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.

Runoff/snowpack news: “…the bottom line for Lake Powell this year is that it’s [inflows are] going to be right about average” — Eric Kuhn #ColoradoRiver

June 13, 2014

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

Steamboat Springs — Residents of the Yampa Valley, where the meadows are lush and snow still lingers on the peaks, easily could conclude that this is a year of water abundance. But in terms of the water produced by the entire Colorado River Basin, the summer of 2014 won’t be outstanding.

Eric Kuhn, of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, told an audience of about 50 state legislators, water managers and educators at the Sheraton Steamboat Thursday the abundance of snowmelt in the upper Colorado, Yampa and Green rivers early this summer isn’t indicative of the entire Colorado Basin.

“We have wet years, we have dry years but the bottom line for Lake Powell this year is that it’s going to be right about average,” Kuhn said…

“Currently, Lake Mead (below the Grand Canyon) and Lake Powell (just above the Grand Canyon) are 42 percent full,” Kuhn said. “Does that make us nervous? Yeah that makes us very nervous.”[...]

Water storage in Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green River just upstream from its Colorado stretch is expected to be 140 percent of average, and Blue Mesa Reservoir on the Gunnison River is expected to be 126 percent of average, Kuhn told his audience. But 25-mile-long Navajo Reservoir, straddling the Colorado and New Mexico state line and capturing flows from the San Juan River, will be just about 67 percent of average. It’s the southernmost reaches of the upper basin that are below par.

Kuhn and his audience had gathered in Steamboat Springs Thursday to begin a tour of the Yampa River Basin sponsored by the nonprofit Colorado Foundation for Water Education. CFWE program manager Kristin Maharg told the gathering that the purpose of the tour is to explore the compatibility of consumptive water uses (agriculture and power plants) and non-consumptive uses (recreation and habitat conservation) along the length of the Yampa in Routt and Moffat counties.

“The Yampa is no longer a valley too far, and we want to look at some of the demands this basin is facing,” Maharg said. “This is a very cooperative basin in terms of resource management and conservation.”

Thursday’s audience included more than a half dozen state legislators, members of their technical support staff, including an economist and an attorney who work on water bills, a Pitkin County commissioner and an Eagle County water district official, as well as college educators from Colorado State University, the University of Colorado Denver and Colorado Mesa University.

If there is some good news for the Colorado Basin and the people who depend on Lake Powell this summer, it’s that the abundance in the Green River basin will give the reservoir a boost this summer. Flaming Gorge Reservoir, about 30 miles upstream from the point where the Green makes a dog leg into Colorado on the way to its confluence with the Yampa, is currently releasing large amounts of water. That’s being done to mimic the spring floods that occurred before the dam was built in order to support the ecosystem that evolved around those floods. When the river is restored to its baseline sumer flow, it will be at double the flows seen in the last few years, or about 1,600 cubic feet per second. The net result of those additional flows should boost Lake Powell to 50 percent full by the end of July, Kuhn confirmed.

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver predicted Monday that the total volume of flows in the Yampa in Steamboat Springs in June and July will be 118 percent of average, and maybe more if precipitation is abundant. And flows in the Elk, one of the Yampa’s biggest tributaries, could be at 145 percent of average during the heart of the summer.

The streamflow projections issued by the NRCS shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning the flows in the Yampa consistently will be at 118 percent of average, Mage Hultstrand cautioned. She is the assistant snow survey supervisor with the NRCS in Denver. Hultstrand explained that the streamflow projection anticipates the total volume of water that will flow under the Fifth Street Bridge from June through July.

“It’s based on current (snowpack) conditions and weather patterns in the area the past few months,” Hultstrand said.

The weather in terms of temperature and precipitation will have much to say about streamflow from week to week.

The Yampa at Steamboat peaked for the season May 30 at 4,850 cubic feet per second, Brenda Alcorn, senior hydrologist with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, said Wednesday. The Elk peaked at 6,300 cfs also on May 30. The Yampa came close to going higher June 2, but fell just short, Alcorn said. Flows in the Yampa were in decline this week, but the snowpack still has a kick in it; the Forecast Center expects the Yampa to rally Thursday and Friday, jumping from Wednesday morning’s flow of 2,300 cfs to perhaps 3,400 cfs by Friday. The median flow for June 11 is 2010 cfs. Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-70s under clear skies Thursday and Friday.

The streamflow projection issued by the NRCS really is intended to inform reservoir managers and help them understand how full their reservoirs will be and how much water they can release.

It’s safe to say the upper Yampa will be carrying more water than average for much of the next seven or eight weeks, but the streamflow forecast doesn’t guarantee there will be above average water in the river for irrigating hay fields or providing thrills for tubers during the last week in July, for example, Hultstrand said.

More Green River Basin coverage here.

Grand County “State of the Rivers” meeting May 13 #ColoradoRiver

May 11, 2014
Historical Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs

Historical Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs

From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Many claim that we are now living in a “new normal.” In fact, there is no “normal” when it comes to our rivers. In the last 12 months we have gone from heavy autumn rains, enjoyed abundant late-season snow and are now faced with earlier record river flows.

How are water managers reacting to this incredible variability? And what might we anticipate in the near future? There may seem to be plenty of water to satisfy for now, but how does this year’s supply affect longer-term needs? These questions will be the subject of a public outreach and education meeting sponsored by Grand County and the Colorado River District.

The public can learn more about this season’s outlook for river flows, reservoir levels, overall water yields and the status of the longer-term drought at this annual “State of the River” meeting set for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 13, at Mountain Parks Electric, 321 W. Agate Ave., Granby.

Water experts from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Northern Water, Denver Water and the Colorado River District will present detailed information related to operations of area reservoirs and how they may affect river flows.

Lastly, Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River District, will talk about Colorado’s effort to create a statewide water plan and western Colorado’s perspective on the questions of supply versus demand, the future of the Colorado River basin and other regional river basin issues.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Blue River “State of the River” meeting recap #ColoradoRiver

May 10, 2014
Blue River

Blue River

From the Summit Daily News (Ali Langley):

About 80 people — water managers, weather experts, government officials and interested community members — attended the event hosted by the Colorado River District at the Community Center in Frisco Tuesday, May 6. Discussion revolved around snowpack, runoff, flooding and the state water plan…

[Joanna Hopkins, board president of Blue River Watershed Group] spoke about the group’s restoration project of Ten Mile Creek, impacted by decades of mining, railroads, highways and development, and presented before and after photos of the work. The group will now focus attention on restoration of the Upper Swan River Watershed, where dredge boats in the early 20th century mined for 2 miles and the group and its partners will work to turn the river “right side up.”[...]

[Troy Wineland, water commissioner for the Blue River basin] pointed to a graph and asked the audience to consider this year’s snowpack levels. “What does that surplus, that bonus, that cream on the top, what does that mean to you?” he said. Better rafting, some said. Fishing. Full reservoirs…

Bob Steger, water resources engineer with Denver Water, discussed Dillon Reservoir operations. The utility’s main priorities for the reservoir are maintaining its water supply and reducing flood risk, he said, but it also considers boating, rafting, kayaking, fishing, endangered fish and its upcoming construction project.

The utility began lowering the reservoir level in late February, just like in other high-snowpack years, he said. Going forward, the reservoir will start filling in mid-May or June, depending on whether the spring is wet or dry.

The Roberts Tunnel, which brings water from Dillon to Denver, won’t be turned on until mid-June or July, he said, and the utility will replace the large gates that control outflow to the Blue River likely sometime between August and October…

Ron Thomasson, a hydrologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation who oversees Green Mountain Reservoir operations, said he expects to fill that reservoir in mid-July.

He talked about how more runoff will improve habitat for four endangered fish species in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River and showed his “obligatory snowpack graph.” Then he presented spaghetti plots to explain that when experts say “most probable scenario” what they really mean is, “It’s actually no more probable than any other scenario. It just happens to be in the middle.”[...]

explained the rare conditions that combined to cause record-breaking flooding in the Boulder area in September. Then he switched to the “crazy winter that you just lived through” in Summit and what to expect in the six- to eight-week runoff season produced by seven months of snow.

He joked about the polar vortex, a phenomenon that’s been around forever but didn’t make the media until this winter, and he showed more spaghetti plots saying, “Those averages are beautiful. They give us something to think about. They never happen.”

Those excited about a surplus should remember the rest of the state is experiencing drought conditions. “You fared well,” he said. “It’s not always going to work that way, so please be grateful.”

Then he asked for volunteers to help collect real-time precipitation data with rain gauges for http://cocorahs.org.

Jim Pokrandt, chair of the Colorado Basin Roundtable that represents Summit and five other counties, emphasized problems with low levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead and focused on the state water plan, which the roundtable is helping to create.

Of the 14 states in the West, Colorado is one of four without a water plan. The other three are Washington, Oregon and Arizona…

“Transmountain diversion should be the last tool out of the box,” he said. “Conservation and reuse needs to be hit hard.”

If a new transmountain diversion must be constructed, it should be done along the lines of the recent agreement between West Slope stakeholders and Denver Water.

One audience member asked why reducing population growth wasn’t one of the considered solutions. Most of the projected growth “is us having children,” Pokrandt said. “It’s the elephant in the room, but it’s the one that you really can’t touch.”

He said in some parts of the Front Range, the untouchable issue is green grass.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Breckenridge: “We can’t just sit up here and say we have all the water, now we’ll use it” — Tim Gagen #ColoradoRiver

May 9, 2014
Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

The town council is considering legislation that would cap outdoor use at three days a week. It’s part of an effort to put a new emphasis on water conservation and efficiency, says Tim Gagen, the town manager.

“We have to walk the talk,” says Gagen. “We can’t just sit up here and say we have all the water, now we’ll use it.”

Breckenridge is not alone. Other mountains towns in Colorado are devoting more attention to water conservation and efficiency. A coalition in the Roaring Fork Valley is assembling plans for public outreach to elevate water efficiency. The Vail-based Eagle River Water and Sanitation District began crimping water use in 2003. Aspen’s water-efficiency measures go back even further, to the 1990s…

Colorado’s Front Range cities, where 85 percent of state residents live, have become more efficient with existing supplies. But they have also expanded supplies in recent decades by buying farms in the South Platte and Arkansas River valleys for their water rights, and allowing the farms to then dry up. They have also purchased mountain ranches in such buy-and-dry transactions.

Front Range water providers also want to retain the option of going to the Colorado River and its tributaries for one final, big diversion. Western Slope water leaders urge caution. But to have credibility, leaders in the mountain valleys realize they first must put their own houses in order.

“The Western Slope needs to be goosed,” says Chris Treese, director of external affairs for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “Frankly, the Front Range has led most of the water-conservation efforts in Colorado to date.”[...]

Gagen says that Breckenridge has been nibbling at water conservation efforts for several years. Leaking segments of existing pipes, which can cause loss of 8 to 15 percent of all the municipal water supply, are being replaced. Sprinklers in parks are being changed out in favor of more efficient devices. And the town is now looking at narrowing irrigation at its golf course to avoid watering of the roughs.

Breckenridge, in its municipal operation, has also adopted more xeriscaping, using plants that don’t require irrigation, reducing irrigation of remaining turf, and, in some cases, installing artificial turf.

Still on the agenda is elevating rates for high-consumption users. The average water bill in Breckenridge is just $35 every two months, not much more than dinner at one of the town’s higher-end restaurants. As such, most people probably pay little, if any attention, to the idea of conserving water in order to reduce their costs. They just write the check, says Gagen.

While Breckenridge has broad goals of improved sustainability, Gagen says the plan to reduce outdoor lawn irrigation to three days a week was pushed by two council members who have been persuaded by books they’ve read: “Blue Revolution,” by Cynthia Barnett (2011), “Cadillac Desert,” by Marc Reisner (1986), and “Getting Green Done,” by Auden Schendler (2011)…

Eagle River Water and Sanitation District has achieved a 20 percent per capita reduction in use, according to Diane Johnson, communications director. That’s in line with the reduction in water use since 2000 by Denver Water’s 1.3 million direct and indirect customers.

However, Eagle River has not pushed indoor water savings. Because 95 percent of indoor water is treated and released into the Eagle River, explains Johnson, the impact is small on the valley’s creeks and rivers. This compares with just 15 to 40 percent of water returned to streams after outdoor irrigation. Given limited resources for messaging, the better return is to hammer home the message of reduced outdoor use.

“What we really try to work with local people to understand is that their outdoor use affects how much water is in the rivers,” says Johnson. “If you are using water indoors, save yourself some money and be efficient, but most of that water comes back to the treatment plant and returns to the river.”[...]

In adopting its regulations on outdoor lawn watering, Eagle River Water was motivated by the searing drought of 2002. But laws also provide incentives. When seeking permits for new or expanded reservoirs, county regulations ask about “efficient use” of existing resources. State and federal regulations approach it with different wording, but essentially the same intent. “Efficient use of resource is going to be a consideration in any of those permitting processes,” says Johnson.

Eagle River Water has also adopted tiered rates, charging higher rates per 1,000 gallons as consumers step up consumption. But what do you do about those pockets of consumers for whom money is no deterrent?

That’s an issue in the Vail Valley that water officials are starting to wrestle with. Aspen recognized years ago that price was no object to some homeowners—and charges nosebleed rates.

Aspen’s municipal utility, which delivers both electricity and water, uses the income from high-use water customers to pay for front-end renewable energy programs and demand-side energy efficiency, says Phil Overeynder, the former utilities director and now the utilities engineer for special projects.

Aspen in the early 1990s approached the forked paths of water use. But instead of continuing to build capacity for existing water demands, the city instead reined in use. Last year, Aspen used the same amount of water as it did in 1966, despite having three times as many residents. (See more detailed story).

Now, an effort has been launched to frame a broad water efficiency strategy for the Roaring Fork Valley. The seed was planted in 2010 by the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, or CORE, a non-profit founded in the mid-1990s. The effort has several motives—including energy.

Formation of the group was at least partly influenced by the writings of Amory Lovins, a resident of the area, who for decades talked about “negawatts”—the idea that efficiency in energy was as good as new supply. The group he co-founded, Rocky Mountain Institute, further applied this idea of a soft path to water efficiency.

CORE’s Jason Haber explains that saving water also saves energy in several ways. Developing water resources requires energy, but it also takes energy to pump water. Energy is also embedded in treatment of sewage, he points out. Typically, water and sewage are the largest components of any municipality’s energy budget…

Whether Colorado truly has any water to develop on the Western Slope is debatable—and has been debated frequently in state-wide water forums. The Colorado River Water Conservation District has suggested that major new diversions would be risky, simply because of the lack of certainty of legally entitled water in future years. Colorado’s use of the river that bears its name is tightly capped by two inter-state water compacts and one international treaty.

More conservation coverage here.

The latest Middle Colorado Watershed Council newsletter is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

May 8, 2014


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

Annual State of the Rivers Meeting

“Our Water – This Year and Beyond” is the theme for this year’s report on the state of the Middle Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers. Co-hosted by the Colorado River District and the Middle Colorado Watershed Council, the event will be held on Wednesday, May 14th, at the Garfield County Public Library in Glenwood Springs, from 6:00 to 7:45 pm. Water managers will present information on current and expected reservoir operations and in-stream flows in our basin with an eye towards short- and long-term water supply forecasts. Click here to view a press release and the evening’s agenda.

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

April 30, 2014


Click here to read the report.

More Colorado River District coverage here. Here’s an excerpt:

Thanks to the efforts of Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colorado is pushing forward with the tough, so-called “adult” conversation on how to best supply water to a growing population. In May 2013, the governor issued an executive order that mandates Colorado develop its first-ever state water plan by 2015, with draft documents due in 2014.

The Colorado River District Board of Directors and staff are involved at many levels with a keen interest in protecting Western Colorado water, which has been our mission since 1937. The pres- sure is on – again – as it has been since our founding. This time, the State Demographer has predicted the state population could double by 2050. The 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative, produced by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, reconnaissance-level study of population and water, predicts the state has a looming gap of 500,000 acre feet of water as population grows. That is equivalent to two full Dillon Reservoirs or a little bit less than a full Granby Reservoir, to put it in perspective.

The two biggest targets to fill the gap are agricultural irrigation water and the Colorado River System – two vital interests of the River District. In Western Colorado, agriculture provides food, de facto open space and habitat, economy and culture. Agricultural water running down the rivers from the headwaters to the agricultural lands in the lower valleys is the same water upon which a recreational economy plays, while it also enhances the riparian environment.

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.

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.

Water bank for Western Slope irrigators? #ColoradoRiver

March 5, 2014


From KREXTV.com (Emily Fredrick):

he Colorado River District traveled to Montrose and Palisade Tuesday to speak with irrigators about the possibility of a water bank on the Western Slope.

The new concept would increase security for the Upper Colorado River Basin water supplies and reduce the potential negative impacts of persisting drought conditions.

“We live in a desert and all the fruit and actually all the houses and lawns and everything that are here in the Valley are here because of the water in the Colorado River essentially,” said Palisade farmer, Guy Parker.

“If Colorado is ever in a situation where we have to curtail our water usage in order to meet our obligations to our downstream neighbors under the compact, under our existing agreements that we could use those pre-compact water rights for post compact critical uses, health and human safety uses,” said Colorado River District’s Chris Treese, “When we go to them and say it’s time, we’d really like you to consider, and we’d like to compensate you, how much compensation will that take what does that market look like and will we have enough water if we put a marketplace out there. We’d like to sign people up on an option basis that you are willing to forgo either in complete or in part your historical irrigation in order to prevent a less attractive situation,” said Treese.

“I think it’s a really good idea to be very proactive because we do live in a desert and there’s not enough water to go around, we really have to be proactive and really have to be creative in our solutions to what we’re going to do,” said Parker.

More Colorado River Basin coverage 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.

Conversation with James Newberry (Colorado River District @ColoradoWater) via Sky-Hi Daily News #ColoradoRiver

February 23, 2014
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

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

James Newberry is starting his second year as the Colorado River District board president, and has represented Grand County on the board since 2004. Through his time on the board and serving as a county commissioner, Newberry has made protecting the area’s valuable water resources a high priority.

Chief among water concerns are developing Colorado’s first water plan, which is currently being drafted, and obligations from the 1922 Colorado River Compact. As drought menaces water supplies in downstream states, those obligations could spell trouble for those living at the Colorado River’s headwaters in Grand County. Newberry spoke about the challenges facing the state’s water supply and thoughts about our water future.

What are you goals as president of the Colorado River District board for the coming year?

I don’t know it’s a goal, but what’s been laid out in front of us is the Colorado water plan, and we as a district have been involved in formulation of that plan. We’re also looking into compact calls to lower basin states, and how that integrates into the Colorado water plan. For example, how do we match up being able to divide up water on the East and West slopes within Colorado, while still managing those compact agreements? I think the Colorado River District will be a leader in advocating for different methods, such as water banking and risk-management in the different river basins. Statewide, we’re looking at what it means to develop a water plan while meeting a compact call, should it go into place. As a river district, we don’t believe it’s just a West Slope issue.

Explain the problems Grand County could face from drought issues farther downstream.

That truly is the problem with a compact call. The only water rights that wouldn’t be subjected to a compact call are those made before 1922, the very senior water rights. Some people say if we get compact calls it’s great for Grand County, because not as much water will go to the Front Range as we send it down river to meet our obligations. But there are going to be a lot of junior rights that people wouldn’t be able to use.

The bottom line is, it works in all water users’ interests to work on a water plan. That way if there is a call, we’ll have water stored up or credited, and we can work out those preexisting diversions.

One thing the Colorado River District is fighting for is to make sure whatever the risk of that future that call is, it’s not just going to be the West Slope bearing the brunt of meeting compact obligations downstream.

The West’s water future is looking grim. Is there anything that makes you feel optimistic?

We’re now taking a hard look at the water situation we’ll have in the future. When they decided the Colorado River Compact, it was one of the wettest periods in the history of the Colorado River. I don’t think that model is viable. Whether you believe in climate change and its effects or not, maybe this is making us aware of the amount of water we really do have, and it’s getting us to do a better job of managing it. Is that optimism? Maybe not, but it’s the reality we’re facing.

What projects are you advocating to increase conservation of Colorado River water?

We’re always looking at ways of conservation. In the next 30 years or so, the state projects we’re going to have a 500,000-acre-foot water shortage. One of our engineers looked at the study (the Statewide Water Supply Initiative 2010), then turned around and said we could address that gap without further diversions from the West Slope, some of that through conservation. There is no ‘new water,’ and we’ll have to go back to conservation, like installing low-flow faucets and lining irrigating ditches. We’re always backing ways to better use water we have.

Are there any accomplishments you’re proud of during your time on the Colorado River District board?

I think the involvement with the Windy Gap firming project in Grand County. Without the river district, I don’t know how far we would’ve gotten back at the federal level and the Bureau of Reclamation, the heavy hitters, without their help.

The Colorado River District has also been heavily involved in Vail Ditch water shares and trying to move water to the upper Fraser River. And they’ve done a huge amount of work on the Colorado River here. The river district basically came into existence to be a watchdog on the Colorado-Big Thompson project. That’s truly the root of their existence, and we have held true to that. For example, we’re working on water clarity in Grand Lake, and the river district is helping hand-in-hand.

More Colorado River Water Conservancy District coverage here.

The #ColoradoRiver District board meeting summary is hot off the presses @ColoradoWater #COWaterPlan

February 15, 2014

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

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

A potential “New Supply” project from the Colorado River continues to be a “big issue” as the Inter‐ basin Compact Committee (IBCC) and the Basin Roundtables discuss the makeup of “Colorado’s Water Plan.”

By Gov. John Hickenlooper’s executive order, Colorado’s Water Plan is to be delivered in draft by the end of 2015, thus culminating what will be eight‐plus years of discussions by the IBCC and Roundtables on how to close a water‐supply gap created through the projected doubling of Colorado’s population by 2050.

At the October meeting of the Colorado River District Board of Directors, General Manger Eric Kuhn, an IBCC member as a governor’s appointee, reported that “in the last several years, new supply as a concept has evolved into a New Supply project from the Colorado River Basin and in the view of some on the Front Range, a large new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Colorado Water Bank Project: farmers & ranchers invited to discuss

February 13, 2014

Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

The Animas River, a tributary of the San Juan River, flows through Durango, Colorado. The Animas is part of the larger Colorado River basin.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District invites farmers, ranchers, and others interested in agricultural water use to a Colorado River Water Bank Ag Forum on Tuesday, March 4th. The forum will be an opportunity for irrigators to learn about the water bank concept, ask questions, and share their thoughts. Irrigators’ input early on in the process is critical to evaluating the feasibility of the project.

The March 4th forums will be held at the Montrose Public Library from 9-11 am and at the Palisade Wine Country Inn from 2-4 pm. Each forum will include an update on current Colorado River hydrology, an overview of the Water Bank project, a question and answer session, and a chance to discuss the project and provide input.

A water bank is one potential strategy to increase security for upper Colorado River basin water supplies, and to reduce the potential for negative impacts if drought conditions persist, such as declining Lake Powell levels…

View original 127 more words

Colorado Basin Roundtable advises the Front Range to look elsewhere for new supplies #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

December 9, 2013
Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Colorado can’t have less water running west down the Colorado River, a coalition of water agencies and organizations said in a missive that urged state officials contemplating a state water plan to look elsewhere.

“The West Slope of Colorado, indeed no part of Colorado, can be sacrificed for Front Range growth,” the Colorado River Basin Roundtable said.

It would be “unrealistic to look for significant new supplies of water for the East Slope from the Colorado River as a primary source,” the roundtable said, noting that any new depletions of water from the Colorado River boost the risk that downstream states will demand water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

The roundtable’s position paper was presented to the Interbasin Compact Committee last week in Golden. The committee will play a role in the drafting of a state water plan. There, said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Colorado River Basin position was largely understood.

Most of the state’s transmountain diversions siphon water away from the Colorado and into Front Range waterworks.

“Somebody has already given at the office,” Kuhn said. “They’ve given and given.”

Kuhn is a governor’s appointee to the Interbasin Compact Committee.

Gov. John Hickenlooper charged the Colorado River Water Conservation Board with delivering a draft plan by December 2014 and a final plan by December 2015. One element of the plan is finding a new supply of water and the roundtable said the term “new supply” amounts to a euphemism for another transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system. Any new transmountain diversion must be a last option “after all means of significant conservation, reuse, land use and agricultural transfers based on substantial improvements in efficient water use are exhausted,” the roundtable said.

Several Colorado River water agencies and Denver Water have signed onto a cooperative agreement that includes additional development of Colorado River water for the Front Range.

Those projects should be completed before any new diversions are contemplated, Kuhn said.

The Colorado River basin already supplies between 450,000 and 600,000 acre feet of water to the East Slope for growing cities, farms and industries. Under the compact, the Upper Colorado River Basin is required to deliver 7.5 million acre feet of water to the lower basin. That amount is figured on a 10-year rolling average.

State officials, including Colorado Water Conservation Board director James Eklund, have urged statewide participation in drafting the plan. A plan emanating from Denver would be “anathema” to the rest of the state, Eklund said at the Upper Colorado River Basin Water Conference at Colorado Mesa University last month.

Whatever comes out of the state plan, it should “protect and not threaten the economic, environmental and social well-being of the West Slope,” the roundtable said.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Many eyes are on the 1,250 cfs Shoshone right #ColoradoRiver

December 7, 2013
Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb

Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb

From KUNC (Maeve Conran):

There’s popular launch site for rafters a few miles east of Glenwood Springs. It’s right beneath Interstate 70, and is in front of an old tan brick building, set back into the canyon wall. Chances are, highway drivers might not even see this place. But it’s the reason the rafting is so good here all the time.

The Shoshone Hydro Plant, built to harness Colorado River water and turn it into 15 megawatts of electricity has two nine-foot tall turbines, which were manufactured and installed in 1906 and are still humming along today. It’s the linchpin of the river, according to Jim Pokrandt, Education and Outreach Specialist with the Colorado River District.

“Not because of producing electricity,” said Pokrandt. “But because it takes water to produce that electricity, and that water is supplied via a 1902 water right for 1250 CFS. That’s the biggest, oldest water right on the river.”

1250 CFS, or cubic feet per second, is a lot of water. It’s labeled “non-consumptive use,” which means the water is not taken out of the river to grow food or flush toilets. It flows onto the turbines and right back out—sustaining an important part of the local economy: rafting, kayaking and fishing.

Maintaining that primary water right is critical to keeping flow levels adequate for the turbines, and to help create rapids.

Pokrandt says Shoshone also helps towns that draw water from the river, because the high flows the plant requires helps keep the water cleaner.

“Silt, Rifle, Parachute and Clifton are all taking drinking water out of the Colorado River,” said Pokrandt. “The greater the flow, the less intensive you have to treat the water.”

Agriculture in the Grand Valley also benefits from Shoshone’s water right.

Mel Rettig is a vegetable and fruit farmer in Palisade, about 80 miles southwest of the Shoshone plant. Rettig says the higher flows due to Shoshone help keep salinity levels low…

Some West Slope water irrigators who depend on Shoshone would love to buy the plant and its water right to protect the interests of the Grand Valley. A 15-megawatt output is small by today’s standards — modern power plants produce hundreds of megawatts. But Xcel continues to invest millions in maintenance at the plant and the utility says they have no plans to sell Shoshone or its water rights…

“This little, old, two turbine, 15-megawatt 1905 vintage power plant in Glenwood Canyon,” said Pokrandt. “It doesn’t look like much but it’s a big dog on the river.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

#ColoradoRiver District: 2014 Water Resources Grant Program

December 4, 2013
Roaring Fork River

Roaring Fork River

From email from the Colorado River District (Martha Moore):

Effective immediately, the Colorado River District is accepting grant applications for projects that protect, enhance or develop water resources within its 15-county region. (district map)

Projects eligible for the grant program must achieve one or more of the following objectives:

• develop a new water supply
• improve an existing system
• improve instream water quality
• increase water use efficiency
• reduce sediment loading
• implement a watershed management action
• control invasive riparian vegetation
• protect pre-Colorado River Compact water rights (those in use before 1929)

Previous successfully grant-funded projects have included the construction of new water storage, the enlargement of existing water storage or diversion facilities, rehabilitation of nonfunctioning or restricted water storage / delivery / diversion structures, implementation of water efficiency improvements and watershed enhancements.

Successful grantees can receive up to a maximum of $150,000 (or approximately 25% of the total project cost; in the case of smaller projects, this percentage may be slightly higher) for their project. The total amount available for the 2014 competitive grant program is $250,000. The application deadline is Jan. 31, 2014.

To access the Water Resources Grant Program application, instructions, guidelines, policies, and other details please visit http://www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org/page_193.

More information can be obtained by contacting Dave Kanzer or Alesha Frederick at 970-945-8522 or by e-mail to grantinfo@crwcd.org.

More Colorado River District coverage here.

‘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:

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.

#ColoradoRiver District board meeting recap: ‘We should…table the issue of a big transmountain diversion’ — Eric Kuhn

November 29, 2013

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

At the October meeting of the Colorado River District Board of Directors, General Manger Eric Kuhn, an IBCC member as a governor’s appointee, reported that “in the last several years, new supply as a concept has evolved into a New Supply project from the Colorado River Basin and in the view of some on the Front Range, a large new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

The IBCC employs the metaphor of a four‐legged stool to describe the tools to meet the water‐supply gap. New Supply is one leg. The others are moving water from agricultural use to urban use; completion of water supply projects already on the drawing board; and municipal conservation and reuse.

According to Kuhn, going to the Colorado River for a big project will likely result in the reallocation of water now being used on the West Slope in agriculture to the Front Range urban corridor. “The bigger the project, the bigger the trouble and the bigger the reallocation if we get into trouble,” Kuhn said.
Trouble would result from Colorado exceeding its legal ability to deplete the Colorado River under the Colorado River Compact of 1922 and the Upper Colorado River Compact of 1948.
In Kuhn’s report to the Board, he said:

“For the last couple of years, we’ve had an ongoing debate within the IBCC and the IBCC’s New Supply Committee over the approach to take. I’ve suggested an incremental approach where we would move forward on projects on the drawing board or in permitting small, cooperative projects but put off any debate about big new projects until down the road sometime when we’ll have a better understanding of water availability and the negotiations among the seven basin states may lead to different ways of managing future Colorado River shortages.

“We should move forward with projects that we can agree on today and table the issue of a big transmountain diversion but not in a way that makes it more difficult or promotes it. In fact we should leave that issue neutral while we develop more information and develop supply from Identified Projects and Proc‐ esses (IPPs),” Kuhn said during Board discussion. IPPs are projects on the drawing board in the vernacular of the water plan.

Kuhn said that water planners on the Front Range are split with some wanting a big transmountain diversion as soon as possible and others who recognize problems, which include Front Range water users who would be affected by a compact curtailment. Kuhn noted that the water supply gap on the Front Range is not well defined as to where the needs exactly are.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

The Windy Gap Firming project moves closer to implementation #ColoradoRiver

November 26, 2013
Chimney Hollow Reservoir site -- Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post

Chimney Hollow Reservoir site — Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post

Here’s a guest column written by Jim Pokrandt that is running in the Sky-Hi Daily News:

The Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP) intergovernmental agreement (IGA) is in final form but has not been totally wrapped up because two important preconditions have not been completed, General Counsel Peter Fleming reported to the Colorado River District Board of Directors at its October meeting.

Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and the West Slope, the Windy Gap Firming Project IGA is a package of mitigation enhancements that would be part of the Windy Gap Firming Project once it is permitted for the Municipal Subdistrict of Northern Water by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The preconditions for the River District’s execution of the agreement are that the United States (1) makes a satisfactory finding that the WGFP can be operated consistent with Senate Document 80 — meaning no impact to the United States’ obligations to the beneficiaries, including West Slope beneficiaries, of the Colorado Big Thompson (C‐BT) Project, and (2) adopts an enforceable provision recognizing that if the River District does not challenge the WGFP permitting decision, that it does not waive any legal rights regarding federal decisions involving the same or similar legal issues.

Fleming anticipated that that these conditions will be satisfied in the context of Reclamation’s final record of decision on the WGFP, which is expected in the first part of 2014. In the meantime, Fleming said the River District has worked extensively with Grand County on matters related to the WGFP and the operation of the C-BT Project — including the Grand Lake Water Clarity Agreement and the upcoming initiation of the WGFP Carriage Contract negotiations.

With respect to the Grand Lake clarity issues, Fleming reported there have been several meetings with Reclamation and Northern to help ensure that a workable solution can be reached to meet the Grand Lake water quality standard. An important goal in that regard has been to avoid a stalemate over a massively expensive “fix” that could require a separate congressional authorization and appropriation.

With regard to the WGFP carriage contract negotiations, the River District has assisted Grand County in efforts to secure the best possible negotiating position in Reclamation’s negotiation process.

Fleming said the River District believes Grand County’s specifically identified role in Senate Document 80 entitles the county (and its advisers) to a more involved position in the negotiations than Reclamation’s standard “sit and‐observe” role for members of the public in its contract negotiation process.

Another goal is to ensure that the Windy Gap water that Grand County is entitled to use pursuant to the IGA can be stored in Granby Reservoir for no charge or at a very affordable rate.

More Windy Gap coverage here and 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.

H2O Outdoors

October 15, 2013

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

David Miller

David Miller

By David Miller, school programs director for Keystone Science School. He has a passion for water education and getting students to experience the outdoors.

When H2O Outdoors began four years ago, I never imagined we would have the partners and diversity of students that are in the program today. By being open to any high school student in Colorado, the program brings in a wide variety of perspectives that contribute to the overarching process of learning from each other, collaborating in a fictional decision-making process, and helping students learn the ways adults in the water field must work together to solve complex water problems throughout the state.



H2O Outdoors began with an idea and evolved into an award-winning program. The partnership between Keystone Science School and the Colorado River District started with the mission to engage high school students with the study of water management and…

View original 636 more words

Ruedi Reservoir’s $34 million debt repaid; water secured for Western Colorado

October 2, 2013
Ruedi Dam and Reservoir -- Photo via USBR

Ruedi Dam and Reservoir — Photo via USBR

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

The outstanding $34 million construction debt on Ruedi Reservoir has been paid to the federal government and 19,585 acre-feet of previously uncontracted water supply in the 102,000-acre-foot reservoir is secure for the future of Western Colorado.

The debt was due in 2019 and uncertainty about paying it cast a shadow over how the uncontracted water in the reservoir – intended to benefit Western Colorado –would be used.

To solve the problem, the Colorado River District for the last two years solicited West Slope interest in the remaining water and put together a package agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, owner and operator of the reservoir straddling the Eagle-Pitkin county line.

Seventeen entities, including the Colorado River District, stepped up, cumulatively committing to the purchase of all the uncontracted water and full repayment of the outstanding debt. The Ute Water Conservancy District, the Grand Valley’s largest water provider, secured the greatest amount: 12,000 acre-feet at a cost of $15.5 million. The Colorado River District contracted for 4,683.5 acre-feet, at a cost of $6 million. The cost per acre-foot was roughly $1,290. An acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons of water and is enough water to supply two to four family households for one year.

Other entities contracting for water include:

Wildcat Ranch Homeowners Association: 50 acre-feet
Mid Valley Metro District: 100 acre-feet
Crown Mountain Park Recreation District: 62 acre-feet
Owl Creek Ranch Homeowners Association: 15 acre-feet
Town of Palisade: 200 acre-feet
Snowmass Water and Sanitation District: 500 acre-feet
Town of De Beque: 25 acre-feet
Basalt Water Conservancy District: 300 acre-feet
Garfield County: 400 acre-feet
City of Aspen: 400 acre-feet
W/J Metro District: 100 acre-feet
Summit County: 330 acre-feet
Elk Wallow Ranch LLC: 30 acre-feet
Wildcat Reservoir Co.: 140 acre-feet
Town of Carbondale: 250 acre-feet

Ruedi Reservoir is the West Slope mitigation for the federal Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which diverts water from the Fryingpan River and Hunter Creek headwaters across the Continental Divide to the Arkansas River Basin. The debt started at $9.3 million when the Bureau of Reclamation completed the reservoir in the early 1970s. It ballooned to $34 million as the government added unpaid interest and operational expenses to the principal – because of unsold water. Absent a deal, the debt would have gone up at an ever-escalating rate.

Ordinarily, Reclamation reservoirs are approved in connection with an entity to pay for its share of the project. In Ruedi’s case, the 1960s-era deal foresaw an oil shale boom and other energy demands as the means to pay the construction debt, which had not resulted in a full demand for Ruedi water.

“This is an important milestone for water supply challenges on the West Slope,” said Dan Birch, the Colorado River District Deputy General Manager who spearheaded the agreement. “Water planners who are expected to provide water at the tap every time it is turned on do not like uncertainty about the future. This removes the significant shadow of doubt over Ruedi. As Colorado’s population continues to grow, this helps 17 water suppliers know where their future supplies will come from.”

Birch pointed out that the water in Ruedi will be largely a backup supply for very dry years. Streamflows in the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork Rivers will look much as they do today.

Birch added, “We could not have accomplished this without the great help and expertise of Lee Leavenworth, the former special counsel to the Colorado River District and other water users.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar – ‘Shrinking in Supply, Growing in Demand’ — Sept. 13

August 28, 2013


From email from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar – “Shrinking in Supply, Growing in Demand” — takes place 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colo. The cost is $30 and includes lunch. Student cost $10. Register at http://www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org, by calling (970)-945-8522 or e-mailing mspyker@crwcd.org.

The seminar is an easy, one-day presentation of the latest hot subjects that challenge the Colorado River and how science, politics and other actions seek to address them. The Colorado River District was created 76 years ago to protect Western Colorado water and stages the seminar to promote public education about critical challenges to the lifeblood river of the Southwest.

Speakers include Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River District, who will give an overview to recent findings that promise the Colorado River faces greater challenges than ever from climate change and human use of the Colorado River. Other speakers will address a U.S. Geological Survey study that confirms warm springs are reducing snowpack, a forecast for drought and the latest Bureau of Reclamation ruling to reduce releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead.

The keynote speaker at lunch will be John Entsminger, the Senior Deputy General Manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Climate and reservoir levels most directly affect Las Vegas and its surrounding community and Entsminger will give a view of what that means.

In the afternoon, the developers of Sterling Ranch in the southern Denver metro area will talk about how they want to build a community with water conservation as a first concern.

The day concludes with a presentation by the new director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, James Eklund, about the Colorado Water Plan. Earlier this year, Gov. Hickenlooper ordered that a plan be given to him by 2015 that addresses measures to meet a looming water supply gap as Colorado grows to as many as 10 million people by 2050.

A discussion of the plan and ways to meet the gap will take place in a panel discussion. Making up the panel will be the chairs or representatives of six Basin Roundtables – citizens groups in each basin created by the Colorado General Assembly in the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act.

Agenda Topics
Change: It is for Certain
– Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn provides an overview of the trends that lead to the day’s subjects regarding snowpack, drought, Lake Powell equalization and the Colorado Water Plan

It’s True: Spring is Killing our Rocky Mountain Snowpack, U.S Geological Survey confirms – lead study author Greg Pederson from Bozeman, Mont., will describe the findings that we have long suspected to be true

A Dry Subject: Drought and a Look Ahead – Klaus Wolter of the NOAA Climate Diagnostics Center in Boulder, the Southwest’s preeminent forecaster, will describe conditions that are developing for snowfall this winter

Level With Us: Whither Lake Powell – Malcolm Wilson, Chief, Water Resources Group, Upper Colorado Region of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will talk about the recent drought-induced decision to reduce water releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead and what that means for now and into the future for the states depending on the Colorado River

Lunch Keynote Speaker – John Entsminger, Senior Deputy General Manager at Southern Nevada Water Authority of Las Vegas, Nev., will present a Lower Basin view of Lake Powell, Lake Mead and Big River Issues

Putting Conservation on the Table: the Sterling Ranch Story – Beorn Courtney, an engineer helping to plan Sterling Ranch in Douglas County, south of Denver, will describe how land use, clustering, landscaping, rain water capture and other efficiencies will be employed in this new community

The Colorado Water Plan: a Call and Response – James Eklund, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board will discuss why Gov. Hickenlooper has ordered up a Colorado Water Plan on a tight deadline and what that means for water policy and the solving a looming water supply gap as Colorado continues to attract and give birth to new residents

A Response from Both Sides of the Continental Divide: How Does This Play Out – A panel discussion among six representatives from the Basin Roundtables. Guests include Gary Barber of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable; Mark Koleber of the Metro Roundtable, Joe Frank of the South Platte Basin Roundtable; Tom Gray of the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable; Michelle Pierce of the Gunnison Basin Roundtable; Mike Preston of the Southwest Basin Roundtable and Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado Basin Roundtable.

More Colorado River District coverage here.

Grand Junction: The Colorado River District’s Annual Seminar will take place September 13 #ColoradoRiver

August 18, 2013


Click here to read the latest newsletter from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt). Here’s an excerpt:

What: The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar — “Shrinking in Supply, Growing in Demand” — where in one day, you can learn about the latest news and programs related to the Colorado River and its challenges to meet the needs of man and nature in the arid West.

When: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 13, 2013;  check-in starts at 8:30 a.m. Greg Pederson, the lead author of the U.S. Geological Survey study that confirms snow- pack is falling victim to warmer spring temperatures.

Where: The Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colo.

Cost: $30 for adults with advance registration by Friday, Sept. 6, 2013; $10 for students. Includes lunch. $40 after Sept. 6.

Who are some of the speakers?

  • James Eklund, the new director of the Colo- rado Water Conservation Board who will dis-
    cuss the two-year deadline to create a Colorado Water Plan and what that means
  • Klaus Wolter, the Climate Diagnostics Center researcher for NOAA who is the go-to expert for predicting seasonal weather
  • A panel discussion on how the Roundtables will inform the Colorado Water Plan with their findings and plans to meet their water supply shortages
  • Beorn Courtney, an engineer for the Headwa- ters Corp. who will discuss how the Sterling Ranch development in the South Denver Metro Area will employ water conservation through house design, landscaping, clustering and water capture
  • A discussion on what the low levels at Lake Powell portend reduced water releases to Lake Mead and the Lower Basin states and a decla- ration of a shortage ….. and more
  • Information and questions: 970-945-8522 or edinfo@crwcd.org.

    More education coverage here.

    Crystal River: Pitkin County settles in water court case over proposed dams in the watershed

    June 21, 2013


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

    The agreement removes the prospect of a dam being built across the Crystal River at Placita — below McClure Pass and before the road to Marble — as well as a dam on Yank Creek, a tributary of Thompson Creek, which flows into the Crystal near Carbondale.

    The agreement also removes Pitkin County’s opposition to potential new dams and reservoirs on Mamm and Divide creeks in Garfield County on land south of I-70 between New Castle and Parachute.

    “The agreement basically says to the West Divide District, ‘You get out of our county and we’ll get out of the rest of your jurisdiction,’” said Pitkin County Attorney John Ely…

    The West Divide board is set to meet today in Rifle to discuss the agreement, according to Samuel Potter, the chairman of the West Divide Conservancy District.

    Jim Pokrandt, communications and education director for the Colorado River District, said the district’s litigation committee is set to meet on June 25 and has the authority to approve the settlement without a vote by its full board.

    The Pitkin County commissioners have been discussing the case with Ely in executive session and he is confident the board will approve the settlement.

    Bill Jochems, the chair of the healthy rivers and streams board, said he expects his board to approve the settlement at a meeting today…

    The lawsuit, in water court, stemmed from a diligence filing by West Divide and the Colorado River District in May 2011. Opposition filings came from Pitkin County, the Crystal River Caucus, CVEPA, the nonprofit organization, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and Paul Durrett of Redstone.

    More Crystal River Watershed coverage here and here.

    Move water from west to east or dry up agriculture?

    June 8, 2013


    Hannah Holm recaps the Gunnison Roundtable discussion of the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline in this column running in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

    One reliable way to rile up a room full of western Coloradans is to start talking about moving water from the Colorado River basin (“our water”) east across the Continental Divide for use by Front Range cities. You’ll hear lots of muttering, and someone will probably say something to the effect that not one more drop should go over while a blade of bluegrass remains in the Denver metro area.

    It doesn’t even have to be water that resides in Colorado to get people’s backs up, as was demonstrated by the reaction to a proposal floated by entrepreneur Aaron Million to pump water from the Flaming Gorge reservoir in southwestern Wyoming east along the I-80 corridor and then south to a reservoir near Pueblo. In September 2011, billboards sprouted up along I-70 protesting providing funding to even study the idea. The billboards were funded by environmental organizations, but a host of resolutions approved by the City of Grand Junction, Mesa County and others roundly condemned the proposed project as well.

    However, if Front Range cities can’t take water from our side of the hill, they have to look elsewhere — and that usually means “buying and drying” agricultural land. Since western Coloradans tend to like farms, even if they are east of the Divide, this creates a bit of a quandary. While some claim that ramped up conservation could preclude the need for more water transfers, it’s not easy to see how to push conservation far enough to close the 500,000-acre-foot gap between supply and demand that is forecast to afflict the state by 2050 if measures aren’t taken. Besides, if the Front Range has to dry up lawns, we might have to do the same — and that becomes a more complicated conversation.

    Despite the billboards and resolutions, the state did fund a committee to study the potential benefits and impacts of the Flaming Gorge proposal. It included representatives from each of Colorado’s major river basins, including many highly skeptical of the proposal as well as potential beneficiaries, and it met once a month for a year. In short order, the committee broadened its mission and ended up developing a series of questions to be addressed for any proposed major movement of water across the Divide, as well as criteria for what would be a “good” project. This report was presented to the Gunnison Basin Roundtable and Gunnison “State of the River” meeting in Montrose June 3.

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

    Aurora faces consumptive use challenge in water court for diverting unchanged agricultural shares

    June 1, 2013


    From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

    The Colorado River Water Conservation District, better known as the Colorado River District, contends that the city of Aurora has taken water improperly since acquiring a 50 percent interest in the Busk-Ivanhoe system water rights. The city accumulated shares between 1987 and 2001.

    The Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River District placed a call on junior, upstream water rights this year that challenged Aurora’s water use. The river district has the ability to call junior water rights when Ruedi Reservoir isn’t expect to fill, according to John Currier, chief engineer with the Colorado River District.

    “Honestly, it was to fire a shot across the bow of Aurora,” Currier said last week during the annual State of the River meeting, which brings water managers and conservation groups from the Roaring Fork River Basin together to discuss issues.

    The Colorado River District contends that the water Aurora diverts from the Upper Fryingpan Basin is decreed in water court for agricultural uses. Aurora is using it for municipal purposes, which are unpermitted, the river district claims.

    Aurora, through Busk-Ivanhoe Inc., responded with an application in state water court to change the use of the water. Numerous parties have joined one side or another in the case. The Pitkin and Eagle county commissioners have sided with the Colorado River District. They and other parties are known collectively as “Western Slope opposers” to Aurora’s attempt to change water uses.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Aurora could see limits placed on one of its water diversions from the Western Slope in a change of use case moving through Division 2 water court.

    Aurora’s use of water from the Busk-Ivanhoe system for the past 25 years is being challenged by the state Division of Water Resources and Colorado River groups, who maintain that Aurora used the water for municipal purposes under an agricultural decree. If Aurora loses on that claim, it would erase the credit for putting the water to beneficial use since 1987. The claim is part of its 2009 application to permanently change the use of Busk-Ivanhoe water to include municipal purposes. It amounts to about 2,500 acre-feet annually, which is just a fraction of the water that Aurora annually takes from other basins to meet the needs of more than 325,000 people.

    While trial is scheduled for July 23 in Pueblo, Aurora already has lost a skirmish in the battle.

    In April, Division 2 Water Judge Larry Schwartz ruled that Aurora cannot piggyback its claims of use on an earlier decree by the Pueblo Board of Water Works for the Busk-Ivanhoe system. The Pueblo water board purchased half of the Busk-Ivanhoe system from the High Line Canal Co. in 1971, and in 1993 was issued a decree that quantified the diversions and consumptive use over a 60-year period. Pueblo operates its portion of the ditch under 60-year volumetric limits as a result, and declines water in some years to avoid exceeding its limit.

    Aurora bought the other half of the ditch in 1987, and sought a blanket ruling that would enforce the same conditions. Schwartz rejected that argument, saying that the Pueblo ruling did not include the whole ditch. Aurora’s consumptive use and an analysis of non-decreed use of water still can be determined at trial, he said.

    The state, the Colorado River District and other Western Slope interests are arguing that Aurora should get no credit for its municipal use of water under the existing agricultural decree.

    Gerry Knapp, Aurora’s manager for Colorado River and Arkansas River operations, declined to discuss the city’s legal strategy prior to the trial.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.

    Granby: State of the Colorado River meeting recap #ColoradoRiver #COdrought

    May 24, 2013


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

    A panel of water experts spoke at the public State of the River Meeting on Wednesday at the SilverCreek Convention Center to discuss the quality and quantity of the Colorado River Basin and its relationship to Grand County. Among the discussion topics were Wolford Mountain Reservoir, background on the Windy Gap Firming Project and wildfire planning. But benefits to Colorado’s water supply following April’s precipitation events dominated much of the discussion…

    Current data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s SNOTEL sites places the Upper Colorado River Headwater Basin’s snow water equivalent at 106 percent of its median levels. Total precipitation is at 93 percent of average for the area. The recent influx of precipitation comes as a relief, especially after shortages in the 2012 season. According to [Don Meyer], last year’s water demands on Wolford Mountain Reservoir, located north of Kremmling, dropped its levels by 38 feet. But Meyer now feels optimistic. “We hope to fill the reservoir this year,” he said. “We had a ton of demands because of the drought, but this year is looking a lot better.”[...]

    Granby Reservoir is projected to be at 90 percent of average, according to Andrew Gilmore of the Bureau of Reclamation…

    Releases from Granby Reservoir to the Front Range will be at normal levels, Gilmore said. The water is transported via the Colorado-Big Thompson project…

    The Windy Gap Firming Project continues to move forward. The Bureau of Reclamation is deliberating modifications to the current Windy Gap carriage contract. The carriage contract specifies the procedures and fees for water moving through the Colorado Big Thompson Project. The Bureau of Reclamation’s next step will be to issue a Record of Decision, then Northern Water and its participants will begin hashing out design plans for the project. According to Northern Water’s Eric Wilkinson, the design process will take at least two years. Actual construction will take around three years. “So the earliest we would see the Windy Gap Firming Project placed into operation is 2018 or 2019,” Wilkinson said…

    While the recent influx of precipitation will provide relief to Grand County and the Front Range, especially after snowfall shortages last year, areas downstream remain in drought. SNOTEL data for the entire Colorado River Basin above Utah’s Lake Powell indicates that the year’s precipitation remains low, at 81 percent of average. Lower Colorado users below Lake Mead project mandatory shortages as early as 2015, said Eric Kuhn, general manager for the Colorado River District.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    The Colorado River District board news summary for April is hot off the press #ColoradoRiver

    May 15, 2013


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

    April’s snowstorms improved the water supply prospects in the Colorado River Basin, but the effects were uneven across the 15 counties of the Colorado River District.

    Receiving the biggest boosts were the Colorado, White and Yampa Basins. The Gunnison Basin was not as fortunate and will likely experience water supply problems this summer, according to General Manager Eric Kuhn, reporting to the Colorado River District Board at its April 16 meeting.

    For most of the winter, Western Colorado was track- ing even with the abysmal snow year of 2012, the fourth worst on record. But where it had stopped snowing in March of 2012, this past March experienced a wave of storms, a pattern that accelerated in April.

    In fact, the April 14-15 storm forced the Colorado River District to abbreviate its agenda and defer a number of discussions until its July meeting.

    “This time last year, 90 percent had run off and we about 10 to 20 percent of normal snowpack,” Kuhn said. “This April, the curve was still going up. Still, district wide it is not an above average year. We will have some problems down the road but they will not be as severe as it seemed earlier in the year.”

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Colorado River Basin: Annual ‘State of the Rivers — Mesa County’ meeting May 13 #ColoradoRiver

    May 10, 2013


    From email from the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University:

    State of the Rivers Meeting

    The Water Center at CMU is pleased co-sponsor the annual “State of the Rivers – Mesa County” meeting with the Colorado River District on Monday, May 13 from 5:30 – 7:30pm in the Colorado Mesa University Ballroom.

    This meeting will address our current & projected water supply situation, water banking to deal with shortages, and salinity control programs. Light refreshments will be provided.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here

    The January Colorado River District board meeting summary is hot off the press #coriver

    February 11, 2013


    Click here to read the summary. Thanks to Jim Pokrandt for sending it along in email.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    ‘We are living beyond our means, and the gap is greatest in the Lower Basin’ — said David Kanzer #coriver

    January 16, 2013


    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Heather McGregor) via The Aspen Times:

    “The bottom line is demand is ahead of supply. We are living beyond our means, and the gap is greatest in the Lower Basin,” said David Kanzer, senior water resources engineer for the Colorado River District.

    Kanzer presented a summary of the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study to the Colorado River District’s 15-member board during the board’s quarterly meeting held Tuesday in Glenwood Springs. The 1,500-page study was first released Dec. 12 at a multi-state water users meeting in Las Vegas.

    After Kanzer’s presentation, the board convened a closed-door session to discuss the state of Colorado’s negotiation strategy prior to a seven-state meeting next week. Sitting in on the session were Jennifer Gimbel, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the state’s chief water official, and Ted Kowalski, chief of the state water agency’s interstate division.

    “We’ll be meeting in Las Vegas next week with the other basin states to figure out what do we do with this study,” Gimbel said.

    The basin study was funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the seven Colorado River Basin states: the upper basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, and the lower basin states of Nevada, Arizona and California…

    River flows from 1991 to 2010 past Lee’s Ferry, which is just downstream of Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona, averaged 13.7 million acre-feet per year…

    Current water use in the basin is 16 million to 17.5 million acre-feet per year, Kanzer said, which includes water from tributaries that drain into the Colorado River below Lee’s Ferry.

    The basin study shows that water use has overtopped supply for the past 10 years, and the gap is forecast to continue.

    “By 2060, the gap is 3.2 million acre-feet a year, and possibly as much as 8 million acre-feet a year,” Kanzer said.

    Lee’s Ferry flows are critical for the upper basin states, as the four states must first send enough water downstream to meet the lower basin’s allocations — 75 million acre-feet in any 10-year period — and can only use water over that amount. So as snowpack and rainfall declines, it will be upper basin users, and western Colorado in particular, that will face limits in water use…

    The study evaluates many ways to increase water supply, such as importing water from other basins, cloudseeding, desalinization of seawater, water banking, land use management in watersheds, and changes in reservoir operations. It also looks at options for reducing demand through stepped up urban and agricultural conservation.

    “Even with all these scenarios, there will still be times we cannot meet 75 in 10,” Kanzer said, referring to the downstream allocations. “The upper basin shortage risk is real. The Lee’s Ferry deficit is real.”

    Moreover, he said, models that assume rising temperatures and changing weather patterns from climate change also forecast the year-to-year variability in streamflow to increase. In other words, there will still be very wet years, such as 2011, and very dry years such as 2002 and 2012, but the very dry years will occur more often in the future.

    With the study now published following years of work, water officials are now focused on educating the wider public about the water supply shortfall that Western states will face in the coming decades.

    Gimbel said the Colorado Water Conservation Board is planning a “road show” to present study findings in communities around the state, particularly in western Colorado, and on the Front Range, which is heavily dependent on water diversions from Western Slope rivers.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Wild and Scenic designation for the Crystal River?

    January 6, 2013


    Here’s an in-depth report from Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith). Click through for all the detail and some great photos, as well. Here’s an excerpt:

    Wild and Scenic status, which ultimately requires an act of Congress to obtain, prevents a federal agency from approving, or funding, a new dam or reservoir on a Wild and Scenic-designated river.

    And that’s one big reason why Pitkin County, the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA) and American Rivers are exploring Wild and Scenic status for the Crystal — because it would likely block a potential dam and reservoir from being built at Placita, an old coal town between Marble and Redstone…

    The West Divide Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River District are fighting to retain conditional water rights that could allow for a dam across the Crystal and a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir.

    The river district says such a reservoir could put more water in the often parched lower Crystal River in the fall and could also provide hydropower.

    But the county, CVEPA and American Rivers are actively opposing the renewal of the conditional water rights tied to the dam and a 21-day trial in district water court is scheduled for August.

    In the meantime those groups, plus the Conservancy, are testing local sentiment about seeking Wild and Scenic designation.

    “We want to disseminate as much information as possible to the public about the Wild and Scenic program, and then ask the folks in the Crystal River Valley if they think it is a good idea to pursue,” said Pitkin County Attorney John Ely, who leads most of the county’s water-related initiatives.

    To that end, the groups held two public meetings in mid-November, one in Redstone attended by 57 people and one in Carbondale with 35 people there…

    What the Wild and Scenic Act does do is let the river run — by preventing federal agencies from permitting or funding “any dam, water conduit, reservoir, powerhouse, transmission line or other project,” according to its language.

    It would prevent, for example, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from issuing a permit for a hydropower project on the river or along its banks.

    “Some rivers need to be left alone,” said David Moryc, senior director of river protection at American Rivers, describing the underlying intent of the law, according to a summary of the meeting prepared by the Roaring Fork Conservancy…

    When asked about that via email, Ely of Pitkin County said he thought Colorado had only one designated river because of the “lack of information as to the benefits and restrictions of the designation, and the time and dedication it takes to get it through Congress.”

    Another reason may be that once a river is designated Wild and Scenic, the federal government becomes a stakeholder on the river and has a chance to review potential changes to it, such as any new water rights. Some may feel that Colorado water law is complicated enough already…

    “I think the Crystal has the potential to be a nice clean straightforward effort because there are no out-of-basin uses yet,” Ely wrote. “If there is interest in going forward, we’re happy to be the laboring oar and do that work.”

    More Crystal River Watershed coverage here and here.

    The Colorado River District Launches 2013 Water Resources Grant Program #CORiver

    December 3, 2012


    From email from the Colorado River Water Conservancy District (Martha Moore):

    As of December 1st, the Colorado River District is accepting grant applications for projects that protect, enhance or develop water resources within its 15-county region. The Colorado River District includes all watersheds of the Colorado River within western Colorado, except those that drain to the San Juan River or to the Dolores River upstream of the Mesa County line.

    Projects eligible for the grant program must achieve one or more of the following objectives:

    ¨ develop a new water supply
    ¨ improve an existing system
    ¨ improve instream water quality
    ¨ increase water use efficiency
    ¨ reduce sediment loading
    ¨ implement a watershed management action
    ¨ control tamarisk
    ¨ protect pre-1922 Colorado River Compact water rights

    Previous successfully grant-funded projects have included the construction of new water storage, the enlargement of existing water storage or diversion facilities, rehabilitation of non-functioning or restricted water storage / delivery / diversion structures, implementation of water efficiency improvements and watershed enhancements. Such projects that utilize water rights that are senior to 1922 will be given additional ranking priority over similar projects that do not. Each project will be ranked based upon its own merits in accordance with published ranking criteria.

    Successful grantees can receive up to a maximum of $150,000 (or approximately 25% of the total project cost; in the case of smaller projects, this percentage may be slightly higher) for their project. The total amount available for the 2013 competitive grant program is $250,000. The application deadline is Jan. 31, 2013.

    To access the Water Resources Grant Program application, guidelines and policies, please visit http://www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org/page_193. For additional information please contact Dave Kanzer, P.E., or Alesha Frederick; Colorado River District, PO Box 1120, Glenwood Springs, CO 80601; 970-945-8522; or grantinfo@crwcd.org.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Colorado Water 2012 Book Club presentation: ‘Water Wranglers’ by George Sibley, November 20

    November 6, 2012


    Click here for all the inside skinny from the Water 2012 FaceBook page.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    CMU weekly seminar recap: ‘We’re going to be stressing major reservoirs’ — Eric Kuhn #CORiver

    October 31, 2012


    From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    The unfounded optimism that underlaid the structure of the 1922 Colorado River Compact might soon take a toll on Colorado and the other sparely populated mountain states that send water south and west to more arid, and more populous states downstream, said the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

    The upper basin states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming are obligated under the 1922 agreement governing the management of the river to deliver 75 million acres feet of water at Lee’s Ferry in Arizona every 10 years, or 7.5 million acre feet every year, on a rolling average. There is a distinction and it could be significant because of the lower basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada, Eric Kuhn said Monday at the Colorado Mesa University “Natural Resources of the West: Water and Drought” weekly seminar.

    The upper-basin states are at most risk because their uses of water would have to be curtailed to meet requirements of downstream states, Kuhn said. In the future, “We’re going to be stressing major reservoirs” as they are emptied to meet downstream needs, he said.

    Worse, the compact makes no provision for a simple lack of water, Kuhn said, leaving the upper basin on the hook to deliver, no matter whether there was enough runoff to meet the requirement. That’s because the framers of the original compact based the allocation of water on what had been a high-flow series of years, Kuhn said. That led to the optimistic plan to reconsider the compact in 1962, when the states would better know how to divide up the surplus water they anticipated would be better understood over the next four decades. That meeting never took place as it slowly became clear that the Colorado River historically carried less, not more, water than had been assumed.

    A study by the U.S. Bureau Of Reclamation to be released next month will make it clear that even under the 20th century understanding of hydrology, “The demands on the Colorado River exceed its supplies,” Kuhn said. The fact that the lower-basin states are using less water and upper-basin states using more will have political implications, he said.

    In the meantime, however, changing climate, receding waters in the Colorado and other changes could lead officials to re-evaluate some assumptions about the way the river should be managed, Kuhn said, noting that a 1944 agreement on the river introduced the phrase “extraordinary drought” without defining it. It might be that such a circumstance is more dire than even today’s conditions, Kuhn suggested. “If the future is going down (as in the level of the river) then is that a new drought?” he asked, “Or is that a new normal?”

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

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

    October 10, 2012



    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 District’s annual conference recap

    September 14, 2012


    From KREXTV.com (Courtney Griffin):

    The Colorado River District celebrated its 75th birthday Thursday by holding an annual conference at the Two Rivers Convention Center…

    With the small amount of snow and rainfall Grand Junction has had this past year, officials say without more precipitation this winter, it could mean stricter water conservation methods. “It’s a mindset more than anything else and it’s an appreciation for the ethics of water, the values of water and conservation is kind of a natural consequence,” said Chris Treese, external affairs manager for the Colorado River District.

    Officials are also discussing how to preserve fish populations, how to keep dependent agriculture businesses thriving and how to deal with decreased water supply.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Colorado River Cooperative Agreement implementation at hand

    September 13, 2012


    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.

    CWCB: Statewide Drought Conference September 19-20

    September 3, 2012


    From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board is holding a two-day drought conference with discussion themed around “Building a Drought Resilient Economy through Innovation.” The conference, September 19 and 20 at the History Colorado Center in Denver, will highlight the research and experiences of professionals working in regions and economies impacted by drought. Participants will share new and innovative approaches to drought preparedness across various industries and sectors. The conference will also present information on what drought may look like under future climate change conditions.

    Colorado Governer John Hickenlooper will be speaking at the event as well as Mike King, executive director for the Department of natural Resources in the state of Colorado, and Jennifer L. Gimbel, Colorado Water Conservation Board director.

    More CWCB coverage here.

    Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting recap: Concern that Colorado does not have the ‘courage’ to build projects

    September 1, 2012


    Here’s a recap of the recent Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    “I’m left with the feeling that other states have the courage to embark on water projects. We don’t have that,” said Mike Gibson, president of Colorado Water Congress and manager of the San Luis Valley Conservancy District.

    The task force reviewed projects that other Western states have undertaken — including California’s state water project, started in late 1950s, and a $19 billion project to manage demands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta; Arizona’s water bank program and Central Arizona Project; and Utah’s proposal to build a $1 billion Lake Powell pipeline similar to the Flaming Gorge proposal…

    …the state lacks a water plan and unlike other states, has no way to centrally plan projects or allocate water.

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here and <a href="

    Drought news: Drawdown of Wolford Mountain Reservoir an opportunity to inspect Ritschard Dam settling

    August 23, 2012


    Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Martha Moore):

    The Colorado River District, which owns and operates Wolford Mountain Reservoir, will take advantage of this year’s drought and resulting low reservoir water levels to further monitor movement at Ritschard

    As with all earthen dams, Ritschard Dam was expected to settle over time. However, over its 16-year life, the dam has settled nearly two-feet, rather than the estimated one-foot. This year’s dry conditions require drawing the reservoir down lower than most years in order to meet contractual and environmental demands for the stored water. Previous monitoring data suggest the settling rate slows as water levels decline. A major drawdown of the reservoir this year will assist in further assessment of the situation.

    “The dam is safe. There is no reason for concern over dam failure,” assures John Currier, chief engineer for the Colorado River District. “There are no leaks; the dam is solid. However, we need to determine the cause of continued settling,” added Currier.

    About Wolford Mountain Reservoir:

    Wolford Mountain Reservoir is located on Muddy Creek, five miles north of Kremmling. It stores 66,000 acre feet of water when full. The reservoir primarily provides water to west slope contract holders when their water rights would otherwise be called out by more senior water users on the Colorado River. Water is released from the reservoir to protect Western Slope water users and to substitute for water diverted by Denver Water at Dillon Reservoir in critically dry years.

    Water releases from Wolford also benefit endangered fish in the Colorado River near Grand Junction to enhance flows in the spring time and in late summer during times of lower flows.

    Wolford was built in cooperation with and financing from Denver Water and Northern Water, both Front Range transmountain water diverters.

    More coverage from Drew Munro writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

    “This year is a really good test,” John Currier told Kremmling Town Board members Wednesday night, explaining that the reservoir will be drawn down 30-35 feet below full by the end of October.

    “The reservoir hasn’t been drawn down like this since 2002-2003,” he added.

    Currier, chief engineer for the river district, was at the meeting along with other district representatives to allay rumors that Wolford Mountain is being drawn down to prevent it from failing and to present a progress report about the ongoing investigation into why the dam is moving.

    He said the reason the reservoir will be drawn down so far this fall is that Denver Water, which holds a lease for 25,000 acre-feet of “substitution water” annually in the 66,000 acre-foot impoundment, will release all its water this year. That, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife will use another 6,000 acre-feet this fall to augment downstream flows for endangered fish, he said.

    In a “normal” year, he said the reservoir is drawn down about 10 feet. When that occurs, he said monitoring instruments indicate the rate of settling slows substantially. What engineers will be looking at this fall is whether there is a point at which the settling slows further or stops as the water level falls.

    More Wolford Mountain Reservoir coverage here and here.

    Colorado River District Annual Seminar ‘Past, Present and Future’ September 13

    August 14, 2012


    From email from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

    “Past, Present and Future” is the theme of the Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar set for 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colo. The cost to attend is $25 and includes morning coffee, pastries and a lunch.

    Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, Department of the Interior, is the keynote speaker. Seminar topics start with the 75-year history of the Colorado River District and a new book on the organization by author George Sibley, “Water Wranglers.” Other topics to be covered during the day are the drought, the Bureau of Reclamation/7 States Colorado River Basin Study results and a look at the November elections. A full agenda, press release and registration form is attached.

    After the seminar, starting at 4 p.m., the Colorado River District is holding an Ice Cream Social and Open House at the Two Rivers Convention Center to celebrate its 75th Anniversary.

    Here’s the link to the registration form.

    Colorado River: The Eagle River Watershed Council is embarking on a study of the river through Eagle County #CORiver

    July 2, 2012


    From the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz):

    The Eagle River Watershed Council is now beginning a project with the county and Colorado State University to fill in those blanks. “We were updating the Eagle River watershed plan and discovered there wasn’t much scientific data for Eagle County’s stretch of the Colorado River,” said Melissa Macdonald, ERWC’s executive director. “We are essentially doing an inventory of the river to get a baseline of data that will help us prioritize future projects there.”[...]

    ERWC is beginning its separate project to collect data on the Colorado River. “Ideally we would already have the baseline data before coming out with the new watershed plan but we’ll accommodate it somehow after the study comes out,” Simonton said. “The study might affirm what the plan recommends or it might trigger a future amendment to the plan. In any instance it will be very beneficial.”

    The timing of ERWC’s baseline study is also appropriate now that Eagle County Open Space is acquiring more public access points along a river corridor that was previously isolated by private property…

    ERWC has already received a $30,000 grant from the Colorado Basin Roundtable for the Colorado River study and applied for much more grant money at the Roundtable’s meeting in Glenwood Springs on Monday…

    Macdonald said RiverFest 2012 will be celebrating two of the county’s new public access points on the Colorado River with a ribbon-cutting on Aug. 11. The event doubles as a fund-raiser for ERWC, featuring guided float trips and dinner for $75 per person or just $40 for the dinner. For more information, visit http://erwc.org/index.php/about/events-and-volunteer-opportunities/events/riverfest-2012/ or call (970) 827-5406.

    More Colorado River basin coverage here and here.

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

    June 14, 2012


    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.

    The Crystal River makes the top ten most endangered rivers list, Wild and Scenic designation in the future?

    May 20, 2012


    From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

    Rivers in Colorado remained off the list in 2011, but appeared again this year with the Crystal River showing up as the No. 8 most endangered river in the United States. It flows out of the mountains, through Redstone and into Carbondale where it meets with the Roaring Fork River.

    The threat: dams and diversions. The same reasons the Upper Colorado was listed in 2010.

    At stake in both scenarios are fish and wildlife habitat, beautiful vistas and visitor recreation. On top of that, the Crystal River is one of the few remaining free-flowing streams in Colorado. “But new hydropower dams, reservoirs and water diversions threaten to destroy the river’s unique values,” the report states.

    The Colorado River District and West Divide Conservancy District hold conditional water rights that could be used to build the 4,000-acre-foot Placita Reservoir; a similar-size reservoir on Yank Creek, a tributary of the Crystal River; and a water diversion on Avalanche Creek, the largest tributary of the river. The Placita Reservoir would be about four miles upstream from Redstone.

    The designation is just the beginning of action, American Rivers’ Colorado conservation director Matt Rice said. “We hope this will begin a renewed effort to protect the Crystal River with a ‘Wild and Scenic’ designation,” he said. That designation would bring federal protection and prevent dam building.

    More Crystal River coverage here and here.

    American Rivers names the Crystal River to its 10 most endangered rivers list

    May 16, 2012


    From the Aspen Business Journal (Bob Berwyn):

    At issue is a proposed dam that would impound 4,000 acre feet of water between Redstone and Marble, diversions from Avalanche Creek, the largest tributary to the Crystal and potential hydropower development on Yank Creek.

    The Colorado River Water Conservation District holds the conditional water rights for the potential Crystal River dam and is pursuing the state-mandated diligence process for maintaining those water rights.

    Spokesman Jim Pokrandt said the water in the reservoir could be used to enhance late-season flows to help sustain aquatic habitat.

    “The whole purpose of that reservoir is for augmentation and environmental flows. It’s already endangered as it exists today … in leaner years because of all the irrigation that goes on in the valleys … it does create a stretch in the river that’s almost dry,” Pokrandt said, likening the proposed reservoir to others in the state that have water reserved for instream environmental purposes, including Elkhead and Wolford Mountain reservoirs.

    There’s also a school of thought that says it’s important for headwaters counties to capture and store water high in the drainages as a hedge against climate change and increased demand far downstream, from the Lower Colorado River Basin states.

    But local and national conservation groups say the projects would degrade the river and the surrounding area by destroying valuable riparian habitat and associated recreation and economic values.

    We’re in an era when more dams are being dismantled than being built,” said John Emerick, a retired Colorado School of Mines ecologist who helped conduct an in-depth survey of Crystal Creek’s aquatic and riparian resources. “it’s important for us here in the arid West to think about better ways and more efficient ways to use our water,” Emerick said, explaining that the proposed reservoir could end up standing as an empty mud flat much of the year.

    More coverage of the 10 most endangered rivers for 2012 from Troy Hooper writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

    The report, compiled by the nonprofit advocacy group American Rivers, cites Fort Collins businessman Aaron Million’s proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline, as well as a competing diversion proposal by Parker Water & Sanitation District manager Frank Jaeger, as major threats to the world-class recreation, rural economies, critical fish habitats, and the water supply for the lower Colorado River Basin.

    “Aaron Million and Frank Jaeger remain committed to build that pipeline,” Matt Rice, Colorado conservation director for American Rivers, said Monday. “There are a hundred reasons why it doesn’t make sense, why it’s a bad idea and why it’s not a responsible use of taxpayer money. We’re calling on Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to publicly oppose it.”[...]

    The threats facing the Crystal River include a dam and a 4,000-acre reservoir between Redstone and Marble; a water diversion from its largest tributary, Avalanche Creek; and a hydropower dam and 5,000 acre-foot reservoir on another tributary, Yank Creek.

    “Our rivers and streams continue to be under assault from competing interests that too often do not consider the value intrinsic in the ecosystems that rivers and streams create, nurture, and sustain,” said Pitkin County attorney John Ely. “If we are to preserve our rivers, public awareness of the threats and impending changes facing these ecosystems is essential.”

    More Crystal River watershed coverage here and here.


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