Water Lines: Colorado needs a better water plan — Jim Pokrandt #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

July 16, 2014


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jim Pokrandt):

It’s almost time for football training camps, so here’s a gridiron analogy for Colorado River water policy watchers: Western Colorado is defending two end zones. One is the Colorado River. The other is agriculture. The West Slope team has to make a big defensive play. If water planning errs on the side of overdeveloping the Colorado River, the river loses, the West Slope economy loses and West Slope agriculture could be on the way out.

This is how the Colorado River Basin Roundtable is viewing its contribution to the Colorado Water Plan ordered up by Gov. John Hickenlooper. A draft plan will be submitted this December and a final plan in December 2015. The Roundtable is assessing local water supply needs and environmental concerns for inclusion into the plan and there is plenty of work to consider in the region. But the big play may very well be the keeping of powerful forces from scoring on our two goal lines.

Here’s why: Colorado’s population is slated to double by 2050. Most of it will be on the Front Range, but our region is growing too. Mother Nature is not making any new water. We still depend on the same hydrological cycle that goes back to Day 1. So where is the “new” water going to come from? Right now, there seems to be two top targets, the Colorado River and agriculture (where 85 percent of state water use lies in irrigated fields). Colorado needs a better plan.

The Colorado Basin Roundtable represents Mesa, Garfield, Summit, Eagle, Grand and Pitkin counties. This region already sends between 450,000 and 600,000 acre feet of water annually across the Continental Divide through transmountain diversions (TMDs) to support the Front Range and the Arkansas River Basin.

That water is 100 percent gone. There are no return flows, such as there are with West Slope water users. On top of that, this region could see another 140,000 acre feet go east. A number of Roundtable constituents have long-standing or prospective agreements with Front Range interests wrapped around smaller TMDs. Existing infrastructure can still take some more water. That’s the scorecard right now. We assert another big TMD threatens streamflows and thus the recreational and agricultural economies that define Western Colorado, not to mention the environment.

In the bigger picture, the Colorado River Compact of 1922 requires Colorado to bypass about 70 percent of the river system to the state line to comply with legal limits on depletions so six other states can have their legal share of the water. Failure to do so, by overdeveloping the river, threatens compact curtailments and chaos nobody wants to see. For one thing, that kind of bad water planning could result in a rush to buy or condemn West Slope agricultural water rights.

The Roundtable has heard these concerns loudly and clearly from its own members across the six counties as well as from citizens who have given voice to our section of the water plan, known as the Basin Implementation Plan (BIP). A draft of the BIP can be viewed and comments offered by going online to http://coloradobip.sgm‐inc.com/. It is under the “Resources” tab.

Jim Pokrandt is Colorado Basin Roundtable Chair.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Environment: Feds release final study on Denver Water’s proposed new transmountain water diversions

May 12, 2014

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

Massive study evaluates and discloses impacts of new Fraser River diversions, expanded Gross Reservoir

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Will Denver Water get permission to divert more water from the West Slope?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Not developing new water diversions from the Colorado River Basin to the Front Range would increase the chances of a major Denver Water system failure, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded in its final environmental impact study for the Moffat Tunnel Collection System expansion.

The federal agency, charged with evaluating and disclosing impacts of the proposal, claims that Denver Water customers could experience periodic raw water and treated water shortages in dry years, with Arvada, Westminster and the North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District especially vulnerable to raw water shortages.

“Severe and more frequent mandatory watering restrictions, including surcharges, may result in a reduced quality of life and place financial burdens on customers. Though still infrequent…

View original 351 more words


April 24 “celebration lunch” for Colorado River Cooperative Agreement recap #ColoradoRiver

May 1, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Leia Larsen):

At a celebration lunch on April 24 at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash, representatives from Denver Water, the Colorado Governor’s Office, Grand County and Trout Unlimited spoke in favor of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. Nearing its one-year anniversary this September, the agreement coordinates efforts between 18 interest groups to both protect West Slope watersheds while providing future water supplies to Denver customers. The celebration came in the wake of the latest development in the proposed Moffat Collection System, Denver Water’s latest trans-mountain water project.

“(Our) overall goal is to protect the watershed and economies in the Colorado River Basin and help provide additional water security for those who live, work and play on the West Slope and (for) the customers of Denver Water,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO and Manager of Denver Water, at the lunch celebration…

Denver Water will pay out $1.95 million in Grand County for watershed, water treatment and river habitat improvements. It will send another $2 million to Summit County. The agreement is being called “historic” for its unprecedented work in bringing together a wide range of interests throughout the state and for its “learning by doing” program of adaptive water management.

“Working together, we were able to resolve historic conflicts through a holistic approach to resolving Colorado water disputes,” Lochhead said.

According to John Stulp with Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office, the unprecedented water cooperation will also be used as a model for the statewide Colorado Water Plan, set to be ready by December 2014.

“Part of the concerns we have, and why we need a water plan, is based on many of the same principles you had in this cooperative agreement,” Stulp said at the lunch. “Important … building blocks that went into this cooperative agreement (are) having good people with a broad vision of the future beyond their own community.”[...]

Still, the agreement hasn’t eliminated all controversy. Part of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement negotiations is that West Slope parties must agree not to oppose any permits for the Moffat Project, the latest trans-mountain diversion plan to move water from the Fraser watershed to the Denver-metro area…

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project last week. It’s a massive document — the table of contents alone is over 60 pages and Wockner said it has around 11,000 pages total. So far, however, he said he hasn’t seen anything in the study to address the negative impacts to river systems in Grand County. Other environmental interests have also said even with the environmental impact statement, the Moffat Project is “far from a done deal.”

“This project should not be approved unless the long-term health of the river is assured and our nation’s environmental standards are met,” said McCrystie Adams, a Denver-based attorney with Earthjustice, in a press release. “We and our partners are committed to keeping the Colorado River flowing.”

Geoff Elliott, an earth scientist with the local firm Grand Environmental Services, said Denver Water presented bad data to begin with, stacking the numbers in its favor.

“Their data is skewed to show more water in the Fraser Headwaters than now exists,” he said. “My problem is no one is doing math. Denver gets out with everything it wants.”

Elliot said according to his analysis so far, the Moffat Project’s proposals compared with U.S. Geological Survey data on actual water flows means it could take 90 percent or more water out of the Fraser.

“Now, we get hit by a 12,000-page Final EIS that requires an army to review,” he said. “This is Big Brother Denver Water hitting Grand County hard, and we are told we should be happy with vague platitudes, scraps of water and lawyerly agreements for more closed-door meetings.”

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


The latest newsletter from the Colorado River District is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

April 30, 2014

Click on a thumbnail graphic for a gallery of US Drought Monitor maps for late April for the past three years.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

While the 2014 water year is a bountiful one in most of Colorado and portends a 110 percent of average runoff into Lake Powell, Colorado and its sister Colorado River Basin states are continuing with contingency planning to address plunging levels at Powell and Lake Mead.

Long-term drought and overuse of the river by the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada, coupled with low flows, are threatening to take Lake Mead below the drinking water intake pipes for the Las Vegas area and drop Lake Powell below the levels where the turbines in Glen Canyon Dam can generate power.

Both possibilities would be disastrous. This is viewed as an operational emergency, not a compact issue, but it puts into play the planning and collaboration necessary for either across the seven-state region.

More Colorado River District coverage here.


Live panel on the Gross Reservoir expansion, April 30 #ColoradoRiver

April 26, 2014

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


“…the waterways of Grand County have become the poster child for aquatic death by a thousand cuts” — Allen Best #ColoradoRiver

April 20, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Another independent journalist covering water issues is Allen Best purveyor of The Mountain Town News. Here’s an analysis of the recent agreement between Denver Water, Trout Unlimited, and Grand County for operating the Colorado River Cooperative agreement. Here’s an excerpt:

Located at the headwaters of the Colorado River, the waterways of Grand County have become the poster child for aquatic death by a thousand cuts…

Called the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, the agreement between Denver Water, Grand County, and Trout Unlimited proposes to govern Denver’s incremental diversions through the Continental Divide known as the Moffat firming project. However, according to the architects of the deal, it should also serve as a model in the ongoing dialogue as Colorado’s growing metropolitan areas look to squeeze out the final drops of the state’s entitlements to the Colorado River, as defined by the Colorado River compact of 1922 and other compacts.

“It is a demonstration of a new way of doing business that should be a model as Colorado talks about meeting its water gaps (between demands and supplies),” says Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water.

“Instead of platitudes or politics or parochialism, you need to do it by sitting down and working together and dealing with the issues,” he adds…

There are skeptics, unable to explain this strange alchemy in which a river can in any way benefit from having less water, as the agreement insists can be the case.

Among those withholding enthusiasm is Matt Rice, the Colorado coordinator for American Rivers. He points out that the agreement covers just 4 of the 32 creeks and streams trapped by Denver Water in the Fraser Valley and the adjoining Williams Fork. Too, like too many other similar programs, the data collection begins after permits are awarded, not before, which he thinks is backward.

In short, while Denver is careful to talk about “enhancements,” he thinks it falls short of addressing full, cumulative impacts.

Cumulative impacts are likely to be a focal point of federal permitting. While the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to have a voice, the vital 404 permit must come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The parties to the new agreement have asked that their agreement be incorporated into the permit…

A far greater financial cost to Denver specified by the agreement is the agency’s commitment to forfeit up to 2,500 acre-feet annually of the city’s added 18,700 acre-foot take.

Based on the firm yield of the water and Denver’s rate for outside-city raw water to customers, this commitment is valued at $55 million.

Denver will make this water available for release into the creeks and rivers, to keep water temperatures colder and hence more hospitable to insects and fish. The water can also be used for flushing, to mimic what happens naturally during spring runoff, scouring river bottoms, to clear out the silt that clogs the spaces between rocks where mayflies and other insects live – and upon which fish feed…

A final environmental impact statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected in late April. The federal agency can also impose conditions of its own making. They would be included in a record-of-decision, which is expected to be issued in late 2015.

A permit from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is also needed. Boulder County insists it also has say-so over enlargement of Gross Reservoir, an assertion contested by Denver Water.

In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must award a permit for revised hydroelectric generation at Gross.

At earliest, expansion of Gross could start in 2018 and be ready to capture spring runoff in 2022…

The agreement represents a new wave of thinking about impacts of water diversions. The older way of thinking was demonstrated in the Colorado Big-Thompson project. Financed by the federal government, it gave the Western Slope a one-time package, Green Mountain Reservoir, between Kremmling and Silverthorne, to serve Western Slope needs, particularly the farmers near Grand Junction who need water for late-summer fruits and produce. The agreement did not cover a more recent problem seemingly caused by the diversion, algae that obscure the clarity of Grand Lake.

The most recent of of the new agreements since the 1990s provides more living, breathing elasticity. The foundation for the new agreement was announced in 2011 but not finalized until recently. Called the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, it sharply restricts Denver’s ability to develop new water sources on the Western Slope and also calls for Denver to provide both water and money to address problems in the Vail, Breckenridge and Winter Park areas.

Then, in 2012, came agreements addressing the ambitions by five cities along the northern Front Range to increase the take of spring flows at Windy Gap, similar to what Denver wants to do at the Moffat Tunnel.

The Windy Gap settlement introduced adaptive management, an idea gaining favor in management of rivers of the West for several decades. The essential idea of Learning by Doing, the program embraced for both Windy Gap and the Moffat projects, is that it’s impossible to know exactly what to do in advance…

“In the past, you’d build a project, do the required mitigation and move on. That’s no longer the case. Denver Water is committed to a new way of doing business – one that approaches water management in a way that is collaborative and as beneficial to West Slope interests as possible. The partnership we’ve created through Learning by Doing is permanent. Our commitment is t o work with Grand County, Trout Unlimited and all the partners in Learning by Doing in an ongoing manner permanently into the future.”

More Denver Water coverage here.


“…nobody is digging a new tunnel tomorrow” — Jim Pokrandt #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

April 13, 2014
Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

…it’s important to note that “nobody is digging a new tunnel tomorrow,” and organizations like the Glenwood Springs-based River District are active at the table in working to protect Western Colorado interests in the face of growing Front Range water needs, [Jim Pokrandt] said.

“There are a lot of top-10 lists when it comes to rivers and water conservation,” Pokrandt said in reaction to the listing last Wednesday by the nonprofit conservation group American Rivers. “It’s a good way to generate publicity for these various causes.”

American Rivers calls on Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to prevent new water diversions and instead prioritize protection of Western Slope rivers and water conservation measures in the Colorado Water Plan, which remains in discussions through a roundtable process that involves stakeholders from across the state.

Already, about 450,000 to 600,000 acre-feet of water per year is diverted from the Colorado basin to the Front Range, Pokrandt noted.

The prospect of more diversions “is definitely being advocated in some quarters from those who say a new project is not a question of if, but when and how soon,” he said.

“We’re saying that’s a big ‘if,’ because there are a lot of big issues around that.”

Pokrandt said any new trans-mountain diversions are “questionable, if it’s even possible.” That’s primarily because of the Colorado River Compact with down-river states that guarantees their share of river water.

“It’s important that we don’t overdevelop the river, and any more transmountain diversions should be the last option out of the box [for Front Range needs],” said. “First and foremost, it behooves all of Colorado to be more efficient in our water use.”[...]

Pokrandt notes that many municipalities across the state, not just the Front Range, are scrambling to find water to take care of projected population growth. That means more water demand on both sides of the Continental Divide.

“But there’s a big question about how much water is really left to develop,” he said. “There’s also an economic benefit to leaving water in the river without developing it, so there’s that issue as well.”[...]

Another Colorado river on the American Rivers endangered list this year is the White River, which was No. 7 due to the threat of oil and gas development and the risk to fish and wildlife habitat, clean water and recreation opportunities.

The White River flows from the northern reaches of the Flat Tops through Rio Blanco County and into the Green River in northeastern Utah.

“Major decisions this year will determine whether we can safeguard the White River’s unique wild values for future generations,” said Matt Rice of American Rivers in their Wednesday news release.

From the Vail Daily (Melanie Wong):

The conservation group American Rivers releases the annual list, and rivers that are threatened include sections of the Colorado that run through Eagle County, including headwater rivers, which include the Eagle River.

According to the group, the river is threatened as many Front Range cities look for future water sources to meet growing municipal and industrial needs. Some of those communities are eyeing various parts of the Colorado for diversion.

Advocates hope the list garners some national awareness and spurs lawmakers to prevent new water diversions and prioritize river protection and water conservation measures in the state water plan.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are at a critical tipping point,” said Ken Neubecker, of American Rivers. “We cannot afford more outdated, expensive and harmful water development schemes that drain and divert rivers and streams across the Upper Colorado Basin. If we want these rivers to continue to support fish, wildlife, agriculture and a multi-billion dollar tourism industry, we must ensure the rivers have enough water.”[...]

For decades, Front Range growth has been fed by Western Slope rivers. Around a half million acres of water is already being diverted east from the Upper Colorado and growing cities need more. The problem with diversions, said Neubecker, is that the water leaves the Western Slope forever, citing a proposed project to tap into Summit County’s Blue Mountain Reservoir and divert water from the Blue River.

“Grand and Summit counties are justifiably worried about a Green Mountain pumpback, and so should Eagle County, because that project isn’t possible without a Wolcott reservoir,” he said. “With water diverted to the Front Range, we never see it again. It has serious impacts on us as far as drought and growth. It’s a finite resource.”

Historically, there have been agreements that have benefited both the Western and Eastern slopes, and river advocates said they want to see more such projects. The Colorado Cooperative Agreement, announced in 2011, involved the cooperation of many Eagle County entities. The Eagle River Memorandum of Understanding, signed in 1998, was also a major victory for mountain communities, significantly capping the amount of water that could be taken at the Homestake Reservoir and keeping some water in Eagle County.

Another settlement with Denver Water in 2007 was a big win for the local water community, said Diane Johnson, of Eagle River Water and Sanitation. “Denver Water gave up a huge amount of water rights, pretty much everything leading into Gore Creek, and as for a Wolcott Reservoir, it could only be developed with local entities in control,” she said. “Things are done more collaboratively now. It’s not the 1960s and ’70s anymore, where the Front Range developed the rivers without thought of how it affected local communities.”[...]

A new Colorado State University report commissioned by the Eagle River Watershed Council studied the state of the Eagle River.

“It’s clearly showing that the biggest threat to this portion of the Upper Colorado is reduced flows. It’s impacting wildlife for sure, most notably the fish,” said the council’s executive director Holly Loff.

With less water, the average river temperature is rising, and many cold-water fish have either been pushed out or killed as a result. Less water also means less riparian (riverside) habitat, an ecosystem that supports 250 species of animals. Of course, less water also affects river recreation and means there’s less water to drink.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


“We’ve got to start thinking about rivers as rivers” — Ken Neubecker #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

April 11, 2014
Blue River

Blue River

From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

The Blue and the Snake are in trouble. These two Summit County rivers are part of the Upper Colorado River Basin, which was named the second most endangered river in the country Wednesday by American Rivers, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit focused on river advocacy.

“If you want to have healthy rivers and a recreational economy and agriculture on the West Slope, there really is nothing left to take,” said Ken Neubecker, associate director of the organization’s Colorado River project…

The nonprofit’s biggest fear is a new diversion, Neubecker said, because taking a lot of water out of the Colorado anywhere would have serious repercussions.

American Rivers and other conservation organizations say the Colorado Water Conservation Board, charged with creating the state water plan, should make sure it prioritizes river restoration and protection, increases water efficiency and conservation in cities and towns, improves agricultural practices and avoids new transmountain diversions.

Rivers on the Western Slope are already drained and damaged, Neubecker said. He called it wrong to divert more water instead of focusing on alternative methods to meet the gap between water supply and demand.

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

Right now, he said, details on a new diversion project have been vague, but Front Range proposals have considered developing the Yampa, Flaming Gorge and Gunnison and taking more water out of the Blue, Eagle, Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers…

The Colorado River and its headwaters are home to some endangered fish species. They support wildlife, agriculture and multi-billion dollar tourism industries.

And they provide some or all of the drinking water for the resort areas of Breckenridge, Vail, Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Winter Park and Crested Butte and most of the urban Front Range.

To meet its customers’ water needs, Denver Water is focused on Gross Reservoir enlargements as well as conservation and forest health efforts, said CEO Jim Lochhead Thursday.

Colorado’s largest water provider has no current plans to construct a new transmountain diversion, he said, but the state as a whole should consider that option.

A new diversion is “probably inevitable at some point,” he said. “We want to do that in partnership with the West Slope.”

And after signing the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement last year, the utility has to.

The agreement does not allow future water development without the permission of all parties, including Western Slope representatives. Lochhead said, it “establishes a framework where we are really working together as partners instead of the old framework of East Slope versus West Slope.”

But the push is not coming from Denver Water.

“They’re really not the ones that are after a new diversion,” Neubecker said. “They got what they want.”

Pressure for more water from new or existing transmountain diversions comes mainly from north and south of Denver, the Arkansas and South Platte basins and especially Douglas County, he said. Those areas should look at conservation efforts more seriously, he said, and “pay attention to land use policies that basically encourage wasteful water use.”[...]

“We’ve got to start thinking about rivers as rivers” instead of engineering conduits for delivering water, Neubecker said, and “understand that we may think that growth should be infinite, but the resources like water that support the growth are not.”

From the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent (Mike McKibbin):

There is no more unclaimed water in the Colorado River Basin, so if the state’s population nearly doubles by 2050, as some have projected, the consequences for everyone along the river – including Rifle – could be dire. That was the message Louis Meyer, a civil engineer, president and CEO of SGM in Glenwood Springs, told City Council as he detailed the ongoing Colorado Water Plan process at an April 2 workshop…

Of the counties in the Colorado River basin, he noted, Garfield is projected to have the most growth, around 274 percent, or 119,900 people, by 2030.

“The Front Range is expected to have serious water shortages by 2020, unless they find more water,” he said. “They can’t take any more from agriculture on the Front Range, so they want a new supply from the Colorado River basin.”

“We have a target on our back,” Meyer continued. “But we have no more water to give.”

If every entity on the Front Range implemented some strict conservation measures, such as banning all new lawns and perhaps the removal of some existing lawns, Meyer said, the water gap could possibly be eliminated in coming years.

“But if we put that in the [water] plan, we need to do the same thing in our basin,” he added.

All storage water in Ruedi and Green Mountain reservoirs is allocated, along with nearly every other reservoir in the state, Meyer said.

Water quality issues are already becoming acute, Meyer said, because there is less water in the Colorado River.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Breakthrough water agreement benefits cities and rivers

March 11, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Water management is never easy. And in Colorado, where the resource is scarce, everyone’s interest is valuable, and needs are often widely divergent.

Last year, Denver Water and Trout Unlimited came together to pen a guest editorial for The Denver Post, Together, we can meet Colorado River challenges, acknowledging the fact that there are differences over how to best use water to meet our diverse needs. But, more important, the editorial highlighted the fact that smart water planning and cooperation are the only way to meet the future water needs of all interests along the Colorado River.

Less than a year later, Denver Water and Trout Unlimited have come together again, this time with Grand County, to reveal an agreement that balances municipal needs and environmental health. And, just like the recently finalized Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this partnership demonstrates the benefits of working together to protect our…

View original 790 more words


Glenwood Springs RICD application draws 13 statements of opposition #ColoradoRiver

March 7, 2014
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

One of the 13 formal “statements of opposition” filed in the case as of Thursday comes from another of Glenwood Springs’ major recreational attractions, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool.

The Hot Springs, in a Feb. 27 water court filing, renewed its long-standing concerns that any whitewater park features constructed in and along the river near the springs’ aquifer could potentially harm the springs.

“Operation of the [proposed] Two Rivers Whitewater Park facilities may inundate and damage portions of the Colorado River riverbed and adjacent river banks,” which could in turn damage the Hot Springs Pool facilities, according to the filing by Hot Springs attorney Scott Balcomb.

At issue would be a proposed location for a potential new whitewater park at the east end of Two Rivers Park, just above the confluence with the Roaring Fork River. It’s one of three possible locations identified in the city of Glenwood Springs’ request filed late last year for a recreational in-channel diversion, or RICD. The others are near the No Name rest area on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon, and in the Horseshoe Bend section of the river just east of town, by the No Name Tunnels…

The city now hopes to build on the economic success of the whitewater sports boom by building a second play park. To accomplish that, however, it will have to negotiate with the various entities that have filed as opposers to make sure their concerns are satisfied. That could take several years, said Mark Hamilton, a water attorney who is representing the city of Glenwood Springs in ushering the case through Colorado’s water court.

“For a case like this, that’s not unexpected,” he said of the number of entities that have taken the formal step of opposing the city’s RICD request.

Just because an entity files a statement of opposition doesn’t necessarily mean that they will ultimately object to the request, Hamilton explained. It just means that they want to be party to the negotiations so that any current or future concerns are heard as the plans take shape, he said.

Hamilton said he believes the proposed Two Rivers Park location would be far enough downstream from the hot springs that it should not be a concern.

“Obviously, everybody acknowledges that the Hot Springs Pool is and will continue to be an important part of Glenwood Springs’ economy, and their concerns are something that will have to be a part of this discussion,” Hamilton said…

Other heavy hitters that have filed to be part of the discussions include the Denver Water Board, the state’s largest water utility which owns significant water rights on the Colorado River, plus the city of Colorado Springs, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and several upstream and downstream water users.

Denver Water would not have been able to oppose the request by Glenwood Springs under the recent new Colorado River Cooperative Agreement it signed with Western Slope water interests, except that the request is for more water during certain times of the year than Denver had agreed to in that deal, Hamilton also said.

The city’s request seeks a “shoulder season” base flow of 1,250 cubic feet per second during the month of April each year and again from July 24 through Sept. 30. That is less than the 1,280 cfs Denver Water agreed it would not object to. However, Glenwood also requests a maximum flow rate not to exceed 4,000 cfs for up to five days between May 11 and July 6 each year, and 2,500 cfs for as many as 46 days between April 30 and May 10 and July 7-23.

The extra amount during those times could impair Denver Water’s ability to divert water under the separate Shoshone relaxation agreement, according to the utility’s statement of opposition filed Feb. 28. Further, the request could also affect Denver Water’s ability to implement its agreement with Grand County for municipal, snowmaking and environmental purposes, the utility claims.

Grand County, which recently had its own RICD request OK’d, filed a formal statement of support for the Glenwood Springs request.

“Grand County has been actively involved in efforts to preserve, protect, restore, and improve streams in the headwaters of the Colorado River and its tributaries and resolve various controversies with Denver Water,” the county stated in support of Glenwood’s application. “The [RICD] that this application seeks is consistent with Grand County’s efforts.”

Hamilton said the case has been assigned to a water referee in Glenwood Springs to oversee the initial negotiations. There will also be an administrative hearing before the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which will make a recommendation on the request.

He noted that the Grand County case is nearing completion after about 3-1/2 years, while a similar request recently granted to the town of Carbondale for a RICD on the Roaring Fork River took multiple years to process as well.

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

Three of the objectors are municipal water providers on the Front Range — Denver Water, Aurora Water, and Colorado Springs Utilities. They depend on water from the Colorado River basin and are concerned about new recreational water rights limiting their future water management options.

Three entities — the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the BLM and the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool — are concerned about the proposed locations of the whitewater parks.

The Colorado River District, which represents 15 counties on the Western Slope, is generally supportive of Glenwood’s application, according to the district’s attorney Peter Fleming, but like the Front Range entities, it also has concerns about limiting the amount of water available for future junior water rights upstream of the proposed whitewater parks.

The West Divide Water Conservancy District, based in Rifle, simply told the court it “is the owner of vested water rights that may be injured by the granting of this application.”

Another four entities say they just want to monitor the case: the town of Gypsum; the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District in Palisade; the Ute Water Conservancy District and the Grand Valley Water Users Association, both in Grand Junction.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) also filed a statement, as it routinely does for applications of a new “recreational in-channel diversion right,” or RICD. The state agency is charged with reviewing such proposals and sending findings to water court.

And Grand County has filed a document perhaps unique to water court — a “statement in opposition in support of application.” This means Grand County supports Glenwood’s applications, but wants to be involved in the case via the filing of a required statement of opposition…

Technically, there were 13 statements of opposition filed in the case. The three Grand Valley water users, however, filed a joint application, so there are a total of 15 objecting entities. And Aurora and Colorado Springs, in addition to each filing a statement, also filed together as the Homestake Steering Committee. The two cities are partners in the Homestake Reservoir on the headwaters of the Eagle River, which flows into the Colorado River at Dotsero, which is located above the three proposed whitewater parks…

He said he expected that Denver Water would file an objection, as Glenwood has asked for the rights to more than 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water. That rate of flow is the same as the senior water right held by Xcel Energy for the Shoshone hydro plant, which also is above the three proposed whitewater parks…

And that’s the amount of water for a Glenwood whitewater park that Denver Water said it could support in the recently finalized Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which was signed by Denver Water and 17 other entities.

“One of the provisions for support was that the recreational in-channel diversion wouldn’t exceed 1,250 cfs at the Dotsero gage,” said Travis Thompson, a media coordinator with Denver Water. “This is the amount of water needed to mimic the senior Shoshone call.”[...]

Hamilton, Glenwood’s water attorney, said the requested water rights sought above 1,250 cfs are “purely based on kayakers and boaters saying it sure would be great to have that much flow.”

He said he’s in discussions with Denver Water about Glenwood’s application and will soon be talking with all the objectors in the case…

And the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool is concerned that wave-creating structures built in the river near the hot springs pool could harm the underground aquifer that supplies hot water to the pool. Kjell Mitchell, the president and CEO of the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, said engineering studies have shown the boundary of the underground aquifer extends from above the pool to below Two Rivers Park. The city has proposed that one of its whitewater parks be built just above Two Rivers Park.

“The primary issue of our concern is the potential scouring of the river which could create a hole in the bottom of the river and damage the aquifer,” Mitchell said.

More whitewater coverage here.


Sides agree to innovative Fraser River deal to help slake Denver Water thirst — Colorado Independent #ColoradoRiver

March 6, 2014

eisenhowerfishing

From the Colorado Independent (Bob Berwyn):

Ranchers, anglers and big-city water bosses raised a white flag in Colorado’s long-running water wars this week by setting aside bullying and threats of lawsuits and permit appeals. Instead, Grand County and Trout Unlimited have agreed to let Denver Water siphon another 18,000 acre feet from the headwaters of the Colorado River — but only under a strict checklist of requirements designed to ensure the Fraser River recovers from decades of depletion.

The deal announced Tuesday could make the Fraser the most-watched river in Colorado – and maybe in the West. It sets out an innovative, science-based plan that seeks to balance increasing urban needs for water with an imperative to restore crucial habitat for river trout…

Denver Water – Colorado’s biggest and thirstiest water provider — currently diverts more than half the Fraser River’s flow to keep toilets flushing, dishwashers running and sprinklers spouting along the Front Range. The dispute started in 2003 when the utility applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the permit it needs to divert more water from the river — as much as three-quarters of its average annual flow — to keep up with growth in the Denver metro area…

This week’s pact seeks to honor Denver Water’s longstanding river rights while ensuring the Fraser will be protected no matter how much more water is diverted for urban use. The restoration plan will use real-time data to track critical temperature increases in key streams caused either by Denver Water’s seasonal diversions or the long-term effects of climate change. When temperatures spike, additional flows will be released to cool the water when needed. In good water years, the deal will give Denver up to 18,000 acre feet of additional water, which will mostly be tapped during the peak spring runoff season. The timing of the diversions is a key part of the utility’s promise to improve the Fraser.

“We’re not going to be diverting water all the time. We won’t divert water in critically dry years, and we’ll only divert water during spring runoff. At other times of year, we’ll put water back into the river and improve conditions,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water’s CEO and manager.

The agreement also will require shifts in the timing of the water harvest. High flows are needed in the spring to help flush sediments that gunk up habitat for trout and aquatic bugs…

The Army Corps of Engineers’ final environmental study is due in late April, with a formal decision on the proposed diversion project expected in early 2015.

This week’s pact minimizes the likelihood of a permit appeal or a time-consuming lawsuit by conservationists. That’s important for Denver Water, which is eager to dig its shovels into the ground as soon as possible. Some of the extremely dry years in the early 2000s — especially 2002 — already have put the water giant’s delivery system to the test.

The deal also gives Grand County some assurances that the Fraser will remain a vibrant part of its outdoor recreation economy. Anglers from throughout the state and country visit Grand County to wet their lines in a river that was favored by President Dwight Eisenhower.

The additional water will help Denver Water balance its supplies. Currently, the utility gets about 80 percent of its water through the southern portion of its collection system, from the Blue River in Summit County via the Roberts Tunnel and a chain of reservoirs along the South Platte River. Lochhead says increased diversions from the Fraser River will make urban water supplies less vulnerable to extreme events such as forest fires, which are expected more frequently because of drought and climate change. The ability to pump more water out of the Fraser when needed would give Denver a much-needed back-up plan in case of another massive blaze like the 2002 Hayman Fire in a key watershed…

West Slope water managers acknowledge Denver Water’s legal rights. But they question whether any new trans-divide diversions are needed, claiming that Front Range communities could easily meet existing and future needs with more efficient use of the water the utility already is diverting over the Continental Divide. Under any plan, they say, drawing more water from any Colorado River tributary will have ripple effects felt far downstream, from endangered Colorado River fish near Grand Junction to lettuce growers in the salty deserts near the Mexican border.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Trout Unlimited, Denver Water, Grand County reach agreement on river protections for Moffat Project #ColoradoRiver

March 5, 2014
Gross Dam

Gross Dam

From email from EarthJustice (McCrystie Adams):

As Denver Water’s proposed Moffat Collection System Project has undergone initial federal permitting review, numerous stakeholders on both sides of the Continental Divide have raised serious concerns about the scheme to bring more water from the Fraser River to the Front Range. Today, two entities announced an agreement with Denver Water that will lead to what is being termed a Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan.

McCrystie Adams, attorney in the Rocky Mountain Office of Earthjustice issued the following statement today:

“We look forward to thoroughly reviewing this private agreement to determine whether it fully addresses the impacts of the potentially river-killing Moffat expansion proposal. Any plan to mitigate additional diversions from this already heavily-stressed river system—or repair past damage—must be independently enforceable and fully funded before a decision to approve the project is made.

“The Fraser and the other streams targeted by this project are the headwaters of one of America’s great river systems, the Colorado, and are of importance far beyond Grand County. We and our conservation partners are committed to keeping these waters flowing. The Moffat permitting process is not complete, and we will continue to evaluate all alternatives to protect the long-term health and preservation of these streams.”

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Three major stakeholders involved in a project to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County, as part of Denver Water’s proposed $250 million Moffat Collection System Project, have reached an agreement to protect the Fraser River and its trout population if the project is ultimately approved. Denver Water, Trout Unlimited and Grand County were party to the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, which was struck on Tuesday. The three parties have submitted it to state and federal agencies reviewing the project…

The Moffat project is designed to shore up Denver Water’s supply system on the north side of metro Denver, an area that came dangerously close to running out of water during the drought of 2002-2003. Denver Water first proposed enlarging Gross Reservoir, so it can hold more water from the Western Slope including the Fraser River, in 2003.

At the center of the agreement is a program to monitor the health of the stream — including water temperature, aquatic life and plant health, according to the announcement. If problems emerge, Denver Water would provide water, money and other resources to improve the condition of the river, according to the agreement.

“This plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO and manager of Denver Water…

The management team will include representatives from the three parties to the agreement as well as from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency, the Colorado River District and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District.

“This package of protections and enhancements, if adopted in the final permit, gives us the best opportunity to keep the Fraser River and its outstanding trout fishery healthy far into the future,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited…

Lurline Curran, Grand County’s manager, said the county reached out to Denver Water and Trout Unlimited to try to get past previous disagreements about the impact of the Moffat Project.

“To all parties’ credit, this effort has succeeded,” Curran said.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project is expected by the end of April, and a final permitting decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in early 2015.

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

As long as I’ve been old enough to hold a fishing rod, maybe longer, I’ve heard there’s no substitute for experience. I suppose that’s why the new Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan announced Tuesday for the Fraser River’s Moffat Collection System Project seems to make so much sense at first glance.

The centerpiece of the package of river protections designed to keep the fragile Fraser River and its fish and wildlife populations healthy in the face of Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project is a concept stakeholders refer to as “learning by doing.” In the working world, it might be considered on-the-job training, only with the enterprising twist of entering into uncharted waters, so to speak.

The notion behind learning by doing is managing the ecological impacts of diverting a significant slice of the Fraser to Front Range water users on a cooperative basis as problems arise. Should the project permit be issued, a management team that includes Denver Water, Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado River District and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District will enact a monitoring program to assess stream health based on specific parameters such as stream temperature, aquatic life and riparian vegetation health.

Rather than focusing efforts on finger pointing when the Fraser’s health suffers from water depletion, the plan is to focus available resources on addressing the actual issue at hand. That means water, money and other resources committed by Denver Water through project mitigation, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and other agreements will be deployed to prevent declines and improve conditions as they are identified. Ideally, what’s learned from the experience will help keep the same problems from recurring again and again.

“Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said in a statement released Tuesday. “Since the beginning of our planning for the Moffat Project, we set out to do the right thing for the environment, and we believe coming together with Trout Unlimited and Grand County on the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan demonstrates a monumental step in making the river better. It’s satisfying that after more than 10 years of study and discussion, Trout Unlimited and Grand County have stayed at the table with us in good faith.”

Calling the agreement “a victory for the river,” Trout Unlimited said the plan closes discussions over the proposed Moffat project designed to improve the reliability of Denver Water’s system by capturing remaining water rights in the upper Colorado basin. Denver Water, Grand County and TU have submitted the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan to federal and state agencies charged with permitting the Moffat Project and have requested that it be made part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit.

“This package of protections and enhancements, if adopted in the final permit, gives us the best opportunity to keep the Fraser River and its outstanding trout fishery healthy far into the future,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project is expected by the end of April, and a final permitting decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in early 2015.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


Trout Unlimited, Denver Water, Grand County reach agreement on river protections for Moffat Project #ColoradoRiver

March 4, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Here’s the release via Denver Water, Grand County, and Colorado Trout Unlimited (Stacy Chesney/Lurline Curran/Mely Whiting):

Denver Water, Trout Unlimited and Grand County today announced agreement on a package of river protections designed to keep the Fraser River and its trout populations healthy.

The Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan brings to a close several years of discussions over the proposed Moffat Collection System Project and its potential impacts on the Fraser River. All sides hailed the stakeholder agreement as a breakthrough that balances municipal needs and environmental health.

Trout Unlimited called the agreement “a victory for the river.”

“This package of protections and enhancements, if adopted in the final permit, gives us the best opportunity to keep the Fraser River and its outstanding trout fishery healthy far into the future,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited. “This pragmatic agreement underscores the value of a collaborative approach to water planning — one that recognizes the value of healthy rivers. It shows that, working together, we can meet our water needs while protecting our fisheries and outdoor quality of life.”

“In an effort to move past a disagreement on impacts from the Moffat Project, Grand County reached out to Denver Water and Trout Unlimited to propose additional environmental mitigations,” said Lurline Curran, Grand County manager. “To all parties’ credit, this effort has succeeded.”

“The Fraser is a river beloved by generations of anglers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts — it’s the lifeblood of our community,” said Kirk Klancke, president of TU’s Colorado River Headwaters chapter in Fraser and a longtime advocate for the river. “As an angler and Fraser Valley resident, I’m gratified that this agreement keeps our home waters healthy and flowing.”

The package includes environmental enhancements and protections to ensure the Fraser River will be better off with the Moffat Project than without it, said Denver Water. The Moffat Project will improve the reliability of Denver Water’s system, which serves 1.3 million people in the Denver-metro area.

The centerpiece of the agreement is Learning by Doing, a monitoring and adaptive management program overseen by a management team that includes Denver Water, Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado River District and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District. Upon the project permit being issued, the management team will implement an extensive monitoring program to assess stream health based on specific parameters including stream temperature, aquatic life and riparian vegetation health. Water, financial and other resources committed by Denver Water through project mitigation, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and other agreements will be deployed to prevent declines and improve conditions where needed.

Learning by Doing is a unique and groundbreaking effort to manage an aquatic environment on a permanent, cooperative basis. Notably, the program will not seek a culprit for changes in the condition of the stream, but will provide a mechanism to identify issues of concern and focus available resources to address those issues. Mitigation measures to prevent impacts of the Moffat Project on stream temperature and aquatic habitat will also be implemented through Learning by Doing.

“Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “Since the beginning of our planning for the Moffat Project, we set out to do the right thing for the environment, and we believe coming together with Trout Unlimited and Grand County on the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan demonstrates a monumental step in making the river better. It’s satisfying that after more than 10 years of study and discussion, Trout Unlimited and Grand County have stayed at the table with us in good faith.”

Denver Water, Grand County and Trout Unlimited have submitted the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan to federal and state agencies charged with permitting the Moffat Project and have requested that it be made part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project is expected by the end of April, and a final permitting decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in early 2015.

For more information about the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, see the full agreement here.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


Glewood Springs: RICD application will draw many opposers #ColoradoRiver

February 24, 2014
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The city of Glenwood Springs is looking to build on the popularity of its whitewater attractions, both natural and man-made. In doing so, it may have to navigate potential obstacles including another popular local attraction, the Glenwood Hot Springs, not to mention the state’s largest water utility, Denver Water.

A new agreement between Denver Water and Western Slope entities doesn’t prevent the state’s largest water utility from opposing Glenwood Springs’ proposed new recreational in-channel diversion, or RICD, water right on the Colorado River. That’s because Glenwood is seeking more water under its proposal than Denver Water agreed to go along with under the new water deal.

Meanwhile, Glenwood also has revived the idea of a downtown whitewater park, which has revived the hot springs’ concerns about potential impacts on the springs’ aquifer.

City officials are hopeful of being able to deal with any concerns from either Denver Water or the hot springs, and building on the success of the park already constructed on the Colorado River near the Interstate 70 interchange on the western edge of town.

“My perception is it has been very successful,” said City Manager Jeff Hecksel.

The big wave that forms at the park during spring runoff draws whitewater enthusiasts from all over the country, he notes.

“It has its own following,” Hecksel said.

Whitewater boating is a major part of the city’s tourism industry, with several outfitters offering guided trips in Glenwood Canyon. The city has identified several proposed locations for a new whitewater park, including the downtown location just upstream of the Roaring Fork River, the Horseshoe Bend area just west of the No Name Tunnels of I-70, and at the No Name I-70 rest area east of Glenwood Springs.

“This is already a very actively used (river) corridor,” said Mark Hamilton, a water attorney representing the city. “I think additional whitewater features will just enhance that.”

The city’s current park has no associated water rights. Flow there is aided year-round because it’s downstream of the Roaring Fork River and benefits from the senior water right of the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon.

The city is requesting a base flow of 1,250 cubic feet per second for the warmer months of the year. That’s consistent with the Shoshone right, and is an amount Denver Water specifically agreed not to oppose as part of the new water deal with the Western Slope.

That deal was announced in 2011 and took effect last fall after resolution of some final issues. It involves more than 30 Western Slope entities, and includes provisions including the Western Slope assenting to certain Denver Water projects involving Colorado River water, and Denver Water committing to develop any further such projects only with Western Slope approval, and also committing more than $25 million to Western Slope projects.

What complicates Glenwood Springs’ water application is that it also is seeking a higher flow of 2,500 cfs during 46 days coinciding with spring runoff, with flows of 4,000 cfs for five days within that period.

“I think some folks may see it as not contemplated by the cooperative agreement but it doesn’t run counter to the letter of the agreement,” said Peter Fleming, who as an attorney with the Colorado River Water Conservation District was involved in negotiating that agreement. Rather, he said, it simply means Denver Water can oppose the RICD filing. He said it just will come down to negotiations, which also will entail convincing the Colorado Water Conservation Board it’s a reasonable request and won’t interfere with things such as water compact requirements.

“I don’t think it’s going to be an enormous problem. I think there’s going to be some negotiations and some restrictions on the exercise of the RICD but there normally are,” he said.

Consultation process

Importantly, Fleming doesn’t consider Glenwood’s request a violation of the deal with Denver Water that could jeopardize terms such as the monetary commitment Denver Water has made to the Western Slope. That deal didn’t limit how much water the city could seek, but simply set a limit to the size of a diversion Denver Water would consent to without being able to object in water court.

“I don’t think it imperils the cooperative agreement at all,” he said.

Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson confirmed that view Friday.

“The filing of the RICD is not a violation of the (agreement). Because the filing does not meet the provisions in the (agreement), Denver Water is not required to support it as filed,” he said.

As part of the agreement, the city agreed to consult with Denver Water regarding its application, “and through our discussions, they are aware that we will file a statement of opposition,” Thompson said.

But he said the utility is committed to working with the city on the issue.

Opposition statements aren’t uncommon in water cases, and aren’t necessarily intended to outright prevent approval of a water right. Rather, they can represent an attempt by an entity to be able to have a say as an application is considered in court.

Said Thompson, “This RICD is not uncommon, as these filings often involve multiple parties who object, and then these issues are resolved during the court process.”

The river district itself has decided to file an opposition statement.

“From the river district’s perspective we look at the RICD both with a concern to make sure they don’t imperil water usage in the river district but also as a legitimate use,” Fleming said. “We want to make sure the Western Slope recreational economy is supported so it’s sort of a tug and pull there.”

Hamilton said the city engaged in discussions with Denver Water for the water rights filing and those conversations continue.

“This was not an intent to surprise anyone,” he said.

He said the total claims are intended not to exceed half the volume of water typically available in that part of the river.

“Presumably that leaves quite a bit of additional water in the river that could be appropriated for other purposes,” he said.

He said most if not all of Denver’s water rights would be senior to the rights being sought.

“If Denver already has water rights, they’re unaffected,” he said.

Hot Springs’ aquifers

Communities are increasingly seeking such rights in order to create whitewater parks as added recreational and tourism amenities. Carbondale recently was granted such a right and Pitkin County is seeking one. Grand County is seeking Bureau of Land Management approval related to a proposed park on the upper Colorado River in Gore Canyon, after obtaining water rights for it.

Glenwood’s efforts over the years have been a bit more complicated by the Glenwood Hot Springs’ interests. Proponents wanted to build the first park downtown but were thwarted by the concerns raised by the springs, the city’s central tourism attraction. Kjell Mitchell, the attraction’s president and chief executive officer, said the concern is that a park could cause river-bottom scouring that could puncture shallow aquifers and affect the springs. Another concern is that a park could contribute to flooding and harm the springs. He believes the first park site turned out to be a great location for the city, and hopes it will look to the possible locations being considered farther east rather than downtown.

“I hope if the city wants to do something that they would hopefully see the big picture and it would be a win-win situation,” he said.

The pool sent a letter to the city outlining its concerns last year. Asked about the potential of the issue ending up in court if the city pursues the downtown location, Mitchell said, “I hope it doesn’t get to that point.”

Hamilton and Hecksel said the proposed location is downstream of the hot springs.

Said Hecksel, “I think it’s a matter of perception. I don’t think anybody’s going to dismiss what the concerns of the pool are, but (the proposed location) is farther downstream.”

He said the city continues to discuss the matter with the pool.

“The city acknowledges their concerns,” he said.

More whitewater coverage here.


Glenwood Springs proposed RICD application is drawing the attention of other #ColoradoRiver users

February 17, 2014
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

From the Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The West Divide Water Conservancy District of Rifle filed a “statement of opposition” with District Court, Water Division No. 5 on Jan. 27.

West Divide said it is “the owner of vested water rights that may be injured by the granting of this application” to Glenwood Springs.

Other such filings are expected from Denver Water, the Colorado River District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

A “statement of opposition” is typically formulaic and opaque. The filer’s true intent can be hard to discern. It may be genuine opposition, curiosity, or an easy way to monitor a case.

In most cases, parties eventually agree to limits on the proposed water right, which are ultimately reflected in a decree from the water court.

“It’s a long process,” attorney Mark Hamilton of Holland and Hart in Aspen told the Glenwood Springs City Council on Dec. 19. “It can be a slow process. There’s a lot of opportunities for issues to be raised and resolved.”

On Dec. 31, Glenwood Springs applied to secure a steady flow of water in its proposed whitewater parks. It is seeking a base flow of 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs), from April 1 to Sept. 30. It is also claiming the right to 2,500 cfs of water for 46 days between April 30 and July 23.

And it wants the right to 4,000 cfs of water for five days of big-water boating during peak flows between May 11 and July 6.

The rights would be dependent upon rock structures being anchored in the river to create play waves at No Name, Horseshoe Bend and on the stretch of river between the Grand Avenue Bridge and Two Rivers Park, just below downtown Glenwood.

Given the size of the water rights being requested, and because they are on the heavily managed Colorado River, Glenwood’s application is likely to draw interest…

Glenwood’s “non-consumptive” rights would be legally tied to the eventual building of six rock structures in the river, creating two play waves in each of the three parks.

The water would stay in the river, but would run over boulders secured in the riverbed to form waves at high, medium and low flows…

The whitewater park at No Name, about two miles upriver from downtown Glenwood, would use the existing parking lot and restrooms at the CDOT rest stop on Interstate 70. The structures would be just upriver of the rest stop and Glenwood Canyon Resort.

Horseshoe Bend is about a mile above Glenwood, where the existing bike path crosses over the highway and runs by a picnic shelter on BLM land, in a narrow and deep part of Glenwood Canyon.

The third park would be on a wide stretch of river below the Grand Avenue Bridge, but above the confluence of the Colorado and the Roaring Fork rivers, where a pedestrian bridge crosses the Colorado at Two Rivers Park.

The three new parks would be upriver of the existing “Glenwood Wave” in the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park, in West Glenwood…

The River District board voted in January to file a statement in the case, citing protection of its water rights and interstate water agreements.

It also wants to maintain the recently approved Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which speaks to managing the upper Colorado River…

A January memo from Peter Fleming, the general counsel of the River District, said Denver Water “might assert that the claimed flow rates do not follow the strict language of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.”

As such, Fleming said, Denver Water “likely will oppose” Glenwood’s application.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


USACE: Moffat Collection System final EIS to be released on April 25 #ColoradoRiver

February 11, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Here’s the release from the US Army Corps of Engineers:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, has announced April 25, 2014 for the release of its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project. At this time the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the Final EIS, which will in turn be considered prior to final decision-making by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Final EIS and public comments, will serve as a basis for the Corps’ decision on whether to issue or deny a Section 404 Permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County, Colo. The Corps is charged with the responsibility of impartially reviewing Denver Water’s proposal in light of environmental and other Federal laws.

A year ago, the Corps had tentatively predicted that the Final EIS would be released in February 2014, however, due to further agency coordination, and a request from Denver Water to work with stakeholders to further refine a mitigation plan to present in the EIS, the schedule was extended.

Background:

Through the Moffat Collection System Project, Denver Water proposes to meet its water supply obligations and provide a more reliable supply infrastructure, while advancing its environmental stewardship. The project intends to enlarge the existing 41,811-acre foot Gross Reservoir to 113,811 AF, which equates to an expanded water surface area from 418 acres to 842 acres. Using existing collection infrastructure, water from the Fraser River, Williams Fork River, Blue River and South Platte River would be diverted and delivered to Denver’s existing water treatment system during average and wet years.

In June 2012, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the president use his authority to coordinate federal agencies to work together more effectively and expeditiously to release a Final EIS. Cooperating agencies involved in the EIS include the Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Division, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Grand County.

To remain up-to-date on the progress of the final report, please visit our Web site at: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/RegulatoryProgram/Colorado/EISMoffat.aspx

Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


Groundbreaking agreement to benefit Colorado and the environment is official

January 7, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

A groundbreaking agreement is now effective, ushering in a new era of cooperation between Denver Water and West Slope water providers, local governments and several ski areas.

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement was fully approved Sept. 26, 2013, with signatures from all 18 partners complete. The overall goal of the agreement is to protect watersheds in the Colorado River Basin while allowing Denver Water to develop future water supplies.

The agreement is the result of more than five years of negotiations and creates a spirit of cooperation – instead of litigation – over water resources.

From L to R: Penfield Tate III, Denver Board of Water Commissioners; Grand County Commissioner James Newberry; and Gov. John Hickenlooper share a light moment during the CRCA signing between Grand and Summit counties, Denver Water and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. in May 2012. From L to R: Penfield Tate III, Denver Board of Water Commissioners, Grand County Commissioner James Newberry, Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Summit County Manager Gary Martinez share a light moment during the CRCA signing between Grand and Summit counties, Denver Water and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. in May…

View original 228 more words


‘Denver-West Slope water agreement finally final’ — Glenwood Springs Post Independent #ColoradoRiver

December 4, 2013
Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Denver can take a little more water from the Colorado River’s headwaters to increase the reliability of its system, but won’t develop any new transmountain diversions without West Slope agreement and will help repair damage from past diversions.

Those are some of the key provisions in the Colorado Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and 42 West Slope water providers and local governments from the Grand Valley to Grand County.

The Colorado Cooperative Agreement covers a whole suite of issues related to Denver’s diversion of water from the Fraser and Blue River drainages, tributaries to the Colorado River. In October, with little fanfare, this historic agreement received its final signatures and was fully executed. It took five years of mediation and nearly two years of ironing out the details with state and federal agencies, against a backdrop of decades of litigation, to get to this point.

According to material from the Colorado River District’s latest quarterly meeting, the agreement, “is the direct result of Denver Water’s desire to expand its Moffat Tunnel transmountain water supply from the Fraser River in Grand County and to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County.” This project is expected to divert, on average, approximately 18,000 acre feet/year of water beyond the average of 58,000 acre feet/year it already diverts, which amounts to about 60% of the natural flow in the Fraser River at Winter Park.

Under the agreement, the West Slope parties agreed not to oppose the increased Moffat Collection System diversions, and Denver Water agreed not to expand its service area and not to develop new water projects on the West Slope without the agreement of the resident counties and the Colorado River District. The agreement also includes dozens of other provisions designed to limit water demands in Denver and address water quality and flow conditions in the Colorado River and its tributaries. Here’s a sampling:

Denver will contribute both water releases and several million dollars for a “learning by doing” project to improve aquatic habitat in Grand County. The project will be managed by representatives from Denver Water, Grand County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited and other water users.

Denver will not exercise its rights to reduce bypass flows from Dillon Reservoir and its collection system in Grand County during droughts unless it has banned residential lawn watering in its service area.

Diversions and reservoirs operated by both Denver Water and West Slope parties will be operated as if the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon were calling for its (very senior) water right, even at times when the plant is down. This is important for recreational and environmental flows in the river, as well as for junior water users downstream from plant.

Denver Water will pay $1.5 million for water supply, water quality or water infrastructure projects benefiting the Grand Valley, and $500,000 to offset additional costs for water treatment in Garfield County when the Shoshone call is relaxed due to drought conditions.

A similar agreement is under development between West Slope entities and Northern Water, which currently diverts about 220,000 acre feet/year of water from the Upper Colorado River to the Front Range through the Colorado Big Thompson Project. Like the Colorado Cooperative Agreement, the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement trades West Slope non-opposition to increased transmountain diversions for mitigations to address the impacts of both past and future stream depletions.

Both the Colorado Cooperative Agreement and the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement have been hailed as models of cooperation. Meanwhile, East Slope – West Slope tensions continue to mount over how the Colorado Water Plan, currently under development, should address the possibility of additional diversions of water from the West Slope to meet growing urban demands on the Front Range. These agreements demonstrate that such tensions can be overcome, but also that it could take more time than allowed by the 2015 deadline Gov. Hickenlooper has set for completion of the Colorado Water Plan.

Full details on the Colorado Cooperative Agreement can be found on the River District’s website, under “features” at http://www.crwcd.org/. More information on the Colorado Water Plan can be found at http://coloradowaterplan.com/.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Text of the Colorado Basin Roundtable white paper for the IBCC and Colorado Water Plan

December 3, 2013
New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

Here’s the text from the recently approved draft of the white paper:

Introduction
The Colorado River Basin is the “heart” of Colorado. The basin holds the headwaters of the Colorado River that form the mainstem of the river, some of the state’s most significant agriculture, the largest West Slope city and a large, expanding energy industry. The Colorado Basin is home to the most-visited national forest and much of Colorado’s recreation-based economy, including significant river-based recreation.

Colorado’s population is projected by the State Demographer’s Office to nearly double by 2050, from the five million people we have today to nearly ten million. Most of the growth is expected to be along the Front Range urban corridor; however the fastest growth is expected to occur along the I-70 corridor within the Colorado Basin.

Read the rest of this entry »


‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

December 3, 2013
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

“Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

“We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

“The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

“There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

“It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[...]

The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

“This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

“Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Shoshone

November 27, 2013

Coyote Gulch:

More Shoshone plant coverage here.

Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

Interstate 70 through Colorado

This small hydroplant, tucked away behind I-70 in Glenwood Canyon can be hard to spot– many drive right past without knowing its there– but, thanks to its water right, Shoshone has a big impact. Listen to our latest show in the radio series Connecting to Drops to hear about the critical role Xcel Energy’s Shoshone plays on the upper Colorado.

From the article, Phoning for Flows, in the Summer 2011 issue of Headwaters magazine.

The single most important water right in understanding management of the Colorado River, however, is far from the oldest. It belongs to the Shoshone hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Canyon. Driving through the canyon since the completion of Interstate 70, it’s easy to miss the pumpkin pie-colored buildings now located below road grade. Water people don’t. They understand the influence of the water rights there, which affect the distribution of water both east to Denver and west…

View original 201 more words


‘The [Colorado Water Plan] needs your input’ — Hannah Holm #ColoradoRiver

November 26, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

How will Colorado share the Colorado River? How much irrigated land will be dried up to slake the thirst of growing cities? How far should the state and local governments go in requiring residents to conserve?

These are some of the questions that will be addressed in Colorado’s statewide water plan, which is currently under development. Back in May, Gov. Hickenlooper ordered the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to develop a draft plan by Dec. 10, 2014, which is to be finalized by Dec. 10, 2015…

Both the CWCB and the Basin Roundtables are now seeking public input on the plan. There’s a survey link at the end of this article for you to provide general input, and future articles and surveys will address more specific issues.

First, though, let’s consider this basic question – why does Colorado need a water plan?

The Governor’s Executive Order notes that the gap between the state’s developed water supplies and growing urban demands could exceed 500,000 acre feet by 2050 (an acre foot is about enough for 2-3 families for a year at current usage rates). The biggest gap is anticipated in the South Platte River Basin, home to Colorado’s largest cities. A central challenge for the water plan is to fill the gap in a way that matches Colorado’s values. That’s a tough nut to crack.

The easiest way for cities to fill that gap is by taking it from agriculture, which currently accounts for about 85% of the water consumed in the state. But there’s a heavy price to pay for continuing to rely on that approach. A state water supply study released in 2010 projected a 15-20% decline in irrigated acreage statewide by 2050, with a 22-32% decline in the South Platte Basin over the same period. “Buying and drying” of agricultural water rights has already devastated some rural communities, and most stakeholders agree that this should be minimized in the future.

If not from agriculture, then where? East Slope Roundtables have been arguing for the need to preserve the option to develop additional West Slope water supplies. West Slope Roundtables point to environmental and economic impacts already felt from the roughly 500,000 acre-feet/year already transferred across the divide each year. More than 60% of the natural flows of the Upper Colorado River above Kremmling, for example, are diverted to the Front Range, impacting both Grand County building permits and gold medal trout streams.

Another concern is that increased depletions from the Colorado River and its tributaries would increase the risk of failing to meet legal obligations to downstream states. If downstream flow obligations are not met, water rights junior to the 1922 Compact between Upper Colorado River Basin states (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming) and Lower Colorado River Basin States (Arizona, Nevada and California) on how to share the river could be curtailed. If that means cutting off urban taps, it could set off a mad scramble for senior agricultural water rights on the West Slope.

Of course, neither drying up irrigated agriculture nor putting another straw into the Colorado Basin would be necessary if urban users reduced their consumption sufficiently. But how to achieve that isn’t easy either. Updated fixtures and education campaigns are a good start, but conserving enough to eliminate the need for other water sources would likely be impossible without the broad application of land-use and landscaping restrictions that may not be politically palatable.

There are no easy answers to the state’s large-scale water challenges. Creative solutions are needed to find more “win-win” solutions, with less of a need for losers – but hard choices may still need to be made. The more people that contribute their insights and opinions, the better the chances are that the final plan will fully reflect Colorado’s water values.

To begin contributing your insights to your Basin Roundtable and the CWCB, fill out this quick survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ColoBasinPlanValues.

If you want to get a little more background first, check out the new Colorado Water Plan website at http://www.coloradowaterplan.com/.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


The #ColoradoRiver Cooperative Agreement is now fully executed

November 21, 2013
Colorado River Cooperative Agreement Map

Colorado River Cooperative Agreement Map via the Colorado River District

From the Colorado River District:

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA) is now fully executed with final approval coming from irrigators and water suppliers in the Grand Valley, General Counsel Peter Fleming reported to the Colorado River District Board of Directors.

The CRCA creates a long-term partnership between Denver Water and 42 entities on the West Slope. The agreement is a framework for numerous actions by the parties to benefit water supply, water quality, recreation and the environment on both sides of the Continental Divide.

It is the direct result of Denver Water’s desire to expand its Moffat Tunnel transmountain water supply from the Fraser River in Grand County and to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. While that project is still being permitted, the CRCA represents an enhancement of beneficial actions beyond mitigation yet to be spelled out in the record of decision.

Negotiations on the CRCA concluded in early 2011 and the engaged parties began their approvals. The Grand Valley entities, however, waited until they were satisfied that federal and state reviews of Green Mountain Reservoir and Shoshone Hydro Plant aspects in the agreement were finished and the agreement could be implemented as envisioned.

The CRCA also means the West Slope will not oppose permitting of the Moffat Project. [ed. emphasis mine]

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA) begins a long-term partnership between Denver Water and the West Slope. The agreement is a framework for numerous actions by the parties to benefit water supply, water quality, recreation, and the environment on both sides of the Continental Divide.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Denver Water’s bypass flows enhance the Fraser River fishery #ColoradoRiver #COdrought

June 5, 2013

coloradorivercooperativeagreementmap.jpg

Here’s an opinion piece running in the Sky-Hi Daily News written by the Grand County Commissioners. They take on the execution of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. Here’s an excerpt:

As your Commissioners, we believe it is important to let you know the status of the agreement and how the agreement is already benefitting the county.

In the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, Denver Water commits to providing environmental enhancements to address existing flow and temperature concerns throughout Grand County. It is important to note that the enhancements contained in the Cooperative Agreement are not a substitute for mitigation for the Gross Reservoir Enlargement Project (Moffat Project), as the agreement clearly states. Grand County continues to advocate in the federal permitting process for complete mitigation for all impacts caused by the Moffat Project.

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement has not yet been signed by all parties, awaiting federal agency sign-off on allied agreements. Final signatures and full execution is expected this summer. However, even though the Cooperative Agreement has not been fully executed and the Moffat Project is not yet permitted, let alone built, Denver Water voluntarily implemented fundamental and critical components of the agreement last year and again this spring providing more water for county streams than would have been present without the agreement.

Denver Water contacted Grand County officials to determine how to maximize benefit to Grand County of bypassed water. In short, instead of the historical practice of significantly reducing the bypass flows at its diversion points during droughts, Denver Water is bypassing water for the benefit of the environment and Grand County water users. This benefit amounted to about 1,500 acre-feet of water that Denver Water gave back to the Fraser River when they legally could have diverted it to Denver in 2012. According to the municipal water and wastewater providers in the Fraser Valley, this additional water made a huge benefit last year to stream flow and stream temperatures, as well as operations of water and wastewater facilities.

Again this year, Denver Water instituted drought restrictions in April, which meant they had the right to reduce the flows in the Fraser River. Despite grave concerns about their water supply — overall reservoir storage was below 2002 levels and early projections showed reservoirs may not fill this season — Denver Water contacted us to discuss the bypass flows and the best way to work with Grand County to maximize water available for the county in 2013.

This example of cooperation and communication is what was envisioned when Grand County entered into the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement with Denver Water. The relationship forged through this agreement is bearing fruit for Grand County even though the agreement is not officially in place.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Colorado River Basin: Denver Water, et. al., are operating under the Shoshone Outage Protocol

April 4, 2013

shoshoneglenwoodcanyon.jpg

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

Two back-to-back, drought-plagued winters in Western Colorado have triggered an agreement to “relax” a senior water rights call on the Colorado River at the Shoshone Hydro Plant to allow water providers to store more water this spring, a move that benefits Denver Water and the West Slope.

The Shoshone Hydro Plant is owned by Xcel Energy and is located in Glenwood Canyon. Its senior 1902 water right of 1,250 cubic feet a second (cfs), when called, is administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights upstream that include Denver Water’s Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir.

The agreement “relaxes” the call to 704 cfs when river flows are low, or takes a Shoshone call totally off the river when flows are rising, which is the current situation. This practice gives the upstream juniors water rights holders the ability to store water once the spring runoff begins in earnest. Currently, the Colorado River is flowing through Glenwood Canyon at about 825 cfs. (The long-term historical average for this date is about 1,150 cfs.)

Two tripping points activate the agreement: when Denver Water forecasts its July 1 reservoir storage to be 80 percent of full or less, and when the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center predicts spring runoff flows at Kremmling in Grand County will be less than or equal to 85 percent of average. Currently, the reservoir forecast is 74 percent full on July 1 and the Kremmling forecast is 60 percent of average.

Denver Water has already enacted its Stage 2 Drought Restrictions to limit outdoor water use and enact other conservation measures.

The winter of 2012 was the fourth worst on record in the Colorado River Basin and 2013 has been tracking just as poorly. The only improvement between the two winters occurred in March 2013 as storms continued to build snowpack. By this time in 2012, runoff was already under way.
The relaxation period is between March 14 and May 20, in deference to boating season on the river and irrigation needs in the basin.

As for the water that Denver Water gains by the relaxation, 15 percent of the net gain is saved for Xcel Energy power plant uses in the Denver Metro Area and 10 percent is delivered to West Slope entities yet to be determined by agreement between Denver Water and the Colorado River District.

“This is a statewide drought, and we all need to work together to manage water resources for the health and safety of our residents, our economic vitality and the environment,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Shoshone Outage Protocol are great examples of the partnership between Denver Water and the West Slope to do just that. Last year, even though the CRCA was not yet in effect, Denver Water released water to the river even though the Shoshone Power Plant was not operating and the call was not on. This year, under the Denver Water-Xcel Energy agreement, the Shoshone call will be relaxed.”

“Relaxing the Shoshone water right in this limited way benefits the West Slope as well,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn. “It might make the difference between having a full supply at Green Mountain Reservoir and not having a full supply. In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later.”


‘In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later’ — Eric Kuhn #codrought #coriver

April 2, 2013

shoshoneglenwoodcanyon.jpg

Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

Two back-to-back, drought-plagued winters in Western Colorado have triggered an agreement to “relax” a senior water rights call on the Colorado River at the Shoshone Hydro Plant to allow water providers to store more water this spring, a move that benefits Denver Water and the West Slope.

The Shoshone Hydro Plant is owned by Xcel Energy and is located in Glenwood Canyon. Its senior 1902 water right of 1,250 cubic feet a second (cfs), when called, is administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights upstream that include Denver Water’s Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir.

The agreement “relaxes” the call to 704 cfs when river flows are low, or takes a Shoshone call totally off the river when flows are rising, which is the current situation. This practice gives the upstream juniors water rights holders the ability to store water once the spring runoff begins in earnest. Currently, the Colorado River is flowing through Glenwood Canyon at about 825 cfs. (The long-term historical average for this date is about 1,150 cfs).

Two tripping points activate the agreement: when Denver Water forecasts its July 1 reservoir storage to be 80 percent of full or less, and when the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center predicts spring runoff flows at Kremmling in Grand County will be less than or equal to 85 percent of average. Currently, the reservoir forecast is 74 percent full on July 1 and the Kremmling forecast is 60 percent of average.

Denver Water has already enacted its Stage 2 Drought Restrictions to limit outdoor water use and enact other conservation measures.

The winter of 2012 was the fourth worst on record in the Colorado River Basin and 2013 has been tracking just as poorly. The only improvement between the two winters occurred in March 2013 as storms continued to build snowpack. By this time in 2012, runoff was already under way.

The relaxation period is between March 14 and May 20, in deference to boating season on the river and irrigation needs in the basin.

As for the water that Denver Water gains by the relaxation, 15 percent of the net gain is saved for Xcel Energy power plant uses in the Denver Metro Area and 10 percent is delivered to West Slope entities yet to be determined by agreement between Denver Water and the Colorado River District.

“This is a statewide drought, and we all need to work together to manage water resources for the health and safety of our residents, our economic vitality and the environment,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Shoshone Outage Protocol are great examples of the partnership between Denver Water and the West Slope to do just that. Last year, even though the CRCA was not yet in effect, Denver Water released water to the river even though the Shoshone Power Plant was not operating and the call was not on. This year, under the Denver Water-Xcel Energy agreement, the Shoshone call will be relaxed.”

“Relaxing the Shoshone water right in this limited way benefits the West Slope as well,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn. “It might make the difference between having a full supply at Green Mountain Reservoir and not having a full supply. In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Fraser River: Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project is focus of short film from Trout Unlimited #coriver

February 3, 2013

From The Denver Post Spot Blog (Lynn Bartels):

“It’s a lighthearted effort to highlight a serious problem: diversions are killing the Fraser River,” David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said in a news release.

“Trout and other aquatic life need cold, clean water to survive,” said Nickum. “But at present, Denver Water is sucking many tributaries to the Fraser completely dry through its Moffat Tunnel Collection System. We’re in danger of destroying a priceless state resource and major recreation area for Front Range residents. Coloradans need to tell Denver Water: don’t kill the river.”[...]

“Denver residents care about our mountain resources — as customers, we’re asking Denver Water to be a good steward of these resources,” said Becky Long of Conservation Colorado…

“Denver Water understands the importance of a healthy river,” said spokeswoman Stacy Chesney. “We understand that water supply projects do have impacts, but not only will we offset those impacts through required mitigation, but also we will go above and beyond to make the river better.”

Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (David Nickum):

Denver Water already sucks 60% of the annual flows from the Fraser River, and they now want to take more: another 15%. Sign the Defend the Colorado petition today and tell Denver that before they take more water, they need to protect the Fraser River. Tell Denver Water: Don’t Suck the Fraser River Dry!

If you see a lost-looking trout walking the streets of downtown Denver in coming weeks, don’t be alarmed. He’s just looking for some water. Any water.

He urgently needs your help.

We recently filmed this trout’s sad dilemma. Left high and dry in the Fraser Valley, where Denver Water is sucking the life out of the Fraser River and its tributaries, our refugee trout hitchhiked to Denver to try to find out who moved his water and where he can get a few drops.

Check out the short video– it’s a lighthearted effort to highlight a serious problem: Denver Water is diverting the Fraser River to death…

You might not know that much of Denver’s water comes from across the Continental Divide, in Grand County, where the Moffat pipeline each year drains 60 percent of the Fraser River’s annual flows, leaving dozens of tributaries sucked completely dry. Denver Water’s proposed expansion of that pipeline would take another 15 percent of flows, leaving an already damaged river on life support.

It’s not just trout and wildlife at risk—our mountain towns and state tourism economy are also threatened. If you love to fish, ski, raft, hike, camp or otherwise recreate in the mountains, this hits you where you live.

We simply can’t keep sucking the lifeblood out of the Fraser and expect it to remain a living river.

If Denver Water is to move forward with the Moffat expansion, they must take steps to ensure it is done in a way that won’t destroy the Fraser River. For months, a coalition of conservation organizations, landowners, and recreation businesses have been calling on Denver Water to take a few responsible, cost-effective steps to protect the Fraser:

  • ensure healthy “flushing” flows in the river to clean out silt and algae.
  • avoid taking water during high water temperatures, when trout and aquatic life are vulnerable.
  • monitor the river’s health and take action as needed to prevent further declines.
  • We’ve presented these concerns to Denver Water, but so far they’ve been unwilling to work with us to adopt this common-sense package of protections.

    This is where you come in. Denver Water will listen to their customers. We need Denver-area residents—and anyone who cares about Colorado’s rivers and wild places—to tell Denver Water that you want them to “finish the job” of protecting the Fraser River.

    Please—go right now to the Defend the Colorado webpage to sign a petition asking Denver Water board members to protect the Fraser. We know they will respond to public pressure—but that means you need to take a few minutes and sign the petition. It will make a difference for the Fraser River and for our homeless trout, but only if you act now.

    Denver Water won’t act if they think Coloradans don’t know enough or care enough to demand a higher level of river stewardship.

    So do something good for our rivers today. Sign the petition and tell Denver Water: don’t suck—protect the Fraser River.

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


    Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: Slow, steady progress seen #coriver

    January 12, 2013

    coloradorivercooperativeagreementmap.jpg

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Negotiations to finalize a sweeping in-state water agreement for the Colorado River Basin continue to drag on, but holdout Western Slope entities have conditionally approved it pending resolution of outstanding issues.

    The proposed deal was announced in April 2011 and involves Denver Water and more than 30 Western Slope entities. In September, Peter Fleming, general counsel for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, based in Glenwood Springs, expressed hope that it would be finalized by the end of October. But final approval continues to await the conclusion of negotiations on two major issues ­­­— the senior water right for Xcel Energy’s Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon and future administration of Green Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling.

    Conditional approvals to the overall deal have been given by the river district and all Grand Valley entities involved with the it.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Conservation groups raise issues with fast-tracking the Moffat Collection System Project

    October 28, 2012

    grossdam.jpg

    Here’s the text of a letter from the Colorado Environmental Coalition, et. al., to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers:

    We write to express our serious concerns with the permitting process for the Moffat Collection System Expansion Project proposed by Denver Water. Governor Hickenlooper has submitted a letter calling for the permitting process to be expedited, and our understanding is that finalizing the Environmental Impact Statement has been put on a fast track for completion. While we certainly support the agencies in working promptly and efficiently on this project – indeed on any of their permitting work – the desire for speedy completion should not come at the expense of completing the studies and analyses needed to accurately assess and disclose impacts, and to honestly determine the “Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative” pursuant to the Clean Water Act.

    The Governor’s letter touts the benefits of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and west slope interests as an important factor in moving Moffat permits forward. We agree that the Cooperative Agreement takes many important steps in addressing the current challenges facing the Upper Colorado River watershed. What it does not do is address the impacts of the new Moffat Collection System Expansion Project. Any suggestion that the Cooperative Agreement has somehow reduced or eliminated concerns about the Moffat Collection System Expansion Project or the need to rigorously evaluate its impacts and design mitigation is simply wrong. Our constituencies are not satisfied with Moffat Collection System Expansion Project moving forward without significant further environmental disclosure and mitigation requirements.

    Our organizations remain gravely concerned with the potential impacts on the Fraser and Williams Fork watersheds and the Upper Colorado River due to the depletions proposed under the Moffat Collection System Expansion Project. Specific concerns which have been raised previously in the public process surrounding this project include:

    Temperature. Already sections of Ranch Creek, the Fraser River, and the Upper Colorado exceed water quality standards for temperature and are listed on the Colorado 303(d) list of impaired waters. Further flow depletions during the summer months, as proposed under the Moffat Collection System Expansion, cannot help but extend and worsen these problems absent operational restrictions (such as curtailment of diversions during periods of elevated temperature) or strong mitigation (channel reconfiguration, riparian restoration). The Draft EIS can, at best, be said to have given short shrift to this issue – particularly since it is a water quality issue where the affected environment is already experiencing water quality standard violations.

    Sedimentation. This issue was similarly given a dismissive treatment in the Draft EIS. However, as evidenced by a sediment transport study completed by Dr Brian Bledsoe (previously submitted to you and shared with us by Trout Unlimited) – and as is obvious to all of us who have spent time in the Fraser River and seen the evidence of excessive sediment building up with our own eyes – sedimentation is a significant issue and one that will be worsened by the loss of flushing flows under the Moffat Collection System Expansion. As with temperature, operating requirements (such as mandatory flushing flows) or mitigation measures (such as channel reconfiguration to promote sediment transport at a lower flow) are needed.

    Impacts to Recreation and Tourism. The river-based recreation and tourism economy of Grand County and the Colorado River basin are highly dependent on predictable and sufficient streamflows to attract visitors to the area seeking world-class rafting, kayaking, and float-fishing opportunities. In the Upper Colorado River, commercial rafting alone contributes nearly $10 Million dollars in economic benefit, and is enjoyed by over 32,000 visitors a year. Our concern is that not enough analysis has been made of how the Moffat Collection System Expansion will reduce streamflows that support this important industry. The impacts from additional depletions out of the Fraser and Colorado River Systems on existing river-based recreation have not been adequately disclosed, nor have the project proponents made available to the public the models of how future streamflow conditions are likely to change – attributable to the Moffat Collection system solely. Changes in streamflow, and the potential loss of a sustainable recreation economy in Colorado is very concerning to us, and we feel deserves a more substantive review.

    Adaptive management. Even if the Corps and EPA were able to complete thorough impact studies that gave adequate guidance to disclose impacts and design mitigation for temperature and sedimentation – a premise that we fear may in itself be flawed given the rush to move forward a Final EIS – there will still be major uncertainty about the impacts associated with Moffat Collection System Expansion. Simply put, there is a real risk that diversions at the level proposed for the Fraser – with a cumulative total of 75% of water being removed from the environment – may cause unanticipated adverse effects. Scientists call these “nonlinear” responses, points where passing a certain threshold can lead to dramatically increased impacts.

    Front Range Impacts. In addition we remain seriously concerned about impacts that would occur on the Front Range, namely in Boulder County where Gross Reservoir and dam would be dramatically increased in size. These impacts—and the concerns of County property owners— have not be adequately addressed yet either.

    In light of these unpredictable impacts, coupled with the apparent desire to quickly complete analysis of even more predictable impacts, we urge you to include strong monitoring and adaptive management requirements in any permit for Moffat Collection System Expansion. These should include monitoring of the physical, chemical and biologic conditions of the streams affected by the project and require implementation of measures to prevent degradation of aquatic and riparian ecosystems, to be paid for by the project beneficiary—Denver Water. Monitoring must be broad and thorough enough to determine changes in fish, aquatic invertebrate, and plant populations, as well as assessing water quality, and particularly water temperature as indicators of degradation.

    While these efforts should be coordinated with the “Learning by Doing” effort from the Cooperative Agreement, they must be a specific and separate requirement of the permit. Learning by Doing – like the rest of the Cooperative Agreement – was not designed to address the impacts of the new Moffat Collection System Expansion, indeed by its own terms it does not address mitigation. It is the job of the Corps and EPA to ensure mitigation as a condition of any approved permit, and a robust adaptive management plan should be required. Given the inherent difficulty of predicting impacts at such high levels of diversion from a river, and in light of the Governor’s stated desire to expedite permitting for Moffat Collection System Expansion, a program by which river health continues to be monitored and Denver Water remains responsible for mitigating the actual effects of their project – not just those that can be accurately predicted in the current EIS process – offers the best opportunity for moving the project forward while ensuring that water quality and ecosystem health can be protected for the future.

    In short “fast tracking” this process will only undercut the good work that has been done to date. Any assurances you have heard that “everyone” is on board with the Moffat Collection System Expansion proceeding without the required review and mitigation are simply not true. Our organizations and the more than 180,000 members we represent remain deeply concerned about what the Moffat Collection System Expansion will mean for the health of the Fraser, Williams Fork and Upper Colorado watersheds. We support the permitting process moving forward only if it includes thorough assessment and mitigation to address temperature and sedimentation concerns, and a robust monitoring and adaptive management requirement.

    As Colorado moves forward in planning for our water supply future we must ensure that we “do it right”. This is both an enormous opportunity as well as an incredible responsibility. Let’s work together to ensure that the river, our communities and our state are not short-changed in an effort to move quickly.

    The letter was signed by: Becky Long, Colorado Environmental Coalition; Bart Miller, Western Resource Advocates; Steve Glazer, Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club; Nathan Fey, American Whitewater.

    Update: A thousand pardons. I left three signatures off in the list above: Gary Wockner, Clean Water Action; Jen Bock, High Country Citizens Alliance; Matt Rice, American Rivers.

    Thanks to Coyote Gulch reader Doug Pflugh for the heads up.

    More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit Daily Voice. Here’s an excerpt:

    “We’re worried that that we’re going to hit fast forward and miss some things,” said Becky Long, water caucus coordinator with the Colorado Environmental Coalition, explaining why several groups recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, reiterating their concerns about water temperatures and sediment loading in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

    The fast-tracking was requested by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper back in June. In a June 5 letter to President Barack Obama, Hickenlooper touted a far-reaching water agreement as “removing” West Slope opposition to the Moffat project, and urged the Corps to release a final Environmental Impact Statement by the end of 2012, followed by a formal decision in early 2013.

    The letter illustrates the governor’s fundamental misunderstanding of the NEPA process, which requires agencies to take a “hard look” at impacts and alternatives. It shows that, despite claims to the contrary, the Colorado water establishment is still focused on the folly of more water development and storage as the primary answer to the state’s drought woes. It also shows that state leaders still don’t understand that Colorado could easily — and much less expensively — use basic conservation measures to save as much or more water than would be stored by the Moffat project.

    And while it’s true that institutional West Slope water users agreed to not oppose the Moffat Project — a devil’s bargain to some — the environmental community still has serious concerns about the increased diversions.

    On top of all that, Long said rumors have circulated that the conservation community is OK with the Moffat project and the mitigation measures that have been proposed during the early phases of the review process. The letter to EPA regional director Jim Martin and Corps of Engineers regional commander Joel Cross was sent partially to refute those rumors.

    More Moffat Collection System coverage here and 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.


    Colorado River Cooperative Agreement implementation at hand

    September 13, 2012

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    Here’s a short report from the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

    Colorado’s largest water utility and more than 30 western slope providers are expected to begin implementing an agreement balancing the Denver-area’s demand for water with the needs of mountain communities as early as next month. According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel a project spokesman said Tuesday a few more signatures are needed.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Western Slope interests are, ‘better off at the table than on the menu’ — Bill Trampe

    August 13, 2012

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    Here’s a profile of Rancher and water wonk, Bill Trampe, written by Jennifer Bock running in the Grand Junction Free Press. From the article:

    Although water is probably more essential to his livelihood than many of us in the Gunnison Basin, Trampe admits that his philosophy on keeping water in the Gunnison Basin has changed over the years.

    When Arapahoe County proposed the Union Park project, Trampe recalls that the local sentiment was “not one drop” and no one dared stray from that strict line in the sand.

    Today, Trampe thinks that Western Slope interests are “better off at the table than on the menu” when it comes to talking to the Front Range and others about West Slope water. Trampe’s philosophy is tied to real life experience: He has spent the last seven years negotiating with the Front Range to develop the Colorado River Water Cooperative Agreement.

    Perhaps characteristic of a rancher’s outlook, Trampe is both hopeful and frustrated when it comes to resolving Colorado’s water disputes.

    He believes, as many do, that big, transmountain water projects simply won’t be able to provide enough firm yield to satisfy Front Range interests. In statewide water planning discussions, Trampe has been a proponent of addressing this problem through risk management — the idea that the state must have a comprehensive way to evaluate and guard against the potential consequences of failing to meet water delivery obligations to downstream states as it considers new diversions out of the Colorado River Basin.

    More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.


    Runoff news: Colorado River streamflow at Glenwood Canyon less than 20% of average

    June 16, 2012

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    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    Average Colorado River flows through Glenwood Canyon this time of year are about 6,000 cfs, but this year, the river has been flowing at less than 20 percent of that, at about 1,100 cfs.

    Looking to raise stream flows, the Colorado River District, Denver Water and the Bureau of Reclamation are cooperating under the Shoshone outage protocol, which helps sustain flows along the Colorado River mainstem with water from Wolford Mountain Reservoir, Williams Fork Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir — even when Xcel’s Shoshone power plant isn’t exercising a senior water right that historically keeps at least some water in the river during dry seasons and years.

    “This makes a real difference in the river,” said Colorado River District general manager Eric Kuhn. “Since we started, you can see … that the temperature of the water has come down 4 degrees.

    Releases from the three reservoirs of about 450 cfs should help sustain flows through Glenwood Canyon at about 1,100 cfs at least through this weekend and early next week. The 1.100 cfs flow rate is a benchmark for commercial rafting outfitters on the river, and the releases will also help farmers in the Grand Valley, Pokrandt said.

    Here’s a release the Eagle River Water and Sanition District (Diane Johnson):

    Drought worsens locally: “Extreme” drought area expands to include Eagle County

    Northwest Colorado continues to fall deeper into drought with extreme conditions now widespread. Eagle County drought intensity was elevated to “extreme” by the U.S. Drought Monitor, joining Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, and parts of Grand, Jackson, Larimer, Summit, Pitkin, and Mesa counties.

    Drought intensity throughout Colorado is worsening. The June 12 map, released Thursday, shows 20 percent of the state is designated as being in an extreme drought, 9 percent more than last week. Extreme drought is classified as “D3” on the drought intensity scale of D0 to D4.

    All of Colorado continues to experience some level of drought and the areas least affected are shrinking. Last week, 24 percent of the state was designated as D0, “abnormally dry,” which dropped to 9 percent this week.

    Drought conditions reflect this winter’s record low snowpack, including the driest March on record in Colorado, the warmest March through May on record, and windy conditions. Streamflows have been correspondingly low. Eagle County waterways are flowing at about 30 percent of historical averages and peak runoff was early and hardly noticeable in some streams.

    Our community water supply is largely dependent upon adequate flows in local streams and rivers. Eagle River Water and Sanitation District encourages community members to lessen the impact of drought by efficiently using water, especially in outdoor areas.

    Should drought conditions persist, water available for irrigation and other outdoor uses may be less than normal, or unavailable, this year. Currently, normal year-round Water Use Regulations apply, which allow outdoor water use up to three days per week, before 10 am or after 4 pm.

    For more information go to www.erwsd.org

    More Colorado River basin coverage here.


    Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: Parties to the agreement flip the switch on the Shoshone Outage Protocol

    June 14, 2012

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    Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

    In this year of historically low runoff, the Colorado River District, Denver Water and the Bureau of Reclamation are cooperating to add flows to the Colorado River through the Shoshone Outage Protocol for the benefit of fish, rafting and crop irrigation along the entire stretch of the mainstem from Parshall in Grand County to Grand Junction in Mesa County.

    The extra water is the result of the Shoshone Outage Protocol, a part of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement that was hammered out over the last six years by 42 West Slope entities and Denver Water.

    The three reservoir operators are increasing river flows by about 450 cubic feet a second (cfs) through releases from Wolford Mountain Reservoir, Williams Fork Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir, respectively. Through the weekend and early next week, flows in Glenwood Canyon should hover around 1,100 cfs, to improve rafting and to aid farmers and ranchers in the Grand Valley, helping to boost flows that are too low. The 71-year average of flows for this time of the year in Glenwood Canyon is more than 6,000 cfs.

    Additionally, the flows are helping to lower water temperature levels in the river along the Pumphouse area of the river in Grand County to help trout survive.

    “This makes a real difference in the river,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn. “Since we started, you can see by the gage that the temperature of the water has come down 4 degrees Fahrenheit.”

    The Protocol is designed to add water to the Colorado River when the Shoshone Hydro Plant in Glenwood Canyon is down for maintenance and not using its senior water right, which normally would have the river flowing at about 1,250 cfs through the canyon, absent the usual runoff flows. The Protocol is taking place even though all the parties have yet to sign the agreement.

    “This is a good example of how the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement can work when everybody is pitching in to help the river in a time of need,” said Lurline Underbrink Curran, the Grand County Manager.

    Said Jim Lochhead, CEO/Manager of Denver Water, “This is exactly why we all came together to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement – to provide benefit to the Colorado River. Denver Water is proud to be part of an effort that fulfills our goal to operate our system in a way that benefits the environment.”

    Currently, the Shoshone Hydro Plant is operating at about half capacity, which requires about 700 cfs of water. Xcel Energy is unable to run Shoshone at full capacity while it works on repairs to the tunnel that runs about two miles from the Hanging Lakes power plant dam to the power plant itself. The work could last until early September.

    A call on the river, such as the Shoshone 1,250 cfs water right, forces junior water rights holders to replace diverted water from reservoir storage or to stop diverting, thus boosting flows as they decline with the natural drop of the runoff throughout the summer.

    From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

    The Colorado River District, Denver Water and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are increasing river flows by about 450 cubic feet a second through releases from the Wolford Mountain, Williams Fork and Green Mountain reservoirs. That should boost flows in Glenwood Canyon to around 1,100 cfs through early next week. The river district says the 71-year average of flows for this time of the year in Glenwood Canyon is more than 6,000 cfs. The extra flows will help reduce water temperatures in Grand County to help trout survive.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Glenwood Springs: Council approves the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

    June 9, 2012

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    From The Aspen Times (John Stroud):

    Glenwood Springs City Council voted 5-1 at its Thursday meeting to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. The vote came more than a month after the proposal was first presented for council’s consideration.

    “It’s unheard of that so many entities are willing to talk about what works for everyone,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said, in favor of signing onto the agreement.

    Added Mayor Matt Steckler, “It’s not perfect, but this is something we have been working on for over a year. I don’t see what not signing it is going to do.”

    Councilman Dave Sturges dissented, saying he supports the efforts to reach an agreement on the use of Colorado River water. But he felt the agreement fell short in some areas and that the public had not had an adequate opportunity to weigh in.[ed. True, the agreement was hammered out under Non-Disclosure agreements amongst the parties.] “We’re not under the gun to act on this,” Sturges said. “There are still some questions, and I think the public ought to assist us in how we view those questions.”

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    The Denver Post editorial board weighs in on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

    May 20, 2012

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    From The Denver Post:

    One of the linchpins is that Denver Water, which serves more than 1.3 million customers on the Front Range, gets approval for the expansion of Gross Reservoir near Boulder. The utility needs the project so it may ensure adequate water for customers on the northern edge of its service area…

    The agreement calls for Western Slope parties to not oppose — and in some cases support — the Moffat Collection System project, which includes the reservoir expansion.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Denver Water, Grand and Summit counties sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

    May 19, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Gov. John Hickenlooper presided over a ceremonial signing of agreements among Denver Water, Grand and Summit counties and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. on Tuesday in Hot Sulphur Springs.

    More Colorado River basin coverage here.


    Denver Water: ‘A historic moment for Colorado water’

    May 16, 2012

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    Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

    Leaders from Grand and Summit counties, Denver Water and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. — entities that for decades battled in court over water — stood today with Gov. John Hickenlooper and signed the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, changing the way water will be managed in Colorado.

    The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement is the product of years of negotiations, and ultimately included more than 40 parties stretching from Grand Junction to the Denver metro area. The historic agreement is the largest of its kind in the history of the state. It shifts Colorado away from a path of conflict to a path of cooperation and collaboration in managing the state’s water resources.

    Signatories described the agreement as a meaningful way forward to protect the Colorado River.

    “Our goal through the whole negotiation was to be better off tomorrow than we are today with our water resources,” said Grand County Commissioner Nancy Stuart.

    “The collaborative spirit is alive and well in Colorado,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “This is a state where we get things done. From farmers and families to businesses and wildlife, this agreement will help protect Colorado’s water and is a testament to how collaboration can overcome even long-standing differences in managing this vital resource.”

    The comprehensive agreement focuses on significantly enhancing the environmental health of Colorado’s rivers and streams, as well as supporting many West Slope cities, towns, counties and water providers as they work to improve water quality and quantity of water through new municipal projects and river management initiatives.

    “This is a new way of developing water in Colorado,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry. “Only through cooperative effort can we do the right thing for the resource.”

    “The agreement we sign today marks the beginning of a new era of inter-regional cooperation with one broad goal: a brighter and more sustainable future for Colorado,” said Penfield Tate, vice president, Denver Board of Water Commissioners. “Today, we are saying there is a better way — a way that will make the Colorado River and its tributaries healthier, ensure a more reliable water supply for our customers, and that will develop and use water in a way that protects and improves the environment and benefits all users from the West Slope to the Front Range.”

    In exchange for environmental enhancements, including financial support for municipal water projects and providing additional water supply and service area restrictions, the agreement, with the required mitigation, will remove opposition to Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project.

    “This agreement honors the recognition that protecting water resources and tourism in our headwaters counties also protects the entire state of Colorado’s economy,” said Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier.

    Bill Baum, president of the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Company, said: “Since 1992, Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Company has been a monument to what cooperation can achieve. Governmental entities and private industry have worked together through Clinton to provide a source of water for the residents of Summit and Grand County, for the visitors who are our economic lifeblood, and for the industry that provides the resources that allows all of us to live and play in this magnificent part of Colorado.” He continued: “Twenty years later, this new cooperative agreement carries on and extends that spirit of collaboration to a wider group and a new century. Clinton is pleased to be a part of it, and we will all be better off as a result of it.”

    The entities also signed on to the “Learning by Doing” process, by which Denver Water, Grand County, the Colorado River District, the Middle Park Water Conservancy District and others will use the flexibility in Denver Water’s water system to manage flows for the benefit of the environment in Grand County.

    In addition to today’s signatories, the agreement has been signed by Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company. Other West Slope entities are expected to sign in the near future.

    From the Denver Business Journal:

    “The collaborative spirit is alive and well in Colorado,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “This is a state where we get things done. From farmers and families to businesses and wildlife, this agreement will help protect Colorado’s water and is a testament to how collaboration can overcome even long-standing differences in managing this vital resource.”

    The agreement specifies that any new water project by Denver Water in the Colorado River Basin will be developed only in cooperation with those entities impacted by the development.

    Other provisions of the agreement:

    • Additional water for towns, districts and ski areas in Grand and Summit counties to serve the needs of residents and to improve the health of rivers and streams.

    • An agreement to operate key Denver Water facilities, such as Dillon Reservoir in Summit County, and Williams Fork Reservoir and the Moffat Collection System in Grand County, in a way that better addresses the needs and concerns of neighboring communities and enhances the river environment.

    • Greater certainty for Denver Water to develop future water resources for its customers by resolving long-standing disputes over its service territory, its ability to use West Slope water, its ability to develop future water supplies in the Colorado River Basin, and other legal issues.

    • Additional water and enhanced system reliability for customers of Denver Water, representing nearly 25 percent of the state’s population, by moving forward the Moffat Collection System Project.

    • Agreement by all partners to not oppose Denver’s storage of its Blue River and Moffat Project water on the Front Range.

    • Reinforcement of the priority and increased conservation and reuse within Denver Water’s service area.

    • Improves the health of Colorado’s rivers and streams by dedicating funds to pay for watershed, water treatment and aquatic habitat improvements in the Colorado River Basin.

    • Changes in water management associated with the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon that preserves historic flows in the middle and lower Colorado River.

    A key part of the agreement allows Denver Water to move ahead with the Moffat Collection System Project to address shortages like the one that occurred in the drought of 2002, when the north end of the system nearly ran dry.

    “It is critical to the Denver region that this project moves forward,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver. “I applaud Denver Water and all of the signatories for their dedication to settling old conflicts and coming together to the benefit of our quality of life and economy.”

    From email from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

    Statement by Trout Unlimited on Denver Water Cooperative Agreement:

    Colorado Trout Unlimited today praised the Cooperative Agreement to be signed Tuesday, May 15 in Hot Sulphur Springs by Denver Water, west slope officials and other stakeholders, but cautioned that additional measures are needed to protect the Upper Colorado River ecosystem.

    “The Cooperative Agreement shows that by working together, we can find ways to meet our water needs while protecting our natural resources,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “But the job isn’t finished. It’s important to remember that this agreement does not cover the future impacts of Denver Water’s proposed Moffat Tunnel expansion on the Fraser River Basin, nor does it address the combined impacts of the Moffat Tunnel expansion and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming Project on the Upper Colorado.” Collectively, these diversion projects will take another 15-20 percent of the flows of the Upper Colorado River, which is already significantly impacted by water diversions. Unless the impacts of these new projects are mitigated, the river habitat will continue to decline, according to the state’s own studies.

    “The Colorado River is still very much a river at risk,” said Whiting. ”We call on Gov. Hickenlooper, Denver Water, Northern and other key players to follow through on this achievement by securing a package of protections that offsets these looming impacts on the Upper Colorado.”

    For more info: http://www.defendthecolorado.org

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

    Against a backdrop of an intensifying mountain drought, Hickenlooper said this year’s dry conditions magnify the need for cooperative solutions and highlight the fragility of the state’s rivers in the face of possible climate change impacts and increasing demand from a growing population. “Some of our watersheds are reporting the driest conditions in our recorded history … this puts Colorado on a better footing, with more secure water sources both for headwaters counties and Denver,” Hickenlooper said.

    Most importantly for Denver Water, Summit and Grand counties agree not to oppose a plan to expand diversions from the West Slope through the Moffat Tunnel Collection System, a project that, in its present form, is still bitterly opposed by conservation and river advocacy groups.

    In return, the headwaters counties get some assurances on flows, as well as money for mitigation and enhancements. All the agreement documents are online at the Colorado River District website. Denver Water also agrees not to expand its service area and to increase water recycling and storage for reuse.

    More coverage from the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

    Gov. John Hickenlooper joked that the water wars have now been scaled back to “rubber bullets and bean bag shotguns.” He said he hoped other similar deals would be worked out across Colorado, where 80 percent of the water comes from west of the Continental Divide but 80 percent of the demand is in the more populous east.

    “Colorado is the ultimate beneficiary,” he said.

    Denver Water — which serves about 1.3 million people in the Denver area — and nearly three dozen Western Slope water users announced the proposal last year. Eagle County and its water districts became the first to sign in February. The endorsement of the cities of Rifle and Glenwood Springs and some irrigation districts is still pending.

    Under the deal, Denver Water will contribute $25 million to western Colorado projects and limit its service area. In return, the signers won’t oppose Denver Water’s proposal to hold more mountain water in Gross Reservoir…

    In Summit County, home of the utility’s largest reservoir, Denver Water agreed to pay $11 million for projects including improvements to a wastewater treatment plant and to provide 250 acre-feet of water to districts and towns for free. Denver Water also plans to keep Dillon Reservoir full enough to support summer boating and fishing.

    More coverage from KUNC (Kirk Siegler). From the article:

    “This agreement solidifies and shows a new way of doing water business in Colorado,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newbury. Newbury spoke at a signing ceremony in Hot Sulpher Springs that included Governor John Hickenlooper, the head of the Colorado River District and others.

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

    The signing took place more than one year after Gov. John Hickenlooper last visited Grand County, when he first rolled out the Colorado Cooperative Agreement, deemed an unprecedented water agreement for our time. The agreement aims to settle years of East and West Slope water disputes. “I’m not sure the fighting’s ever going to completely stop,” Hickenlooper said…

    Denver Water’s Moffat Firming Project and its goal to enlarge Gross Reservoir to divert more water from the West Slope, plus its 2006 diligence application in federal court regarding water rights under the Blue River decree, sparked negotiations in an arena when litigation and political disputes between Colorado’s West and East Slopes were ripe with potential. A mediator was hired in 2007 under then-Denver Mayor Hickenlooper’s advisement, and as many as 35 parties from the Front Range to the western state line joined in to try and resolve some of the state’s longest-standing water issues.

    The result is a 50- page document, plus pages upon pages of legal attachments, that spells out water resolutions or “enhancements” for the Fraser and Blue rivers, certain tributaries and the upper and middle rivers of the Colorado River to the Grand Valley…

    Besides $11 million in Denver Water dollars promised to address some river issues specifically in Grand County, with more dollars for Summit and Eagle counties, the agreement highlights the importance of the Shoshone Power Plant to the entire Western Slope. The plant, which has been around since 1902, “puts a demand on the stream,” according to Eric Kuhn, executive director of the Colorado River District, during an annual State of the River meeting last week. “When it puts a demand on the stream, water is released from Wolford to Green Mountain and from Williams Fork (reservoirs). All that water reaches Kremmling and runs downstream and provides stability,” he said. “The thing we’ve been concerned about is the 110 year-old plant has started to behave like a 100 year-old plant. We’ve asked, and Denver has agreed … to operate its system like the plant was operating, so we wouldn’t put a hole in the river. That hole in the river causes problems for irrigators, causes problems for fishing and causes problems for rafting.”

    The agreement is also poised to settle a Green Mountain Reservoir administration dispute, which has been brewing since 1955, according to Kuhn, as well as the Blue River Decree settlement. And in the agreement, Denver Water set its service area so that it does not become a conduit for expansion on the Front Range.

    More Colorado River basin coverage here.


    Hot Sulphur Springs: Denver Water along with Grand and Summit counties to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement today

    May 15, 2012

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    From the Associated Press via The Aspen Times:

    Denver Water and the leaders of Grand and Summit counties are set to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement at noon Tuesday in Hot Sulphur Springs. Denver Water and nearly three dozen Western Slope water users announced the proposal last year. Eagle County and its water districts became the first to sign in February. The endorsement of the cities of Rifle and Glenwood Springs and some irrigation districts is still pending.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Denver Water, et al: A historic moment for Colorado water — Signing of historic agreement for cooperative water management and supply

    May 10, 2012

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    Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

    WHO: Governor John Hickenlooper; Grand County Commissioners James Newberry, Nancy Stuart Gary Bumgarner; Penfield Tate, Denver Water Commissioner; Summit County Commissioners Dan Gibbs, Karn Stiegelmeier; William J. Baum, Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co.; Eric Kuhn, Colorado River District, General Manager.

    WHAT: Leaders from Grand County, Summit County, Denver Water and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. will sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. This unprecedented agreement achieves better environmental health for the Colorado River Basin, maintains high-quality recreational use and improves economics for many cities, counties and businesses impacted by the river. The agreement is the result of five years of negotiations.

    WHEN: Tuesday, May 15, 2012, noon

    WHERE: Grand County Administration Building, 308 Byers Ave., Hot Sulphur Springs, CO 80451

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement 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.


    State of the Rockies Project: Governor Hickenlooper names conservation as a major part of the solution to Colorado’s supply gap

    April 11, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    While talking about the ongoing efforts to find statewide solutions through the more traditional route of roundtable meetings, Gov. John Hickenlooper suggested the answer to projected water shortfalls could be found in social media — the favored means of communication and sometimes creative solutions for today’s young people. Hickenlooper spoke Tuesday at Colorado College as part of the release of the 2012 State of the Rockies report…

    As mayor of Denver, Hickenlooper witnessed conservation reduction of nearly 20 percent after 2002, largely because of creative messages crafted by Denver Water to encourage saving water.
    “We now have collaboration and a conservation ethic,” Hickenlooper said. “The next step is to take those frameworks and drive conservation to another level.”[...]

    One student asked Hickenlooper what the state is doing to “combat more pipelines across the Continental Divide.” “Conservation, where we take as little as possible from the West Slope,” Hickenlooper replied. Saying the whole state is better off with a healthy Colorado River, he urged both urban and agricultural conservation techniques to reduce transmountain diversions.

    More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

    Denver’s done better than most U.S. cities, with residents reducing use by 20 percent since 2002 to 160 gallons a day, but “we can make dramatic additional efforts,” Hickenlooper said. “Our self-discipline in the amount of water we use is going to be the foundation of everything we will do,” he said.

    Yet further drawdown of the over-subscribed Colorado River is continuing as state officials support two major projects that would divert more river water across the Continental Divide to sustain Front Range urban communities…

    Beyond conservation, “we’re going to need some more dams, ways to manage water,” Hickenlooper said.

    Two rival pipeline projects would divert an additional 100,000 acre-feet or more of water from the upper Colorado River basin in Wyoming to the Front Range. A state-backed task force is exploring the idea. State planners calculate that Colorado could be entitled to as much as 900,000 acre-feet of unallocated river water under the 1922 interstate compact that governs use of the river. Hickenlooper declined in an interview to rule out a Wyoming diversion, saying that “we have to let that process run its course.”[...]

    “‘The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.’ Colorado has to find a balance so that rivers can live alongside our human culture,” Save the Colorado coordinator Gary Wockner said. “The next year or two will be pivotal. Every water project on the table is proposing to drain more water out of our river.”

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    More coverage from Ben Noreen’s column running in The Colorado Springs Gazette. He writes:

    As many other water users have pumped their share of the Colorado and we’ve learned more about the river’s annual flow, it is becoming apparent that Colorado Springs’ share of the river is a bit tenuous. That’s the central theme of this week’s conference at Colorado College, “The Colorado River Basin: Agenda for Use, Restoration and Sustainability for the Next Generation.”

    Gov. John Hickenlooper joined in Tuesday, re-stating something that has become increasingly apparent since the 1970s: “Bigger and better dams are not going to be the solutions.”

    More coverage from Debbie Kelley writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

    The remark: Denver wouldn’t be Denver without Western Slope river water. Hickenlooper said what he meant was that all Front Range cities, also including Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Fort Collins, benefit if everyone uses less water. Because by keeping more water on the Western Slope and using less in urbanized areas, not only do skiing, white-water rafting and other tourism businesses succeed, but so do the ranchers and farmers. “There’s a direct benefit here. A home on the Front Range is worth more than a home in Kansas City or Indianapolis,” he said…

    Hickenlooper says he advocates new creative ways of saving water and a commitment from every resident to do so. Front Range utilities companies now use about 60 percent of the water that originates in the upper Colorado River basin.

    “A lot of it is our own self-motivation or discipline,” Hickenlooper said. “How we make it joyful and give people a kick out of it? I think that’s where the youth come in. If we can find ways of using that combination of youthful exuberance and optimism and technology, we have the formal framework to achieve changes.”

    Hickenlooper also praised his Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which he helped create last year between stakeholders in the Denver area and on the Western Slope to improve management of future water projects.

    But it does not address two additional proposed diversion projects that would further deplete the river. And unlike U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who spoke at CC’s conference on Monday, Hickenlooper did not mention the potential impact of oil shale development on the river, which some in Congress are pushing for, including U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs.

    More conservation coverage here.


    Eagle River area water providers and Eagle County are the first groups to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

    February 22, 2012

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    From the Associated Press via CBS4Denver.com:

    Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Co. met Tuesday to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement…

    “With this Colorado River Cooperative Agreement I really think it completes the paper trail if you will; it completes a package where Denver is no longer a threat, Denver is now a partner,” Eric Kuhn with the Colorado River District said…

    The Eagle County water users are the first parties in the state to ratify the deal.

    Update: I’m now linking to a corrected story from the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz). Thanks to Diane Johnson from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District for the heads up. Click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right for a photo of those present at the signing (photo credit Diane Johnson).

    More coverage from Derek Franz writing for the Eagle Valley Enterprise. Click through for the photo from the signing. Here’s an excerpt:

    Eagle County representatives became the first large group of 40 entities to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement at Tuesday’s regular commissioner meeting. The agreement addresses numerous water issues from the Continental Divide to the Utah border…

    The agreement was mostly completed by April 2011, when Gov. John Hickenlooper announced, “This cooperative effort represents a new way of doing business when it comes to water. It shows that water solutions must be crafted from a statewide perspective. We hope and expect that this process will ripple across Colorado to other areas of water conflict.” Almost a year later, with some final details in place, the document still needed to be signed. Eagle County decided to get the ball rolling…

    “Porzak said the Eagle River has never had any significant transmountain diversions when compared to Grand and Summit counties. Nearly 300,000 acre feet of water are diverted from Grand County and more than 100,000 from Summit County, he said. According to the Denver Water website, one acre-foot of water serves about 2 1/2 families of four for one year. The Eagle River only has about 20,000 acre feet diverted and it’s now likely to stay that way…

    “Now Denver would need consent from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company to expand its diversion from the Eagle River watershed,” Porzak said. In exchange, Eagle County will not oppose a future interconnect between Clinton Reservoir and Eagle Park Reservoir. Other details about the plan and how it pertains to other entities can be found at the websites of Denver Water and the Colorado River District (see info box).

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Colorado River Cooperative Agreement outstanding issues: Operating the Shoshone power plant and Green Mountain Reservoir

    January 6, 2012

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    From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    Two major issues, the administration of Green Mountain Reservoir and the Shoshone power plant in Glenwood Canyon, remain to be resolved. They are the same issues that parties acknowledged early on would be difficult but not insoluble. “It’s painfully slow,” Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn said, “but we’re making a lot of progress.”[...]

    The two issues closest to the Western Slope are joined, with the Green Mountain question needing to be dealt with first, Kuhn said. Agreement on the administration of Green Mountain Reservoir, which was built as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, “fundamentally sets the stage for moving ahead on Shoshone,” Kuhn said. “A lot of issues have arisen over the years on Green Mountain Reservoir” that boil down to making sure the reservoir fills and that the demands of Denver Water and Colorado Springs are met, said Mark Hermundstad, a Grand Junction water attorney who represents several Grand Valley water users…

    Colorado River water spins turbines in the Shoshone plant, and downstream users have long counted on Shoshone’s call on the river to make sure water is sent downstream through the Grand Valley rather than diverted eastward. There is a rub, though, and it concerns the times that Shoshone’s turbines are idle and the plant, therefore, is not drawing its 1,250 cubic feet per second of water from the river. The short-term answer is what has become known as the Shoshone outage protocol, in which upstream diverters agree to allow the river to flow as though Shoshone were operating. Part of that formula, however, depends on how Green Mountain Reservoir, which is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, is managed.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    ‘Denver Water is still committed to the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, and we are ready to sign,’ — Stacy Chesney

    December 30, 2011

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    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    All the key stakeholders remain committed to the overall agreement, pending resolution of the complex water rights issues.

    “Denver Water is still committed to the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, and we are ready to sign,” spokesperson Stacy Chesney said via email.

    “The parties are working together on finalizing the attachments and detailed wording in the agreement. Denver Water has filed water rights applications in Grand County for the environmental flows provided for in the agreement … (and) making progress with the state related to the operations of Green Mountain Reservoir and Dillon Reservoir – related to the Blue River decree,” Chesney said.

    More Colorado River basin 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.


    Windy Gap Firming: Recently released final EIS acknowledges potential declines in streamflow in the Upper Colorado River basin

    December 7, 2011

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    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    Even more worrisome to conservation advocates are the projected declines in summer flows. Below Windy Gap Reservoir, July flows could drip by as much as 20 percent, according to the Bureau’s study, which also acknowledged that extensive mitigation measures will be needed to protect West Slope aquatic ecoystems…

    But the proposed mitigation falls short of what’s needed to protect the Upper Colorado, according to Trout Unlimited, a cold-water fisheries conservation group.

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

    A new federal report on the environmental impacts of a plan to expand the Windy Gap water diversion project in Colorado falls short of recommending what’s needed to protect the fragile Upper Colorado River, according to Trout Unlimited.

    The Final Environmental Impact Statement, released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Nov. 30, outlines the anticipated effects of the proposed project and recommends needed mitigation.

    “This new document is an improvement over the previous version in that it acknowledges the Windy Gap project will worsen conditions in the Upper Colorado River and Grand Lake unless measures are taken,” said Drew Peternell, executive director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. However, the mitigation proposed by the bureau falls far short of what is needed and critical problems continue to be ignored. We urge the Bureau to require additional protective measures to preserve this irreplaceable natural resource.”

    “Trout Unlimited’s concerns with the Environmental Impact Statement are echoed by the Upper Colorado River Alliance, a nonprofit group that is also seeking to require more mitigation to protect the river,” said Boulder attorney Steven J. Bushong, a representative of the Alliance.

    The report comes out as Trout Unlimited is launching a petition campaign to protect the Upper Colorado River and its tributary, the Fraser River, and the mountain communities, businesses, people and wildlife that depend on them. The petition campaign, based online at DefendTheColorado.org, is being spearheaded by Trout Unlimited to engage advocates for the iconic but threatened rivers. The website allows advocates to sign on to a petition that will be delivered to decision makers before the bureau makes a final decision on the Windy Gap project. That decision is expected in early January.

    “The good news is that the Bureau of Reclamation’s Environmental Impact Statement says additional mitigation measures may be added before the agency makes a final decision. That highlights the importance of taking action to stand up for the river now,” Peternell said.

    Already 60 percent of the Upper Colorado is diverted to supply Front Range water users. The Windy Gap proposal, along with a separate Moffat Tunnel water project, could divert as much as 80 percent of the Upper Colorado’s natural flows. According to Trout Unlimited, steps must be taken to protect the rivers including:

    · Managing the water supply to keep the rivers cool, clear and healthy.
    · Funding to deepen river channels and create streamside shade.
    · Monitoring of the rivers’ health and a commitment to take action if needed to protect them.
    · Bypassing the Windy Gap dam to reconnect Colorado River and restore river quality.

    “The Final Environmental Impact Statement continues to ignore existing problems that will be made much worse by the Windy Gap project,” said Sinjin Eberle, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “A study released by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife earlier this year shows that entire populations of native fish and the insects they feed on have all but disappeared from the Colorado River below the Windy Gap Reservoir. The state study blames the reservoir and the lack of spring flows that clean sediments from the stream beds and warns that expansion of the Windy Gap project poses additional threats to the health of the river and the aquatic life in it.” See http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/op/wqcc/Hearings/Rulemaking/93/Responsive/93rphsTUexG.pdf

    The Windy Gap project also impacts the health of Grand Lake. “Grand Lake – once a pristine lake of dramatic clarity and scenic beauty – has become cloudy, weedy and silty because of diversion water pumped into the lake from Shadow Mountain reservoir,” said John Stahl of the Greater Grand Lake Shoreline Association. “Nothing in the FEIS mitigation plan is helpful in addressing the existing problems–at best it maintains the status quo while more likely creating even bigger problems.”

    The Environmental Impact Statement indicates that the Bureau of Reclamation will monitor to ensure that mitigation is adequate and will impose additional measures if necessary. “That’s helpful but needs to be more clearly articulated. Another critical addition is the construction of a bypass around the Windy Gap dam,” Eberle added.

    The DefendTheColorado.org campaign highlights the people who depend on the rivers.

    “The Colorado and Fraser rivers aren’t just bodies of water, they are the lifeblood for wildlife, local communities and the state’s recreation economy,” Eberle said. “But many Coloradans are unaware that these rivers are on the brink of collapse because of diversions. DefendTheColorado.org’s purpose is twofold – to raise awareness about the threats facing the Colorado and Fraser and to give people a way to stand up for our rivers.”

    Eberle added, “We can’t afford to let these rivers literally go down the drain.”

    A new feature of the website called “Voices of the Fraser” profiles local Fraser Valley residents and visitors who speak eloquently about their connection to the Fraser River and the need to preserve healthy flows. Among the individuals profiled are Olympic skier Liz McIntyre, logger Hoppe Southway and landscape artist Karen Vance.

    “It would be a shame to see any of these tributaries dry up just for the sake of developing the Front Range,” said Southway in his profile. “It’s the water my children and grandchildren are going to want to see someday, and I hope it’s protected for future generations.”

    Visitors to the site also have added their voices about why the river is important to them.

    “I have fished and hiked the Fraser and Upper Colorado river regions for over 30 years and am deeply saddened by the degradation of these great watersheds,” a Golden, Colo., resident wrote.

    A Bonita Springs, Florida, resident wrote: “I LOVE fishing that stretch of water and find such a simple peace of being in that area. Please don’t mess with such a special place.”

    “As a visitor and fisherman to Colorado on a regular basis, my tourist dollars help the local communities,” noted a resident of Blue Springs, Missouri.

    More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.


    Implementing the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement hangs on resolving how to operate the Shoshone right and Green Mountain Reservoir

    September 20, 2011

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    From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

    According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (http://bit.ly/pblJYV ), western Colorado water providers want an agreement on the operation of the Shoshone power generating station in Glenwood Canyon and another on the operations of Green Mountain Reservoir.

    Six months ago, officials from the Western Slope and Denver announced they had a general agreement that would resolve most of the issues, but none of the backers have signed an agreement.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    National Water Resources Association conference recap: Governor Hickenlooper cites the need for cooperation amongst stakeholders

    July 27, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “A lot of what we’ve done in water is to focus on public sentiment,” Hickenlooper told the National Water Resources Association. “So often we get into a fight over the legalities, rather than make sure people understand the facts.”[...]

    Environmental and agricultural water interests are “joined at the hip” with the municipal water interests in Colorado, Hickenlooper said…

    In Colorado, he outlined a three-pronged approach to water, based on the Interbasin Compact Committee’s work over the past six years:

    Innovation. This includes alternative ag-urban water transfers and working relationships between water providers and irrigators that stay within the boundaries of Colorado water law.
    – Conservation. Denver has cut back per-capita water use 20 percent. Hickenlooper said conservation is needed, but can’t be the basis for future growth.
    – Storage. “New water projects are an important tool to deal with the water deficits we observe,” Hickenlooper said.

    The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement among Denver and 30 Western Slope communities, negotiated mainly during the years he was Denver mayor, is a new model for negotiating water issues within the state, he said…

    “If I could get all the other governors to agree, we’d sign an agreement that we don’t recruit each other’s businesses by offering incentives,” Hickenlooper said, adding that he formed a similar pact between Denver and its suburbs while mayor. “If we invest in infrastructure, then that’s the way to compete. All of the opportunity to lift up the last and the least comes from successful business.”

    More Colorado water coverage here and here.


    Colorado Water Workshop recap: The Colorado River Cooperative agreement was a hot topic Friday

    July 23, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Central characters of the agreement Friday dissected its creation for the Colorado Water Workshop at Western State College…

    Barbara Green, attorney for the Northwestern Colorado Council of Governments traced the history of the conflict back to the 1970s. It was a time when some cities in the Denver metro area were growing at a rate of 10-15 percent and a strong environmental movement was developing as well-educated liberals moved into the state. Energy development also was focusing attention on water supplies in the Colorado River basin. “We were watching the beginning of a train wreck,” Green said.

    At the same time, the federal Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972, and more local control was given to communities by the state Legislature in 1974 with the passage of HB1041. By the 1980s, Western Slope opposition had grown and united diverse interests like miners, ranchers and “hippie types,” Green said. “I call it fear and loathing in the ’80s. . . . There were bumper stickers that said, ‘Dam the Denver Water Board’ . . . People brought their guns to meetings,” Green said. “These were very strange bedfellows, galvanized by the Denver Water Board.”[...]

    Peter Fleming, attorney for the Colorado River Conservation District, said the Western Slope also is interested in resolving the Blue River decrees. The river’s headwaters are largely claimed by Denver and other Front Range users. “Some of the most expensive water in the state is at the headwaters of the Blue River,” Fleming said, explaining that it sells for $30,000-$35,000 an acre-foot

    The other major issue is the Shoshone Power Plant near Glenwood Springs, which can gobble up the Colorado River with its diversions during low flows. A complicated regimen of flow compliance — called by some a “virtual call” would help assure water stays in the river…

    The agreement also affects others who wish to do business with Denver Water or divert from the Western Slope, said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water. “There is some precedent being set, but I don’t think that’s bad as long as we can remain flexible,” Pifher said. “There is some risk for third parties who weren’t a part of the agreement.”[...]

    “Aaron Million doesn’t call me any more,” [Denver Water's David Little] quipped, in response to a question about whether the state should ask the Fort Collins’ entrepreneur to build a pipeline from the Mississippi River instead of within the Colorado River basin.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here


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