“…the waterways of Grand County have become the poster child for aquatic death by a thousand cuts” — Allen Best #ColoradoRiver

April 20, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Another independent journalist covering water issues is Allen Best purveyor of The Mountain Town News. Here’s an analysis of the recent agreement between Denver Water, Trout Unlimited, and Grand County for operating the Colorado River Cooperative agreement. Here’s an excerpt:

Located at the headwaters of the Colorado River, the waterways of Grand County have become the poster child for aquatic death by a thousand cuts…

Called the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, the agreement between Denver Water, Grand County, and Trout Unlimited proposes to govern Denver’s incremental diversions through the Continental Divide known as the Moffat firming project. However, according to the architects of the deal, it should also serve as a model in the ongoing dialogue as Colorado’s growing metropolitan areas look to squeeze out the final drops of the state’s entitlements to the Colorado River, as defined by the Colorado River compact of 1922 and other compacts.

“It is a demonstration of a new way of doing business that should be a model as Colorado talks about meeting its water gaps (between demands and supplies),” says Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water.

“Instead of platitudes or politics or parochialism, you need to do it by sitting down and working together and dealing with the issues,” he adds…

There are skeptics, unable to explain this strange alchemy in which a river can in any way benefit from having less water, as the agreement insists can be the case.

Among those withholding enthusiasm is Matt Rice, the Colorado coordinator for American Rivers. He points out that the agreement covers just 4 of the 32 creeks and streams trapped by Denver Water in the Fraser Valley and the adjoining Williams Fork. Too, like too many other similar programs, the data collection begins after permits are awarded, not before, which he thinks is backward.

In short, while Denver is careful to talk about “enhancements,” he thinks it falls short of addressing full, cumulative impacts.

Cumulative impacts are likely to be a focal point of federal permitting. While the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to have a voice, the vital 404 permit must come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The parties to the new agreement have asked that their agreement be incorporated into the permit…

A far greater financial cost to Denver specified by the agreement is the agency’s commitment to forfeit up to 2,500 acre-feet annually of the city’s added 18,700 acre-foot take.

Based on the firm yield of the water and Denver’s rate for outside-city raw water to customers, this commitment is valued at $55 million.

Denver will make this water available for release into the creeks and rivers, to keep water temperatures colder and hence more hospitable to insects and fish. The water can also be used for flushing, to mimic what happens naturally during spring runoff, scouring river bottoms, to clear out the silt that clogs the spaces between rocks where mayflies and other insects live – and upon which fish feed…

A final environmental impact statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected in late April. The federal agency can also impose conditions of its own making. They would be included in a record-of-decision, which is expected to be issued in late 2015.

A permit from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is also needed. Boulder County insists it also has say-so over enlargement of Gross Reservoir, an assertion contested by Denver Water.

In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must award a permit for revised hydroelectric generation at Gross.

At earliest, expansion of Gross could start in 2018 and be ready to capture spring runoff in 2022…

The agreement represents a new wave of thinking about impacts of water diversions. The older way of thinking was demonstrated in the Colorado Big-Thompson project. Financed by the federal government, it gave the Western Slope a one-time package, Green Mountain Reservoir, between Kremmling and Silverthorne, to serve Western Slope needs, particularly the farmers near Grand Junction who need water for late-summer fruits and produce. The agreement did not cover a more recent problem seemingly caused by the diversion, algae that obscure the clarity of Grand Lake.

The most recent of of the new agreements since the 1990s provides more living, breathing elasticity. The foundation for the new agreement was announced in 2011 but not finalized until recently. Called the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, it sharply restricts Denver’s ability to develop new water sources on the Western Slope and also calls for Denver to provide both water and money to address problems in the Vail, Breckenridge and Winter Park areas.

Then, in 2012, came agreements addressing the ambitions by five cities along the northern Front Range to increase the take of spring flows at Windy Gap, similar to what Denver wants to do at the Moffat Tunnel.

The Windy Gap settlement introduced adaptive management, an idea gaining favor in management of rivers of the West for several decades. The essential idea of Learning by Doing, the program embraced for both Windy Gap and the Moffat projects, is that it’s impossible to know exactly what to do in advance…

“In the past, you’d build a project, do the required mitigation and move on. That’s no longer the case. Denver Water is committed to a new way of doing business – one that approaches water management in a way that is collaborative and as beneficial to West Slope interests as possible. The partnership we’ve created through Learning by Doing is permanent. Our commitment is t o work with Grand County, Trout Unlimited and all the partners in Learning by Doing in an ongoing manner permanently into the future.”

More Denver Water coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: Scaling back to 550 cfs by Monday #ColoradoRiver

April 18, 2014

greenmountainreservoir

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We’ll be scaling back releases from Green Mountain over the weekend and then plan to maintain the lower release rate through next week. By Monday, April 21, we should be releasing about 550 cfs to the Lower Blue. The reduction in releases is due to some regularly scheduled maintenance. Property owners downstream of the dam have planned some channel work to correspond with the maintenance.

Releases will begin stepping back tomorrow, Saturday. We will go from 750 to 700 cfs around 8 p.m tomorrow evening. On Sunday, we will do two changes: the first at 4 p.m. from 700 to 650 cfs. The second around 10 p.m. from 650 to 600 cfs. On Monday, we will drop down one more time around 6 a.m. from 600 to 550 cfs.

Releases will go back up the following weekend of April 26.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.


The Town of Breckenridge to host public forums about new water treatment plant, April 26 and 28 #ColoradoRiver

April 16, 2014
Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

Breckenridge could start construction on a new water plant along the Blue River in as soon as three years. But first, the town wants your input.

The public is invited to attend four forums to learn about the construction of the town’s second water plant and give comments. The forums will be April 23 and 28, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. both days, at the Breckenridge Police Station.

“This is the master plan for the next 25 to 30 years,” said town manager Tim Gagen.

At the forums, town officials will explain the projected cost of the plant and upgrades to the water system.

The first phase of the project includes building the plant, pumps and plumbing to get the water integrated with the current system, he said, which should cost about $25 million to $30 million dollars. The plant itself should cost about $10 million, which Gagen called reasonable. The expensive part, he said, will be pumping water a couple miles into town, against gravity.

Phase two includes extending lines into areas outside the town limits not currently serviced, which Gagen said could cost more than $40 million but would only be built if and when people want that service.

Customers living outside the town limits use private wells that have a high likelihood of failure and need equipment replacements after 15 or 20 years. And before this project, he said, if those people wanted water service, the town had to annex their land.

People in those areas have called about extending service to their neighborhoods, Gagen said, not to feed their homes, but to feed water hydrants on the street. That would help with wildfire protection and lower their insurance rates.

“They would have to pay for it,” he said about the phase two extensions. “It wouldn’t be built by the current customers.”

Gagen said he expects questions at the forums about the plant’s locations and the impact on the Blue River.

As far as where the new plant will go, officials know the water will be drawn from the river just north of Swan Mountain Road.

The town hasn’t decided yet on the plant’s exact location, but it will be north of town for several reasons.

Putting it north of town, closer to Dillon Reservoir, means the plant would leave water in the Breckenridge part of the Blue River in town, which he said is better for the health of the river and doesn’t counteract the restoration work done there in the last few decades.

A site north of town also is better for water rights issues, as the Upper Blue Sanitation District has some rights in town.

And the water quantity and quality is better closer to the lake, Gagen said, with lower concentrations of heavy metals leftover from mining.

Gagen said the town looked at putting the plant closer to the original one, south of town, but that wouldn’t solve the problem of insecurity in the system in case of mechanical failure.

Unlike the water systems in Silverthorne and Dillon, which are interconnected in case one of the towns has an emergency, “We’re a standalone system,” Gagen said. “We don’t have a backup.”

“And” he added, “our biggest fear quite honestly is fire.”

Erosion from fire affects the cost to treat water. A second plant would give the utility time for repairs and cleanup.

So although the whole project will cost more because of the location farther north, he said, the town will “trade additional costs for other positives we think will be beneficial to the community in the long-run.”

The Water System Study

A task force established in 2011 to consider issues surrounding the town’s water system found that the supply to the existing Gary Roberts Water Treatment Plant would be very low in an extreme drought, leading to shortages. And though the town has made improvements in water conservation and management efficiency, the current water plant (which was constructed beginning in 1972) is nearing 80 percent capacity.

A study of the town’s water system by Sarah C. Clark, an engineer in Denver, was completed and presented to the town council in January.

The study strongly recommends the construction of a three-MGD (million gallons per day) plant to meet future population demands and provide more service to the homes and lots near the existing water system’s boundaries.

In the event of a wildfire or another environmental disaster or a mechanical malfunction of the current plant, a second water plant would provide a critical back-up system.

The study also noted that the current Breckenridge system supplies high-quality drinking water at a low cost to customers compared to other Colorado communities. The new plant will require increases in the user fees which will be shared by current and future customers.

Besides increasing water rates and fees, Gagen said the town is looking at a list of potential revenue streams, including about $8 million the utility has saved for improvements, grants and funding from partners like the county.

Debt will be the most important element of the financing, he said, helping to spread the cost over about 30 years “so no one generation of people is suffering the cost of paying for the whole thing.”

For now, the town is in the process of gathering public input and meeting with Summit County government and Upper Blue Sanitation District officials.

Then the town will start modifying water rates to fit the new plant, and after three or four years of the design and approval process, it will start construction.

The study is available online at http://www.townofbreckenridge.com, and the town council urges the public to review it before the public forums.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 710 cfs in the Blue River below the dam #ColoradoRiver

April 13, 2014

greenmountainreservoir

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Currently, we are releasing about 710 cfs from the dam to the Lower Blue River. The reservoir is at a water level elevation of about 7890 feet–that’s roughly 60 feet below full, or roughly 38% of its total content.

You will see the reservoir water elevation continue to drop for about another month. The current snowpack above the Blue River Basin is around 140% of average for this time of year. I’ve been asked how this compares to snowpack numbers for the 2011 season on the Blue River. In 2011 in April we were closer to 150%. We continue to keep an eye on the snowpack conditions, fluctuating inflows, and the water level elevation and adjusting releases as necessary. It is likely the 710 cfs release rate will remain in place well into next week.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.


Snowpack news: “You’ve had a great snow year” — Nolan Doesken #ColoradoRiver

April 12, 2014

From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

“You’ve had a great snow year,” said Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist at Colorado State University, “and it doesn’t take a crazy scientist to tell you that.”

The Summit Ranch measurement site recorded 30 percent above the 30-year median Friday. The Fremont Pass, Hoosier Pass and Grizzly Peak sites recorded between 126 and 139 percent of that median Friday.

“February was huge, March was plentiful and April so far has had just a storm or two,” he said, “but there’s another one coming for the weekend.”

The sites at lower altitudes, like the Copper Mountain site, have already started showing some snow melt, he said. The county is almost assured an excellent run-off season with full reservoirs.

Notwithstanding dry weather in the spring, the county should avoid drought conditions through the summer, said Troy Wineland, Summit’s water commissioner…

And snowpack has treated other parts of the state well. The South Platte Basin has recorded the most above-average snowpack, he said, which means the East Slope should take less water from across the Continental Divide, leaving more for the mountain region…

The settled base at Breckenridge Ski Resort is about 10 inches above normal for this time of year, said spokeswoman Kristen Petitt Stewart, and snowfall for the season so far is about 70 inches above average.

At Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, spokeswoman Adrienne Saia Isaac said, “year-to-date snowfall is just over 360 inches, and any season with that much snow is going to bode well for our business.”[...]

The Blue River water levels were too low for rafting for the last two years, said Campy Campton, co-owner of Kodi Rafting in Frisco, who has been rafting locally for almost 30 years. In 2013, he said, the weather was shaping up to repeat the drought conditions of 2012.

“It was little stressful going into April,” he said, “but Mother Nature came through and saved us.”[...]

This year’s above-average snowpack was likely caused by climate patterns around the country. With the “bone-chilling relentless cold” in the Northern Plains and Great Lakes region and the warm dry winter in California and the Pacific Northwest, Doesken said, Colorado was “sort of in a squeeze zone between the two.”

Summit County especially was hit with jet stream air blowing from the northwest, “popping it right up the Blue River Valley” and concentrating snow in an ideal and consistent way.

“Does that mean anything for the future?” he asked. “No. That’s just how it happened this year.”


Environment: Ambitious Swan River restoration project near Breckenridge could benefit cutthroat trout

February 24, 2014

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

Forest Service wants to reconnect an aquatic ecosystem that was sliced apart by dredges in the mining era

Restoration plans are afoot for a degraded section of the Swan River, in Summit County, Colorado.

Restoration plans are afoot for a degraded section of the Swan River, in Summit County, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For all the gold Summit County’s old-timers managed to pull from local mountains and rivers, they left behind quite a mess. Along with toxic pollution oozing into rivers from some abandoned mines, other streams were turned completely inside-out, buried under tons of gravel.

That includes the Swan River, near Breckenridge, where the U.S. Forest Service now hopes to reverse some of the damage with an ambitious five- to 10-year restoration project.

The Forest Service aims to recreate of two miles of stream, riparian, and restore uplands that were all destroyed by the dredge boats. The agency also wants to decommission some roads in the area, build a new road and trail…

View original 339 more words


USACE: Moffat Collection System final EIS to be released on April 25 #ColoradoRiver

February 11, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Here’s the release from the US Army Corps of Engineers:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, has announced April 25, 2014 for the release of its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project. At this time the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the Final EIS, which will in turn be considered prior to final decision-making by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Final EIS and public comments, will serve as a basis for the Corps’ decision on whether to issue or deny a Section 404 Permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County, Colo. The Corps is charged with the responsibility of impartially reviewing Denver Water’s proposal in light of environmental and other Federal laws.

A year ago, the Corps had tentatively predicted that the Final EIS would be released in February 2014, however, due to further agency coordination, and a request from Denver Water to work with stakeholders to further refine a mitigation plan to present in the EIS, the schedule was extended.

Background:

Through the Moffat Collection System Project, Denver Water proposes to meet its water supply obligations and provide a more reliable supply infrastructure, while advancing its environmental stewardship. The project intends to enlarge the existing 41,811-acre foot Gross Reservoir to 113,811 AF, which equates to an expanded water surface area from 418 acres to 842 acres. Using existing collection infrastructure, water from the Fraser River, Williams Fork River, Blue River and South Platte River would be diverted and delivered to Denver’s existing water treatment system during average and wet years.

In June 2012, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the president use his authority to coordinate federal agencies to work together more effectively and expeditiously to release a Final EIS. Cooperating agencies involved in the EIS include the Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Division, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Grand County.

To remain up-to-date on the progress of the final report, please visit our Web site at: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/RegulatoryProgram/Colorado/EISMoffat.aspx

Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


Summit County Solstice sunrise via Bob Berwyn

December 21, 2013

‘Denver-West Slope water agreement finally final’ — Glenwood Springs Post Independent #ColoradoRiver

December 4, 2013
Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Denver can take a little more water from the Colorado River’s headwaters to increase the reliability of its system, but won’t develop any new transmountain diversions without West Slope agreement and will help repair damage from past diversions.

Those are some of the key provisions in the Colorado Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and 42 West Slope water providers and local governments from the Grand Valley to Grand County.

The Colorado Cooperative Agreement covers a whole suite of issues related to Denver’s diversion of water from the Fraser and Blue River drainages, tributaries to the Colorado River. In October, with little fanfare, this historic agreement received its final signatures and was fully executed. It took five years of mediation and nearly two years of ironing out the details with state and federal agencies, against a backdrop of decades of litigation, to get to this point.

According to material from the Colorado River District’s latest quarterly meeting, the agreement, “is the direct result of Denver Water’s desire to expand its Moffat Tunnel transmountain water supply from the Fraser River in Grand County and to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County.” This project is expected to divert, on average, approximately 18,000 acre feet/year of water beyond the average of 58,000 acre feet/year it already diverts, which amounts to about 60% of the natural flow in the Fraser River at Winter Park.

Under the agreement, the West Slope parties agreed not to oppose the increased Moffat Collection System diversions, and Denver Water agreed not to expand its service area and not to develop new water projects on the West Slope without the agreement of the resident counties and the Colorado River District. The agreement also includes dozens of other provisions designed to limit water demands in Denver and address water quality and flow conditions in the Colorado River and its tributaries. Here’s a sampling:

Denver will contribute both water releases and several million dollars for a “learning by doing” project to improve aquatic habitat in Grand County. The project will be managed by representatives from Denver Water, Grand County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited and other water users.

Denver will not exercise its rights to reduce bypass flows from Dillon Reservoir and its collection system in Grand County during droughts unless it has banned residential lawn watering in its service area.

Diversions and reservoirs operated by both Denver Water and West Slope parties will be operated as if the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon were calling for its (very senior) water right, even at times when the plant is down. This is important for recreational and environmental flows in the river, as well as for junior water users downstream from plant.

Denver Water will pay $1.5 million for water supply, water quality or water infrastructure projects benefiting the Grand Valley, and $500,000 to offset additional costs for water treatment in Garfield County when the Shoshone call is relaxed due to drought conditions.

A similar agreement is under development between West Slope entities and Northern Water, which currently diverts about 220,000 acre feet/year of water from the Upper Colorado River to the Front Range through the Colorado Big Thompson Project. Like the Colorado Cooperative Agreement, the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement trades West Slope non-opposition to increased transmountain diversions for mitigations to address the impacts of both past and future stream depletions.

Both the Colorado Cooperative Agreement and the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement have been hailed as models of cooperation. Meanwhile, East Slope – West Slope tensions continue to mount over how the Colorado Water Plan, currently under development, should address the possibility of additional diversions of water from the West Slope to meet growing urban demands on the Front Range. These agreements demonstrate that such tensions can be overcome, but also that it could take more time than allowed by the 2015 deadline Gov. Hickenlooper has set for completion of the Colorado Water Plan.

Full details on the Colorado Cooperative Agreement can be found on the River District’s website, under “features” at http://www.crwcd.org/. More information on the Colorado Water Plan can be found at http://coloradowaterplan.com/.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Text of the Colorado Basin Roundtable white paper for the IBCC and Colorado Water Plan

December 3, 2013
New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

Here’s the text from the recently approved draft of the white paper:

Introduction
The Colorado River Basin is the “heart” of Colorado. The basin holds the headwaters of the Colorado River that form the mainstem of the river, some of the state’s most significant agriculture, the largest West Slope city and a large, expanding energy industry. The Colorado Basin is home to the most-visited national forest and much of Colorado’s recreation-based economy, including significant river-based recreation.

Colorado’s population is projected by the State Demographer’s Office to nearly double by 2050, from the five million people we have today to nearly ten million. Most of the growth is expected to be along the Front Range urban corridor; however the fastest growth is expected to occur along the I-70 corridor within the Colorado Basin.

Read the rest of this entry »


‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

December 3, 2013
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

“Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

“We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

“The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

“There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

“It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[...]

The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

“This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

“Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Denver Water’s system is at 96% of capacity after the very wet September

October 24, 2013
Denver Water Collection System via Denver Water

Denver Water Collection System via Denver Water

From the Summit Daily News (Joe Moylan):

On Tuesday, Jim Lochhead, CEO and manager of Denver Water, met with the Summit Board of County Commissioners during a workshop in Frisco. Lochhead provided the commissioners with an update on Denver Water’s service system following September’s historic flooding on the Front Range.

Although Lochhead said the system worked “perfectly” in the sense that service to customers was not interrupted and no dams were breached during the flood, Denver Water sustained $15 million to $20 million in damage to roads, exposed conduits and one of its gravel pits located near the South Platte River.

Despite the damage, and Denver Water’s commitment to assist its partner communities in recovering from flood damage, Lochhead said there is a silver lining to take away from the event. According to the most recent reports, Denver Water’s reserves, which consist of 15 fully or partially owned reservoirs across more than 4,000 square miles of watershed in eight counties, is at 96 percent capacity.

Update: Stacy Chesney sent a correction via email:

The story states: “Gross Reservoir near Boulder, for example, increased in capacity by 26 acre-feet as a result of the flooding, Lochhead said.” As a result of the storms, Gross Reservoir gained 7,600 acre-feet of water and went up in elevation by 19.6 feet. This equates to an increase in storage of about 26 percent.

Gross Reservoir near Boulder, for example, increased in capacity by 26 acre-feet as a result of the flooding, Lochhead said. Gross Reservoir’s capacity is 41,811 acre-feet, according to Denver Water’s website.

Lake Dillon, Denver Water’s largest reservoir at 257,304 acre-feet, also is reporting some of its highest seasonal levels in history, Lochhead said.

But the increased water capacity presents a handful of short-term challenges, Lochhead said, including spring water management should the High Country receive dense snowpack this winter. All of its water comes from mountain snowmelt, according to the Denver Water website.

More important, however, is the fact that the recent increase in capacity does little to ease future water shortage concerns as Denver, the Front Range and the rest of Colorado continue to grow in population…

Lochhead’s idea is fairly simple — encourage upward, rather than outward growth along the Front Range and the challenges surrounding water conservation will begin to remedy themselves.

For example, a single-family home with a garden in Denver uses the same amount of water as a four-unit building constructed on a similar-sized lot, he said. However, much of the growth on the Front Range is sprawling away from urban centers; meeting growing water needs is only exacerbated by the current trend of purchasing or building single-family homes on quarter-acre lots.

It’s a type of growth that is unsustainable not only in terms of water use, Lochhead said, but also in terms of providing services, such as transportation and energy delivery, because property tax revenue cannot meet the needs that come with a sprawling population.

More Denver Water coverage here.


Peru Creek: EPA has been testing treatment and settlement of the acid mine drainage during August

August 25, 2013

irrigation.jpg

From the Summit Daily News (Breeana Laughlin):

Throughout August, [Martin McComb], the Environmental Protection Agency’s on-scene coordinator, and his team have been diverting the main flow of heavy-metal-laden water coming from the mine away from the poisonous tailings piles. Environmental protection workers also set up a treatment system that raises the PH of the water in an effort to force some of the metals to drop out of it into a settlement pond before heading downstream. “It’s all about reducing the amount of pollution that flows into the creek,” McComb said. “We are dealing comprehensively with what’s on top of the ground as well as what’s below the ground.”[...]

McComb’s EPA team is embarking on phase one of a six-phase cleanup project at the site. In addition to water treatment efforts, the group has spent the past month improving road conditions to allow dump trucks and other heavy machinery access to the site. The cleanup is expected to take three years and will involve numerous agencies, including the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, Summit County, the U.S. Forest Service, the Blue River and Snake River watershed groups and Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “It’s nice to see there are so many people involved in this project and in this watershed. I think it’s because it’s such a beautiful area, and near where so many people are living,” McComb said. “I hope we can make an impact — and think we already have.”

Cleanup efforts taken under the project plan will be phased over the next several years and will address threats from acidic discharge that is draining from the mine and tailings along with other mine waste found on the surface.

The bulk of the underground mine work will be conducted under the supervision of the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety. This summer, contractors under the supervision of senior project manager Jeff Graves are digging out a collapsed portion of earth that flooded the culvert in the mine’s portal F, and are working to gain easier access into the underground portions of the mine. “They are really knowledgeable about underground work and have a lot of experience,” McComb said. “For us, it’s a good way to partner with people who are specialized and really know what they’re doing.”

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 250 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

July 13, 2013

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Just a quick note to let you know that today [Friday] we bumped up releases to the Lower Blue to 250 cfs.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 200 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

July 11, 2013

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Yesterday [ed. July 9], we saw demand come up just a little bit and bumped releases up to about 150 cfs. Today, after the morning conference call between upper Colorado River Basin operators, it was determined we should bump up another 50 cfs. That means the release from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue is now at 200 cfs.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.


The July issue of Denver Water’s Water News is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

July 2, 2013

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Click here to read the news. Here’s an excerpt:

…Dillon Reservoir, the largest in Denver Water’s system, is celebrating 50 years as one of Denver Water’s most important water storage sites.

Water leaders began tossing around the idea for the project in the early 1900s when it became apparent that Denver could not subsist on South Platte River water alone. After years of geologic studies, engineering reports and legal wrangling, Denver Water began making formal plans to build the project. Lawyers worked to buy the rest of the town, offering to help people move structures or rebuild on a site east of the reservoir.

Denver’s $77.6 million Blue River Diversion Project was a massive plan to divert water from the West Slope to the East Slope. It included building the Harold D. Roberts Tunnel — which conveys water from Dillon Reservoir, 23.3 miles to the South Platte River — as well as buying land, securing water rights and building Dillon Dam.

Originally, Denver’s Board of Water Commissioners planned to build a small dam and diversion structures to send water to the tunnel. But the Board rethought those plans, opting instead to build what became Denver Water’s largest reservoir.

More Denver Water coverage here.


There’s a lot of beach at Dillon Reservoir #COdrought

June 30, 2013

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Here’s an in-depth look the economics around Dillon Reservoir from Nathan Heffel writing for KUNC. Denver sells the water to its customers, Frisco depends on wet water in the reservoir for 30% of its tourism. Here’s an excerpt:

After back to back drought years, Dillon Reservoir is about nine to ten feet below average for this time of year. That’s where the interests of Denver Water and the town of Frisco play out.

Dillon is both the largest reservoir in the Denver Water system and a major economic driver for Frisco. During the summer, the marina provides a substantial boost to Frisco’s economy, accounting for a third of the town’s tourism.

A stylized sailboat adorns each street sign in downtown Frisco. It’s a relationship that’s part of their identity; a sail boat is etched on the town logo.

The issue? Frisco doesn’t own any of the water they rely on so much. It belongs to Denver Water and the on-going demands of Front Range water users.

More Blue River Watershed coverage here and here.


Restoration: Pennsylvania Mine cleanup to start in earnest beginning this month

June 2, 2013

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From the Summit Daily News (Breeana Laughlin):

Pennsylvania Mine bleeds heavy metals, or acid mine drainage, into Peru Creek and the Snake River. The Snake flows into Dillon Reservoir — a major water source for the Front Range.

The mine operated from 1879 through the early 1900s. Like many mines in the area, it sits in a pristine alpine valley. Today the Peru Creek valley, eight miles to the east of Keystone, serves as a year-round destination for recreation.

The mine is one of the largest contributors of human-caused heavy metal in the Snake River Watershed. Contaminants include aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, manganese and zinc. Exposure to these metals can cause irreversible and lifelong health problems in humans and wildlife.

This summer, the EPA will prep infrastructure to allow heavy equipment into the mine site in hopes of cutting off pollution sources. Meanwhile, the Colorado Division of Reclamation and Mining Safety will continue underground investigations to pinpoint where the toxic metals are originating and decipher which techniques should be used to best clean up the site…

EPA on-scene coordinator Paul Peronard expects the mine cleanup project to take place over three years, and cost about $3 million. Progress will be made in “finite, bite-size chunks,” he said…

Workers drilled holes into the ground and used a borehole camera to inspect the inside of the mine. The state-of-the-art technology was combined with maps from the 1920s to create a blueprint of the mine site…

Stakeholders then came up with a portal rehabilitation project. They dug and cut their way into the mine and installed very large culverts into two mine portals. The work required climbing through “hobbit holes” and dealing with 2 feet of muck, but it allowed researchers to get data about the amount of flow and level of contaminants coming through the F and C portals of the mine — where the bulk of the cleanup work will be done. The water found was “pretty nasty stuff.” The substance was a rusty orange color ­— very similar to the hue of the excavators on site. Geologists and engineers used dye to track water flows, created settlement ponds and revegetated disturbed areas…

In June, workers will prepare the mine site and stabilize the portals so more detailed underground investigations can be made. Geological engineer Graves’ plan is to install inner and outer bulkheads at the mine. The problem workers have with sealing waterways is a lack of rock and other landmass on top of the mine to contain underground water pressure, he said…

In addition to installing bulkheads in 2014 and 2015, stakeholders plan to cap waste and tailing piles in place with topsoil and vegetation to prevent erosion and contaminants from leaching. Any significant surface water pathways discovered during the underground investigations will also be sealed.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Nearly a century after miners finished digging millions of dollars worth of silver, lead and zinc out of the Pennsylvania Mine, heavy machinery will once again rumble through the high alpine Peru Creek Valley. But instead of burrowing deep into the ground to find precious metals, the workers this time will be trying to clean up the big mess left behind when the mine was abandoned. For decades, water coursing through the mine shafts has been dissolving minerals, resulting in acid mine drainage that pollutes Peru Creek and the Snake River. Concentrations of some metals, especially zinc, are high enough to kill trout…

The cleanup is a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Summit County. For more information about the project please visit: http://www.snakerivertaskforce.org.

More Snake River Watershed coverage here and here.


Restoration: Pennsylvania Mine cleanup to begin

May 19, 2013

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From the Summit Daily News (Breeana Laughlin):

Cleanup work at one of Summit County’s most polluted landscapes will begin this month — more than a century after toxic metals were released from the Pennsylvania Mine site. The mine operated from the late 1880s into the early 1930s. It produced more than $3 million in silver, lead and zinc. But the mine exposed a source of toxic heavy metals that drain into Peru Creek, choking fish from the stream and sending pollutants into the Snake River.

Today, Peru Creek is devoid of aquatic life. The Snake River, which the creek drains into, supports a limited number of species only in its lower reaches.

Individuals and groups have recognized the mine as a tainted site and have been trying to address the problem since the late 1980s. But until now, little has been done to terminate the source of the pollution. “There have been several smaller mine cleanups in that basin with state and grant funding. But everyone has recognized that the major issue remains the Pennsylvania Mine,” said Brian Lorch, a county official overseeing open space and trails.


Colorado River Basin: Denver Water, et. al., are operating under the Shoshone Outage Protocol

April 4, 2013

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

Two back-to-back, drought-plagued winters in Western Colorado have triggered an agreement to “relax” a senior water rights call on the Colorado River at the Shoshone Hydro Plant to allow water providers to store more water this spring, a move that benefits Denver Water and the West Slope.

The Shoshone Hydro Plant is owned by Xcel Energy and is located in Glenwood Canyon. Its senior 1902 water right of 1,250 cubic feet a second (cfs), when called, is administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights upstream that include Denver Water’s Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir.

The agreement “relaxes” the call to 704 cfs when river flows are low, or takes a Shoshone call totally off the river when flows are rising, which is the current situation. This practice gives the upstream juniors water rights holders the ability to store water once the spring runoff begins in earnest. Currently, the Colorado River is flowing through Glenwood Canyon at about 825 cfs. (The long-term historical average for this date is about 1,150 cfs.)

Two tripping points activate the agreement: when Denver Water forecasts its July 1 reservoir storage to be 80 percent of full or less, and when the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center predicts spring runoff flows at Kremmling in Grand County will be less than or equal to 85 percent of average. Currently, the reservoir forecast is 74 percent full on July 1 and the Kremmling forecast is 60 percent of average.

Denver Water has already enacted its Stage 2 Drought Restrictions to limit outdoor water use and enact other conservation measures.

The winter of 2012 was the fourth worst on record in the Colorado River Basin and 2013 has been tracking just as poorly. The only improvement between the two winters occurred in March 2013 as storms continued to build snowpack. By this time in 2012, runoff was already under way.
The relaxation period is between March 14 and May 20, in deference to boating season on the river and irrigation needs in the basin.

As for the water that Denver Water gains by the relaxation, 15 percent of the net gain is saved for Xcel Energy power plant uses in the Denver Metro Area and 10 percent is delivered to West Slope entities yet to be determined by agreement between Denver Water and the Colorado River District.

“This is a statewide drought, and we all need to work together to manage water resources for the health and safety of our residents, our economic vitality and the environment,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Shoshone Outage Protocol are great examples of the partnership between Denver Water and the West Slope to do just that. Last year, even though the CRCA was not yet in effect, Denver Water released water to the river even though the Shoshone Power Plant was not operating and the call was not on. This year, under the Denver Water-Xcel Energy agreement, the Shoshone call will be relaxed.”

“Relaxing the Shoshone water right in this limited way benefits the West Slope as well,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn. “It might make the difference between having a full supply at Green Mountain Reservoir and not having a full supply. In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later.”


‘In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later’ — Eric Kuhn #codrought #coriver

April 2, 2013

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Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

Two back-to-back, drought-plagued winters in Western Colorado have triggered an agreement to “relax” a senior water rights call on the Colorado River at the Shoshone Hydro Plant to allow water providers to store more water this spring, a move that benefits Denver Water and the West Slope.

The Shoshone Hydro Plant is owned by Xcel Energy and is located in Glenwood Canyon. Its senior 1902 water right of 1,250 cubic feet a second (cfs), when called, is administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights upstream that include Denver Water’s Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir.

The agreement “relaxes” the call to 704 cfs when river flows are low, or takes a Shoshone call totally off the river when flows are rising, which is the current situation. This practice gives the upstream juniors water rights holders the ability to store water once the spring runoff begins in earnest. Currently, the Colorado River is flowing through Glenwood Canyon at about 825 cfs. (The long-term historical average for this date is about 1,150 cfs).

Two tripping points activate the agreement: when Denver Water forecasts its July 1 reservoir storage to be 80 percent of full or less, and when the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center predicts spring runoff flows at Kremmling in Grand County will be less than or equal to 85 percent of average. Currently, the reservoir forecast is 74 percent full on July 1 and the Kremmling forecast is 60 percent of average.

Denver Water has already enacted its Stage 2 Drought Restrictions to limit outdoor water use and enact other conservation measures.

The winter of 2012 was the fourth worst on record in the Colorado River Basin and 2013 has been tracking just as poorly. The only improvement between the two winters occurred in March 2013 as storms continued to build snowpack. By this time in 2012, runoff was already under way.

The relaxation period is between March 14 and May 20, in deference to boating season on the river and irrigation needs in the basin.

As for the water that Denver Water gains by the relaxation, 15 percent of the net gain is saved for Xcel Energy power plant uses in the Denver Metro Area and 10 percent is delivered to West Slope entities yet to be determined by agreement between Denver Water and the Colorado River District.

“This is a statewide drought, and we all need to work together to manage water resources for the health and safety of our residents, our economic vitality and the environment,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Shoshone Outage Protocol are great examples of the partnership between Denver Water and the West Slope to do just that. Last year, even though the CRCA was not yet in effect, Denver Water released water to the river even though the Shoshone Power Plant was not operating and the call was not on. This year, under the Denver Water-Xcel Energy agreement, the Shoshone call will be relaxed.”

“Relaxing the Shoshone water right in this limited way benefits the West Slope as well,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn. “It might make the difference between having a full supply at Green Mountain Reservoir and not having a full supply. In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations: Reclamation starts filling the reservoir for 2013 #coriver

April 2, 2013

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Today, April 1, 2013, we have officially started to fill Green Mountain Reservoir. Last year, the start of fill was declared about one week earlier than this year.

Currently, we are releasing around 55 cfs to the Lower Blue River. The reservoir water level elevation is about 7891 feet–roughly 50 feet down from completely full, or 39% of its total content capacity. The water level should now steadily begin to rise.

To track Green Mountain water levels and releases, please visit our website. It is updated every night at midnight.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here and here.


Green Mountain Reservoir is 40% full #coriver

March 30, 2013

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Shoshone power plant water right call came off the Colorado River today [March 29, 2013]. As a result, we were able to cut back releases from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue River. Over two installments, we reduced releases from about 125 cfs to 60 cfs. The first change was made at 11:30, dropping the release to about 100 cfs. The second change was made at 3 p.m. and dropped the release to 60 cfs.

Green Mountain Reservoir is currently about 40% full. The reduction in releases should noticeably slow the draw on the reservoir.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 195 cfs in the Blue River below the dam #coriver

March 16, 2013

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Today, March 14, we are upping the releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We’ve got to keep downstream water rights whole, what we call “owing the river,” so we’re cranking releases up by about 40 cfs.

The first change was at 10 a.m., pushing releases from 155 cfs to 175 cfs.

The second change will be at 3 p.m. today, pushing up from 175 to 195 cfs. We’ll hold at 195 cfs until further notice.

Meanwhile, current inflow to the reservoir is around 130 cfs. Releases from the dam continue to slowly drop the water level of Green Mountain. There is a good chance the slow decline will continue until June, when snow melt run-off typically begins. Of course, much remains to be seen with the weather this spring and the condition of snow pack in the Blue River Basin.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 130 cfs in the Blue River below the dam #coriver

February 14, 2013

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Today, February 13, we are decreasing the amount of water being released from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We are dropping from 170 cfs to about 130 cfs over two changes. The first reduction was at 3 p.m., dropping the flows in the Lower Blue from 170 to 150 cfs. The second change will be at 5 p.m., dropping the release from 150 to 130 cfs. The reason for the change is to balance releases from the dam with inflow to the reservoir. Inflows to Green Mountain dropped today when Denver Water decreased the release to the Blue River from Dillon Dam. The 130 cfs release and flow in the Lower Blue will continue for a while. I will let you know when there are more changes.

More Blue River Watershed coverage here.


Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: Slow, steady progress seen #coriver

January 12, 2013

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Negotiations to finalize a sweeping in-state water agreement for the Colorado River Basin continue to drag on, but holdout Western Slope entities have conditionally approved it pending resolution of outstanding issues.

The proposed deal was announced in April 2011 and involves Denver Water and more than 30 Western Slope entities. In September, Peter Fleming, general counsel for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, based in Glenwood Springs, expressed hope that it would be finalized by the end of October. But final approval continues to await the conclusion of negotiations on two major issues ­­­— the senior water right for Xcel Energy’s Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon and future administration of Green Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling.

Conditional approvals to the overall deal have been given by the river district and all Grand Valley entities involved with the it.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Green Mountain Dam update: 190 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

December 20, 2012

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Update: From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Today, we adjusted releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River again.

The reason for the change was three-fold: increases in downstream contractor demand, increase in inflow, and increases in the amount required to compensate for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project diversions upstream on the Colorado River out of Granby Reservoir.

As a result, this afternoon we bumped releases up by 40 cfs. Flows in the Lower Blue are now around 190 cfs.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Just a quick message to let you know that the Shoshone Power Plant came back on-line today [December 19]. As a result, we bumped up our releases to about 150 cfs today around noon.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.


Crystal River: Momentum building for Wild and Scenic designation

December 3, 2012

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Here’s an analysis of efforts to protect the Crystal River under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for The Aspen Daily News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Thirty-nine miles of the Crystal River are already “eligible” for designation under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Now four organizations are building local support to determine if much of the river is also “suitable” for protection under the act.

Passed in 1968, the act allows local and regional communities to develop a federally backed management plan designed to preserve and protect a free-flowing river such as the Crystal River, which runs from the back of the Maroon Bells to the lower Roaring Fork River through Crystal, Marble, Redstone and Carbondale.

Wild and Scenic status, which ultimately requires an act of Congress to obtain, prevents a federal agency from approving, or funding, a new dam or reservoir on a Wild and Scenic-designated river.

And that’s one big reason why Pitkin County, the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA) and American Rivers are exploring Wild and Scenic status for the Crystal — because it would likely block a potential dam and reservoir from being built at Placita, an old coal town between Marble and Redstone.

The West Divide Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River District are fighting to retain conditional water rights that could allow for a dam across the Crystal and a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir.

The river district says such a reservoir could put more water in the often parched lower Crystal River in the fall and could also provide hydropower…

Chuck Wanner, a former Fort Collins city council member, said at the meetings that it took 10 years to get sections of the Cache La Poudre River on the Eastern Slope designated under Wild and Scenic.

Today, that’s the only river in the state that carries the designation and no river in the vast Colorado River basin is officially Wild and Scenic.

When asked about that via email, Ely of Pitkin County said he thought Colorado had only one designated river because of the “lack of information as to the benefits and restrictions of the designation, and the time and dedication it takes to get it through Congress.”

Another reason may be that once a river is designated Wild and Scenic, the federal government becomes a stakeholder on the river and has a chance to review potential changes to it, such as any new water rights. Some may feel that Colorado water law is complicated enough already.

And then there is the fact that designation eliminates the possibility of federal funding for future water projects, which can dampen the enthusiasm of most cities, counties and water districts.

Whatever the reasons for scarcity in Colorado, Pitkin County is ready to lead a Wild and Scenic process for the Crystal River.

“I think the Crystal has the potential to be a nice clean straightforward effort because there are no out-of-basin uses yet,” Ely wrote. “If there is interest in going forward, we’re happy to be the laboring oar and do that work.”[...]

While today only the Cache la Poudre River has stretches that are designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the BLM is preparing a suitability study on a number of area river stretches.

A final EIS is expected to be released in early 2013 by the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office followed by a record of decision in 2014 for the following rivers and river sections:

• Abrams Creek

• Battlement Creek

• Colorado River — State Bridge to Dotsero

• Colorado River — Glenwood Canyon to approximately 1-mile east of No Name Creek

• Deep Creek — From the BLM/Forest Service land boundary to the Deep Creek ditch diversion

• Deep Creek — From the Deep Creek ditch diversion to the BLM/private land boundary

• Eagle River

• Egeria Creek

• Hack Creek

• Mitchell Creek

• No Name Creek

• Rock Creek

• Thompson Creek

• East Middle Fork Parachute Creek Complex

• East Fork Parachute Creek Complex

For more information on regarding Wild and Scenic suitability on these rivers, search for “Colorado River Valley Draft Resource Management Plan,” which will lead you to a BLM website that contains the draft EIS document.

The BLM is also reviewing a number of stretches on major rivers in Colorado, either for eligibility or suitability, including:

• Animas River

• Dolores River

• San Miguel River

• Gunnison River

• Colorado River

• Blue River

In all, according to Deanna Masteron, a public affairs specialist with the BLM in Lakewood, the BLM is currently analyzing more than 100 segments in Colorado through various land-use plans. The Forest Service also has the ability to analyze rivers for Wild and Scenic designation.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here and here.


Drought news: Current inflow to Dillon Reservoir is at 90% of average #CODrought

November 16, 2012

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Currently, [Dillon Reservoir] is about 74 percent full, holding about 190,000 acre feet of water. Historically, it’s about 94 percent of capacity this time of year, according to Denver Water’s Bob Peters. In May 2011, the reservoir dropped to 72 percent of capacity just ahead that year’s runoff season. Before that, the last time it dropped to anywhere around this level for any sustained period of time was between May 2002 to April 2003, when it bottomed out at 48 percent, Peters said. Denver Water will continue to draw water throughout the winter, so the reservoir is likely to drop at least another 10 to 12 feet during the next few months.

Here’s and excerpt from the drought discussion provided by the U.S. Drought Monitor:

The West: A slow-moving Pacific storm system brought precipitation to most of the region, but the greatest weekly totals were found in the mountains. 1 to 3 inches of precipitation fell on the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, northern and central Rockies, Utah’s Wasatch and Uinta Ranges, and across east-central Arizona. With a generally stormy weather pattern affecting the Northwest since mid-October and the 2012-13 Water Year off to a good start (basin average precipitation between 100 and 150 percent of normal), some additional improvements were made along the D0 to D3 western and northern edges in Idaho and Montana. The most noticeable modifications were made across western and northern Montana as persistent precipitation the past 4 weeks has eliminated short- to medium-term deficiencies, and has instead produced surpluses at 30-, 60-, and 90-days. The central Sierra Nevada was also upgraded from D1 to D0 as 1 to 1.5 inches of precipitation bumped its basin average precipitation up to 82 percent of normal from 77 percent a week ago. In northern Utah, 2 to 3 inches of precipitation in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains improved drought by 1-category as basin average precipitation increased 10 to 20 percentages from a week ago to above normal (101 to 112 percent), and snow water content jumped to 150 percent of normal. In the Southwest, 1.5 to 2.5 inches of precipitation in east-central Arizona and west-central New Mexico slightly eased back D2 in those areas. Some slight adjustments were made in central Colorado: D2 was expanded into eastern Eagle and Summit counties which has seen a poor start to the Water Year and missed out on the most recent storm; some improvement was made in northeastern Colorado as normal October precipitation has kept winter wheat conditions fair; and D2 was trimmed in Douglas and Elbert counties to better match conditions.

More Blue River Watershed coverage here and here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 130 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

November 14, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This morning [November 13], before noon, we cut back the release from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We are now releasing about 130 cfs.

We’re doing our best to balance inflows and outflows. Inflow to the reservoir via the Blue River has been declining over the past week, so that’s part of the reason for our change. But, we are also voluntarily participating in the Shoshone Outage Protocol–helping with Colorado River flows below the power plant just east of Glenwood Springs. So, with that in mind, we are matching our outflow to the inflow, plus 30 additional cfs.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.


‘Water Wranglers’ is George Sibley’s new book about the Colorado River District #coriver

October 10, 2012

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Here’s the link to the web page where you can order a copy. Here’s the pitch:

Water Wranglers
The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District:
A Story About the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West

The Colorado River is one of America’s wildest rivers in terms of terrain and natural attributes, but is actually modest in terms of water quantity – the Mississippi surpasses the Colorado’s annual flow in a matter of days. Yet the Colorado provides some or all of the domestic water for some 35 million Southwesterners, most of whom live outside of the river’s natural course in rapidly growing desert cities. It fully or partially irrigates four-million acres of desert land that produces much of America’s winter fruits and vegetables. It also provides hundreds of thousands of people with recreational opportunities. To put a relatively small river like the Colorado to work, however, has resulted in both miracles and messes: highly controlled use and distribution systems with multiplying problems and conflicts to work out, historically and into the future.

Water Wranglers is the story of the Colorado River District’s first seventy-five years, using imagination, political shrewdness, legal facility, and appeals to moral rightness beyond legal correctness to find balance among the various entities competing for the use of the river’s water. It is ultimately the story of a minority seeking equity, justice, and respect under democratic majority rule – and willing to give quite a lot to retain what it needs.

The Colorado River District was created in 1937 with a dual mission: to protect the interests of the state of Colorado in the river’s basin and to defend local water interests in Western Colorado – a region that produces 70 percent of the river’s total water but only contains 10 percent of the state’s population.

To order the book, visit the Wolverine Publishing website at http://wolverinepublishing.com/water-wranglers. It can also be found at the online bookseller Amazon.

More Colorado River District coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 270 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

October 10, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Earlier this afternoon [October 9], we reduced releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River by about 50 cfs. The reason for the change is because inflows to Green Mountain Reservoir continue to decline. We are doing our best to balance inflow and outflow at the reservoir. The change was made around 1 p.m., dropping releases from 320 to about 270 cfs.

More Blue River Watershed coverage here and here.


Snowmaking: Smoothing out Mother Nature’s vagaries

October 8, 2012

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From the Summit Daily News (Paige Blankenbuehler):

The science behind snowmaking though brings many factors into play, but snowmaking officials base their operations mostly on temperature and humidity, a combination that provides them with a “wet-bulb temperature.”

“The drier the air, the more likely it is to be cooler,” said Mike Looney, snowmaking manager for Copper Mountain Resort. “We start at about a 28 degree wet-bulb temperature — that can be anywhere from 28 degrees and 100 percent humidity or as much as 35 degrees and 10 to 20 percent humidity.”[...]

The ideal conditions for snowmaking fall between a wet-bulb temperature of 10 and 20 degrees with consistent winds of approximately 10 miles per hour, according to Looney…

The formula for the wet-bulb temperature is based on humidity and temperature. Temperatures vary as humidity increases or decreases but typically it’s about one degree per 10 percent humidity, Looney said.

Copper Mountain uses water from Ten Mile and West Ten Mile Creeks for its snowmaking operations. The naturally cold water is ideal for sustaining operations through the season, Looney says…

As the water is cooled and comes out of snowmaking guns, the compression of the water paired with compressed air creates a smaller water molecule that freezes as it’s expelled from the nozzle…

Rapid expansion also creates the snowmaking properties of the water in the air mix. When the water reacts with the compression, it turns into a smaller molecule with a better chance of freezing once contacting outside temperatures. Copper Mountain’s snowmaking product includes an additive called SnowMax made up of live cultures that serve as an ingredient for the water to cling onto…

The rate of snowmaking is also reliant on outside temperatures. Snow guns in peak conditions for snowmaking can transform upwards of 2000-3000 gallons of water per minute into man-made snow…

“Man-made snow is getting way better with technology,” Looney said. “Our snowmaking crews are extremely conscientious about the product we put out. They are constantly checking the snow while the guns are running and if it’s too dense, too wet or too heavy, they make adjustments.”


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 370 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

October 2, 2012

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Update: From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This morning [October 2] around 9 a.m., we made an adjustment to the release from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue, dropping it back by 50 cfs from 370 to 320 cfs.

The reason for the change is to keep in balance with both declining inflows to the reservoir and the declining Colorado-Big Thompson Project diversions that occur further upstream on the Colorado River, out of Granby Reservoir.

Additional changes are possible, depending on downstream demands and weather. But, there is a slight possibility the 320 cfs could hold through the weekend.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This morning, Monday, Oct. 1, we saw releases from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue River bounce back up. Substitution releases from Williams Fork and Wolford Mountain reservoirs decreased today by a total of about 160 cfs. Green Mountain is now releasing that water to its downstream customers. As a result, flows in the Lower Blue increased from 210 to 370 cfs.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Lake Granby at 63% of capacity

September 22, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As we move into fall, operations on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project start to shift gears a little bit.

I mentioned earlier this week that the pump to Carter has gone off for the season. Water we were sending up to Carter, we are now taking over to Horsetooth to begin bringing that water level up a little bit as we start to get ready for next year. This is good news for Horsetooth as it is currently just over 30% full.

We could still see some more demands come out of both Carter and Horsetooth in late September and well into October, but right now, the water level elevation at Horsetooth has started to gain, just a little bit and the water level at Carter has held fairly steady. It remains just above 50% full. We are currently delivering around 500 cubic feet per second to Horsetooth.

Pinewood Reservoir is back to more average operations, fluctuating with power generation down at the Flatiron Power Plant.

Similarly, Lake Estes has maintained a typical operation schedule as we continue to bring C-BT water over from the West Slope, generate hydro-electric power and deliver the water to Horsetooth. We are no longer releasing project water through Olympus Dam to the canyon. We are bypassing what is natively in the Big Thompson River on through Lake Estes down the river. That’s been about 50 cfs all week this week.

With the diversion from the West Slope still on and the Adams Tunnel running, the water level elevation at Granby will continue to go down. That is typical for this time of year, but more noticeable than in years past because of the heavy draws the entire C-BT system has seen this summer due to drought conditions. As a result, Granby is around 63% full.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.


The Colorado Springs Gazette is sifting through receipts from Colorado Springs Utilities’ water tours

September 16, 2012

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón):

Other purchases included:

• $140 for 100 zippered pencil cases

• $47 for prizes for a water tour quiz

• $286 to rent two fans to keep participants cool during a lunchtime barbeque at what Utilities calls an SDS warehouse

Utilities defended the trip, saying the water tour gave participants an up-close look at the city’s water system that couldn’t be replicated with charts and graphs or in one day.

“Colorado Springs is not like cities such as Denver or Pueblo, which have local, in-town major waterways. Our community’s vast, complex water system includes 25 reservoirs and dams, more than 200 miles of pipes, four major pump stations, and facilities and infrastructure in 11 counties,” Utilities spokeswoman Patrice Lehermeier said in an email.

“The water tour gives leaders and officials first-hand knowledge of the massive work, equipment, facilities and people it takes to deliver water to Colorado Springs, as well as the ongoing construction of the Southern Delivery System,” she said. “It would be difficult to give people this level of information and insight in such an important investment using another forum. And despite all the talk of pipes and wires, a business, even in utilities, is about building relationships.”

The water tour started about 25 years ago, Lehermeier said.

The most recent tour cost $20,200, not $25,000 as originally reported by Utilities.

More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here.


Silverthorne and Basalt finish first and second in taste test

September 14, 2012

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From the Aspen Business Journal (Bob Berwyn):

“Like a party in my mouth,” one of the judges wrote next to sample identified only as “G.”

The testing went through three rounds, with the top two samples from each round making it to the finals. In the end, Silverthorne prevailed, while Basalt took second place and Aurora Water came in third after winning the competition last year.

“We have the benefit of using the water before anyone else does,” said Silverthorne public works director Bill Linfield, giving Mother Nature most of the credit for the victory.

From the Summit Daily News (Paige Blankenbuehler):

Silverthorne’s water comes from six different wells called the Blue River Alluvium, which sits at a lower elevated valley near Silverthorne, according to Kevin Batchelder, Silverthorne town manager. “We’re at the top of the food chain for clean, safe water,” Batchelder said. “We’re very lucky to have natural filtration and pristine, snow melt water.”[...]

Ranking behind Silverthorne, in its first-ever entry into the competition, Basalt took second place with Aurora Water coming in third…

As the winner, Silverthorne will represent Colorado in a national water-tasting contest later this year.

More water treatment coverage here and here.


Colorado River Cooperative Agreement implementation at hand

September 13, 2012

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Here’s a short report from the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

Colorado’s largest water utility and more than 30 western slope providers are expected to begin implementing an agreement balancing the Denver-area’s demand for water with the needs of mountain communities as early as next month. According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel a project spokesman said Tuesday a few more signatures are needed.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Snake River: USGS — Warmer Temperatures Likely Driving Increase of Metal Concentrations in Rocky Mountain Watershed

September 13, 2012

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Here’s the release the United States Geological Survey (Heidi Koontz/Jim Scott):

Warmer air temperatures since the 1980s may explain significant increases in zinc and other metal concentrations of ecological concern in a Rocky Mountain watershed, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, led by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Rising concentrations of zinc and other metals in the upper Snake River just west of the Continental Divide near Keystone, Colo., may be the result of falling water tables, melting permafrost, and accelerating mineral weathering rates, all driven by warmer air temperatures in the watershed. Researchers observed a fourfold increase in dissolved zinc over the last 30 years during the month of September.

“This study provides another fascinating, and troubling, example of a cascading impact from climate warming as the rate of temperature-dependent chemical reactions accelerate in the environment, leaching metals into streams,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “The same concentration of metals in the mountains that drew prospectors to the Rockies more than a century ago are now the source of toxic trace elements that are harming the environment as the planet warms.”

Increases in metals were seen in other months as well, with lesser increases seen during the high-flow snowmelt period. During the study period, local mean annual and mean summer air temperatures increased at a rate of 0.2-1.2 degrees Celsius per decade.

Generally, high concentrations of dissolved metals in the upper Snake River watershed are the result of acid rock drainage, or ARD, formed by natural weathering of pyrite and other metal-rich sulfide minerals in the bedrock. Weathering of pyrite forms sulfuric acid through a series of chemical reactions, and mobilizes metals like zinc from minerals in the rock and carries these metals into streams.

Increased sulfate and calcium concentrations observed over the study period lend weight to the hypothesis that the increased zinc concentrations are due to acceleration of pyrite weathering. The potential for comparable increases in metals in similar Western watersheds is a concern because of impacts on water resources, fisheries and stream ecosystems. Trout populations in the lower Snake River, for example, appear to be limited by the metal concentrations in the water, said USGS scientist Andrew Todd, lead researcher on the project.

“Acid rock drainage is a significant water quality problem facing much of the Western United States,” Todd said. “It is now clear that we need to better understand the relationship between climate and ARD as we consider the management of these watersheds moving forward.”

In cases where ARD is linked directly with past and present mining activities it is called acid mine drainage, or AMD. Another Snake River tributary, Peru Creek, is largely devoid of life due to AMD generated from the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine and smaller mines upstream, and has become a target for potential remediation efforts.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, in conjunction with other local, state and federal partners, is conducting underground exploration work at the mine to investigate the sources of heavy metals-laden water draining from the adit. The study conducted by Todd and colleagues has implications in such efforts because it suggests that establishing attainable clean-up objectives could be difficult if natural background metal concentrations are a “moving target.”

Collaborators include USGS, CU Boulder and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR). The data analyzed for the study came from INSTAAR, the USGS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

From the Summit Daily News (Paige Blankenbuehler):

Rising concentrations of zinc and other metals in the upper Snake River west of the Continental Divide near Keystone may be the result of falling water tables, melting permafrost and accelerating mineral- weathering rates — all driven by warmer air temperatures in the watershed…

High concentrations of dissolved metals in the upper Snake River watershed are the result of acid rock drainage, according to the research. The drainage is a result from past and present mining activities.

More water pollution coverage here.


Silverthorne takes top honors in tap water taste test — next up national competition

September 12, 2012

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From 9News.com (Matt Renoux):

Five judges in all took part in the 2013 American Water Works Association Water Tasting Competition in Copper Mountain. The judges sniffed, checked the clarity and tasted water samples from 16 cities in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. After more than an hour of drinking the water, judges turned in their results. This year Colorado swept the top three with Aurora taking third, Basalt second, and Silverthorne won out with the best-tasting water. Mellissa Elliott with Denver Water says that means Silverthorne will move on to represent Colorado in a National contest…

…National competition will be held in Denver next June. Denver Water took second in the nation last year. It will get to compete again because it gets an automatic entry in the national competition for being the host city.

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

Basalt came in second out of 16 cities and towns in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico that entered water for a taste testing at an American Water Works Association conference at Copper Mountain. Silverthorne won the competition and will represent Colorado in a national water-tasting contest later this year.

More water treatment coverage here and here.


Patty Limerick’s ‘A Ditch in Time: The City, the West, and Water’ book signing Wednesday on the CU campus

September 4, 2012

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Limerick is a terrific speaker and writer so I’ve been looking forward to her book about Denver Water for a while now. Here’s the book description from the Tattered Cover website.

“The history of water development…offers a particularly fine post for observing the astonishing and implausible workings of historical change and, in response, for cultivating an appropriate level of humility and modesty in our anticipations of our own unknowable future.”

Tracing the origins and growth of the Denver Water Department, this study of water and its unique role and history in the West, as well as in the nation, raises questions about the complex relationship among cities, suburbs, and rural areas, allowing us to consider this precious resource and its past, present, and future with both optimism and realism.

Patricia Nelson Limerick is the faculty director and board chair of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, where she is also a professor of history and environmental studies. She currently serves as the vice president for the teaching division of the American Historical Association. Her most widely read book, “The Legacy of Conquest,” is in its twenty-fifth year of publication.

Here’s a review of the book from Jane Earle writing for Your Colorado Water Blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The line [for a history of Denver Water] went back in the budget and, backed by Chips Barry, then Manager of Denver Water, it was passed by the Board. This time, the proposal was to ask Patricia Limerick, Colorado’s McArther prize winning historian, to write the history. And that was my idea. This time, it was [Charlie Jordan] who was incredulous. After all, Professor Limerick was not always kind to the white builders in her history of the West, “The Legacy of Conquest.” But that was why I wanted her: No one could accuse Denver Water of commissioning a coffee table book about the glories of its past if Patricia Limerick was the author. Chips was beguiled by the idea. The rest is history, as they say. This time, literally.

Professor Limerick doesn’t call her book a history of Denver Water. She subtitles it, “The City, the West, and Water.” It’s well named. She has set the story of some of the major events in the development of Denver’s water system in their proper geographic and historic context. The contributions of the people who built the water system and their legacy are stories that needed to be told. They were men of vision who could imagine a great city on the treeless plain next to the (mostly dry) South Platte River.

Here’s an interview with Ms. Limerick from the Colorado Water 2012 website.

More Denver Water coverage here and here.


Roberts Tunnel turns fifty

September 2, 2012

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

In Park County, the water [delivered from the Roberts Tunnel] empties into the South Platte River, feeding the Front Range Reservoirs that have enable Denver to grow into a thriving metropolis at the cusp of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. Water diverted from the Blue River Basin in Summit County provides nearly 40 percent of Denver Water’s supply.

The tunnel turns 50 this year, and Denver Water is commemorating the birthday with an invitation-only two-hour ceremony at the Roberts Tunnel headquarters near Grants. Denver Water employees, retirees who worked at the tunnel and Park County commissioners will take a journey through the history of the Roberts Tunnel, with presentations and discussions highlighting the past 50 years.

More Blue River watershed coverage here and here.


Summit County: Happy 20th Anniversary to the Clinton Ditch Company

September 1, 2012

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Clinton is celebrating its 20th anniversary and its many successes.

“Summit County has a long tradition of appropriating and acquiring water resources to meet the current and future needs of its citizens, business and commerce,” said Gary Martinez, Summit County Manager, “Clinton Reservoir is a key in these efforts … and it was a brilliant move to acquire this fabulous resource back in 1992.”

The historic deal took years of negotiations and involved many parties both locally and throughout the state of Colorado. Climax Molybdenum Company built the dam in 1977 as part of their mining operations. The reservoir capacity is 4,447 acre feet and its water source is Clinton Creek. The water is retained by a rockfill dam approximately 170 feet high and 1,500 feet long. The water in the reservoir is used primarily for municipal, irrigation and snowmaking purposes.

“Clinton Reservoir provides a reliable source of water supply to local private and government entities in an over-appropriated basin,” said Raul Passerini , Resource Engineering Inc. “Also, due to its location high in the basin (at 11,050 feet), releases from the Reservoir for downstream uses help maintain healthy streamflows within Tenmile Creek. During the spring, the reservoir is refilled during periods of peak snowmelt. This helps reduce the potential for downstream flooding near Copper Mountain and the Town of Frisco.”[...]

In addition to the Shareholders and Climax, the other major entity that played a significant role in the development of Clinton Gulch Reservoir is the Denver Water Board. Denver agreed to operate Dillon Reservoir to guarantee the needed yield of Clinton Gulch Reservoir and to use certain components of its facilities to deliver the Clinton water throughout Summit and Grand Counties.

More Blue River watershed coverage here and here.


Final Preliminary Alternatives Development Report on Grand Lake Now Available

August 24, 2012

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Bureau of Reclamation has finalized its Colorado-Big Thompson Project West Slope Collection Preliminary Alternatives Development Report that addresses concerns of water clarity at Colorado’s Grand Lake. The report is available at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

“The Department of the Interior is prioritizing efforts to improve water quality conditions in Grand Lake,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. “The Bureau of Reclamation, Interior’s water management agency, is committed to protecting the aesthetic values of Grand Lake and maintaining a secure water supply for its customers. We recognize the problem and are working hard with state and local leaders to understand the causes and find appropriate solutions.”

Grand Lake is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project’s West Slope collection system, which diverts water under the Continental Divide to Colorado’s East Slope and Front Range. A proposed state of Colorado water standard for the lake is scheduled to take effect in 2015. The Preliminary Alternatives Development Report is the first step toward improving water quality in Grand Lake in an effort to meet this state standard and improve this resource for its many uses. Four alternatives are considered in the report ranging from ceasing pumping during the summer season to building a bypass for project water to be delivered to the East Slope. The viability of each alternative is evaluated for a number of measures.

Reclamation continues to collaborate with water and power customers, stakeholders in and around Grand County, citizens groups around Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir, recreation managers at affected water bodies and other local, state and federal agencies.

The final Alternatives Development Report has been provided directly to stakeholders and posted to Reclamation’s website for the general public. Next steps include the Technical Review, which begins this fall and completes in fall 2013, and will examine the technical and financial feasibility of the alternatives presented in the Alternatives Development Report.

To download the report in PDF, please visit www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Blue River Watershed: Upper Blue Sanitation District wastewater treatment plant employs sealed-pipe system to control odors

August 15, 2012

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From the Summit Daily News (Caddie Nath):

The $32-million plant, which opened its pipes in March, is bringing expanded capacity and cutting-edge technology to the operation…

Equipped with the first water-treatment technology of its kind in the U.S. and a sealed-pipe system to control odors, the clean, spacious facility is the last big capacity-increase project the district ever plans to undertake…

The plant, which processes 2 million gallons per day on its own, is designed to target the key challenges in the business — smell and sanitation standards. Sealed pipes prevent wastewater from ever being exposed inside the plant, while a ventilation mechanism keeps air flowing into, rather than out of, the building, trapping any smell from the facility inside…

Chemical water-treatment technology imported from Europe, and never before used in the U.S., allows the plant to meet Summit County’s rigorous standards for nitrogen and phosphorous.

More wastewater coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 330 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

August 13, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We have another change at Green Mountain Dam. As has been typical the last six or so weeks, we are seeing operational changes at the dam about every three to four days.

In collaboration with other reservoir operators, we continue to follow Mother Nature’s storms, adjusting releases as we go. Recent rains have boosted flows in the Colorado River slightly, so we have been asked to cut back our releases from the dam to the Lower Blue.

Around 11 a.m. today, August 13, we cut back by 50 cfs, to about 330 cfs. The Lower Blue River should now be running at about 330 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Drought news: Low streamflow and high water temperatures are tough on aquatic species

August 13, 2012

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From the Summit Daily News (Brian Lorch and Lane Wyatt):

Managing our demand for water by implementing water conservation measures also reduces the stress on the aquatic environment found in the streams and reservoirs that are the source of most of our local water supplies. As the stream flows diminish in a drought, water temperature goes up and habitat and refuge for fish and aquatic invertebrates goes down…

In Colorado, only the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) can hold water rights to protect streamflows for the environment. Individuals, environmental groups and others cannot hold these water rights for instream environmental purposes although they can petition the CWCB to acquire these rights or can donate existing water rights for this purpose. The CWCB will consult with the Division of Parks and Wildlife to quantify an instream flow level that provides only the “minimum amount to protect the environment to a reasonable degree”. This flow is usually enough to provide passage for fish though riffles that may limit connectivity to pools and other safe havens, essentially only about enough to keep the backs of the fish wet in these shallow areas.

Like other water rights in Colorado, the effectiveness of these instream flow water rights to protect stream- flows is based on their seniority within the prior appropriation system. So in order for the instream flow rights to protect streamflows from diversions out of the stream they must be senior, or older than the water right associated with the diversion. We are lucky in Summit County that most of our streams have some instream flow water right for protection. For a description of the instream flow water rights in Summit County and for more information on Colorado’s instream flow program, check out this website: http://cwcb.state.co.us /environment/instream-flow-program/Pages/main.aspx

From NOAA’s State of the Climate webpage:

The May-July months, an important period for agriculture, was the second warmest and 12th driest such three-months for the Lower 48, contributing to rapid expansion of drought. The central regions of the country were hardest hit by the drought, where ten states had three-month precipitation totals among their ten driest, including Nebraska, Kansas, and Arkansas which were record dry.

According to the July 31, 2012, U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), 62.9 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought at the end of July. This is an increase of about 6.9 percent compared to the end of June. The maximum value of 63.9 percent reached on July 24 is a record in the 13-year history of the USDM.

The area of the country in the worst drought categories (extreme to exceptional drought) doubled from 10 percent last month to 22 percent this month. The extreme dryness and excessive heat devastated crops and livestock from the Great Plains to Midwest.

The Primary Corn and Soybean Agricultural Belt, hard hit by drought, experienced its eighth driest July, third driest June-July, and sixth driest April-July (growing season) in the 1895-2012 record.

According to the Palmer Drought Severity Index, whose record spans the 20th century, about 57 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing moderate-to-extreme drought in July. The last drought this extensive was in December 1956 when about 58 percent of the nation was in moderate-to-extreme drought.

From the Summit Daily News (Paige Blankenbuehler):

In total, $1,865,850 has been made available to Colorado farmers and ranchers through the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Colorado farmers and ranchers are experiencing the most devastating drought in decades,” [U.S. Senator Michael Bennet] said. “At a time when our economy is just getting back on its feet, we need all hands on deck to ensure that our rural communities have the tools they need to continue to grow and thrive. I encourage producers across Colorado to take advantage of the resources.”

Bennet’s comments come in a timely way as corn prices hit a record high Friday as the U.S. government slashed its forecast for the drought-damaged corn crop even more than analysts were expecting.

From email from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Jennifer Churchill):

Drought conditions and low water flows throughout the state have Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminding anglers to monitor water temperature when they are out fishing. Several water-specific recommendations have already been released this summer; however aquatic biologists recognize that fish can be stressed due to temperatures in many different coldwater fishing locations.

“Handling fish in waters that are 68 degrees and above can put undue stress on them, causing mortalities and compromising the fishery as a whole,” said Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist for the Northeast region. “We ask that anglers keep in mind the production opportunity of a fishery and not solely the fishing opportunity. Get out and fish, but bring along a thermometer and try to fish early in the day for the best opportunities.”

Here’s a release from the USDA:

As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to do everything it can to help farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and communities being impacted by the nation’s persistent drought, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced USDA’s intent to purchase up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken, and catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks. The purchase will help relieve pressure on American livestock producers during the drought, while helping to bring the nation’s meat supply in line with demand while providing high quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA’s nutrition programs.

“President Obama and I will continue to take swift action to get help to America’s farmers and ranchers through this difficult time,” said Vilsack. “These purchases will assist pork, catfish, chicken and lamb producers who are currently struggling due to challenging market conditions and the high cost of feed resulting from the widespread drought. The purchases will help mitigate further downward prices, stabilize market conditions, and provide high quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA’s nutrition programs.”

Today, USDA announced its intention to purchase up to $100 million of pork products, up to $10 million of catfish products, up to $50 million in chicken products, and up to $10 million of lamb products for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks. Through the Emergency Surplus Removal Program, USDA can use Section 32 funds to purchase meat and poultry products to assist farmers and ranchers who have been affected by natural disasters. The pork, lamb and catfish purchases are based on analyses of current market conditions. A major factor affecting livestock producers is the value of feed, which is currently running high because of the drought.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases a variety of high-quality food products each year to support the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program. USDA also makes emergency food purchases for distribution to victims of natural disasters. Government food experts work to ensure that all purchased food is healthful and nutritious. Food items are required to be low in fat, sugar and sodium. The commodities must meet specified requirements and be certified to ensure quality. AMS purchases only products of 100 percent domestic origin.

Last week in Washington, President Obama convened his White House Rural Council to review Executive Branch response actions and to develop additional policy initiatives to assist drought-stricken Americans. Following the meeting, the White House announced a number of new measures the Administration is taking, including USDA’s assistance for livestock and crop producers, the National Credit Union Administration’s increased capacity for lending to customers including farmers, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s emergency waivers for federal truck weight regulations and hours of service requirements to drought-stricken communities. President Obama also stressed the need for the entire Administration to continue to look at further steps it can take to ease the pain of this historic drought.

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

Commercial tubers are required to shut down when the river is below 85 cubic feet per second, and that’s where the town stretch of the Yampa has been during the day since Monday.

The river was flowing at 80 cfs past the U.S. Geological Survey gauge at the Fifth Street bridge at 6:30 Friday morning, and with vacationing families shifting into back-to-school mode, the tubing season is fast dwindling.

The median flow for this date is 165 cfs, but Van De Carr had a positive take on the way the summer has unfolded, calling conservation releases from Stagecoach Reservoir and voluntary releases from Lake Catamount a godsend.

Earlier this summer, the Colorado Water Trust made use of a new state law that allows for temporary leases of stored water rights and consummated a deal with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District to gradually release 4,000 acre feet of water into the river so that a portion of it could reach the town section and beyond. The releases are scheduled to last into September.

The Lake Catamount homeowners association responded in early July by releasing an additional amount that made the river more attractive for tubing.

The Yampa below Stagecoach was flowing at 68 cfs Friday morning, and gauges maintained by the Colorado Division of Water Resources showed that 69.5 cfs was flowing out of the outlet at the Lake Catamount dam and another 13 cfs was coming from the spillway.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 380 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

August 10, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

After the weekly coordination call today, we have made another change at Green Mountain Dam. We have dropped releases down to about 380 cfs in the Lower Blue River. Green Mountain Reservoir is currently at a water level elevation of about 7915 feet, or roughly 60% full. Considering the reservoir only got to an elevation of 7928 feet this year, that means it has dropped about 13 vertical feet since late June.


Reclamation bumps releases at Green Mountain and Ruedi reservoirs

August 7, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As we continue to balance inflows and outflows with the demands downstream along the Colorado River, we have adjusted releases from both Green Mountain and Ruedi Dams today [August 6].

Green Mountain has increased by about 40 cfs to 405 cfs.

Ruedi has increased 30 cfs to 225 cfs.


Drought news: Summit County continues to acquire water rights

August 6, 2012

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Here’s a guest column (Summit Daily News) written by Karn Stiegelmeier and Gary Martinez detailing drought actions by Summit County. Here’s an excerpt:

The board of county commissioners works in the water arena in two major ways. First, to provide water locally to certain residential, agricultural and commercial customers and other projects that benefit the public generally such as the hospital development, environmental restoration and stream flow enhancement for environmental and recreational purposes.

The county has a long tradition of appropriating and acquiring water resources to meet the current and future needs of its citizens. It has built an extensive water rights and water storage portfolio and has adjudicated a countywide augmentation plan that provides a legal water supply for out of compliance or new residential wells and other water needs. County water and storage rights in various reservoirs can be used as a replacement source for water used locally when more senior rights must be made whole.

A majority ownership in the soon to be completed Old Dillon Reservoir will significantly add to the county’s water rights portfolio. These water rights have assisted agricultural and ranching activities in the Lower Blue River Valley, the construction of accessory dwelling units to address critical housing needs, residential development, stream flow releases during low flow periods, the ongoing Swan River restoration project and snow making that can be critical to local ski areas and our local economy. Summit County Environmental Health Department protects surface and subsurface water quality through monitoring, testing and inspection programs.

Secondly, the County Commissioners take a variety of measures to protect local water resources from further diversions outside the County. Approximately 30 percent of Summit’s native water is diverted east through the Continental Divide for use by Front Range water providers; Denver Water and Colorado Springs Utilities claimed and developed these water rights years ago. Summit County has been a leader in efforts to curtail the further exportation of water as well as efforts to address the impacts of these diversions. This has included years of litigation and negotiation with a variety of water interests throughout the state.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Seven months into 2012, Greeley is still on pace for its hottest and driest year on record, according to figures provided by Wendy Ryan with the Colorado Climate Center, whose historical data goes back to 1968.

For the year, the average temperature through the end of July was 56.4 degrees in Greeley, 3.7 degrees above normal, and precipitation had amounted to just 4.77 inches — not even half of the 9.81 inches that, on average, falls on the city before Aug. 1.

The 1.63 inches of precipitation recorded during July was only 0.05 inches below normal for the month, but prior to July, Greeley had experienced its driest January, March and April on record, along with its second-driest June…

Along with the issues farmers and ranchers have faced, the hot and dry weather this year has forced municipal water officials to draw large amounts of water from reservoirs to supply residents trying to save their lawns.

Jon Monson, director of the city of Greeley’s Water and Sewer Department, said July water demand for the city is usually about 15 percent higher than it is in June, due to the increase in temperatures. However, he said this year, the water-demand increase from June to July was only about 5 percent, thanks to the rains that arrived last month.

Meanwhile, here’s a link to a photo gallery of xeriscape gardens from Apartment Therapy.


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