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.


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.


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.


Restoration: Partial cleanup of Saints John Mine in Summit County planned for summer

May 23, 2012

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Beautiful as Saints John Creek may look, it’s heavily polluted with cadmium, copper, lead and zinc that leaches into the water from weathered waste rock and from the underground workings of the former mine. Concentrations of some of the metals, especially zinc, are so high that the water is deadly to fish and to the aquatic bugs they feed on. As a result, the short stream segment has been listed as impaired since 1998.

This summer, the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety plans to start cleaning up the mess with an ambitious $500,000 restoration project that involves moving some of the exposed tailings away from the water to an upland repository, where they’ll be capped and covered with native vegetation.

State officials may also divert some of the water pouring out of an old mine opening to prevent the water from coming in contact with the weathered rock. Altogether, they hope the work will reduce the amount of dissolved zinc in the water by about three pounds per day. Zinc is particularly toxic to trout, impairing their ability to breathe.

More water pollution coverage here.


Dillon Reservoir operations update: The reservoir is down about three feet going into winter

December 15, 2011

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Right now, the reservoir is about three feet below full, a level that enables Denver Water to place a big steel and wood cap on the glory hole.

In late November, the inflow from the tributaries that feed the reservoir was at about 93 cfs, while the outflow into the Blue River was about 88 cfs. Those flows are expected to fluctuate between a minimum required flow of 50 cfs and 105 cfs, sometimes dependent on downstream calls.

This year, the Roberts Tunnel, which transports water from the Blue River Basin under the Continental Divide to the South Platte River, was turned off in late November and will likely remain shut off until well into spring.

Steger said Denver Water is doing some maintenance on the valves at the eastern end of the conduit. But the tunnel itself will remain filled of water during the winter. It holds about 220 acre feet of water. Keeping it full enables Keystone to draw water from the Montezuma Shaft to augment Snake River flows during snowmaking season and also prevents the inside of the tunnel from icing up.

More Blue River watershed coverage here.


Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety officials are exploring the Pennsylvania Mine to try to determine how to lessen acid mine drainage from Peru Creek into the Snake River

July 26, 2011

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjin):

The mine is among nearly 400 others in the area, but is the main target for stream improvements that don’t involve actually treating the water — cost and liability assumed under current law inhibits a third-party treatment system. “We see a noticeable spike (in zinc concentrations) when Peru Creek runs by the Pennsylvania Mine,” said Ryan Durham, remedial project manager with the Environmental Protection Agency…

Some experts contend that the hillsides above Peru Creek are rich with metals that leach naturally, but most officials on this particular project agree that while there may be natural metal deposits occurring to make the creek a consistently uninhabitable place for fish, it’s likely the mine is a big player in sending metals downstream and causing low pH in the water. Downstream, in the Snake River above the Dillon Reservoir, the water is diluted enough by clean stream inflows for fish to live and reproduce…

The proposed next step should allow further investigation of the amount of water that actually discharges from the mine (including groundwater sources), where and in what condition the water enters the mine, flow paths within the workings, and the accessibility of the mine’s innards. The end goal is finding a feasible control remedy. Proposed solutions currently include building a bulkhead to protect against surge events, sealing entry sources so clean surface water isn’t contaminated and, separating clean water paths from dirty water paths to consolidate the waste.

More water pollution coverage here.


Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: ‘Summit State of the River’ speakers tout win-win for Summit County and Denver Water

May 5, 2011

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjin):

“I remember thinking, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever gotten myself into. There are so many issues. There are so many players,” said Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson, who was the point person for many of the water conversations.

As Denver Water takes on responsibilities such as defining its service area, recycling and reusing water, setting conservation goals and timelines, Summit County reaps many specific benefits, officials said. In particular, county municipalities and ski resorts get more water — 1,743 acre-feet more water. Some is free, some has conditions, but what it translates to is a firmer supply in dry years for towns and ski resort snowmaking — which likely means a more protected economy.

Denver Water has also agreed to maintain the Dillon Reservoir water level at or above 9,012 feet in elevation between June 18 and Labor Day. It’s the critical level for Frisco Marina to be operational, helping drive the county’s summertime economy. “It’s their reservoir and their water rights,” Summit County manager Gary Martinez said, but they’ve agreed to not take water for recreational or hydropower on the Front Range to the detriment of Dillon Reservoir.

Also on the tourism front, the deal helps maintain recreational flows at or more than 50 cubic feet per second — primarily to benefit fishing, Silverthorne-Dillon joint sewer operations and, at higher flows, boating — into the Blue River below Dillon Dam in normal years. Dire drought circumstances are the exception, when lawn watering is banned by Denver Water — an event that’s never occurred, Lochhead said.

A one-time $11 million windfall from Denver Water comes to the county for wastewater treatment plant improvements, environmental enhancements, forest heath projects and local water and sewer work. Also, Denver Water will have the ability to sell water to some south metro area water providers, with some of the money going toward a Western slope fund for similar projects in Summit County.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Denver Water’s proposed rate increases attract the focus of councillor Jeanne Faatz

November 12, 2010

From The Denver Daily News (Peter Marcus):

The Board of Water Commissioners will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, as well as again next Wednesday, before voting on the proposal. The plan calls for an average increase for next year of $41 per year for Denver customers, or an increase of about $3.40 per month. The increase would be more than 10 percent for next year and comes as Denver Water officials warn that consumers may see an increase of 31 percent over the next three years. If approved, the increased water rates would take effect in March 2011.

Suburban residential customers would see an average increase of about $2.66 per month, or about $32 per year.

The proposal has already made a splash with Denver City Council members – but not the kind of splash that Denver Water would have liked. In addition to raising concerns over the impact a rate increase could have on constituents, Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz took the opportunity last month to raise questions over the organization of the Denver Water board itself.

Currently, the Board of Water Commissioners is a five-member board that is appointed by the mayor of Denver. Faatz questioned whether it wouldn’t be a better idea to switch to a board that is elected by the people, to perhaps better represent the interests of voters.

“Our same people are paying these rates and they have definitely let us know that they are not interested in increased taxes and we have tried to listen to that and be responsive, and they’re not interested in higher fees, and yet you all just pretty much as an enterprise get to set what you set and charge them,” Faatz told Denver Water officials at a City Council briefing last month.

More Denver Water coverage here.


Saguache County: The EPA and Trout Unlimited reach agreement for cleanup on Kerber Creek

August 26, 2010

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

The cleanup agreement is for Kerber Creek, at the north end of the San Luis Valley, where Trout Unlimited and the EPA have struck a deal that will shield the conservation group from potential liability as it works to clean up mine tilings along a 17-mile stretch of the creek.

The agreement could serve as a model for similar projects in Summit County, especially in the Snake River Basin, where cleanup efforts have been stymied by strict Clean Water Act provisions that shift liability for any pollution releases after a cleanup to the entity that does the work. The local Blue River Watershed Group, for example, is planning several projects similar to the work being done in the San Luis Valley.

Since 2008, Trout Unlimited and its partners have spent more than $1.3 million on restoration efforts along Kerber Creek. Working with the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado’s Nonpoint Source Program, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and local landowners, the goal is to treat 60 acres of mine tailings using lime, limestone and compost, and to restore the stream for fish and wildlife habitat. “Thousands of miles of headwater streams in the West are either threatened or dead as a result of historic mining pollution, and without Clean Water Act liability protection, Good Samaritans’ hands are tied,” said Russell. “If they try to treat the draining water to remove metals and improve water quality, they become liable for that water for ever. That’s a risk no entity has yet been willing to take.”

More restoration coverage here.


Restoration: Should the Pennsylvania Mine in the Peru Creek Basin become a superfund site?

August 25, 2010

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Reclamation experts with the federal agency’s regional office say a Superfund designation could be the best way to get the money needed for a comprehensive cleanup, but some local officials aren’t sure they want the environmental stigma of a Superfund site in their backyard — or a massive industrial water treatment facility and a major service road in the Peru Creek backcountry, which has been the focus of long-term open space preservation efforts…

But focusing resources through the Superfund program could be the best, and maybe the only option to do some sort of meaningful remediation in the tainted basin, especially as some of the latest studies show continued degradation of water quality. “In certain months, the peak concentrations for metals have been increasing … They’re creeping up and we don’t know why,” said U.S. Geological Survey researcher Andrew Todd. “Right now, it’s just looking at dots on a plot,” he said…

Most of the metals pollution in the Snake comes from Peru Creek, both from abandoned mines in the basin, as well as from natural sources, as water trickles over highly mineralized rocks. Concentrations are so high that Peru Creek is biologically barren, with no fish or aquatic insects in the tainted water. Even several miles downstream at Keystone, the concentrations of metals exceed state and federal limits set to protect aquatic life. The pollution in Peru Creek is so intense that there’s probably little chance of establishing a self-sustaining fishery directly in that tributary. Even with a cleanup at the Pennsylvania Mine, many other sources of pollution, including natural ones, remain. “I think even with a cleanup, you’d have a biologically dead situation up there,” said Steve Swanson, head of the Blue River Watershed Group…

But at least some of the experts are convinced that they could design and build a functional treatment system that would reduce metals loading downstream, with the ultimate goal of establishing some sort of self-sustaining fishery in the reach from Keystone downstream to Dillon Reservoir.

More Peru Creek Basin coverage here and here.


Summit County: Update on county efforts to thwart invasive species

July 13, 2010

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From the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

Aquatic nuisance species like zebra mussels, quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails and rusty crayfish have thus far not been detected in Summit County’s waters. But they’re practically banging on our door. Populations of the invasive mussels are already established in Pueblo Reservoir and in multiple reservoirs in Grand County. Stopping them from crossing the county border depends on the vigilance of boaters, anglers and others who enjoy the water…

According to [Elizabeth Brown, state invasive species coordinator for the Colorado Division of Wildlife], people can get confused or intimidated by the topic of invasive species, but halting their spread is actually quite simple. “It’s very easy for an everyday person who knows nothing about natural resources biology to stop invasive species just by making sure their boat or ATV doesn’t have any biological material on it. Whether on land or water, it’s the same message: Keep your stuff clean, take nothing with you, and leave nothing behind,” Brown said.

Taking nothing with you includes not picking up plants or animals from one body of water and move them to another. For that matter, don’t take water from one place and move it to another — some species are so small at juvenile stages of development that they’re invisible to the naked eye. And if you’ve become tired of tending your household aquarium, never release species into local habitats…

Both [zebra and quagga] mussels are small barnacle-like mollusks with dark and light stripes. They smother aquatic organisms, such as crayfish and native clams and outcompete for food and aquatic habitat. They damage equipment by attaching to boat motors or hard surfaces and clog water treatment facilities. Once they’re in the water, there’s no way to control them, so prevention is the best — and only — cure. Each female mussel produces about one million eggs a year. From the time the mussels enter a water body, they can completely cover its bottom and begin creeping up the shoreline within a matter of five years…

The rusty crayfish, native to the American Midwest, is Colorado’s newest invasive aquatic species. It was originally spread by anglers who used it as bait. The crustacean has been discovered in the headwaters of Colorado’s Yampa River. “They don’t create the high-dollar cost for water supplies like zebra mussels do, but from an ecological standpoint, they’re pretty horrendous. They have strong impacts to the food web and native fishes,” Brown said.

The Eurasian watermilfoil, a submerged aquatic plant, also appeared recently in the Centennial State. It forms extensive, thick, dense mats that clog water bodies, disrupting fisheries, fostering mosquitos and impairing drinking water.

The New Zealand mudsnail was first detected in Colorado rivers and streams in 2004. The mudsnail invades new habitat when it becomes attached to fishing gear, boats, trailers, fish or bait, and then it comes off in the next stream or river. Mudsnails consume aquatic vegetation, upsetting the balance of the aquatic environment.

More invasive species coverage here.


The Summit County Citizen’s Voice and the Colorado River District to collaborate on Water Blog

April 25, 2010

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Water touches everything and in recognition of that fact the Summit County Citizen’s Voice and the Colorado River District plan to collaborate on a new weblog — The Water Blog. I’ve linked to Bob Berwyn’s stories often over the years. He has a good understanding of water issues in the Colorado River Basin. So click through and sign up to receive notice when they post a water story. Here’s an excerpt:

We’re starting with a water blog, which we’ll update two or three times a week with local news about water, and links to state, regional and even global stories about the same topic. We’ll include photos, short reports about important meetings and conferences, including the May 12 State of the River presentation in Frisco. We may even throw in some poetry every now and then just to keep things fresh.

We’re also interested in any interesting stories and photos about water that our readers may want to share. If you have a story about your favorite fishing hole or a scenic snapshot of your favorite lakeside picnic spot or kayaking run, send it to us with a description and we’ll post it right here. Send us links to your favorite water-related websites and blogs, and we’ll post them here. Do have concerns or questions about your backyard brook, or the water you drink? Send them to us, and we’ll try to answer them, or find people who can.

We’ll start our water blog with a link to the Blue River Watershed Group, formed locally to “protect, restore, and promote a healthy watershed through cooperative community education, stewardship, and resource management.” Supporting the watershed group is a great way to act locally on this important issue. Summit County is unique when it comes to water resources because its political boundary coincides with the Blue River watershed boundary nearly along the entire perimeter of the county.

Think about it. From the Continental Divide above the Eisenhower Tunnel, to Loveland Pass, across to Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge and to Vail Pass in the west, all our mountain streams flow down from the county line to a confluence (now submerged by Dillon Reservoir) at the heart of Summit County. The place we live is defined by these vital arterials, filtered by alpine willow wetlands, burbling over mossy rocks and slicing through sage-covered shale bluffs before flowing down and out of our realm in a meeting with the mighty Colorado.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Moffat Collection System Project: Denver Water’s Travis Bray tells forum in Summit County, ‘In dry years, we take smidge’

March 10, 2010

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

In addition to increasing diversions from the Fraser River, in Grand County, Denver Water would also take between 4,000 and 5,000 acre feet of additional water from Dillon Reservoir each year, equal to about 2 percent of the Blue’s annual flow at its confluence with the Colorado River near Kremmling. Denver Water project manager Travis Bray said that, without the project, Denver Water would have to take even more water from Dillon Reservoir in the future as demand for water grows on the Front Range. Currently, Denver Water’s collection system is unbalanced, with 90 percent going through the southern branches of the system (including Dillon Reservoir, the Roberts Tunnel and the South Platte), and only 10 percent in the northern collection system (including the Moffat Tunnel).

The Blue River Watershed Group hosted a public forum on the project Tuesday evening that turned into a classic trans-divide showdown. County and town officials advocated for more Front Range conservation, while Denver Water staffers gave a detailed explanation of their plan to export more West Slope water across the Continental Divide, and also outlined their conservation efforts. Bray said increased diversions from the Blue River Basin would mainly happen in wet years during peak spring flows, shaving some water off the top of the hydrograph when it’s least noticeable. “In dry years, we take smidge,” he said. “It puts water in storage to use during a drought.”[...]

Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said the draft study has some serious flaws…

“What happens in May to September is the main concern. That’s our primary recreation season,” she said, adding that the draft study failed to address potential climate change impacts and also didn’t take into account any of the possible outcomes of a wild and scenic river planning process currently under way…

Similar concerns were repeated by Erica Stock, an outreach coordinator with Colorado Trout Unlimited.
The fisheries conservation group has specific ecological concerns related to lower flows, including warmer water that harms fish and higher concentrations of toxic metals. All those issues need to be addressed in the environmental study, she said. “We need minimum flows, flushing flows, adaptive management and monitoring. If we see the river is starting to collapse, we need to stop doing what we’re doing,” she concluded.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


Summit County commissioners okay Old Dillon Reservoir enlargement

March 10, 2010

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From the Summit County Voice (Bob Berwyn):

County commissioners Tuesday gave their go-ahead for the enlargement of Old Dillon Reservoir, a $7 million project that will give local water users some new options, with storage high in the Blue River Basin. The 62-acre-foot reservoir was built in 1936 and stored water for Dillon until the town was relocated when Dillon Reservoir was created by Denver Water. Under the proposed enlargement, formally approved by the U.S. Forest Service last week, Old Dillon Reservoir’s capacity would be upped to 286 acre feet…

County officials have estimated the construction and preliminary soft costs like planning and design will total about $7 million, but they’re hopeful that the economic climate will result in some favorable bids that would lower the total cost. The county will pay for about 53 percent of the project, with Silverthorne kicking in about 8 percent and Dillon paying for the rest. Dillon stands to benefit significantly from the project. The town currently depends on surface water from Straight Creek, which is vulnerable to pollution from I-70. During the 2002 drought, Straight Creek flows dropped to a point that had Dillon thinking about direct diversions from Dillon Reservoir. The water in Old Dillon Reservoir could also be used to enhance stream flows in the Snake and Lower blue under other scenarios.

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More coverage from the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

The proposed expansion would enlarge Old Dillon Reservoir’s capacity from 62 acre-feet to 286 acre-feet by raising its north and south dams. The $7 million project would create new water-storage and water-supply capacity for the town of Dillon, the town of Silverthorne and unincorporated Summit County. All three entities project that demand for municipal water in their respective service areas will increase in coming years. Old Dillon Reservoir was originally constructed in 1936 as a water-supply source for Dillon. The 14-acre reservoir is fed by water diverted from Salt Lick Gulch, just to its north. Salt Lick Gulch is a tributary of the lower Blue River.

In 1963, Denver Water constructed the new Dillon Reservoir to supply drinking water to Denver, requiring the town of Dillon to relocate from its original location to its current one. Since the move, Dillon has been unable to use the water in Old Dillon Reservoir, but the town has maintained the reservoir and the water rights to it. In the spring of 2008, a culvert carrying water from Old Dillon Reservoir failed under Interstate-70′s westbound lanes, causing a portion of the highway to collapse. The culvert was replaced, but the Colorado Division of Water Resources ordered the Town of Dillon to drain the reservoir over concern for safety of its north dam. The reservoir is to remain drained until either the proposed expansion is conducted or the Town of Dillon reconstructs the north dam.

More Old Dillon Reservoir coverage here and more Old Dillon Reservoir coverage here.


Moffat Collection System Project: Denver Water extends public comment period to March 17

February 20, 2010

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From the Vail Daily (Julie Sutor):

The proposed Moffat Project would expand Gross Reservoir near Boulder by as much as 72,000 acre-feet…

The additional water in Gross Reservoir would be diverted from the Fraser River and Williams Fork River basins in Grand County, as well as South Boulder Creek. The project would also impact water bodies in Summit County, including Dillon Reservoir and the Blue River. “In the lead alternative, they’ll remove 4,800 acre feet of water from the Blue,” said Steve Swanson, executive director of the nonprofit Blue River Watershed Group. “Some people say that’s not a lot of water. But for the Blue River, especially during a dry season, it’s a lot of water, and it can translate to a lot of different impacts.” Even during wet months, water diversions can have negative impacts on river basins. High flows create a flushing effect that removes sediment that builds up in the river bed, and such flushing is critical for fish populations. Furthermore, rafting along the Blue River depends on early-season high flows…

Denver Water says it will experience a shortfall in its supply of 34,000 acre-feet per year by 2030. The agency says it will address 16,000 acre-feet of the shortfall through water conservation measures, leaving an annual shortage of 18,000 acre-feet…

The Blue River Watershed Group will hold a public forum on the proposal in advance of the comment deadline. Water experts and representatives from local agencies and nonprofit organizations will discuss the project and its impacts for members of the public interested in learning more and weighing in on the proposal. The forum will take place at 6 p.m., March 4 at the Summit County Community and Senior Center near the County Commons.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


Moffat Collection System Project: Breckenridge Corps of Engineers hearing recap

January 9, 2010

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From the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

The Army Corps of Engineers held a hearing Thursday night on Denver Water’s proposal to divert more Colorado River Basin water through the Moffat Tunnel in Grand County and then store it in an expanded Gross Reservoir, just southwest of Boulder…

Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said the Army Corps analysis of the project and its various alternatives contains “serious flaws.” “A number of reasonable and obvious alternatives that do not have impacts on the Blue River and the West Slope were not considered,” Stiegelmeier said. “Conservation, re-use and other storage can meet the need for 18,000 acre-feet.”[...]

The additional water in the Moffat Project would be come from the Fraser River and Williams Fork River basins in Grand County, as well as water from the South Boulder Creek basin. Streamflow in the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers and the South Boulder Creek would be decreased by the Moffat Project only during wet and average years during the runoff months, primarily May, June and July…

The project would impact water bodies in Summit County, including Dillon Reservoir and the Blue River. Summit County Board of County Commissioners expressed concern over a decreased number of days that flows would be optimal for boating and impacts to fish and wildlife. “There is no discussion of tourism, or businesses that rely on tourism and no socioeconomic impact implications,” Frisco town manager Michael Penny said about the Army Corps analyses. Penny also faulted the agency for not considering the project’s impacts as they relate to the pine beetle epidemic, climate change, waste-water treatment plants and air quality. “With reservoir levels being drawn down during summer months, the (analyses) should have better evaluated air quality implications,” Penny said. “As we saw in 2002, a newly exposed shoreline produces a considerable amount of dust. This dust not only has air-quality implications, but also threatens water-quality in Dillon Reservoir.”

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


Mesa County Water Association to offer ‘The Water Course’ January 19, 27 and February 2

January 9, 2010

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

What: “The Water Course” covering water law, water quality and balancing competing demands, sponsored by the Mesa County Water Association
When: Jan. 19 and 27, Feb. 2, 6-9 p.m. Registration due Monday, Jan. 11.
Where: GG City Hall Auditorium, 250 N. Fifth St.
Cost for entire series: $35 MCWA members; $45 nonmembers; Single session: $15 MCWA members; $20 nonmembers. Some scholarships..
Info: hannah@mesacountywater.org, or 683-1133, or http://www.mesacountywater.org

More from the article:

Studies estimate a 600,000 million-acre-feet shortage [ed. in the Grand Valley] by 2050, said Grand Junction Utility and Street System Director Greg Trainor, and a board member of the Mesa County Water Association.

The MCWA was first formed 25 years ago by the late Ruth Hutchins, a Fruita farmer concerned about a proposal that would pump water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. Citizens, irrigators and government leaders held “Water 101” courses on controversial water topics for many years. After several years of inactivity, the MCWA was resurrected a year ago by Trainor and Hannah Holm to resume educating people on water issues affecting the Western Slope. The association is governed by a seven-member board of directors. “Current water laws serve the valley well, but it really behooves people to appreciate the resource and protect it as the water situation gets tighter,” said Holm, MCWA coordinator. “We can’t stay in our bubble forever.”[...]

A three-part water course series starts Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Grand Junction City Hall Auditorium. The first course will address water law; how the valley’s water rights relate to the water rights of California and Denver; and who is responsible for irrigation water once it leaves a canal…

The Jan. 27 course will cover laws and programs that seek to protect and clean up Colorado waterways, the condition of Grand Valley rivers and streams, and how drinking water is protected and treated. The February course will explore threats to irrigated agriculture as cities grow; environment and recreation water needs; and how the Grand Valley could change with drought and increasing competition for water.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Summit County: Ground-breaking ceremony for new Upper Blue Sanitation District North Plant expansion

August 4, 2009

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From the Summit Daily News:

In a special ground-breaking ceremony for the $34 million dollar Upper Blue Sanitation District North Plant expansion recently, district manager Andrew Carlberg detailed the numerous benefits of the expansion to residents of the county and the Upper Blue Basin. Not only will this new facility provide economical sewer service to build out of the Upper Blue Basin, but it will provide economic stimulus as well…It is estimated that at least 75 percent of the work force will be local labor, which equates to 30 new jobs in Summit County. There are also up to 10 local sub- contractors that will be used throughout the duration of the project, ranging from excavators to concrete supply and landscaping. In addition to the infusion of several million dollars into the community, Carlberg also outlined the inter-governmental cooperation that has also benefitted the district and the community. In separate agreements, the district, the Town of Breckenridge and Summit County exchanged sewer tap fees for waiving of development fees and water tap fees. This has saved the residents of the Upper Blue approximately $600,000. The tap fees the town and county have acquired are planned for use in public projects such as affordable housing.

More Coyote Gulch wastewater coverage here.


Summit County moving to step up regulation of cyanide heap-leaching

May 11, 2009

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Last year the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the industry challenge to Summit County’s ban on the use of cyanide heap-leaching. The Summit County Commissioners are now looking to tighten regulation of the process while removing the ban from the books. Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

As argued before the Colorado Supreme Court, the case centered on the limits of local authority over mining. Summit County claimed local governments have the right to block activities that could potentially threaten local water quality and fisheries. The Colorado Mining Association argued that state laws adequately address environmental concerns. Allowing counties establish local bans on certain types of mining would result in patchwork of regulation that could hamper the economically significant activity in the state.

Now, the county will strike the ban from its regulations, per the court ruling, but will look at other ways to maintain local control. “The commissioners asked us to look at this and make some changes to our codes,” said county planning director Jim Curnutte.

One area planners will explore are stricter performance standards for mining. Such standards would require mining companies to beef up the plans for emergency operations, including the clean-up of any potential spill, Curnutte explained. The changes would make it easier for local planning boards to review proposed projects and to issue stringent conditional use permits…

Curnutte said the county would also look at applying its so-called 1041 powers to review and regulate mining operations. Local 1041 powers stem from a 1974 state law enabling local governments to “designate certain geographic areas and specified activities as matters of state interest.” Those powers have sometimes been used to exert authority over projects like pipelines. According to Curnutte, Summit County may look at designating specific mining or mineral zones that would subsequently be subject to local 1041 permitting authority.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.


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