Vail: ‘Restore the Gore’ campaign to kick off April 25

April 17, 2014


From the Vail Daily:

An awareness campaign to help improve the health of Gore Creek is being introduced this spring with a focus on best practices for landscapers and gardeners. The “Restore the Gore” kick off takes place April 25 with a free Moe’s BBQ lunch and learn session from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at Donovan Pavilion. Landscape contractors, gardeners, commercial applicators and lodging managers, in particular, are encouraged to attend. Lunch service will begin at 11:45 a.m. with presentations taking place from noon to 12:45 p.m.

Sponsored by the Town of Vail and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the program will include short presentations on the causes of Gore Creek’s decline and the everyday actions that can be implemented to help make a difference when it comes to water use, special irrigation permits, invasive plants and pesticides.

In 2012 Gore Creek was added to the State of Colorado’s 303(d) List of Impaired Waters due to the decline in aquatic life. Scientists have determined the impact is due to degradation and loss of riparian buffer areas, impacts of urban runoff and pollutants associated with land use activities. A Water Quality Improvement Plan has since been adopted that includes an emphasis on community awareness as well as strategies for regulatory measures, site specific projects, best management practices and an ongoing monitoring program.

In addition to the lunch and learn kick off, the town is distributing a handout on recommended pesticide practices for commercial landscapers and property owners. Additional information is available on the town’s website at

If you plan to attend the April 25 lunch and learn program, please RSVP to Kristen Bertuglia, town of Vail environmental sustainability coordinator, at 970-477-3455 or email no later than 5 p.m. April 23.

More Gore Creek watershed coverage here.

The latest newsletter (The Current) from the Eagle River Watershed Council is hot off the presses

April 8, 2014
Eagle River Basin

Eagle River Basin

Click here to read the newsletter.

More Eagle River Watershed coverage here.

Eagle Valley meeting on the #COWaterPlan, March 27

March 24, 2014

Click here for the pitch. Here’s an excerpt:

Thursday, March 27th
Eagle Valley “Town Hall” Meeting on the Colorado Water Plan
6 to 8 pm @ Walking Mountains Science Center, Avon

Did you know that Colorado is one of only a few states in the West operating without a formal water plan? As of May 2013, that is changing. Gov. Hickenlooper has asked to have a draft of the State’s Water Plan on his desk in December of 2014 with the final completed in December of 2015.

For this process, Colorado has been divided into 9 river basins, each responsible for outlining their values, priorities, goals, and objectives moving forward. Here in the Eagle Valley, we fall into the Colorado River Basin and the draft of our Basin Implementation Plan is due in July. This process seeks much public input; now is the time for you to learn more about the Statewide Water Plan and give your feedback!

Please join us for this very important evening of learning and sharing. We need your help to make sure the Colorado Water Plan reflects the needs and concerns of the Eagle Valley moving into the future.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

The March 2014 Eagle River Watershed Council newsletter (The Current) is hot off the presses

March 12, 2014
Eagle River Basin

Eagle River Basin

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

Watershed Wednesday: the Eagle River Blue Trails Program
March 19th, 6 p.m.
Eagle Public Library, Eagle, CO

The Eagle River has been chosen by American Rivers to become a Blue Trail. In doing so, the Eagle River will be following in the footsteps of other projects around the nation. Just as hiking trails help people explore the land, “Blue Trails help people discover their rivers and provide communities with a host of benefits: protecting the environment; enhancing local economies; promoting healthy living; preserving history and community identity; and connect people and places.”

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

The latest newsletter from the Eagle River Watershed Council is hot off the presses

February 7, 2014
Eagle River Basin

Eagle River Basin

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

Watershed Wednesday: the Colorado Water Plan
February 26th
Avon Public Library, Avon, CO

Did you know that 80% of our state’s water falls on the Western Slope but 80% of the population lives on the Eastern Slope? Did you know that Colorado is one of the few Western states that hasn’t yet prepared a State Water Plan? Under Gov. Hickenlooper’s direction, the state is now in the process of creating such a plan, one that aims to forge ‘a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need’ in all aspects of our active and productive lifestyles. (

Hannah Holm, Coordinator for the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University, will help bring us up to speed on this exciting & complex process. Diane Johnson of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District will focus on the local level and explain the Eagle River Basin Principles.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

The current newsletter from the Eagle River Watershed Council is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

January 8, 2014

The Eagle River Watershed Council: Snowmaking & Ski Area Water Rights ski tour, January 13

December 26, 2013
Copper Mountain snowmaking via

Copper Mountain snowmaking via

From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council

Join us Monday, January 13th to see firsthand what snowmaking is all about!

9 – 11:30 a.m. meet @ the base of Lionshead Gondola

With the expert guidance of Dave Tucholke, Vail’s Snowmaking Manager, we will be strapping on our skis and touring Vail Mountain to learn more about snowmaking: the history, equipment and process behind the snow we have come to rely on each November. Tom Allender, Director of Mountain Planning for Vail & Beaver Creek, will share his knowledge of ski area water rights and explain the mountain’s “plumbing system” from source to snow.

This will be a unique look at Vail’s snowmaking from atop your very own skis!


Space is limited, so please RSVP to to reserve your spot now!

**We will be spending most of the morning on skis so we ask that only intermediate and expert skiers/boarders sign up**

More education coverage here.

Eagle River Watershed Council: Hydraulic Fracturing & Water an informational panel, Wednesday December 11th

December 7, 2013
Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg

Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg

Click here to read the announcement.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

The latest Eagle River Watershed Council newsletter is hot of the presses

December 4, 2013
Eagle River Basin

Eagle River Basin

Click here to read the newsletter.

More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.

‘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.

‘As the population of Colorado grows, so will the tension on water supplies and water quality’ — Kate Burchenal

November 27, 2013
Diagram depicting average streamflow leaving Colorado -- graphic/State Engineer

Diagram depicting average streamflow leaving Colorado — graphic/State Engineer

Here’s a guest column about the Colorado River Watch program, written by Kate Burchenal that is running in the Vail Daily:

Did you know that Colorado is home to more than 700,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks? Think about that: 700,000 miles. Considering that the Earth’s circumference is approximately 25,000 miles, end to end; Colorado’s waterways could circle the globe 28 times. And if we want to take this comparison to outer space, then one could travel to the moon and back and still have more than 200,000 miles to spare! Ready for more staggering numbers? Colorado’s population recently surpassed the 5 million mark, 5.18 million actually, which equates to 7.4 people per river mile.

Here in Eagle County, we love the waterways that meander through our towns and lives. Eagle County houses the entire 77 miles of the Eagle River from the headwaters on Tennessee Pass to its confluence with the Upper Colorado in Dotsero. We also play host to 55 miles of the Colorado River as it skirts through the northwestern part of the county. Fifty-five miles amounts to a mere 3.8 percent of the total length of the river, but we are nevertheless glad to have that access and proximity to the mighty Colorado.

As the population of Colorado grows, so will the tension on water supplies and water quality due to potential for increased pollution. But there’s passion among our population. People are moving to Colorado in droves to gain access to our skiing, rafting, hiking, fly-fishing and clean-air-breathing! And most of us care deeply about our watersheds and show that dedication if given the chance. So, why not put that passion to work monitoring water quality on our rivers?

Colorado River Watch

Since 1989, Colorado River Watch has provided such an opportunity by “work(ing) with voluntary stewards to monitor water quality and other indicators of watershed health and utiliz(ing) this high-quality data to educate citizens and inform decision makers about the condition of Colorado’s waters.” It coordinates water sampling by volunteer groups from around the state: middle and high school classes, local governments, environmental organizations and concerned individuals.

During the years, River Watch has collected data from more than 3,000 sites around Colorado on more than 300 of our local waterways. Each month, volunteers collect water samples from their stations to test for six main parameters: heavy metals, dissolved oxygen, pH, alkalinity, nutrient levels and hardness. Twice a year, volunteers add the collection of macroinvertebrate samples to understand the health and composition of the bug population.

Every sample is processed and carefully chronicled by River Watch in its Fort Collins lab. This information is then used by the Water Quality Control Commission (the administrative agency responsible for developing state water quality policies) to set statewide standards for allowable levels of constituents in the water, particularly metals. That’s right, River Watch training and quality control standards are so stringent that information collected by average residents is utilized to set state standards!

Here in the Eagle Valley, we have more than 12 stations in the hands of numerous River Watch partners: The Eagle River Watershed Council, the town of Vail, individuals and local classrooms. We want to get even more people out on the water taking part in this exciting program whether it is a class, a community group, an afterschool activity program or a family. It’s a great learning tool and a wonderful way for everyday people to have a hand in state water quality issues.

Kate Burchenal is the education and outreach coordinator for the Eagle River Watershed Council. The Eagle River Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at 970-827-5406 or visit

More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.

The current newsletter from the Eagle River Watershed Council is hot off the presses

November 5, 2013

Eagle River Basin

Eagle River Basin

Click here to read the newsletter.

Eagle River Water and Sanitation District Awarded $1.372 Million Grant

July 28, 2013


Here’s the release from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced on July 19 that 21 municipal wastewater and sanitation districts throughout Colorado will receive a total of $14.7 million in state grants to help with the planning, design and construction of facility improvements to meet new nutrient standards. The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District submitted three grant applications totaling $1,372,400; each one was fully funded.

“Our staff was very involved with the state in developing these new regulations while simultaneously modeling the regulations’ impact to our capital investment program. This proactive approach allowed the district to strategically position itself to compete for the nutrient grant program funds,” said Board Chairman Rick Sackbauer. “These regulations are the right thing for the environment and these grant funds will reduce the overall cost of compliance to our ratepayers and taxpayers. We are grateful to the state for its contribution.”

The state’s Water Quality Control Commission adopted new standards in September 2012 to help prevent harmful nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from reaching state waters. The new regulation requires certain larger domestic wastewater treatment facilities to meet effluent limits for nutrients.

“Coloradans in rural and urban areas will benefit from these new water standards that improve and protect our water,” Hickenlooper said. “This grant funding will help communities offset the costs of bringing their systems into compliance. In addition, the grants will help ensure safe and healthy water for wildlife, agriculture, recreation, and drinking water purposes.”

Excessive nutrients harm water bodies by stimulating algae blooms that consume oxygen, kill aquatic organisms, and ultimately lead to smaller populations of game and fish. While nutrients are naturally occurring, other contributors include human sewage, emissions from power generators and automobiles, lawn fertilizers, and pet waste.

“The district has long been a steward of our local streams. We are planning the required improvements holistically, across our three wastewater treatment facilities, to provide optimal treatment at a reasonable cost for the benefit of our natural environment,” said General Manager Linn Brooks.

The Nutrient Grant Program will help wastewater facilities with the costs of planning for, designing, and implementing system improvements. Funding for the program was made available through HB13-1191 “Nutrient Grant Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant,” sponsored by Reps. Randy Fischer and Ed Vigil and Sens. Gail Schwartz and Angela Giron. There are about 400 municipal wastewater systems in Colorado. The new nutrient standards apply to about 40 systems that have the greatest impact on the waters of the state.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Eagle County: The 2013 Eagle River Watershed Plan is complete

June 13, 2013


Click here to read a copy of the report from Eagle County and the Eagle River Watershed Council. Here’s an excerpt:

The Eagle River Watershed Plan was first adopted in 1996, and provides information, goals, strategies and action items related to water and land management practices in the Eagle River drainage basin. This 2013 document updates and replaces the 1996 plan in its entirety, and while it follows the general layout of that plan, it includes a great deal of new information, and a new chapter that discusses issues and opportunities associated with the Colorado River as it flows through the north western part of the county.

More Eagle River Watershed coverage here.

Eagle River Watershed Council Waterwise Thursday May 16: Are you wiser than a sixth grader?

May 10, 2013


From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

Join us for a special Water Wise “Thursday” brought to you by the 6th Graders of Homestake Peak School of Expeditionary Learning. After an in-depth, multiple month study, these students are ready to teach you “the what, the so what, and the now what?” of the Eagle Mine Superfund Site.

The event will take place Thursday, May 16th at 5:30 at the Walking Mountains Science Center. The students will begin with a living history museum where you can chat with figures of the past and then, they take you in depth into the history, science and future of the Eagle River. Beverages and appetizers will be provided.

More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.

Restoration: The Eagle River Watershed Council is planting willows along Red Dirt Creek May 17-18

May 7, 2013


From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

We are beginning a second project along the East Fork of Red Dirt Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. The Watershed Council, along with a team of volunteers and help from the US Forest Service and Trout Unlimited, will plant willows and remove a dirt road that is adding sediment to the creek and harming the local cutthroat trout population.

Friday, May 17th and Saturday, May 18th we will be planting willows along the East Fork of Red Dirt Creek and we are looking for 10-15 volunteers. Call us at 970-827-5406 or email to sign up for one or both days!

More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.

Grand Mesa cloud-seeding program history and results #ColoradoRiver

April 9, 2013


From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

For 50 years, humans have attempted to modify the weather for the purpose of increasing snowpack, to fill up reservoirs, reduce hail, and even prevent rain. The scientific practice of cloud seeding has been utilized on Grand Mesa since the 1990s. Two years ago, the Water Enhancement Authority stepped up its Grand Mesa program by doubling the number of cloud seeders to 16. “We’re trying to increase snowpack on the Mesa, to fill up the reservoirs,” said Mark Ritterbush, the Grand Junction water operations supervisor and secretary for the Water Enhancement Authority (WEA).

The WEA is comprised of the City of Grand Junction, Powderhorn Ski Mountain Resort, Collbran, the Grand Mesa Water Conservancy District, and Overland Ditch and Reservoir Company. Funding for the cloud-seeding program comes from those entities, as well as Delta County, the Colorado River District, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and lower Colorado River basin states.

Meteorologists determine where to place the cloud-seeding machines on the Mesa. Oftentimes, they’re located on private property where landowners are paid rent to host the machines.

In China, cloud seeders — many of them farmers — are paid to use anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers to release pellets containing silver iodide into clouds, according to Wikipedia. Other areas disperse the precipitation-enhancing agents via airplanes.

On the Grand Mesa, cloud-seeding machines consist of tanks on the ground filled with a silver-iodide solution containing chemicals such as acetone. The solution is sprayed across a propane-fueled flame, causing the particles to drift with the wind current up into the cloud. The condensation nuclei turn into ice crystals, ride along with the cloud and fall out as a snowflake. Silver iodide is used because its crystalline structure is almost identical to ice, Ritterbush said.

“A meteorologist (John Thompson of Montrose) watches storms as they come in,” Ritterbush said. “He calls and tells (the landowners) when to turn it on. Rarely are all 16 cloud seeders running at the same time.”


There is an ongoing debate regarding the effectiveness of cloud seeding versus letting nature take its course, Ritterbush said. Ten years ago, the National Academies of Science released a report saying, that after 30 years of research, there is no convincing proof of intentional weather modification efforts. “In nature, it’s hard to set up an experiment with a control,” Ritterbush said. “It’s a conundrum how to compare.”

Yet, studies suggest cloud seeding can increase snowpack 5 to 15 percent, which makes the program’s annual cost of between $30,000 and $40,000 cost-effective when you factor in the extra water, Ritterbush said. The cost variable is due to weather conditions, how often seeding takes place, and the cost of silver, Ritterbush said. According to the World Meteorological Policy Statement, “a well-designed, well-executed program shows demonstrative results,” said Joe Busto, who runs the weather modification permitting program out of Denver for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The Grand Mesa has been a forum to introduce new equipment and different seeding technologies, Busto said. The topography is ideal for setting up cloud-seeding machines at a high elevation, he said. “There’s a rich history of research on the Grand Mesa, during the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s,” Busto added.

Arlen Huggins, a semi-retired research scientist with the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev., is familiar with the Grand Mesa project. Huggins said there is plenty of convincing evidence that modifying weather is effective for increasing precipitation. He mentioned prior Bureau of Reclamation studies, plus a recently completed five-year experiment in Australia. “There’s a lot of evidence related to snowfall enhancement,” Huggins said. “It makes it a viable option for increasing water supply.”

The Water Enhancement Authority is in the process of collecting data comparing seeded areas versus non-seeded areas on the Mesa, Ritterbush said.


So, what happens when silver-iodide particles hit the ground or land in lakes or rivers? While there has been no monitoring for silver in western Colorado’s environment, researchers in Australia have spent millions searching for traces of the mineral, Ritterbush said. In Australia, where lake beds and soils have been tested, they “just don’t find it near toxic levels,” Busto said.

Huggins, who is considered a cloud-seeding expert, said he’s often asked about potential risks of silver toxicity in the environment. “It’s a minuscule amount of silver being released,” Huggins said. “The silver iodide amounts released are not harmful. (The particles) are not soluble in water. It cannot be taken up by aquatic species. It does not bio-accumulate.”

There are approximately 106 cloud-seeding sites in Colorado, including Summit County, Gunnison, Telluride and the Dolores area, the West and Eastern San Juan mountains. Vail and Beaver Creek have the oldest program, having cloud-seeded for 38 years. Most permits are issued from November through March and sometimes into mid-April, Busto said. “We monitor snowpack, avalanche hazards, and suspend programs when needed,” he said.

A 2010 statement from the American Meteorological Society states that “unintended consequences of cloud-seeding, such as changes in precipitation or other environmental impacts downwind of a target area have not been clearly demonstrated, but neither can they be ruled out. Continued effort is needed toward improved understanding of the risks and benefits of planned modification through well-designed and well-supported research programs.”

More cloud-seeding coverage here and here.

The next Eagle River Watershed Council ‘Waterwise Wednesday’ (April 3) features Nolan Doesken and a focus on drought #codrought

March 31, 2013


From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

A Peek into Colorado’s Climate: Is Drought Passing, Permanent or Periodic?
by State Climatologist Nolan Doesken

Water Wise Wednesday
Wednesday, April 3rd
5:30-7:00 pm
The Dusty Boot
Eagle, CO

Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken joins the Eagle River Watershed Council for our next Water Wise Wednesday to discuss the state of drought in Colorado. Doesken, who monitors current and long term climatic conditions in Colorado, will provide updates on the current snowpack, summer drought predictions and long term trends in the state.

Nolan Doesken has been with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University since 1977, where he was appointed State Climatologist in 2006. He is currently the president of the American Association of State Climatologists.

More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.

Avon: Denver Water’s Bill Bates to discuss the relationship between water users on the Front Range and the Western Slope, March 11

March 10, 2013


From email from the Eagle River Watershed Council:

The Watershed Council would like to invite you to join us for the fourth and final H2Know High Country Speaker Series!

We will welcome Bill Bates of Denver Water to discuss the relationship between water users on the Front Range and the Western Slope. Mr. Bates currently oversees the protection and development of water rights associated with Denver Water’s collection system. Prior to this, Bill supervised the water supply operations and reporting for the Denver Water collection system.

This High Country Speaker Series / Water Wise Wednesday is presented by the Eagle River Watershed Council, Walking Mountains Science Center and the Eagle Valley Library District…

March 11th
5:30-7:00 pm
Walking Mountains Science Center
Avon, CO

More education coverage here.

Drought news: Aurora is shopping for short-term water leases, storage at 53% of capacity #CODrought

December 14, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Aurora wants to lease additional water from the Arkansas River basin in 2013 and is prepared to spend $5 million. The city’s storage has been drawn down to 53 percent of capacity, triggering a situation where it can lease water under the terms of a 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Aurora Water sent a letter to the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch last month offering to lease 10,000 acre­-feet of water for $500 per acre-­foot, or $5 million total. The terms are part of an agreement Aurora made with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District in 2010. That may not be enough, said Super Ditch President John Schweizer. If commodity prices stay high, farmers would be able to get about $1,200 per acre for corn and $1,500 per acre for alfalfa, minus costs for cultivating, planting, irrigation and harvesting. “We’ve got to see if there are farmers interested in doing it,” Schweizer said. “If the price per acre is right, I think you could see some interest.”

Schweizer expects opposition to the transfer. This year, a Super Ditch pilot program met unprecedented resistance from other water users after it was submitted to the state engineer. “A lot depends on the severity of the drought and how people in cities might be affected,” he said.

While the Super Ditch conceptually includes seven large irrigation ditch systems east of Pueblo, farms on the High Line and Catlin canals could fill the Aurora order, Schweizer said. Both canal companies already have had annual meetings, so the leases would be filled through negotiations with the boards of each canal and interested shareholders. Bylaws on both canals have been changed to allow for temporary water transfers, and the High Line Canal leased water to Aurora and Colorado Springs in 2004-­05.

Aurora is waiting to hear if the Super Ditch can fill the order and does not have a backup plan, said Greg Baker, Aurora Water spokesman.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Agreements with three conservancy districts determine whether Aurora can lease additional water from the Arkansas River basin.

Aurora purchased nearly all of the Rocky Ford Ditch in Otero County, part of the Colorado Canal in Crowley County and several ranches in Lake County in the 1980s and 1990s to meet water needs of the city of 300,000 east of Denver. In 2004-­05, it leased water from the High Line Canal, which irrigates farms in the Rocky Ford area, as the city recovered from the 2002 drought.

Next year, Aurora is bracing for another drought recovery to bolster its storage levels.

Under 2003 agreements with the Southeastern district and the Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Aurora may lease additional water when its storage levels drop below 60 percent of total capacity on March 15. It can lease water for up to three out of 10 years under those circumstances.

Aurora has drawn down Homestake Reservoir, which it shares with Colorado Springs, for dam repairs. Aurora stores water in 10 other reservoirs. Including Homestake, Aurora is at 53 percent capacity, but even without Homestake factored in, capacity already is at just 61 percent. Last month, the Aurora City Council authorized its water utility to begin looking for leases. “We’re looking at the agreement to determine if we have any issues with the leases,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district.

Under its 2010 agreement with the Lower Ark District, Aurora is obligated to work with the Super Ditch before looking elsewhere for water in the Arkansas Valley. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district. “The Super Ditch will build collaboration and cooperation among the ditch companies.”

Aurora also has an agreement with the High Line Canal board for future leases. Arkansas Valley water is exchanged upstream to Twin Lakes, where it moves to Aurora through the Otero Pumping Station and Homestake pipeline.

More Aurora coverage here and here.

Crystal River: Momentum building for Wild and Scenic designation

December 3, 2012


Here’s an analysis of efforts to protect the Crystal River under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for The Aspen Daily News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Thirty-nine miles of the Crystal River are already “eligible” for designation under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Now four organizations are building local support to determine if much of the river is also “suitable” for protection under the act.

Passed in 1968, the act allows local and regional communities to develop a federally backed management plan designed to preserve and protect a free-flowing river such as the Crystal River, which runs from the back of the Maroon Bells to the lower Roaring Fork River through Crystal, Marble, Redstone and Carbondale.

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…

Chuck Wanner, a former Fort Collins city council member, said at the meetings that it took 10 years to get sections of the Cache La Poudre River on the Eastern Slope designated under Wild and Scenic.

Today, that’s the only river in the state that carries the designation and no river in the vast Colorado River basin is officially Wild and Scenic.

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.

And then there is the fact that designation eliminates the possibility of federal funding for future water projects, which can dampen the enthusiasm of most cities, counties and water districts.

Whatever the reasons for scarcity in Colorado, Pitkin County is ready to lead a Wild and Scenic process for the Crystal River.

“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.”[...]

While today only the Cache la Poudre River has stretches that are designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the BLM is preparing a suitability study on a number of area river stretches.

A final EIS is expected to be released in early 2013 by the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office followed by a record of decision in 2014 for the following rivers and river sections:

• Abrams Creek

• Battlement Creek

• Colorado River — State Bridge to Dotsero

• Colorado River — Glenwood Canyon to approximately 1-mile east of No Name Creek

• Deep Creek — From the BLM/Forest Service land boundary to the Deep Creek ditch diversion

• Deep Creek — From the Deep Creek ditch diversion to the BLM/private land boundary

• Eagle River

• Egeria Creek

• Hack Creek

• Mitchell Creek

• No Name Creek

• Rock Creek

• Thompson Creek

• East Middle Fork Parachute Creek Complex

• East Fork Parachute Creek Complex

For more information on regarding Wild and Scenic suitability on these rivers, search for “Colorado River Valley Draft Resource Management Plan,” which will lead you to a BLM website that contains the draft EIS document.

The BLM is also reviewing a number of stretches on major rivers in Colorado, either for eligibility or suitability, including:

• Animas River

• Dolores River

• San Miguel River

• Gunnison River

• Colorado River

• Blue River

In all, according to Deanna Masteron, a public affairs specialist with the BLM in Lakewood, the BLM is currently analyzing more than 100 segments in Colorado through various land-use plans. The Forest Service also has the ability to analyze rivers for Wild and Scenic designation.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here and here.

Eagle: The town board is moving on adding more water treatment capacity

November 19, 2012


From the Vail Daily (Pam Boyd):

As Eagle stands poised to grow with the new Eagle River Station and Haymeadow developments, the community now needs additional water-treatment capacity to meet potential demand. Tuesday night, the Eagle Town Board began to answer that demand by approving a special-use permit for a new lower basin water-treatment plant. The new plant will be built immediately east — or upstream — from the town’s wastewater-treatment plant located near the confluence of Brush Creek and the Eagle River. Preliminary estimates indicate it will cost around $16 million. The new plant will have an initial capacity of 2.5 million gallons per day and is designed for expansion of up to 5 million gallons per day. It will include two buildings — one covering 32,300 square feet and one covering 1,452 square feet…

During discussion of the plant proposal, Town Board member Joe Knabel asked about scheduling — specifically, the length of the planning period to get the facility up and operational. Eagle Town Engineer Tom Gosoirowski said in all likelihood, the plant is on at least a 30-month schedule to address permitting, financing and 20 months of construction.

Eagle Public Works Director Dusty Walls said that at present, during the summer, Eagle hits the 80 percent capacity mark for its water system, and that’s the point when the state wants towns to begin work on new treatment facilities. Mayor Yuri Kostick said that during the summer, town residents can use as much as 2.3 million gallons of water per day, but during the winter, the number is closer to 500,000.

More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.

Eagle County: Beavers are impacting Brush Creek mitigation ponds

November 13, 2012


From the Eagle Valley Enterprise via Vail Daily (Derek Franz):

The storm ponds are the main concern, however. They are a filtration system for water going back into Brush Creek from the Eagle Ranch development. By flowing from one pond to the next, pollutants such as fertilizers and petroleum are strained from the water before it goes into the creek.

“The beavers had raised the water level of the ponds a little more than a foot over the weekend,” Boyd said last week. “I noticed that some sticks and debris from the bottom of the pond were piled over the grate (where water drained from one pond to the next).” The beavers were damming the outlets of the last two ponds. The final pond is only separated from Brush Creek by a narrow berm.

“At that rate, it wouldn’t be long before the pond water washed out the berm and went straight into the creek,” Boyd said.

The final pond is very clean, but it wouldn’t be that way if the pond above it washed out, as well.

More restoration/reclamation coverage 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 It can also be found at the online bookseller Amazon.

More Colorado River District coverage here.

The Colorado Springs Gazette is sifting through receipts from Colorado Springs Utilities’ water tours

September 16, 2012


From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón):

Other purchases included:

• $140 for 100 zippered pencil cases

• $47 for prizes for a water tour quiz

• $286 to rent two fans to keep participants cool during a lunchtime barbeque at what Utilities calls an SDS warehouse

Utilities defended the trip, saying the water tour gave participants an up-close look at the city’s water system that couldn’t be replicated with charts and graphs or in one day.

“Colorado Springs is not like cities such as Denver or Pueblo, which have local, in-town major waterways. Our community’s vast, complex water system includes 25 reservoirs and dams, more than 200 miles of pipes, four major pump stations, and facilities and infrastructure in 11 counties,” Utilities spokeswoman Patrice Lehermeier said in an email.

“The water tour gives leaders and officials first-hand knowledge of the massive work, equipment, facilities and people it takes to deliver water to Colorado Springs, as well as the ongoing construction of the Southern Delivery System,” she said. “It would be difficult to give people this level of information and insight in such an important investment using another forum. And despite all the talk of pipes and wires, a business, even in utilities, is about building relationships.”

The water tour started about 25 years ago, Lehermeier said.

The most recent tour cost $20,200, not $25,000 as originally reported by Utilities.

More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here.

Drought news: Eagle River Water and Sanitation is going to use Vali Resorts snow-making infrastructure to supplement streamflow in Gore Creek

September 8, 2012


From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

In the agreement signed Aug. 23, the Water District can pump water out of the Eagle River, until Oct. 15, at Dowd Junction via Vail Mountain’s snowmaking pipeline and then through the resort’s on-mountain snowmaking system and into Mill Creek. In return, Vail Mountain will have access to as much as 100 acre-feet of water in Black Lakes, atop Vail Pass, for snowmaking through Dec. 31.

The Water District wants to pump the water through Vail Mountain’s snowmaking system and into Mill Creek because it will help flows in Gore Creek, which is experiencing low streamflows that could negatively affect river health.

Rick Sackbauer, chairman of the Water District’s board of directors, told the Vail Town Council Tuesday night the agreement is “historical.”[...]

He said the movement of the water — which makes a loop by going through Vail’s snowmaking pipes from Dowd Junction to the Water District building in Lionshead, and then up through the resort’s on-mountain snowmaking system before entering Mill Creek near Manor Vail and eventually Gore Creek and on to the Eagle River — helps Gore Creek’s overall health.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

Gypsum: LEDE Reservoir enlargement costs are up to just over $5 million

August 19, 2012


From the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz):

LEDE has a current capacity of 473 acre feet of water. The latest plans are to expand it to 947 acre feet. The expansion will submerge some small wetland areas that are around the reservoir at its present size and the town has plans to compensate for that loss by replacing the wetland areas with new ones. Those plans are mainly what need approval from the Corps of Engineers and it’s unclear if that will happen.

“We might want to get some other plans in the works if it looks like they’re going to fight us on these,” said water attorney Ramsey Kropf. “Then again, they might fight us on anything we propose.”

Costs were also bumped up in 2010 when the latest plans for the expansion were approved by Gypsum Town Council. Council members opted to expand the reservoir to 947 acre feet instead of 680 acre feet as originally planned. That budget presented the town with a $680,000 funding shortfall. However, the larger option was a much better value per acre foot.

At that point, the project was estimated to cost about $4.5 million. Now that number is just over $5 million, leaving a difference of $536,000 to scratch up.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Restoration: Gilman mine mitigation helps clean up the Eagle River

July 2, 2012


From the Summit Daily News (Randy Wyrick):

After many years of Eagle Mine cleanup — cleanup of contaminants such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc — the river is pretty healthy, [Melissa MacDonald] said.

“It’s pretty good. It meets the existing standard for the river,” said MacDonald, executive director of the Eagle River Watershed Council. “We’d like a little higher standard, but currently they’re doing a good job.”

“They” are CBS, the media company, formerly Viacom. They acquired the Eagle Mine in the mid-1980s as part of some other deal. What they acquired was a Superfund site, designating the Eagle Mine as one of the nation’s most polluted places.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

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 or call (970) 827-5406.

More Colorado River basin coverage here and here.

Drought news: ‘We’re going to operate our system in a way that’s protective of fish’ — Linn Brooks #CODrought

July 2, 2012


From the Vail Business Journal (Bob Berwyn):

If and when streamflows drop below certain levels, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District could be forced to enact strict water-use limits on top of ongoing conservation efforts, according to district general manager Linn Brooks…

The community water system also includes the two Black Lakes reservoirs, near Vail Pass, as well as Homestake Reservoir and also has access to water in Wolford Mountain Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir. The water in the reservoirs is used primarily for augmentation, which means when the district removes water from Gore Creek and the Eagle River, it can replace that water from the reservoirs to compensate downstream users.

This year, the Homestake Reservoir water is not available because the reservoir has been drained for repairs. That complicates the overall picture a bit, but in any case, that augmentation water, even though it’s destined for downstream users, can help sustain stream flows in Eagle County.

For now, flows are tracking close to where they were during the 2002 drought, which at the time was characterized as a 500-year event by some water experts. Gore Creek flows are a little lower than in 2002, at about 20 to 30 percent of average for this time of year. High in the drainage, at a gage in the wilderness was reading only at 11 percent of normal…

A somewhat normal monsoon season, with intermittent rains from mid-July to mid- or late August would likely sustain flows enough to stave off the most drastic conservation measures this year. But summer rains don’t compensate for a lack of winter snow. Snowpack is the key for sustaining base flows throughout the summer. “Thunderstorms can come in and drop a lot of moisture, but the ground can’t absorb all that water. It surges through the system and gives a short-lived benefit. A good rainstorm can give a week of propped up rainflows, she said…

The district uses water from both Gore Creek and the Eagle River, as well as a handful of wells, and has the ability to shunt water in different directions through a web of pipes to meet the needs — and address potential shortages in different parts of the system…

The district also monitors stream temperatures. If the climb to a point deemed dangerous to fish, that could also trigger operational changes. “We’re going to operate our system in a way that’s protective of fish,” she emphasized.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

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

June 10, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

More Front Range Water Council coverage here and here.

Edwards: Eagle River Valley State of the River public meeting tomorrow

May 29, 2012


Here’s the release from the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):

for water management in the Eagle River Valley – a place where life is sustained by the Eagle River and its tributaries.

The National Integrated Drought Information System has declared a severe drought in Eagle County and an extreme drought in part of the Colorado River Basin. As of May 24, snowpack levels in the basin stood at 11 percent of average.

The public can learn more about current drought conditions, water supply, and streamflow forecasts at the annual Eagle River Valley State of the River public meeting set for 5:30-8 p.m. May 30 at the Berry Creek Middle School auditorium in Edwards. The event is free and is hosted by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Colorado River District, and the Eagle River Watershed Council.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a casual reception with light dinner snacks and soft drinks. The evening program begins at 6 p.m. with Mage Hultstrand from the Natural Resources Conservation Service presenting about this winter’s record low snowpack, current river conditions, and streamflow forecasts.

John Mark Seelig with Lakota Guides, John Packer with Fly Fishing Outfitters, and Linn Brooks with Eagle River Water and Sanitation District will discuss plans to mitigate drought impacts locally from a rafting, fishing, and public water system provider perspective. Kendall Bakich with Colorado Parks and Wildlife will address the possibility of voluntary fishing closures being instituted locally.

The meeting also will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Colorado River District, which was formed in 1937 to protect Western Colorado water against diversions across the mountains to the Front Range. Chris Treese will talk about the Colorado River District’s 75-year history, the statewide Water 2012 celebration, and update the public on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which was signed in February by Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, Eagle Park Reservoir Company, and Eagle County.

The program concludes with an update on Eagle River Valley waterways – Gore Creek, Eagle River, and the Colorado River. Brooks, Melissa Macdonald with Eagle River Watershed Council, and Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney will participate in a panel discussion about recent and planned initiatives that aim to improve water quality and stream health in the Eagle River Valley.

For more information, contact Eagle River Water & Sanitation District at 970-477-5457 or the Eagle River Watershed Council at 970-827-5406.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

Red Cliff is back in the water and wastewater business

May 13, 2012


From the Vail Daily:

According to a release from the district, Red Cliff and the district mutually decided in mid-April to end the operations agreement and arranged for the contract to expire May 12. Red Cliff’s former and current Board of Trustees supported the decision.

“In 2007, the district brought industry expertise and financial assistance to improve Red Cliff’s drinking water facility and treatment processes,” district director of operations Todd Fessenden said. “We helped bring the new wastewater treatment plant to fruition and upgraded other system components. We agree with Red Cliff that now is a good time to transition to a new operator to run the town’s systems.”

The district provided technical expertise and support to Red Cliff while the town successfully secured funding for a new wastewater treatment plant, which was subsequently built and put into operation in October 2010. Some of the funding Red Cliff secured required upgrades to the town water distribution system, including installation of water meters at every residence and business in town. District staff completed that project between 2007 and 2009 and also coordinated a rehabilitation of Red Cliff’s drinking water facility in 2008.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs Utilities’ Steve Berry: ‘In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered’

March 5, 2012


Last week, the day before the Statewide Roundtable Summit, Western Resource Advocates, et. al., released a report titled, “Meeting Future Water Needs in the Arkansas Basin.” Colorado Springs and Pueblo are taking a hard look at the report, according to this article from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

There may be a question whether water providers accept the figures used in the reports. “Colorado Springs Utilities was asked to peer review the draft version, and made extensive and substantial comments on it. In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered, and many of our suggested changes or corrections were not made,” said Steve Berry, spokesman for Utilities. The largest amounts of water, and presumably the largest conservation and reuse savings, come from Colorado Springs.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works is also reviewing the final report for accuracy, said Alan Ward, water resources manager…

The environmental groups say a combination of projects already on the books — conservation, reuse and temporary ag-urban transfers — could provide as much as 140,000 acre-feet, more than enough to meet the needs. Those numbers are being examined by urban water planners, who say the savings might not be attainable. “In general, we were unable to verify or recreate most of the numbers cited in their report, and their estimates for conservation and reuse are significantly greater than what our water conservation experts have calculated as realistic,” Berry said…

When asked how conservation savings would be applied to new supplies, a practice cities find risky, Jorge Figueroa, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates, said they could be put into “savings accounts” for future use. When asked where the water would be stored, he cited the T-Cross reservoir site on Williams Creek in El Paso County that is part of the Southern Delivery System plan…

Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project, said the group supports [the Southern Delivery System]. Because the project already is under way, the groups look at SDS as a key way to fill the gap. The report also supports programs like Super Ditch as ways to temporarily transfer agricultural water to cities without permanently drying up farmland.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at a report from the Northwest Council of Governments, “Water and Its Relationship to the Economies of the Headwaters Counties,” from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

The report, released in January at a Denver water conference, takes a fresh look at the critical importance to the economy of water in West Slope rivers, and why Colorado leaders may want to take careful thought before making future transmountain diversion policy decisions. Visit the NWCCOG website for the full 95-page report.

“This report makes an important contribution to the on-going dialogue about adverse economic impacts associated with losing water by focusing attention on Eagle, Grand, Gunnison, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties,” said Jean Coley Townsend, the author of the report. “This has never been done before. The report provides an important counterbalance to earlier studies that show economic impacts of losing water from the Eastern Plains.”

Balancing the supply and demand of water could be the State’s most pressing issue. The report does not take issue with Front Range municipal or Eastern Plains agricultural water users — all parties have important and worthy concerns and points of view — but is meant as a thorough review of water as an economic driver of headwaters economic development.

The report provides a balance to the existing solid body of work that measures the potential economic effects of less water on the Front Range and the Eastern Plains and the loss of agriculture in those parts of the state.

“If we … are going to solve our Statewide water supply shortage challenges there must first be statewide mutual respect and true understanding of each other’s water supply challenges,” said Zach Margolis, Town of Silverthorne Utility Manager. “The report is a remarkable compilation of the West Slope’s water obligations and limitations as well as the statewide economic value of water in the headwater counties of Colorado.”

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

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

February 22, 2012


From the Associated Press via

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

Tuesday: Two Eagle River area utilities and Eagle county will be the first entities to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

February 18, 2012


Here’s the release from Eagle County (Diane Johnson/Kris Friel):

Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company will gather at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Eagle County Building to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. Five years in the making, the agreement between Denver Water and 41 Western Slope water providers, local governments and ski resort operators ensures statewide cooperation on Colorado River water issues and is the broadest in scope of its kind in state history.

The signing in Eagle will be the first to take place in the state as the agreement makes its way from the Colorado River headwaters to the Utah state line. The draft document is available on the Colorado River District website at

Focused on cooperation, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement brings traditional water foes together as partners for responsible water development benefiting both Denver Water and the Western Slope. According to its authors, it prevents future transmountain diversions from the Eagle River Basin, achieves better environmental health in the Colorado River Basin, promotes high-quality recreational use, and improves economics for many cities, counties and businesses impacted by the river.

The Eagle County entities were instrumental in both initiating and completing the complicated negotiations that ultimately created the agreement. “The cooperative effort represents a new way of doing business when it comes to water,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper during the April 28, 2011 announcement of the agreement. “It shows that water solutions must be crafted from a statewide perspective. We hope and expect that this process will ripple across Colorado to other areas of water conflict.”

In addition to its benefits for Denver Water and the Western Slope, the agreement will trigger a major water-sharing and conservation arrangement between Denver Water and Aurora Water and water providers in the South Denver Metro Area.

The agreement focuses on enhancing the environmental river health in much of the Colorado River Basin and its tributaries upstream of Grand Junction, and supporting many Western Slope communities and water providers to improve the quality and quantity of water through new municipal water projects and river management initiatives.

Locally, benefits to the Eagle River Basin include provisions that preclude Denver Water and any entity served by Denver from developing any future water projects in the Eagle River Basin without the approval of the Eagle County entities. Additionally, a Shoshone outage protocol will ensure sufficient flows in the Colorado River through Eagle County during times when the Shoshone Power Plant may not be operational.

Supporters agree that the historic agreement will lead to better management and protection of the Colorado River and its tributaries for years to come. Representatives of the Eagle County entities will be on hand to discuss the agreement in more detail at Tuesday’s meeting. The event will be broadcast live on ecotv18 as well as streamed live and archived for future viewing at

From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

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

The Eagle County entities are among parties that announced the agreement last year with Denver Water, but the parties still have to ratify it. The Eagle County entities would be the first to do so.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

Vail: Eagle River Watershed Council’s Water Wise presentation tonight

January 25, 2012


From the Vail Daily:

Allen Best, a former Vail-area journalist, will speak at the Eagle River Watershed Council’s Water Wise at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Route 6 Café in Eagle-Vail. His topic is “Deciphering the Science: One Journalist’s Take on Climate Change and Water in the West.”

More education coverage here.

Climax Mine to re-open this year, plans in place to protect water quality in reservoirs used for augmentation and supply

January 15, 2012


From the Vail Daily (Laura Glendenning):

The Eagle Park Reservoir wasn’t always so beautiful, though — it was once a pond that collected highly acidic tailings from the nearby molybdenum mining and milling operation known as the Climax Mine. Molybdenum is a metal used as an addition to steels, irons and nonferrous alloys…

A Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology report, “Mined Land Reclamation in Colorado,” cites a 1993 agreement between Vail Associates and the Climax Molybdenum Co. to complete a tailing-removal project and reclamation of the Oxide Pond to a fresh-water reservoir. Water attorney Glenn Porzak said Vail Associates later paid a total of $6 million for the cleanup, with another $6 million paid by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and the Colorado River Water Conservation District. Those groups make up the Eagle Park Reservoir Co., formed in 1998. The reservoir is now the major in-basin water supply for augmentation water — basically water that is used to replenish stream water — for all of those water entities, Porzak said — “it’s the motherlode.”[...]

Fast forward to 2012, and the Climax Mine, now owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, is reopening its molybdenum-mining operation, except this time around, the Eagle Park Reservoir is off limits as a tailings dumping site. The Eagle Park Reservoir Co., which includes board members from Vail Resorts and the local water authorities, came to an agreement with Climax outlining a water-quality-monitoring plan that was recently reviewed and approved by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety…

[Eric Kinneberg, spokesman for Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold] said the Climax Mine plans to start production this year, but he couldn’t release an exact date just yet. He said there will be more information on the scheduled start released with the Freeport-McMoRan fourth-quarter financial results announcement Thursday. Production from the Climax molybdenum mine is expected to ramp up to a rate of 20 million pounds per year during 2013, Kinneberg said, and depending on market conditions, may be increased to 30 million pounds per year. The company is currently in the process of hiring about 70 more employees, for a total of 350 employees, to work at the mine, he said.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

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

December 25, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Gypsum: Flint Eagle LLC hopes to test geothermal potential of the Rio Grande rift at airport site

December 9, 2011


From the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz):

Lee Robinson of Flint Eagle hopes to find water in the Rio Grande Rift that’s hot enough to use for heating or energy. The concept of going that deep is a relatively new one. Most geothermal resources that are used today are much closer to the earth’s surface.

Since he first approached the town of Gypsum, the permitting has become more involved than initially predicted. Mineral and water rights had to be determined first, and now Robinson is working with the Department of Water Resources for permits that clarify and stipulate all the procedures that will be used for the well.

“Right now it’s a paper process,” Robinson said. “It details how the operation will be conducted but there is nothing that is controversial. Our objective now is to test the volume, chemistry and temperature.” Robinson hopes to get a draft permit with the first quarter of 2012. If that happens, he would be drilling the exploratory well within a year.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Dennis Gelvin retires from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Linn Brooks promoted to General Manager

November 22, 2011


Here’s the release about Dennis Gelvin’s retirement.

From email from the district (Diane Johnson):

The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District board promoted Linn Brooks to General Manager at their November 17 meeting. Brooks takes over immediately from 18-year GM, Dennis Gelvin, who is retiring.

Board chairman Rick Sackbauer noted Brooks’ readiness for the position, in part due to Gelvin’s succession planning efforts. Brooks, a 12-year employee, has been the assistant general manager for four years.

Brooks has worked closely with local governments on water and wastewater matters. “I’ve learned a lot about water management from Linn. She is a professional,” said Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney, who also serves on the board of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “I can’t imagine a better leader for the district for the future.”

Originally hired as the Staff Engineer, Brooks developed a proactive approach to upgrade and replace most of the water and sewer mains in Vail Village during Vail’s redevelopment and streetscape improvements. Later, as Technical Services Director, she initiated a comprehensive upgrade to the District’s information technology services. Once she became AGM, water and wastewater operations also came under her purview.

“We will all benefit not only from her substantial expertise, but the institutional knowledge she brings to her new position,” said Avon Town Manager Larry Brooks (no relation). “Linn’s appointment as General Manager is an excellent fit for the ERWSD. We are fortunate to have someone of her caliber in this position.”

Brooks has successfully navigated local and federal permitting processes to develop water system infrastructure and has been instrumental in raising awareness of non-point source pollution and its effects on the aquatic environment in Gore Creek and Eagle River. She brings stakeholders together, looking beyond just District interests, to address mutual issues such as water quality and wilderness legislation.

Brooks looks forward to sustained challenges associated with a changing regulatory environment and providing high quality water and wastewater services during difficult economic conditions.

“I’m grateful to the board for its confidence in me,” said Brooks, “Dennis Gelvin leaves an organization that is a model for how good government should work. We have a great team at the District that is positioned to continue that legacy.”

More coverage from the Vail Daily:

Brooks, a 12-year employee, has been the assistant general manager for four years.

Brooks has worked closely with local governments on water and wastewater matters.

“I’ve learned a lot about water management from Linn. She is a professional,” said Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney, who also serves on the board of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “I can’t imagine a better leader for the district for the future.”

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

Aurora, Denver and the South Metro Water Supply Authority embark on the WISE project to share facilities and reuse wastewater treatment plant effluent

October 11, 2011


Here’s the release from the partners.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Eagle River watershed: Brush Creek restoration success, more macro and micro-organisms, more trout, better water quality

October 2, 2011


From The Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz):

“What we needed and have now is a self-sustaining ecosystem,” said Brynly Marsh, the Adam’s Rib Golf Course superintendent. “We needed things like spawning beds, places for little fish to hide from the bigger ones and deeper pools.” Brush Creek now has more macro and micro-organisms. In this case, macro-organisms are basically insects, or any living thing that can be seen by the naked eye. Micro-organisms are living things that can’t be seen by the naked eye. When all those organisms flourish, so do fish. “The hawks and eagles are also happier,” Cranston said.

When the improvement project started, part of the problem was cattle grazing that harmed the riparian habitat. The first step was to end the grazing along the 3.6 miles of Brush Creek owned by Adam’s Rib before Flywater even came into the picture…

With the cattle gone and Flywater on board, Adam’s Rib developers set to work on their stretch of Brush Creek. They built a total of 66 “structures” in the last two fall seasons. A “structure” is a stream enhancement, which could refer to a reinforced bank or man-made pools, among other things…

The main goal of the in-stream structures is to slow the creek down and create pools for fish to congregate. Boulders were purchased from local excavators to make the structures, so the rock is basically native, Cranston said. Some of the structures are reinforced banks to stave off erosion. Others are more like shallow dams that cover the width of the creek and some entail a grouping of rocks to make a small pool. As many as three structures can be found in one short stretch of the creek.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

Homestake Reservoir is closed until October 2013

September 22, 2011


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The closure means that no water will be brought over through the Homestake pipeline into Turquoise Lake next year, as work is conducted on the gate. The gate is located in the middle of the reservoir. That should not have a significant effect on the operations of either Aurora and Colorado Springs in the Arkansas River basin. Both utilities have high water storage levels. Homestake accounts for about 15 percent of Aurora’s storage and 10 percent of Colorado Springs’ storage.

“We were 90 percent full as of last week, and we’ll be bringing more water over to keep Spinney, Aurora and Quincy reservoirs more full than usual,” [Greg Baker, spokesman for Aurora Water] said.

Aurora has a 2-3 year supply of water in storage and will rely on its newly completed Prairie Waters Project to fully reuse as much water as possible. Aurora also will be managing its Arkansas Valley water — from rights purchased when farms were dried up in Otero, Crowley and Lake counties — more closely, Baker said…

For Colorado Springs, the situation is different. It relies heavily on the Colorado River basin for the majority of its water, but has sources other than Homestake, including Twin Lakes, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and the Blue River diversion. Homestake provides about 14 percent of the annual supply. “We’ll try to bring over water from Homestake when we are able, but, yes, we expect it to be drawn down for a year,” [Gary Bostrom, chief of water services for Colorado Springs Utilities] said.

More Homestake Reservoir coverage here.

Arkansas River basin: Water year 2011 has yielded the second largest import of water through the Boustead Tunnel since project water started moving in the 1970s

August 19, 2011


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Fry-Ark Project has brought over 98,640 acre-feet of water this year, about 4,500 more acre-feet than was projected in May, when allocations were made…

Fort Lyon Canal, the largest ditch in the valley, will get an additional 1,700 acre-feet. The water comes on top of nearly 60,000 acre-feet already being delivered to farmers through the Fry-Ark Project. Late runoff and a heavy snowpack contributed to the second-largest import of Fry-Ark water since diversions through the Boustead Tunnel began in the 1970s…

Because Arkansas River flows stayed above 700 cubic feet per second through Aug. 15, no Fry-Ark water was needed to maintain the Upper Arkansas voluntary flow program, Vaughan added…

Basinwide, more than 200,000 acre-feet of water has been imported this year through transmountain tunnels and ditches, well above the average of about 136,000 acre-feet, said Pat Edelmann, of the U.S. Geological Survey. Twin Lakes has imported about 62,000 acre-feet and continues to move water. The Homestake Project has brought over 32,000 acre-feet.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

The Front Range Water Council plans to spend $600,000 to study Colorado River basin supplies

August 18, 2011


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Front Range Water Council is planning to hire Grand River Consulting Corp. for $600,000 over two years to work on Colorado River issues that affect the state’s largest water providers. The Pueblo water board’s share will be $36,000 each year, or $72,000 total. The board approved the contract at its Tuesday meeting.

The council represents Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Twin Lakes Reservoir & Canal Co., the Northern Water Conservancy District and Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Denver and Northern — the largest water providers — would pay 20 percent of the costs of the contract, while the others each have a 12 percent share. Combined, the groups provide municipal and industrial water to 80 percent of the state’s population, using about 6 percent of the total water supply. Agriculture still uses most of the water in Colorado…

Up until now, the council members have been relying on their own staff to provide input to state planning on Colorado River issues, but the tasks have grown so much that full-time staff is needed to work on the issues, said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board…

Among the projects of the group are:

Day-to-day management of a technical work group among the members of the council.

A water bank study to look at how to prevent curtailment of municipal diversions in the event of a Colorado River call.

Input into nonconsumptive needs studies of the Colorado River, which are primarily driven by the state roundtable process.

Working with the Bureau of Reclamation on its Colorado River basin supply and demand study. The study is looking at water availability in all seven states.

A strategic plan for the Front Range Water Council.

Coordinating work with the CWCB, including the state’s ongoing Colorado River water availability study and compact compliance study.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Restoration: Aurora and the U.S. Forest Service are partnering on forest restoration near the Hayman burn

August 11, 2011


From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

Aurora is joining efforts by the National Forest Foundation, Vail Resorts Inc. and the U.S. Forest Service to restore some of the 215 square miles burned by the 2002 Hayman fire. The Forest Service said Thursday that Aurora Water’s investment would help leverage other funds from private partners, including a $200,000 challenge grant from The Gates Family Foundation.

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

The Aurora City Council in late July approved agreements with the National Forest Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service that will invigorate an existing partnership including Vail Resorts and other partners. The investment from Aurora Water will help leverage funds from eight other private partners including a $200,000 challenge grant from The Gates Family Foundation.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Harris Sherman helped announce the partnership today, calling it a key to protecting watersheds essential to Aurora’s water supply and emphasizing the importance of partnerships between the Forest Service and other entities. “When we turn on our faucets, we tap water from our forests,” Sherman said. “The National Forests provide more than 70 percent of public water systems that serve millions of Colorado citizens. Improving the health and resiliency of the Pike and San Isabel National Forests in areas critical for delivering water to the City of Aurora benefits the land, the water and the tens of thousands of Aurora Water customers,” he added.

“The quality and reliability of our water supply is dependent upon forest health,” said Aurora Water director Mark Pifher. “A healthy forest is how nature keeps sediment from entering the watershed. Aurora and Denver Water are currently spending millions of dollars to dredge Strontia Spring Reservoir as a result of past fires. Failure to take action now would result in more costly measures in the future.”

More coverage from Sarah Castellanos writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

The investment, which came from the coffers of Aurora Water, will help plant more than 200,000 trees, revegetate more than 13 miles of riverbank with natural foliage, rehabilitate the landscape and improve the habitat for fish and the endangered Montane Skipper Butterfly. The area is part of the South Platte River Basin, from which Aurora residents receive most of their water. Because of Aurora’s donation, the Gates Family Foundation is also donating $200,000 toward the restoration project.

More coverage from Carlos Illescas writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Aurora has pledged to help restore 45,000 acres from the Hayman fire. It also plans to seek $200,000 from the private sector, including a grant from The Gates Family Foundation. In all, the project to restore the burn area is estimated at $4.6 million. More than 200,000 ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and other varieties of trees will be planted. Also, 13 miles of riverbank will be revegetated with native foliage.

More restoration coverage here.

Eagle County water providers’ consumer confidence reports available online

July 26, 2011


From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

In Eagle County, many municipalities provide their own water supplies to their citizens, and the county’s largest suppliers — the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority — are reporting high marks in their recently released 2010 consumer confidence reports. “Managing the public water system is about protecting public health,” Eagle River Water and Sanitation District Water Division Manager Todd Fessenden said. “It’s important to inform people about their water supply.”[...]

The consumer confidence reports are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and they show lists of the various contaminants found in local water supplies. Each public water supplier is required by law to produce the annual reports — something the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water, does not require of the bottled water industry. The contaminants shown in the reports are the contaminants that were detected in that water supply during thousands of water quality tests that are performed over the course of any year. Even the cleanest of water supplies will show some levels of some contaminants. “The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk,” the 2010 Water District report says…

The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority reports are available online at
The town of Eagle’s report is available at, under “news and information.”
The town of Minturn’s report is available at
The town of Gypsum’s report is available at, under “document center.”

More water treatment coverage here.

Aurora: Homestake Reservoir will be closed to the public and drained this fall for three year maintenance project

July 16, 2011

A picture named homestakereservoir2010aurorawater.jpg

Here’s the release from Aurora Water (Greg Baker):

The Homestake Dam and Reservoir in Eagle and Pitkin Counties, Colorado, will be undergoing scheduled maintenance in 2012 and 2013 that will impact recreational users of the facilities. The work involves regular, but necessary maintenance to help safeguard a valuable resource and ensure its viability for years to come. Homestake Reservoir, completed in 1968, is operated jointly by Colorado Springs Utilities and Aurora Water under the Homestake Water Project. To ensure the public’s safety during construction activity, access to the reservoir and the dam will be restricted during this maintenance period.

“We understand that this area is a popular recreational amenity, and we ask for your patience and understanding as we work as expeditiously as possible,” stated Greg Baker, spokesperson for the Homestake Project. “The construction season in the mountains is short, so we will make every attempt to be efficient with our time.”

Starting in September 2011, admittance to Homestake Reservoir will be closed below the East Fork Trailhead, just prior to the dam access road on Homestake Road. The top five feet of the dam crest will be removed to accommodate the large equipment needed for this project. Upon completion of the maintenance work in late 2013, the dam crest will be restored to its original height.

The bridge on Homestake Road immediately beyond the turnoff from Highway 24 will be replaced between October and December 2011. A temporary bridge will be in place to accommodate local traffic. Traffic will be directed to this detour, so it is recommended that visitors watch for traffic signs and be alert.

In 2012, the reservoir will be drained to accommodate repairs to the gate and intake structure for the Homestake Tunnel, which carries the water from Homestake to Turquoise Lake in Lake County. Natural flows to Homestake Creek will be maintained during this time. The U.S. Forest Service, in cooperation with a variety of partner groups, will be performing restoration and enhancement work, including fish habitat improvement, hazard tree removal, and campsite rehabilitation along Homestake Creek downstream from the reservoir.

From 2012 to 2013, milling and paving will occur on the dam’s asphalt face. Asphalt faced dams, while common in Europe, are unique in the U.S. Since the facing was first installed in 1968, it is almost 45 years of age and is due for a replacement.

Water collection in the reservoir will begin again in April 2013, though how long it will take to refill Homestake will depend on snowpack and runoff conditions. Restoration work around the dam should be completed in 2014, with full public access being restored by spring of that year.

Both Colorado Springs Utilities and Aurora Water will carefully monitor their other water sources to ensure that adequate supplies are available to meet customer demand. Aurora Water will maximize its storage in the Arkansas and South Platte basins, as well as utilize its recently completed Prairie Waters system. Colorado Springs Utilities does not anticipate impacts to its ability to deliver water to customers during the construction phase. During construction, and as needed, Colorado Springs Utilities will bring its share of Homestake Reservoir storage through the Homestake Tunnel to East Slope storage facilities.

Updates and notices on the Homestake Dam and Reservoir maintenance and repair project will be posted on websites of both Aurora Water ( or Colorado Springs Utilities (

More coverage from the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

The reservoir will be drained for repairs to the gate and intake structure for the Homestake Tunnel, which carries the water from the reservoir to Turquoise Lake in Lake County. Contractors will replace the asphalt facing on the dam, which is 45 years old. “Homestake has an asphalt faced dam which is unusual here but very common in Europe,” Baker said. “It makes it a little more difficult to find qualified contractors for.” While this work is done, the U.S. Forest Service will work on fish habitat improvements, removal of hazardous trees and campsite rehabilitation in the area…

The total cost of construction of the renovations is $35.5 million, with Aurora paying $17.5 million over four years and Colorado Springs paying the second half. Money to fund the project will come out of Aurora Water’s operating budget…

While Homestake is offline, the city will continue collecting water from Prairie Waters, the drought-hardening project that came online last year. “Now that we have Prairie Waters online, it’s about the equivalent of what we take out of Homestake,” Baker said.

More Homestake Reservoir coverage here and here.

Cool photo of the week: Rainbows splashing into the Black Lakes during an Eagle River Water and Sanitation District stocking operation

July 9, 2011

A picture named rainbowssplashingintoblacklake.png

Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a photo of the stocking operation from Diane Johnson at the district. Here’s the release. Here’s an excerpt:

On July 6, the District coordinated the second stocking of 2,500 pounds of 10-16 inch long rainbow trout into the two Black Lakes, located adjacent to Interstate 70 near the Vail Pass exit. The first 2,500 pounds of trout were stocked on June 21. The fishery supplying the trout says the 5,000 pounds equates to about 2,000 fish.

The trout are raised by a Boulder based fishery that is licensed and health inspected by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW). The DOW annually tests the fishery’s trout to assure each lot is healthy and free of disease.

The District stocks the lakes annually with “catchable rainbow trout” under the terms of a 1986 agreement with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. The two cold water reservoirs are operated as part of the water supply system developed by the District, which serves the Town of Vail and by contract, the communities of EagleVail through Cordillera.

At various times of the year, the District releases water from the two lakes which flows down Black Gore Creek and into Gore Creek, which runs throughout the Town of Vail. The released water augments Gore Creek streamflows and can be used per District water rights. The Colorado DOW partners with the District to operate Black Lake 2 in support of fishing, wildlife habitat, and recreation.

More Gore Creek watershed coverage here and here.


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