from Maroon Creek near the base of Tiehack and takes it some 3 miles across the base of Buttermilk Mountain to Owl Creek.

    The county’s water right in the Stapleton Brothers Ditch of 4.3 cfs has a 1904 priority date and was used by the Stapleton family to irrigate 163 acres of hay and alfalfa fields on land along Owl Creek.

    Most of that land is now occupied by the lower half of the runway at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. And since the county no longer uses all of the water for irrigation, it wants to leave about half of it — or 4.3 cfs — in the river for the benefit of the riparian ecosystem.

    If successful, Pitkin County would become the first entity in the state to legally leave its water in a river for environmental purposes via a long-term trust agreement with the CWCB, as allowed by a state law enacted in 200 via House Bill 08-1280.

    “It is significant because it is the first long-term agreement since HB 1280,” said [Linda] Bassi of the CWCB.

    More instream flow coverage here.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works ponies up $50,000 for wildfire mitigation near Twin Lakes #codrought

    January 16, 2013


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Forest fires can have devastating consequences to watersheds cities depend on, so the U.S. Forest Service is reaching out to municipal water providers to take measures to thin forests.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday voted to pay the Forest Service $50,000 to thin about 81 acres near Twin Lakes. The Forest Service provides the expertise and manpower to do the work. The water board will join other water providers throughout the West to reduce the impact of fires.

    Last summer, large fires near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs burned thousands of acres, raising the specter that those cities will face the same challenges Denver and Aurora have had from the 2002 Hayman Fire.

    “A movement is under way for the Forest Service to go into watersheds that are vital to municipal water supply to thin the forests and reduce the impact of fires,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for the water board.

    Colorado Springs and Aurora already have paid the Forest Service to clear other large areas near the Mount Elbert Forebay, located just north of Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes is a vital transfer point for the Homestake Project which the two cities jointly operate. Pueblo also stores water in Twin Lakes, as well as Clear Creek Reservoir and Turquoise Lake in the same general area.

    “There are lots of areas in our watershed that are at extreme risk,” Ward said.

    The water board and Forest Service are studying the possibility for future agreements in the watersheds of transmountain ditches in the Tennessee Creek area, he added.

    Meanwhile climate change is expected to exacerbate the wildfire problem. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradodoan. Here’s an excerpt:

    Colorado’s future under the influence of climate change will be significantly warmer and drier than recent years, and the impacts will affect the regions’ water, forests, wildfires, ecosystems and ability to grow crops. That’s the conclusion of the draft of the federal government’s National Climate Assessment, which was released for public comment on Monday by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

    The water content of Colorado’s snowpack and the timing of the spring runoff are changing, which could pose major challenges for the state’s water supplies and farmers, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University and co-author of the portion of the assessment addressing Colorado and the Southwest. The Southwest, including Colorado, will see significantly declining snowpack, increasing numbers of wildfires directly affecting communities, and threats to public health caused by spiking summer temperatures and disruptions in electricity and water supply, according to the assessment’s regional outlook.

    Mounting evidence suggests that temperature increases caused by people are responsible for killing trees throughout the region, increasing the number of wildfires and sparking bark beetle outbreaks.

    “Increased warming will increase wildfires and wildfire impacts,” Waskom said. “The models project more fire and greater risk.”[..]

    The only good news to be found in the climate assessment is that Colorado’s growing season may get longer as the temperatures warm, Waskom said.

    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Twin Lakes and the Boustead Tunnel are key components

    August 15, 2012



    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    As water use shifted from farms to cities, so did its use. As Colorado River water entered the Arkansas River basin, Twin Lakes was the key transfer point.

    Farmers from Crowley County recognized the value of the lakes — formed by glacial advances and retreats — in the late 1800s, and built a dam to store water high in the mountains until it was needed in the fields. Initially, the lake was filled by exchange, diverting water into one reservoir, while releasing flows from another.

    But by the 1930s, it was clear more water was needed to satisfy needs on the Colorado Canal, a ditch with relatively junior water rights in Crowley County. A tunnel was completed during the Great Depression to bring more water from the Colorado River near Independence Pass.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The tunnel is named for Charles H. Boustead, the first general manager of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, who died in 1966, shortly after work on the tunnel began. The tunnel is 10.5 feet high and 5.4 miles long, and is capable of bringing over 945 cubic feet (about 166 bathtubs full) per second of water through the mountains. Water from the north and south side collection systems flows into the tunnel on the west side of the mountains and travels by gravity into Turquoise Reservoir. There is rarely enough water to fill the tunnel’s capacity. Water comes in a rush as snowpack melts, usually from late May until July. The amount varies widely. There were record imports in 2011, followed by one of the lowest years ever in 2012.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “It was great for people other than in Lake County. We’re left with an economy devoid of any of the benefits promised by President Kennedy,” [Former Lake County Commissioner Ken Olsen] said. The Fry-Ark Project projected large increases in visitor days to Turquoise and Twin Lakes as a result of enlargement. But Forest Service policies have restricted visitor use and eroded the local tax base, Olsen said. The Bureau of Reclamation’s operation fills and lowers reservoirs in a way that’s out-of-sync for tourism benefits, he said.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Mount Elbert Power Plant generates peak power through two giant turbines that act as pumps, drawing down and refilling the Mount Elbert Forebay. During peak hours, summer days when air conditioners are running, the water flows by gravity from the forebay through the turbines. At night, when the lights go out, water is pumped back uphill through those same turbines…

    The turbines can generate up to 200 megawatts of power, and since it began operating in 1981 has generated more than 350 million kilowatt hours of electricity — enough to power 44,000 homes, according to Reclamation.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

    50th anniversary celebration of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo

    August 14, 2012


    The project got its start with a visit to Pueblo from President Kennedy back in 1962. Here’s the first installment from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article, Woodka is a terrific writer. Here’s an excerpt:

    But on that day [August 17, 1962], work began to address the problem. Kennedy came to Pueblo to celebrate the signing of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Act the previous day. Local water leaders will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fry-Ark Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo…

    The Twin Lakes Tunnel was constructed by the Colorado Canal Co. during the Great Depression, while the old Carlton railroad tunnel was used by the High Line Canal Co. to bring in water. In addition, Colorado Springs and Aurora were already building the Homestake Project, which would be intertwined with the Fry-Ark Project as both were built.

    But the government project, a scaled-down version of an earlier, larger plan to bring water from the Gunnison River basin, represented a larger cooperative effort between farmers and municipal leaders in nine counties.

    Since the first water was brought over in 1972, about 2.1 million acre-feet of water has been brought into the Arkansas River basin for irrigation and municipal use. The project also generates electric power at the Mount Elbert Power Plant.


    Woodka details some of the early water history along the Arkansas River mainstem in this report running in today’s Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Water Development Association of Southeastern Colorado was incorporated in 1946. Pueblo business leaders worked with valley water interests to investigate a Gunnison-Arkansas Project. By 1953, the project was scaled back to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, and the first hearings began in Congress.

    During the congressional hearings in subsequent years, the project evolved from one primarily serving agriculture to one that included municipal, hydroelectric power, flood control and recreation as well.

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District formed in 1958.

    The U.S. House passed the Fry-Ark Act on June 13, 1962; the U.S. Senate, Aug. 6, 1962. President John F. Kennedy signed it into law on Aug. 16, 1962.

    Here’s a short look at Jay Winner, current general manager of the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, from Chris Woodka Writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Back in the 1960s, his father Ralph Winner was the construction superintendent for Ruedi Reservoir, the first part of the Fry-Ark Project to be constructed and his family lived on the job site. His father came back in the late 1970s to supervise construction of one of the last parts of the collection system to be built, the Carter-Norman siphon. The siphon draws water across a steep canyon.

    For three summers, Winner, then a college student, worked on the latter project. “It was the most fun I ever had,” he laughed. “I got to play with dynamite.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A retired outfitter, [Reed Dils] is now a Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board member and a former representative from the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Initially, the flows got worse,” Dils said. “They (the Southeastern district and the Bureau of Reclamation) had chosen to run water in the winter…

    “It became apparent to everyone there was another way to run the river,” Dils said. “Why the Fry-Ark act was passed, recreation mainly meant flatwater recreation. Over time, they learned there are other types of recreation.”

    Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District invite the public to celebrate the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project’s 50th Anniversary at Lake Pueblo State Park on Sat., Aug. 18. The event is located at Lake Pueblo State Park Visitor’s Center from 9 2 p.m.

    Reclamation, the District and Colorado State Parks and Wildlife are offering free pontoon boat tours around Pueblo Reservoir and free tours of the fish hatchery located below Pueblo Dam. There will also be historical displays and several guest speakers.

    Signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is a multipurpose trans-basin water diversion and delivery project serving southeastern Colorado.

    The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project provides:

    - Water for more than 720,000 people
    – Irrigation for 265,000 acres
    – The largest hydro-electric power plant in the state
    – World renowned recreation opportunities from the Fryingpan River to the Arkansas River.

    For more information the 50th Anniversary Celebration – and to see a teaser of the upcoming film! – visit our website at

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.


    Meanwhile, Alan Hamel is retiring from the Pueblo Board of Water Works this month:

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “Little did I know how important the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project would be as I was watching the president’s car traveling down Abriendo Avenue that day,” Hamel said. “Look at all that it has done for our basin and what it will do in the future.”

    Hamel became executive director of the water board in 1982, and was president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the local agency that oversees the Fry-Ark Project, from 2002-04. He is currently serving on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.

    Drought news: The ‘Cameo Call’ and forgone deliveries will float Aspen’s annual Ducky Derby

    August 9, 2012


    From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

    Diversions from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. have ceased for the time being in order to fulfill a call for water on the lower Colorado River. The so-called “Cameo Call” near Grand Junction is the second-most senior water right on the Colorado, sending water to irrigate farms and other land in western Colorado. Water is being left in the Roaring Fork, which joins the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, to meet that call, boosting flows in the river through town. In addition, the Salvation Ditch Co. has agreed to suspend its diversion from the river Saturday, and the city of Aspen, which has a small ditch diversion, will do the same. The Salvation Ditch pulls water from the river just east of town.

    “All those things combined are allowing us to run the race in the river,” said an enthused Chris Berry, Aspen Rotary Club member and “head duck,” on Wednesday. “We’re excited.”

    The Rotary Club, sponsor of the event, had planned a series of relay races Saturday, anticipating a dearth of water in the river. The alternate plan called for racing youngsters to carry ducks. Winners would deposit their ducks into a swimming pool, which was to be emptied into a chute to produce a winner. Instead, a truckload of rubber ducks will be dumped into the river at No Problem Bridge, and the bobbing yellow competitors will float to the finish line, adjacent to Rio Grande Park, as usual.

    More prior appropriation coverage here.

    ‘Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water’ — Alan Hamel

    June 10, 2012


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “We have to protect the water we have, as well as provide water for endangered species,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works and a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water, particularly for use in power generation.” Last month, the Pueblo water board and other members of the Front Range Water Council weighed in on the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for oil shale and tar sands…

    The Front Range Water Council includes the major organizations that import water from the Colorado River: Denver Water, the Northern and Southeastern Colorado water conservancy districts, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. and the Pueblo water board. Collectively, they provide water to 4 million people, 82 percent of the population in Colorado.

    More Front Range Water Council coverage here and here.

    Results of a $42,000 study of Upper Arkansas River streamflows show the need for increased communication and more storage

    October 14, 2011


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Those conclusions are the result of a $42,000 study of the Upper Arkansas River by Paul Flack, a former hydrologist for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation area, who was contracted last year under a grant sponsored by the Southeastern Colorado and Upper Arkansas water conservancy districts. Flack shared some conclusions of his study Wednesday with the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, saying there is a need for all of the users who are concerned about flows in the upper basin to get together to reach solutions. In addition, about 20,000 acre-feet of new reservoir storage is needed to meet all the needs.

    The Upper Arkansas has, for years, become a complicated operation as water users have tried to balance releases from Turquoise and Twin Lakes and levels in Lake Pueblo with flows for recreation and fish.

    Flows also have to be kept in check below Turquoise in the Lake Fork watershed to avoid disturbing old mine tailings that could leach heavy metals into the Arkansas River…

    Chaffee County recreational in-channel diversion rights, which support boat courses in Buena Vista and Salida, are problematic because they depend on other river operations…

    Flows in the river to meet the needs of fish, a component of a 20-year-old voluntary flow agreement among several agencies, could be a potential source of conflict. “The fishing flow can be in opposition to the needs of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project,” Flack said.

    At Lake Pueblo, Flack looked at the possibility of changing the timing of spring releases for if-and-when or winter water storage accounts. “There could be significant water savings, up to thousands of acre-feet,” he said. “But, there would be a ripple effect upstream.”[...]

    Adding 20,000 acre-feet of storage is needed to smoothly operate the increasingly complex river system. Planning should involve those affected, and not just with phone calls to Reclamation in an emergency, Flack said.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Water year 2011 saw the second-largest diversions in the history of the project

    September 24, 2011


    From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

    A total of 98,800 acre feet of water was diverted east via the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project from spring to late August, according to Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for the reclamation bureau. “It’s the second largest diversion in the operating history of the project,” Lamb said…

    The record diversion was 110,000 acre feet in 1984, Lamb said. The average diversion over the last decade has been 54,000 acre feet per year. This year’s volume was 83 percent above the average. To put the 98,800 acre feet into perspective — that’s just slightly below the amount of water that Ruedi Reservoir holds when it is full.

    The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project uses 17 dams and diversion structures to capture water from streams. The system also taps Hunter Creek in the Roaring Fork River basin. Nine tunnels with a combined length of 27 miles funnel it into the collection system. The water is forced through the Charles H. Boustead Tunnel under the Continental Divide to Turquoise Lake near Leadville. A plumbing system on the east side of the Divide ultimately takes the water to Aurora, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and farms in the Arkansas River Valley…

    In the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River basin, the volume of water diverted this year was about 63,000 acre feet, according to the river district. Water has been diverted since 1935 in what’s now known as the Independence Pass Transmountain Division System. That would make it one of the larger, but not the largest, diversion years, according to a previous interview with an official in the company that manages the system. The Independence Pass diversion system usually diverts about 39,000 acre feet annually.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: 1200 cfs in Lake Creek below Twin Lakes

    June 6, 2011

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    We are starting to see run-off pick up. As a result, we’re adjusting our releases from Turquoise and Twin Lakes to the Arkansas River.

    Earlier today, we bumped releases from Twin Lakes to Lake Creek to about 1080 cfs. This evening, we will bump up about another 100 cfs. That will put just under 1200 cfs into Lake Creek to the Arkansas River.

    The water released from Twin Lakes Dam is native inflow. East slope snow melt run-off that flows into Turquoise and Twin Lakes reservoirs, and a little bit of what comes down Half Moon Creek, is diverted via the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Those diversions are then released to Lake Creek.

    However, additional native run-off is now flowing into Turquoise Reservoir. As a result, we will increase releases from Sugarloaf Dam to Lake Fork Creek by 50 cfs early this evening. We will increase our release another 50 cfs from Sugarloaf tomorrow. By tomorrow evening, about 100 cfs should be flowing from Sugarloaf to Lake Fork Creek.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

    Roaring Fork River basin: ‘Front Range Water Supply Planning Update’ authors seek to inform on transmountain diversions

    January 11, 2011

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    Here’s a look at the report prepared for the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, from Scott Condon writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

    The study was commissioned by the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, which represents local governments on watershed issues. The study was conducted by G. Moss Driscoll, a Colorado attorney with experience in water law, environmental law and natural resource management. Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, said the study was designed to educate Roaring Fork Valley government officials and residents about how water issues could affect them in the future. It wasn’t intended to drive a wedge deeper in the relationship between the valley and Front Range water rights owners. To the contrary, he said, the study, “opened lines of communication.” “There are people in Colorado Springs who know what’s on our minds. That wasn’t the case a year ago,” Fuller said.

    The study provides a thorough inventory of who owns what when it comes to the Roaring Fork watershed’s liquid gold and it describes the infrastructure associated with each of the three major diversion projects. For example, the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion system diverts water from numerous creeks east of Aspen into Grizzly Reservoir, then sends the water east via two tunnels. The major shareholders and recipients of the water in that system are Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Pueblo West and Aurora. The system yields an annual average of 40,589 acre feet, the study said. Fuller said he learned from the study that the Front Range cities that own the system have conditional water rights that could be converted into regular rights, meaning more water gets diverted. One example would be getting court approval to extend their diversion season. “They basically don’t have to ask our permission” to exercise those conditional rights, Fuller said.

    In other cases, greater diversions would be difficult, in practical terms, Fuller said. The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is approved for additional diversion structures, but constructing them would require local government approvals. The Front Range cities understand the political and public relations challenges they face from adding diversions or developing new water resources, Fuller said. He is of the opinion that water supply and demand issues will be negotiated on a broad scale in an amicable way but he acknowledged that other observers believe the historically contentious issue of West Slope water supply and Front Range use will lead to a sort of “World War III” before settled.

    He hopes that the Front Range Water Supply Planning Update will be used by officials in governments and entities in the Roaring Fork Valley to inform themselves on the big issues coming in the future. The more officials know, the better they can represent the valley and protect water resources, he said.

    From the executive summary:

    Three major transmountain diversions currently operate in the Roaring Fork Watershed – the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project (“Fry-Ark Project” or “Fry-Ark”), the Busk-Ivanhoe System, and the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System (“Twin Lakes System”) (see inset). At present, these three systems collectively divert over forty percent of the flow in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers for use in the Arkansas and South Platte basins. Although these diversions have been in operation for decades, each of the projects are still incomplete, with undeveloped conditional water rights, excess diversion capacity, and even major structural components that could yet be built.

    According to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s most recent estimates, the Arkansas and South Platte basins are facing a combined shortfall in water supply of at least 130,000 acre- feet of water (and potentially as great as 470,000 acre-feet) by 2050, due to the influx of another 3.2 to 4.5 million new residents by that time.3 To meet this projected gap, Front Range water providers are scrambling to secure additional sources of water. For many of them, the options for new water supplies are limited: most of the rivers on the East Slope are already over-appropriated; groundwater supplies are declining in some areas due to excessive well pumping; and in recent decades, the costs and uncertainty surrounding new transmountain diversions have prevented many such projects from being built.

    For many Front Range water providers, firming up existing transmountain water rights and maximizing the diversion capacity of existing infrastructure is likely to represent one of the most cost-effective, publicly acceptable means of developing additional water supplies. Local interests in the Roaring Fork Watershed should therefore expect Front Range water providers to eventually attempt to firm up undeveloped water rights and excess diversion capacity associated with the Fry-Ark Project, Busk-Ivanhoe System, and Twin Lakes System. In fact, such efforts may already be underway on the East Slope.

    More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here and here.

    Pueblo County and Pueblo West settle lawsuit over Arkansas River winter flow program

    November 23, 2010

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Lawyers for both sides have reached agreement on language in the settlement, which will allow Pueblo West to receive more credit for return flows of treated wastewater down Wild Horse Dry Creek under the flow program. Pueblo County commissioners will consider the agreement this morning, while the Pueblo West metro district board will take it up at its meeting tonight. The details of the agreement have been hammered out for months and discussed in executive session by both boards. Other parties in the agreement are the Pueblo Board of Water Works, which will consider the agreement at its December meeting, and Colorado Springs Utilities.

    The agreement would end a lawsuit filed by Pueblo West in 2009 over conditions imposed by Pueblo County commissioners in approving a 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System…

    Pueblo West would be allowed to exchange water into Lake Pueblo under certain conditions even though its flows enter the Arkansas River about four miles downstream of Pueblo Dam, according to a draft of the agreement. Those flows are upstream of the Pueblo Whitewater Park, so may be counted toward meeting the city of Pueblo’s recreational in-channel diversion decree measurements, the document states. Colorado Springs Utilities agreed to provide up to 900 acre-feet annually in Lake Pueblo to Pueblo West through a contract exchange, or paper trade, of Pueblo West Water in Twin Lakes. Colorado Springs may deliver water directly from Twin Lakes through its Homestake Pipeline. If Pueblo West’s water is delivered to Lake Pueblo via the Arkansas River, it is subject to a 10 percent transit loss. In return, Pueblo West would withdraw a state application to exchange return flows through a pumpback into the golf course wash that flows directly into Lake Pueblo. The plan was discussed in the past two years and met opposition from the Pueblo Area Council of Governments, with the sole exception of Pueblo West. Pueblo West intends to construct a pipeline down Wild Horse Dry Creek that would increase the amount of water it exchanges, and the other parties would support the plan in any PACOG, state health department and water court applications.

    More Pueblo West coverage here and here.

    Gunnison River Basin: Many eyes are on the basin’s available water

    August 15, 2010

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Discussions started in June after the two groups met in Salida to look at common interests that also would meet a statewide goal to provide 200,000 acre-feet of water from the Aspinall Unit — Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal reservoirs — for use in Colorado. “We agreed conceptually that the state should have a pool of 200,000 acre-feet to reserve against a call by the Lower Basin states that would benefit both the East Slope and the West Slope,” said Jeris Danielson, a water consultant and former state engineer.

    Details of the agreement are still being worked out. If successful, it would be a rare instance of roundtables working together to achieve an “interbasin compact,” which is the chief purpose of the 2005 legislation that created the roundtables.

    More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

    Runoff news: A look ahead at operating the Arkansas River Voluntary Flow Program this summer

    June 18, 2010

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “At some point this summer, we are going to ask to exceed the releases of 10,000 acre-feet,” Tony Keenan of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.

    The releases are made under a 1990 voluntary flow management program among several local, state and federal agencies. It allows Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water and other supplies from Turquoise and Twin lakes to be released into the Arkansas River at strategic times to maintain flows for recreation through mid-August and for fish and wildlife during the winter months.

    This year, flows surged in late May and early June and temperatures rose and began to melt snow in the mountains. Already, the flows are dropping. “We have about half of what we had in the river 10 days ago,” said Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer. The Upper Arkansas River was flowing at about 2,300 cubic feet per second this week, down from more than 5,000 cfs earlier. The flow program calls for a target level of 700 cfs through Aug. 15.

    While the program is capped at 10,000 acre-feet of releases, more has been released in the past, if the timing can benefit the Fry-Ark Project, or the needs of big water users like Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Aurora. “I think the water is going to be plentiful, it’s space that concerns us,” said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fry-Ark Project for the Bureau of Reclamation. For the past two years, space in Lake Pueblo has been tight in the spring, meaning water stored by some users could spill. About one-third of the water in Lake Pueblo now is either excess-capacity or winter water. The lake level is about 131 percent of average. “We could be looking at the same problem next year,” Vaughan said, citing graphs that show Lake Pueblo inflows are running ahead of last year’s supplies.

    At the same time, Reclamation is trying to make enough space in Turquoise and Twin lakes to contain water being brought in through the Fry-Ark Project. Projections for water this year are at about 56,000 acre-feet, slightly above average. So far, about 41,000 acre-feet have come over. “We’ve already lost some yield because of the hard runoff,” Vaughan said. When the Boustead Tunnel was carrying its maximum of 945 cfs of water, about 800 cfs was flowing into the Roaring Fork River at the tunnel’s diversion point on the other side of the mountains.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

    [White River National Forest] engineers said the agency may not know for several weeks just how much damage occurred as a result of recent accelerated snowmelt that resulted from high temperatures. Meanwhile, the public is being urged to be careful when approaching bridges, especially those having significant accumulation of debris on piers and footings. Such accumulation has been spotted on several bridges and may have caused structural damage requiring significant repairs. People also are asked to report any damage to the Forest Service as soon as possible. The forest’s supervisor, Scott Fitzwilliams, said in a news release, “Flood-damaged infrastructure will be costly to repair but we are committed to doing so as funding becomes available.” Officials got their first idea of the possible damages sustained on the forest when a hiker reported last week that the Lower Cross Creek Bridge in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area near Vail had been washed out.

    Trail across Twin Lakes Dam re-opens after seven year hiatus

    October 24, 2009

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    After almost seven years the Bureau of Reclamation announced today the trail across Twin Lakes Dam is re-opening.
    “Hikers and cyclists will no longer have to walk around the dam, but are now able to cross it directly, staying on the trail,” said Mike Collins, Area Manager for Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado office which oversees Twin Lakes. “Re-opening would not happen without the support and continued participation of the public.” In order for the trail to remain open, the public needs to be vigilant about activity at the dam. “We ask that the public use the trail only to cross the dam,” said Howard Bailey, safety and security manager for Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado Area Office. “We need your help keeping this facility safe.” Loitering and fishing are not allowed from the dam or within a 100-foot perimeter. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the dam. “Safety and security remain our top priorities,” said Collins. “It takes all of us working together, protecting our public facilities, to make something like this possible.”

    For questions about the trail re-opening, Twin Lakes Dam, and the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, please contact Kara Lamb, public information, at (970) 962-4326.

    More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    A trail over Twin Lakes Dam that was closed for security reasons following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks has been reopened.

    More Twin Lakes coverage here.

    Bottled water under fire

    October 23, 2009

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    Bottled water and newfound caution approaching all things water is the subject of this article from Moises Velasquez-Manoff writing for the Christian Science Monitor. He ties his story to Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project. From the article:

    Citing myriad concerns, a group of [Chaffee County] residents has objected vigorously. They worry about impacts to the watershed and to nearby wetlands. They say that climate change, predicted to further dry Colorado and the Southwest, warrants a precautionary approach to all things water-related. And, pointing to fights other communities have had with the company, they say they simply don’t want Nestlé as a neighbor. Nestlé counters that these concerns are overblown. The company says: The amount of water it plans to withdraw is negligible; the project will bring many benefits – economic and otherwise – to the community; and the company, the largest water bottler in North America, is an upstanding corporate citizen…

    But many say the greater story – about a growing world population of more than 6.5 billion faced with a limited supply of fresh water – is, in fact, just beginning. Experts not directly involved in the Chaffee County situation point to it as evidence of rising sensitivity to water issues everywhere. They cite a growing number of disagreements between communities and bottled-water firms around the US – in Maine, California, Florida, and Michigan, among other places – as evidence. “There is a growing interest in water as a whole [and] growing scarcity in the Western United States,” says Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, Calif., a nonprofit that does research and policy analysis in the areas of environment and sustainable development. “And when people pay more attention, it sort of makes it harder to do the things [bottled water companies] used to do without any opposition.”

    These companies have now become the focus of campaigns against bottled water in general. Organizations like Corporate Accountability International and the Environmental Working Group rail against bottled water for a number of reasons, the environmental impact of plastics among them. (Lauerman points to Nestlé’s new ecoshape bottles, which, he says, use 30 percent less plastic than most.) The groups also argue that consumption of bottled water – paying for something that’s already cheaply available – leads to neglect of municipal water infrastructure, to everyone’s detriment. The US Conference of Mayors has urged cities to stop buying water and has called for an investigation into how much the industry costs taxpayers. (By one estimate, 40 percent of bottled water comes from municipal sources, not springs.)…

    But the assumption underlying these laws – that water is in limited supply – is the correct one, says Robert Glennon, author of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It.” Other states often allow “a limitless number of straws in the glass,” he says. But in Colorado, if you can’t replace it, you can’t take it. “That’s exactly what I think we should do,” he says.

    More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.

    Twin Lakes, Turquoise and Lake Pueblo are in good shape heading into winter

    October 16, 2009

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Bureau of Reclamation already is clearing space in mountain reservoirs – Turquoise and Twin lakes – by flowing water to Lake Pueblo, said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Reclamation is expecting to clear out 65,000 acre-feet of space in anticipation of making room for 2010 imports from the Fryingpan River through the Boustead Tunnel. If snowpack and runoff were average this year, and no other adjustments made, about 14,000 acre-feet of water in some accounts would spill next spring, Vaughan said. The first 10,000 acre-feet is in a controversial account in Lake Pueblo under a long-term contract to Aurora. Other accounts holding non-project water within the basin also could be at risk as well.

    However, as in the past two years, water planners are figuring out ways to use the water rather than lose it, Vaughan said. “The entities that know this is coming are finding a way out of it,” Vaughan said, noting that he is on the phone weekly to most of them as projections and water levels change. Water can be moved downstream to other reservoirs, which are far from full, either as part of water management plans or under low-rate sales to the Division of Wildlife. “Leasing water gets cheap when things get full,” Vaughan said.

    More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

    Nestlé Chaffee County Project: Recap of commissioner’s July 1 meeting

    July 8, 2009

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    Here’s the next part of Lee Hart’s recap of the July 1 meeting of the Chaffee County Commissioners working meeting for Nestlé’s Chaffee County Project. She writes:

    Commissioner Tim Glenn tried to explain the gravity of Scanga’s testimony to fellow commissioners who either didn’t seem to understand the intricacies of water law and prior appropriation or simply did not share Glenn’s concerns. Glenn noted it was Scanga’s role to go “to bat for every water right and ag producer” in the valley and that he found Scanga’s testimony “fairly compelling.”[...]

    “If you have a senior water right (as Aurora does), you can take it unless something in writing says you can’t take it,” Glenn explained to his fellow commissioners. Glenn said he’d feel better if Nestle’s augmentation came from a local entity that would probably care more about protecting local water resources than Aurora. Alternatively, Glenn suggested getting an agreement in writing that Aurora won’t draw down depletions and invoke its ability to exchange in a drought year and will only use water sources outside the Arkansas River Valley to supplement any municipal shortfalls created by the Nestle lease. But Glenn, always the pragmatist, said, “I seriously doubt that could happen.”

    It’s really pretty simple. Aurora is leasing Twin Lakes water to Nestlé. The Twin Lakes decrees are pretty senior in priority. In times of low water — say, a drought — the river is governed by calls in any given stretch. Calls are made when someone with a decreed water right asks for their water. If current demand in that stretch exceeds the volume of water called for, water is doled out in order of priority, oldest first. So, again in a given stretch, a decreed party might just fall out of priority. This is determined by the decree and ditch company or project rules. Ditch companies generally allocate water equally — so much water per share.

    The water that Aurora is leasing to Nestlé is for augmentation. The water will be released from storage at Twin Lakes to the Arkansas mainstem to pay the river for the water that Nestlé plans to pump at Hagen Spring. They’ll always pay this water to the river unless they fall out of priority which has been rare. Remember, Twin Lakes water comes from the rainy side of Colorado. The folks that will be effected in a drought are those junior to Aurora’s Twin Lakes rights.

    Nestlé plans to truck 200 acre-feet or so of spring water per year to Denver for bottling.

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

    Roaring Fork Watershed: State of the River

    May 13, 2009

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    Here’s a recap of the Colorado River District’s “State of the River” conference Tuesday dealing with the Roaring Fork Watershed, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    “Water is our greatest liquid asset,” said Dave Kanzer, an engineer with the Colorado River District, which is hosting meetings of watersheds along the Colorado River. “Our future is not controlled by the oil and gas as we feared last year. . . . Our economic assets are nothing without a reliable supply of water.” Through the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and Twin Lakes Co., the Arkansas River basin brings over nearly 100,000 acre-feet of water each year from the Roaring Fork. While water managers on the eastern side of the Continental Divide fret about the ability of the Boustead Tunnel – which takes water from the Fryingpan River drainage into Turquoise Lake – to bring over trainloads of water every year, the Roaring Fork bemoans the loss of every drop. “The water that goes through the Boustead Tunnel is 100 percent consumptive,” Kanzer said. “That’s one drop we’ll never see again. . . . There is less water for use in the (Roaring Fork) basin.”[...]

    The Roaring Fork is feeling pressure from other directions as well, Kanzer said in describing a new report that combines more than 50 studies of water quantity, quality and use in the basin. There are the diversions from the Roaring Fork mainly for use in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Aurora and agriculture. But the Roaring Fork also supplies a large chunk of water for meeting Colorado’s obligations under the 1922 Colorado River Compact, water for endangered fish on a stretch of river closer to Grand Junction and for its own growing needs. Kanzer acknowledged there have been benefits from the Fry-Ark Project as well. The major storage in the Roaring Fork basin, [Ruedi] Reservoir, was a part of the project, and in flood years the water taken off the river reduces flooding for towns like Basalt. But the Western Slope gets concerned when Arkansas River water managers start talking about enlarging Lake Pueblo, the largest reservoir in the Fry-Ark Project, he added.

    The residents of Pitkin County were so alarmed, in fact, that they passed a 0.1 percent sales tax last year to protect water, said County Manager John Ely. He said the new fund was popular with voters because of the past success of county land-preservation and trail initiatives that have grown to be one of the largest parts of the county budget. Commissioner Rachel Richards said the county is in the process of appointing a seven-member panel to figure out how to best spend the $700,000-$1 million the tax is expected to raise each year…

    “We have to change the mindset we have in Colorado that water left in the river is a waste,” said Ken Neubecker, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited.

    Crowley County sues Ordway over sale of Twin Lakes water

    May 8, 2009

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    From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The county says Ordway is bound by a 1980 agreement to provide water to a county water system that provides a wholesale raw water supply to several districts in the county that serve more than 5,000 people, including two prisons. “For nearly three decades, the county water system has supplied an abundant, safe and affordable water supply for the residents of Crowley and Ordway and the rural customers of the 96 Pipeline Co. and Crowley County Water Association,” Commissioner Matt Heimerich said at a news conference last month. “The cement that has held this system together has been the 1980 water system.” The county filed the lawsuit on behalf of the other partners in the lawsuit following a letter from Ordway Mayor Randal Haynes on March 30 that indicated Ordway wants to pursue long-term leases with some of its water and apply for Fryingpan-Arkansas water on its own, rather than jointly with the other partners, as outlined in the 1980 agreement…

    Heimerich countered that Ordway’s interests are intertwined with the county’s, and in fact the county system is the only way it’s Fry-Ark water can be delivered. The 1980 agreement is a legal, binding contract hammered out between communities at a time when most of the county’s agricultural water was being sold off to Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Aurora and Pueblo West. What’s left has to provide for the people who remain in the county, he said. “The county wants to make sure the system can produce water,” Heimerich said.

    Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioners hear more testimony

    April 29, 2009

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    Here’s a recap of today’s proceedings with the Chaffee County Commissioners, from Lee Hart writing for the Salida Citizen. From the post:

    For the first time in four months of public hearings, Nestle was obviously on the warpath as first Nestle project manager Bruce Lauerman, then Nestle lawyer Holly Strablizky took aim at Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District Manager Terry Scanga…

    Lauerman called Scanga’s testimony “fuzzy math.”

    Buena Vista resident John Cogswell also cross-examined Scanga challenging the veteran water manager’s assertion that the Aurora-Nestle lease would have a significant adverse net affect. “(UAWCD’s) water argument doesn’t hold water,” Cogswell told the Salida Citizen.

    Cogswell tried to get Scanga to agree that Nestle’s lease with Aurora would be no more impactful to water in the basin than irrigating 100 acres of agricultural land. Scanga agreed that while the depletion is the same, the beneficial use of the water is not. A local rancher’s use of the water creates beneficial use within the county while Nestle’s bottled water project creates beneficial use outside the county, Scanga said.

    During questioning from Commissioner Tim Glenn, Scanga said the Nestle-Aurora lease compounds the impact to the Upper basin in ways that would not occur if Nestle secured its leased water from another in-basin entity such as Pueblo Board of Water Works or the joint Salida-UAWCD proposal.

    On that last point, longtime resident and local Realtor Karin Adams brought more math to light. The Aurora lease will cost Nestle approximately $200,000 for 200 acre feet of water for each of ten years, with an option to renew for another 10-year term. Aurora’s lease to Nestle could be interrupted in the event of a severe drought. Nestle rejected a joint offer from Salida and the UAWCD that would have cost $500,000 but would have provided an in-basin, uninterruptable supply of water that would have protected Nestle and other water rights users in the event of a drought. Scanga said if Nestle had agreed to the Salida-UAWCD proposal, the UAWCD would have re-invested the money to enhance the county’s water portfolio.

    On another point, despite Scanga’s assertion to the contrary, Lauerman told the commissioners unequivocably that UAWCD has expressed interest in participating with Aurora in Aurora’s lease to Nestle.

    Even if the Chaffee County commissioners approve Nestle’s Special Land Use Permit, Nestle still has to get water court approval for its augmentation plan. The stage has been set for a battle of the titans in water court. Based on Scanga’s predications, there will likely be at least two if not more objectors to the Nestle-Aurroa lease when it goes before the water court in a process that typically takes at least two years.

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

    Nestlé Waters Chaffee County project: County planners submit comment review

    April 15, 2009

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    The Chaffee County commissioners will take up Nestlé Waters’ 1041 application on April 21. Here’s a report from Paul Goetz writing for The Mountain Mail. From the article:

    Comments were based on staff recommendations, rhetoric and evidence provided by consultants from Nestlé and Chaffee County, as well as other review agencies. Nestlé has provided a “substantial” list of 22 different documents since the March 10 planning commissioners 1041 application special meeting, Don Reimer, county planning director said. A complete application review will be placed on the county Web site,, within the next few days, Reimer said…

    The 1041 application was found to need further investigation with experts in wetlands hydrology and economic impacts. The county retained consultants for this purpose on April 7. Information from both consultants are expected April 17. Included in the draft application review, planners said Nestlé’s need to show the proposed project can be substantiated is not applicable. The application does not meet economic diversity and economic development standards, planners said…

    Bruce Lauerman, Nestlé natural resources manager, announced a $500,000 endowment would be established and used for grants to local non-profits who facilitate the values of the Nestlé project. An ad will be placed in The Mountain Mail within the next week which will search for local truck drivers to work with Nestlé’s contracted trucking company, Lauerman said. The company plans to research whether or not it can draw 50 percent of its drivers from Chaffee County…

    Planners said they agreed with county staff and found several items in the comprehensive plan need to be addressed including: protecting the scenic and visual quality of the valley and providing access to public lands and river and stream corridors. Efficient use of water including the recycling and reuse of water is satisfactory, planners said.

    Nestlé is currently considering Chaffee County water counsel comments and proposed a condition of approval to address concerns. County staff and planners agreed Nestlé comply with water counsel, which will be addressed by a separate report. Planners said further information from the wetlands consultant is needed to determine whether the proposed project and diversion of water shall not decrease the quality and total maximum daily load of peripheral or downstream surface water resources. In reference to not significantly degrading groundwater quality, Sig Jaastad, planning commissioner, said he had concerns if the project would adversely affect upstream users. Planners agreed the standard would be satisfied if a ground water monitoring plan is established.

    In addition, planning commissioners gave the following comments on recommended conditions:

    •Develop land management plan with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, National Resource Conservation Service, Colorado State University extension and county staff.

    •Obtain approval for land management plan from county.

    •Plan should include a time line for implementation of practices and annual reports.

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

    Nestlé Water Chaffee County Project: Lowdown on 10 year lease with Aurora

    April 13, 2009

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    The Salida Citizen (Lee Hart) has the lowdown on Nestlé’s lease for Twin Lakes water from Aurora for augmentation. From the article:

    Minutes from the council hearing show interest in the deal as a way to keep water rates low to Aurora citizens outweighed concerns that the price was too low, or sent the wrong message about Aurora’s water resource availability to third parties, or that in so doing, Aurora would become part of the controversy between Nestle and Chaffee County citizens opposed to the project. Aurora Water Director Mark Pifner noted there was little public input during the negotiations with Nestle.

    Here’s a look at Chaffee County’s fact finding around the economic impacts and site restoration from Lee Hart writing for the Salida Citizen. Read the whole thing, there is a lot of details. Here’s an excerpt:

    Denver-based Coley-Forrest Inc. has been hired at an estimated cost of $4,500 to $8,000 to further study the economic impacts of the Nestle project within Chaffee County. Hydrologic Systems Analysis LLC of Golden has been charged with a closer examination of the interaction of groundwater and the aquifer on wetlands as a result of Nestle pumping hundreds of gallons per day from springs in Nathrop for transport to Denver where it will be bottled and distributed under Nestle’s Arrowhead brand. That report is expected to cost no more than $8,000. Nestle is required to reimburse the county for all the expenses, including consultants, necessary to process its applications.

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

    Twin Lakes, Lake Pueblo, Green Mountain, Ruedi and Colorado-Big Thompson update

    April 13, 2009

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    [Ruedi] Now that spring has arrived, we are getting ready for spring run-off in the Fryingpan River Basin. We are looking at a slightly above average snow pack this year. As a result, beginning [April 10], we will start moving some water out of Ruedi Reservoir to make room for melting snow. At 6:00 p.m. this evening, we will increase our releases from Ruedi Reservoir to the Fryingpan River by 40 cfs. Rocky Fork Creek is currently running at about 5 cfs. Our release, plus the Rocky Fork, will put about 153 cfs total in the ‘Pan.

    [Green Mountain] Just a quick head’s up about spring and Green Mountain Reservoir. As most of you have probably already noticed, we are only at an elevation of 7894 in the reservoir [April 10]. We are also releasing about 100 cfs from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue. We are anticipating run-off and getting ready for the on-coming season.

    [Twin Lakes/Lake Pueblo] Today [April 10], we are releasing about 27 cfs from Twin Lakes Reservoir to Lake Creek (which flows into the Arkansas). The Wellsville gage on the Arkansas River is showing 273 cfs. We have 380 cfs flowing into Pueblo Reservoir. And the reservoir is currently sitting at an elevation of 4879.

    [Colorado-Big Thompson] Today [April 10] on the C-BT, we are releasing about 63 cfs from Olympus Dam in Estes Park to the Big Thompson River. Pinewood Reservoir is looking pretty full at an elevation of 6575. And, we are still pumping to Carter Lake. Carter is also getting close to full with an elevation of 5753.

    There is some regular maintenance work being conducted on the portion of the Charles Hansen Feeder Canal which runs water to Horsetooth. For this reason, water into Horsetooth has dropped off over the past couple of weeks. It has been sitting fairly consistently at an elevation of 5404–about ten feet below our average spring high of 5414. Once the work on the canal is complete, we will stop pumping to Carter and begin running water to Horsetooth, again.

    If you’ve been following the snowpack information, you no doubt will have heard by now that Colorado is just slightly below average in most of its river basins. The South Platte basin is one that is sitting just below average. It has been somewhat dry this winter on Colorado’s eastern plains. The spring snow storms helped a little, but that early heat wave we had in March did melt some of the snowpack away.


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