“…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

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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.


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

April 13, 2014

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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.


‘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.


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.


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

shoshoneglenwoodcanyon.jpg

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

greenmountainreservoir

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 365 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

August 2, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

After the coordination call [yesterday], it was determined that the afternoon rainstorms are no longer contributing much to the Colorado River Basin. As a result, we have spent the day bumping releases from Green Mountain Dam to the lower Blue River back up.

We bumped up by 60 cfs earlier this afternoon and are increasing releases another 65 cfs this evening. The resulting flow in the lower Blue River will be around 365 cfs.

I appreciate you all being patient with our changes this summer. We, like other reservoir operators, are doing our best to chase what inflows there are to keep our rivers in the Colorado River Basin in good stead during this very hot and dry season.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 315 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

July 31, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Upper Colorado River Basin has received more rain. As a result, contributions from Green Mountain have been curtailed by another 50 cfs. That means the release to the lower Blue River below Green Mountain Dam is now about 315 cfs.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here and here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 365 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

July 25, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

At about 7 this morning, July 25, we cut back releases to around 365 cfs. The flow in the lower Blue River below Green Mountain Dam will remain at 365 cfs until the next change.

There has been some recent rain in the upper Colorado River Basin and the river’s flows are up slightly. As a result, we cut back on Green Mountain’s contributions to the river system. We, the State, and other reservoir operators will continue responding to Colorado River flows as best we can throughout this water year. So please be aware that there will likely be additional changes.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 540 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

July 19, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

After yesterday’s Colorado River coordination call, we made adjustments to the release from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We are now releasing about 540 cfs.

As you all likely are aware, flows in the Colorado River continue to decline. In response, we have bumped our releases up another 50 cfs from 490 to 540 cfs.

The reservoir is currently at a water level elevation of 7920 feet above sea level, about 30 vertical feet down, or roughly 65% full.

It’s likely the 540 cfs will remain in place through the weekend.

More Blue River watershed coverage here.


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

July 6, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We continue to make adjustments to our releases based on the cooperative efforts of the larger water operators’ community on the Upper Colorado River. Currently, we are releasing about 370 cfs from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. There could be additional changes over the weekend.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 150 CFS in the Blue River below the dam #CODrought

June 13, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We have begun our weekly coordination calls for reservoir operations across the upper Colorado River basin. Flows in the Colorado River are rapidly declining, as most of you know. As a result, we are upping releases from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue today in two phases. By late this afternoon, we’ll be releasing 150 cfs.

The road across the dam has also reopened as the bridge work is nearly complete.

For more information on Green Mountain Reservoir and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, please visit our webpage.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here and here.


Glenwood Springs: Council approves the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

June 9, 2012

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From The Aspen Times (John Stroud):

Glenwood Springs City Council voted 5-1 at its Thursday meeting to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. The vote came more than a month after the proposal was first presented for council’s consideration.

“It’s unheard of that so many entities are willing to talk about what works for everyone,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said, in favor of signing onto the agreement.

Added Mayor Matt Steckler, “It’s not perfect, but this is something we have been working on for over a year. I don’t see what not signing it is going to do.”

Councilman Dave Sturges dissented, saying he supports the efforts to reach an agreement on the use of Colorado River water. But he felt the agreement fell short in some areas and that the public had not had an adequate opportunity to weigh in.[ed. True, the agreement was hammered out under Non-Disclosure agreements amongst the parties.] “We’re not under the gun to act on this,” Sturges said. “There are still some questions, and I think the public ought to assist us in how we view those questions.”

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


The Denver Post editorial board weighs in on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

May 20, 2012

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From The Denver Post:

One of the linchpins is that Denver Water, which serves more than 1.3 million customers on the Front Range, gets approval for the expansion of Gross Reservoir near Boulder. The utility needs the project so it may ensure adequate water for customers on the northern edge of its service area…

The agreement calls for Western Slope parties to not oppose — and in some cases support — the Moffat Collection System project, which includes the reservoir expansion.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Denver Water, Grand and Summit counties sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

May 19, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Gov. John Hickenlooper presided over a ceremonial signing of agreements among Denver Water, Grand and Summit counties and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. on Tuesday in Hot Sulphur Springs.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Denver Water, et al: A historic moment for Colorado water — Signing of historic agreement for cooperative water management and supply

May 10, 2012

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

WHO: Governor John Hickenlooper; Grand County Commissioners James Newberry, Nancy Stuart Gary Bumgarner; Penfield Tate, Denver Water Commissioner; Summit County Commissioners Dan Gibbs, Karn Stiegelmeier; William J. Baum, Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co.; Eric Kuhn, Colorado River District, General Manager.

WHAT: Leaders from Grand County, Summit County, Denver Water and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. will sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. This unprecedented agreement achieves better environmental health for the Colorado River Basin, maintains high-quality recreational use and improves economics for many cities, counties and businesses impacted by the river. The agreement is the result of five years of negotiations.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 15, 2012, noon

WHERE: Grand County Administration Building, 308 Byers Ave., Hot Sulphur Springs, CO 80451

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 75 cfs in the Lower Blue River below the dam

May 1, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This morning, we had a slight change in releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. To meet a call for water, we bumped releases up by 15 cfs. That means there is now approximately 75 cfs in the Lower Blue below the dam.

Meanwhile, the road across Green Mountain Dam is still closed as we upgrade the bridge. Access below the dam and to the Town of Heeney is open by driving around the reservoir from the south.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here and here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 60 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

April 19, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We have a couple of changes up at Green Mountain Dam.

First, yesterday, April 18, we closed the road across the dam. We are in the process of replacing the bridge at the top of the dam. It is being brought up to current Department of Transportation codes. This section of the road will be closed through mid-May.

It is important to note that , despite the road closure, local business in Heeney are still open and can be reached by driving around the reservoir the other way (coming from the south). This is also the only way to access the road that drops down alongside Green Mountain Dam for fishing and kayaking access in the lower Blue River.

Second, we scaled releases from the dam to the Lower Blue back by about 15 cfs today. Some demands for water dropped off slightly, resulting in a lower release rate. We are now releasing about 60 cfs from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue.


Summit County ‘State of the River’ meeting scheduled for May 8

April 19, 2012

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From the Colorado Division of Water Resources via the Summit Daily News:

Jointly sponsored by the Colorado River District and the Blue River Watershed Group, the evening begins with water administration and project updates for the BLue River Basin, followed by a discussion of current snowpack and runoff predictions.

Bob Steger from Denver Water and Ron Thomasson from the Bureau of Reclamation will report on Dillon and Green Mountain Reservoir operations and how those operations will affect water-based recreation opportunities.

Summit County manager Gary Martinez will provide an update on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, while George Sibley commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Colorado River District with an historical perspective of the District, as well as Summit County’s water struggles and achievements over the years.

Scott Hummer, now the project manager for the Colorado Water TRust, will discuss the organization and its mission to protect and restore streamflows throughout Colorado.

The Blue River Watershed Group will highlight developments with collaborative restoration efforts. It will also be a chance to shake hands with Summit County’s new water commissioner, Troy Wineland.

More Blue River watershed coverage here and here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 125 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

March 28, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We made another change at Green Mountain Reservoir earlier today [March 27]. As we continue to prepare for some upcoming maintenance, we scaled releases from the dam to the Lower Blue back another 50 cfs. The Lower Blue is now running at about 125 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Colorado River Cooperative Agreement outstanding issues: Operating the Shoshone power plant and Green Mountain Reservoir

January 6, 2012

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Two major issues, the administration of Green Mountain Reservoir and the Shoshone power plant in Glenwood Canyon, remain to be resolved. They are the same issues that parties acknowledged early on would be difficult but not insoluble. “It’s painfully slow,” Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn said, “but we’re making a lot of progress.”[...]

The two issues closest to the Western Slope are joined, with the Green Mountain question needing to be dealt with first, Kuhn said. Agreement on the administration of Green Mountain Reservoir, which was built as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, “fundamentally sets the stage for moving ahead on Shoshone,” Kuhn said. “A lot of issues have arisen over the years on Green Mountain Reservoir” that boil down to making sure the reservoir fills and that the demands of Denver Water and Colorado Springs are met, said Mark Hermundstad, a Grand Junction water attorney who represents several Grand Valley water users…

Colorado River water spins turbines in the Shoshone plant, and downstream users have long counted on Shoshone’s call on the river to make sure water is sent downstream through the Grand Valley rather than diverted eastward. There is a rub, though, and it concerns the times that Shoshone’s turbines are idle and the plant, therefore, is not drawing its 1,250 cubic feet per second of water from the river. The short-term answer is what has become known as the Shoshone outage protocol, in which upstream diverters agree to allow the river to flow as though Shoshone were operating. Part of that formula, however, depends on how Green Mountain Reservoir, which is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, is managed.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Low numbers for aquatic life prompts the CWQCD to designate the Blue River for monitoring and evaluation

December 28, 2011

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Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The sampling results prompted the Colorado Water Quality Control Division to propose listing the Blue River as impaired under a relatively new rule that sets thresholds for aquatic life use…

Water experts from Summit County and other jurisdictions challenged the initial move to list the Blue River and other stream segments as impaired, claiming that the state-set thresholds — adopted after 10 years of study — may not be applicable in rivers below reservoirs.

For example, Aurora officials questioned whether or not the data collected below a dam should be evaluated as being representative of an entire stream segment. They suggested that changes in natural temperature alterations, low dissolved oxygen, sediment, nutrient composition and hydraulic modifications may alter the biological community below reservoirs.

More Blue River coverage here and here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 300 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

December 22, 2011

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Earlier this week, we increased the releases from Green Mountain from 200 cfs to 300 cfs. The change was made in four installments of 25 cfs increases: two on Monday and two on Tuesday. Because the Shoshone Power Plant maintenance work is diminished, the lower release from Green Mountain is not necessary. As a result, we will be releasing around 300 cfs through the Holidays.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Windy Gap Firming: Recently released final EIS acknowledges potential declines in streamflow in the Upper Colorado River basin

December 7, 2011

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Even more worrisome to conservation advocates are the projected declines in summer flows. Below Windy Gap Reservoir, July flows could drip by as much as 20 percent, according to the Bureau’s study, which also acknowledged that extensive mitigation measures will be needed to protect West Slope aquatic ecoystems…

But the proposed mitigation falls short of what’s needed to protect the Upper Colorado, according to Trout Unlimited, a cold-water fisheries conservation group.

Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

A new federal report on the environmental impacts of a plan to expand the Windy Gap water diversion project in Colorado falls short of recommending what’s needed to protect the fragile Upper Colorado River, according to Trout Unlimited.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement, released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Nov. 30, outlines the anticipated effects of the proposed project and recommends needed mitigation.

“This new document is an improvement over the previous version in that it acknowledges the Windy Gap project will worsen conditions in the Upper Colorado River and Grand Lake unless measures are taken,” said Drew Peternell, executive director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. However, the mitigation proposed by the bureau falls far short of what is needed and critical problems continue to be ignored. We urge the Bureau to require additional protective measures to preserve this irreplaceable natural resource.”

“Trout Unlimited’s concerns with the Environmental Impact Statement are echoed by the Upper Colorado River Alliance, a nonprofit group that is also seeking to require more mitigation to protect the river,” said Boulder attorney Steven J. Bushong, a representative of the Alliance.

The report comes out as Trout Unlimited is launching a petition campaign to protect the Upper Colorado River and its tributary, the Fraser River, and the mountain communities, businesses, people and wildlife that depend on them. The petition campaign, based online at DefendTheColorado.org, is being spearheaded by Trout Unlimited to engage advocates for the iconic but threatened rivers. The website allows advocates to sign on to a petition that will be delivered to decision makers before the bureau makes a final decision on the Windy Gap project. That decision is expected in early January.

“The good news is that the Bureau of Reclamation’s Environmental Impact Statement says additional mitigation measures may be added before the agency makes a final decision. That highlights the importance of taking action to stand up for the river now,” Peternell said.

Already 60 percent of the Upper Colorado is diverted to supply Front Range water users. The Windy Gap proposal, along with a separate Moffat Tunnel water project, could divert as much as 80 percent of the Upper Colorado’s natural flows. According to Trout Unlimited, steps must be taken to protect the rivers including:

· Managing the water supply to keep the rivers cool, clear and healthy.
· Funding to deepen river channels and create streamside shade.
· Monitoring of the rivers’ health and a commitment to take action if needed to protect them.
· Bypassing the Windy Gap dam to reconnect Colorado River and restore river quality.

“The Final Environmental Impact Statement continues to ignore existing problems that will be made much worse by the Windy Gap project,” said Sinjin Eberle, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “A study released by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife earlier this year shows that entire populations of native fish and the insects they feed on have all but disappeared from the Colorado River below the Windy Gap Reservoir. The state study blames the reservoir and the lack of spring flows that clean sediments from the stream beds and warns that expansion of the Windy Gap project poses additional threats to the health of the river and the aquatic life in it.” See http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/op/wqcc/Hearings/Rulemaking/93/Responsive/93rphsTUexG.pdf

The Windy Gap project also impacts the health of Grand Lake. “Grand Lake – once a pristine lake of dramatic clarity and scenic beauty – has become cloudy, weedy and silty because of diversion water pumped into the lake from Shadow Mountain reservoir,” said John Stahl of the Greater Grand Lake Shoreline Association. “Nothing in the FEIS mitigation plan is helpful in addressing the existing problems–at best it maintains the status quo while more likely creating even bigger problems.”

The Environmental Impact Statement indicates that the Bureau of Reclamation will monitor to ensure that mitigation is adequate and will impose additional measures if necessary. “That’s helpful but needs to be more clearly articulated. Another critical addition is the construction of a bypass around the Windy Gap dam,” Eberle added.

The DefendTheColorado.org campaign highlights the people who depend on the rivers.

“The Colorado and Fraser rivers aren’t just bodies of water, they are the lifeblood for wildlife, local communities and the state’s recreation economy,” Eberle said. “But many Coloradans are unaware that these rivers are on the brink of collapse because of diversions. DefendTheColorado.org’s purpose is twofold – to raise awareness about the threats facing the Colorado and Fraser and to give people a way to stand up for our rivers.”

Eberle added, “We can’t afford to let these rivers literally go down the drain.”

A new feature of the website called “Voices of the Fraser” profiles local Fraser Valley residents and visitors who speak eloquently about their connection to the Fraser River and the need to preserve healthy flows. Among the individuals profiled are Olympic skier Liz McIntyre, logger Hoppe Southway and landscape artist Karen Vance.

“It would be a shame to see any of these tributaries dry up just for the sake of developing the Front Range,” said Southway in his profile. “It’s the water my children and grandchildren are going to want to see someday, and I hope it’s protected for future generations.”

Visitors to the site also have added their voices about why the river is important to them.

“I have fished and hiked the Fraser and Upper Colorado river regions for over 30 years and am deeply saddened by the degradation of these great watersheds,” a Golden, Colo., resident wrote.

A Bonita Springs, Florida, resident wrote: “I LOVE fishing that stretch of water and find such a simple peace of being in that area. Please don’t mess with such a special place.”

“As a visitor and fisherman to Colorado on a regular basis, my tourist dollars help the local communities,” noted a resident of Blue Springs, Missouri.

More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.


Reflections on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — W.D. Farr

November 28, 2011

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Here’s a video with W.D. Farr explaining the origins of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Thanks to Greeley Water for posting the video.

Next year is the 75th anniversary of the 1937 act that established the water conservancy districts and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Farr explains that Congressman Taylor would not support the project unless Green Mountain Reservoir — for west slope supplies — was built first.

“The biggest cloud of dust I ever saw came out of that tunnel [Adams Tunnel],” Farr says, “I never saw men so happy in my life.”

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


DefendTheColorado.org website launches to build awareness of upper Colorado River basin streamflow issues

November 6, 2011

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Say hello to DefendTheColorado.org, a new website designed to connect interested people and raise awareness of the issues around transbasin diversions from the Upper Colorado River here in Colorado. Here’s a report from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

For the Trout Unlimted Project, [Editorial Photographer and Videographer Ted Wood of Story Group, Boulder] brought in Boulder colleagues Beth Wald, a photojournalist who of late has been covering environmental and cultural stories in Afghanistan, and Mark Conlin, a seasoned underwater photographer.

“We launched the project as a way to get more visibility of the stream-flow issues on the Fraser and Upper Colorado,” said Trout Unlimited’s Randy Schoefield. “What we’re trying to portray is the community’s deep connection to the river.”

The Story Group plans to add more portraits to the website in coming days and weeks. Eventually, Trout Unlimited hopes to host public events that display the portraits as well as work by other photographers, granting a full sense of the river’s significance in Grand County and the consequences of further transbasin diversions.

Click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right for a map of Denver Water’s collection system. More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: Reclamation is cutting back releases to 600 cfs in the Lower Blue River by Saturday night

October 28, 2011

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This morning (October 28), we began curtailing releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We are stepping releases down in 50 cfs increments. At 8 a.m., we dropped from 800 to 750 cfs. This evening around 8 p.m., we will drop another 50 from 750 to 700 cfs. We will follow a similar pattern on Saturday. By Saturday evening, releases from Green Mountain Dam will be around 600 cfs. It is likely the reductions could continue to drop during the first week of November. I will keep you posted of future changes.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 750 cfs in the Lower Blue River below the dam

October 13, 2011

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

If you’ve been out on the Lower Blue this morning [ed. October 12], you probably noticed that it’s running a little lower than yesterday. That is because this morning around 6:30, we dropped releases from Green mountain Dam by about 50 cfs. Currently, there is 850 cfs flowing below the dam. We will be making additional changes today. We will drop again at noon today, by 50 cfs, putting the Lower Blue around 800 cfs. Then around 5 p.m. today, we will drop another 50 cfs. By the end of the day, releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue will be around 750 cfs.

The reason for the change is two fold: the 15-Mile Reach of critical habitat for endangered fish no longer needs additional water and the Shoshone Plant has some maintenance work. Reduction in flows will help both projects.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 500 cfs in the Blue River below the dam by Friday

September 22, 2011

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

After the weekly conference call yesterday, it was determined that releases from Green Mountain would increase. We have been releasing about 400 cfs for some time. The change will put 500 cfs in the lower Blue River. The first change was today a 9 a.m. We bumped up 50 cfs. Currently, 450 is being released to the Lower Blue. Tomorrow, Friday, we will bump up another 50 cfs around 8 a.m. By lunch, there should be 500 cfs in the river. This increase will help provide water to the critical habitat of the endangered fish of the Colorado River.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Implementing the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement hangs on resolving how to operate the Shoshone right and Green Mountain Reservoir

September 20, 2011

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From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (http://bit.ly/pblJYV ), western Colorado water providers want an agreement on the operation of the Shoshone power generating station in Glenwood Canyon and another on the operations of Green Mountain Reservoir.

Six months ago, officials from the Western Slope and Denver announced they had a general agreement that would resolve most of the issues, but none of the backers have signed an agreement.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Horsetooth Reservoir is as full as it has been since 1999

August 19, 2011

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From the Loveland Connection (Bobby Magill):

The surface elevation of Horsetooth Reservoir, which stores water from the Colorado River on the Western Slope, is at 5,419 feet, about 11 feet below full pool of 5,430 feet.

The Colorado-Big Thompson Project, of which Horsetooth Reservoir is a part, set an all-time record for in-flows from the Colorado River, he said. Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Lake and Grand Lake all received 430,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River, more than 75,000 acre-feet more than the previous record of 355,000 acre-feet, he said…

Horsetooth and other area reservoirs are full enough to put water managers in a good position to deliver plenty of water to irrigators next year regardless of how snowy the winter is, [Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District spokesperson Brian Werner] said. We’re in good shape,” he said. “We can get by with average or below average winter snows this year and be fine next year.”

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 750 cfs in the Lower Blue River below the dam

August 11, 2011

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Today [August 10], we’re dropping releases from Green Mountain Dam to the lower Blue by another 200 cfs. By late this afternoon, flows in the lower Blue should be around 750 cfs. Inflows to Green Mountain Reservoir are dropping off. As we continue to match outflow with inflow, the reservoir water surface elevation is remaining fairly steady at about 2 feet down from full.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Reclamation is moving water from Grand Lake to Shadow Mountain Reservoir to test the effects on Grand Lake clarity

August 9, 2011

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Even though we finally have the snow melt run-off behind us, we are still releasing water from Granby Dam to the Colorado River. Currently, we are releasing about 500 cubic feet per second. The reservoir is still pretty full, dropping slowly. Today, it is at a water level elevation of 8278 feet above sea level–about two feet below full.

The current release of 500 cfs will continue most likely through September and possibly into October.

The reason for the longer-than-most-years release is two-fold. First, we just have a lot of water this year. The heavy snow pack is still melting out from the highest mountain elevations, albeit much more slowly than in June and July.

Second, and most significantly, with all the snow melt and then the rain we had this summer, there just is not a lot of demand for water from the east slope. Plus, east slope storage is close to full. Without a call for or a place to store C-BT water, we cannot import it from the west to the east slope.

Additionally, this is the time of year we adjust how we run the C-BT west slope system as part of our on-going work to improve clarity in Grand Lake. For the past four years we have experimented with different operations. This year, we are attempting to maintain a steady flow from Grand Lake to Shadow Mountain Reservoir. Usually, the flow is in the opposite direction because we are diverting more water to the east slope.

I have received several questions over the past few days regarding the west slope collection system. Please feel free to contact me directly with any additional questions. More C-BT information is also available by visiting Northern Water on-line, or by visiting Reclamation’s website.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Most of you have probably noticed that Pinewood has not gotten as high this summer as it has in previous years. I’ve had a couple inquiries so I thought it was a good time to send out an e-mail update.

The reason for Pinewood’s elevation fluctuation is because it is a forebay for the Flatiron hydro-electric power plant ; it’s the water storage above a power plant. Water is stored in the reservoir to build up “head,” or energy, then run downhill to produce that energy at the plant below . Because we are only generating with one of the two units and because we have had so much water move through the system this year, Pinewood’s fluctuations this summer have been slightly different than in other summers: it isn’t getting as high as most are used to seeing.

We’re going to try and get the water elevation at Pinewood back up for this weekend, however. Right now, Pinewood’s water surface elevation is on the decline. Its current elevation is about 6567 feet–about 13 feet below full–and it will probably go down another three feet or so. The good news is the decline will stop later today and the reservoir will begin to rise again. The elevation climb will continue well into the coming weekend…

If you’d like more information on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project of which Pinewood is a part, please visit us on-line.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As snow melt run-off has declined in the Blue River basin, we’ve been cutting back our releases from Green Mountain Dam to the lower Blue River. Releases have dropping over the last week.

The most recent change was this morning, calling for another reduction. By early evening, releases from the dam should be around 950 cfs. Additional changes will depend on weather and water demands.

The reservoir elevation has remained very close to full. It is currently at about 7948 feet, two feet down from full.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

More Grand Lake clarity coverage here. Check out this article from November, 2007 written by Tonya Bina for the Sky-Hi Daily News. I think it’s cool that the deep link still works.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Granby is releasing about 420 cfs

August 3, 2011

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Just a quick note to update you all on our facilities across the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. I’ve also updated our webpages. Once on our main page, be sure to check out the menu on the left hand side to see information on our other facilities.

Meanwhile, Granby is releasing about 420 cfs.

Willow Creek is releasing about 77 cfs.

Olympus Dam on Lake Estes is releasing about 125 cfs.

All reservoirs are basically full, with the exception of Lake Estes, Pinewood and Flatiron. These three fluctuate often due to hydro-power generation. Pinewood and Flatiron, in particular, might drop significantly over the course of one day, then rise back up again.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


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