Northern Water: The first C-BT Project water was released from Horsetooth Reservoir into the Poudre River on this day 63 yrs ago #ColoradoRiver

July 21, 2014

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

Horsetooth Reservoir gets its water from a network of Western Slope reservoirs fed by mountain snowmelt. Water is usually pumped up from Lake Granby to Shadow Mountain Reservoir, where gravity eventually pulls it down through the 13-mile Adams Tunnel and into a couple of more reservoirs before it reaches Horsetooth.

Back in 1951, hundreds of people came to the reservoir to mark the event — it was a long-awaited milestone for farmers and cities along the Front Range, who had survived decades of drought.

The shuttling of Western Slope water into Horsetooth and the Poudre River is a system that Northern Colorado has been reliant on for decades. In Northern Colorado, the plea for more water started in the Great Depression, when a devastating drought plagued the western and central United States.

The federal government agreed to come to the aid of Colorado’s farmers and in the late 1930s began building the Colorado-Big Thompson project. Today, the C-BT project supplies Fort Collins with 65 percent of its water.

I was 4 months and 16 days old at time. I don’t remember the event. More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Northern Water opts for gradual rate increase — Fort Collins Coloradoan

July 18, 2014
Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District will increase the cost of its water step-by-step over 2016 and 2017, which will mean 28 percent cost increase per year for cities like Fort Collins.

The district’s board came to a decision about the rate increases on July 11, after months of considering the best way to hike prices to balance out the district’s budget. The board initially considered a more than 40 percent increase in 2016, but decided to compromise with cities and other water users concerned that such drastic increases would harm their finances.

Fort Collins Utilities, which now gets the bulk of its water from the district, says that in the short term customers’ utility rates will not be affected…

For 2015, allotment prices for cities were set at $30.50 per acre foot, up from $28. While that cost will only increase for cities over the next few years, irrigators will face a 61 percent increase in allotment costs in 2016 and 2017.

Fort Collins Utilities directly owns 18,855 units in addition to about 14,000 units it leases from the North Poudre Irrigation Co. But, in terms of actual use for 2014, the city has used 14,900 acre feet of water since Nov. 1, when the water year begins.

After the High Park Fire, Utilities became even more reliant on C-BT water since the Poudre River, the city’s other water source, was filled with fire and flood debris. This year, the city gets about 65 percent of its water from Northern Water, and 35 percent from the Poudre.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jessica Maher):

Costs are expected to increase every year until 2018, when municipal and industrial C-BT users will be charged $53.10 per unit and agricultural users will be charged $30.20 per unit. That represents a nearly 90 percent increase for municipalities and 202 percent increase for agricultural users.

The city of Loveland owns 12,118 units of C-BT water, 5,112 of which are fixed at a rate of $1.50 per unit that will not change.

The increase for Loveland’s remaining 7,006 open-rate units will cost the city about $176,000 more by 2018. Loveland Water and Power staff will budget for the increase in the coming years, senior water resources engineer Larry Howard said.

“It’s real money, but it’s not something that’s devastating to the utility or something,” Howard said.

Next year, rates are set to increase by 9 percent. That’s a manageable increase that will not require rate increases for Loveland Water and Power customers, Howard said.

Whether customers will see an impact from the increase in future years is not known.

“When we do our cost of service study next year, the cost increase will be taken into account, along with any other changes in our costs,” Utility Accounting Manager Jim Lees said.

The city of Loveland’s primary two sources of water are the Green Ridge Glade Reservoir and water diverted directly from the Big Thompson River at the Big Dam.

“We generally rely on those each year and then start filling in with C-BT and Windy Gap water,” Howard said. “It depends on the year and how much we need.”

Depending on conditions year to year, the city rents C-BT water to farmers, so Howard said that could help to absorb the cost of the rate increases over the next few years.

Brian Werner, Northern Water’s public information officer, said that the increases are the result of a comprehensive study that started last year.

“The cost of doing business is going up,” Werner said. “Our management has charged us with looking at where we can control costs.”

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Lake Mead: “The last time the lake was this low, the town of St. Thomas still had a post office” — Las Vegas Review-Journal #ColoradoRiver

July 11, 2014

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean @RefriedBrean):

Lake Mead sank to a record this week, its surface nudging downward a few tenths of an inch late Wednesday night to 1,081.82 feet above sea level.

The last time the lake was this low, the town of St. Thomas still had a post office. In late spring of 1937, water from the once-wild Colorado River was still rising steadily behind the new Hoover Dam, inundating empty desert as it pushed toward Moapa Valley. By June of the following year, St. Thomas would be under water, but Mother Nature and human thirst couldn’t keep it there.

In 1983, when the lake was as full as it’s ever been, the ruins of the town were under about 80 feet of water. Today, you can’t even see the lake from St. Thomas.

The past 15 years have been especially hard on the nation’s largest man-made reservoir. Lake Mead has seen its surface drop by more than 130 feet amid stubborn drought in the mountains that feed the Colorado River. The unusually dry conditions have exacerbated a fundamental math problem for the river, which now sustains 30 million people and several billion dollars worth of farm production across the West but has been over-appropriated since before Hoover Dam was built…

Wednesday’s record is unlikely to last. Forecasters expect Lake Mead to hit another new low today, then break that mark Saturday, and so on for the next several weeks.

The streak of all-time lows should end by late August, when current projections from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation call for the reservoir to tick up slightly. Then it should inch down again, bottoming out sometime in November before starting back up as downstream water users cut their orders heading into winter.

Bureau officials acknowledged this week’s milestone but said it won’t impact operations at Hoover Dam.

“We will meet our water orders this year, and we are not projecting a shortage condition in 2015,” said Terry Fulp, the Boulder City-based director for the Bureau’s Lower Colorado Region. “We continue to closely monitor the projections of declining lake levels and are working with stakeholders throughout the Lower Basin to keep as much water in Lake Mead as we can through various storage and conservation efforts.”[...]

Lake Powell, meanwhile, is expected to start next year 21 feet higher than it was at the beginning of 2014. Right now, the reservoir on the Utah-Arizona border is swelling by almost a foot a day as the last of the mountain snow melts into the Colorado River and its tributaries.

Forecasters are predicting another big drop at Lake Mead next spring, as the lake stair-steps its way down to elevation 1,069, and below. By June 2016, the reservoir could hit 1,064, just 14 feet away from shutting down one of two intake pipes the Southern Nevada Water Authority uses to deliver 90 percent of the Las Vegas Valley’s water supply.

With that in mind, the wholesale water agency is rushing to complete a new intake that will reach deeper into the lake. The $817 million project has seen its schedule slip by more than 2 years, but is on track to finish next summer.

“We feel confident the third intake will be complete before we lose Intake Number One,” said authority spokesman Bronson Mack…

Lake Mead’s decline has been a major headache for the National Park Service.

For every two-foot drop in the water level, the shoreline can recede 60 feet or more. Already the shrinking reservoir has left some boat ramps high and dry, and has pushed marinas into deeper water or closed them altogether.

A decade ago, Lake Mead was home to nine boat launch ramps and six marinas. Six ramps and three marinas remain open today…

While access to the lake has grown more difficult in recent years, she said, there is still more than 125 square miles of open water and roughly 400 miles of shoreline to explore.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


SDS: There is no Plan B — Colorado Springs Business Journal

June 29, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Colorado Springs Business Journal (John Hazlehurst):

CSU’s ongoing billion-dollar bet is the Southern Delivery System. Scheduled to go online in 2016, SDS will convey water from Pueblo Reservoir via a 66-inch-diameter underground pipeline to Colorado Springs. It will expand the city’s raw water delivery capacity by an eventual 55 million gallons per day (MGD), a nearly 50-percent increase in system capacity…

“What we’re hoping for is a record snowpack,” CSU Chief Financial Officer Bill Cherrier said in late March, “followed by a hot, dry summer.”

Cherrier said it with a smile, but he had neatly summarized CSU’s dilemma. Water in the reservoirs must both be replenished and sold. The sell side of the equation is driven by fixed costs, including system maintenance and replacement, energy costs and continuing capital investment. But buyers don’t care about CSU’s problems; they prefer to water their lawns with free water from the skies.

Per-capita water use has dropped sharply in the past 20 years, leading to corresponding reductions in the city’s long-term consumption estimates.

“The Base (i.e. revenue) forecast is for an estimated service area population (city, suburban, Green Mountain Falls, military) of about 608,552 and about 106,000 AF/yr for demand,” wrote CSU spokesperson Janet Rummel in an email. “The ‘hot and dry’ scenario uses the same service area population and estimates about 120,000 AF/yr demand. This particular ‘hot and dry’ scenario equates to an 80 percent confidence interval and adds about 13 percent to annual demands.”

That’s a precipitous drop from the high-side estimate of the 1996 water resources plan, which forecast a population in 2040 as high as 900,000 and water demand of 168,150 acre-feet. The base forecast, at 106,000 acre-feet annually, is only 1,800 acre-feet more than the community used in 2000, 40 years previously.

Does that mean CSU’s water managers dropped $841 million into a new water delivery system that we may not need until 2016? Does this prove that the project, originally conceived to furnish water for the Banning-Lewis Ranch development, is now entirely unnecessary?

Perhaps not…

“SDS is not a short-term solution,” Rummel said in a 2010 email. “The time to build a major water project is not when you have run short of water … [we need] to better prepare our community for drought, climate change and water supply uncertainty on the Colorado River.”

Many factors entered into the decision to build SDS. In 1996, there was no discussion of system redundancy, of having an additional water pipeline that could serve the city in case one of the existing conduits needed emergency repair. But 18 years later, the pipelines are that much more vulnerable to accident or malfunction.

In 1996, population growth and per capita water use were expected to continue indefinitely at historic levels. But they didn’t. Commercial and industrial use declined, and price-sensitive residents used less water. Indoor use declined as well as outdoor, thanks to restricted-flow shower heads and low-flush toilets.

SDS stayed on track. In the eyes of the water survivalists who conceived and created the project, the city’s rights on the Arkansas River had to be developed. They saw long, hot summers in the city and dry winters in the mountains. Opponents could make any arguments they liked, but these five words trumped them all.

Use it or lose it.

Undeveloped water rights are like $100 bills blowing down the street — someone will grab them and use them for their own benefit…

“This will be our last pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom. “We will never be able to develop a new water delivery system. When SDS is finished, that’s it.”

Bostrom’s peers in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles have reason to envy him. Colorado Springs has won the water wars. We’ve bought ourselves decades of time. Whether we save or squander this liquid bounty is up to us.

In 2040, the city may have 30,000 to 50,000 acre-feet a year of unneeded delivery capacity. That cushion will allow for decades of population growth and for the introduction of sophisticated irrigation techniques that will preserve our green city and minimize water use.

In years to come, members of the Colorado Springs City Council will decide how to preserve the city’s future. Will they heed Bostrom’s warning and encourage radical conservation? Will new developments be required to xeriscape, and preserve trees with drip irrigation devices?

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Lake Nighthorse: No recreation plan yet, no recreation this season

June 29, 2014
Lake Nighthorse via the USBR

Lake Nighthorse via the USBR

From The Durango Herald (Sarah Mueller):

Kathleen Ozga, resource manager with the bureau’s Western Colorado area, gave an update at a public meeting at the Durango Community Recreation Center. About 100 residents attended the meeting, and some asked questions that Ozga either couldn’t answer or declined to answer. However, some residents said they felt Ozga provided the information she could, and it was new to them.

Opening Lake Nighthorse is not an option this year, and no timetable was presented. Ozga said a May 31 letter to the editor in The Durango Herald by Ed Warner, Western Colorado area manager for the bureau, that said the agency was committed to working with stakeholders and hoped to reach a consensus by early 2015 was a “little presumptuous.”

“We would love to put a date up there, we would, but we can’t because we don’t know,” she said. “There’s too much uncertainty, for lack of a better word and too much level of detail we still need to work out.”

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here.


Jackson Gulch Reservoir: “The bureau used to be a friend. Not anymore.” — Dee Graf

June 26, 2014

Jackson Gulch Dam photo via USBR

Jackson Gulch Dam photo via USBR


From The Mancos Times (Mary Shinn):

The Mancos Water Conservancy District board on Thursday weighed the consequences of taking ownership of Jackson Gulch Reservoir, the dam, the canal system and the land it sits on from the federal government.

If the district worked with the Bureau of Reclamation to take ownership, the district would have to take over all the contracting and inspections…

The Bureau of Reclamation currently budgets $160,000 a year to manage the irrigation project, and and $150,000 a year for recreational use of the lake.

Kennedy estimates that if the district did all the work the bureau does for irrigation and water management, it would cost $20,000 to $40,000 because the district wouldn’t have as much administrative overhead. The district doesn’t plan to cover any of Mancos’ state parks expenses if the board pursues the transfer of ownership.

A major question the board members tried to address at the Thursday workshop was: What value does the Bureau of Reclamation add to the project?

They determined it isn’t a reliable source of funding…

If the district took ownership of the project, it would still be subject to some state inspections for dam safety.

Currently, the Bureau of Reclamation does regular inspections, but the district is responsible for maintenance or replacement. For example, the district paid $3 million for the recent rehabilitation project.

There is one exception to the maintenance rule. The Bureau of Reclamation would step in if the dam started to experience a failure. But the agency would also send the district a bill for half the cost, and it would be due in three years…

At an initial meeting about the transfer with James Hess, a bureau representative from Washington, Hess said the transfer process can take years.

Only 27 other water projects in the nation have been fully transferred from the federal government to a local organization.

More Jackson Gulch Reservoir coverage here.


Southern Delivery System update: $359 million spent so far, >44 miles of pipe in the ground

June 23, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Tunneling under Fountain Creek is proving more difficult than expected for the Southern Delivery System. Some pipeline near Pueblo Dam has been laid in solid rock. And the temporary irrigation system to provide water for native vegetation over the pipeline scar through Pueblo County contains 50 miles of pipe (main line and laterals) and 15,000 sprinkler heads. Those were some of the highlights of a progress report by Mark Pifher, SDS permit manager, to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Wednesday.

“The tunneling project was more difficult than we thought,” Pifher said. The work was being done just over the El Paso County line from the west side of Interstate 25, with a tunnel-boring machine 85 feet below ground.

Because of the difficulty, a second borer from the east side one mile away is being used.

“They had better meet in the middle,” Pifher joked.

More than 44 miles of the 50 miles of 66-inchdiameter pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs has been installed; a treatment plant and three pump stations are under construction; and a Fountain Creek improvement project has nearly been completed, he said. All of the pipeline in Pueblo County has been installed, and revegetation has begun on 323 acres that were disturbed in Pueblo West and on Walker Ranches. The irrigation system is so large that it has to run in round-the-clock cycles seven days a week, Pifher noted.

“It’s apparently the largest sprinkler system in the state,” he said.

Another 484 acres has been planted with native seed in El Paso County.

As of March, $359 million has been spent on SDS, with $209 million going to El Paso County firms, $65 million to Pueblo County companies, $900,000 to Fremont County contractors and $84 million to businesses in other parts of Colorado.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.


Pueblo West Utilities Board members and staff are trying to make sense of SDS MOU with Colorado Springs

June 18, 2014
Pueblo West

Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo West is pondering whether it even needs to turn on Southern Delivery System early after the metro district board waded through the process that led up to a controversial memorandum of understanding that would allow that to happen. The MOU apparently represents years of complex negotiations between Colorado Springs attorneys.

Three board members, Chairman Lew Quigley, Mark Carmel and Judy Leonard, voted on May 27 to talk about the MOU in open session, rather than behind closed doors.

But at Tuesday’s metro board meeting — devoted solely to water issues — board members and staff wrangled over what the document means and how it should be drafted.

The MOU could pave the way for Pueblo West to begin using a new 36-inch pipeline from the north outlet on Pueblo Dam ahead of schedule. It’s needed because Pueblo West is reaching the limits of its current delivery line, and to provide redundancy if anything should happen to its sole supply source, said Manager Jack Johnston. Johnston said the MOU was merely conceptual, and the argued that details of it needed to be explained in executive session.

“This is really our bus to drive,” Johnston said.

Carmel countered that a more open discussion in public among Pueblo West, Colorado Springs needed.

Pueblo County commissioners and attorneys objected to details of the agreement which required Pueblo West to obtain approval of 1041 permit conditions, saying Colorado Springs is attempting to bully the metro district.

“This was presented to me as an ultimatum. … I suspect this new board will go back to the drawing board to give you a new direction,” Carmel said. He wanted to delay action until a full board could act — board member Jerry Martin was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

Quigley objected to discussing the agreement in executive said that a meeting behind closed doors was needed to explain how the agreement related to several other lawsuits in order to protect Pueblo West’s legal position.

Board member Barbara Bernard favored discussing such an agreement in executive session if necessary.

“Yes, I want to know how we got to this point,” she said. “I need as much counsel as we can have.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities was trying to make sure the clock wouldn’t start ticking if Pueblo West got water early under a controversial agreement.

That’s how Mark Pifher, permit manager for Southern Delivery System, explained the situation Wednesday to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District during his update on SDS progress.

The agreement was to have been discussed in executive session on May 27 by the Pueblo West Metropolitan District, but newly elected board member Mark Carmel objected to talking about it behind closed doors, claiming the agreement would hold Pueblo West “hostage.”

The issue escalated when Pueblo County commissioners and attorneys claimed Colorado Springs was using bully tactics to pressure Pueblo West into gaining county approval of 1041 permit conditions from the county.

“Pueblo West wanted delivery of the water as soon as possible,” Pifher said. “The concern we had was that if the water is delivered to Pueblo West, will all the other conditions be expedited?”

Among those conditions is the beginning of $50 million payments to the Fountain Creek District and other Fountain Creek issues. Utilities and the Lower Ark have been in negotiations over Fountain Creek issues for the past nine years.

“What we’re asking is that Pueblo West go to the commissioners so those other conditions will not be triggered,” Pifher said.

The agreement also contained a provision that would require Pueblo West to stop using the new pipeline if Colorado Springs did not meet SDS conditions.

On Tuesday, the Pueblo West board discussed the agreement with Manager Jack Johnston and attorney Harley Gifford.

Carmel and board President Lew Quigley wanted an open discussion of the agreement. Johnston said it had been negotiated over several years by staff and attorneys. Gifford said it is tied to other legal issues that need to be discussed in executive session.

The 36-inch water line from the north outlet is nearly complete and would provide redundancy for the existing 24-inch line Pueblo West has connected to the south outlet. The new line would provide up to 18 million gallons per day in addition to the 12-million-gallon capacity of the existing line.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Happy Birthday to the US Bureau of Reclamation

June 17, 2014

President Theodore Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt


Click here to read a short history of Reclamation:

Inadequate precipitation in the American West required settlers to use irrigation for agriculture. At first, settlers simply diverted water from streams, but in many areas demand outstripped supply. As demand for water increased, settlers wanted to store “wasted” runoff from rains and snow for later use, thus maximizing use by making more water available in drier seasons. At that time, private and state-sponsored storage and irrigation ventures were pursued but often failed because of lack of money and/or lack of engineering skill.

Pressure mounted for the Federal Government to undertake storage and irrigation projects. Congress had already invested in America’s infrastructure through subsidies to roads, river navigation, harbors, canals, and railroads. Westerners wanted the Federal Government also to invest in irrigation projects in the West. The irrigation movement demonstrated its strength when pro-irrigation planks found their way into both Democratic and Republican platforms in 1900. Eastern and Midwestern opposition in the Congress quieted when Westerners filibustered and killed a bill containing rivers and harbors projects favored by opponents of Western irrigation. Congress passed the Reclamation Act of June17, 1902. The Act required that water users repay construction costs from which they received benefits.

In the jargon of that day, irrigation projects were known as “reclamation”projects. The concept was that irrigation would “reclaim” arid lands for human use. In addition, “homemaking” was a key argument for supporters of reclamation. Irrigation’s supporters believed reclamation programs would encourage Western settlement, making homes for Americans on family farms. President Theodore Roosevelt supported the reclamation movement because of his personal experience in the West, and because he believed in homemaking.

In July of 1902, in accordance with the Reclamation Act, Secretary of the InteriorEthan Allen Hitchcock established the United States Reclamation Service within the U. S.Geological Survey (USGS). The new Reclamation Service studied potential water development projects in each western state with Federal lands — revenue from sale of Federal lands was the initial source of the program’s funding. Because Texas had no Federal lands, it did not become a Reclamation state until 1906 when Congress passed a special Act including it in the provisions of the Reclamation Act.

From 1902 to 1907, Reclamation began about 30 projects in Western states. Then, in 1907, the Secretary of the Interior separated the Reclamation Service from the USGS and created an independent bureau within the Department of the Interior. In the early years, many projects encountered problems: lands/soils included in projects were unsuitable for irrigation; land speculation sometimes resulted in poor settlement patterns; proposed repayment schedules could not be met by irrigators who had high land preparation and facilities construction costs; settlers were inexperienced in irrigation farming; waterlogging of irrigable lands required expensive drainage projects; and projects were built in areas which could only grow low-value crops. In 1923 the agency was renamed the “Bureau of Reclamation.” Then, in the face of increasing settler unrest and financial problems for the reclamation program, in1924 the “Fact Finder’s Report” spotlighted the issues. The Fact Finders Act in late 1924 sought to resolve some of the financial and other problems.

In 1928 Congress authorized the Boulder Canyon (Hoover Dam) Project, and large appropriations began, for the first time, to flow to Reclamation from the general funds of the United States. The authorization came only after a hard fought debate about the pros and cons of public power versus private power.

The heyday of Reclamation construction of water facilities occurred during the Depression and the thirty-five years after World War II. The last major authorization for construction projects occurred in the late 1960s while a parallel evolution and development of the American environmental movement began to result in strong opposition to water development projects. Even the 1976 failure of Teton Dam as it filled for the first time, did not diminish Reclamation’s strong international reputation in water development circles. However, this first and only failure of a major Reclamation dam did shake the bureau which subsequently strengthened its dam safety program to avoid similar problems in the future. However, the failure of Teton Dam, the environmental movement, and the announcement of the President Jimmy Carter’s “hit list” on water projects profoundly affected the direction of Reclamation’s programs and activities in the United States.

Reclamation operates about 180 projects in the 17 Western States. The total Reclamation investment for completed project facilities in September of 1992 was about$11.0 billion. Reclamation projects provide agricultural, household, and industrial water to about one-third of the population of the American West. About 5 percent of the land area of the West is irrigated, and Reclamation provides water to about one-fifth of that acreage (in1992, some 9,120,000 acres). Reclamation is a major American generator of electricity. In1993 Reclamation had 56 power plants on-line and generated 34.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

Between 1988 and 1994, Reclamation underwent major reorganization as construction on projects authorized in the 1960s and earlier drew to an end. Reclamation wrote that “The arid West essentially has been reclaimed. The major rivers have been harnessed and facilities are in place or are being completed to meet the most pressing current water demands and those of the immediate future.” Emphasis in Reclamation programs shifted from construction to operation and maintenance of existing facilities.

Reclamation’s redefined official mission is to “manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public.” In redirecting its programs and responsibilities, Reclamation substantially reduced its staff levels and budgets but remains a significant Federal agency in the West.

More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.


@AmericanRivers: Pretty crazy to see this water release over Morrow Point Dam in CO. Could be another 31 yrs before it happens again

June 16, 2014
Morrow Point Dam spilling June 2014 via USBR

Morrow Point Dam spilling June 2014 via USBR


Reclamation Announces Public Meeting on Recreation at Lake Nighthorse

June 15, 2014

Lake Nighthorse via the USBR

Lake Nighthorse via the USBR


Here’s the release from Reclamation (Justyn Hock)

Reclamation will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 from 5 pm to 7 pm on recreation at Lake Nighthorse, part of the Animas-La Plata Project. The meeting will be at the Durango Community Recreation Center, 2700 Main Avenue, in the Eolus and Sunlight Meeting Rooms. Reclamation will provide a brief presentation, and the public will be able to ask questions and look at maps and plans about recreation at Lake Nighthorse.
Currently, Reclamation is working with all Animas-La Plata Project partners and stakeholders to reach consensus regarding development and management of recreation at Lake Nighthorse. We believe we are nearing an agreement to integrate recreation into the project, while ensuring compatibility with the primary purposes of the project for municipal and industrial water supply.

We are conducting regular meetings with partners and stakeholders to discuss and resolve a broad range of issues concerning water quality, environmental protection, and tribal trust responsibilities of the United States government. Many issues have been resolved and Reclamation continues to work on remaining issues, including working closely with Association members to ensure protection of cultural resources and annexation of project lands by the city of Durango for administration of recreation and law enforcement purposes.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here.


Runoff/snowpack news: Good year to fill storage — if we had it to fill

June 10, 2014
Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post

Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post

From CBS Denver:

Flooding along the Cache La Poudre River damaged nearly two dozen homes and businesses in Greeley last week, and according to officials at the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Poudre River does not have any dams or reservoirs specifically for flood control. But there is an effort underway to change that.

The Poudre River is full of melted snow — so much so right now that levels are well above average in Larimer and Weld counties, spilling over banks, and flooding homes and businesses.

“We could fill a reservoir in a year like this,” Brian Werner with the Northern Colorado’s Water Conservancy District said.

He points out farmers’ irrigation dams inside the Poudre Canyon, but says water cannot be diverted to those to prevent flooding. He says there is no reservoir along the river because the idea was unpopular in the past.

“I think the general public is more aware when they see these flows and saying, ‘Boy, couldn’t we just store a little bit of that?’ Which is what this proposal does,” Werner said.

Northern Water wants to build two reservoirs off stream that could store water during high flow times. Planners estimate the project would cost $500 million, including $40 million to re-route Highway 287 to make room for Glade Reservoir, and build a smaller one north of Greeley…

But the federal approval process is moving slowly.

“We’ve been working on this in some form for over 20 years, taking some of the flood flows here on the Poudre and storing it,” Werner said.

They do expect to get some news on the status of studies being conducted on the project by the end of this year. It’s unlikely building would start before 2018.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

Several of the reservoirs that feed Northern Colorado are full, or approaching overfull, said Brian Werner, a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which helps manage the reservoirs. Carter Lake, southwest of Loveland, is full, and Lake Granby near Rocky Mountain National Park is about to overflow, Werner added.

“We wouldn’t have guessed that in a million years a year ago,” Werner said Tuesday. Only a month ago, it was fifty-fifty if the reservoir would spill. “Now it looks like it will spill.”

Horsetooth is just 2 feet shy of being full, the highest the reservoir has been in late May and early June in the past six years.

The reservoir can hold enough to submerge 156,735 football fields in a foot of water. As of June 3, Horsetooth was holding 154,480 acre-feet of water, putting it around 98.5 percent full, said Zach Allen, a spokesman for Northern Water.

But what happens if Horsetooth does get full? The answer, Werner said, is basically “nothing.”

“We can control all the inflows to Horsetooth,” he said. Flatiron Reservoir and the Big Thompson River feed Horsetooth, and Northern Water controls all the outflows and inflows to the reservoir; Horsetooth’s water level can’t get higher than Northern Water wants it to, Werner said…

Lake Granby, on the other hand, is fed with snowmelt straight from the mountains. It’s levels are uncontrollable, and it could spill over any day now, Werner said.

“You can’t control what nature is going to do” with Granby, he added…

Northern Water for years has pursued an expansion of its water storage capacity to take advantage of plentiful water years. The Northern Integrated Supply Project would build a reservoir larger than Horsetooth northwest of Fort Collins. The proposal has drawn opposition from environmental groups and is in a yearslong federal review of its potential environmental impacts expected to be released late this year…

Much of Northern Colorado’s snowpack, around 200 percent of normal levels after an early May snow, has yet to melt, which brings the potential for much more water to come down from the mountains in the coming weeks.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We have seen the water level at Green Mountain Reservoir rise to the spillway gates as snow melt runoff inflows continue to come into the reservoir. As a result, we were able to increase the release from the dam to the Lower Blue River by 300 cfs today [June 9], using the spillway.

We are now releasing 1800 cfs to the Lower Blue.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The weekend went pretty smoothly for runoff here on the east slope of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Thunderstorms boosted runoff to the Big Thompson River slightly with inflow into Lake Estes peaking early this morning around 721 cfs. But this is still a downward trend.

As a result, outflow through Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson Canyon dropped today down to about 125 cfs. As we move into the rest of the week, visitors to and residents of the canyon will continue to see nightly flows rise with snow runoff, enhanced some by rain runoff, just as they have seen for the past week.

Deliveries to the canal that feeds Horsetooth Reservoir have brought Horsetooth back up to full. Its water level elevation has been fluctuating within the top foot of its storage between 5429 and 5430 feet. With it back up near 5430, we have curtailed the canal to Horsetooth and increased the return of Big Thompson River water to the canyon at the canyon mouth using the concrete chute. By 5 p.m. this evening the chute should be running around 300 cfs.

The drop off in snowmelt runoff inflows will allow us to begin bringing some Colorado-Big Thompson Project West Slope water over again using the Alva B. Adams Tunnel. We anticipate the tunnel coming on mid-week and importing somewhere between 200-250 cfs.

Once the tunnel comes back on, we will also turn the pump to Carter Lake back on, probably on Wednesday of this week. Carter’s water level elevation dropped slightly during runoff operations. It is around 95% full. Now that Horsetooth is basically full, Carter will receive the C-BT water. Turning the pump back on to Carter means residents around and visitors to the reservoir will see it fill for a second time this season.

Pinewood Reservoir, between Lake Estes and Carter Lake, is seeing a more typical start to its summer season. It continues to draft and refill with power generation as it usually does this time of year. This is also true for Flatiron Reservoir, just below Carter Lake and the Flatiron Powerplant. Both are expected to continue operating this way through June.

That is the plan we anticipate the East Slope of the C-BT to follow the rest of this week, June 9-13. We will post information if there is a major change; but as it stands now, I do not plan on sending an update again until next Monday. The state’s gage page is always available for those wishing to continue watching the water on a daily basis.

From The Crested Butte News (Toni Todd):

Word on the street this spring was that Blue Mesa Reservoir would be bursting at its banks this summer. Predictions were based on official and unofficial reports of above-normal river flows. However, a 2012 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has changed how local dams are operated in wet years, in deference to endangered fish species downstream. This new operational protocol will preclude the reservoir from filling this year.

“The reservoir is now only scheduled to reach a maximum storage of around 80 percent capacity in 2014,” said Upper Gunnison River District manager Frank Kugel. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) began blasting water through Blue Mesa Dam last week, with simultaneous releases happening at Morrow Point and Crystal Reservoirs, a trifecta of water storage and management that makes up what’s known as the Aspinall Unit.

The Record of Decision (ROD) states, “The EIS modifies the operations of the Aspinall Unit to provide sufficient releases of water at times, quantities, and duration necessary to avoid jeopardy to endangered fish species and adverse modification of their designated critical habitat while maintaining and continuing to meet authorized purposes of the Aspinall Unit.”

Given this new norm of operations adapted by the bureau during wet years, will Blue Mesa ever fill again?

“That’s a valid question, since the reservoir often does not fill in dry years due to lack of supply, and now with the Aspinall EIS, it will have trouble filling in wet years,” said Kugel.

“We all signed onto this because we agreed it’s important to save these fish,” said Colorado Fish and Wildlife Aquatic Species coordinator Harry Crocket.

According to the BOR’s website, an update written by hydraulic engineer Paul Davidson, unregulated inflow to Blue Mesa is 126 percent of normal this year, April through July. That’s 850,000 acre-feet of water entering the lake during the runoff months. “This sets the senior Black Canyon Water Right call for a one-day spring peak flow of 6,400 cfs, the Aspinall 2012 ROD target at a 10-day peak flow of 14,350 cfs… Reclamation plans to operate the Aspinall Unit to meet both the water right and ROD recommendations,” said Davidson.

The Colorado pike minnow, bonytail chub, humpback chub and razorback sucker are the fish that stand to benefit. The big flows are expected to improve the fishes’ critical habitat, at a time when the fish will be looking to spawn. Water will inundate otherwise shallow or dry riverbank areas, creating calm, sheltered spots for hatchlings, and heavy flows will wash the larvae into those areas.

The Gunnison River, said Crocket, was “mostly omitted” from the EIS as critical habitat. However, he said, “Historically, it was home to at least a couple of these species.”

“It’s a highly migratory fish,” Crocket said of the Colorado pike minnow. “It’s adapted to this big river system.”

It’s a system irrefutably changed by humans. Critical habitat for the Colorado pike minnow includes 1,123.6 miles of river, to include stretches of the Green, Yampa and White rivers, from Rifle to Glen Canyon, and the Yampa River to its confluence with the Colorado River.

“They [US Fish and Wildlife] did designate critical habitat [from the mouth of the Gunnison] to the Uncompahgre confluence [at Delta],” Crocket said.

The Colorado pike minnow called the Gunnison River home through the 1960s. “After that,” said Crocket, “it blinked out. It’s not been possible for it to be re-colonized.” A new fish passage at the Redlands structure, two miles upriver from the Gunnison-Colorado River confluence at Grand Junction, allows fish to make their way around the barrier and upstream, marking the first time in more than 100 years for those downstream fish to gain passage to the Gunnison.

Meanwhile, upstream, a form of collateral damage resulting from the big water releases at Blue Mesa worries Fish and Wildlife personnel. The number of fish sucked into and blown out through the dam is staggering. The technical term for this is entrainment.
“Bigger water years mean more water through the dam, and more fish entrained,” said Gunnison area Colorado Fish and Wildlife aquatic biologist Dan Brauch. “Certainly, loss of kokanee with those releases is a concern.”

From the Vail Daily (Randy Wyrick):

Water levels and snowpack are 121 percent of normal, with as much as 40 percent yet to melt at some higher elevation areas, according to Snotel data…

Snow water equivalent at the Fremont Pass Snotel site, the headwaters of the Eagle River, had 15.1 inches of snow water equivalent on Friday morning still to melt and run into the river. It hit 17 inches on March 18 and kept piling up until May 17 when it peaked at 25.6 inches. It usually doesn’t melt out until June 18, Johnson said.

Streamflow on the Eagle River in Avon may have peaked on May 30, when the daily mean discharge was 4,110 cubic feet per second, which was 249 percent of median for that date. Thursday’s daily mean discharge was 3,650 cfs, 197 percent of normal for Wednesday.

Gore Creek in Lionshead may have peaked June 4.

“Having 20 to 40 percent of the total snowpack remaining in higher elevations in the Colorado Basin is good overall. It should help sustain streamflows through the month,” [Diane Johnson] said…

Copper Mountain still has 4.1 inches of snow water equivalent. That would normally be melted out by now, Johnson said…

Reservoir storage in the state is running 95 percent of normal and 62 percent of capacity. That, however, depends on where you are.


“This proposed MOU is a heavy-handed tactic by [Colorado Springs Utilities]” — Ray Petros

June 3, 2014
Pueblo West

Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County officials believe Colorado Springs Utilities is trying to pressure Pueblo West for help in meeting 1041 permit requirements for the Southern Delivery System. After obtaining a copy of a draft memorandum of understanding that was to be considered by the Pueblo West metro board in executive session last month, two commissioners and the county’s water attorney say it’s the same type of coercion Utilities tried to exert on the county earlier.

“It’s bully tactics. I think it’s terrible and totally inappropriate,” said Terry Hart, chairman of the county commissioners. “This is the second time in a couple of months where Utilities is trying to negotiate approval of 1041 conditions. In this case, it pits Pueblo West against Pueblo County, when there’s no good reason to do it.”

Commissioner Sal Pace agreed: “Whether Pueblo West has access to its own water has nothing to do with conditions on Fountain Creek.”

Water attorney Ray Petros was equally blunt: “This proposed MOU is a heavy-handed tactic by Utilities to withhold water deliveries to Pueblo West as a lever against the county in the event the county had to consid­er suspending the SDS permit.”

Pueblo West has not approved the MOU, and Jack Johnston, the metro district manager, portrayed it as a working document “at the staff and attorney level.”

However, newly elected Pueblo West board member Mark Carmel objected at his first official meeting to considering the deal in executive session. He was backed by Chairman Lew Quigley and board member Judy Leonard.

Johnston said a document for public consideration would be ready for discussion in open session, probably in mid-June.

But the document provided to The Chieftain by Carmel, and shared with the county, asks Pueblo West to get the county to sign off on several conditions of the 1041 permit before Pueblo West can turn on SDS.

Among other things, the agreement instructs Pueblo West to obtain written confirmation from Pueblo County that four politically charged conditions of the county’s 1041 permit have been met or “will not be triggered . . . by use of SDS facilities.”

Those conditions include the payment of $50 million to a special district for Fountain Creek flood control, the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program, the adaptive management scenario for Fountain Creek and Colorado Springs stormwater management. Each of those has led to complicated political negotiations or even court cases for Colorado Springs. Pueblo West has been in court with Pueblo County over the flow program.

Pueblo County ran into the same tactics when it asked Utilities to release interest money from the $50 million early to fund dam studies on Fountain Creek, Hart and Pace noted.

“In any event, holding Pueblo West hostage casts Springs’ Utilities as a bully,” Petros said. “It’s certainly counterproductive to a cooperative approach for addressing environmental mitigation of the SDS Project.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


It’s O-fish-al, Federal Dams Ramp up River Flows to Benefit Endangered Fish on the Gunnison River — WRA

May 29, 2014
Aspinall Unit

Aspinall Unit

From Western Resource Advocates (Bart Miller):

It was a snowy year in the upper Gunnison River basin. With high temperatures this week, snowmelt is accelerating fast. The roar of the river is back. Thanks to a decision by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation two years ago, river flows now help improve the health of the Gunnison River.

Late last week, spring flows began to ramp up as did releases below reservoirs at the Aspinall Unit, in an attempt to meet target flows that will benefit endangered fish species in the lower Gunnison river. Western Resource Advocates supported the federal decision in 2012 that changed reservoir operations at the Aspinall Unit to increase river flows, and is excited to see the benefits that will result.

”The Bureau of Reclamation is doing a great job under the new reservoir operations plan,” said Bart Miller, Water Program Director at Western Resource Advocates. “This year is a real test of the Bureau’s ability to make good on their commitment to get the river back into balance. So far, they’re passing the test with flying colors.”

The Bureau projects that, on June 2, 2014, flows through Black Canyon will be around 9,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). This will serve key functions like maintaining the river channel in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. In the lower Gunnison River, near its confluence with the Colorado in Grand Junction, flows may reach as high as 14,000 cfs, a target developed by scientists to benefit federally endangered fish.

As WRA posted on a blog last week: “Colorado now has a water-based recreation industry that—on the West Slope alone—is responsible for 80,000 jobs and over $9 billion in revenue each year. We have deeper knowledge of how essential water is for native fish and wildlife species, national parks, and other irreplaceable treasures. We want to continue to provide for resilient and profitable agriculture and communities, but not at the expense of recreation, tourism, and the environment.”

“Improving flows in the Gunnison is emblematic of what should be done in the Colorado Water

Plan and through each river basin’s own water planning: re-assess how we meet the needs of Colorado residents while protecting the environment and a growing river-based recreation economy,” says Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager at Western Resource Advocates.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.


Today is the anniversary of the last concrete pour at Boulder (Hoover) Dam #ColoradoRiver

May 29, 2014

Runoff/snowpack news: Reclamation plans releases from Flaming Gorge Reservoir for endangered fish #ColoradoRiver

May 29, 2014
Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Lisa Iams/Heather Patno):

Above average snowpack in the upper Green River Basin will enable Reclamation to increase the overall duration of the planned temporary increase in releases from Flaming Gorge Dam to benefit endangered razorback sucker in the Green River below the dam.
Scientists have detected the presence of larval razorback sucker in critical nursery habitat in the flood plains in the Green River which is the ‘trigger’ for increasing releases from Flaming Gorge Dam. Beginning Monday, June 2, 2014, flows will increase to powerplant capacity 4,600 cubic-feet-per-second for approximately 14 days or until the flows in the Yampa River decrease to between 12,000-13,000 cfs. Bypass releases from the dam will then be initiated to support a total downstream release of 8,600 cfs for another 14 days to maintain the desired total flow in the river of 18,600 cfs at target locations.

Flows from Flaming Gorge Dam have been temporarily increased during the spring since 2011 as part of a multi-year cooperative experimental program to benefit the endangered razorback sucker. Flaming Gorge Reservoir is expected to receive 135 percent of average inflow volume this year supporting a longer increased release period.

Scientists have been monitoring the critical habitat to detect the first emergence of razorback sucker larvae as a ‘trigger’ for an experiment being implemented by Reclamation in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. A major purpose of the experiment is to transport as many larval fish as possible into critical nursery habitat which exists in the floodplains along the Green River downstream of the confluence of the Green and Yampa rivers. This nursery habitat connects to the river at flows at or above 18,600 cfs, which is the targeted flow this year with the above average hydrology. The increased releases from the dam combined with the Yampa River flows will provide the maximum possible flow to transport the larval fish.

Current projections are for the Yampa River to reach at least 16,400 cfs this Friday, May 30, and for flows to remain elevated between 15,000 to 16,000 cfs through June 5. The projected peak at Jensen, Utah, resulting from the combined flows of the Yampa River and Flaming Gorge releases is approximately 20,000 to 22,000 cfs.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has been consulted concerning the impacts of the releases to the rainbow trout fishery below the dam. While releases during this period will make fishing the river more difficult, no adverse impacts to the fishery are expected.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Cooler temperatures in May and recent storms have prolonged snowpack in the Rockies, but spring runoff has begun in earnest. Arkansas River levels were consistently above average for the last week, as warmer days and some showers over the weekend contributed to the flows.

“We saw the snow melt and start to run early, but then there was a cooling spell,” said Roy Vaughan, Fryingpan-Arkansas Project manager for the Bureau of Reclamation. “Now, we’re looking at everything running later.”

The Fry-Ark Project already has brought 12,000 acre-feet (3.9 billion gallons) through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Reservoir. It’s expected to bring in a total of 60,000 acre-feet over the next few weeks.

“We’ve reached the peaks at the Boustead Tunnel, and we’re meeting all the minimum flow requirements (for the Fryingpan River),” Vaughan said.

In order to move water across the Continental Divide, stream flows have to be supported on the Western Slope. With the delayed snowmelt, there is about twice as much water as usual tied up in the snowpack for this time of year.

Statewide, snowpack was at 189 percent of median Tuesday, with the South Platte at 265 percent. Snow is heavier in the northern part of the state, while lagging in the south.

For the Arkansas River basin, that works out to 131 percent of median, but only because snowpack is so heavy near the headwaters of the Arkansas River.

In the Rio Grande basin, snowpack is at 32 percent.

It was never great this year, and now mostly has melted.

Flows in the Upper Arkansas River increased by 2 feet in the last week, with flows at 2,500 cubic feet per second as of Tuesday — significantly higher than normal for the end of May.

Fountain Creek has been up and down, increasing by a foot or more at times as storms hit El Paso County. Locally, heavy rains of up to 2 inches fell in the area from Friday to Sunday.

The Arkansas River at Avondale also climbed a foot over the weekend, and was flowing at about 2,800 cfs Tuesday.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

The swollen Poudre River this week surpassed peak runoff levels for the past three years, even though high snowmelt season has yet to hit Northern Colorado…

The deep snowpack in Northern Colorado’s mountains has yet to melt away, meaning the runoff season and higher river levels are still yet to come. The forecast for Fort Collins this week is for summer-like temperatures, which could jump-start the runoff.

“It’s all going to be really driven by the temperatures this week,” said Wendy Ryan, the assistant state climatologist. “With that much water still in the high country, it’s definitely not time to forget about snowmelt. At least, not yet.”

Still, U.S. Geological Survey data indicates the river has a long way to go before it reaches September 2013 flood levels.

The river has been running higher than normal since the September floods, and high snowpack levels and recent rains have further elevated the flow. At its highest point on Monday, the river measured at 7.2 feet, just barely below the flood stage at 7.5.

The river reached its peak flow around 5:30 p.m. on Monday, when it measured 4,900 cubic feet per second, of cfs, at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon. One cubic foot per second is equal to one basketball floating down the river every second. The flows have been lowering since Monday, and the peak was well past by Tuesday afternoon.

The river measured 10,000 cfs at its peak during the September floods…

The full-fledged runoff season has yet to really get started along the Poudre, but this week could be one of the first of consistently higher temperatures that melt snowpack.

There has been little runoff from the mountains west of Fort Collins to date, said Ryan. The Natural Resources Conservation Service measures snowpack throughout the winter in Colorado and takes snow water equivalent measurements, showing how much water is in the snow.

At a Joe Wright reservoir measuring point, NRCS measured a peak of 32 inches of the snow water equivalent. Only two inches of that has run off.

Rain has created runoff from the lower elevations, specifically over the High Park Fire and Hewlett Fire burn scars along the Poudre Canyon.

This week, temperatures in the 70s and 80s are expected to cause snowmelt, but the National Weather Service is not predicting serious floods along the river. The river is forecast to slowly rise throughout the week.

From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

One of 411 state highway bridges bruised by September flooding got a once over Wednesday by a small group of state inspectors who aim to pinpoint structural problems before a big spring runoff.

A swollen Little Thompson River caused some erosion under the bridge, which spans southbound Interstate 25 just south of Johnstown. But it’s not known yet how much bolstering the bridge needs, said Joshua Laipply, state bridge engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“We’ll review the data and make some decisions depending on what we see,” said Laipply, who quickly pointed out the bridge currently doesn’t pose any danger to motorists. “Bridges like this one, have foundations all the way to bedrock. “It’s perfectly stable now.

“But, if we had another 500-year storm now, then I’d be worried.”

At least four teams from CDOT, as well as bridge consultants hired by by the agency, are examining the 411 bridges through June. They hope to discover and fix any safety and structural woes before high temperatures prompt mountain runoff, CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said.

Most of the bridges are in the Denver-metro area and got tagged with minor damage during the flood. They were inspected shortly after the flood waters receded and deemed drivable with the idea they would get more attention this spring, Laipply said.

In all, about 1,000 bridges from Colorado Springs to Sterling were damaged in some way by the flooding with the most severe getting immediate work, Laipply said.

Bridges in Colorado are inspected every two years, but the flooding meant that schedule had to be moved up.

“These are what we call ‘event inspections,’ ” Laipply said. “So far, what we’ve seen has not been a surprise to us.”

Many of the bridges have seen plenty of “scour” — water flow that takes soil from a bridge’s foundation and moves it downstream. Crews will likely apply rock to make bridge foundations stronger. The crews will have to take into account the changes in river flow and channel elevation caused by the surging water, Laipply said.

CDOT design engineers Scott Huson and Tom Moss each took measurements of the Little Thompson as morning traffic zoomed over their heads. At one point, the river was chest-high to Moss.

“It can get interesting for us out there in the water,” Huson said, “but it’s a job has to be done.”

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

The Poudre River height near Greeley reached nearly 9 feet Tuesday afternoon, topping its flood stage of 8 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service forecasts were calling for the river to peak at 9 feet that afternoon or in the evening, then gradually fall to below the 8-foot flood stage by early Thursday morning and stay there through the end of the week.

“We anticipate seeing it crest pretty soon, for now,” Eric Reckentine, city of Greeley deputy director of water resources, said Tuesday afternoon. “But we don’t expect this to be the last time we see high water during this run-off season. We’ll keep monitoring it.”

In addition to having high water levels, the Poudre River near Greeley was also moving fast on Tuesday.

Flows at the Greeley gauge at 3:30 p.m. were at about 3,100 cubic feet per second. The historic average is at that measuring point is about 300 cfs.

From KREX (Jacklyn Thrapp):

Recent warm weather melting mountain snowpack prompts dangerous water levels on the Colorado River. According to the National Weather Service, the current flow of the Colorado River is dangerous, quick, cold and strong. The river in Grand Junction is close to bankfull, meaning it’s close to overflowing.

By this weekend, there’s a chance local water levels will be above bankfull, which may cause floods.


Marijuana and federal water projects

May 20, 2014
Pueblo dam spilling

Pueblo dam spilling

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Bureau of Reclamation will not allow federally controlled water to be used to grow marijuana in Colorado and Washington, according to a temporary policy issued Tuesday. [ed. emphasis mine] The news comes as local water providers and ditch companies have been struggling with the issue.

In fact, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, which has contracts with Reclamation, has scheduled a discussion at Tuesday’s meeting on whether it would make water available to marijuana-growing operations that will be licensed by the city of Pueblo.

Pueblo gets a small part of its water from Reclamation, but has contracts for storage in Lake Pueblo and for connection at Pueblo Dam that might be affected by the policy.

St. Charles Mesa water district already has prohibited using its water to grow marijuana on land where federally supplied water is used. Pueblo West and the Bessemer Ditch have not prohibited the use of their water supplies for marijuana grows.s

Here is the complete news release issued from Reclamation to the media Tuesday morning:

“The Bureau of Reclamation has issued a Temporary Policy on the Use of Reclamation Water or Facilities for Activities Prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Dan DuBray, Chief of Public Affairs, issues the following statement:

“As a federal agency, Reclamation is obligated to adhere to federal law in the conduct of its responsibilities to the American people.

“Among the 17 states Reclamation serves, Washington, Colorado and others have taken actions that decriminalize the cultivation of marijuana. Water districts and providers that receive water from Reclamation within those states have requested a decision on whether the delivery of Reclamation water to their customers is approved for those purposes.

“Reclamation will operate its facilities and administer its water-related contracts in a manner that is consistent with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, as amended. This includes locations where state law has decriminalized or authorized the cultivation of marijuana. Reclamation will refer any inconsistent uses of federal resources of which it becomes aware to the Department of Justice and coordinate with the proper enforcement authorities. Reclamation will continue to work with partner water districts and providers to ensure their important obligations can continue to be met.”

From the Huffington Post (Matt Ferner, Mollie Reilly):

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees management of federal water resources, “is evaluating how the Controlled Substances Act applies in the context of Reclamation project water being used to facilitate marijuana-related activities,” said Peter Soeth, a spokesman for the bureau. He said the evaluation was begun “at the request of various water districts in the West.”

Local water districts in Washington state and Colorado, where recreational marijuana is now legal, contract with federal water projects for supplies. Officials from some of those water districts said they assume the feds are going to turn off the spigots for marijuana growers.

“Certainly every indication we are hearing is that their policy will be that federal water supplies cannot be used to grow marijuana,” said Brian Werner at Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which handles approximately one-third of all water for northeastern Colorado and is the Bureau of Reclamation’s second-largest user in the number of irrigated acres…

A Department of Justice official told HuffPost it has no comment on the water issue. The Bureau of Reclamation is likely to announce a decision this month. “We’re going to work with our water districts once that decision is made,” Soeth said.

Marijuana advocates condemned the possibility of a federal water ban for state-legal crops. Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project and key backer of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, criticized the hypocrisy of a federal government that would prevent water access to some legal businesses and not others.

“If water is so precious and scarce that it can’t be used for state-legal marijuana cultivation, it shouldn’t be used for brewing and distilling more harmful intoxicating substances like beer and liquor,” Tvert said…

Growing in Denver, home to the majority of Colorado marijuana dispensaries, likely wouldn’t notice a shortage if the Bureau of Reclamation cuts off federal water.

“Because we are not a federal contractor, we would not be affected,” said Travis Thompson, spokesman for Denver Water, the main water authority for the state’s capital and surrounding suburbs.

But many other regions of the state rely on federal water. In Pueblo, about two hours south of Denver, about 20 percent of regional water is Reclamation-controlled. Although the remaining 80 percent of the region’s water is locally controlled, it passes through the Pueblo Dam, operated under Bureau of Reclamation authority.

“Yes, they come through a federal facility, but the federal facility is required to let those water right to pass,” Pueblo Board of Water Works executive director Terry Book said to southern Colorado’s NBC-affiliate KOAA.

The St. Charles Mesa Water District, another Pueblo-area water facility, has already imposed a moratorium on supplying water to marijuana businesses until the Bureau of Reclamation settles the issue…

The potential water ban has already set off local opposition. The Seattle Times’ editorial board urged the Bureau of Reclamation to allow federal water contracts to be used by marijuana farmers.

“The bureau has never had — nor should it have — a stake in what crop is planted. That’s a basic tenet of the 1902 National Reclamation Act, which created the bureau and transformed the arid American west,” read the May 4 editorial. “Yet the federal government is now threatening to forget that history, because some regulators are queasy about Washington and Colorado’s experimentation with marijuana legalization.”

As the Times’ board points out, there is some precedent for the Justice Department to stand down on the water issue. Last August, Attorney General Eric Holder told the governors of Washington and Colorado that the DOJ wouldn’t intervene in the states’ legal pot programs. And earlier this year, federal officials issued guidelines expanding access to financial services for legal marijuana businesses, so long as the business doesn’t violate certain legal priorities outlinedby the Justice Department.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Board of Water Works today will discuss issues surrounding the supply of water to marijuana growers. The Pueblo City Council has adopted zoning regulations that allow marijuana to be grown within city limits, but not sold. City legal staff is working on how those rules will be written. Providing water for growers is a different matter, with some questions still unresolved.

While Colorado and Washington state voters legalized marijuana in 2012, it remains a federal crime. Pueblo is affected because it has federal contracts for storage in Lake Pueblo.

Pueblo also has direct flow rights that pass through Pueblo Dam, as well as a contract for connection to the dam.

“We’re trying to evaluate issues that might arise with the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Executive Director Terry Book. “So far, there have been no court cases you can hang your hat on with any certainty.”

There have been requests to provide water to growing operations both within and outside city limits, Book added.

“We just don’t know the answers yet,” he said.

After receiving legal advice prior to the meeting in executive session, the Pueblo water board will convene at 2 p.m. today in the William F. Mattoon Board Room of the Alan Hamel Administration Building at 319 W. Fourth St.

Reclamation still is evaluating how water supply fits in under the Controlled Substances Act, because it provides irrigation water for land in both Washington and Colorado. It’s not known what the decision will be or when it will be reached, said Peter Soeth, Reclamation spokesman in Denver.

The state Division of Water Resources has taken the position so far that one type of crop is the same as any other, but also is awaiting the decision on federal policy.

Another Pueblo County water provider, the St. Charles Mesa Water District, already has banned use of its water to grow marijuana.

Two Rivers Water & Farming Co. has formed a subsidiary called GrowCo that will use some of its privately held water rights for marijuana growing.

Pueblo West and the Bessemer Ditch have not adopted rules prohibiting water use by marijuana growers.


J. Signe Snortland Selected as Eastern Colorado Deputy Area Manager

May 18, 2014
Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir

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

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Great Plains Region has selected J. Signe Snortland as the Deputy Area Manager for the Eastern Colorado Area Office in Loveland, Colo. Snortland will assume her responsibilities as Deputy Area Manager on May 18. She replaces Jacklynn Gould who was promoted to Area Manager in January. “I am looking forward to Signe joining the Area Office in this important leadership position,” said Gould. “She brings a broad range of expertise to our office in managing water and hydropower projects. She brings a strong customer focused approach and demonstrated ability to implement innovative and collaborative solutions to complex issues.”

Prior to accepting the Deputy Area Manager position, Snortland served as an Environmental Specialist for Reclamation’s Dakotas Area Office in Bismarck, North Dakota. She is a graduate of Reclamation’s Executive Leadership Development Program. She has successfully managed several large, complex projects, including the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Mount Elbert Pumped-Storage Plant Rehabilitation Project in the Eastern Colorado Area Office; the Lower Yellowstone Intake Project Environmental Assessment in the Montana Area Office; the Red River Valley Water Supply Project Environmental Impact Statement in the Dakotas Area Office; and the Republican River Basin Study in the Nebraska-Kansas Area Office.


Animas-La Plata project: Sens. Udall and Bennet pen letter to Reclamation asking for quicker opening of Lake Nighthorse to recreation

May 16, 2014
Lake Nighthorse first fill via The Durango Herald

Lake Nighthorse first fill via The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Sarah Mueller):

The frustration surrounding Lake Nighthorse found a fresh voice Thursday as Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet wrote to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation asking the agency to issue a plan for opening the reservoir for recreation soon. The letter says recreation on Lake Nighthorse could bring in up to $12 million each year to the local economy.

“The completed Lake Nighthorse reservoir is conveniently located two miles from downtown Durango and presents a significant opportunity for a new public amenity,” the two Democrats wrote.

The reservoir was filled in June 2011, but the parties involved, after years of talks, have yet to agree on major issues. However, bureau spokeswoman Justyn Hock said they seem to be close to finalizing the agreements. The agency plans a public meeting in June to update residents on negotiations.

“We feel like the end is in sight,” Hock said. “We’re getting really close to having an agreement in place.”

Lake Nighthorse is a reservoir with 1,500 surface acres created in Ridges Basin southwest of Durango by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to provide water for Native American tribes, cities and water districts in Colorado and New Mexico. Southwestern Water Conservation District owns the water rights. The water is allocated, but not owned, through project contracts to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Animas-La Plata Conservancy District, the state of Colorado, the San Juan Water Commission and the La Plata Conservancy District. The entities formed the Animas-La Plata Operation, Maintenance and Replacement Association in 2009, which fronted money in anticipation of water purchases by the city of Durango and the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy.

Calls to several Animas-La Plata Operation, Maintenance and Replacement Association stakeholders were not returned.

There are three agreements under negotiation: an annexation agreement, a lease agreement and memorandum of understanding.

The city of Durango has offered to operate the park but wants to annex the area to provide police protection. The Utes have said annexation is unacceptable. There’s been conflict about who should run the park and be involved in making decisions. The Utes also have said they must be able to exercise Brunot Treaty rights to hunt on ancestral land.

In a statement, the Southern Utes said important issues need to be addressed, including tribal treaty rights, protection of historic cultural resources, and operation of the project for the specific purposes for which it was built.

“We’re working with the tribes in particular to make sure that we’re protecting their cultural resources,” Hock said…

“While use of the lake for recreational purposes was contemplated during the reservoir planning process, it is not a specific project purpose,” said a Southern Ute Tribal Council statement from last year.
Irrigation was cut because of environmental problems. Southwestern Water Conservation District was awarded the water rights to the A-LP project in a 1966 State District Water Court decree that allowed irrigation and recreation as water uses.

“Unfortunately, the need to comply with applicable laws is not always well understood by those unfamiliar with these laws,” the Tribal Council statement said.

The reservoir was filled in June 2011 but stayed closed while those involved bickered and delayed. But Cathy Metz, parks and recreation director, also believes progress is being made. After the lease agreement is signed, an inspection station and decontamination area needs to be built. The Animas-La Plata Operation, Maintenance and Replacement Association received grant funding for the construction. The city also has received some grant funding from the state for some improvements to the park. The earliest it could open would be 2015.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.


The Southern Delivery System has been a long time coming

May 12, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

Here’s part one of an in-depth look at the Southern Delivery System from John Hazlehurst writing for the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Contending that the denial [of Homestake II] had been arbitrary and capricious, the two cities [Aurora and Colorado Springs] appealed the decision to the courts. In a comprehensive description of the city’s water system and possible future sources of supply given to City Council in 1991, CSU managers said that “extensive litigation is expected to continue.”

Denied by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court, the cities appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

City officials were stunned. They couldn’t believe that a coalition of Western Slope “enviros” and ski towns had prevented them from developing water to which the city had an undisputed right. They had believed the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1990 decision to scuttle Denver’s proposed Two Forks Dam near Deckers on the South Platte River was an outlier, not a sign of things to come…

Slow to recognize that mountain communities now had the power to kill their water development plans, Utilities officials looked at another alternative. Instead of taking water directly from the wilderness area, the city proposed to build a dam on the mainstem of the Arkansas at Elephant Rock, a few miles upstream of Buena Vista.

A grassroots rebellion against the project was soon evident, as hand-lettered signs appeared along U.S. Highway 24, which parallels the Arkansas. The signs carried a simple message: “Don’t Let Colorado Springs Dam this River!”

It soon became clear that Chaffee County commissioners would not issue a construction permit for any such project, dooming it before the first planning documents were created…

If trans-mountain diversions or dams on the Arkansas were no longer feasible, that left a single alternative for developing the city’s water rights. CSU would have to let its water flow down to Pueblo Reservoir, construct a diversion structure on the dam, and pump it uphill to Colorado Springs.

It would be, water managers believed, the easiest project to build and permit.

“It was just a pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom, who has worked 35 years for Utilities. “What could go wrong?”[...]

“We didn’t really understand the importance of partnering with and involving the public in decision-making,” said [Gary Bostrom], “until the Southern Water Project.”[...]

The plan for the Southern Delivery System was presented to City Council in 1992. Among the material submitted to councilmembers was a comprehensive description of the city’s existing water system. Water managers made sure Council was aware of the importance of the task before them.

“The massive scope of this project,” CSU staff noted, “requires a very long lead time to allow for complexities of numerous permitting processes, land acquisition, litigation, design, financing and construction.”

Of all the variables, CSU managers and elected officials gave the least weight to those that may have been the most significant…

“We weren’t worried about hydrology,” said Bostrom. “The years between 1980 and 2000 were some of the wettest years on record. The water was there for the taking. Shortages on the Colorado weren’t part of the discussion.

“We knew about the Colorado River Water Compact of 1922 (which allocated Colorado River water between Mexico and the upper and lower basin states), but it wasn’t something we worried about.”

Then as now, 70 percent of the city’s water supply came from the Colorado River. SDS would tap the city’s rights on the Arkansas, diversifying the portfolio.

“We have to plan for growth,” said Bostrom. “That’s what history tells us. We know that it will be expensive, but the cost of not building a system well in advance of need would be much greater. People complained about the cost of the Blue River (trans-mountain diversion) project in the 1950s, but we wouldn’t have a city without it — we wouldn’t have the Air Force Academy.”

But even as the project moved slowly forward, the comfortable assumptions of a wet, prosperous future began to unravel.

“Exactly 15 years ago today (April 29, 1999),” said Bostrom, “we were in the middle of a flood — remember? We didn’t know it, but that was the day the drought began.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Priorities have changed in water management — Charles Wilkinson

May 12, 2014

Landsat view of Colorado River pulse flow in Mexico April 2014

Landsat view of Colorado River pulse flow in Mexico April 2014


Here’s a guest column from Charles Wilkinson writing about water management in the West that’s running in the Albuquerque Journal:

One of the best developments for the environment in the West has been the quiet but deep revolution in federal water policy. Over the course of the past quarter century, we have moved from a dam-and-reservoir, build-at-any-cost mentality to a multifaceted approach that respects all that we need from, and love about, rivers.

Floyd Dominy, the charismatic long-serving U.S. Commissioner of Reclamation, epitomized the old approach. Dominy passionately supported the giant dams that created hydropower and stored water for irrigation and municipal use.

Up to a point, he was right. In the arid West, the scant rainfall was too little for farming and the cities needed projects to reach distant rivers.

In Dominy’s era, views on water were steadfastly utilitarian. Nature had to give way to progress.

Rivers were engines of development; recreation, wildlife, and beauty were of no moment. After rafting down the Grand Canyon, Dominy exhorted, “It was boring! You can’t see out from the bottom of a canyon.”

Westerners’ views began to change. Water projects were too expensive and the public chafed over sacrificing rivers and canyons.

Dominy mostly got his way, but when he left office in 1969 his plans to dam the Grand Canyon and build other grandiose projects lay on the shelf.

A fit embodiment of the change in the Bureau of Reclamation is Mike Connor, Reclamation Commissioner from 2009-2014. Earlier this year, he was elevated to Deputy Interior Secretary, the second highest position in the Interior Department. He will carry most of his water portfolio to his new job.

Connor grew up in Las Cruces, graduated from New Mexico State University, and obtained a law degree at the University of Colorado, where he published an important article on Colorado River water flows.

After serving as a lawyer in Interior, he spent several years on the Senate Energy Committee staff.

A listener, he earned respect for his careful, fair work. Eventually, also known for grasping the big picture in the complex arena of Western water, Connor was named commissioner.

Connor’s collaborative leadership at Reclamation was notable.

In a time of low flows in the West, he emphasized conservation, rather than traditional projects, as a source of “new” water. Planning was needed to respond to climate change – extreme warming is predicted for the Colorado River basin.

He was instrumental in securing a comprehensive package of water and energy conservation grants in Colorado and other basin states.

Connor also was a leader in achieving a great initiative, “Minute 319,” a 2012 amendment to a U.S.-Mexico treaty on the Colorado River.

The Colorado River Delta, the lower 100 miles of the river, has long been a metaphor for over-development of water in the Southwest.

By the mid-20th century, the delta, once a wonderland of green lagoons lush with vegetation and rich with wildlife, had gone dry due to massive U.S. diversions. Minute 319 addresses many concerns on both sides of the border, including a return of flows to the delta.

U.S. and Mexican scientists and policy makers worked feverishly to find a way to overcome legal and institutional obstructions.

The effort to revive the delta, and perhaps even the Sea of Cortés beyond it, began last month when gates at Morelos Dam opened to release a “pulse” designed to mimic high spring flows.

For days, the flow made slow progress as much of the water sank into the dry riverbed. Doubters worried that water would never reach the heart of the delta.

Then, on April 9th, it did.

To rousing cheers, sweet nourishment arrived at Laguna Grande, a key restoration site.

Can water regularly reach the delta and the sea? We don’t know yet. But we do know that hardly anyone would have even thought to ask the question 20 years ago.


Reclamation: WaterSMART Funding Opportunity Available to Establish or Expand Watershed Groups

May 11, 2014
Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Cooperative Watershed Management Program is accepting applications from entities seeking to establish or expand watershed management groups. The funding opportunity announcement is available at http://www.grants.gov by searching for funding opportunity R14AS00038.

Funding is available for states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts or other organizations with water or power delivery authority located in the western United States or United States Territories to establish a watershed group. Funding is also available for an existing watershed group to expand. Applications are due on June 6, 2014 at 3 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

Up to $100,000 in Federal funds may be awarded to an applicant with no more than $50,000 awarded in each year of the project. A non-federal cost share contribution is not required. Some awards for this program will be made in fiscal year 2015 once appropriations are approved by Congress.

WaterSMART is the U.S. Department of the Interior’s sustainable water initiative that uses the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. Since its establishment in 2010, WaterSMART has provided more than $161 million in competitively-awarded funding to non-federal partners, including tribes, water districts, municipalities and universities through WaterSMART Grants and the Title XVI Program.

The Cooperative Watershed Management Program provides funding for watershed groups to encourage diverse stakeholders to form local groups to address their water management needs. To learn more about the Cooperative Watershed Management Program please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/cwmp.

More Reclamation coverage here.


Reclamation will release 7.48 million acre-feet (lowest since first fill) from Lake Powell this season #ColoradoRiver

May 6, 2014
Lake Powell

Lake Powell

Here’s the release from Reclamation via the Lake Powell Chronicle:

As part of its ongoing management of Colorado River reservoirs, the Bureau of Reclamation has determined that, based on the best available data projections of Lake Powell and Lake Mead reservoir elevations, under the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead (2007 Interim Guidelines) a release of 7.48 million acre-feet (maf) from Lake Powell is required in water year 2014 (Oct. 1, 2013 – Sept. 30, 2014).

An annual release of 7.48 maf is the lowest release since the filling of Lake Powell in the 1960s. Lake Mead is projected to decline an additional eight feet during 2014 as a result of the lower Lake Powell annual release; however, Lake Mead will operate under normal conditions in calendar year 2014, with water users in the Lower Colorado River Basin and Mexico receiving their full water orders in accordance with the 2007 Interim Guidelines and the 1944 Treaty with Mexico.

The 2007 Interim Guidelines Record of Decision was signed by the Secretary of the Interior after extensive consultation with the seven Colorado River Basin states, Native American tribes, federal agencies, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders and interested parties. The guidelines were adopted to coordinate reservoir management strategies and address annual operations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead, particularly under low reservoir conditions.

“This is the worst 14-year drought period in the last hundred years,” said Upper Colorado Regional Director Larry Walkoviak. “Reclamation’s collaboration with the seven Colorado River Basin states on the 2007 Interim Guidelines is proving to be invaluable in coordinating the operations of the reservoirs and helping protect future availability of Colorado River water supplies.”

Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Regional Director Terry Fulp also pointed to the variability in the system.

“With a good winter snowpack next year, the outlook could change significantly as it did in 2011, but we also need to be prepared for continuing drought,” he said. “Currently the longer-term projections from Reclamation’s hydrologic models show a very small chance of lower basin delivery shortages in 2015, with the first significant chance of reduced water deliveries in the lower basin in 2016. These projections will be updated monthly and will reflect changes in weather and the resulting hydrology.”

Updated monthly, Reclamation’s 24-Month Study is an operational report that provides projected reservoir operations for all major system reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin for the next two years. The August 24-Month Study is available on the Reclamation websites for the Upper and Lower Colorado regions:

Upper Colorado Region: http://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/studies/index.html

Lower Colorado Region: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/g4000/24mo/index.html

By planning ahead for varying reservoir levels, the 2007 Interim Guidelines provide Colorado River users, especially those in the lower basin states of Arizona, Nevada and California, with a greater degree of certainty about annual water deliveries. The 2007 Interim Guidelines also define the reservoir levels that would trigger delivery shortages and specify those reduced delivery amounts in the lower Colorado River Basin once Lake Mead reaches certain elevations. Information about the 2007 Interim Guidelines is available at http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/strategies.html.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Reclamation: Calculating Flood Risks at Our Nation’s Dams

May 5, 2014


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Carter will fill Monday, Horsetooth at 88% #ColoradoRiver

May 4, 2014
Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

On Monday, May 5, we will stop pumping water to Carter Lake. Carter is about 98% full and ready for the season.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project water that was going up to Carter will now go to Horsetooth. Horsetooth Reservoir is about 88% full and its water level is still rising.

Boat ramps are open.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

apologize for a late evening notice. I’m on business travel and communicating across time zones.

This e-mail is to let you all know there are some changes coming to the river flow down the Big Thompson Canyon. Run-off is increasing and so will flows down the canyon, beginning Monday.

Currently, we are seeing run-off inflows up to 200 cfs at night. But, as you have read in previous e-mails, under Free River conditions, we have been able to divert some of that at Olympus Dam to Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoirs like Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir. This weekend, Free River conditions are ending.

As a result, we will no longer be able to pull some of the spring run-off flows native to the Big T coming into Lake Estes out of the river. Instead, the Big Thompson will resume its native outflow through Olympus Dam to the Canyon.

Currently, we are releasing about 35 cfs. Beginning Monday, May 5, we will start incrementally increasing the releases in several steps. The resulting flows down the Canyon by Monday afternoon could go up to about 140 cfs. It is possible there could be additional increases on Tuesday.

I will send an update on Monday. Meanwhile, please let me know if you have any related questions.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Bureau of Reclamation Water Management Video Series Highlights Collaborative Research

May 1, 2014

Pineapple Express conditions January 29, 2014 via NWS Boulder

Pineapple Express conditions January 29, 2014 via NWS Boulder


Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation is releasing a series of videos summarizing collaborative research addressing climate change and variability impacts, estimating flood and drought hazards, and improving streamflow prediction. This information was presented in January at the Second Annual Progress Meeting on Reclamation Climate and Hydrology Research.

“For more than 100 years, Reclamation and its partners have developed the tools to guide a sustainable water and power future for the West,” said Acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley. “This video series summarizes collaborative research that is another tool for Reclamation and its water users to manage water into the future.”

To kick off the video series, Reclamation is releasing four videos. They are:

  • Improving Stream Flow Prediction Across the Contiguous United States – Andy Wood, Ph.D., Hydrologist, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • Tracking Pathways of Atmospheric Rivers – Michael Alexander, Meteorologist, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory
  • Calculating Flood Risks at Our Nation’s Dams – Jason Caldwell, Meteorologist, Bureau of Reclamation
  • Examining Variability of Hydroclimate Extremes – Cameron Bracken, Hydrologic Civil Engineer, Bureau of Reclamation
  • The videos are available as a playlist at: http://bit.ly/climateseries.

    Reclamation’s Research and Development Office is developing the science and tools that are critical to incorporate information on long-term climate change into water resource planning and infrastructure management. Sustainable water resource management will rely upon management strategies that effectively deliver water under a changing climate as well as including hydrologic hazard possibilities on infrastructure. Improved ability to forecast and use climate variability information may greatly enhance the flexibility of water managers and water users to plan their short-term operations and water delivery.

    Research collaborators include Federal and non-Federal organizations, including members of the Climate Change and Water Working Group (http://www.ccawwg.us), NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, University of Colorado CIRES and others.

    Additional videos will be released over the next few weeks in the same playlist. When posted, the video link will be shared on Reclamation’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can also follow by using the hashtag #climateseries. To see the videos once posted or learn more about the presentations, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/climate.

    To learn more about climate change and variability research please visit http://www.usbr.gov/research/climate.


    The Southern Delivery System is on time and under budget, according to @CSUtilities

    April 29, 2014
    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

    From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Marija B. Vader):

    Wayne Vanderschuere, general manager of the Colorado Springs Utilities water services division, said the Southern Delivery System will be completed on schedule and $150 million under the original budgeted amount.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update #ColoradoRiver

    April 27, 2014
    Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Work at Green Mountain Dam has wrapped up and it is time to start increasing releases again. Here is the schedule for bumping up over the weekend and Monday. By Monday afternoon, we should be releasing about 900 cfs to the Lower Blue River.

    Saturday, April 26, 2014
    5:00 p.m. – Increase the reservoir release from 550 cfs to 600 cfs.
    10:00 p.m. – Increase the reservoir release from 600 cfs to 650 cfs.

    Sunday, April 27, 2014
    5:00 p.m – Increase the reservoir release from 650 cfs to 700 cfs.
    10:00 p.m. – Increase the reservoir release from 700 cfs to 750 cfs.

    Monday, April 28, 2014
    7:00 a.m. – Increase the reservoir release from 750 cfs to 800 cfs.
    11:00 .m. – Increase the reservoir release from 800 cfs to 850 cfs.
    4:00 p.m. – Increase the reservoir release from 850 cfs to 900 cfs.


    Colorado-Big Thompson Project update #ColoradoRiver

    April 26, 2014
    Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    You’ve likely noticed the water level at Pinewood dropping again. While this is typical for this time of year (Pinewood often fluctuates for power generation), we’ll be going a little lower, back to the 6560 foot level seen last month. The reason is the same: more canal maintenance downstream of the reservoir.

    We are anticipating we’ll hit the 6560 elevation on Tuesday, April 29. Water level elevations will begin going up again on Wednesday the 30th, and the reservoir should be close to full again by next weekend, May 3.

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    The weather front coming in over the weekend is probably raising some questions for folks. I want to reassure you all that we do not anticipate any major changes at Olympus Dam or Lake Estes as a result of this weekend’s forecast.

    The reservoir’s water level has dropped down to about 85% of full. We will continue sending some of the inflow from the Big Thompson River to the Olympus Tunnel and on over to Horsetooth and Carter. We will continue releasing about 40 cfs through the dam on down to the canyon.

    Also, if you missed our presentation at the Town of Estes’s public workshop for runoff preparedness on Monday, here is a link to the video they took and other related information: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/TownofEstesPark/CBON/1251652514966

    More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here and here.


    Aspinall Unit Operation Coordination Meeting, April 24 #ColoradoRiver

    April 23, 2014

    Apr 2014 Agenda


    Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities has spent $26.6 M on land-related expenses

    April 19, 2014
    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs has spent $26.6 million to acquire land for its $984 million Southern Delivery System. Most of the money was spent in El Paso County, although properties in Pueblo West and on Walker Ranches were purchased either permanently or for temporary easements.

    Pipeline easements totaled $961,681 for 388 acres in Pueblo County, compared with $2.5 million for 486 acres in El Paso County.

    Another $1 million was paid to buy homes in Pueblo West.

    The big money was paid for other features of the project in El Paso County, a total of about $22 million.

    “It would be misleading to simply do the math on the values above and conclude that more was paid for land in El Paso County than Pueblo County,” said Janet Rummel, spokesman for Colorado Springs Utilities, in an e-mail responding to a request from The Pueblo Chieftain.

    Permanent easement prices ranged from 50-90 percent of fee value, while temporary easements are valued at 10 percent per year, varying from one to four years.

    “The fee value of land depends primarily on location, but also is subject to size, shape, development entitlement and improvements, if any,” Rummel explained.

    “Within the raw water pipeline alignments for SDS, fee values for easements and facilities ranged from $1,389 per acre to almost $20,000 per acre,” Rummel said. “Pueblo West properties were generally valued in the range between $10,900 to $13,000 per acre.”

    At the high end of that scale were 6 homes on about 10 acres in Pueblo West purchased for $1.044 million.

    But even below that scale were 103 acres, two-thirds in permanent easements, on Walker Ranches, which could be purchased for $82,900, or about $804 per acre. Utilities also paid Walker $600,000 to relocate cattle during construction, as required by Pueblo County’s 1041 permit.

    Gary Walker will contest the amount of the easement payment in court this November, one of four cases still in dispute.

    Walker also has raised complaints, most recently during a county public hearing, about erosion along the pipeline route. The bulk of the money, however, has gone for the treatment plant, pump station and reservoir sites in El Paso County.

    Utilities paid $259,519 for 43 acres for the Bradley Pump Station; $2.4 million for 124 acres at the treatment plant and $19.3 million for a future reservoir site on Upper Williams Creek.

    At the reservoir site, T-Cross Ranches, owned by the Norris family, received $9,500 per acre for 791 acres ($7.5 million), while the state land board received $10,500 per acre for 1,128 acres ($11.8 million).

    SDS is a pipeline project that will deliver up to 96 million gallons of water daily from Lake Pueblo to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West.

    The figures do not include money Utilities paid to purchase homes in Jimmy Camp Creek at a reservoir site that later was abandoned.


    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update #ColoradoRiver

    April 16, 2014
    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    We are getting ready to start importing water from the West Slope collection of the Fryingpan-Arkansas system to the East Slope. As long as minimum flows at both the Thomasville and Hunter Creek gages are met, we can begin diversions of additional water through the Boustead Tunnel.

    Here are the minimum flows for the Fryingpan River at Thomasville:

    Date Min Flow, (cfs)
    Oct. 1 – Mar. 31 30
    Apr. 1 – Apr. 30 100
    May 1 – May 31 150
    Jun. 1 – Jun. 30 200
    Jul. 1 – Jul. 31 100
    Aug. 1 – Aug 31 75
    Sep 1 – Sep 30 65

    Additionally, at Twin Lakes dam, we are curtailing releases to Lake Creek and the Arkansas River today and tomorrow. Today, we scaled back to about 100 cfs. Tomorrow, we will continue scaling back to 0 cfs while a regular review of the dam is conducted. Once the review is complete, we will bring releases back up.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.


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

    April 13, 2014

    greenmountainreservoir

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

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

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

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.


    Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Seasonal fill for Horestooth and Carter underway #ColoradoRiver

    April 13, 2014
    Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    We are in the process of filling both Horsetooth and Carter Lake. Currently, Horsetooth is roughly 80% full at an elevation of 5414 feet above sea level. This is its average water elevation high mark for the beginning of the summer season in a typical year. But, this is not a typical water year and Horsetooth’s water elevation is projected to continue going up.

    Similarly, Carter Lake is 90% full at a water level elevation of about 5749 feet. Like Horsetooth, it is projected to continue filling. At this time, we are anticipating Carter will fill, hitting its highest water level elevation for the season by mid-May. Horsetooth will likely hit its highest water level elevation for the season by late June.


    Northern Water board sets C-BT quota to 60% #ColoradoRiver

    April 11, 2014
    Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR

    Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    Northern Water, which manages water stored throughout a massive system of linked reservoirs in Northern Colorado, set its annual water quota at 60 percent, despite customer requests to receive 70 percent of their full potential water allotment.

    Since 1957, Northern Water has issued the water quotas, which dictate the amount of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects that will flow to cities, industrial complexes and farmers in Northern Colorado. The city of Fort Collins typically gets half of its water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, and has been particularly dependent on the system after High Park Fire debris polluted the Poudre River.

    Fort Collins was among customers who lobbied Northern Water for a 70 percent quota on Wednesday, during a stakeholders meeting held to discuss this year’s quota. Despite those requests, Water Resources Manager Andy Pineda recommended that Northern Water’s board opt for a 60 percent quota.

    A few factors went into Pineda’s recommendation, including Colorado’s above-average snowpack, high reservoir levels, and the general absence of drought in Northern Colorado. Spring runoff this year is expected to release an extra 100,000 acre feet of water down area streams and rivers, which should limit the region’s need for supplemental water from the Colorado-Big Thompson.

    Pineda’s opinion was not shared by all. A few farmers asked the board for a 70-100 percent quota to help them plan for the growing season. Fort Collins wanted 70 percent to help offset troubles with Poudre River water quality. There is also a chance that Lake Granby reservoir will spill over this June, and a few stakeholders were concerned that water would be wasted with a reduced quota.

    More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


    Colorado Springs Utilities has acquired most of the land access needed for the Southern Delivery System

    April 2, 2014
    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic/Reclamation

    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic/Reclamation

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    Outside of a handful of parcels tied up in eminent-domain court actions, the city has amassed the vast majority of land needed to complete the 66-inch-diameter line across Pueblo and El Paso counties. And as for those in court, Utilities has been granted possession; at issue is determination of their value.

    Which leaves only one other property acquisition needed for the pipeline itself, and a couple dozen others for related projects. Overall, the land-acquisition project is on schedule, if significantly over budget.

    “We are pleased to be nearly complete with acquiring the land needed for SDS,” says Utilities project manager John Fredell in a statement. “We have worked hard to be fair with property owners and appreciate their cooperation to advance this critical project for our community and partners.”[...]

    The city’s initial foray into acquiring property for the project, in 2003 and 2004, caused an uproar, and a tightening of city real estate acquisition procedures. Utilities, in some cases without Utilities Board approval, had made offers for homes near Jimmy Camp Creek, northeast of the city, for up to three times the homes’ assessed values, plus six-figure moving costs — in one case, $340,000. The city paid $6.1 million for 14 properties and then allowed the former owners to rent for $300 a month indefinitely.

    Within a few years, the city abandoned the Jimmy Camp area as a reservoir site due to archaeological values and other factors, and instead chose Upper Williams Creek near Bradley Road.

    In 2009 and 2010, Utilities tangled with Pueblo West residents and left some hard feelings in its wake. The buried pipeline, which traverses the back portions of residential lots, can’t be built upon, which residents say renders their yards unusable.

    Resident Dwain Maxwell, who’s forced Utilities into condemnation court, says he was paid $1,850 for land his appraisal said was worth $16,500. Meanwhile, he estimates Utilities has spent four times that amount on attorneys. “I feel like they’ve not been honest with us,” he says today.

    Gary Walker of Pueblo County is also still in condemnation court with the city, and declined to be interviewed for this story. But he notes in an email that he’s been recognized repeatedly for his stewardship of the land at his ranch, and was the first to sign up for the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret under federal rules. “How do you put a price on the destruction of something so important as our environment?” he asks.

    In 2012, Utilities went up against the Norris ranching family for a chunk of land for Upper Williams Creek Reservoir. After the Norrises moved to create their own reservoir, a deal was reached in which the city paid the family $7.5 million for 791 acres.

    But the biggest single acquisition was land next to the Norris property owned by the State Land Board. The city paid more than $11.8 million for 1,128 acres, the highest per-acre price paid for pipeline property…

    Utilities needs to acquire about 15 additional properties for the reservoir site, but the reservoir won’t be built until SDS’ second phase, from 2020 to 2025, as demand requires. The city also needs 11 more properties for a section of pipe for treated water, Rummel says.

    So far, the city has spent $34.6 million on land for SDS. That’s about 38 percent more than the $25 million estimate in 2009 for 274 parcels in Phase 1 and reservoir land. If costs for surveys, appraisals, real estate fees and closings are added, the cost is $45 million, or 22 percent more than the 2009 “all-in” estimate of $37 million.

    Water rates, meantime, haven’t increased as much as earlier predicted. Ratepayers saw 12 percent hikes in 2011 and 2012, and 10 percent increases in 2013 and 2014. A 5 percent hike is expected in 2015. Previously, 12 percent annual jumps were forecast from 2011 through 2017.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    10th District chief judge Deborah Eyler approves appointments to the Southeastern Water board #ColoradoRiver

    April 1, 2014
    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Two new and three returning directors have been appointed to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board. The appointments were approved by Deborah Eyler, chief district judge in Pueblo, in conjunction with other chief judges throughout the nine-county area within the district. The new members will take their seats at April’s meeting. There are 15 directors who serve four-year terms on the board that oversees the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

    Pat Edelmann, retired head of the U.S. Geological Survey office in Pueblo, and Curtis Mitchell, head of Fountain Utilities, have joined the board.

    Returning directors are Bill Long of Las Animas, Ann Nichols of Manitou Springs, and Tom Goodwin of Canon City.

    Edelmann, 58, replaces Shawn Yoxey as a Pueblo County representative on the board. Pueblo has two other directors on the board, Vera Ortegon and David Simpson.

    Edelmann retired in 2011, and spent most of his career in the Pueblo USGS office studying the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek. He frequently presented USGS reports and studies to the Southeastern board during his career.

    Mitchell, 55, replaces Greg Johnson. Mitchell worked for Colorado Springs Utilities for 30 years before joining Fountain Utilities five years ago.

    “I was involved with the startup of the Fountain Valley Authority, so I have a lot of interest as a water professional in the startup of the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” Mitchell said.

    Building the conduit, which will serve 40 communities east of Pueblo, is the district’s top priority.

    Long, 59, a business owner and Bent County commissioner, is president of the board. He was appointed to the board in 2002.

    Nichols, 68, an economist and treasurer of the board, was appointed in 2006. Her father, Sid Nichols, was a charter member of the board.

    Goodwin, 61, a farmer and rancher, was first appointed in 2011. His father, Denzel Goodwin, was a longtime member of the board.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy coverage here.


    The Spring 2014 Water Information Program newsletter is hot off the presses

    March 31, 2014
    US Drought Monitor March 25, 2014

    US Drought Monitor March 25, 2014

    Click here to read the newsletter.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit backers hope to make deal for excess capacity in the Pueblo Dam south outlet works soon

    March 27, 2014
    Pueblo Dam

    Pueblo Dam

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A plan is hatching to get pipe in the ground ahead of schedule for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. It would reduce the initial costs of the project and allow some negotiations to proceed even with a reduced amount of federal funding, said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, project sponsor.

    “We were under the impression that all the money had to be in place up front before negotiations began, but the Bureau of Reclamation decided that’s not the case,” Broderick said. “If those negotiations are successful, we’ve got pipe in the ground and the conduit can begin to move ahead.”

    That means Reclamation will be able to begin negotiations with the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs Utilities for use of the joint use pipeline that leads from the south outlet of Pueblo Dam to the Whitlock Treatment Plant.

    The Pueblo water board owns the pipeline and the treatment plant. Colorado Springs Utilities paid the water board $3.5 million to upsize the pipeline by one foot in diameter, planning to use it for the Southern Delivery System. Since that time, SDS has taken a different route to move water from Lake Pueblo through the north outlet on the dam, and would not need the additional capacity.

    The pipeline from the south outlet has a total capacity of 248 million gallons per day. Of that, 40 mgd is reserved to serve Comanche power plant and 140 mgd to serve Pueblo.

    By paying to upsize the pipeline, Colorado Springs reserved 68 mgd, but the conduit would only require 14 mgd, said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo water board.

    Reclamation also must negotiate with the Pueblo water board for locating a treatment plant at Whitlock to filter water used in the Arkansas Valley Conduit. By moving those discussions ahead, the federal cost will be reduced from $12 million to about $3 million in the coming year, but more funds would be required to begin actual design work, Broderick said.

    Meanwhile, Colorado lawmakers continue to fight for more federal funding.

    During a U.S. House committee hearing this week, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., told Reclamation officials the conduit is a high priority.

    “The members of the Colorado delegation are committed to the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation knows that this project offers an effective regional answer to meeting federally mandated Safe Drinking Act standards,” said Tipton.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Flows in the Arkansas River above Lake Pueblo = 270 cfs, Reclamation realeasing water from Turquoise and Twin Lakes #ColoradoRiver

    March 23, 2014
    Pueblo dam spilling

    Pueblo dam spilling

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Flows in the Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam increased slightly with the end of winter water storage this week, but not significantly. The reason is that water continues to be released for the Pueblo flow management program and much of the winter water was stored in downstream reservoirs, including on the Colorado Canal, the Fort Lyon and in John Martin Reservoir.

    “The movement of the agricultural water is a side benefit to the Arkansas River flows through Pueblo,” said Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer.

    Winter water stored about 101,000 acrefeet this year, but only about 27,000 acre-feet were stored in Lake Pueblo. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.

    Flows in the Arkansas River at Avondale were about 320 cubic feet per second this week, about the same as during the two weeks preceding the end of the winter water program. One cubic foot of water is about the same volume as a basketball.

    Meanwhile, flows above Lake Pueblo in the Arkansas River have increased in recent weeks because the Bureau of Reclamation is making room in Turquoise and Twin Lakes for Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water. The March 1 forecast predicts about 73,000 acre-feet will be moved across the Continental Divide this year. But that can increase or decrease, depending on snowpack, said Roy Vaughan, Fry-Ark manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.

    Repairs have been completed on the Mt. Elbert hydropower plant, allowing for full operation of Fry-Ark systems.

    Releases from the upper reservoirs are adding about 270 cfs to the Arkansas River above Pueblo, which is running at twice the rate it was three weeks ago.

    John Martin Reservoir back in the day nearly full

    John Martin Reservoir back in the day nearly full

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Flows into John Martin Reservoir have not been reduced by the winter water storage program on the Arkansas River, according to an analysis by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. The issue is of concern because of questions raised by Kansas during court cases against Colorado over the Arkansas River Compact. John Martin Reservoir, completed in 1948, regulates flows between the two states under the compact.

    “We’ve never showed them evidence that they’ll buy into about the winter water program, but we keep trying,” division engineer Steve Witte told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday.

    The winter water storage program allows irrigation flows to be stored from Nov. 15 to March 15, and ended last week. This year, about 101,000 acre-feet were stored at various locations and will be divided among ditch companies east of Pueblo.

    The analysis looked at diversions by ditches in Colorado from 1950-1975 and from 1976-2013. Winter water began as a voluntary program in 1976 and was later formalized in a water court decree.

    “There hasn’t been any significant change as a result of winter water,” Witte said.

    Diversions above John Martin totaled 72 percent to 77 percent in the 1950-1975 period, and were about 75 percent in the 1976-2013 period. Past analysis of the water levels in John Martin showed little difference in pre-winter water and post-winter water years. But those types of studies don’t explain changes because of operational changes or drought. The new study also looked at potential differences in wet, dry and average years, but found none, Witte said.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Seeking adequate appropriations from the feds

    March 21, 2014
    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Sponsors are working to increase funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit in next year’s federal budget. The conduit recently received the green light to proceed from the Bureau of Reclamation, which released a record of decision on Feb. 27 for it, a master storage contract and an interconnect on Pueblo Dam. But the approval did not translate into funding when President Barack Obama released his budget one week later and included only $500,000 for the conduit.

    “We were disappointed in the dollars,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor of all three projects. He spoke at Thursday’s monthly board meeting.

    The conduit has $3.1 million in funding this year, which includes $2.1 million that was not spent in past years. To keep it on pace for construction sometime in the next decade would require at least $7 million to $10 million, Broderick said. Last year Reclamation internally shifted $44 million for projects, but it’s too soon to tell how much could be available this year.

    “There is a lot of activity, particularly because of the drought in California,” Broderick said. “We have to keep the pressure on.”

    To do that, officials will again travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby Department of Interior and Bureau of Reclamation officials as well as Congress. Last week, Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, and Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, Republicans, called for more funding to support the conduit.

    “We have to realize this is the president’s budget. Congress sees it a different way,” said lobbyist Ray Kogovsek, a former congressman. “I would say we can certainly get more than $500,000.”

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


    Southern Delivery System on track to be online in 2016

    March 20, 2014
    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    he Southern Delivery System is on course to begin operating in 2016.

    “It will be complete for testing purposes in 2015,” SDS Permit Manager Mark Pifher told the Lower Arkansas Conservancy District in an impromptu update Wednesday.

    SDS is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. When completed, it will serve Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West. Nearly all of the pipeline is in the ground, and construction has begun at three pumping stations, including one near Pueblo Dam, Pifher said. While all parts of SDS will be complete by next year, the system will require months of testing before it is put into use.

    “When it’s finished, the water won’t be delivered,” Pifher said. “It won’t be pushing water to customers until 2016.”

    The Lower Ark district has been in negotiations for years with Colorado Springs on the impacts of SDS, particularly increased flows on Fountain Creek. Pifher updated the Lower Ark board on the progress of stormwater meetings in Colorado Springs.

    A committee of El Paso County citizens is working toward putting a stormwater enterprise proposal on the November ballot. Fees would be about the same as under the former enterprise, which Colorado Springs City Council abolished in 2009, Pifher said.

    The Lower Ark board also got a review of the U.S. Geological Survey of dams on Fountain Creek from USGS Pueblo office chief David Mau. Noting the study was funded by Colorado Springs (under its 1041 agreement with Pueblo County), Pifher said an alternative for 10 side detention ponds south of Fountain held the most promise for reducing flood impacts on Pueblo. Pifher also downplayed the immediate impacts of SDS on Fountain Creek.

    “When we turn it on, it will carry 5 million-10 million gallons per day,” Pifher said.

    Over 50 years, that will increase flows up to 96 million gallons per day.

    “It will take some time to grow into demand on that system,” Pifher said.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Aspinall Unit update: 350 cfs in the Black Canyon #ColoradoRiver

    March 17, 2014
    Fog-filled Black Canyon of the Gunnison

    Fog-filled Black Canyon of the Gunnison

    From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    Flows in the Gunnison River have dropped to ~350 cfs today to accommodate the sonar mapping exercise at the Crystal Dam stilling basin.

    Maintenance and testing of both power generators at Blue Mesa Dam will also start today – this is scheduled to be finished within 10 days. During this time there will be no power generation at Blue Mesa Dam. In order to minimize the amount of bypass water at Blue Mesa Dam, releases at Crystal Dam will remain at 300 cfs until the Blue Mesa power plant is back online. Therefore flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will continue to be around 350 cfs until further notice.

    More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


    President’s $1 Billion Reclamation Budget for FY 2015 Underscores Water & Power as Economic Drivers in the West

    March 17, 2014
    A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam -- Photo USBR

    A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam — Photo USBR

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan DuBray):

    President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request released today identifies a total of $1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation, continuing the President’s commitment to be prudent with taxpayer dollars while setting consistent spending priorities for Reclamation. As the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier and second-largest producer of hydroelectric power, Reclamation’s projects and programs are critical to driving and maintaining economic growth in the western states.

    “This budget reflects not only the President’s vision of opportunity and growth but also his strong commitment to meet water delivery requirements in the West in the face of dry conditions and a changing climate,” said acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley. “With this request, we are reinforcing our commitment to promote efficient water deliveries and power generation, implement critical river and environmental restoration programs, continue our focus on water-related activities to support tribal nations, and stretch water supplies through recycling and conservation.”

    The proposal for Reclamation’s Water and Related Resources account of $760.7 million includes $343.5 million for resource management and development activities. This funding provides for planning, construction, water conservation activities, management of Reclamation lands – including recreation – and actions to address the impacts of Reclamation projects on fish and wildlife. The request also emphasizes reliable water delivery and power generation by requesting $417.2 million to fund operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation activities at Reclamation facilities, including dam safety initiatives.

    The budget emphasizes Reclamation’s core mission to address the water needs of a growing population in an environmentally responsible and cost-efficient manner and to assist states, tribes and local entities in solving water resource issues. It also emphasizes the operation and maintenance of Reclamation facilities in a safe, efficient, economic and reliable manner – ensuring systems and safety measures are in place to protect the public and Reclamation facilities.

    Reclamation’s funding request addresses administration, departmental and bureau priorities, including opportunities to enhance America’s Great Outdoors through ecosystem restoration, renewable energy, water conservation through the WaterSMART Program, to strengthen tribal nations, and engage the next generation of Americans in resource-related issues.

    WaterSMART Program – The FY 2015 budget for Reclamation proposes $52.1 million for the WaterSMART Program (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) to assist communities in stretching water supplies and improving water management. WaterSMART components include: WaterSMART Grants funded at $19 million; the Basin Studies Program funded at $3.9 million; the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program funded at $21.5 million; the Water Conservation Field Service program funded at $4.5 million; the Cooperative Watershed Management program funded at $250,000; the new Drought Response program funded at $1.5 million; and the new Resilient Infrastructure program funded at $1.5 million.

    Strengthening Tribal Nations – The FY 2015 Budget proposes $90 million for Indian Water Rights Settlements, in a new account of the same name to ensure continuity in the construction of four of the authorized projects and to highlight and enhance transparency in handling these funds. The budget includes $81 million for the ongoing Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project (Title X of Public Law 111-11). The budget also includes $9 million to continue implementation of three settlements authorized in the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. These settlements will deliver clean water to the Taos Pueblo of New Mexico, the Pueblos of New Mexico named in the Aamodt case, and the Crow Tribe of Montana.

    The budget request proposes to transition the Central Utah Project Completion Act Program into the Bureau of Reclamation as part of broader administration efforts to implement good government solutions, ensure consistent treatment of federal water projects, consolidate activities when possible and reduce duplication and overlap. The FY 2015 CUPCA budget is $7.3 million.

    Specifics of the budget request include:

    America’s Great Outdoors Initiative – Reclamation has a responsibility to focus on the protection and restoration of the aquatic and riparian environments affected by its operations. The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative includes $116 million for Reclamation river restoration projects. Highlights of Reclamation’s ecosystem restoration activities, many of which support Endangered Species Act recovery programs, include:

  • $118.6 million to operate, manage and improve California’s Central Valley Project. More than half of the funding provides for operation and maintenance of project facilities, including $16.4 million for the Replacements, Additions and Extraordinary Maintenance program – which is used for modernization, upgrade and refurbishment of facilities throughout the Central Valley. Within the CVP total, $11.9 million and an additional $2 million in the CVP Restoration Fund are for the Trinity River Restoration Program.
  • $28.3 million for the Lower Colorado River Operations Program, of which $16.2 million is for the Multi-Species Conservation Program to provide long-term ESA compliance for river operations.
  • $32 million for activities consistent with the settlement of Natural Resources Defense Council v. Rodgers as authorized by the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act to restore and maintain fish populations, and avoid adverse water impacts.
  • $22.7 million for ESA recovery implementation programs, including $15.1 million to implement the Platte River Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program and $5.1 million for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.
  • $18 million for the Klamath Project, which supports studies and initiatives to improve water supplies to meet the competing demands of agricultural, tribal, wildlife refuge and environmental needs along with facilities operations and maintenance activities.
  • $37 million for California Bay-Delta Restoration. The account focuses on the health of the Bay-Delta ecosystem and improving water management and supplies. The budget will support the coequal goals of environmental restoration and improved water supply reliability under the following program activities: $1.7 million for a Renewed Federal State Partnership, $8 million for Smarter Water Supply and Use, and $27.4 million for Habitat Restoration. These program activities are based on the Interim Federal Action Plan for the California Bay-Delta issued December 22, 2009.
  • $57 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund to continue funding a variety of activities to restore fish and wildlife habitat and populations within the CVP service area of California.
  • $22.7 million for the Middle Rio Grande Project, of which $7.9 million is targeted to support environmental activities developed through the Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program.
  • $17 million for the Columbia and Snake River Salmon Recovery Project for implementation of the biological opinions for the Federal Columbia River Power System.
  • Other Budget Highlights Include:

  • $34.1 million for rural water projects to undertake the design and construction of five projects and operation and maintenance of tribal features for two projects intended to deliver potable water supplies to specific rural communities and tribes located primarily in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.
  • A total of $11 million for the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, which will continue funding grants to implement conservation measures and monitor the effects of those measures on the river diversions.
  • $82.9 million for the Dam Safety Program to continue dam safety risk management and risk reduction activities throughout Reclamation’s inventory of dams. Corrective actions are planned to start or continue at a number of facilities. A major focus continues to be modifications at Folsom Dam in California.
  • $26.2 million for Reclamation’s ongoing site-security program that includes physical security upgrades at key facilities, guards and patrols, anti-terrorism program activities and security risk assessments.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation, throughout the 17 western states, is committed to helping meet the many water challenges of the West. A driving force behind bureau initiatives is resolution of water issues that will benefit future generations and providing leadership on the path to sustainable water supplies.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.


    Jennifer Gimbel named Reclamation Dep. Commissioner for External & Intergovernmental Affairs

    March 12, 2014

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan DuBray):

    Bureau of Reclamation acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley announced Jennifer Gimbel has been named Reclamation’s Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs. “An important component of carrying out Reclamation’s mission is working with its customers, stakeholders and the public,” said Acting Commissioner Pimley. “Jennifer’s experience working in the water community at the state, regional and federal level will be a valuable asset as we continue to work alongside our partners in the West to confront widening imbalances between water supply and demand.”

    As Deputy Commissioner, Gimbel will oversee Reclamation’s congressional, legislative and public affairs activities. She will also be the executive responsible for Reclamation’s national relationships with federal, state and local governments, as well as citizen organizations and other nongovernmental groups.

    Gimbel returns to Reclamation after serving as Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior where she focused on legislative and legal matters, concentrating on issues regarding the Rio Grande, Salton Sea, California Bay Delta, and the Clean Water Act.

    She came to Interior in 2013 after serving five years as Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board which is the water policy agency for the State of Colorado. As Director, she carried out policies and directives of a citizen board and the administration relating to the conservation, development and utilization of the state’s water resources. She represented Colorado in several interstate activities, including being the Governor’s representative on the Colorado River and as one of his appointees to the Western States Water Council.

    Gimbel previously worked at Reclamation from 2001 until 2008 on a variety of policy and program issues including serving as Chair of the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Working Group. Program areas included operation and maintenance, deferred maintenance, the Water Conservation Field Services Program, drought, hazardous waste, invasive species, water management and planning, and other issues.

    Gimbel’s career also includes experience with the Colorado Attorney General’s office and the Wyoming Attorney General office, where she advised and represented the Attorney General and other state officials regarding interstate water matters, water law and administrative law.

    She has a Bachelor of Science and Juris Doctorate from the University of Wyoming and a Master of Science from the University of Delaware.

    Congratulations Jennifer from all of us here at Coyote Gulch.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Engineering and design requirements = $14 million to keep project on track

    March 12, 2014
    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado’s congressional delegation is calling on the administration and Congress to boost funding levels for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The administration’s budget numbers for the conduit, released late Monday, included just $500,000 for the conduit, which last month received final approval, a record of decision, from the Bureau of Reclamation. But about $14 million is needed to keep engineering and design for the project on track in order to break ground in 2016.

    The project sponsors, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, currently have secured about $3.1 million — which includes carryover funding — to begin work on the conduit.

    The $400 million conduit would include 227 miles of pipeline along a 130-mile route from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads. Along the way it would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities, many of them facing regulatory pressure to improve drinking water quality. The conduit was part of the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but never built because of expense. A renewed effort to build it began about 15 years ago, and culminated in late February when Reclamation issued a record of decision identifying the route of the pipeline through Pueblo and along the Arkansas River.

    The letters were sent to congressional leadership and the Department of Interior Tuesday, just hours after the budget figures were known, by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton, both Republicans. They said the budget for the conduit is insufficient for the second year in a row.

    “The budget numbers released for fiscal year 2014 and 2015 are troubling. At a time when planners are trying to scale up significantly and move forward toward the construction stage, the Administration budget figures have threatened to delay work on this critical priority,” the letter stated.

    The lawmakers called the Conduit a “top priority” and reminded the Administration and the Appropriations Committees that “the federal government has repeatedly promised to build this Conduit.”

    The budget numbers likely were prepared last year, before the conduit had a record of decision in place, so they could conceivably be improved, say some observers.

    The $14 million would complete design and engineering work, which includes connection to the south outlet of Pueblo Dam, initial filtering at the Pueblo Board of Water Works Whitlock Plant, routing the pipeline south of Pueblo by the Comanche power plant and construction that basically follows the north side of the Arkansas River to Lamar. There are numerous spurs and loops along the way that deliver water to communities in Pueblo, Crowley, Otero, Bent, Prowers and Kiowa counties.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Reclamation approves cross-connection for the North and South outlet works

    March 9, 2014
    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Ever since it began storing water 40 years ago, the Pueblo Dam has been evolving as the needs of water users change. The next step will integrate the south outlet works with the newly constructed north outlet works on the face of the dam to provide more reliability to the urban populations that depend on Lake Pueblo as a source of water. The cross-connection is part of the package approved last week by the Bureau of Reclamation. Other pieces are the Arkansas Valley Conduit and a master contract for some members of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    “We get a better quality of water coming out of the reservoir. That cuts down on chemicals used for taste and odor issues,” said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

    The cross-connection will allow users of both outlets to continue using the dam when one outlet or the other is closed in an emergency or for planned maintenance.

    “When one goes down, you can pull from the other side and still get part of your water,” Book said.

    The dam was completed in 1974, but the south outlet — as the name implies, is on the south side of the Arkansas River — wasn’t used until 1983, when Pueblo West took its initial diversion of water. Two years later, the Fountain Valley Conduit, which serves Colorado Springs and four nearby water providers, began drawing from the south outlet. Pueblo hooked onto the south outlet in 2002, after gaining a license in 2000. The south outlet also supplies the Pueblo fish hatchery, operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    The north outlet — formerly the primary outlet for the Arkansas River — was completed last year as part of the Southern Delivery System, which will begin serving Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West in 2016.

    The Southeastern district, Colorado Springs and Pueblo water board are jointly developing a hydropower project at the north outlet works, which also continues to provide water to the Arkansas River.

    There also are three gates that can empty water into the basin below the dam when the north outlet is closed. The Bessemer Ditch also has a direct connection to Pueblo Dam.

    Before the interconnect is constructed, it would require a 40-year contract between Reclamation and those parties using the outlets.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Master storage contract next activity for project

    March 5, 2014
    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit is years away, but other parts of last week’s federal record of decision to approve the project are expected to move more quickly. But not too quickly, as sponsors are watching to see how pieces fall in place. The record decision by the Bureau of Reclamation also cleared the way for a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo and an interconnection at Pueblo Dam between the north and south outlets.

    “Once you have signed the record of decision, those discussions can start,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor for all three projects. “But we don’t want to move too quickly.”

    The master contract is likely the first piece to move forward. It will allow communities within the Southeastern District to secure up to 30,000 acrefeet of storage through the year 2060. The storage is possible because Lake Pueblo seldom fills to capacity with water brought across the Continental Divide under the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. So-called excess capacity contracts allow water users to store other water in Lake Pueblo. The long-term contract would provide more certainty that the space will be reserved than one-year contracts as well as flexibility between wet and dry years.

    In recent years, 37 water districts and cities indicated they wanted to be a part of the contract — 25 also are conduit participants. The other 12 include water users in Fremont, Pueblo counties aren’t part of the conduit, but anticipate the need for storage. Among them, Pueblo West, Security and Fountain are seeking to partner in the contract, even though they already have contracts under Southern Delivery System.

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also wants storage for projects such as the Super Ditch.

    “We need to sit down with all of them and say, ‘All right, this is what we studied. Now how much are you going to need?’ ” Broderick said.

    Another reason for waiting to begin negotiations is to see how similar talks are progressing. In 2010, Broderick watched with interest as SDS participants, led by Colorado Springs, learned that Reclamation was changing its basis for the contract from cost of service to a market-based approach. Right now, Reclamation is negotiating a similar contract with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Broderick plans to sit in on those public meetings to see what he can learn.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Senator Udall introduces bill to raise the authorization cap on Reclamation’s WaterSMART program

    March 4, 2014

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    From The Durango Herald (Katie Fiegenbaum):

    One federal program implemented through the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water management, has been providing water-sustainability grants to states, tribes, local governments and nongovernmental organizations since 2010. The WaterSMART program, which stands for Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow, provides grants as well as resources and expertise in 17 Western states.

    However, the program is authorized to spend only $200 million on the grants. Without raising the funding cap, the program will end in the near future.

    A bill introduced Feb. 12 to the Senate and co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., would raise the authorization ceiling for the water-conservation grants through 2023. Funds still would need to be requested through the normal budgetary process.

    “Population growth and widespread drought are forcing us to do more with less water. Now more than ever, it’s essential that we make every drop count,” Udall said in a statement last week. “These programs are helping our communities develop the technology we need to conserve water, save energy and cut costs.”

    The program has saved 734,000 acre-feet of water per year since 2010. One acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons of water and will supply slightly more than two single-family households for a year.

    Dean Marrone, WaterSMART program coordinator, says the program consistently has too little funding for the number of applications it receives. It provides 50-50 cost-share grants, meaning half the money for the project must be provided by the organization requesting funds, mainly to upgrade water infrastructure…

    Southwest Colorado has seen a fair amount of WaterSMART projects.

    In 2013, the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association received a $38,758 grant through the program for head-gate automation, remote monitoring and other upgrades.

    Steve Fletcher, manager of the association, applied for the grant to modernize its water system and make it more efficient using updated technology. Fletcher said he already has applied for another grant this year that would provide $850,000 for hydroelectricity projects.

    The Dolores Water Conservancy District received $118,351 through the program to line its leaking clay canals and restore total efficiency to the water delivery system in 2010. It also recently received a $25,000 cost-share grant to help update its strategic plan and guide its work for the next five to 10 years…

    The bill currently is in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, on which Udall serves. A hearing was held Thursday before the Water and Power Subcommittee, where Robert Quint, senior adviser for the Bureau of Reclamation, spoke about the importance of the project…

    Under the bill, the WaterSMART program also would be reauthorized to provide grants to state water resource agencies to continue to develop a National Water Census through the U.S. Geological Survey. This authority expired in 2013.

    The program also pays for studies of major rivers that provide information about future water availability and recommendations for the future. A Colorado River Basin study was completed at the end of 2012.

    The bill also makes sure the WaterSMART program will prioritize projects that prevent and combat drought.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Reclamation issues record of decision

    March 4, 2014
    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    It would make sense to include as few turns as possible in a mostly gravity-fed pipeline from Point A to Point B. But the realities of geography, land ownership and a complex network of large and small water districts make the Arkansas Valley Conduit a much more complicated proposition.

    The Bureau of Reclamation signed off on a record of decision last week that clears the way for the conduit to be built, once funding is approved by Congress. While the main trunk of the conduit will run 130 miles, spurs and loops will increase its total length to 227 miles under the concept approved by Reclamation.

    “The total includes everything, all the pipes to where the water providers have facilities to do final treatment and deliver the water,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the conduit.

    The pipe, all of which will be buried underground, will range in size from 36 inches to just 4 inches as it delivers water to 40 sites serving 50,000 people. An estimated 10,256 acre-feet of water will be delivered annually through the system to large users such as St. Charles Mesa, La Junta and Lamar, to smaller water companies that use only a fraction as much water.

    The most circuitous reach of the pipeline will be used in moving the water from Pueblo Dam to its first stop at St. Charles Mesa. It will first flow from the south outlet on the dam to the Pueblo Board of Water Works’ Whitlock Treatment Plant on the north side of the Arkansas River. From there, the pipeline will run south, again crossing the Arkansas River, through City Park to Thatcher Avenue. It will cross to the west side of Pueblo Boulevard somewhere along Elmwood Golf Course and then head to the prairies west of Pueblo along Red Creek Springs Road, then jog south, under the conceptual plan included in Reclamation’s study.

    “Any time you get out into rural land, it drops the cost and cuts down the time needed for construction,” Broderick said.

    The pipeline will swing east by the Comanche Power plant, then head north to the St. Charles treatment plant, and then north to Avondale and Boone (crossing the Arkansas River again). Spurs will take water to six districts in Crowley County and 24 districts in Otero County. Near the end of the line, the conduit will head about 25 miles north to Eads. While the total cost of the conduit is estimated to be about $400 million, the engineering phase is expected to be about $28 million.

    “A lot depends on which segments we are working on,” Broderick said.

    Getting a stream of federal funding to begin that process is a top priority for the Southeastern district.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


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