“…we have a lot of communities on a diminishing aquifer” — Eric Hecox

May 11, 2014

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From The Denver Post (Steve Raabe):

The shimmering surface of Rueter-Hess reservoir seems out of place in arid Douglas County, where almost all of the water resources are in aquifers a quarter-mile under ground.

Yet the $195 million body of water, southwest of Parker, is poised to play a crucial role in providing water to one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the U.S.

As recently as a few years ago, developers were content to tap the seemingly abundant Denver Basin aquifer to serve the thousands of new homes built each year along the southern edge of metro Denver.

But a problem arose. As homebuilding in Douglas County exploded, the groundwater that once seemed abundant turned out to be finite. Land developers and utilities found that the more wells they drilled into the aquifer, the more grudgingly it surrendered water.

“Now we have a lot of communities on a diminishing aquifer,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, a consortium of 14 water suppliers that serve 300,000 residents.

As water pressure in the Denver Basin steadily declines, developers and water utilities that rely on the aquifer are being forced to drill more wells and pump harder from existing wells.

Enter Rueter-Hess. The massive storage facility — 50 percent larger in surface area than Cherry Creek reservoir — aims to help developers wean themselves from groundwater by shifting to other sources.

The reservoir anchors a multifaceted water plan for the south metro area that includes the purchase of costly but replenishable surface water, reuse of wastewater and a greater emphasis on conservation.

Douglas County, long a magnet for builders enticed by easy access to Denver Basin aquifers, is taking the water issue seriously.

A new proposal floated by the county government would give developers density bonuses — up to 20 percent more buildout — for communities that reduce typical water consumption and commit to using renewable sources for at least half of their water.

“In the past, the county had not taken an active role in water supplies because groundwater was sufficient,” said Douglas County Commissioner Jill Repella. “But we understand that we cannot continue to be solely reliant on our aquifers. What we’re doing today will help us plan for the next 25 years.”

Parker Water and Sanitation District launched construction of Rueter-Hess in 2006 and began gradually filling the reservoir in 2011, fed by excess surface and alluvial well flows in Cherry Creek.

Partners in the project include Castle Rock, Stonegate and the Castle Pines North metropolitan district. Parker Water and Sanitation district manager Ron Redd said he expects more water utilities to sign on for storage as they begin acquiring rights to surface water.

The chief source of new supplies will be the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership, or WISE, in which Denver Water and Aurora Water will sell an average of 7,250 acre-feet a year to 10 south-metro water suppliers beginning in 2016. Most of them are expected to purchase storage for the new water in Rueter-Hess. An acre-foot is generally believed to be enough to serve the needs of two families of four for a year

Parker Water and Sanitation also is exploring ways to develop recreational uses at the dam — including hiking, camping, fishing and nonmotorized boating — through an intergovernmental agreement with other Douglas County entities.

Even three years after opening, the reservoir’s stored water has reached just 13 percent of its 75,000-acre-foot capacity. Yet Rueter-Hess is the most visible icon in Douglas County’s search for water solutions.

At stake is the ability to provide water for a county that in the 1990s and early 2000s perennially ranked among the fastest-growing in the nation. The number of homes in Douglas County has soared from 7,789 in 1980 to more than 110,000 today, an astounding increase of more than 1,300 percent.

The building boom slowed after the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009. Growth rates that had reached as high as 10 percent to 15 percent a year during the 1990s ratcheted down to about 1 percent to 2 percent.

But as the economy has begun recovering, Douglas County is once again “seeing high levels of demand” for new residential development, said assistant director of planning services Steve Koster.

One of the biggest Douglas County projects in decades is Sterling Ranch, a proposed community of 12,000 homes south of Chatfield State Park.

The 3,400-acre ranch sits on the outer fringes of the Denver Basin aquifer, making it a poor candidate for reliance on the basin’s groundwater.

As a result, the project developer will employ a mixed-bag of water resources, including an aggressive conservation and efficiency plan; surface-water purchases from the WISE program; well water from rights owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz; and a precedent-setting rainwater-collection program.

Sterling Ranch managing director Harold Smethills described the Rueter-Hess concept as “brilliant,” even though his development has not yet purchased any of the reservoir’s capacity.

“You just can’t have enough storage,” he said.

More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here. More Denver Basin Aquifer System coverage here.


Parker diverts 240 acre-feet of water so far into Rueter-Hess under free river

September 28, 2013
Rhode Island Hotel 1908 Parker via Best of Parker

Rhode Island Hotel Parker (1908) via Best of Parker

From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

The Parker Water and Sanitation District is taking advantage of the wet weather by using its diversion dam on Cherry Creek near Stroh Road. In the last two weeks, it has helped redirect 240 acre-feet of rainwater into Rueter-Hess. That’s 78,204,342 gallons, courtesy of Mother Nature. It’s among the few upsides to the soaking rains that have resulted in historic floods, displacing thousands in the north metro area, decimating roads and homes and taking eight lives along the way…

The PWSD, for the first time this year, raised its diversion structure and pulled off as much as 10,000 gallons per minute during the peak of the first day of storms. Then, just as the weekend was approaching, Cherry Creek was “called out” — in other words, those with downstream water rights declared their privileges to the flows, said Ron Redd, district manager for the PWSD. “We were pulling quite a bit off for a while,” he said. “When they put the call out, it was frustrating with all of that flooding.”

The district worked with a local water commissioner, who grants requests from water rights owners, and was able to lift the restrictions the following day. “We’ve been pumping ever since then,” Redd said.

Some of the rainwater has entered Rueter-Hess through Newlin Gulch, the drainage channel into which the reservoir was built. But much of the work has been done with the diversion dam, which was finished in 2006. It has gotten little use in recent years because of the low water level in Cherry Creek; the PWSD, however, captures alluvial flows from the creek.

The reservoir is a tool for the district to store excess flows, but if there is a call out on the river, the district must release that water, as it did last summer after heavy rains deluged northern Castle Rock, Franktown and areas south of Parker.

More Rueter-Hess coverage here and here.


Parker signs on to the WISE project for future supplies

June 27, 2013

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Parker Water joins nine other members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority that have signed on to WISE, or the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency agreement. The June 13 approval by the PWSD board of directors adds another source of water for the area’s long-term needs, said district manager Ron Redd.

Parker Water pulls much of its water supply from the Denver Basin Aquifer, but it also captures an average of 5,000 acre-feet annually off Cherry Creek. The WISE agreement will have Parker piping 12,000 acre-feet of recycled water from Aurora and Denver every 10 years for an indefinite period of time.

Water rates will likely go up 1 percent to 2 percent incrementally because of WISE, although any increases will not occur until a thorough rate analysis is conducted, Redd said. The results of the analysis will be released in mid-2014.

The PWSD will start receiving the first trickles of water in 2016 and get full delivery of 1,200 acre-feet starting in 2021. The district hopes to use an existing pipeline along the E-470 corridor to transport the water and is in the process of negotiating with the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District. If an agreement is not reached, the district would have to build its own infrastructure at a steep cost…

The supply coming from Denver and Aurora is water that has been used and treated. The district will again reclaim the water, meaning the average of 1,200 acre-feet coming in each year will actually measure close to 2,400 acre-feet, Redd said, adding there is a possibility that Parker Water might purchase more WISE water in the future…

Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which the PWSD built for storage, contains around 6,000 acre-feet. By the time the new water treatment plant off Hess Road opens in 2015, the reservoir will contain 15,000 to 20,000 acre-feet. It has the capacity for 72,000 acre-feet.

More Parker coverage here and here.


Parker Water and Sanitation District board is evaluating joining with Aurora and Denver in the WISE project

April 29, 2013

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

The Parker Water and Sanitation District board of directors will hear a presentation later this month from new manager Ron Redd, who will recommend that the district enter into WISE, the Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project. Six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, including Pinery Water and Wastewater, the Cottonwood Water and Sanitation District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, committed to WISE by signing intergovernmental agreements in late March. The agreements will bring nearly 7,000 acre-feet of recycled water to the south metro area…

The Parker Water and Sanitation District board asked Redd to examine the possibility of buying 500, 1,000 or 1,500 acre-feet through the WISE project. He was expecting to receive the results of a cost analysis on April 5 to determine the possible financial impacts. Any rate hikes on customers would likely be implemented incrementally and equate to about 2.5 percent to 3 percent per year, Redd said, cautioning that those figures are preliminary. The cost of WISE water increases annually over an eight-year period.

It would be relatively easy, Redd said, to move the reclaimed WISE water from Aurora to Parker if the district can come to an agreement to use a pipeline along E-470 owned by East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District. If the board gives approval, the intergovernmental agreement would be signed by late May…

Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which contains 5,700 acre-feet of water and was built to store 70,000 acre-feet, will be paid off by the time the Parker Water and Sanitation District takes on more debt to build pipelines to transport the water that will be needed for the future.

Meanwhile, Centennial has inked an IGA with the WISE Partnership. Here’s a report from Ryan Boldrey writing for the Highlands Ranch Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

Centennial Water and Sanitation District was one of six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority to sign an IGA this past week committing to more renewable water by way of the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership. Through the agreement, Aurora Water and Denver Water will provide roughly 7,000 acre-feet of fully treated water annually to participating SMWSA members and deliver it in phases, starting in 2016. As part of the IGA, the participating South Metro WISE entities have agreed to fund new infrastructure that will move the water from Aurora’s Binney Water Purification Facility to its end locations. “A region-wide water solution makes more sense than having each water entity fending for themselves to source, treat and deliver renewable water to customers,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of SMWSA. “We’re excited about the progress we’re making through WISE towards transitioning the region from nonrenewable groundwater to renewable water.”

Hecox said that the agreement helps provide SMWSA with about a third of the necessary water that participating entities will need long-term. From here, work will continue on the Chatfield Reallocation Project as well as of other options and alternatives to bring more water to the region…

For Centennial Water specifically, it’s another step toward cementing a long-term supply and not relying as much on groundwater or leased water. “We’ve got many years of full supply, but some of that full supply comes from leases that are not long-term,” said Centennial Water and Sanitation District General Manager John Hendrick. “We want to add to our portfolio with long-term or near-permanent surface water sources…

Other SMWSA members committing to the project at this time are Cottonwood Water, Meridian Metropolitan District, Pinery Water, Rangeview Metropolitan District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District. Hecox said he expects Dominion, Inverness, Castle Rock and Parker water districts to sign the IGA by the end of April. SMWSA members not expected to take part in the IGA include: Castle Pines Metro, Castle Pines North, East Cherry Creek Valley, and Arapahoe.

More WISE coverage here.


Castle Rock still wants WISE Partnership water but there are worries about rates

February 28, 2013

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From the Castle Rock News-Press (Rhonda Moore):

Castle Rock’s utilities department on Feb. 19 updated councilmembers on the Water and Supply Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency agreement for the purchase of water from Denver and Aurora. The agreement is a partnership with 10 members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Castle Rock in January selected WISE as one of two solutions for its long-term water supply. WISE has been on the map since February 2008, when the WISE partnership signed an intergovernmental agreement with Denver Water and Aurora Water.

Since the town began its analysis, rate increases from Denver and Aurora prompted Castle Rock to order another rates and fees feasibility study. The rate structure in the WISE agreement is one of the greater considerations, said Heather Beasley, water resources manager. Since 2011, the WISE delivery rate has increased about 20 cents per thousand gallons, Beasley said. Aurora also added a temporary surcharge between 17 and 51 cents per thousand gallons, Beasley reported. “It sounds small, but we could be talking (potentially) millions in increase for our residents,” said Mayor Paul Donahue. “We are concerned about being able to control that rate.”[...]

Other factors impacting WISE are negotiations among Western Slope providers, who must sign off to allow Denver and Aurora to sell the water to the WISE partners; targeting the pipeline infrastructure to get the water from Aurora to the south metro service area; and meeting the terms of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit amendment requirements to store the water in Rueter-Hess.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


Parker: ‘They don’t go dry out there’ — Ken Wright

January 12, 2013

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Back when Governor Hickenlooper was first on the scene as Mayor Hickenlooper he hosted a series about water at the Museum of Nature and Science. Ken Wright was on hand to introduce Frank Jaeger, the General Manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District.

“They don’t go dry out there,” said Wright. That’s the ultimate compliment for a water provider.

Mr. Jaeger is now officially retired. Here’s report the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

“I’ve always understood that I had a reputation, a sort of toughness. It intimidated people, and I let it intimidate some people when it was necessary for the benefit of the district,” he says. “If people want to denigrate me for that fact, I don’t care.”

Despite departing earlier than expected — Jaeger frequently pledged to retire when he died, but was forced out after a change in board leadership — the 67-year-old is leaving with his head held high. He said he never compromised the integrity of the position and has “done all I can do for Parker Water.”

At the recommendation of a neighbor, Jaeger joined the board of directors for the fledgling, financially troubled PWSD in 1981. He soon became its manager and was instrumental in turning around a district that was headed in the wrong direction. Since that time, Jaeger has slowly built up the district’s infrastructure, received permission to divert excess flows from Cherry Creek, and got public authorization to build Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which at the time was the first federally approved off-stream reservoir in more than 20 years.

Jaeger, of Elizabeth, plans to enjoy his retirement by golfing (without keeping score), hunting, fishing and taking vacations with his wife, but will continue to offer guidance on water issues that affect Colorado. He is a lifetime member of the Colorado Water Congress and will regularly visit the Capitol to review the merits of proposed legislation.

“They know I won’t be silent and will give honest opinions,” he said.

More Parker coverage here.


Missouri River Reuse Project from Reclamation would water the Front Range and help the Ogallala aquifer

December 6, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A pipeline from the Missouri River to Colorado’s Front Range has the potential to bring water to two states — and into the Arkansas River basin — but has not been on the table in Colorado water discussions.

The Missouri River reuse option is being considered as one of about 100 proposals that would relieve pressure on diversion of water from the Colorado River basin. The Bureau of Reclamation began the study in 2009 to assess future supply and demand along the Colorado River and a final report should be coming out this month. Pueblo and other Front Range communities import water from the Colorado River basin each year, so new supplies could reduce that demand. The reuse would provide water to depleted aquifers across Kansas through diversion of up to 600,000 acre­feet annually from the Missouri River near Leavenworth, Kan. A description of the project on file with Reclamation indicates some of the water could reach the Arkansas River basin, north of Colorado Springs. It’s unclear from the documents available if the proposal has a sponsor.

The project would cost billions of dollars and likely face political hurdles. Although water would have to be pumped 600 miles and 5,000 feet uphill from Leavenworth in order to reach Denver, Reclamation rates the project as “technically feasible.”

Although specific plans to move water from Flaming Gorge and the Mississippi River, as well as more general options from the Missouri River, have been debated, the Kansas­Colorado plan has eluded discussion within Colorado.

“No, we have not talked about it,” said Gary Barber, chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. Barber also represents the roundtable on the Flaming Gorge Task Force, which has not reviewed the idea.

“We’ve gotten monthly reports on the Colorado River basin study,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “There has not been any discussion of this particular proposal.”

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

Bureau of Reclamation officials on Tuesday said the “Missouri River Reuse Project” will be evaluated for feasibility following the release in coming weeks of a federal government study on water supply for the West.
“The state of Colorado has not taken a formal position on the pipeline or any of the options,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said…

The Missouri diversion described in Bureau of Reclamation documents would require a pipeline across Kansas, with water used to fill surface reservoirs and recharge depleted aquifers along the way to metro Denver.
It would convey 600,000 acre-feet of water a year depending on Midwestern needs. An acre-foot has been regarded as enough water to sustain two families of four for a year.

“Water would likely be stored in Front Range reservoirs such as Rueter-Hess, Carter, Barr and Chatfield,” a project summary said. “Colorado may choose to construct new reservoirs or enlarge existing reservoirs for the project.”

Some water could also be directed to the headwaters of the Colorado River Basin through pipelines and tunnels when there is great need to relieve drought in the basin, the summary continued…

The options for importing water reflect widening worries about future shortages. The Colorado River Basin, which spans Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, is the source of water for 30 million people. The government’s three-year Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study has found that within 50 years, the annual water deficit will reach 3.5 million acre-feet.

Bureau of Reclamation officials said their primary purpose was to define current and future imbalances in water supply and demand. They asked stakeholders and agencies across the seven basin states to submit ideas to prevent shortages. States have agreed to consider a Missouri River diversion. Other ideas are destined for an appendix.

Here’s the pitch from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:

The Missouri River Reuse option is a diversion of up to 600,000 AFY of water from the Missouri River for reuse within the Missouri River Basin of Kansas and Colorado. Water would be diverted from the Missouri River only when flows to support navigation and municipal water diversions along the river from Leavenworth, Kansas to Saint Louis, Missouri, are not impaired.

  • 1. Within Kansas, the water would be used to fill surface reservoirs and recharge depleted aquifers in the upper and lower Republican River Basins, Solomon River Basin, and Smoky-Hill/Saline River Basin as determined from assessment of need and feasibility by the Kansas State Water Office in cooperation with the Kansas Division of Water Resources, Army Corps of Engineers, and the States of Colorado and Nebraska. In particular, the water would be used for irrigation and municipal, commercial, and industrial use and to recharge the Ogallala aquifer in western Kansas. Each of these basins (including the Ogallala aquifer in northwest Kansas) is tributary to the Missouri River. The Ogallala aquifer discharges into the Republican River in northeast Colorado and northwest Kansas. Kansas may choose to construct new reservoirs or enlarge existing reservoirs for the project.
  • 2. Along the Front Range of Colorado, the water (totaling 500 cfs or more as Colorado determines)
    would be used for municipal, commercial, and industrial use with return flows allocated for agricultural irrigation use within the South Platte River Basin (a tributary of the Missouri River). Some water could be used to recharge the bedrock aquifers of the Denver Basin. In eastern Colorado, some water could be used for irrigation and municipal use and to recharge the Ogallala aquifer. Water would likely be stored in Front Range reservoir such as Rueter-Hess, Carter, Barr, and Chatfield and in designated alluvial storage along the South Platte River. Colorado may choose to construct new reservoirs or enlarge existing reservoirs for the project.

  • 3. Some water may be available for use outside the Missouri River Basin, particularly that portion of the water in the Missouri River which is non-native (originating as transmountain diversions from the
    Colorado and Arkansas Rivers in Colorado and nontributary Denver Basin ground-water withdrawals). Some of this water could be directed to the Arkansas River in western and central Kansas and in eastern Colorado beginning near Colorado Springs. Some water could also be directed to the headwaters of the Colorado River Basin through pipelines and tunnels when there is great need to relieve drought in the basin provided the navigation and municipal supply flows in the Missouri River are plentiful and other water needs of western Kansas and eastern Colorado are being reasonably satisfied.
  • The location of the Missouri River diversion point is in Leavenworth County, Kansas near the City of Leavenworth. The water would be treated and disinfected at a large treatment plant to be designed and constructed, as necessary, for subsequent conveyance and use. End-user treatment, such as water softening for municipal, commercial, and industrial use, is anticipated.

    Conveyance of water across Kansas and eastern Colorado would be through single or parallel largediameter pipelines located more or less adjacent to I-70. Infrastructure would include a series of highcapacity pumping stations (to be located, sized, and designed). The water conveyance infrastructure (pipeline and pumping stations) would be owned and operated by the Kansas Water Office in cooperation with the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Kansas Division of Water Resources, Colorado Division of Water Resources, Colorado Water Conservation Board, and various public and private stakeholders. The diversion rights would owned by a Kansas entity

    The Missouri River Reuse Project is technically feasible as evidenced by other large diversion projects in the western United States including, but not limited to: (a) the numerous transmountain diversion projects in Colorado that bring tens of thousands of acre-feet of Colorado River and Arkansas River water to the Front Range through numerous tunnels; (b) the Colorado River Aqueduct that brings water from the Colorado River at Parker Dam to Southern California; (c) the Los Angeles Aqueduct that brings water from Owens Valley to Los Angeles; (d) the Central Arizona (canal) Project that brings Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson, and (e) the State Water Project of California that provides irrigation water to farms in the San Joaquin Valley, and is a major source of supply for cities in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties and other parts of southern California. Many of these projects involve the Bureau of Reclamation, Corps of Engineers, and numerous state water resources agencies.

    A similar serious project has been proposed that would divert surface water from the Mississippi River and pump it west into the Colorado River Basin. Another large project has been proposed that would divert about 300,000 of acre-feet of surface water from the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwest Wyoming, pump the water across southern Wyoming along I-80 to Cheyenne and then south into the Denver Basin. Moreover, private energy and pipeline companies have constructed thousands of miles of interstate pipelines that pump vast quantities of natural gas and petroleum products across the United States.

    Legal, engineering and construction costs need to be determined for numerous possible options. Construction costs will likely be in the billions of dollars and would be borne by the various end users — water providers and irrigators in Kansas and Colorado with some participation by the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation. Operating costs must be affordable for irrigators and municipal users for the project to be feasible. In exporting water out-of-state to Colorado, Kansas could charge and collect a reasonable severance tax, as well as the State Water Plan fee.

    The historic 2007 multi-state agreement among the seven Colorado River Basin States governing the future management of the Colorado River provides for the introduction and recovery of non-Colorado River system water and non-Colorado River system water exchanges. The Front Range of Colorado uses about 345,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water each year and releases that water into the South Platte River Basin, which is tributary to the Missouri River. According to the 2004 Colorado Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) report, the South Platte River Basin will need an additional 409,700 acre-feet of water by 2030 due largely to forecasted population increase. Bringing Missouri River reuse water to the Front Range provides an opportunity for Colorado to exchange all or a portion of this water for other water in the Colorado River Basin originating in the State of Colorado (such as from the Yampa, White, and Green Rivers) to the Lower Basin states. This exchange of water would engage the States of California, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico in helping to pay for the project. The federal government would also have a financial interest in the project because of the Colorado River treaty with Mexico.

    The Missouri River Reuse Project could have major interstate impacts on regional and local water supply. Congressional and state legislative approvals will likely be needed with an accompanying environmental impact statement under NEPA. A 404 permit will be needed from the Corps of Engineers including numerous state approvals. Water rights for the diversion will have to be obtained from the Kansas Department of Water Resources and will be held by a Kansas entity.

    Even though the water will be used in Kansas and Colorado, the reuse project will likely have profound and unprecedented positive impacts on the Colorado, Republican, and South Platte River compacts affecting Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and the Colorado River treaty with Mexico. The reuse project could also positively impact the North Platte and Arkansas River compacts involving Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. The State of Missouri will need solid assurance that the flows in the Missouri River will always be sufficient to support navigation and municipal water diversions in the state. A benefit to the states of Missouri and Kansas and Kansas City area water providers is the possible reduced risk of damage from flooding and river degradation.

    The project has numerous options that can be considered in terms of design, construction, operations, and costs. Each of these options needs to be fully explored, which will take time and money. The possible source(s) of funding need to be determined and evaluated. The project is large and will need to engage the cooperation (buy-in) and participation by numerous states and their respective water resources agencies and water providers, the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and various Missouri River stakeholders. Other federal agency cooperation will be needed from the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, US Department of Commerce, US Energy Department, US Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. Considerable risk and uncertainty exists when seeking approval and consensus from such a cadre of stakeholders.

    Historic flows in the Missouri River demonstrate that the river it a reliable source of supply for navigation, irrigation, and municipal supply. Flows vary annually and seasonally. The main stem of the Missouri River is managed by the Corps of Engineers pursuant to an annual operating plan that is focused on flood control, navigation, municipal water supply, recreation, and habitat for fish and wildlife. The historic Missouri River flood of 2011 caused significant river-bottom degradation from Atchison, Kansas to Kansas City, Missouri, breached numerous federal and private levees, and considerable damage to public and private property. A large diversion from the Missouri River would provide another means for the Corps of Engineers to control flooding of the Missouri River in the Kansas City reach. During periods of low flow, projected river diversions would be reduced or suspended. Subsequent water stored in reservoirs west of the diversion point could be released as needed to ensure adequate supplies of water for municipal use, such as along the Kansas River.

    The amount of electrical energy required for operations would be substantial and needs to be determined based on consideration of reasonable design alternatives. Power supply to the pumping stations would be provided by a combination of existing and expanded coal-fired power plants and wind energy as determined most appropriate and feasible by objective engineering and economic analyses.

    Additional water for Kansas and Colorado reservoirs will positively support reservoir recreation activities. The reuse project would likely have a positive affect on the riparian habitat of the lower South Platte River basin, particularly for whooping cranes and other waterfowl in northeast Colorado and southwest Nebraska. Potential impacts on endangered and protected fish and waterfowl along the Missouri River would need to be determined.

    Project alternative studies, engineering, design, construction, legal support, and operations would be a significant economic benefit to the States of Kansas and Colorado in terms of employment and population growth. A large diversion works, treatment plant, and pumping station would likely employ hundreds of skilled workers and engineers in Leavenworth County, Kansas. Pipeline and booster pumping stations would likewise employ hundreds of skilled workers across Kansas and eastern Colorado. Severance tax revenue for state of Kansas from the export of water to Colorado would also be significant. The economic benefit could be similar to the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to the United States or nearly any of the aqueduct projects in California. The project could also yield substantial volumes of new water to the Lower Colorado River Basin states under the Colorado River Compact.

    More Missouri River Reuse Project coverage here.


    Ron Redd named as the new manager for the Parker Water and Sanitation District

    November 17, 2012

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Ron Redd, the longtime utilities director for Castle Rock, was named during a meeting Nov. 15 as the replacement for Frank Jaeger, who has served as district manager for more than 30 years. Redd was present for many of the water district’s most recent notable accomplishments, including the opening of Rueter-Hess Reservoir and Dam. Redd was among the main players in Castle Rock’s agreement to purchase $40 million worth of water storage space in Rueter-Hess, making the town the PWSD’s largest partner on the expansion of the reservoir…

    Wasserman pointed out that certain perks that have come with the district manager’s position in the past will no longer be in place, such as free gas. Jaeger drives a GMC Denali that’s owned by the district, one of the points of contention when the new board members were elected. Redd, who starts his job in early January, will get a $500-a-month auto allowance, along with his $150,500 annual salary.

    Will Mr. Redd take over Mr. Jaeger’s duties with the Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project?.

    More Parker coverage here and here.


    Parker Water and Sanitation: ‘To cut from the budget without understanding what they’re doing is short-sighted’ — Mary Spencer

    July 26, 2012

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Mary Spencer, who was elected to the board of directors in 2006, sent a resignation letter to district manager Frank Jaeger June 29 that highlighted her growing frustration with the board…

    When reached by phone July 16, Spencer said she became tired of her colleagues blaming past boards for a range of issues. Dissenters and “two sitting board members have made a disastrous decision to destroy not only the district but the reputations of past board members,” the letter said…

    During the interview, Spencer also sharply criticized a recent decision to fire the water provider’s longtime lobbyists, whom she says have helped kill legislation that would have cost the district, and therefore ratepayers, millions of dollars. Spencer said the $48,000 that was paid annually to the lobbyists was well worth it. She also bemoaned the recent firing of Floyd Ciruli, a public relations specialist and political analyst who was contracted by the PWSD…

    Spencer, whose term was set to expire in May 2014, said the decision to leave was difficult because she still believes in the district’s mission, but it was “not worth the stress” to deal with the fallout from the attempted board recall in 2009 and subsequent conduct that has had a “detrimental” affect on the water district.

    More Parker coverage here and here.


    Douglas County forms a water and wastewater enterprise to fund infrastructure for renewable supplies

    July 17, 2012

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    From the Castle Rock News Press (Rhonda Moore):

    The board of county commissioners on July 10 established the Douglas County water and wastewater enterprise, opening the door to bring money to the table for long-term water development. The enterprise allows the county to issue revenue bonds secured by future revenues from water providers who pass muster, said Lance Ingalls, county attorney. The enterprise, through state statute, allows the county to issue the revenue bonds to qualifying providers on a project-by-project basis, Ingalls said…

    The authority was focused primarily on advancing the water infrastructure and supply efficiency project that is pivotal to filling the Rueter-Hess reservoir, said Eric Hecox, authority spokesman…

    “This enterprise is opening the door for the county to be a catalyst for partnership to meet our renewable water needs,” Hecox said. “Having a partner as big a player as the county gives us the opportunity to meet our regional long term challenges.”

    The strength of the county’s borrowing power bumps the water game up a notch in Douglas County, said Jill Repella, commissioner, District 2. Repella was part of the conversations with providers who made it clear the county’s role is critical to the success of any effort toward bringing long-term water to Douglas County.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    The Parker Water and Sanitation District board decides to keep Frank Jaeger on the payroll through the transition to his retirement this fall

    June 4, 2012

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Even before the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by the approximately 60 people in attendance at the Parker Water and Sanitation District meeting May 31, chairwoman Darcy Beard announced that the board would be retaining Jaeger indefinitely to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership.

    Just two weeks ago, Jaeger said he believed his days as district manager were numbered. Three new board members were elected May 8 after running on a platform that promised a change in spending habits, transparency and planning. At the five-member board’s first meeting May 17, they stripped management of their ability to sign checks, but stopped short of discontinuing Jaeger’s contract for fear of losing the person with the most intimate knowledge of district operations and plans. The tone early on at the May 31 meeting was conciliatory as Beard cited Jaeger’s “dedication and vision” for making the district one of the more respected water providers in the state. Beard also apologized because she was told that Jaeger “felt my criticism was directed to him personally” during comments she made at the May 17 meeting.

    Jaeger, who has been at the helm of the PWSD for 31 years, wrote a letter to the board that expressed his willingness to pass on his knowledge during an “orderly and well-thought-out” transition period. Jaeger said he wants to schedule a full-day learning session to catch the new board members up to speed on reasons behind water planning policies and update them on growing concerns about the cost of treating wastewater.

    More Parker coverage here.


    Parker: Frank Jaeger retires, 9News exposé contributes to board angst over his continued employment

    May 19, 2012

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    From The Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Frank Jaeger, the Parker Water and Sanitation District’s general manager for 31 years, announced his plans to retire at the end of his contract in December, but some of the newly elected directors proposed immediately terminating his contract, just hours after they were sworn in May 17.

    However, following a discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of losing the person with the most extensive knowledge of the water district’s history and operations, the board members decided to rescind the resolution to fire Jaeger.

    A special executive session, which enables the board to privately discuss sensitive matters, is tentatively scheduled for May 21. Jaeger, who was reached at his office by phone a day after the May 17 meeting, believes the board will likely terminate his contract…

    But Wasserman acknowledged that the board might have acted too hastily with the proposal to terminate Jaeger’s contract. He commended what he calls Jaeger’s “far-sighted” decision to build Rueter-Hess Reservoir, but says the project got too costly and out of control.

    Jaeger, who makes no apologies for his blunt manner of speaking, said he has been unfairly targeted by the new board, the media and members of the public, despite what he sees as 31 years of devotion to “doing what’s best for our customers.”

    Dozens of people attended the May 17 meeting, including Parker Water and Sanitation District employees, who were curious about what would happen to the man who has served as their general manager and been with the district longer than anyone else. Wasserman said it was “understandable” that they might be concerned and said they have no reason to fear losing their jobs.

    From 9News.com:

    Frank Jaeger has managed the Parker Water and Sanitation District since 1981. 9Wants to Know recently revealed that he and other managers were using government credit cards to pay for vehicle upgrades, numerous lunch meetings, and trips for conferences in places like Las Vegas and Florida. These expenses came as the district raised water rates for Parker residents.

    Thursday night, Jaeger announced his retirement, but the new board members still proposed to terminate his contract, effective on Friday…

    9Wants to Know found he and other managers had expenses like:

    • $892 spent on new rims for the District Manager’s Yukon Denali
    • Among dozens of car washes, sometimes several in a week, $560 was spent on a detail job for the District Manager’s Yukon Denali
    • $6,000 spent on 127 lunch meetings attended by water managers, consultants and lawmakers at places like the Brown Palace Hotel.
    • $20,000 spent on trips to Las Vegas, Florida and Washington D.C. for conferences
    • $1,925 paid to marketing consultants to write board member bios

    Jaeger defended those expenses as the cost of doing business and keeping up a clean image for the water utility.

    I wonder if Mr. Jaeger still plans to be the driving force behind the Colorado Wyoming Coalition’s version of the Flaming Gorge Pipeline?

    More Parker coverage here and here.


    Voters ask for policy changes from Parker Water and Sanitation Board

    May 14, 2012

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Tracy Hutchins (2,714 votes), Bill Wasserman (2,572) and Kelly McCurry (2,591) were all voted to the water district’s board of directors May 8. Hutchins and Wasserman have been particularly vocal in their opposition to the board’s way of doing business.

    Kelly McCurry, who has been in the water and sanitation industry for 22 years, believes his expertise could help guide the agency into the future, but also says that spending could be reined in. He said water bills could potentially be lowered through a change in oversight. McCurry said he is frustrated with the seeming lack of transparency while he tried to conduct research…

    “We are really going to work on governance and accountability to the customers,” Hutchins said. “We’re going to do a top-to-bottom analysis of the organization as a whole and do same thing on the financial side.”[...]

    Wasserman, who got involved in a recall election when the district tried to raise rates by 28 percent in 2009, said public input will be a large part of going forward. “Looking at the election results last night, it was a clear mandate from the populace: they want change,” he said.

    More Parker coverage here and here.


    Parker: The quest for a sustainable water supply leads to political fallout over Rueter-Hess Reservoir and water rights purchases

    May 6, 2012

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Tracy Hutchins, who served on Parker Town Council for eight years, has turned her attention to what she believes is negligence by the water district’s top authorities. She is decrying, among other dealings, the $7.7 million investment in farms and water rights in the Sterling area because she says the district has no way to transport the water back to Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a $105 million project that PWSD officials say is vital for storing water for Douglas County’s future. Instead of relying on underground aquifers that are rapidly being depleted, Parker Water planned Rueter-Hess as a mechanism to store water from wet years for use during times of drought. PWSD customers voted in 2004 to approve a bond issue that would use tap fees from ongoing development to pay for the reservoir construction. Hutchins says many Parker residents don’t know that when the real estate market crashed, the ratepayers were suddenly on the hook for the tab, which now stands at $97 million.

    “In the bond election, we said we would use all means and methods necessary, including a tax increase in the event we could not make payments,” said Jim Nikkel, project manager and assistant district manager for PWSD. The quasi-governmental agency raised its mill levy for the 2011 tax year. Nikkel says water rate increases offset rising utility costs and don’t pay for the reservoir debt.

    Hutchins says poor planning has saddled Parker’s water customers with debt, and the reservoir, which was officially opened in March, has only a puddle of water in it.

    More Parker coverage here and here.


    Parker: Rueter-Hess Reservoir is complete, just add water

    April 15, 2012

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    Here’s the announcement from the Parker Water and Sanitation District website:

    What does it take to construct a 72,000 acre-foot reservoir on Colorado’s crowded Front Range during years of belt-tightening and competition for scarce water resources? It takes 25 years of managing complex planning, permitting and construction projects, and more importantly, it takes the vision and tenacity of the water district managers in charge. In Parker, all these elements coalesced to complete Rueter-Hess Reservoir – the first major water storage facility on the Front Range in several decades.

    Parker Water celebrated the completion of the massive Rueter-Hess Reservoir project on March 21st with more than 100 contractors, metro water partners and government officials in attendance on the tower of the Frank Jaeger Dam.

    John Stulp, special policy advisor on water issues to Governor Hickenlooper, commended Parker Water and its partners in Douglas County for collaborating on a forward-looking project that will be needed as Colorado gains an estimated 4-5 million residents over the next 30-40 years.

    Colorado State Senator Ted Harvey read a resolution adopted unanimously by both houses of the legislature the previous day, congratulating Parker Water on its foresight and persistence in planning and constructing Rueter-Hess Reservoir. Senator Harvey said, “We can’t bring in good companies to Douglas County and create jobs if we don’t have the needed resources to serve them. Rueter-Hess is a key part of that.”

    The Douglas County Commission also adopted a resolution of congratulations for 50 years of service to customers in Douglas County. County commissioners Jack Hilbert and Jill Repella specifically cited the cooperation that led communities to work together on Rueter-Hess Reservoir.

    To culminate the ceremony, the PWSD Board Members in attendance: Mary Spencer, Sheppard Root, Mike Casey and Darcy Beard, activated the release of water stored in the nearby Cherry Creek diversion structure into the reservoir. The crowd applauded as a remote camera captured the water flowing from the outlet into the south side of the reservoir.

    Already, Rueter-Hess Reservoir holds some 4,000 acre-feet of water from flows captured in the reservoir beginning in May 2011 – enough water to serve 9,000 homes over the course of a year. The Douglas County water districts partnering in the reservoir, including the Town of Castle Rock, Castle Pines North, and Stonegate, will continue to capture storm runoff and reuse water, and plan to develop additional surface-water sources in the future.

    More coverage from Clayton Wouliard writing for YourHub.com. From the article:

    A completion ceremony was held March 21 by Parker Water and Sanitation, which paid for the construction of the reservoir that can hold 72,000 acre feet of water. The dam for it cost about $135 million, with a total cost of the project at about $200 million, including an environmental impact study, pumps and legal work, according to Jim Nikkel, assistant manager of Parker Water and Sanitation. The project was funded through a general obligation bond approved by voters in 2002.

    “It’s the first of a long process of ensuring the area of northern Douglas County has sustainable water for now and in the future,” Nikkel said.

    Nikkel said a water treatment plant is currently being built for $50 million that is slated to be finished by summer 2014 and will treat water from the reservoir. Currently, Parker gets its water from aquifers, which are not renewable. The treatment plant construction is being funded through revenue bonds and will process up to 10 million gallons per day, Nikkel said.

    More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge pipeline: Earthjustice, et. al. to FERC — ‘No’ should mean no to do-over for preliminary permit

    April 6, 2012

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    From the Earthjustice blog (Doug Pflugh):

    Million is back at it again, asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider his application for a preliminary permit. Million’s request comes on the heels of FERC’s dismissal of his preliminary permit. You may remember that Million turned to FERC after an earlier attempt to permit this project was terminated by the Army Corps of Engineers last summer. That’s two no’s in less than one year. Will a third do the trick?

    This week, Earthjustice, representing 10 environmental groups, filed papers with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) objecting to a do-over by FERC. FERC’s decision to deny the permit was right on the money and should have been the end of this scheme. But, with at least $1.4 billion at stake—according to Million—it’s easy to understand why he isn’t giving up easily…

    Earthjustice represents a coalition of ten conservation groups with interests throughout the Colorado River Basin: Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Rocky Mountain Wild, Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Citizens for Dixie’s Future, Glen Canyon Institute, Living Rivers: Colorado Riverkeeper, and Utah Rivers Council.

    More coverage from Mark Wilcox writing for the Wyoming Business Report. From the article:

    Aaron Million’s confidential business plan to annually pump about 81 billion gallons out of Flaming Gorge and the Green River that feeds it has been revealed to the Associated Press, and it is no small wonder he has not taken ‘no’ for an answer. The plan would bring in an estimated net profit of between $1.4 and $2.4 billion. And that’s after construction costs of somewhere between $2.8 billion and $3.2 billion. And end users of the water would pay up to $117 million in annual operating costs based on a “cost plus 20 percent” business model with estimated operating costs of between $70 million and $90 million…

    “Million’s plan is a blatant attempt to transform an important public good into billions of dollars of private profit,” said Earthjustice staff attorney McCrystie Adams in a statement urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission not to rehear Million’s request. Earthjustice represents various conservation clients on this issue. “We know from the developer’s public statements and documents that he’s looking for someone else to cover the millions of dollars of permitting costs that will undoubtedly be associated with what they describe as ‘the largest water infrastructure, pipeline, hydropower and storage project’ in the region.”

    Adams’ statement refers to portions of the plan showing that Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. is seeking to raise $15 million through 2015 to get through the permitting process. While the amount raised so far is confidential, $5 million has been spent on the permitting process.

    “It is clear that Million sees the Flaming Gorge Pipeline as his Mega-Millions jackpot and hopes someone else will pay for his tickets,” Adams wrote. “Fortunately, the odds of permitting this boondoggle are similar to winning the lottery.”

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge pipeline: Aaron Million files a reconsideration request with FERC in response to their denial of the preliminary application

    March 24, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Environmental groups promise to fight the project at every turn, while a state task force will hear about Flaming Gorge pipeline proposals next week in Glenwood Springs. Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million on Friday filed for a rehearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for his proposed 500-mile water pipeline from the Green River and Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range. FERC rejected the application from Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. on Feb. 23.

    Million’s response states that FERC made errors in its determination that the application was filed prematurely. The basis was that the water pipeline associated with hydropower projects has not been constructed. “Wyco contends that sufficient information and maps associated with the pipeline alignment have been provided to the commission,” Million stated in an 11-page request for rehearing and clarification. “We’re asking for clarification of why the decision was made, other than political pressure. That shouldn’t be a factor,” he said.

    Million contends FERC has granted preliminary permits to other power projects in their infancy, including the Lake Powell pipeline project in Utah. He said Wyco plans to build the pipeline. Wyco already has issued requests for proposals to manage the project.

    On Tuesday, the Flaming Gorge task force, formed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board at the request of the Arkansas Basin and Metro roundtables, will hear presentations from Million and from Frank Jaeger, whose Colorado-Wyoming Coalition has proposed a similar, but competing project.

    More coverage from Electa Draper writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

    On Feb. 23, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dismissed Wyco Power and Water Inc.’s application for a preliminary permit on the basis it was premature. Officials said there was no purpose in issuing a hydropower permit without information on construction and operation of the pipeline, which Million couldn’t provide. Conservationists hailed the decision as a victory for the environment because, they said, Million’s project, which would divert water from the Upper Colorado River Basin to Front Range cities, would drastically lower the level of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, threaten four species of endangered fish, and further harm ecosystems, wildlife and recreation. “We hope that FERC will reject this appeal, and the project will die a much-deserved death,” wildlife biologist Erik Molvar said in a statement from the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance…

    Million, in a telephone interview from Fort Collins, said FERC had asked for some additional information when Wyco filed the application in September. If there were additional deficiencies in the application, he said, FERC should have told him before accepting the application. However, Million said, Wyco doesn’t need the FERC preliminary permit to keep moving forward with other elements of the project. “We already hold the water filings in the river and for federal water rights,” Million said. “We already hold the priority filings. We’re going to move through the process, regardless.”

    More coverage from Brandon Loomis writing for The Salt Lake Tribune. From the article:

    Utah has used the same rationale in seeking approval for a Lake Powell pipeline to St. George, and Million’s new application questions whether FERC imposed the same requirements in advancing that project. “Wyco contends that it will be counterproductive and cost-prohibitive to secure all necessary permits and authorizations to construct the pipeline without confirming the locations of the associated hydroelectric facilities,” the company said in its filing…

    “FERC certainly got it right the first time,” Earthjustice attorney Michael Hiatt said. “This project would clearly devastate the Green River.”

    More coverage from Troy Hooper writing for the Colorado Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

    Critics say the pipeline would drain 81 billion gallons of water each year from the Green River, a tributary of the already stressed Colorado River, and the state of Colorado projects the pipeline could cost as much as $9 billion to build. The Colorado River Water Conservation District, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, county and local governments in southwestern Wyoming and a multitude of conservation groups are opposing the potential pipeline that Million claims is needed for Colorado to meet its rising demand for water.

    “FERC made the right decision in February,” said Matt Rice, director of the Denver-based chapter of American Rivers. “It is clear this is nothing more than a speculative project that if ever built would severely harm the recreational, economic, agricultural and natural values of the Green River. Mr. Million is grasping for straws. It is highly unlikely that FERC will reverse their decision.”

    Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre added that “Mr. Million seems to think this process is like an Etch-A-Sketch, where he can just keep shaking and redrawing until he finally wears down the federal agencies and the opposition. The Flaming Gorge Pipeline is a fatally flawed concept that would devastate the Green and Colorado River ecosystems — we will fight it at every opportunity.”

    More coverage from Amy Joi O’Donoghue writing for the Deseret News. Here’s an excerpt:

    In a document filed Friday requesting a rehearing before the agency, Million argued that FERC should question if it erred by tossing his application for a permit in February on the basis that it was “premature” or incomplete…

    Million said the agency needs to consider if it let the amount of comments and objections on record by multiple agencies unduly sway the commission. Opponents like the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, Sweetwater County and Colorado Springs Utilities — as well as numerous conservation organizations — have asked the commission to legally recognize objections raised.

    When the commission dismissed the preliminary permit application for Million’s Regional Watershed Supply Project, the agency said until the pipeline is built and authorizations are in place, it would be premature move the hydropower project forward. “The commission’s order implies that the final pipeline alignment, all authorizations to construct the pipeline and even the construction of the pipeline should be completed prior to filing an application for a preliminary permit” Million’s rehearing request said. Such a requirement, he added, is counterproductive and cost prohibitive absent knowing where the hydroelectric components would be sited…

    “The developer’s application for a rehearing is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” said Michael Hiatt, an attorney with Earthjustice.

    More coverage from Mark Wilcox writing for the Wyoming Business Report. From the article:

    Aaron Million and his company Wyco, first proposed the water project to the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps rejected the application in July of 2011 after two years’s consideration because they said Million failed to provide sufficient information. Million then proposed the Flaming Gorge pipeline to FERC as a power-generating project that would simultaneously quench the Front Range’s thirst in Colorado, and received an initial dismissal Feb. 23. The multi-billion dollar pipeline would transport water more than 500 miles to a reservoir at its final destination in Pueblo, Colo. “As presented in Wyco’s application, these hydropower projects are exclusively dependent on water from the proposed water supply pipeline,” the dismissal stated. “However, this pipeline does not currently exist, and Wyco’s application does not provide any information about the timeline for seeking and obtaining the necessary authorizations for the construction and operation of such a pipeline.”

    Additionally, officials cited a lack of information on the route the pipeline would take through public and privately held lands. “Until…authorizations have been obtained for a specific route or the process to identify a specific route has been substantially completed, Wyco will be unable to prepare “[s]uch maps, plans, specifications, and estimates of cost as may be required for a full understanding of the proposed [hydropower] project,” the order read.

    While the initial government dismissal was based on technicalities, many environmentalist groups are pushing for a more permanent dismissal. “Anyone who tries to divert Wyoming’s Green River over the Continental Divide doesn’t appreciate the value that it provides for native fish and wildlife, local economies and the western way of life,” said Earthjustice attorney Michael Hiatt in a statement. “The Flaming Gorge Pipeline—one of the biggest, most environmentally damaging water projects in the history of the western United States—would irreparably damage the Green and the Colorado River downstream.”[...]

    Another group is now touring the region with a short film and presentation that reflect the damage the pipeline would do to Flaming Gorge and the Green River’s $118 million outdoor recreation economy. Studies indicate the lost water could raise salinity levels in the gorge and river to lethal levels for fish and other marine mammals. Opponents of the pipeline also indicate the potential downsides to mammals of building a 10-foot pipeline over the Continental Divide. “This thing is still on the rails,” said Walt Gasson, Trout Unlimited’s endorsed business director, “And still constitutes — to my way of thinking — to our way of thinking, a clear and present danger to wildlife conservation in Wyoming.”

    More coverage from Steve Lynn writing for the Northern Colorado Business Report. From the article:

    “[Wyco Power and Water Inc] respectfully requests that the commission grant re-hearing of the dismissal of preliminary permit application for the regional watershed supply project and to issue the preliminary permit for a term of 36 months,” the company stated in the document…

    The pipeline would help meet the water needs of Colorado, which faces a water supply shortfall of between 500,000 and 700,000 acre feet in the next two decades, Wyco principal Aaron Million has said. He contends the federal government will take steps to protect river flows for recreation as well as enhance fisheries.

    From the Denver Business Journal:

    The Associated Press reports that Aaron Million of Fort Collins filed the request Friday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission…

    FERC’s permission was needed for the pipeline’s water to be used to generate electricity.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Parker: Rueter-Hess opening celebration recap, 72,000 acre-feet surrounded by 2,000 acres of open space

    March 23, 2012

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Rhonda Moore):

    District manager Frank Jaeger, who led the charge to build Rueter-Hess, welcomed dignitaries at the March 21 celebration, atop the dam of the 72,000 acre-foot reservoir.

    Originally planned as a 16,000 acre-foot reservoir, the project was expanded with the financial support of Castle Rock, Castle Pines and Stonegate to its present capacity in hopes of serving as a regional storage system, Jaeger said.

    “We started planning for this 27 years ago when we recognized the need for a renewable source of water for Douglas County and this area,” Jaeger said. “You’re now sitting (along) what will be the jewel of Douglas County and what will be the provider for Parker and its partners. This is one step in a long journey.”

    The reservoir project includes 2,000 acres of open space, contingent upon future funding, according to the district. If financing comes through for recreational use, activities could include fishing, hiking, cycling and non-motorized boating.

    Completion of Rueter-Hess, which is owned and managed by the Parker Water and Sanitation District, came the same year that the district is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

    Rueter-Hess Reservoir is about three miles southwest of Parker and, when filled, will have a surface size of 1,140 acres, 50 percent larger than Cherry Creek Reservoir. On grand opening day, the reservoir was filled to a depth of about 57 feet, with enough water to serve 9,000 houses for one year.

    More Rueter-Hess coverage here and here.


    Parker: Rueter-Hess Reservoir celebration this week

    March 19, 2012

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    Parker and other South Metro communities will celebrate the opening of the largest Front Range reservoir since Aurora Reservoir this week. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Parker Water and Sanitation has completed Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a 72,000 acre-foot storage facility that will store water for Parker and surrounding communities in the South Denver area. “The project is a significant accomplishment for Parker Water and Sanitation District, its customers and the entire south metropolitan area. Congratulations is due all around,” said Frank Jaeger, manager of the district…

    Rueter-Hess has been in the planning stages for 25 years and under construction for the last eight. It cost $165 million to build, including $56 million from Castle Rock, Castle Pines North and Stonegate, which like Parker are located in Douglas County…

    The other Douglas County communities joined the project in 2008, expanding the capacity of Rueter-Hess by 56,000 acre-feet. The reservoir still must undergo state safety inspections before it can begin storing water. It will collect water flows from wet years for use during summer months and dry years. It is the largest Front Range reservoir to open since Aurora Reservoir with a capacity of 36,150 acre-feet, began filling in 1990.

    More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here.


    Lamar pipeline: The Lower Ark Board listened politely (and critically) to GP Resources’ project preview yesterday

    October 20, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The board had questions about the projected yield of the project, the problem of brine disposal from a proposed treatment plant and the idea of moving water out of the Arkansas Valley — which goes against the mission adopted by the district after voters formed it in 2002. “I compliment your approach, opposed as I am to any water leaving the valley,” said Reeves Brown, a Beulah rancher who sits on the Lower Ark board. “There’s a limit to what we think agriculture can give up in order to support growth in Colorado.”[...]

    Upon questioning from the Lower Ark board, Nyquist said the only definite use for the water is in Elbert County. The Cherokee Metro District in Colorado Springs and Castle Rock in Douglas County have been approached, but decided on other options, at least in the short term, Nyquist said. “Right now, the pipeline ends at Falcon,” Nyquist said.

    “It’s only a short distance to Reuter-Hess Reservoir (in Parker), which has 60,000 acre-feet of empty storage space,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district…

    GP is looking at either deep injection of brine or a solar heating system that would evaporate the water [ed. by-product of the proposed reverse osmosis water treatment plant]. The heating system, which could also generate steam to power turbines, has not been tested on a large scale, Nyquist said. It would also generate 16 truckloads of salt per week. “It could be used as sidewalk deicer,” Nyquist said. “As a private business, we will figure out another manufacturing opportunity for something that would just be waste.”[...]

    [Karl Nyquist] said the assessed valuation of the ground on which the treatment plant is built would be greater than the value of the ground dried up. The combined wages from jobs at the treatment plant, reservoir and continued farm operations would more than make up for the temporary farm jobs that would be lost as a result of the dry-up, Nyquist said.

    More Lamar pipeline coverage here.


    The Parker Water and Sanitation District may lower their mil levy 31%

    September 28, 2011

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    From the Parker Chronicle:

    Said Mary Spencer, President of the [Parker Water and Sanitation District] Board, “The tap fee income PWSD has received from new development allows us to pay debt and reduce property taxes from 14.925 mills to 10.172 mills in 2012. This translates to a savings on property taxes. The reduction in the mil levy also includes a onetime reduction in the operating portion of the mill levy by 0.925 mills to payback property taxes plus interest that were collected in excess of limits allowed under TABOR. In addition, the Board is presenting to their customers, at the October 17, 2011 budget hearing, that there be no increase in the 2012 wastewater rates and only a 4% increase in water rates. The 4% increase for the average in house use of 6,000 gallons is $1.59 per month…

    The Board will consider the proposed budget for approval at the October 17, 2011 Board meeting to be held at 7 PM at the District’s North Water Reclamation Plant located at 18100 E. Woodman Dr., Parker , CO 80134.

    More Parker coverage here.


    Castle Rock: Three water providers show up at public meeting to pitch solutions to the city’s long-term supply needs

    September 20, 2011

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    From the Castle Rock News Press (Rhonda Moore):

    Years after launching an effort to plan for a long-term source of renewable water, Castle Rock put out an invitation to hear from water providers that might be able to compete with the Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency program, long touted as the solution to meet the needs of Castle Rock and several south-metro area municipalities.

    Among the water providers that submitted bids were Renew Strategies, headed by former Gov. Bill Owens; Stillwater Resources, which acts as a broker to match providers with municipalities like Castle Rock; and United Water, which serves public water districts such as the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District and the South Adams County Water District.

    WISE, a project from the South Metro Water Supply Authority, was not among the providers that responded to the request for proposal. WISE has long aimed to buy its water from Aurora and Denver and store it in the Rueter-Hess reservoir. The Army Core of Engineers earlier this year notified Rueter-Hess officials that the plan violates a provision of the reservoir’s federal permit, and town councils from Aurora and Denver have yet to approve a proposal for the WISE project.

    The responses included a proposal from Renew Strategies to acquire underground water from the Lost Creek Basin for between $23,000 and $24,000 per acre foot, plus infrastructure costs of up to $75 million; Stillwater’s option to purchase 4,000 acre feet of Boxelder farm water rights for about $21,000 per acre foot; and United Water’s proposal to sell South Platte surface water to Castle Rock for $23,850 per acre foot, which includes about $9 million in infrastructure costs.

    More Denver Basin aquifer system coverage here.


    Castle Rock: Wednesday the Town Council and the Town Utilities Commission will hear from water providers who want to supply the long-term needs for the town

    September 12, 2011

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    From the Town of Castle Rock via the Castle Rock News Press:

    Members of the public, along with Town Council and the Town Utilities Commission, will hear from the groups that wish to provide the Town with long-term water at a special meeting Sept. 14.

    The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall, 100 N. Wilcox St.

    Three of the four groups that have been short-listed in the search for the Town’s long-term water provider – Renew Strategies, Stillwater Resources and United Water – will each make a half-hour presentation, followed by questions from Town officials and the public.

    The fourth proposal – the WISE agreement between South Metro Water Supply Authority, Aurora Water and Denver Water – is being reviewed by the Aurora City Council prior to being released to the public.

    All four proposals will be evaluated against the same criteria, which include the opportunity to succeed, cost, local partnership opportunities, existing infrastructure, experience and water rights.

    Seven proposals in all were received in response to the Town’s June request for water supply proposals. All of those proposals were reviewed against the same criteria in placing the four remaining proposals on the short list. At [this] week’s special meeting, the three groups will introduce their projects and provide information on their concept, water supply characteristics and costs.

    This effort to secure a long-term water source is just one component of the Town’s Legacy Water Projects – the goal of which is to transition the Town to 75 percent renewable water by the time it is built out. (All of the Town’s water currently comes from nonrenewable wells.)
    There are two other major components to Legacy Waters:

    • The purchase of water storage space in Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which will open next year near Parker
    • The construction of a water purification facility in Castle Rock, which will provide for 35 percent of the Town’s renewable water needs by 2013

    Additional funding will be needed to secure the water that is needed for the Town’s future. The Town may hold a property tax election in 2012 or 2013 in order to fund the Legacy Water Projects.

    More Denver Basin aquifer system coverage here.


    Flaming Gorge pipeline: Frank Jaeger (Parker Water and Sanitation District) and others are urging the state to continue looking at the proposed project

    August 29, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “While we are encouraged that the Flaming Gorge discussion sponsored by the roundtables and state of Colorado will attempt to foster agreement on key issues and take a fair look at the project, we are concerned that many groups are engaging in a political attempt to intimidate the participants and bias or terminate the process,” Parker Water and Sanitation Manager Frank Jaeger wrote in a recent letter to key state officials.

    Environmental groups last month announced opposition to the study of the project by roundtables…

    The [Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Supply Project] is awaiting U.S. Bureau of Reclamation modeling of the Colorado River basin, expected to be complete later this year, before it wraps up its feasibility study launched in 2010. Since then, the group has further defined its needs: 105,000 acre-feet annually from the project to meet growth estimates to the year 2070…

    The Colorado-Wyoming Coalition’s proposed project helps meet several positions taken on water by Gov. John Hickenlooper, Jaeger said. Those include:

    - Protecting agricultural water.

    - Providing an adequate supply of water to promote a strong economy.

    - Helping to fill the municipal water gap identified in the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative.

    - Supporting the portfolio of strategies identified by the Interbasin Compact Committee: reuse, conservation, alternative agriculture-municipal transfers, completing identified projects and developing new projects.

    More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Supply Project coverage here.


    Federal funding may become available for the south Metro suburbs, Aurora and Denver to use for the WISE project

    August 14, 2011

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Suburban water authorities said the project [Water Infrastructure Supply Efficiency or WISE], designed to reduce reliance on dwindling underground water, will cost about $558 million.

    U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said “rural water supply” funds may be available for the project, if it survives a detailed feasibility review. Congress would need to authorize the federal funding, which could decrease the bill passed on to water customers. “What we’re looking at: Is this project capable of being completed? Is the cost-benefit going to work out? Is it going to be beneficial?” Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Peter Soeth said.

    Meanwhile, a crucial wastewater purchase deal with Denver and Aurora has yet to be done. How much wastewater could be diverted, and how often, remains under negotiation. The suburbs told federal officials the WISE project would deliver 5,000 to 11,000 acre-feet a year for the first five years, then as much as 37,000 acre-feet a year…

    The federal rural water-supply funds could be used because suburbs with populations under 50,000 are deemed “rural,” said Mark Shively, executive director of the Douglas County Water Resource Authority. “We have very aggressively pursued this opportunity,” Shively said. “We’re now about 20 percent into the feasibility study.”[...]

    Beyond pipeline construction, the proposed project involves new storage of treated wastewater in surface reservoirs and by injecting it into depleted aquifers. “We have a couple reservoirs we’re looking at,” Shively said. “Between the Chatfield and Rueter Hess (reservoirs) we have a good amount of storage.”

    Here’s the report from Reclamation.

    More WISE project coverage here.


    Parker Water and Sanitation and Stonegate are in merger discussions

    July 28, 2011

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    …utility managers propose to merge water systems to spread debt and increase efficiency. It’s the sort of consolidation that industry leaders anticipate, in Colorado and nationwide, as problems with water supply and aging pipes intensify. But the Parker-Stonegate deal has set off a political storm. On Wednesday night, more than 170 Stonegate residents attended the latest informational meeting, and a majority indicated in an informal vote that they opposed the merger. “Nobody in our neighborhood understands what is going on,” said Stonegate resident Lisa Nejedlow, whose residential water pressure recently decreased sharply. “I don’t want to go with Parker. I don’t trust them. I think they have too much debt ($214 million) and they are trying to go into other people’s pockets.”[...]

    If Parker (population 45,000) and Stonegate (11,000) were to merge their water systems, it would be the first signficant consolidation in the south metro area. There are more than 25 water utilities on the Front Range. Suburban developers created most of these special-use districts. Some serve as few as 25 people…

    Stonegate and Parker residents would face property-tax hikes as well as rising water bills whatever they do. But hooking up with Parker’s system could solve Stonegate’s problem of having to upgrade its sewage-treatment system — estimated to cost at least $10 million. That expense would add to Stonegate’s $30 million debt from sinking 13 super-deep municipal wells, building a pool and community center and other spending, said Stonegate metro district manager Mitch Chambers…

    Stonegate board members are divided. “We need to explore other options,” said Mike Sjobakken, one of two board members who are opposed, noting that a former Parker utility-board member who resigned amid controversy has been hired to help Parker project who would pay what if the utilities merged. “It would make sense to consolidate,” but maybe with multiple entities, not just Parker, he said.

    More South Platte River basin coverage here.


    Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority deals are the subject of a Denver Post investigation

    March 22, 2011

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    From The Denver Post (Karen Crummy):

    Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority, known as ACWWA, proposes delivering its excess water to Castle Rock, even though the water isn’t yet approved for residential use. Castle Rock officials are wary. “We’re comparing projects. We’re not rushing into anything,” said Ron Redd, the town’s utilities director. “We need to make sure we partner up in a secure, long-term water deal. We can’t afford to make a mistake.”[...]

    “Given ACWWA’s current surplus of treated and untreated water capacity and Castle Rock’s future water demands, a joint solution involving Castle Rock, ACWWA and United could be advantageous for all parties,” wrote Jim Dyer, ACWWA’s government-relations director, in a Feb. 11 letter to Redd…

    Ten days ago, Redd gave the Town Council a memo that outlined the proposed project: South Platte River Basin water would be treated near Barr Lake and conveyed south through a pipeline to a delivery point near E-470 and Smoky Hill Road. Castle Rock would then have to build infrastructure to get the water to the Rueter-Hess Reservoir in Parker and then to the town service area. Redd’s memo points out his initial concerns, which include the town’s reliance on water that must be changed from agricultural use to municipal use…

    Redd and his staff are analyzing the ACWWA/United proposal and another one from WISE — Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency. WISE is a joint collaboration among Denver Water, Aurora Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority (of which Castle Rock is a member and Redd is board president).

    More South Platte River basin coverage here.


    CWCB: New transmountain pipeline concepts update

    September 13, 2010

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board is looking at three new transmountain possibilities and two pumpback plans in the Arkansas and South Platte river basins in an analysis of supply options that could provide between 100,000 and 250,000 acre-feet per year of new water to the Front Range.

    Only one of the projects, a 540-mile pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range, is actively being pursued. Entrepreneur Aaron Million and the South Metro Water Supply Authority both looking are at it. The “Big Straw” plan, or Colorado River Reconnaissance Project, was not evaluated in the latest study because of its high initial cost to build. It would bring water from the Colorado River near Grand Junction to the Front Range. Other projects studied were from Blue Mesa Reservoir and the Yampa River. The Green Mountain pumpback plan also was included in the study, although it would provide about 68,000 acre-feet annually — less than the other 100,000 or 250,000 acre-feet plans.

    The Arkansas Valley plans would move water from either La Junta or Avondale to Rueter-Hess Reservoir near Parker. From either place, the cost would be nearly $100,000 per acre-foot over the 50-year life of the project and supply 100,000 or 250,000 acre-feet, according to a report by CDM engineering. All of the other options come in around $80,000 per acre-foot or less over 50 years. One of the South Platte options would cost around $70,000, while the Green Mountain option is about $40,000 over the life of the project. The reason for the discrepancy would be the need for reverse-osmosis, coupled with unproven methods of zero liquid discharge, to bring Arkansas Valley water up to drinking quality…

    The new report, now in draft form, will be part of a Colorado Water Conservation Board’s water needs assessment expected to be complete in January.

    More CWCB coverage here.


    Rueter-Hess Reservoir: Castle Rock residents can get up close and personal with the project August 7

    August 2, 2010

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    From The Douglas County News Press:

    The Rueter-Hess Reservoir, presently under construction in Parker, is an important part of Castle Rock’s sustainable water strategy. The town is offering residents this chance to tour the reservoir before it’s filled with water. Castle Rock residents are invited to take a self-guided driving tour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Aug. 7.

    Rueter-Hess is key to Castle Rock’s long-term water supply. The town has partnered with Parker Water and Sanitation District, Castle Pines North Metro District and Stonegate Valley Metro District on the project, scheduled for completion in 2012. This is one of the biggest water supply reservoirs to be constructed, in Colorado and along the Front Range, in decades.

    Residents can stop by to see exhibits and water experts, to answer questions about this and other water projects. Please note the tour will be cancelled in the event of rain.

    The reservoir is at 9343 Newlin Gulch Road in Parker. For directions and a map, go to CRgov.com/rhtour.com.

    Questions? Contact Carolyn Richards, crichards@CRgov.com or 720-733-6002.

    More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here.


    Parker Water and Sanitation District board election recap

    May 9, 2010

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Ashley Dieterle):

    Two positions are now filled on the Parker Water and Sanitation District board of directors after an all mail-in ballot election. Current board president Mary Spencer earned the most votes, with a total of 1,327 followed by candidate Darcy Beard earning 1,166 votes. Both women earned four-year terms.

    More Parker coverage here and here.


    Parker: Rueter-Hess Reservoir ready to store water

    February 28, 2010

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    From The Denver Post:

    Parker Water & Sanitation District officials announced that construction of the Rueter-Hess Reservoir — which is 180 feet deep and spans 1,400 acres — has reached a stage where water can be received. State officials have approved a request to allow water in nearby Newlin Gulch to be stored in the reservoir.

    More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here.


    CWCB: Is there a transmountain pipeline in Colorado’s future?

    December 24, 2009

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The state is pondering proposed pipelines to move water from most areas of the state to the Front Range in an attempt to meet future water demands. Not all will be built, and none has been officially endorsed…

    Strategies in the report that move water from one basin to another include:

    Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Proposed by Aaron Million, it would bring water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to reservoirs near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Yampa Pumpback: A pipeline would look at bringing water from Maybell to the Brighton area.

    Green Mountain Pumpback: Water from Green Mountain Reservoir would be pumped back to Dillon Reservoir and moved to the Denver area.

    Big Straw: A pipeline would take water from the Colorado River at the state line near Grand Junction and bring it to the Front Range.

    At the request of Front Range roundtables, another project, the Blue Mesa Pumpback in the Gunnison River basin, also is being studied…

    There are also alignments of pipelines in both the Arkansas and South Platte basins that would bring water to the Front Range, possibly storing it in Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a 72,000 acre-foot reservoir constructed near Parker that currently lacks water to fill it.

    Here’s some background on solving Colorado’s water supply problems, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    The newest project, proposed by entrepreneur Aaron Million, would build a pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir that would go around Colorado’s Rockies rather than through them. Another, the Yampa River pumpback plan, was suggested by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Those still face the pressure of a skeptical audience. The concept behind each of the projects – building a large-volume project to bring more water across the Continental Divide – is under renewed study by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, but a long way from becoming reality. Taking water from the Rio Grande basin is for the moment off the table, but all of the Colorado River basins are part of the CWCB study. Other plans look at moving water from farmlands in the Arkansas and South Platte valleys to serve population growth…

    For the next decade, the major cities began developing alternatives to the big projects of the past, leading to major changes in how water was developed. There was more talk of recycling, drying up more farmland and more long-range planning. There was more speculation by private developers to buy ag water rights from struggling farmers to hold until the cities were willing to pay. That happened during two very wet decades in the 1980s and ’90s.

    When the drought of 2002 came, the state mobilized in new ways. The CWCB launched its Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which in 2004 identified more agricultural dry-ups as the easiest way to meet future urban demands. State voters turned down Referendum A in 2003 that would have created a $2 billion state fund to develop projects. When the top-down approach didn’t work, the state Legislature created the grass-roots Interbasin Compact Committee and basin roundtables to help tackle the gnawing question: Could another transmountain project be developed?[...]

    The state studies of water projects looked at the relative feasibility of each and found that it could be expensive to develop more than one. Each project could bring about 250,000 acre-feet and would cost between $7.5 billion and $10 billion to build. “Projects have a better chance of success if they evaluate and mitigate impacts and produce benefits in both the basin of use and the basin of origin,” [Jennifer Gimbel, CWCB executive director] said.

    Even if agreements are reached, more water would be needed. Conservative estimates of growth and water needs call for 830,000 acre-feet of new supplies in 50 years, when the state’s population is expected to double to 10 million people. Could the carrying capacity of existing diversions be increased? “The state hasn’t looked at this comprehensively,” Gimbel said. “However, most of the transmountain projects are being used to full capacity, depending on the demand pattern on the East Slope. In other words most projects use as much transmountain water as is physically and legally available.” The IBCC’s model for balancing water portfolios between strategies – conservation, more diversions, ag dry-ups – is a useful tool, but has not produced the answer so far. Groups looking at the problem focused on general proportions, not a specific project at the most recent meeting.

    More CWCB coverage here.


    Parker: Recall of Parker Water and Sanitation board fails

    December 17, 2009

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    A proposed water-rate hike last year prompted the campaign to oust four members as irresponsible. Board members backtracked, but campaigners pushed on. The results — board president Mary Spencer survived by 30 votes, Root by 7, Mike Casey by 58 — won’t be final until Dec. 30, Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith said. At least one race requires a recount.

    Parker’s 12-month tussle reflects rising tension over water in Front Range suburbs, where water managers are struggling to obtain and divert renewable water from mountain rivers as local groundwater supplies dwindle. “This is the kind of battle we’ll see played out with greater frequency as the demands on these finite water resources intensify,” said water expert David Getches, dean of the University of Colorado law school and former state director of natural resources. “We’ve allowed, in Colorado, whole subdivisions and whole communities to be built on nonrenewable water supplies.” Parker’s five-member board oversees the water supply for more than 22,000 people southeast of Denver who rely on 30 wells, from 51 to 2,745 feet deep, that draw fewer and fewer gallons per minute. State data show water tables falling 30 feet a year…

    Frank Jaeger, the water-district manager, is leading a drive to divert upper Colorado River Basin water to Denver suburbs from western Wyoming. The $230 million Rueter-Hess reservoir under construction near Parker — one of Colorado’s biggest water- storage projects in decades — would hold that water, along with creek runoff and reused water treated at a new high-tech chemical plant. Jaeger’s district, established in 1962, is one of dozens created after developers built subdivisions across semi- arid terrain and left decisionmaking to the residents. Now, boards face difficult decisions as economic doldrums limit residents’ abilities to pay higher water rates…

    “What we learned is, we weren’t doing a very good job of educating the public,” [accountant Darcy Beard] said. “The cost of water in Colorado is never going to go down. We live in a high-desert environment.”

    More Parker coverage here.


    Parker: Recall of Parker Water and Sanitation Board failing according to early results

    December 16, 2009

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    From The Douglas County News Press (Ashley Dieterle):

    Board president Mary Spencer had 1,976 votes to retain her in office, edging out the 1,946 votes to recall her by only 30. Mike Casey earned 1,983 votes to keep him in office versus the 1,925 votes to recall him. Sheppard Root had the narrowest lead Tuesday night with the 1,962 votes to retain his seat beating the recall tally of 1,955 by only seven votes. The one vacant position will be filled by Randall Huls wining 1,415 votes over Darcy Beard (1,217) and Tracy Hutchins (753).

    More Parker coverage here.


    Parker: Rueter-Hess Reservoir update

    November 10, 2009

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    So far Parker and its partners in Rueter-Hess Reservoir — currently under construction southwest of the city — do not have enough surface water to fill the 77,000 acre-foot reservoir. Here’s a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

    The prospect of what critics call an empty bathtub is generating anxiety around Colorado as water managers clash over the last unclaimed mountain river flows. Most water to fill the Rueter-Hess reservoir “will have to be imported,” said Frank Jaeger, manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, who for 25 years has led the effort to supply 450,000 suburban residents. Importing water would require multibillion-dollar pumping and piping from rivers running down the western side of the Continental Divide, such as the Colorado, back across mountains to Front Range residents, Jaeger said. Though huge, the costs likely would be less than for alternatives such as trapping and treating contaminated water from the South Platte or Arkansas rivers, he said. The option Jaeger and a Colorado-Wyoming coalition of municipal suppliers favor — one of four being considered by state natural resources officials — would divert water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in western Wyoming along Interstate 80 to Colorado…

    Yet Colorado Western Slope leaders see the $230 million Rueter-Hess reservoir as folly — and bristle at talk of diverting more water across the mountains to fill it. The reservoir “is 20 times more expensive, and 10 times as big as they need. It’s going to be a little bit of water in a big bathtub,” said Eric Kuhn, manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, based in Glenwood Springs. The financing, based on tap fees from anticipated housing construction, “is the water equivalent of a Ponzi scheme,” Kuhn said…”There’s a very good chance that, in the long run, there’s not going to be any more water available on the Western Slope. And, if they’re having trouble now paying for Rueter-Hess, how are they going to pay for moving water from the Western Slope? That’s why I say this is a fairy tale,” Kuhn said…

    This month, more construction vehicles are rolling into action to build up the 7,700-foot-wide Frank Jaeger Dam at the reservoir. Critics “can make their claims,” but the reservoir will be crucial to sustain population growth, Jaeger said. Paying off the debt for the construction now underway all depends on tax revenues from future growth, he said. “To say, ‘We’ll just shut off growth’ will only exacerbate problems,” he said. “If you don’t pay off debt, what do you do? What does that do to the economy of the whole state? We need steady, controlled growth. All our needs for a reasonable lifestyle are tied into this.”

    More Rueter-Hess coverage here and here.


    Parker: Searching for dough to complete Rueter-Hess

    June 10, 2009

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    The collapse in real estate in Parker has had a negative impact on funds for Parker Water and Sanitation’s Rueter-Hess Reservoir. Here’s a report from Chris Michlewicz writing for the Parker Chronicle. From the article:

    When the housing market began its long slide into the abyss in 2006, district officials immediately began to notice the impact. The number of tap fees collected went from 1,700 in 2005 to suddenly 600 the following year. Last year, just more than 300 taps were connected. This year, as of June 4, only 18 taps have been sold. “All of our planning was based on a worst-case scenario of 600 taps per year,” [Frank Jaeger Parker Water and Sanitation District’s longtime manager] said during an interview in late April. “This thing has escalated on us.”[...]

    Unfortunately for the district — and for its customers, it turns out — the end came into sight much quicker than ever thought possible. Between 2005 and 2008, Parker water collected $65.9 million in taps fees. The money funded capital projects, built up reserve funds, and was also used to pay debt service on the $105 million in revenue bonds issued in 2004. (Money for the expansion was paid up front by Castle Rock, Castle Pines North and Stonegate, who entered into a partnership to buy water storage in Rueter-Hess, which is still under construction just southwest of Parker’s town boundary). Counting the 5.118 percent interest rate on the bonds, Parker water is responsible for paying $12 million per year on its debt. To date, according to its finance director, the Parker Water and Sanitation District has paid only $4.1 million of the loan principal. That means the outstanding principal for Rueter-Hess alone stands at $101.3 million. And there is little in the way of revenue coming in right now. Enter last December’s proposed rate and fee increase of 28 percent on the water district’s 12,900 customers…

    Conversely, prospective residents have a new quandary to consider. They, along with the existing population, will be responsible for covering the remaining costs for Rueter-Hess Reservoir, plus another $80 million in outstanding district debt, unless development picks up soon. Those who eventually move into The Canyons, a massive planned residential development just north of Castle Rock that will also be served by the Parker water district, will pay the high cost of water and eat the tap fee expense that is passed on from the developer. “People moving into Parker who haven’t got their homes built right now are in for that same surprise,” Jaeger said. “There’s no getting away from the cost of developing water.” One study conducted by a district consultant showed that the Parker area will need roughly 31,000 acre-feet of water as an indefinite supply. Jaeger is still exploring options — some very promising — for obtaining water for the future. “I’m looking 100 years down the road,” he said. “This community is not going to go away, and it’s going to need a water supply.”

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


    Newlin Gulch and the Clean Water Restoration Act

    May 10, 2009

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    The Bush administration weakened protections for streams and wetlands with rules issued by the EPA. Several attempts at restoring jurisdiction failed during the last few years. Here’s a report about Newlin Gulch which empties into Rueter-Hess Reservoir from Make Jaffe writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

    More than 76,000 miles of Colorado streams — 73 percent of the state’s waterways — are, like the Newlin Gulch creek, at risk of losing federal wetlands and pollution protections. The reason: U.S. Supreme Court decisions and Bush administration interpretations of those rulings that limit the scope of the Clean Water Act…

    Also at risk are water pollution safeguards because a quarter of the sewage treatment and industrial outfall pipes are on Colorado waterways that don’t meet the “waters of the United States” definition, a Trout Unlimited study found. Nationwide, 20 million acres of wetlands and 2 million miles of waterways could be affected, according to federal estimates…

    Which waterways get Clean Water Act protection was redefined by the U.S. Supreme Court in two rulings. The first, in 2001, found that some isolated intrastate ponds weren’t protected by the act because the law refers to “navigable waters” and the ponds were not. The justices equated “water of the United States” with navigability. The second, in 2006, limited wetlands protections to only “relatively permanent waters” connected to navigable waterways. The Bush administration followed up both cases with guidance to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency that used the decisions to remove many wetlands and streams from the regulation. The guidance also said decisions on what water is protected would be made on a case-by-case basis…

    Which waterways get Clean Water Act protection was redefined by the U.S. Supreme Court in two rulings. The first, in 2001, found that some isolated intrastate ponds weren’t protected by the act because the law refers to “navigable waters” and the ponds were not. The justices equated “water of the United States” with navigability. The second, in 2006, limited wetlands protections to only “relatively permanent waters” connected to navigable waterways. The Bush administration followed up both cases with guidance to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency that used the decisions to remove many wetlands and streams from the regulation. The guidance also said decisions on what water is protected would be made on a case-by-case basis.

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


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