Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Lake Estes lowered for winter maintenance

November 27, 2012

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From the Estes Park Trail-Gazette (John Cordsen):

The bureau stopped diverting water through the Adams Tunnel into the lake on Nov. 5, as well as moving water from Lake Estes through the Olympus Tunnel to the southern power arm of the Colorado-Big Thompson water diversion, storage and delivery project, of which Estes, Marys and East Portal are a part. This was in preparation for some regular maintenance projects on that section.

Water that would normally hit the three power plants between Lake Estes and the mouth of the Big Thompson Canyon was instead released directly from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River. That bumped flows in the canyon up to around 150 cubic feet per second where they stayed for about a week.

“With the 150 cfs being released from Lake Estes, but no water coming in, the water level elevation at Estes dropped a little over a foot a day until it reached the elevation it is currently at now: 7460 feet, or about 15 feet down from full,” said Kara Lamb, the Bureau of Reclamation public information officer. “Then, we curtailed the releases back to native inflow and are now holding steady. Our plan is to keep Lake Estes at this elevation until mid-December.”

Lamb said the bureau, the agency that manages the lake, drops the water level down to this elevation every two to three years for regular maintenance projects.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Reclamation releases Supplemental Information Report to Windy Gap Firming EIS

November 15, 2012

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

The Bureau of Reclamation announces the availability of a Supplemental Information

Report and related errata to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which analyzed impacts of the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project. Both the SIR and the errata are available at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

“A SIR analyzes new information received after the completion of the Final EIS to determine if there are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns on the proposed action or its impacts,” said Michael J. Ryan, Regional Director for Reclamation’s Great Plains Region.

An errata is a list of corrections to a publication.

After publication of the Final EIS in December 2011, Reclamation received new information regarding the Multiple Metric Index methodology for aquatic invertebrates in the Colorado River. Invertebrate values were updated and rerun based on this new information.

The findings in the SIR explain that the revised aquatic invertebrate values did not change the conclusions in the Final EIS.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project: Boulder queues up to spend $800,000 on proposed Carter Lake to Boulder Reservoir pipeline

November 13, 2012

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Joe Rubino):

After four years of planning, Northern Water — leading the project on behalf of Boulder, Left Hand Water District, Longs Peak Water District and the town of Frederick — is ready to begin acquiring the land needed along the pipeline’s proposed future alignment, the memo said.

Design and construction plans likely won’t come before the City Council until 2015 or later, but city staff members indicated that property values are expected to escalate 9 percent each year acquisition is delayed, adding up to $60,000 a year to Boulder’s $800,000 contribution.

“Right now, we are basically going to try to preserve our option for the future by moving ahead with right-of-way and easement acquisition,” said Bob Harberg, Boulder’s utilities planning and project management coordinator. “If … we decide to move forward with this project, we won’t have to contend with the difficulties of land acquisitions.”[...]

As needs have increased, Boulder and its partners in 2007 began looking at a new pipeline that would trace the path of the old pipeline before veering off and eventually delivering water to Boulder Reservoir, according to the staff memo. The new project does not grant participants the right to draw more water from the system than is already allowed…

The enclosed pipeline will provide water year-round — as opposed to seasonally, as is the case with the canal system — and will better protect the water from contamination, leading to more consistent drinking water quality, according to the staff memo.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Adams Tunnel deliveries off November 5, to resume after maintenance period

November 10, 2012

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Maintenance season for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project begins this November, with water diversions through the Adams Tunnel stopped on Nov. 5, according to Kara Lamb, spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation.

“This will temporarily slow the draw on Granby Reservoir because we will not be pumping up to Shadow Mountain Reservoir and the tunnel,” Lamb wrote in an email to interested parties. “Releases from Granby to the Colorado River should remain at or above 20 cfs at the Y gauge for the rest of the calendar year.”

All annual maintenance projects scheduled for this fall on the C-BT Project on the eastern side of the Divide start to wrap up the week of Dec. 7 through Dec. 14. At that time, diversions through the Adams Tunnel are scheduled to resume.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project fall operations update

November 3, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

It’s that time of year again: maintenance season for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. If you are receiving this e-mail it is because our maintenance schedule will be affecting a reservoir or river flows in which you are interested. Because all of these operations tie together, it’s a lengthy e-mail, so please bear with me:

Monday, Nov. 5: We will stop diverting through the Adams Tunnel. This will temporarily slow the draw on Granby Reservoir because we will not be pumping up to Shadow Mt. Reservoir and the Tunnel. Releases from Granby to the Colorado River should remain at or above 20 cfs at the Y gage for the rest of the calendar year.

This same day, we will also stop moving water from Lake Estes through the Olympus Tunnel to the southern power arm of the C-BT so we can start some regular maintenance projects on that section.

Water that would normally hit those three power plants will instead be released from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River, bumping its flows up from around 40 cfs to 150 cfs. We will change the release from the dam in the early morning hours of Nov. 5 before 5:30 a.m.

The project water released to the Big T River will be recaptured at the Dille Diversion Dam in the narrows section of the canyon. The Dille redirects the water back on course to Horsetooth Reservoir via the Charles Hansen Feeder Canal.

With 150 cfs being released from Lake Estes and no water coming in, the water level elevation at Estes will start to drop a little over a foot a day for about a week.

Monday, Nov. 12: The water level at Lake Estes will hit an elevation of about 7460 feet by day’s end. We will hold it there until the second week of December.

While water through the tunnels is off and the Lake Estes water level is down, our maintenance work will be on. During this same time, the Estes Sanitation District will be performing sand removal from the western side of Lake Estes.

Water levels at Marys Lake will not be drawn down this year.

Nov. 13: Delivery of C-BT water from Olympus Dam to Dille Dam via the Big Thompson River will stop. Releases to the river will go back to around 40 cfs—the typical native flow of the Big Thompson River this time of year. We will start delivering C-BT water from Pinewood Reservoir.

Pinewood, downstream of Lake Estes and Olympus Dam on the C-BT’s southern power arm, will stay at a high water elevation through the first part of the maintenance work. With no water coming from the West Slope, it will take over the role of delivering project water when Lake Estes hits its 7460 foot water level elevation. Because Pinewood’s own water levels are currently high, residents near and visitors to Pinewood will likely not notice its water level start to decline until the last week or two of November. It will continue to drop until the first week of December.

Dec. 7-14: All annual maintenance projects scheduled for this fall on the C-BT start to wrap up. Diversions through the Adams Tunnel will resume, the water level elevation at Lake Estes will start to rise, and it will resume delivering water through Olympus Tunnel to the southern power arm. Pinewood’s water elevation will start to come back up.

Deliveries to Horsetooth Reservoir will experience a slowdown during the middle of the maintenance work, but continue through December. The reservoir will officially start to refill in mid-to-late December, as is its normal schedule.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Fort Collins: A low winter snowpack, remaining effects of the High Park Fire may lead to restrictions

October 29, 2012

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Brian Janonis):

The city of Fort Collins has two main water sources: the Cache la Poudre River and water from Horsetooth Reservoir (through partial ownership in the Colorado-Big Thompson Project), both originating from snowmelt. Fort Collins Utilities continuously evaluates how much to draw from each source for treatment. Flexibility is key to maintaining high-quality drinking water, particularly in the aftermath of fire. Due to our strict adherence to treatment regulations and state-of-the-art water treatment processes, the city’s drinking water quality has not been affected by summer fires.

Fort Collins Utilities, in cooperation with the city of Greeley, surrounding water districts (known as the Tri-District), Colorado State University and other organizations, are focused on the health of the Poudre River in the aftermath of the fire. In June, we stopped taking water from the river and installed automated monitoring systems to alert staff to water quality conditions and storm events. Mulching operations were completed in more than half of the highest-priority public lands in the watershed, and additional mitigation will occur in the spring. This helps retain moisture, prevent mudslides, and allows seeds to germinate and regenerate vegetation to stabilize hillsides. It also helps prevent large amounts of sediment and debris from running off burned slopes and into the water supply.

Record hot temperatures in 2012, combined with low snowpack (30 percent of average) and the fires, impacted the water supply because we were not able to maximize our water rights on the Poudre River. Fortunately, water restrictions were not required, due to a high water allocation from Horsetooth Reservoir and a limited ability for Utilities to store saved water for use in 2013.

However, given the uncertainty of water quality impacts to the Poudre River and the potential of drought conditions persisting, water restrictions in 2013 may be necessary. It’s uncertain what this winter’s snowpack will bring, how much water Utilities will be able to draw from the river, and the amount of water to be allocated through the Colorado-Big Thompson system. In the last decade, Utilities customers have reduced water use by about 25 percent; the need for wise water use remains.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


Windsor: The town board approves a third water rate tier

October 13, 2012

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From the Windsor Beacon (Ashley Keesis-Wood):

The town’s current water system for single-system residential users features a base fee of $14.81 a month, with a $3.30 charge per 1,000 gallons a month until the users reach the first-tier threshold of 15,700 gallons a month. The second tier’s charge is $4.93 a month per 1,000 gallons. The new tier rate structure would increase the first-tier usage, raising it to 16,000 gallons a month before the second tier would begin. The new tier, at 2011 prices, would begin at 22,501 gallons a month at a cost of $7.35 per 1,000 gallons. The new rate will go into effect Jan. 15…

When developers build homes, they are required to pledge a certain amount of water from the Colorado Big Thompson, or CBT, project to account for the households’ use of water. The highest tier, the 22,501 gallons, equates to full usage of the allotted CBT water for each household. “This will still promote and encourage conservation,” said Mayor John Vazquez.

More infrastructure coverage here.


‘Water Wranglers’ is George Sibley’s new book about the Colorado River District #coriver

October 10, 2012

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Here’s the link to the web page where you can order a copy. Here’s the pitch:

Water Wranglers
The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District:
A Story About the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West

The Colorado River is one of America’s wildest rivers in terms of terrain and natural attributes, but is actually modest in terms of water quantity – the Mississippi surpasses the Colorado’s annual flow in a matter of days. Yet the Colorado provides some or all of the domestic water for some 35 million Southwesterners, most of whom live outside of the river’s natural course in rapidly growing desert cities. It fully or partially irrigates four-million acres of desert land that produces much of America’s winter fruits and vegetables. It also provides hundreds of thousands of people with recreational opportunities. To put a relatively small river like the Colorado to work, however, has resulted in both miracles and messes: highly controlled use and distribution systems with multiplying problems and conflicts to work out, historically and into the future.

Water Wranglers is the story of the Colorado River District’s first seventy-five years, using imagination, political shrewdness, legal facility, and appeals to moral rightness beyond legal correctness to find balance among the various entities competing for the use of the river’s water. It is ultimately the story of a minority seeking equity, justice, and respect under democratic majority rule – and willing to give quite a lot to retain what it needs.

The Colorado River District was created in 1937 with a dual mission: to protect the interests of the state of Colorado in the river’s basin and to defend local water interests in Western Colorado – a region that produces 70 percent of the river’s total water but only contains 10 percent of the state’s population.

To order the book, visit the Wolverine Publishing website at http://wolverinepublishing.com/water-wranglers. It can also be found at the online bookseller Amazon.

More Colorado River District coverage here.


Grand County Commissioners continue Windy Gap Firming Project hearing to October 30

October 4, 2012

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Grand County commissioners on Tuesday, Oct. 2, continued the hearing for the Windy Gap Firming Project permit to Oct. 30. The decision to continue the hearing was made during the Board of Commissioners regular weekly meeting.

More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.


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

October 2, 2012

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Update: From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This morning [October 2] around 9 a.m., we made an adjustment to the release from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue, dropping it back by 50 cfs from 370 to 320 cfs.

The reason for the change is to keep in balance with both declining inflows to the reservoir and the declining Colorado-Big Thompson Project diversions that occur further upstream on the Colorado River, out of Granby Reservoir.

Additional changes are possible, depending on downstream demands and weather. But, there is a slight possibility the 320 cfs could hold through the weekend.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This morning, Monday, Oct. 1, we saw releases from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue River bounce back up. Substitution releases from Williams Fork and Wolford Mountain reservoirs decreased today by a total of about 160 cfs. Green Mountain is now releasing that water to its downstream customers. As a result, flows in the Lower Blue increased from 210 to 370 cfs.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Boulder: Council to consider new agreement to allow testing of graywater system for dormitory

October 1, 2012

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Erica Meltzer):

The city’s Water Resources Advisory Board has already recommended approval of the agreement. The Boulder City Council will consider it Tuesday.

The dorm, which opened in fall 2011, houses 500 students near Baseline Road and 30th Street and received top green credentials from the U.S. Green Building Council, becoming the only residence hall of its size in the nation to earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum rating for its sustainability features. However, the university hasn’t yet been able to take advantage of additional plumbing installed during construction that would allow water from sinks and showers to be captured, filtered, treated and reused for flushing toilets. That’s because case law around water rights in Colorado protects downstream users from the potential loss of water that gets reused instead of being returned to the watershed…

However, that may be less of a concern when graywater is used in toilets — which ultimately send water into the same wastewater treatment system that handles water from sinks and showers — than it is when graywater is used for irrigation, Arthur said.

As part of the agreement, CU will carefully monitor water use in the building and report all that information to the city. Arthur said that will allow city officials to assess the impact of graywater systems on the larger water delivery and treatment system and might provide the basis to lobby for changes to state law…

In the meantime, the city is designating water from the Western Slope that it receives through the Colorado-Big Thompson water project for Williams Village North. Because that water is not from the Boulder Creek watershed, it’s subject to different rules and is eligible for reuse, Arthur said. That way, no downstream users should complain they aren’t getting all the water they are owed.

More graywater reclamation coverage here and here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Lake Granby at 63% of capacity

September 22, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As we move into fall, operations on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project start to shift gears a little bit.

I mentioned earlier this week that the pump to Carter has gone off for the season. Water we were sending up to Carter, we are now taking over to Horsetooth to begin bringing that water level up a little bit as we start to get ready for next year. This is good news for Horsetooth as it is currently just over 30% full.

We could still see some more demands come out of both Carter and Horsetooth in late September and well into October, but right now, the water level elevation at Horsetooth has started to gain, just a little bit and the water level at Carter has held fairly steady. It remains just above 50% full. We are currently delivering around 500 cubic feet per second to Horsetooth.

Pinewood Reservoir is back to more average operations, fluctuating with power generation down at the Flatiron Power Plant.

Similarly, Lake Estes has maintained a typical operation schedule as we continue to bring C-BT water over from the West Slope, generate hydro-electric power and deliver the water to Horsetooth. We are no longer releasing project water through Olympus Dam to the canyon. We are bypassing what is natively in the Big Thompson River on through Lake Estes down the river. That’s been about 50 cfs all week this week.

With the diversion from the West Slope still on and the Adams Tunnel running, the water level elevation at Granby will continue to go down. That is typical for this time of year, but more noticeable than in years past because of the heavy draws the entire C-BT system has seen this summer due to drought conditions. As a result, Granby is around 63% full.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.


The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy celebrates its 75th anniversary

September 21, 2012

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The Northern Water Conservancy District formed on Sept. 20, 1937, specifically to build the Colorado-Big Thompson water project to bring water from the Colorado River to what is now the growing, vibrant Front Range.

A small group shared that idea during the country’s greatest financial crisis and during a time of unparalleled drought.

Residents were out of work, families starving during The Great Depression.

Walls of dust were swirling enough to cause pneumonia, to kill cattle to smother crops, to cause havoc during what is now known as the Dust Bowl.

Yet residents had a vision and pushed through opposition, through financial roadblocks to create a then unprecedented contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, to build the $164 million tunnel, reservoir and canal system, and to turn what seemed like an impossible feat of the imagination into the foundation of our region.

“They gave this region the future, a priceless gift that many of us take for granted,” Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the water district, told hundreds at a celebration Thursday — 75 years to the day that the district, now known at Northern Water, was formed.

Just less than 10 years after the district formed in 1937, crafted an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation and convinced voters to support the project by a 17-1 margin, the first drops of water flowed through the Adams Tunnel over the continental divide and into the Big Thompson River.

That foundation of the project still exists with water stored in reservoirs on the west side and throughout Larimer County, including Carter Lake, Horsetooth, Flatiron and Pinewood Reservoirs.

From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

Former U.S. Rep. Hank Brown, historian Dan Tyler and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director Mike Ryan were all taking part in the event.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Northern Water was established in 1937 as the first water conservancy district in the state and was tasked to work with the federal government to contract for and then build and operate the C-BT Project.

That project is made up of 11 reservoirs that collectively divert about 260,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Colorado River headwaters on the Western Slope to the Big Thompson River, which is a South Platte River tributary on the Eastern Slope, for distribution to lands and communities in eight northern Colorado counties, including Weld.

When constructed in 1937, the C-BT project — the brainchild of a group of Greeley residents — was then the largest transmountain water-supply project in the state. Its 13.1-mile tunnel at the time was the longest in the world dug from two headings, and in the 75 years of its existence, it’s responsible for much of the economic and population growth in northern Colorado, according to those who spoke Thursday…

Today the C-BT Project — completed in 1957, and spreading over 250 square miles — supplies about 850,000 residents and about 640,000 irrigated farm acres. C-BT water was collectively worth about $500,000 at the time the project was built. Today, it’s worth about $3.1 billion.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: The Carter Lake pump is off for the season

September 18, 2012

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Just a quick note to let you know that as of today, September 17, the pump up to Carter Lake has gone off for the season.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District 75th Anniversary bash September 20

September 17, 2012

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Here’s the link to the 75th Anniversary webpage from Northern Water:

The public is invited to come celebrate Northern Water’s 75th anniversary at its Berthoud headquarters on Sept. 20.

The celebration kicks off at 1 p.m. with an open house and tours of Northern Water’s award-winning Conservation Gardens and an interpretive model of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project – the reason for Northern Water’s creation on Sept. 20, 1937.

The Sept. 20 celebratory remarks will begin at 2 p.m. Speakers include former Congressman Hank Brown, historian Dan Tyler and Mike Ryan, regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

After the program, Conservation Gardens tours will continue, along with the opportunity to walk through the Berthoud campus, 200 Water Ave., and learn more about Northern Water’s operations and activities from employees firsthand. Refreshments will be provided.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


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.


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