Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 61 cfs in the river below Olympus Dam

September 14, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

[September 13] Late tonight/early tomorrow morning, we will be cutting back releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River. Currently, flows are around 215 cfs. By early tomorrow morning, September 14, they should be under 100 cfs.

Starting last weekend, we began bumping up releases from the dam to the river in order to deliver Colorado-Big Thompson Project water to water users while a section of the Charles Hansen Feeder Canal was down for inspections. Now that the work is wrapping up, we can begin moving C-BT water back through its system again, reducing the amount of water down through the canyon.

This time of year, releases from Olympus Dam typically reflect inflows to Lake Estes. Whatever the Big T brings into Lake Estes, we pass through Olympus Dam down the canyon. Inflows to Lake Estes are currently about 61 cfs.Unless we have a significant rain event, it is likely releases from Olympus Dam will be around 61 cfs by tomorrow.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Fort Collins: The city is waiting until later this month to start blending Poudre river flows into it’s water supply

September 9, 2012

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The city of Fort Collins is planning to mix Poudre River water into the city water supply later this month, most likely after a rush of silty water moves downstream and out of Poudre Canyon.

Fort Collins gets its drinking water from both the Poudre River and Horsetooth Reservoir, the water for which is pumped beneath Rocky Mountain National Park from the Colorado River.

Ash, silt and debris washing off the Hewlett and High Park fire burn areas prompted the city to stop taking water from the Poudre River in early June, and no Poudre water has been used since then because of poor water quality.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Releases to the Big Thompson River draw down Pinewood Reservoir

September 7, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

You’ve likely noticed that Pinewood has dropped down low again, similar to its activity a week or so ago. The same situation applies: we continue to adjust operations of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project to meet on-going demands for water along the Big Thompson River.

Just as before, we have run water directly from Pinewood to the Big Thompson River to meet the continued downstream demand. Boyd, Lake Loveland, and others have been using their C-BT water.

We will continue to balance distribution of project water across the facilities as we move into late summer/early fall. As a result, residences near and visitors to Pinewood might see the water level elevation continue this range of fluctuation for a while.

As of this evening [September 6], though, the water level at Pinewood should begin to rise again.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage <a href="


Fort Morgan: The current market for electricity will not support a hydroelectric generation facility

September 6, 2012

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The hydro project, we’ve looked at it for quite a long time,” Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Project Manager Carl Brouwer told the council.

He pointed out that due to the nearly 1,300-foot elevation difference on the water pipeline between Carter Lake and Fort Morgan, “there is great potential for power generation.”

The big question the council has had for years is whether it would be feasible from a cost-benefit standpoint to put in a hydroelectric system in that pipeline. The council had asked Northern to look into this for both the district and the city, and Brouwer presented the results of the feasibility study to the council Tuesday night.

There would not be a problem with installing a small, in-line hydropower generation unit, he said, but with prices being where they are, it would cost more than the revenue it created. The project would cost a little more than $1.2 million, and the return on the project would be dependent upon the rates the city could get for putting electricity back into the power grid.

Right now, those rates are running less than eight cents per kilowatt hour, which is the minimum the city would need for a system that would barely do more than break even. Historically, the rate had been 4 cents, but it changes with the energy market.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


Grand Lake: Reclamation lays out alternatives to help restore the lake’s historical clarity

September 2, 2012

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Tulley):

Some of the alternatives for improving the clarity of Grand Lake that are discussed in the report include: Stopping pumping at the Farr Pumping Plant in July, August, and September; modify pumping at the plant during these three months; bypass Grand Lake with a buried pipeline and pump flows directly to Adams Tunnel; or bypass both Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir with a buried pipeline and pump flows directly to Adams Tunnel…

Two standards for the clarity of Grand Lake were adopted by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission in 2008.

The first standard is a narrative clarity standard requiring “the highest level of clarity attainable, consistent with the exercise of established water rights and the protection of aquatic life,” according to the report.

The second standard is a numerical clarity standard of a 4 meter Secchi disk depth that will be assessed by comparing 85 percent of available recordings from the months of July, August, and September. That means at least 85 percent of the measurements taken during those three months must meet the 4 meter Secchi disk depth standard, while 15 percent can be below the minimum requirement.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Windy Gap Firming Project: Larimer County offerred tours of the site for the proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir this summer

August 31, 2012

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Here’s a report from the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman). Click through for the photo slide show. Here’s an excerpt:

Four times this summer, the county and Northern Water have opened the land — 1,847 acres purchased in 2004 by Larimer County with open space sales tax and a Great Outdoors Colorado grant and by Northern Water — to residents through a tour.

The trek winds past two old homesteads, through meadows and into mountainous areas, through protected ground and sunny slopes. The scenery ranges from cottonwoods to pines with grasses and wildflowers filling the gap. A lone deer, wild turkeys and a rattlesnake made appearances during a recent tour, but signs of larger creatures abound — scat, areas where bear have snuggled down under a tree and the bones of large prey.

Much of the beauty will be covered with water, but the western edge will be open to recreation and improved for the wildlife that call the habitat home.

More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.


Final Preliminary Alternatives Development Report on Grand Lake Now Available

August 24, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Governor Hickenlooper requests speedier reviews for Moffat Collection System and NISP

August 15, 2012

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A letter to Obama seeks help spurring decisions on Denver Water’s diversion of 18,000 acre-feet of Colorado River Basin water from the west side of the Continental Divide to an expanded Gross Reservoir west of Boulder. A separate letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asks that the Northern Integrated Supply Project — which would siphon the Cache la Poudre River into new reservoirs storing 215,000 acre-feet of water — be given a high priority.

Colorado faces “a significant gap in our supplies to provide water for future growth — a gap that cannot be met by conservation and efficiencies alone,” Hickenlooper began in a June 5 letter sent to the White House and copied to cabinet secretaries and agency chiefs. “We urge you to exercise your authority to coordinate your agencies and bring an expeditious conclusion to the federal permitting processes for this essential project, in order that we can have certainty moving forward as a state,” he wrote.

Click here to read the letter to President Obama. Click here to read the Governor’s letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here. More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here.


Windy Gap Firming Project: ‘No bypass or increased flushing flows, no permit’ — Kirk Klancke

August 9, 2012

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Tulley):

The hearing gave all of the interested parties a chance to voice their opinions and concerns about the project before it was submitted to the Grand County Commissioners for approval or denial.

Enhancements and mitigations to the Colorado River, Grand Lake, and Willow Creek are part of the proposed agreement and include a bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir, larger flushing flows for the Upper Colorado River, and a list of other possible mitigation measures.

Planned mitigation measures

The existing diversions at Windy Gap take 60 percent of native flows out of the Upper Colorado and the proposed expansion to the project would take another estimated 15-20 percent of flows, according to Trout Unlimited.

“Under present plans, expanding Windy Gap would make a bad situation worse because it would increase periods of low flows and significantly reduce runoff, which is critical to clean the river of excess silt and sediment contributed by Windy Gap Reservoir,” said Amelia Whiting, counsel for TU’s Colorado Water Project.

Mitigations and enhancements meant to address the impacts are proposed in the agreement for the Colorado River, Grand Lake, and Willow Creek.

“We are not opposed to this project, we just want to see the right mitigations take place,” said Kirk Klancke, president of the Headwaters of the Colorado chapter of Trout Unlimited. “No bypass or increased flushing flows, no permit.”

The enhancements that are proposed were the main topic of discussion during the meeting as interested parties made arguments for specific mitigation’s and enhancements.

Each party agreed that the river would be better off with the proposed mitigations and enhancements than it would be without them. However, the parties differed about which mitigations should take priority.

Some of the parties who voiced their opinions about the proposed mitigation’s and enhancements include the Upper Colorado River Alliance, Trout Unlimited, Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Town of Grand Lake, and members of the public.

Some of the main enhancements that are proposed are the construction of a bypass around or through Windy Gap Reservoir and increased flushing flows to the Colorado, which would help to restore the habitat of the gold-medal fishing waters below the Windy Gap Dam.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Reclamation bumps releases at Green Mountain and Ruedi reservoirs

August 7, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

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

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

Ruedi has increased 30 cfs to 225 cfs.


Drought/precipitation news: Horsestooth Reservoir levels dropping, marina prepares to close

July 31, 2012

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Water levels are dropping so fast that owners of about 300 boats docked at the Inlet Bay Marina at Horsetooth Reservoir will have to remove their vessels earlier than normal…

The reservoir was 34 feet below capacity Monday and could drop another 16 feet by the end of August, said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Water levels are decreasing from a few inches to a foot daily as farmers and cities draw on their allotments from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

Water levels are about 5 percent below average as farmers and cities contend with the ongoing drought, Werner said. The effects of the High Park Fire on the Poudre River also have led the city of Greeley to use more reservoir water than it normally would this time of year.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

The 3.05 inches Steamboat measured so far this month is nearly double the city’s historic average of 1.61 inches of rain for July…

The Yampa River, bolstered by the recent storms and continued release of water from Stagecoach Reservoir, was flowing at 117 cubic feet per second under the Fifth Street Bridge on Sunday afternoon. The recent abundance of rainfall also has spurred some Northwest Colorado fire officials to call for easing the Stage 2 fire restrictions that have been in place in Routt County since late last month.


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

July 31, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

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

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here and here.


High Park Fire: The NRCS, et. al., have started restoration efforts above Horsetooth Reservoir

July 29, 2012

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From the Longmont Times-Call (Pamela Dickman):

All told Thursday and Friday, the team planted 1,120 pounds of grass seed across 40 acres and covered it with 105 bales of agricultural straw and wood chips — a layered approach to protecting the nearby glistening waters from the ash and debris of the High Park Fire…

The ash and debris have already blackened much of the Poudre River, so Fort Collins, Greeley and the Tri-Districts (North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland and East Larimer County water districts) have instead been pulling water for their customers from Horsetooth Reservoir. The waters of Horsetooth remain clean, but the threat of fire pollution is real. When rains fall, the now barren Soldier Canyon could mirror a slip-and-slide, sending debris from the fire right into Horsetooth Reservoir — and the water supplies for Fort Collins, Greeley and the Tri-Districts.

From The Denver Post (Erin Udall):

By dropping a mix of seed and straw mulch on the area, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) officials hope to trigger plant growth and create a filter that will keep debris, erosion and sediment runoff from getting into the reservoir…

“Think of the Poudre (River) as the hose, and Horsetooth (Reservoir) as the bucket,” [NRCS district conservationist Todd Boldt] said, explaining that the river provides drinking water for more than 300,000 people in the area. “They rely on the hose, but when they can’t, they turn to the bucket. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain Horsetooth.”

Here’s the release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Todd Boldt):

Helicopters are hovering near Horsetooth Reservoir for a responsive, cooperative project to protect the reservoir’s water quality in the wake of the High Park Fire.

Helicopters are dropping an erosion control seed mix and straw mulching materials on about 40 acres that suffered the most soil burn severity within the 400-acre burn area in the Soldier Creek drainage, which sits in Lory State Park on the west side of Horsetooth Reservoir.

The helicopters, from contractor Western States Reclamation, will apply a seed mix of native species. The seeds are large, with the expectation that they will break through the fire-caused debris and establish roots without requiring much moisture. Helicopters will also drop straw mulch, then a layer of wood straw on top, to retain moisture, shelter the seed from the wind and provide soil erosion protection.

Experts expect the project to trigger plant growth in the Solider Creek area, creating a filter to prevent debris, erosion and sedimentation runoff into Horsetooth Reservoir, a key water source for area cities.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing much of the technical and financial support for this $91,320 project, which is part of its Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Other sponsors are Northern Water, the cities of Greeley and Fort Collins, and the Tri-Districts (the North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland, and East Larimer County water districts).

The helicopters, which are staged within Lory State Park, first took off Thursday morning and will likely finish Saturday.

More restoration coverage here and here.


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

July 25, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

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

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


Colorado-Big Thompson Project operations update: Reclamation is releasing 270 cfs to the Big Thompson below Olympus Dam

July 8, 2012

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From email (July 7, 2012) from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Over the past two hours, we have been slowly increasing releases from Olympus Dam to the lower Big Thompson River. We are making space in the reservoir for rain that is forecast for this afternoon, evening, and tomorrow.

Inflow to Lake Estes has been picking up with the recent rain storms and more is on the way. This morning, inflow to Lake Estes got as high as 290 cfs. So, we have been steadily increasing our release the last two hours. We’ve been doing it in 20 cfs increments, every half an hour.

By 2:00, we should be releasing 270 cfs from Olympus Dam to the lower Big Thompson River in the canyon.

Normally, this type of increase is not considered too significant. But, we typically make these sorts of operational changes very late at night when few people are out on the river. Also, with the low snow pack and resulting river flow and above average temperatures across the state, we also anticipate people visiting the Big Thompson Canyon might not be expecting an increase in river flow in the middle of the day. So, please feel free to share this information with anyone you know who might be visiting the canyon this weekend.

There is a possibility releases could go as high as 300 cfs. That will be entirely dependent on just how much rain we get and for how long. Folks visiting any river system this weekend should maintain awareness that the forecast weather patterns could quickly change flows.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


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

July 6, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

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


Fort Morgan and the Morgan County Quality Water District hammer out IGA

June 24, 2012

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The agreements pave the way for an emergency tie-in between the city’s water system and that of Quality Water.

This would provide water to the city from Quality Water or to Quality Water from the city if there were an emergency.

The agreements also will allow the city to treat and deliver to Quality Water “a portion of Quality Water’s water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project operated by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District,” which are sometimes referred to as C-BT units. Quality Water would be responsible for paying the city for the treatment and delivery, according to the agreement.

“Our treatment plant operates off of a direct source” of water,” City Manager Jeff Wells said. “There are very minimal byproducts from what we do to clean the water.” Because the city and Quality Water share a pipeline, Wells said it makes sense to share use of the treatment plant, as well. Wells said that treating Quality Water’s water at the Fort Morgan plant will bring in $60,000 to $100,000 per year, but that it shouldn’t mean a big rate increase for Quality Water customers.

More Morgan County coverage here and here.


Boulder County approves and sets conditions for the 1041 permit for Northern Water’s Southern Water Supply Pipeline Project II

June 22, 2012

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (John Fryar):

Boulder County commissioners on Thursday approved a proposed pipeline that will deliver water from Carter Lake in Larimer County to the city of Boulder, the Left Hand Water District, the Longs Peak Water District and the Town of Frederick.

But the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is heading up what’s called the Southern Water Supply Pipeline Project II on behalf of the entities that will be getting the water, will have to comply with nearly three dozen conditions that Boulder County is attaching to its approval. The project’s representatives expressed particular concerns about two of those conditions.

One, as recommended by Boulder County Land Use staff, will require the applicants to pay for a county-retained “project overseer” who’d monitor and inspect the work while it’s under way and would have the authority “to alter, direct and/or stop any activity that will result in adverse environmental or safety conditions” or violations of various county permits or “accepted construction standards.” Project proponents indicated discomfort over giving someone the ability to stop all work over issues they said could be resolved without bringing everything to a halt. County commissioners agreed to add language that the overseer couldn’t act arbitrarily. But they said some situations might require emergency work stoppages, rather than awaiting dispute resolution.

Pipeline project applicants also objected to a condition that they pay for the county Parks and Open Space Department to hire someone representing the county, as a landowner, during the project’s construction and reclamation work on county open space lands…

Northern Water’s Carl Brouwer, the project manager, said participants will now meet to work out a timetable for the phased construction of the pipeline, whose advocates have said is needed to improve the quality of the water being delivered, provide a year-round water supply and meet projected increases in demand. Brouwer said it’s been estimated that the work will about $35 million or more once it’s completed. At least some of the new underground pipeline will replace Northern Water’s and water recipients’ reliance of the portion of the current delivery system that channels water through exposed open-air canals that are closed in the winter and that can be polluted by storm runoffs and other surface sources. The new pipeline would run roughly in parallel to the old canal system between Carter Lake and a point near Longmont’s Vance Brand Municipal Airport. From there, it would run southwest to Boulder Reservoir. An eastern spur from the main pipeline would run from a point north of Longmont and go east to Frederick.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project operations update: Inspection and maintenance work complete, releases dropping from Olympus Dam

June 13, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As we continue to make adjustments to the Colorado-Big Thompson project system, there have been some changes to the release from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River. Late last night, we dropped the release from 325 cfs to roughly 250 cfs. Tonight, shortly after midnight, we will drop it again to around 125 cfs. The reason for the drop in release amounts is primarily because we have completed the inspections and related maintenance work scheduled for this week.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 365 CFS in the Big Thompson River below Olympus Dam

June 12, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Just an update on Colorado-Big Thompson Project operations for the Big Thompson River and Pinewood Reservoir:

Tonight, June 11, after midnight, we will bump releases from Olympus Dam on Lake Estes up to 365 cubic feet per second. The increase will be made in several steps of 100 cfs each. As a result, by Tuesday morning, June 12, flows in the river at the top of the canyon should be around 365 cfs. We have had some downstream demands come on and folks need their C-BT water.

Meanwhile, we will also be closing the tunnel that takes water from Lake Estes into the southern power arm of the C-BT project. They will be conducting an inspection. With the tunnel down, Pinewood Reservoir will not have inflow. It will drop, probably about 10 or 12 feet, to a water level elevation around 6565 by Friday morning. It is currently at an elevation of about 6577–three feet from full.

Work should wrap up and the water level start rising again by the weekend.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.


‘Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water’ — Alan Hamel

June 10, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We have to protect the water we have, as well as provide water for endangered species,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works and a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water, particularly for use in power generation.” Last month, the Pueblo water board and other members of the Front Range Water Council weighed in on the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for oil shale and tar sands…

The Front Range Water Council includes the major organizations that import water from the Colorado River: Denver Water, the Northern and Southeastern Colorado water conservancy districts, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. and the Pueblo water board. Collectively, they provide water to 4 million people, 82 percent of the population in Colorado.

More Front Range Water Council coverage here and here.


Carter Lake: The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District dedicates their new hydroelectric generation facility

June 1, 2012

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

A hydroelectric plant is now up and running at Carter Lake west of Loveland and pumping energy into the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association grid Dignitaries from Northern Water, which built the plant, the REA, Tri State Generation and even the United States Department of Interior on Thursday dedicated the Robert V. Trout Hydropower Plant not far from the south shore of the lake…

Already, the Colorado-Big Thompson Water that funnels through the Adams Tunnel from the Western Slope to Northern Colorado feed six Bureau of Reclamation hydroelectric power plants and has fed 37 billion kilowatt hours of electric energy into the grid. The new plant, owned and operated by Northern Water, will add 2.6 megawatts of power, or enough to feed 1,000 homes…

The water district named the plant after Trout, a lawyer who has represented the water district for 35 years and whose innovative and tireless efforts helped bring the hydroelectric plant to life.

Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):

Northern Water dedicated their first hydropower plant today at Carter Lake southwest of Loveland. About 100 people attended the ceremony, which featured Anne Castle, assistant secretary for water and science for the U.S. Department of the Interior, and speakers from several organizations involved in the project.

The project, which started generating power in mid-May, harnesses pressure created by existing releases from the outlet tower at the south end of Carter Lake, a Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoir. The facility includes two 1,300-kilowatt turbines and connections to the Carter Lake outlet and the St. Vrain Supply Canal. It is expected to produce 7 to 10 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy a year – enough to power about 1,000 homes – sold by the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association.

“Although the industry classifies this hydro project as small, it’s a really big step for Northern Water. We’re taking energy in the form of pressure that was already there and turning it into marketable power that expands Poudre Valley REA’s green energy portfolio,” said Carl Brouwer, project manager for Northern Water.

Northern Water’s Board of Directors approved a resolution earlier this month to name the facility the Robert V. Trout Hydropower Plant after attorney Bob Trout, Northern Water legal counsel for more than 35 years. Just as he was for countless other initiatives, Trout was instrumental in the development of the hydro project.

The $6 million project received a $2 million low-interest loan through the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, and Northern Water’s new hydropower enterprise fund is managing a loan for the rest. The project’s projected revenue, which will repay construction costs and cover future upgrades, is about $600,000 a year.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 125 cfs in the Big Thompson River below Olympus Dam

May 27, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As everyone has likely heard by now, we didn’t have much snow pack this year. As a result, I haven’t had much run-off information to share over the last several weeks. But, now that we are on the brink of summer, I thought a Memorial Weekend update on Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoirs and operations might be helpful.

Over on the west side of the Continental Divide, we’ve seen a steady release from Green Mountain Reservoir to the Lower Blue River of about 75 cfs. That does not appear likely to change in the near future. The reservoir is currently at a water level elevation of about 7920 feet, that’s about 64% full. That is actually slightly above what we might normally see in late May. This is because run-off in the Blue River Basin started early this year and we began filling at Green Mountain on April 1.

Similarly, storage levels at Granby, Willow Creek and Shadow Mountain reservoirs–where we collect the water that will be diverted to the East Slope–are also slightly higher than is typical for this time of year. Like Green Mountain, that is because we saw run-off start and peak early on the upper reaches of the Colorado River. Currently, Granby has a water level elevation of about 8263 feet, around 79% full, and is releasing about 53 cfs to the Colorado River at the Y gage. In a more normal snow pack year, we’d be releasing 75 cfs at the Y gage.

Willow Creek Reservoir, whose water is pumped up to Granby is about 82% full and Shadow Mountain Reservoir is around 96% full–it usually is.

Following the project over to the East Slope, we have seen fairly typical water elevations in Lake Estes for most of the spring. Releases from the reservoir through Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River have not fluctuated much, averaging around 120 cfs for the past several weeks. Currently, releases to the Big T are closer to 125 cfs.

Pinewood and Flatiron water levels fluctuate fairly often. Water elevations rise and fall daily, depending on power generation at the Flatiron Power Plant. Over the last couple of weeks, Pinewood’s elevation declined, but we are steadily bringing it back up again. Next week, visitors to both reservoirs might notice some surveying going on. Reclamation employees will be out at the reservoirs looking at sediment.

The pump is on to Carter Lake and its water level elevation continues to rise. It’s currently at an elevation of 5735 feet, about 77% full. While it will go up in elevation a little more, how high it gets now depends on downstream demands. Demands will come up with hot and dry weather.

Horsetooth is in a similar situation. The reservoir saw its highest water level elevation (about 5424) for the summer season at the end of April/early May. It has been slowly dropping this month and is currently around 5419 feet–that’s roughly 87% full. Like Carter, summer water levels at Horsetooth depend largely on downstream demands, which depend largely on weather. We’ll see how hot and dry it gets.

If you plan to visit one of our reservoirs over the holiday weekend, check out its current operations via our Colorado Lakes and Reservoir website. We have up-to-date information posted there.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Northern Water ups the Colorado-Big Thompson quota to 100%, lets hear it for storage

May 12, 2012

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Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):

A 100 percent quota for Colorado-Big Thompson Project water was approved today by the Northern Water Board of Directors. Their decision bolsters this year’s C-BT water supplies by 31,000 acre feet with a 10 percent increase from the quota set in April.

Despite paltry snowpack and dismal streamflow forecasts, recent abundant water years replenished C-BT reservoirs enough to give directors the option to increase the quota for a second time this year, demonstrating the value of reservoir storage.

Directors based their decision on the agricultural community’s needs for more water as they plan for the crop-growing season. The board concluded that this is the type of year when a 100 percent quota is needed, based on record-low snowpack readings and streamflow forecasts similar to the drought of 2002.

“The smaller agricultural producers need this water this year,” said Don Magnuson, director from Weld County. “We have an obligation to take care of the little guys.”

The C-BT quota sets the percentage of an acre foot that a C-BT allottee will receive during the current water year for every unit of C-BT water the allottee owns. The 100 percent quota means that each unit will yield one acre foot. This is the tenth time the water year’s total quota has reached 100 percent in the C-BT Project’s 55-year history of full water deliveries.

From the Associated Press via CBSDenver.com:

On Friday, the district’s board of directors approved a 100 percent quota so that project allottees can collect a full acre-foot of water for every unit of project water that they own…District directors say they decided to boost the quota from 90 percent in April because they’re concerned about farmers who will need more water after a dry, mild winter.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Colorado TU Gives Conservation Award to Grand County

May 9, 2012

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

Colorado Trout Unlimited today announced that Grand County government – led by County Commissioners Gary Bumgarner, James Newberry, and Nancy Stuart – is the recipient of TU’s 2012 Trout Conservation Award for its work protecting the Upper Colorado River watershed in the face of Front Range water diversions and other threats.

The award is presented each year to recognize outstanding achievements in conserving Colorado rivers and trout habitat.

“I have never seen a local government place the level of attention, resources, and overall emphasis on river conservation as has been the case with Grand County over the past five years,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “Commissioners Bumgarner, Newberry and Stuart, and County Manager Lurline Curran, have worked tirelessly to preserve healthy river flows along with the wildlife, local communities, and quality of life that depend on them. They have been true champions for the Colorado headwaters.”

“As a resident of Grand County for 40 years, and as a father who wants his children and their children to experience the same natural wonders that I’ve enjoyed here over the years, I am deeply appreciative of the unified effort from our commissioners and staff in their fight to save our rivers and lakes,” said Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of TU. “I am proud of my county for having courageous leaders like these, who are an example to all of the Davids that are facing Goliaths.”

Nickum called Grand County “a longstanding and valued partner” with Trout Unlimited in working to protect and restore the Upper Colorado River watershed. He noted that Grand County officials have invested more than $3 million into assessing and addressing the needs of its rivers, and spent thousands of hours negotiating with Front Range water users and advocating to federal permitting agencies for better protections for the Upper Colorado River watershed.

Among other accomplishments in the past year, Grand County (along with other west slope governments and Denver Water) unveiled a historic “cooperative agreement” that includes many important benefits for the Colorado River and its tributaries, including millions of dollars for river restoration and environmental enhancement; 1,000 acre-feet of water to help with low flows in the Fraser River watershed; guarantees that the vital Shoshone call continues to operate in the future to keep water in the Colorado River year-round; and an agreement that any future transbasin projects will only be pursued with the consent of the West Slope. The agreement is also important in establishing a stakeholder partnership called “Learning by Doing” to provide ongoing monitoring of river health to ensure adequate protection measures.

Grand County has also worked with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to use Windy Gap pumping capabilities to re-manage some “excess” water for the benefit of flows in the Colorado River and has filed for a Recreational In Channel Diversion to help support a new in-river water right on the Colorado mainstem.

Moreover, Grand County leaders are negotiating with Northern for enhanced funding for river restoration projects—including a needed bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir to improve Colorado River habitat—and additional water for use in Grand County to boost flows and river health. Grand County is also promoting an agreement to release water for endangered fish in the downstream Colorado River out of Granby Reservoir – thereby benefiting the Colorado through miles of key trout habitat – instead of releases solely from Ruedi Reservoir, as has been done in the past.

For all the progress in recent years, the health of the Upper Colorado River ecosystem will continue to decline unless further protections are put in place to address looming impacts from two new Front Range diversion projects, Denver’s Moffat Tunnel expansion and Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project. Nickum noted that EPA recently issued recommendations that supported Grand County and TU’s case for stronger mitigation on the Windy Gap Firming Project.

“Grand County officials understand that the Colorado headwaters are the lifeblood of their communities and of our state’s tourism economy and outdoor quality of life,” said Nickum. “They have set an example for our public leaders of what strong river stewardship looks like.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


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

May 1, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

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

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

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here and here.


Broomfield is set to review rates from stem to stern

April 29, 2012

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From the Broomfield Enterprise (Megan Quinn):

Broomfield will hire a private company to assess the fees residents pay for water, sewer and reclamation water systems. In the past few years, costs have continually risen for water treatment supplies, electricity costs and the cost of buying water. Yet there has not been an increase in water and sewer fees since 2008, said City and County Manager Charles Ozaki.

“We need to conduct this study to determine the appropriate rates going forward,” he said.

Public Works Director David Allen said the city will likely have to raise water rates, because it has been more than three years since rates were adjusted to reflect current costs. Yet the report also might look at better ways to conserve water and provide better rate equity for past, present and future residents.

Staff initially proposed raising water license fees several years ago, but City Council members were hesitant to raise fees before doing a full assessment to see if the water operations were operating at maximum efficiency. They asked for a two-part study to examine both the city’s operations and water rate structure, Allen said.

The first part, which examined operations, was completed late last year. The report showed the city was close to maximum efficiency, Ozaki said. The water rate and fee study is a second part to the assessment.

The report, set to be complete in October, could change the way residents are charged and billed for their water and wastewater usage, because the city has not done a full assessment of the rates since 1996.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 124 CFS in the river below Olympus dam

April 24, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The continuing heat is generating some early season run-off. With highs in the low 80s, we are anticipating some run-off tonight down the Big Thompson River and into Lake Estes. We will bypass that increase through the dam, on down the Big Thompson Canyon. Around midnight tonight, April 23, we anticipate bumping releases up to about 150 cfs.

Earlier this month, I e-mailed that we were increasing releases from Olympus Dam to the lower Big Thompson River for similar reasons. Since that time, releases from Olympus Dam have averaged about 127 cfs. They’ve gotten as high as 159 cfs and dropped down to about 112 cfs. Currently, we are releasing about 124 cfs.

It is likely these types of fluctuations will carry on into May.

Please keep in mind that we typically make our adjustments late at night; so, the river might look different in the morning than it did the night before.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Northern Water’s new Carter Lake hydroelectric plant is scheduled to be online June 1

April 15, 2012

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

By June, it will be up and running, adding as much as 2.6 megawatts of power to the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association grid, or enough to power 1,000 homes.

The water from Carter Lake drops 120 feet to a feeder canal that distributes it to cities and farmers east of Loveland. The kinetic energy unleashed in that drop will now be harnessed and turned into electric power for the grid, all by a simple detour through two turbines built and imported from Gilkes, a company based in Kendal, England.

The twin turbines weigh 10 tons apiece and are connected to generators that tip the scale at 15 tons — equipment held into place by bolts as large and heavy as dumbbells, shipped to Houston by boat then trucked to Colorado along highways. The special equipment arrived Thursday, and a team from Northern Water, Gilkes and Berthoud-based Aslan Construction have been working every day since to get the equipment in place — within a thousandth of an inch. The team is carefully balancing and placing the equipment to work as efficiently a possible.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


The Northern Water board sets a 90% water quota, let’s hear it for a good water year last year, and for storage

April 13, 2012

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From The Fort Morgan Times:

Their decision, which they based on low snowpack and precipitation conditions, bolsters this year’s supplemental water supplies with a 40 percent increase from the initial quota set earlier this water year.

The C-BT quota sets the percentage of an acre foot that a C-BT allottee will receive during the current water year for every unit of C-BT water the allottee owns. The 90 percent quota means that each unit will yield nine-tenths of an acre foot. This is the first year since 1977 that the board set an April quota of 90 percent or above.

Every year the directors base their April quota decision on updated snowpack, precipitation and reservoir storage information while striving to balance the overall needs within Northern Water’s district boundaries.

As of today, snowpack in watersheds integral to C-BT is significantly below average for this time of year, at 34 percent of average in the Upper Colorado River Basin and 53 percent in the South Platte River Basin. To add to that, the year’s precipitation within district boundaries is sitting at 59 percent of the historical average.

Northern Water is also forecasting below-average streamflows this season.

More coverage from the North Forty News (Kate Hawthorne):

The quota will make 279,000 acre feet of C-BT water available to agricultural, municipal and industrial users in the district — a 40 percent increase in supplemental supplies over the initial quota for the 2012 water year. This is the first time since 1977 that the April quota has been 90 percent or above…

“This is one of those years why we have the C-BT,” said Director Kenton Brunner from Weld County in a prepared statement announcing the April quota. “Farmers need to get their crops in and they need the water.” The board can make additional water available anytime through October if they see the need, according to the district.

More coverage from the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

It is the highest amount of water allowed to be released from reservoirs such as Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir in several years…“This will allow the project to do what it is intended to do: Get us through the dry years,” said Director John Rusch, who represents Morgan and Washington counties, in a release from the agency.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here and here.


Colorado Water 2012: The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District turns 75 this year

April 4, 2012

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Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series written by Brian Werner. From the article:

The rich water development history of the South Platte Basin goes back another 75 years before Northern Water’s creation. In fact the earliest water rights in the basin date to 1861 when the first farmers began diverting water from the Poudre River near Fort Collins.

A little more than a decade later, in 1874, a confrontation between the downstream Greeley residents and the upstream Fort Collins residents led to the codification of the doctrine of prior appropriation and eventually as part of the State Constitution in 1876.

As ditch, reservoir and irrigation companies were developed and canals built during the remainder of the 19th century the region flourished and developed a robust agricultural economy. Beginning in the 1890s and continuing for 20 years, hundreds of storage reservoirs were built to store water for late summer irrigation or for future dry years.

When Northern Water was created in the 1930s as a direct result of the ongoing drought and depression, there were more than 120 ditch, reservoir and irrigation companies in existence within the boundaries of what was to become the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Northern Water was established under the Water Conservancy Act of Colorado in September 1937. Its first order of business was to work with the Federal government – the Bureau of Reclamation which had been established in 1902 – to build what was to become the largest transmountain diversion project in the state. The project, the Colorado-Big Thompson, was a direct result of the 1930s drought and depression and was viewed as a life saver for the economy of northeastern Colorado…

Today, Northern Water is working through the environmental permitting on two water storage projects – the <a href="Today, Northern Water is working through the environmental permitting on two water storage projects – the Windy Gap Firming and the Northern Integrated Supply projects. When built these will provide an additional 70,000 acre feet of new supply to the region and lessen the pressure on agriculture to supply those needs.”>Windy Gap Firming and the Northern Integrated Supply projects. When built these will provide an additional 70,000 acre feet of new supply to the region and lessen the pressure on agriculture to supply those needs.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.</p


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Oil patch water haulers were part of the crowd bidding for regional pool water

April 1, 2012

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The Northern Water Conservancy District runs the auction, offering excess water diverted from the Colorado River Basin — 25,000 acre-feet so far this year — and conveyed through a 13-mile tunnel under the Continental Divide. A growing portion of that water now will be pumped thousands of feet underground at well sites to coax out oil and gas.

State officials charged with promoting and regulating the energy industry estimated that fracking required about 13,900 acre-feet in 2010. That’s a small share of the total water consumed in Colorado, about 0.08 percent. However, this fast-growing share already exceeds the amount that the ski industry draws from mountain rivers for making artificial snow. Each oil or gas well drilled requires 500,000 to 5 million gallons of water. A Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission report projected water needs for fracking will increase to 18,700 acre-feet a year by 2015…

Riding his tractor this week, Colorado hay producer Lar Voss, who bid for water at the recent auction, accepted this approach. Voss bid for 100 acre-feet “to be sure I’ve got enough for the crops,” he said. Selling water to those who can pay the most “is what ought to happen.”[...]

At the recent auction, Fort Lupton-based A & W Water Service Inc. bid successfully for 1,500 acre-feet of water, paying about $35 per acre- foot. That’s slightly higher than the market price that irrigators pay for leasing water along the Front Range. The average price paid for water at NWCD’s auctions has increased from around $22 an acre-foot in 2010 to $28 this year.
A & W also leases water from Longmont, Loveland, Greeley and other cities — and hauls it to drilling sites.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


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

March 28, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

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

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Northern’s sale of pool water nets $644,142, reservoir combined storage = 75% of capacity

March 20, 2012

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The regional water provider, which distributes all Colorado-Big Thompson Water, sold 25,000 acre-feet of water — roughly enough for 50,000 urban households — on Friday because reservoir levels were high enough. The sealed bids brought in $644,142 for the cities and districts that had excess water beyond what they can carry over. The price paid for the water differs among bidders, but the weighted average is $25.77 per acre-foot with the lowest bid at $11.13 per acre-foot and the highest $40…

Even with the sale, there will be plenty of water stored to handle farmers’, cities’ and districts’ needs this spring and summer, said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water.

“We’ve got a good savings account going with storage,” he said.

All the reservoirs that store Colorado Big-Thompson water, including Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir, are sitting at a combined 75 percent of capacity, which is 125 percent of the average amount of water in storage, according to Werner.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.


Don’t suck the Colorado River dry billboard part of grassroots campaign to protect the Upper Colorado River

March 16, 2012

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

A coalition of river advocates has unveiled a billboard on I-70 that highlights the threat to the upper Colorado River from massive water diversions to the Front Range—diversions that are sucking the life out of the upper Colorado and degrading irreplaceable mountain areas where many Coloradans love to fish, hunt, and recreate.

The billboard is part of a larger grassroots campaign that is rallying Coloradans to help protect this popular western slope recreation destination.

The billboard, in the foothills of Golden near the 470 exit, shows a state flag image being drained of water and warns, “Don’t Suck the Upper Colorado River Dry.” The message will reach an estimated 180,000 people each day who travel this major east-west corridor.

“Coloradans need to know that the health of the upper Colorado and Fraser rivers is jeopardized by these water diversions,” said Sinjin Eberle, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We’re asking our state leaders to step up and finish the job of protecting these special places.”

For years, large-scale water diversions to Denver and the Front Range have severely depleted and at times nearly sucked dry entire stretches of the upper Colorado River and its tributaries, including the Fraser River. The low flows and higher temperatures have caused dramatic declines in fish and other benchmarks of aquatic health. Low flows have also contributed to the spread of smothering silt and choking algae.

River advocates warn that the proposed expansions of the Moffat Tunnel and Windy Gap diversion projects could push the upper Colorado ecosystem to the brink of collapse unless environmental mitigation plans for the projects contain stronger flow protections for the rivers. Those proposals are currently in the final stages of permitting and under review by federal regulators.

The billboard is aimed at the tens of thousands of Front Range residents who travel up I-70 each week to hike, ski, fish, raft and play on the West Slope. Outdoor recreation is a $10 billion a year business in the state, supporting 107,000 jobs and generating nearly $500 million in state tax revenues. Many towns in the Fraser and upper Colorado River valleys depend heavily on outdoor tourism for their economic health.

“It’s important that Front Range residents understand the seriousness of these diversion impacts and show their support for healthy rivers,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “We can meet our water needs while preserving our rivers, but that will only happen with stronger protections for the Upper Colorado.”

Gov. Hickenlooper and other state leaders have a responsibility to protect these rivers and the state recreation economy that depends on them, said Peternell.
A 2011 state study that showed stronger measures were needed to keep the upper Colorado system healthy. Moreover, in a recent letter citing that study, the EPA called for a “more robust monitoring and mitigation plan” for the Windy Gap proposal.

The groups are calling on state and federal officials to support stronger protection measures for the upper Colorado, including higher spring flushing flows and a monitoring plan for the river.

“We’re asking Gov. Hickenlooper to speak up for the Colorado River,” said Peternell. “He has an opportunity to be a hero for the river.”

In response to the campaign, thousands of Coloradans have raised their voices for river protection. The Defend the Colorado website features a “Voices of the River” gallery profiling Fraser Valley residents and visitors who speak eloquently about their concern for the river. Moreover, thousands of Coloradans and more than 400 businesses have signed petitions asking state leaders to protect the rivers and state tourism.

“These are special places,” said Jon Kahn, owner of Confluence Kayaks in Denver. “Many Coloradans live here because of our state’s magnificent rivers and recreation opportunities. That quality of life is at risk unless our leaders act.”

To learn more about diversion impacts on the river and how you can raise your voice to help, go to www.defendthecolorado.org

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

From all the feel-good language about a global solution and Front Range-West Slope collaboration, you’d never know that there’s a bitter war being waged over what’s left of the Colorado River. A coalition of river advocates hopes to cast a spotlight on the fight with a new billboard going up along I-70, where mountain-bound travelers will see the bold message, “Don’t Suck the Upper Colorado River Dry.”[...]

At issue is a pair of planned new diversions, based on existing water rights, by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District that would further deplete the Colorado River’s native flows.

Northern’s Windy Gap firming project would divert water through the Colorado-Big Thompson system to a proposed new reservoir on the northern Front Range, southwest of Loveland.

Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project would produce 18,000 acre-feet of new supply by expanding Gross Reservoir, near Boulder.

Both projects are under review, and Colorado has developed mitigation plans that address at least some of the potential impacts. The state’s water establishment claims the mitigation plans will not only protect the Colorado River from new impacts, but actually improve existing conditions. Environmental advocates are skeptical, and are asking for additional specific mitigation and monitoring, and recently got some backing from the EPA, which pointed out weaknesses in the proposed mitigation plans…

River advocates warn that the proposed expansions of the Moffat Tunnel and Windy Gap diversion projects could push the upper Colorado ecosystem to the brink of collapse unless environmental mitigation plans for the projects contain stronger flow protections for the rivers. Those proposals are currently in the final stages of permitting and under review by federal regulators.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper, et. al., request new comment period for the Windy Gap Firming Project

March 16, 2012

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Here’s the release from Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper (Gary Wockner):

Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper (STP) [ed. link not safe to open at work] has contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to request that federal agency open up a new public comment period for the Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP) Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). Citing regulations in the Clean Water Act, STP believes that the FEIS omits important information, contains significant new information, and thus additional public scrutiny is both warranted and essential. Save the Poudre also asked the Corps to “supplement” the FEIS and conduct additional scientific analyses.

Save the Poudre’s letter to the Corps is here (link to letter).

“This extremely controversial project could have significant impacts to the Poudre River, and the Final Environmental Impact Statement contains significant new information,” said Gary Wockner of Save the Poudre. “We request that the Corps open up a new public comment period – we believe it is essential and in the public’s interest to increase the public’s scrutiny of this project.”

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commented on the WGFP FEIS, pointing out errors and highlighting missing scientific information and inconsistent conclusions. In its letter to the Corps, Save the Poudre requested that the Corps address EPA’s concerns. Further, Save the Poudre requested that the Corps address the concerns that EPA stated in its original comment letter on the Draft EIS in 2008 which still have not been addressed in the FEIS over 3 years later.

Save the Poudre also requested that the Corps address the issue of water used for fracking. Recent news reports reveal that several WGFP cities are selling what they call “excess” water for fracking, and one WGFP city, Greeley, which is also in the Poudre River basin, made $1.6 million selling water for drilling and fracking in 2011. In the 1,472 pages of the WGFP FEIS, water for drilling and fracking is not discussed.

“Should we be draining the Colorado River so that sprawling Front Range cities can make millions of dollars selling water for fracking?” asked Gary Wockner. “At a minimum, the FEIS for WGFP needs to address and analyze this new industrial use of water – fracking – in its ‘Purpose and Need’ section of the document.”

In order for the project to move forward, federal law mandates that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issue a Clean Water Act section 404 permit for the project — that permit requires the Corps to ensure that there is no alternative to WGFP that would cause less damage to Colorado’s rivers and wetlands. The Corps is also a cooperating agency that assisted the Bureau of Reclamation in the preparation of the FEIS.

More coverage from the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Community activists along the northern Front Range say they want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start a comment period for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap firming project, based on what they say are omissions, and significant new information on potential impacts to the Colorado River…

The main feature of the project is the proposed new 90,000-acre-foot Chimney Hollow Reservoir that would be located southwest of Loveland and just west of Carter Lake…

The Corps of Engineers is a cooperating agency — with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation — on the Windy Gap project. The project requires a Clean Water Act wetlands fill and discharge permit, so that’s why Save The Poudre is asking the Corps for a public comment period. Last month, the EPA’s formal comments on the project also pointed out errors and ommissions and highlighted missing scientific information and inconsistent conclusions.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Northern Water: Regional Pool Water available, bids due March 16

March 12, 2012

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From email from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District:

Today the Northern Water Board of Directors made 25,000 acre feet of water available for lease through the Regional Pool Program, a C-BT Project water leasing/renting mechanism, with bids due March 16. The board’s decision was based on the status of C-BT Project storage reserves, which were replenished in the previous two water years, and current crop irrigation demands.

Bid prices per acre foot must be greater than or equal to $9.50, a floor price the board selected based on the 2012 agricultural assessment.

Here’s the link to the website.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Windsor: Sales of water for hydraulic fracturing operations is a growing source of revenue

March 11, 2012

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

After years of selling small amounts of municipal water to construction firms, oil and gas well servicing companies started lining up in November at the [Windsor's] fire hydrants, earning the community nearly $17,000 in millions of gallons of water sales as of March. 1…

Fracking is a thirsty process, with each Niobrara frack job using an average of 4.3 million gallons of water, or about 13 acre-feet, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Where that water comes from and where it goes is critical because many environmentalists are sounding alarms about the amount of water being used for drilling along the Front Range because they say it poses serious future water supply problems as the energy industry continues to boom here.

But the state begs to differ. Colorado energy regulators project that roughly 16,000 acre feet of water will be used this year for fracking statewide, most of which will stay far underground without being returned to a local stream or river. Compare that to the 13.9 million acre-feet of water used for farming in Colorado each year. Or the 1.2 million acre-feet of water all the state’s cities use each year. Those figures show that fracking represents only a fraction of the state’s overall water demand, said Thom Kerr, acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission…

The Coloradoan asked 32 municipalities in Larimer and Weld counties to report how much bulk municipal water they sold or rented to the energy industry in 2011, including oil and gas companies and their water haulers. Of the 26 that responded, seven were able to report selling water specifically to oil and gas companies and water haulers. The rest either did not sell water to the energy industry last year or do not track what kind of companies buy their water…

Greeley, in the heart of Northern Colorado’s oil and gas patch, is another big benefactor of the industry’s thirst for water. The city made $1.6 million in 1,507 acre-feet of bulk water sales in 2011, up from $951,000 in 2010, mostly to the oil and gas industry, said Jon Monson, director of Greeley Water and Sewer…

Also reaping big benefits from selling water to the energy industry is the city of Fort Lupton in southern Weld County, where officials are using the windfall of cash to pay down $20 million in debt the city racked up from replacing its water treatment plants in the 1990s, Fort Lupton city administrator Claud Hanes said…

“They don’t understand what the cumulative impact is going to be if we put in another 100,000 wells,” said environmentalist Phillip Doe of Littleton, a former environmental compliance officer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. If all the wells that exist today were fracked multiple times, “it’s not hard to come up with calculations that come up with Denver’s annual water use. This stuff goes underground and never comes back.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Reclamation is moving water to Carter Lake

March 4, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

A busy maintenance season that has continued from late fall well into the New Year is starting to wrap up. As a result, we have started pumping water up to Carter Lake again. Also, the water elevation at Horsetooth Reservoir is higher than is typical for this time of year.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Today: ‘Rally for the River II’ — Conservationists hope to get Governor Hickenlooper’s ear regarding the Windy Gap Firming Project

February 22, 2012

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From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Building on the boisterous success of last month’s Rally for the Upper Colorado River at the Environmental Protection Agency building in Denver, a coalition of conservationists hoping to derail a pair of transmountain water diversion projects is taking its message to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s doorstep today. Sportsmen, boaters, wildlife enthusiasts and others concerned about the collapsing upper Colorado River are being encouraged to meet outside the Capitol at 11 a.m. for Round 2.

The EPA, apparently having heard Defend the Colorado’s message, recently issued a letter to federal permitting authorities at the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raising concerns of “critical adverse impacts” resulting from the Northern Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming Project. The agency determined the proposal to divert up to 67 percent of the upper Colorado River’s natural flows into a tunnel across the Continental Divide may cause “significant degradation” to the struggling river and recommended “a more robust monitoring and mitigation plan” to protect it. Now it’s the governor’s turn.

As reported last week by Bruce Finley of The Denver Post, state officials stand behind Hickenlooper’s contention that Northern Water’s current plan to pull an extra 21,296 acre-feet of water a year from the Colorado River near Granby “comprehensively addresses impacts to Colorado’s fish and wildlife.”[...]

To their credit, Northern and Denver Water both bolstered mitigation efforts while seeking approval of their respective projects by the Colorado Wildlife Commission last summer. Northern has committed $250,000 to study a possible bypass around the Windy Gap Reservoir, a collection pond that pumps water back uphill.

With the federal permit decision looming, the governor can expect to be asked to help broker an agreement making the bypass a reality. He might also be asked to explain his April comment: “This state has to realize, people in the metropolitan Denver have to realize, that their self-interest is served by treating water as a precious commodity and that its value on the Western Slope is just as relevant as its value in the metro area.”

More coverage from Alan Prendergast writing for Westword. From the article:

…environmentalists say the further depletion of the river will alter the temperature, kill fish and insects that a healthy river needs, increase sediment — and generally trash the tourism business for folks in places like Fraser and Granby. A state study found a dramatic drop-off in aquatic insect species over the past two decades from previous diversions, and a recent EPA report is calling for more study and better monitoring of the project.

Opponents say the Upper Colorado can survive additional Front Range incursions, but only by developing further mitigation measures, including periodic water releases to flush out sediment gathering in the depleted riverway. Hoping to bend Hickenlooper’s ear a bit, speakers at tomorrow’s rally, which starts at 11 a.m., include Drew Peternell of Trout Unlimited and Field and Stream columnist Kirk Deeter.

More coverage from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

In a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, both dated Feb. 6, the agency outlined its concerns with the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project, saying more mitigation needs to be tied to an upcoming record of decision.

Among recommendations, the agency would like to see a bypass channel constructed around Windy Gap Dam for times when the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and municipal subdistrict are out of priority.

The bypass channel was identified in a 2011 report by researchers of division of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The report spells out ongoing problems in the Upper Colorado River basin that have been worsening over the past half-century, primarily chronic sedimentation, high temperatures and a lack of high flushing flows that have already caused the disappearance of the mottled sculpin, a native fish.

“Two things must be done if there is to truly be any hope of enhancement of aquatic ecosystem in the upper Colorado River in the future,” the 2011 Nehring Parks and Wildlife study reads. “A bypass channel around Windy Gap Dam and a major investment in stream channel reconfiguration for the Colorado River below Windy Gap Dam are both equally important and the only way true enhancement has any possibility of success. Either one without the other will have virtually no chance of succeeding.”

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


The EPA recommends more protection of the Upper Colorado River in light of the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project

February 17, 2012

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

An Environmental Protection Agency review of data used in planning the project found mathematical errors and a downplaying of “critical adverse impacts” from the $270 million project, which Colorado leaders consider crucial for millions of residents. EPA reviewers cited a separate 2011 state study that documented the disappearance of all native sculpin fish and 38 percent of aquatic insect species over 20 years as a result of existing water diversions.

An EPA document, sent to federal permitting authorities last week, recommends further analysis of the Northern Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming Project to prevent new violations of state water-quality standards and “a more robust monitoring and mitigation plan” to protect the river. “The EPA has not recommended delaying this project,” EPA regional administrator Jim Martin said. “Our recommendations are intended to provide a path forward that also protects the Colorado River…

Conservation groups say the EPA review backs what they have been saying for years. They are hoping the report will bolster their push for a bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir, which has broken the flow of the river. They also want to make sure at least 2,400 acre-feet of water — or 1,200 cubic feet per second — is released every other year to clear sediment. The state’s own study found such flushing flows are essential. But the Northern Water Conservancy District has agreed to devote only about half that much water to ensure ecosystem health.

“This project could be done in a way where the Front Range gets its water and the river is protected. But to do that, we need more mitigation and monitoring. You have to make sure you have enough high flows,” said Trout Unlimited attorney Mely Whiting. “Our hope is to have folks see the light on this and come to an agreement. Litigation is an option.”

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Northern Water nixes use of Colorado-Big Thompson Project water for hydraulic fracturing outside of project boundaries

February 11, 2012

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From KUNC (Nathan Heffel):

Northern Water is cracking down on oil and gas companies using its water for hydraulic fracturing. The agency says its water cannot be used for fracking operations outside of the district boundaries. Brian Werner, with Northern Water says they have no knowledge of this happening but, “With all the trucks out there hauling water in Weld County and elsewhere that it is apt to.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


Windy Gap Firming Project update: Chimney Hollow Reservoir could get a green light for construction later this year

January 8, 2012

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The reservoir, which would sit southwest of Loveland, is intended to shore up the water supplies of a dozen Front Range communities and water districts as well as Platte River Power Authority. An initial decision on its future is expected this year, possibly by summer.

The reservoir also would provide access to nonmotorized boating and miles of trails expected to be built on 1,800 acres of adjacent Chimney Hollow Open Space managed by the Larimer County Natural Resources Department. The open space is part of the larger Blue Mountain Conservation Area.

Chimney Hollow Reservoir would sit directly west of Carter Lake on the other side of a towering hogback formation. With the two reservoirs about a half-mile apart, the area is expected to attract a variety of recreation enthusiasts, said Kerri Rollins, manager of the county’s open lands program…

Its main purpose is to provide water storage for its participating entities, said Dana Strongin, communications specialist with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, or Northern Water, which would build the project. The participants already own rights to the water, which would be drawn from the Colorado River and conveyed to the Front Range through existing facilities of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. But they have no way to store the water for use during dry years…

After years of studies and public debate required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the federal Bureau of Reclamation late last year released a final environmental impact statement for the project that looks at various options. A record of decision, which would designate the preferred option and the steps that must be taken for it to be approved — such as mitigating its impact on wildlife — is expected later this year. The decision could come by summer, Strongin said…

The reservoir would be created with the construction of a 350-foot-tall dam on the north side of the valley and a smaller structure on the south. Underground pipes would carry water in and out of the reservoir. Chimney Hollow would be slightly smaller than Carter Lake. Building the project would cost about $270 million, Strongin said. Going through the environmental review process has already cost about $9 million.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Northern Water’s new hydroelectric facility at Carter Lake should be online this summer

January 2, 2012

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

Northern Water, which distributes all the Colorado-Big Thompson water, is building a $6 million hydroelectric plant at Carter Lake. The district invested $4 million and borrowed $2 million from the Colorado Water Resource and Power Development Authority — a loan that will be paid back with profits from the sale of the power. The building to house the equipment that will transform the pressure from the water into electricity is nearly complete. And the actual generation turbines are on order from a company in England. They are expected to arrive in Colorado by March, and crews will install them in the new building. By June, the plant should begin adding electricity to the grid for Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association, which signed a 20-year contract to buy the water power. The plant could produce up to 2.6 megawatts of power — enough to serve 1,000 homes.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Colorado River Basin: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system?

December 25, 2011

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Here’s a guest commentary written by Eric Kuhn, David Modeer and Fred Krupp running in The Denver Post. The trio are issuing a call to arms of sort, asking for input for the Colorado River Basin Study. Here’s an excerpt:

Management of the Colorado River is a complex balancing act between the diverse interests of United States and Mexico, tribes, the seven basin states, individual water users, stakeholders, and communities. The challenges posed by new growth and climate change may dwarf anything we faced in the past. Instead of staring into the abyss, the water users, agencies, and stakeholder groups that make managing the Colorado River responsibly their business are working together, using the best science available to define the problem, and looking for solutions.

We’re calling our inquiry the Colorado River Basin Study, and we want your help. As Colorado River management professionals, we have a lot of knowledge and ideas, but we know that we don’t have them all. We want ideas from the public, from you, but we need your input by February 1. You can submit your suggestions by completing the online form at: http://on.doi.gov/uvhkUi.

The big question we need to answer is: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system? We don’t believe there’s a single silver bullet that will resolve all of our challenges. We want to continue to explore the benefits and costs of every possibility, from conservation to desalination to importing water from other regions.

The West was built on innovation and hard work, and that spirit is still strong. Our landscapes and communities are unparalleled in their beauty, resilience, and character. The economic well-being of our rural and urban communities in the Colorado River basin is inextricably linked to Colorado River and its environmental health.

That’s why we are asking for the public’s input to help us craft a study showing a path forward that supplies our communities with the water they need to thrive and protects the health of the Colorado River-and the ecosystems and economies it supports.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Reclamation plans to start filling Mary’s Lake on December 26

December 24, 2011

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As we near the Holidays, we near the wrap up of annual maintenance on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Immediately following Christmas, we will begin bringing water back through the east slope of the C-BT system.

Marys Lake, which has been drawn down for annual maintenance at the power plant, will begin to fill again starting December 26.

Operations at Lake Estes, which has maintained average water level elevations through most of December, will be unchanged.

Next week, the Pole Hill Canal, which helps bring water from Lake Estes to the C-BT’s southern power arm, will start to water up again, in stages. Our contractor on that project has finished work early and we will be testing the canal the last week of the year. Check out the news release announcing the project’s completion.

As Pole Hill Canal waters up, the water level at Pinewood Reservoir will slowly start to rise.

The water elevation at Carter Lake has continued to slowly drop as we have run Unit #3 in reverse to generate hydro-electric power and also send water down the canal towards Horsetooth. Next week, Unit #3 will be on and off as a power generating unit. On December 30, however, we have scheduled to switch back to pump mode and water will once again pump up to Carter Lake.

A little bit of water will continue going to Horsetooth Reservoir via the Charles Hansen Feeder Canal. Horsetooth is still high in water elevation for this time of year. It is currently at an elevation of about 5408 and did not drop below 5400 in 2011. That is unusual.


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

December 22, 2011

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

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

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Northern Water is seeking to make sure that Colorado-Big Thompson Project water is not used outside the project boundaries

December 17, 2011

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Porter):

The rule, proposed by the district’s board of directors, is intended to keep cities and towns and others with C-BT water rights from selling the water for use outside the district. In this case, that means selling it to oil-and-gas companies or water haulers who intend to use it on hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – operations in the region. Federal and state laws prohibit the use of C-BT water outside the district, but oil-and-gas companies and the water haulers who serve them have been eagerly buying water from any source available to them.

Brian Werner, Northern spokesman, said the rule was proposed because the district has been contacted by some of the 33 communities it serves about whether selling C-BT and Windy Gap Project water is allowed under their contracts. “My guess is the vast majority of them have been approached by water haulers,” he said…

Northern’s proposed rules explicitly target the use of C-BT and Windy Gap water: “The use of C-BT Project water and the first use of Windy Gap Project water as well development water cannot and shall not be made for any oil or gas well located outside the boundaries of Northern Water or the Subdistrict.” The proposed rule also calls for the water supplier – city, town or other possessor of C-BT or Windy Gap water – to keep strict accounting records to assure that the water is being beneficially used within district boundaries. Penalties for violating the rules would include the water supplier being fined $500 per acre-foot of C-BT and Windy Gap water illegally delivered to a water hauler. Other possible corrective actions include requiring water suppliers to provide a replacement water supply to Northern Water or the subdistrict…

Werner said Northern’s board will take the matter up again at its Jan. 13 meeting. He said written comments can be submitted through Jan. 3…

While the city of Greeley has become one of the region’s biggest suppliers of water to the oil and gas industry, Longmont, Loveland, Fort Lupton, Frederick and Firestone are also reportedly selling water.

Jon Monson, Greeley’s water and sewer director, said the city has been selling surplus water to the oil-and-gas industry for the last five years, an amount that held relatively steady through 2010 but which jumped by 50 percent this year. “This extra revenue can lower the bond costs and the amount of bonds we need to issue,” he said. “This lowers the cost of the bonds to the ratepayers and will cut down future water bills.”

Here’s the announcement (including to proposed rule) from Northern Water.


Final EIS for Windy Gap Firming Available to Public

December 12, 2011

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

The project’s key feature, construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir southwest of Loveland, would increase the reliability of the existing Windy Gap Project, which started delivering water to Front Range municipalities in 1985.

The Windy Gap Firming Project is a regional collaboration among 13 growing Northeastern Colorado water providers (Platte River Power Authority, Broomfield, Erie, Greeley, Longmont, Louisville, Loveland, Superior, Central Weld County Water District, Evans, Little Thompson, Louisville, Loveland, Superior, Central Weld County Water District, Evans, Little Thompson Water District, Lafayette and Fort Lupton) who in 2050 face a population totaling more than double what it was in 2005, according to Northern.

Water demand projections for the participants show a storage of 64,000 acre feet in 2030 and 110,000 acre-feet by 2050. Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict is coordinating the review on behalf of the providers, who will pay for the estimated $270 million project.

Chimney Hollow would be just west of and slightly smaller than Carter Lake and would be part of Larimer County’s Open Lands Program, with non-motorized boating, fishing and trails.

“We put a lot of time and effort into developing these plans, and we’re proud to say that they will make conditions on the Colorado River better in the future than they are today,” said Jeff Drager, project manager of Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, in statements released this week.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Windy Gap firming project update: More water for Boulder County

December 11, 2011

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

“It’s been a long haul for us, but we see a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dana Strongin, spokeswoman for Northern Water, which is spearheading the project that will serve a number of local towns, including Louisville, Lafayette, Longmont, Broomfield, Erie and Superior. “We entered into this process in 2003. It takes a lot of work to take this water planning and put it into action.”

The goal of the Windy Gap Firming Project is to make the supply of water from the original Windy Gap project, which was finished in 1985, more reliable. The original Windy Gap project was never able to deliver all the water promised to towns on the Front Range because it has to piggyback on some parts of the Colorado-Big Thompson diversion system to make it across the mountains.

That’s a problem because in wet years — when there’s more water to divert from the river — the Colorado-Big Thompson system doesn’t have room to store the Windy Gap water in its already-full reservoir. During dry years, there’s room to store Windy Gap water, but the project’s water rights are so junior that it can’t draw water from the river.

The key feature of the $270 million firming project, if approved, would be the construction of a new reservoir in Larimer County to solve the storage problem. The proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir would sit just west of Carter Lake and have a capacity of 90,000 acre-feet. The water to fill the reservoir would largely be pumped through existing pipes and canals.

Environmentalists have been concerned about the effects the Windy Gap project could have on the upper reaches of the Colorado River, which already has been severely depleted. In particular, they worry that taking more water from the headwaters of the Colorado will cause an increase in water temperature, which can be lethal for fish, and a decrease in “flushing flows,” which are critical for cleaning out the sediment that can armor the bottom of riverbeds, smothering aquatic insects.

When the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Windy Gap Firming Project was released in 2008, Trout Unlimited was one of the groups that said the document was inadequate. Now, the nonprofit organization says the final version of the document is an improvement over the draft, though still not good enough.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


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