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‘As the population of Colorado grows, so will the tension on water supplies and water quality’ — Kate BurchenalNovember 27, 2013
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 http://www.erwc.org.
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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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for one or both days!
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.”
IS CLOUD-SEEDING EFFECTIVE?
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.”
The next Eagle River Watershed Council ‘Waterwise Wednesday’ (April 3) features Nolan Doesken and a focus on drought #codroughtMarch 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
The Dusty Boot
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.
Avon: Denver Water’s Bill Bates to discuss the relationship between water users on the Front Range and the Western Slope, March 11March 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…
Walking Mountains Science Center
More education coverage here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s the link to the web page where you can order a copy. Here’s the pitch:
The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District:
A Story About the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West
The Colorado River is one of America’s wildest rivers in terms of terrain and natural attributes, but is actually modest in terms of water quantity – the Mississippi surpasses the Colorado’s annual flow in a matter of days. Yet the Colorado provides some or all of the domestic water for some 35 million Southwesterners, most of whom live outside of the river’s natural course in rapidly growing desert cities. It fully or partially irrigates four-million acres of desert land that produces much of America’s winter fruits and vegetables. It also provides hundreds of thousands of people with recreational opportunities. To put a relatively small river like the Colorado to work, however, has resulted in both miracles and messes: highly controlled use and distribution systems with multiplying problems and conflicts to work out, historically and into the future.
Water Wranglers is the story of the Colorado River District’s first seventy-five years, using imagination, political shrewdness, legal facility, and appeals to moral rightness beyond legal correctness to find balance among the various entities competing for the use of the river’s water. It is ultimately the story of a minority seeking equity, justice, and respect under democratic majority rule – and willing to give quite a lot to retain what it needs.
The Colorado River District was created in 1937 with a dual mission: to protect the interests of the state of Colorado in the river’s basin and to defend local water interests in Western Colorado – a region that produces 70 percent of the river’s total water but only contains 10 percent of the state’s population.
To order the book, visit the Wolverine Publishing website at http://wolverinepublishing.com/water-wranglers. It can also be found at the online bookseller Amazon.
More Colorado River District coverage here.
Drought news: Eagle River Water and Sanitation is going to use Vali Resorts snow-making infrastructure to supplement streamflow in Gore CreekSeptember 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.
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.
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.
Colorado River: The Eagle River Watershed Council is embarking on a study of the river through Eagle County #CORiverJuly 2, 2012
From the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz):
The Eagle River Watershed Council is now beginning a project with the county and Colorado State University to fill in those blanks. “We were updating the Eagle River watershed plan and discovered there wasn’t much scientific data for Eagle County’s stretch of the Colorado River,” said Melissa Macdonald, ERWC’s executive director. “We are essentially doing an inventory of the river to get a baseline of data that will help us prioritize future projects there.”[...]
ERWC is beginning its separate project to collect data on the Colorado River. “Ideally we would already have the baseline data before coming out with the new watershed plan but we’ll accommodate it somehow after the study comes out,” Simonton said. “The study might affirm what the plan recommends or it might trigger a future amendment to the plan. In any instance it will be very beneficial.”
The timing of ERWC’s baseline study is also appropriate now that Eagle County Open Space is acquiring more public access points along a river corridor that was previously isolated by private property…
ERWC has already received a $30,000 grant from the Colorado Basin Roundtable for the Colorado River study and applied for much more grant money at the Roundtable’s meeting in Glenwood Springs on Monday…
Macdonald said RiverFest 2012 will be celebrating two of the county’s new public access points on the Colorado River with a ribbon-cutting on Aug. 11. The event doubles as a fund-raiser for ERWC, featuring guided float trips and dinner for $75 per person or just $40 for the dinner. For more information, visit http://erwc.org/index.php/about/events-and-volunteer-opportunities/events/riverfest-2012/ or call (970) 827-5406.
Drought news: ‘We’re going to operate our system in a way that’s protective of fish’ — Linn Brooks #CODroughtJuly 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.
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.
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.