“I have been proud to work for years to ensure the [support for] the Arkansas Valley Conduit” — Sen. Mark Udall

July 25, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A draft federal energy and water funding bill includes an additional $90 million for projects such as the Arkansas Valley Conduit, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, said Thursday. The Senate appropriations committee approved the bill, which contains a provision supported by both senators that explicitly makes data collection and design work eligible for funding through these accounts. It will help ensure the Arkansas Valley Conduit is eligible for these funds and sends a clear signal to the Bureau of Reclamation that the conduit is a priority project.

The board of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, conduit sponsor, was dismayed earlier this year when it learned only $500,000 was budgeted for the conduit next year. It is hoping to get at least $3 million for continuing data and design tasks that will lead to construction of the $400 million conduit.

The conduit is the final piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, authorized in 1962. When complete, the 130-mile pipeline will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.

“For more than five decades, folks in Southeastern Colorado have been waiting for the federal government to fulfill its promise to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

That’s far too long for these communities to wait for a reliable source of clean drinking water,” Bennet said.

“I have been proud to work for years to ensure the federal government supports the Arkansas Valley Conduit. This funding brings the people of Southeastern Colorado one step closer to having a clean, safe and reliable source of water,” Udall said.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit funding here and here.


SDS construction reaches Colorado Springs ahead of schedule and under budget — The Colorado Springs Gazette

July 24, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Emily Donovan):

Huge pipes being tunneled underground near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Constitution Avenue is the first big sign after almost two decades of work to increase the water available to the Colorado Springs area by a third…

Pipeline construction at the busy intersection is ahead of schedule, expected to be complete in September rather than November, said SDS spokesperson Janet Rummel…

A $125 million facility that will be able to process 50 million gallons of water a day, the treatment plant on the east side of Colorado Springs is halfway constructed, also ahead of schedule. Construction began in March 2013 and will be finished in fall of 2015. The plant is expected to put out drinking water in April 2016…

SDS construction is estimated to cost $847 million – $147 million less than the original estimation in 2009.

Rummel said money was saved by asking engineers to make designs that would be cost-effective without damaging drinking water quality, like keeping every part of the water treatment plant under the same roof instead of separate buildings.

This means SDS will cause less of a utilities rate increase for CSU customers than originally expected in 2009…

“This is the future of Colorado Springs,” said Jay Hardison, CSU water treatment plant project manager.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


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

July 16, 2014


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jim Pokrandt):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Pokrandt is Colorado Basin Roundtable Chair.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


SDS: There is no Plan B — Colorado Springs Business Journal

June 29, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Colorado Springs Business Journal (John Hazlehurst):

CSU’s ongoing billion-dollar bet is the Southern Delivery System. Scheduled to go online in 2016, SDS will convey water from Pueblo Reservoir via a 66-inch-diameter underground pipeline to Colorado Springs. It will expand the city’s raw water delivery capacity by an eventual 55 million gallons per day (MGD), a nearly 50-percent increase in system capacity…

“What we’re hoping for is a record snowpack,” CSU Chief Financial Officer Bill Cherrier said in late March, “followed by a hot, dry summer.”

Cherrier said it with a smile, but he had neatly summarized CSU’s dilemma. Water in the reservoirs must both be replenished and sold. The sell side of the equation is driven by fixed costs, including system maintenance and replacement, energy costs and continuing capital investment. But buyers don’t care about CSU’s problems; they prefer to water their lawns with free water from the skies.

Per-capita water use has dropped sharply in the past 20 years, leading to corresponding reductions in the city’s long-term consumption estimates.

“The Base (i.e. revenue) forecast is for an estimated service area population (city, suburban, Green Mountain Falls, military) of about 608,552 and about 106,000 AF/yr for demand,” wrote CSU spokesperson Janet Rummel in an email. “The ‘hot and dry’ scenario uses the same service area population and estimates about 120,000 AF/yr demand. This particular ‘hot and dry’ scenario equates to an 80 percent confidence interval and adds about 13 percent to annual demands.”

That’s a precipitous drop from the high-side estimate of the 1996 water resources plan, which forecast a population in 2040 as high as 900,000 and water demand of 168,150 acre-feet. The base forecast, at 106,000 acre-feet annually, is only 1,800 acre-feet more than the community used in 2000, 40 years previously.

Does that mean CSU’s water managers dropped $841 million into a new water delivery system that we may not need until 2016? Does this prove that the project, originally conceived to furnish water for the Banning-Lewis Ranch development, is now entirely unnecessary?

Perhaps not…

“SDS is not a short-term solution,” Rummel said in a 2010 email. “The time to build a major water project is not when you have run short of water … [we need] to better prepare our community for drought, climate change and water supply uncertainty on the Colorado River.”

Many factors entered into the decision to build SDS. In 1996, there was no discussion of system redundancy, of having an additional water pipeline that could serve the city in case one of the existing conduits needed emergency repair. But 18 years later, the pipelines are that much more vulnerable to accident or malfunction.

In 1996, population growth and per capita water use were expected to continue indefinitely at historic levels. But they didn’t. Commercial and industrial use declined, and price-sensitive residents used less water. Indoor use declined as well as outdoor, thanks to restricted-flow shower heads and low-flush toilets.

SDS stayed on track. In the eyes of the water survivalists who conceived and created the project, the city’s rights on the Arkansas River had to be developed. They saw long, hot summers in the city and dry winters in the mountains. Opponents could make any arguments they liked, but these five words trumped them all.

Use it or lose it.

Undeveloped water rights are like $100 bills blowing down the street — someone will grab them and use them for their own benefit…

“This will be our last pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom. “We will never be able to develop a new water delivery system. When SDS is finished, that’s it.”

Bostrom’s peers in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles have reason to envy him. Colorado Springs has won the water wars. We’ve bought ourselves decades of time. Whether we save or squander this liquid bounty is up to us.

In 2040, the city may have 30,000 to 50,000 acre-feet a year of unneeded delivery capacity. That cushion will allow for decades of population growth and for the introduction of sophisticated irrigation techniques that will preserve our green city and minimize water use.

In years to come, members of the Colorado Springs City Council will decide how to preserve the city’s future. Will they heed Bostrom’s warning and encourage radical conservation? Will new developments be required to xeriscape, and preserve trees with drip irrigation devices?

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Southern Delivery System update: $359 million spent so far, >44 miles of pipe in the ground

June 23, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Tunneling under Fountain Creek is proving more difficult than expected for the Southern Delivery System. Some pipeline near Pueblo Dam has been laid in solid rock. And the temporary irrigation system to provide water for native vegetation over the pipeline scar through Pueblo County contains 50 miles of pipe (main line and laterals) and 15,000 sprinkler heads. Those were some of the highlights of a progress report by Mark Pifher, SDS permit manager, to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Wednesday.

“The tunneling project was more difficult than we thought,” Pifher said. The work was being done just over the El Paso County line from the west side of Interstate 25, with a tunnel-boring machine 85 feet below ground.

Because of the difficulty, a second borer from the east side one mile away is being used.

“They had better meet in the middle,” Pifher joked.

More than 44 miles of the 50 miles of 66-inchdiameter pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs has been installed; a treatment plant and three pump stations are under construction; and a Fountain Creek improvement project has nearly been completed, he said. All of the pipeline in Pueblo County has been installed, and revegetation has begun on 323 acres that were disturbed in Pueblo West and on Walker Ranches. The irrigation system is so large that it has to run in round-the-clock cycles seven days a week, Pifher noted.

“It’s apparently the largest sprinkler system in the state,” he said.

Another 484 acres has been planted with native seed in El Paso County.

As of March, $359 million has been spent on SDS, with $209 million going to El Paso County firms, $65 million to Pueblo County companies, $900,000 to Fremont County contractors and $84 million to businesses in other parts of Colorado.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.


Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

June 20, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

New wrinkles in the federal budget process have improved chances for funding of the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

Appropriations bills in the U.S. House and Senate have increased funding for the Bureau of Reclamation, with emphasis on capital projects that are in the design phase.

While that does not provide an increase for the conduit’s $500,000 funding level next year, it could mean a shift in funding to the conduit by Reclamation, lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.

“We have incredible support from those in Congress who represent the area to be served by the conduit,” Arbogast told the board. “They are fighting for the funding of it. Clearly, it is unprecedented, the levels they are going to for this.”

She was referring to U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton, both Republicans.

For instance, during meetings in Washington, D.C., last week, the senators met with top Department of Interior and Office of Management and Budget officials to make the case for more funding for the conduit.

The $400 million Arkansas Valley Conduit would have a main line of 130 miles from Pueblo Dam to Lamar, serving 50,000 people in 40 communities.

Federal money for the project would be repaid through Fryingpan-Arkansas Project excess storage contracts and user fees.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


Pueblo West Utilities Board members and staff are trying to make sense of SDS MOU with Colorado Springs

June 18, 2014
Pueblo West

Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo West is pondering whether it even needs to turn on Southern Delivery System early after the metro district board waded through the process that led up to a controversial memorandum of understanding that would allow that to happen. The MOU apparently represents years of complex negotiations between Colorado Springs attorneys.

Three board members, Chairman Lew Quigley, Mark Carmel and Judy Leonard, voted on May 27 to talk about the MOU in open session, rather than behind closed doors.

But at Tuesday’s metro board meeting — devoted solely to water issues — board members and staff wrangled over what the document means and how it should be drafted.

The MOU could pave the way for Pueblo West to begin using a new 36-inch pipeline from the north outlet on Pueblo Dam ahead of schedule. It’s needed because Pueblo West is reaching the limits of its current delivery line, and to provide redundancy if anything should happen to its sole supply source, said Manager Jack Johnston. Johnston said the MOU was merely conceptual, and the argued that details of it needed to be explained in executive session.

“This is really our bus to drive,” Johnston said.

Carmel countered that a more open discussion in public among Pueblo West, Colorado Springs needed.

Pueblo County commissioners and attorneys objected to details of the agreement which required Pueblo West to obtain approval of 1041 permit conditions, saying Colorado Springs is attempting to bully the metro district.

“This was presented to me as an ultimatum. … I suspect this new board will go back to the drawing board to give you a new direction,” Carmel said. He wanted to delay action until a full board could act — board member Jerry Martin was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

Quigley objected to discussing the agreement in executive said that a meeting behind closed doors was needed to explain how the agreement related to several other lawsuits in order to protect Pueblo West’s legal position.

Board member Barbara Bernard favored discussing such an agreement in executive session if necessary.

“Yes, I want to know how we got to this point,” she said. “I need as much counsel as we can have.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities was trying to make sure the clock wouldn’t start ticking if Pueblo West got water early under a controversial agreement.

That’s how Mark Pifher, permit manager for Southern Delivery System, explained the situation Wednesday to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District during his update on SDS progress.

The agreement was to have been discussed in executive session on May 27 by the Pueblo West Metropolitan District, but newly elected board member Mark Carmel objected to talking about it behind closed doors, claiming the agreement would hold Pueblo West “hostage.”

The issue escalated when Pueblo County commissioners and attorneys claimed Colorado Springs was using bully tactics to pressure Pueblo West into gaining county approval of 1041 permit conditions from the county.

“Pueblo West wanted delivery of the water as soon as possible,” Pifher said. “The concern we had was that if the water is delivered to Pueblo West, will all the other conditions be expedited?”

Among those conditions is the beginning of $50 million payments to the Fountain Creek District and other Fountain Creek issues. Utilities and the Lower Ark have been in negotiations over Fountain Creek issues for the past nine years.

“What we’re asking is that Pueblo West go to the commissioners so those other conditions will not be triggered,” Pifher said.

The agreement also contained a provision that would require Pueblo West to stop using the new pipeline if Colorado Springs did not meet SDS conditions.

On Tuesday, the Pueblo West board discussed the agreement with Manager Jack Johnston and attorney Harley Gifford.

Carmel and board President Lew Quigley wanted an open discussion of the agreement. Johnston said it had been negotiated over several years by staff and attorneys. Gifford said it is tied to other legal issues that need to be discussed in executive session.

The 36-inch water line from the north outlet is nearly complete and would provide redundancy for the existing 24-inch line Pueblo West has connected to the south outlet. The new line would provide up to 18 million gallons per day in addition to the 12-million-gallon capacity of the existing line.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


“This proposed MOU is a heavy-handed tactic by [Colorado Springs Utilities]” — Ray Petros

June 3, 2014
Pueblo West

Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County officials believe Colorado Springs Utilities is trying to pressure Pueblo West for help in meeting 1041 permit requirements for the Southern Delivery System. After obtaining a copy of a draft memorandum of understanding that was to be considered by the Pueblo West metro board in executive session last month, two commissioners and the county’s water attorney say it’s the same type of coercion Utilities tried to exert on the county earlier.

“It’s bully tactics. I think it’s terrible and totally inappropriate,” said Terry Hart, chairman of the county commissioners. “This is the second time in a couple of months where Utilities is trying to negotiate approval of 1041 conditions. In this case, it pits Pueblo West against Pueblo County, when there’s no good reason to do it.”

Commissioner Sal Pace agreed: “Whether Pueblo West has access to its own water has nothing to do with conditions on Fountain Creek.”

Water attorney Ray Petros was equally blunt: “This proposed MOU is a heavy-handed tactic by Utilities to withhold water deliveries to Pueblo West as a lever against the county in the event the county had to consid­er suspending the SDS permit.”

Pueblo West has not approved the MOU, and Jack Johnston, the metro district manager, portrayed it as a working document “at the staff and attorney level.”

However, newly elected Pueblo West board member Mark Carmel objected at his first official meeting to considering the deal in executive session. He was backed by Chairman Lew Quigley and board member Judy Leonard.

Johnston said a document for public consideration would be ready for discussion in open session, probably in mid-June.

But the document provided to The Chieftain by Carmel, and shared with the county, asks Pueblo West to get the county to sign off on several conditions of the 1041 permit before Pueblo West can turn on SDS.

Among other things, the agreement instructs Pueblo West to obtain written confirmation from Pueblo County that four politically charged conditions of the county’s 1041 permit have been met or “will not be triggered . . . by use of SDS facilities.”

Those conditions include the payment of $50 million to a special district for Fountain Creek flood control, the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program, the adaptive management scenario for Fountain Creek and Colorado Springs stormwater management. Each of those has led to complicated political negotiations or even court cases for Colorado Springs. Pueblo West has been in court with Pueblo County over the flow program.

Pueblo County ran into the same tactics when it asked Utilities to release interest money from the $50 million early to fund dam studies on Fountain Creek, Hart and Pace noted.

“In any event, holding Pueblo West hostage casts Springs’ Utilities as a bully,” Petros said. “It’s certainly counterproductive to a cooperative approach for addressing environmental mitigation of the SDS Project.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Northwest Pipe Co. is major supplier for the Southern Delivery System #ColoradoRiver

May 23, 2014
Southern Delivery System construction celebration August 19, 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

Southern Delivery System construction celebration August 19, 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Denver Post (Aldo Svaldi):

Orders at the Northwest Pipe Co. plant in Denver were drying up in 2010 when bid requests started coming for a massive water project linking the Pueblo Reservoir and Colorado Springs called the Southern Delivery System.

“The start of the SDS project couldn’t have come at a better time,” Northwest’s vice president of sales Eric Stokes said.

At a cost of $841 million, the water project is the largest the region has seen in decades. Starting in 2016, it will pipe water held in the Pueblo Reservoir to consumers in Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Security and Fountain.

“This is our water security for many years to come, 50 years into the future,” said John Fredell, program director of the water services division for SDS.

Northwest Pipe’s Denver plant won almost all the contracts to supply 50 miles of steel pipe, and the company celebrated the completion of the last piece Thursday afternoon. Northwest produced 7,000 pieces of the pipeline, each averaging 50 feet in length and 66 inches in diameter. The orders allowed Northwest’s employment in Denver to grow from 116 full-time workers to more than 231 at the peak of manufacturing.

Of about $500 million spent so far on the project, $359 million has gone to 333 Colorado businesses, including more than 75 based in metro Denver, Fredell said.

Northwest Pipe alone received about $110 million, including $23 million spent on payroll. Given that the next closest competitor was in California, Stokes said Northwest had a distinct advantage.

“Proximity was part of it,” Fredell said.

Back in 1997, Northwest Pipe, which is based in Vancouver, Wash., acquired Thompson Pipe & Steel Co., a manufacturer with Denver roots going back to the late 1800s. For decades, Thompson built pipes in the Curtis Park area that continue to help move water across much of the state. Thompson moved its plant to a 45-acre facility at 6030 Washington St., where workers continued to convert steel coil arriving by rail car into water pipes shipped out on trucks.

Once formed, the pipes are pumped full of water and pressure-tested to ensure there are no leaks. They are moved into a cavernous ⅛ – mile-long warehouse where they are rotated rapidly while concrete is poured inside to make a lining designed to last for decades. In a third building, the pipes are primed, painted and prepared for shipping.

“It is nice to know you have finished on time,” said Jason Cheng, a welder from Westminster who joined Northwest in October to work on the SDS order.

Cheng and other workers lined up to sign the last piece of pipe, undeterred as the rain poured down Thursday afternoon. Their signatures, in white ink, quickly smeared down the bright-blue pipe.

“We want the water on the inside of the pipe, not the outside,” one person commented.

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Northwest Pipe, (Nasdaq: NWPX) is based in Vancouver, Washington. Its Denver manufacturing plant had a $110 million contract to build the project’s 50 miles of pipeline to carry the water. It was the biggest contract for materials under the project.

Northwest Pipe started making its 50-foot sections of pipe for the project, each section 66 inches in diameter, in 2011.
And the last pieces are now coming off the manufacturing line and awaiting a truck for transport to the project site.

“This is one of the largest programs that we’ve seen,” said John Moore, manager of Northwest Pipe’s manufacturing plant at 6030 N. Washington St. in north Denver.

During peak production, as many as 25 trucks a day left Northwest Pipe’s manufacturing facility.
Being in Denver meant trucking costs were less and Northwest Pipe could submit a more competitive bid for the project, Moore said.

And the project meant jobs for Northwest Pipe, which ramped up to 231 people during peak production, from a low of 116 people prior to work on the project, said John Moore, the plant manager. The company currently has 131 people on staff.
Northwest Pipe, which supplies pipes to carry water and waste water, has delivered pipes to other big water providers, including Denver Water and Aurora.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.


The Southern Delivery System has been a long time coming

May 12, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

Here’s part one of an in-depth look at the Southern Delivery System from John Hazlehurst writing for the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Contending that the denial [of Homestake II] had been arbitrary and capricious, the two cities [Aurora and Colorado Springs] appealed the decision to the courts. In a comprehensive description of the city’s water system and possible future sources of supply given to City Council in 1991, CSU managers said that “extensive litigation is expected to continue.”

Denied by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court, the cities appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

City officials were stunned. They couldn’t believe that a coalition of Western Slope “enviros” and ski towns had prevented them from developing water to which the city had an undisputed right. They had believed the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1990 decision to scuttle Denver’s proposed Two Forks Dam near Deckers on the South Platte River was an outlier, not a sign of things to come…

Slow to recognize that mountain communities now had the power to kill their water development plans, Utilities officials looked at another alternative. Instead of taking water directly from the wilderness area, the city proposed to build a dam on the mainstem of the Arkansas at Elephant Rock, a few miles upstream of Buena Vista.

A grassroots rebellion against the project was soon evident, as hand-lettered signs appeared along U.S. Highway 24, which parallels the Arkansas. The signs carried a simple message: “Don’t Let Colorado Springs Dam this River!”

It soon became clear that Chaffee County commissioners would not issue a construction permit for any such project, dooming it before the first planning documents were created…

If trans-mountain diversions or dams on the Arkansas were no longer feasible, that left a single alternative for developing the city’s water rights. CSU would have to let its water flow down to Pueblo Reservoir, construct a diversion structure on the dam, and pump it uphill to Colorado Springs.

It would be, water managers believed, the easiest project to build and permit.

“It was just a pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom, who has worked 35 years for Utilities. “What could go wrong?”[...]

“We didn’t really understand the importance of partnering with and involving the public in decision-making,” said [Gary Bostrom], “until the Southern Water Project.”[...]

The plan for the Southern Delivery System was presented to City Council in 1992. Among the material submitted to councilmembers was a comprehensive description of the city’s existing water system. Water managers made sure Council was aware of the importance of the task before them.

“The massive scope of this project,” CSU staff noted, “requires a very long lead time to allow for complexities of numerous permitting processes, land acquisition, litigation, design, financing and construction.”

Of all the variables, CSU managers and elected officials gave the least weight to those that may have been the most significant…

“We weren’t worried about hydrology,” said Bostrom. “The years between 1980 and 2000 were some of the wettest years on record. The water was there for the taking. Shortages on the Colorado weren’t part of the discussion.

“We knew about the Colorado River Water Compact of 1922 (which allocated Colorado River water between Mexico and the upper and lower basin states), but it wasn’t something we worried about.”

Then as now, 70 percent of the city’s water supply came from the Colorado River. SDS would tap the city’s rights on the Arkansas, diversifying the portfolio.

“We have to plan for growth,” said Bostrom. “That’s what history tells us. We know that it will be expensive, but the cost of not building a system well in advance of need would be much greater. People complained about the cost of the Blue River (trans-mountain diversion) project in the 1950s, but we wouldn’t have a city without it — we wouldn’t have the Air Force Academy.”

But even as the project moved slowly forward, the comfortable assumptions of a wet, prosperous future began to unravel.

“Exactly 15 years ago today (April 29, 1999),” said Bostrom, “we were in the middle of a flood — remember? We didn’t know it, but that was the day the drought began.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


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

May 9, 2014
Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More conservation coverage here.


Aspen: City Council approves instream flow for the Roaring Fork River through town

April 30, 2014
Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy

Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy

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

In an effort to improve the aquatic environment of the Roaring Fork River as it flows through central Aspen, the city of Aspen has agreed to leave 2 to 3 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water in the river during low-flow periods this summer instead of diverting it into the Wheeler Ditch.

The Wheeler Ditch diverts water from the Fork a short distance downstream from the Aspen Club pedestrian bridge and just below Ute Park, east of Aspen. The headgate for the irrigation ditch is on the left side of the river, when looking downstream, and is visible from the upper end of the city’s Wheeler Ditch Trail.

The water in the ditch is typically used to supply small channels in the downtown pedestrian malls, to irrigate some city property, and to keep a base flow running through the city’s stormwater system.

The Aspen city council on Monday approved an agreement with the nonprofit Colorado Water Trust to leave the water in the river when river flows drop below 32 cfs, the amount identified by the state as necessary to protect the river’s environment “to a reasonable degree.”[...]

It’s the second year the city has entered into such an agreement with the Water Trust, which works to bolster flows in rivers across the state.

Last year the city announced that it would leave between 6 and 8 cfs of water in the river, but experience showed that it was more practical to leave 2 to 3 cfs, according David Hornbacher, the director of utilities and environmental initiatives for the city.

The city owns an 1889 senior water right to divert up to 10 cfs from the Fork into the Wheeler Ditch.

The agreement with the Water Trust says the city will begin bypassing water from the Wheeler Ditch when the river drops below 32 cfs. If the river drops to 31 cfs, the city will bypass 1 cfs, and so on, until the point when there is at least one cfs left in the ditch…

“The Water Trust brings structure to the effort,” Hornbacher said. “They bring resources. And they provide a framework to work toward other future agreements to benefit the river.”[...]

This year, Twin Lakes expects to divert about 55,000 acre-feet of water from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork.

Further downstream and just east of Aspen, the Salvation Ditch in mid-to-late summer often diverts more water than is left in the river below the ditch’s diversion structure…

The Salvation Ditch, which has a water right from 1902 to divert 58 cfs, was diverting 17.4 cfs that day, leaving 7.6 cfs of water flowing in the Fork.

Another 2.4 cfs was then diverted into the Wheeler Ditch that day, leaving just 5.2 cfs flowing in the river as it made its way past Rio Grande Park, the Aspen Art Museum, and under the Mill Street Bridge.

That’s a far cry from the 32 cfs the state says is required to protect the river’s aquatic environment, and the city’s effort this summer is intended to help close such gaps.

“I appreciate the city’s leadership, as it can help start the conversation,” said [Amy Beatie] of the Water Trust. “We would love everyone to really sit down and think about what they have and how they could use it strategically to put water back in the river.”

More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here and here.


The Southern Delivery System is on time and under budget, according to @CSUtilities

April 29, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Marija B. Vader):

Wayne Vanderschuere, general manager of the Colorado Springs Utilities water services division, said the Southern Delivery System will be completed on schedule and $150 million under the original budgeted amount.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Colorado Springs Utilities has acquired most of the land access needed for the Southern Delivery System

April 2, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic/Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic/Reclamation

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Outside of a handful of parcels tied up in eminent-domain court actions, the city has amassed the vast majority of land needed to complete the 66-inch-diameter line across Pueblo and El Paso counties. And as for those in court, Utilities has been granted possession; at issue is determination of their value.

Which leaves only one other property acquisition needed for the pipeline itself, and a couple dozen others for related projects. Overall, the land-acquisition project is on schedule, if significantly over budget.

“We are pleased to be nearly complete with acquiring the land needed for SDS,” says Utilities project manager John Fredell in a statement. “We have worked hard to be fair with property owners and appreciate their cooperation to advance this critical project for our community and partners.”[...]

The city’s initial foray into acquiring property for the project, in 2003 and 2004, caused an uproar, and a tightening of city real estate acquisition procedures. Utilities, in some cases without Utilities Board approval, had made offers for homes near Jimmy Camp Creek, northeast of the city, for up to three times the homes’ assessed values, plus six-figure moving costs — in one case, $340,000. The city paid $6.1 million for 14 properties and then allowed the former owners to rent for $300 a month indefinitely.

Within a few years, the city abandoned the Jimmy Camp area as a reservoir site due to archaeological values and other factors, and instead chose Upper Williams Creek near Bradley Road.

In 2009 and 2010, Utilities tangled with Pueblo West residents and left some hard feelings in its wake. The buried pipeline, which traverses the back portions of residential lots, can’t be built upon, which residents say renders their yards unusable.

Resident Dwain Maxwell, who’s forced Utilities into condemnation court, says he was paid $1,850 for land his appraisal said was worth $16,500. Meanwhile, he estimates Utilities has spent four times that amount on attorneys. “I feel like they’ve not been honest with us,” he says today.

Gary Walker of Pueblo County is also still in condemnation court with the city, and declined to be interviewed for this story. But he notes in an email that he’s been recognized repeatedly for his stewardship of the land at his ranch, and was the first to sign up for the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret under federal rules. “How do you put a price on the destruction of something so important as our environment?” he asks.

In 2012, Utilities went up against the Norris ranching family for a chunk of land for Upper Williams Creek Reservoir. After the Norrises moved to create their own reservoir, a deal was reached in which the city paid the family $7.5 million for 791 acres.

But the biggest single acquisition was land next to the Norris property owned by the State Land Board. The city paid more than $11.8 million for 1,128 acres, the highest per-acre price paid for pipeline property…

Utilities needs to acquire about 15 additional properties for the reservoir site, but the reservoir won’t be built until SDS’ second phase, from 2020 to 2025, as demand requires. The city also needs 11 more properties for a section of pipe for treated water, Rummel says.

So far, the city has spent $34.6 million on land for SDS. That’s about 38 percent more than the $25 million estimate in 2009 for 274 parcels in Phase 1 and reservoir land. If costs for surveys, appraisals, real estate fees and closings are added, the cost is $45 million, or 22 percent more than the 2009 “all-in” estimate of $37 million.

Water rates, meantime, haven’t increased as much as earlier predicted. Ratepayers saw 12 percent hikes in 2011 and 2012, and 10 percent increases in 2013 and 2014. A 5 percent hike is expected in 2015. Previously, 12 percent annual jumps were forecast from 2011 through 2017.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


10th District chief judge Deborah Eyler approves appointments to the Southeastern Water board #ColoradoRiver

April 1, 2014
Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two new and three returning directors have been appointed to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board. The appointments were approved by Deborah Eyler, chief district judge in Pueblo, in conjunction with other chief judges throughout the nine-county area within the district. The new members will take their seats at April’s meeting. There are 15 directors who serve four-year terms on the board that oversees the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

Pat Edelmann, retired head of the U.S. Geological Survey office in Pueblo, and Curtis Mitchell, head of Fountain Utilities, have joined the board.

Returning directors are Bill Long of Las Animas, Ann Nichols of Manitou Springs, and Tom Goodwin of Canon City.

Edelmann, 58, replaces Shawn Yoxey as a Pueblo County representative on the board. Pueblo has two other directors on the board, Vera Ortegon and David Simpson.

Edelmann retired in 2011, and spent most of his career in the Pueblo USGS office studying the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek. He frequently presented USGS reports and studies to the Southeastern board during his career.

Mitchell, 55, replaces Greg Johnson. Mitchell worked for Colorado Springs Utilities for 30 years before joining Fountain Utilities five years ago.

“I was involved with the startup of the Fountain Valley Authority, so I have a lot of interest as a water professional in the startup of the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” Mitchell said.

Building the conduit, which will serve 40 communities east of Pueblo, is the district’s top priority.

Long, 59, a business owner and Bent County commissioner, is president of the board. He was appointed to the board in 2002.

Nichols, 68, an economist and treasurer of the board, was appointed in 2006. Her father, Sid Nichols, was a charter member of the board.

Goodwin, 61, a farmer and rancher, was first appointed in 2011. His father, Denzel Goodwin, was a longtime member of the board.

More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy coverage here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit backers hope to make deal for excess capacity in the Pueblo Dam south outlet works soon

March 27, 2014
Pueblo Dam

Pueblo Dam

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A plan is hatching to get pipe in the ground ahead of schedule for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. It would reduce the initial costs of the project and allow some negotiations to proceed even with a reduced amount of federal funding, said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, project sponsor.

“We were under the impression that all the money had to be in place up front before negotiations began, but the Bureau of Reclamation decided that’s not the case,” Broderick said. “If those negotiations are successful, we’ve got pipe in the ground and the conduit can begin to move ahead.”

That means Reclamation will be able to begin negotiations with the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs Utilities for use of the joint use pipeline that leads from the south outlet of Pueblo Dam to the Whitlock Treatment Plant.

The Pueblo water board owns the pipeline and the treatment plant. Colorado Springs Utilities paid the water board $3.5 million to upsize the pipeline by one foot in diameter, planning to use it for the Southern Delivery System. Since that time, SDS has taken a different route to move water from Lake Pueblo through the north outlet on the dam, and would not need the additional capacity.

The pipeline from the south outlet has a total capacity of 248 million gallons per day. Of that, 40 mgd is reserved to serve Comanche power plant and 140 mgd to serve Pueblo.

By paying to upsize the pipeline, Colorado Springs reserved 68 mgd, but the conduit would only require 14 mgd, said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo water board.

Reclamation also must negotiate with the Pueblo water board for locating a treatment plant at Whitlock to filter water used in the Arkansas Valley Conduit. By moving those discussions ahead, the federal cost will be reduced from $12 million to about $3 million in the coming year, but more funds would be required to begin actual design work, Broderick said.

Meanwhile, Colorado lawmakers continue to fight for more federal funding.

During a U.S. House committee hearing this week, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., told Reclamation officials the conduit is a high priority.

“The members of the Colorado delegation are committed to the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation knows that this project offers an effective regional answer to meeting federally mandated Safe Drinking Act standards,” said Tipton.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


Flows in the Arkansas River above Lake Pueblo = 270 cfs, Reclamation realeasing water from Turquoise and Twin Lakes #ColoradoRiver

March 23, 2014
Pueblo dam spilling

Pueblo dam spilling

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Flows in the Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam increased slightly with the end of winter water storage this week, but not significantly. The reason is that water continues to be released for the Pueblo flow management program and much of the winter water was stored in downstream reservoirs, including on the Colorado Canal, the Fort Lyon and in John Martin Reservoir.

“The movement of the agricultural water is a side benefit to the Arkansas River flows through Pueblo,” said Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer.

Winter water stored about 101,000 acrefeet this year, but only about 27,000 acre-feet were stored in Lake Pueblo. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.

Flows in the Arkansas River at Avondale were about 320 cubic feet per second this week, about the same as during the two weeks preceding the end of the winter water program. One cubic foot of water is about the same volume as a basketball.

Meanwhile, flows above Lake Pueblo in the Arkansas River have increased in recent weeks because the Bureau of Reclamation is making room in Turquoise and Twin Lakes for Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water. The March 1 forecast predicts about 73,000 acre-feet will be moved across the Continental Divide this year. But that can increase or decrease, depending on snowpack, said Roy Vaughan, Fry-Ark manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Repairs have been completed on the Mt. Elbert hydropower plant, allowing for full operation of Fry-Ark systems.

Releases from the upper reservoirs are adding about 270 cfs to the Arkansas River above Pueblo, which is running at twice the rate it was three weeks ago.

John Martin Reservoir back in the day nearly full

John Martin Reservoir back in the day nearly full

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Flows into John Martin Reservoir have not been reduced by the winter water storage program on the Arkansas River, according to an analysis by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. The issue is of concern because of questions raised by Kansas during court cases against Colorado over the Arkansas River Compact. John Martin Reservoir, completed in 1948, regulates flows between the two states under the compact.

“We’ve never showed them evidence that they’ll buy into about the winter water program, but we keep trying,” division engineer Steve Witte told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday.

The winter water storage program allows irrigation flows to be stored from Nov. 15 to March 15, and ended last week. This year, about 101,000 acre-feet were stored at various locations and will be divided among ditch companies east of Pueblo.

The analysis looked at diversions by ditches in Colorado from 1950-1975 and from 1976-2013. Winter water began as a voluntary program in 1976 and was later formalized in a water court decree.

“There hasn’t been any significant change as a result of winter water,” Witte said.

Diversions above John Martin totaled 72 percent to 77 percent in the 1950-1975 period, and were about 75 percent in the 1976-2013 period. Past analysis of the water levels in John Martin showed little difference in pre-winter water and post-winter water years. But those types of studies don’t explain changes because of operational changes or drought. The new study also looked at potential differences in wet, dry and average years, but found none, Witte said.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit: Seeking adequate appropriations from the feds

March 21, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Sponsors are working to increase funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit in next year’s federal budget. The conduit recently received the green light to proceed from the Bureau of Reclamation, which released a record of decision on Feb. 27 for it, a master storage contract and an interconnect on Pueblo Dam. But the approval did not translate into funding when President Barack Obama released his budget one week later and included only $500,000 for the conduit.

“We were disappointed in the dollars,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor of all three projects. He spoke at Thursday’s monthly board meeting.

The conduit has $3.1 million in funding this year, which includes $2.1 million that was not spent in past years. To keep it on pace for construction sometime in the next decade would require at least $7 million to $10 million, Broderick said. Last year Reclamation internally shifted $44 million for projects, but it’s too soon to tell how much could be available this year.

“There is a lot of activity, particularly because of the drought in California,” Broderick said. “We have to keep the pressure on.”

To do that, officials will again travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby Department of Interior and Bureau of Reclamation officials as well as Congress. Last week, Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, and Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, Republicans, called for more funding to support the conduit.

“We have to realize this is the president’s budget. Congress sees it a different way,” said lobbyist Ray Kogovsek, a former congressman. “I would say we can certainly get more than $500,000.”

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


Southern Delivery System on track to be online in 2016

March 20, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

he Southern Delivery System is on course to begin operating in 2016.

“It will be complete for testing purposes in 2015,” SDS Permit Manager Mark Pifher told the Lower Arkansas Conservancy District in an impromptu update Wednesday.

SDS is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. When completed, it will serve Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West. Nearly all of the pipeline is in the ground, and construction has begun at three pumping stations, including one near Pueblo Dam, Pifher said. While all parts of SDS will be complete by next year, the system will require months of testing before it is put into use.

“When it’s finished, the water won’t be delivered,” Pifher said. “It won’t be pushing water to customers until 2016.”

The Lower Ark district has been in negotiations for years with Colorado Springs on the impacts of SDS, particularly increased flows on Fountain Creek. Pifher updated the Lower Ark board on the progress of stormwater meetings in Colorado Springs.

A committee of El Paso County citizens is working toward putting a stormwater enterprise proposal on the November ballot. Fees would be about the same as under the former enterprise, which Colorado Springs City Council abolished in 2009, Pifher said.

The Lower Ark board also got a review of the U.S. Geological Survey of dams on Fountain Creek from USGS Pueblo office chief David Mau. Noting the study was funded by Colorado Springs (under its 1041 agreement with Pueblo County), Pifher said an alternative for 10 side detention ponds south of Fountain held the most promise for reducing flood impacts on Pueblo. Pifher also downplayed the immediate impacts of SDS on Fountain Creek.

“When we turn it on, it will carry 5 million-10 million gallons per day,” Pifher said.

Over 50 years, that will increase flows up to 96 million gallons per day.

“It will take some time to grow into demand on that system,” Pifher said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit: Engineering and design requirements = $14 million to keep project on track

March 12, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado’s congressional delegation is calling on the administration and Congress to boost funding levels for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The administration’s budget numbers for the conduit, released late Monday, included just $500,000 for the conduit, which last month received final approval, a record of decision, from the Bureau of Reclamation. But about $14 million is needed to keep engineering and design for the project on track in order to break ground in 2016.

The project sponsors, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, currently have secured about $3.1 million — which includes carryover funding — to begin work on the conduit.

The $400 million conduit would include 227 miles of pipeline along a 130-mile route from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads. Along the way it would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities, many of them facing regulatory pressure to improve drinking water quality. The conduit was part of the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but never built because of expense. A renewed effort to build it began about 15 years ago, and culminated in late February when Reclamation issued a record of decision identifying the route of the pipeline through Pueblo and along the Arkansas River.

The letters were sent to congressional leadership and the Department of Interior Tuesday, just hours after the budget figures were known, by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton, both Republicans. They said the budget for the conduit is insufficient for the second year in a row.

“The budget numbers released for fiscal year 2014 and 2015 are troubling. At a time when planners are trying to scale up significantly and move forward toward the construction stage, the Administration budget figures have threatened to delay work on this critical priority,” the letter stated.

The lawmakers called the Conduit a “top priority” and reminded the Administration and the Appropriations Committees that “the federal government has repeatedly promised to build this Conduit.”

The budget numbers likely were prepared last year, before the conduit had a record of decision in place, so they could conceivably be improved, say some observers.

The $14 million would complete design and engineering work, which includes connection to the south outlet of Pueblo Dam, initial filtering at the Pueblo Board of Water Works Whitlock Plant, routing the pipeline south of Pueblo by the Comanche power plant and construction that basically follows the north side of the Arkansas River to Lamar. There are numerous spurs and loops along the way that deliver water to communities in Pueblo, Crowley, Otero, Bent, Prowers and Kiowa counties.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Reclamation approves cross-connection for the North and South outlet works

March 9, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Ever since it began storing water 40 years ago, the Pueblo Dam has been evolving as the needs of water users change. The next step will integrate the south outlet works with the newly constructed north outlet works on the face of the dam to provide more reliability to the urban populations that depend on Lake Pueblo as a source of water. The cross-connection is part of the package approved last week by the Bureau of Reclamation. Other pieces are the Arkansas Valley Conduit and a master contract for some members of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

“We get a better quality of water coming out of the reservoir. That cuts down on chemicals used for taste and odor issues,” said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

The cross-connection will allow users of both outlets to continue using the dam when one outlet or the other is closed in an emergency or for planned maintenance.

“When one goes down, you can pull from the other side and still get part of your water,” Book said.

The dam was completed in 1974, but the south outlet — as the name implies, is on the south side of the Arkansas River — wasn’t used until 1983, when Pueblo West took its initial diversion of water. Two years later, the Fountain Valley Conduit, which serves Colorado Springs and four nearby water providers, began drawing from the south outlet. Pueblo hooked onto the south outlet in 2002, after gaining a license in 2000. The south outlet also supplies the Pueblo fish hatchery, operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The north outlet — formerly the primary outlet for the Arkansas River — was completed last year as part of the Southern Delivery System, which will begin serving Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West in 2016.

The Southeastern district, Colorado Springs and Pueblo water board are jointly developing a hydropower project at the north outlet works, which also continues to provide water to the Arkansas River.

There also are three gates that can empty water into the basin below the dam when the north outlet is closed. The Bessemer Ditch also has a direct connection to Pueblo Dam.

Before the interconnect is constructed, it would require a 40-year contract between Reclamation and those parties using the outlets.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit: Master storage contract next activity for project

March 5, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit is years away, but other parts of last week’s federal record of decision to approve the project are expected to move more quickly. But not too quickly, as sponsors are watching to see how pieces fall in place. The record decision by the Bureau of Reclamation also cleared the way for a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo and an interconnection at Pueblo Dam between the north and south outlets.

“Once you have signed the record of decision, those discussions can start,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor for all three projects. “But we don’t want to move too quickly.”

The master contract is likely the first piece to move forward. It will allow communities within the Southeastern District to secure up to 30,000 acrefeet of storage through the year 2060. The storage is possible because Lake Pueblo seldom fills to capacity with water brought across the Continental Divide under the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. So-called excess capacity contracts allow water users to store other water in Lake Pueblo. The long-term contract would provide more certainty that the space will be reserved than one-year contracts as well as flexibility between wet and dry years.

In recent years, 37 water districts and cities indicated they wanted to be a part of the contract — 25 also are conduit participants. The other 12 include water users in Fremont, Pueblo counties aren’t part of the conduit, but anticipate the need for storage. Among them, Pueblo West, Security and Fountain are seeking to partner in the contract, even though they already have contracts under Southern Delivery System.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also wants storage for projects such as the Super Ditch.

“We need to sit down with all of them and say, ‘All right, this is what we studied. Now how much are you going to need?’ ” Broderick said.

Another reason for waiting to begin negotiations is to see how similar talks are progressing. In 2010, Broderick watched with interest as SDS participants, led by Colorado Springs, learned that Reclamation was changing its basis for the contract from cost of service to a market-based approach. Right now, Reclamation is negotiating a similar contract with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Broderick plans to sit in on those public meetings to see what he can learn.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit: Reclamation issues record of decision

March 4, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

It would make sense to include as few turns as possible in a mostly gravity-fed pipeline from Point A to Point B. But the realities of geography, land ownership and a complex network of large and small water districts make the Arkansas Valley Conduit a much more complicated proposition.

The Bureau of Reclamation signed off on a record of decision last week that clears the way for the conduit to be built, once funding is approved by Congress. While the main trunk of the conduit will run 130 miles, spurs and loops will increase its total length to 227 miles under the concept approved by Reclamation.

“The total includes everything, all the pipes to where the water providers have facilities to do final treatment and deliver the water,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the conduit.

The pipe, all of which will be buried underground, will range in size from 36 inches to just 4 inches as it delivers water to 40 sites serving 50,000 people. An estimated 10,256 acre-feet of water will be delivered annually through the system to large users such as St. Charles Mesa, La Junta and Lamar, to smaller water companies that use only a fraction as much water.

The most circuitous reach of the pipeline will be used in moving the water from Pueblo Dam to its first stop at St. Charles Mesa. It will first flow from the south outlet on the dam to the Pueblo Board of Water Works’ Whitlock Treatment Plant on the north side of the Arkansas River. From there, the pipeline will run south, again crossing the Arkansas River, through City Park to Thatcher Avenue. It will cross to the west side of Pueblo Boulevard somewhere along Elmwood Golf Course and then head to the prairies west of Pueblo along Red Creek Springs Road, then jog south, under the conceptual plan included in Reclamation’s study.

“Any time you get out into rural land, it drops the cost and cuts down the time needed for construction,” Broderick said.

The pipeline will swing east by the Comanche Power plant, then head north to the St. Charles treatment plant, and then north to Avondale and Boone (crossing the Arkansas River again). Spurs will take water to six districts in Crowley County and 24 districts in Otero County. Near the end of the line, the conduit will head about 25 miles north to Eads. While the total cost of the conduit is estimated to be about $400 million, the engineering phase is expected to be about $28 million.

“A lot depends on which segments we are working on,” Broderick said.

Getting a stream of federal funding to begin that process is a top priority for the Southeastern district.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


I am proud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation heeded my calls and quickly approved the Arkansas Valley Conduit — Senator Mark Udall

February 28, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Tyler Johnson):

Bureau of Reclamation Great Plains Regional Director Michael Ryan has signed the Record of Decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long Term Excess Capacity Master Contract Final Environmental Impact Statement. The selected alternative is construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit using the Comanche North Alternative.

“This project will help water providers throughout the Arkansas River Basin meet existing and future demands,” said Ryan. “While funding details remain to be coordinated, it is prudent this project move forward to be in a position to take advantage of federal, state or local funding opportunities when they arise.”

The Arkansas Valley Conduit is a feature of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. It will provide treated water to communities in southeastern Colorado. When complete, the pipeline for the Arkansas Valley Conduit could be up to 227 miles long. The Comanche North Alternative includes three federal actions:

  • Construct and operate the Arkansas Valley Conduit and enter into a repayment contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
  • Enter into a conveyance contract with various water providers for use of a pipeline interconnect between Pueblo Dam’s south and north outlet works.
  • Enter into an excess capacity master contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.
  • “For the many small rural water providers the conduit will serve, this critical step in the process of building the project is greatly welcomed. Facing the water quality and waste water discharge compliance challenges has been daunting for this area, and the congressional approval in 2009 and now the Record of Decision from the Bureau of Reclamation provide real hope for an effective and efficient way to meet those challenges,” said Bill Long, President of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    A Record of Decision is a decision document; it concludes the environmental impact statement prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. It does not provide or allocate funding for the project. Reclamation published the final environmental impact statement in August, 2013.

    “The District is grateful for this decision, which is one more milestone in a half-century journey to a clean water supply for southeastern Colorado. As federally-mandated standards have changed, the need for the solution the preferred alternative provides is even greater. The promise to build this piece of the project was first made in 1962 by President Kennedy and was restated in 2012, right here in Pueblo, Colorado, by President Obama. Now let’s move forward to the next phases of design and construction,” said Jim Broderick, General Manager for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    For more information on the Record of Decision, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/avceis. To obtain a hard copy of the Record of Decision, contact Doug Epperly at (406) 247-7638 or depperly@usbr.gov.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Bureau of Reclamation approved the final construction plan for the Arkansas Valley Conduit Thursday.

    “It’s been a long haul,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the conduit. “This critical step in the process of building the project is greatly welcomed.”

    The record of decision for the project was signed by Michael Ryan, Reclamation’s regional director. The record of decision includes the environmental impact study for the conduit, but the next step will be to obtain funding from Congress to build the project.

    Long, a Bent County commissioner and Las Animas business owner, has been working to get the conduit built since he joined the Southeastern board in 2002. The conduit was included in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project legislation, but never built because of the expense.

    “In the last few months, it’s become clear that this will help, not only with drinking water, but at the other end with wastewater quality as well,” Long said.

    Reclamation Thursday approved a record of decision for the Comanche North route of the 227-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Lamar. The chosen route includes initial treatment at the Pueblo Board of Water Works’ Whitlock treatment plant and a pipeline that swings south of Pueblo near the Comanche power plant.

    The conduit will deliver fresh drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo. It is estimated to cost $400 million, which would be repaid partly through revenue from Fry-Ark contracts.

    Also included in the decision is a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo for the Southeastern district and a cross-connection between north and south outlets at Pueblo Dam.

    The storage contract will set aside space for conduit participants and other water users in the district.

    The Southeastern district is focused on funding the project. Political wrangling delayed the record of decision and federal belt-tightening limited appropriations to about $2 million this year, rather than the $15 million the district hoped for.

    “I think this is a really important step forward, and I’m very happy,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “We still have a lot of work to do in funding the project.”

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    The Bureau of Reclamation signed the Record of Decision today for a project that’s been in the planning stages since Pueblo Dam was built in the 1960s.

    Part of the Frying Pan-Arkansas project, the conduit has never been built due to lack of money.

    U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, Democrats of Colorado, issued a news release after the ROD was signed, which follows approval of an Environmental Impact Study last year.

    Here’s a release from Senator Udall’s office:

    U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet welcomed today’s signing of the Record of Decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which represents a major milestone for the project that will bring clean water to communities in southeastern Colorado. The decision comes after Bennet and Udall urged the Bureau of Reclamation to quickly approve the Conduit’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that was finalized last August.

    “I am proud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation heeded my calls and quickly approved the Arkansas Valley Conduit. This project, the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, will help strengthen Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout southeastern Colorado,” Udall said. “Water is our most valuable resource in Colorado, and we need to make every drop count. This project will ensure we continue to smartly develop our water resources.”

    “Colorado knows well that water is an extremely precious resource, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit will help ensure families in southeastern Colorado have access to a safe and healthy water supply,” Bennet said. “Today’s announcement couldn’t be more important to southeast Colorado, and it demonstrates the Interior Department’s commitment to getting this project done. With today’s announcement, we are one step closer to completing this historic conduit that will benefit many future generations of Coloradans.”

    Udall and Bennet have led efforts to secure resources and move forward with the construction of the Conduit. In addition to advocating for quick approval of the EIS, the senators have written to the Department of Interior to provide adequate resources for construction of the Conduit in future federal budgets.

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado. Bennet and Udall worked together to enact legislation in 2009 authorizing the construction of the Conduit, and have pushed ever since for funding to keep the project on schedule.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update: ‘The objective is to develop a tool to look at lease-fallowing effects’ — Rick Parsons

    January 22, 2014
    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A comprehensive study of Arkansas River water use that will aid the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch in temporary water transfers is nearing completion. “The objective is to develop a tool to look at lease-fallowing effects and quantify the amount of water to be exchanged,” Rick Parsons, an engineering consultant, told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District on Wednesday. The district has helped Super Ditch since its formation in 2008 as a way to allow farmers to lease water without selling their underlying water rights, preventing the dry-up of farmland. The district and Super Ditch are working on a pilot program with Fowler this year.

    The Super Ditch has contemplated several strategies for moving water, including filing an exchange decree in water court, using existing substitute water supply plans and creating pilot projects under last year’s HB1248. The problem has been getting water users to agree to how those exchanges will avoid damaging other water rights.

    Since 2011, Parsons has been compiling information about how water is used in the Arkansas River basin, looking at river operations from 1980-2013. His model should be complete in May. The Super Ditch needs a model that will be generally accepted by other water users, Parsons said. Parsons has met with the state, Colorado Springs Utilities, Aurora and the Pueblo Board of Water Works to glean information. He also has worked with ditch companies to obtain additional data.

    The major obstacles at this point are reconciling data from different sources and understanding reservoir operations. Some Lake Pueblo operations related to Southern Delivery System are not clear because of proprietary information held by Colorado Springs Utilities, Parsons said. Reservoirs on the Colorado, Holbrook and Fort Lyon systems are operated by private companies.

    “There are a million numbers in this model, and a million in the state database. Some of them are wrong,” Parsons said. “If this is used in a court document, it will be challenged to the nth degree. It has to be as transparent as possible.”

    More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update: Project caught up in the federal Record of Decision slog

    January 21, 2014
    Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

    Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Plans for the Arkansas Valley Conduit continue to be in a holding pattern. Federal processes have slowed the completion of a record of decision for the conduit, a master storage contract and interconnection of outlets on Pueblo Dam.

    The conduit is a plan to bring clean drinking water to 40 communities and 50,000 people from St. Charles Mesa to Lamar.

    The master contract would allow conduit users and others to purchase long-term storage in Lake Pueblo, while the cross-connection would give water users redundancy of water supply sources.

    An environmental impact study was finalized in August, but changes in the Bureau of Reclamation leadership and a federal shutdown have delayed the ROD for five months, said Christine Arbogast, lobbyist for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the projects.

    “Five months seems like a long time, but it’s looking good,” Arbogast said.

    She said a decision could be made in a few weeks.

    The lack of the ROD for the projects means very little work is progressing.

    “Anything moving forward will be on hold until we get to the point where we have a ROD,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district.

    This year’s federal budget includes $1 million for the conduit, but larger appropriations are needed in future years to move the project ahead.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


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

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

    New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

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

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

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

    Read the rest of this entry »


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

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

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    November 24, 2013
    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Water rights and cost issues still must be decided, but a study of the effectiveness of dams in Fountain Creek should be finalized in January. The study’s release was delayed a month because of a federal government shutdown, but the results have been reported for months.

    “There has been no study of costs and benefits,” David Mau, head of the Pueblo office of the U.S. Geological Survey told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The USGS did the study in conjunction with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. The local share of funds for the $500,000 study was provided through $300,000 paid by Colorado Springs Utilities as part of its Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions for the Southern Delivery System.

    The study looks at a 100-year storm centered over downtown Colorado Springs, and the effectiveness of dams or diversions at various locations along Fountain Creek. The most effective alternatives were a large dam on Fountain Creek or a series of detention ponds south of Colorado Springs. Mau said the number of ponds was not as important as the volume of water that could be stored.

    There were some snickers in the room when Mau pointed out that roads and railroad tracks would have to be moved to build a large dam approximately 10 miles from the confluence of Fountain Creek. But it was pointed out that a large flood also could relocate roads, railroad tracks and utility lines, as was the case in Northern Colorado in September. Pueblo County lost the Pinon Bridge in the 1999 flood.

    Mau said the amount of sediment trapped by a dam would amount to 2,500 truckloads, but said smaller ponds also would require extensive maintenance to remain effective.

    Board member Vera Ortegon asked Mau which alternative he would recommend.

    “We look at the science,” Mau said. “I could give you my personal opinion, but I won’t.”

    Meanwhile property owners continue to chip away at the Fryingpn-Arkansas Project debt. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Property owners in nine counties will continue to make a dent in the federal debt for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project next year. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency in charge of repaying the debt, will collect another $6.5 million in property taxes next year, most of which goes toward reducing the debt. The board reviewed the budget Thursday and is expected to pass it on Dec. 5. The district began paying off $129 million in federal loans in 1982 on a 50-year loan. The amount represents the region’s share of the $585 million cost to build the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project. About $36 million of the debt will remain at the end of the year, Executive Director Jim Broderick told the board Thursday.

    The district collects 0.944 mills in property taxes in parts of Bent, Chaffee, Crowley, El Paso, Fremont, Kiowa, Otero, Pueblo and Prowers counties. Of that, 0.9 mills goes toward federal repayment and the rest toward operating expenses.

    It also will collect $5.3 million in pass-through revenues from El Paso County to repay the federal government for building the Fountain Valley Conduit.

    The district also collects funds through sale of Fry-Ark water, fees and grants.

    The district’s operating budget is $2.24 million next year, with an additional $1.07 million in capital projects planned.

    The enterprise budget, paid mostly by user fees, totals $2.8 million, which includes $880,000 in capital projects.

    The district is responsible for paying the Bureau of Reclamation to operate and maintain the project. The district also allocates water to cities and farms, and provides legal protection of Fry­Ark water rights.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Ute Water Conservancy District: Water Rates and Tap Fees Approved for 2014

    November 23, 2013
    Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

    Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

    Here’s the release from the Ute Water Conservancy District (Joseph R. Burtard):

    Ute Water Conservancy District’s 14 Member Board of Directors voted unanimously to raise the District’s water rates and tap fees for 2014. Ute Water provides domestic water to over 80,000 people in Mesa County, making it the largest domestic water provider between Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah.

    The District completed a Raw Water Study in 2011 which identified future water needs based on the estimated population growth and multi-year drought protection in the Grand Valley. This study projected that by 2045, Ute Water will be serving a population of 197,000 consumers. In order to meet the projected demands of 80 gallons per capita per day, the District will need 21,400 acre-feet of additional water supply. The District’s Board has taken a proactive approach, based on the outcome of the study, to insure that appropriate infrastructure, technology and raw water supply will be in place to meet future domestic water demands in the Grand Valley.

    The District entered into a Financial Agreement, earlier this year, with the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation to purchase water stored in Ruedi Reservoir. This agreement initiated the largest single water purchase the District has made in its 57-year history. This Financial Agreement allowed Ute Water to purchase 12,000 acre-foot of water from Ruedi Reservoir for $1,297.90 an acre-foot. “The District will utilize this water as a reliable insurance policy for the Grand Valley. An investment that will allow the District to meet the future water needs of the Grand Valley while giving us a dependable source of water during drought conditions.” stated Joseph Burtard, spokesperson for Ute Water. Ruedi Reservoir is a 102,000 acre-feet reservoir which sits 15 miles above the town of Basalt, Colorado. Ruedi was constructed in 1968 as part of the Federal Reclamation’s “Fryingpan-Arkansas Project”.

    Ute Water utilizes a full-cost pricing approach when evaluating water rates each year. The District’s primary source of revenue is water sales. The revenue from water sales are expected to cover all operations, maintenance and the replacement cost of the existing infrastructure while preparing for the future demands and upgrades to the system. “Purchasing Ruedi water was a major capital investment for the District. As a result, our water rates and tap fees had to be evaluated and aligned with our operational costs and targeted reserves.” stated Burtard. The new water rate increases the $17.00 minimum, for the first 3,000 gallons of water, to a $19.00 minimum. The minimum water rate for all other tap sizes will also increase proportionally. Customers using over 3,000 gallons in a billing cycle will see a $.10 increase in each of the tiers. The new water rates will be for water delivered in December 2013 and billed after January 1, 2014. Effective January 1, 2014, the District’s tap fees will increase from $6,500 to $6,700.

    For additional information on Ute Water’s rate increase, please contact Joseph Burtard at Ute Water Conservancy District at (970) 242-7491 or visit the District’s website at http://www.utewater.og.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Duffy Hayes):

    For the second year in a row, Ute Water users will see an uptick in the amount they pay for the service. Ute Water’s board unanimously adopted an increase in the district’s water rates at a recent meeting, similar to a rise in rates last year. Both increases are being attributed to a recent $15.5 million purchase of more than 12,000 acre-feet of water from Ruedi Reservoir near Aspen.

    “We were trying to build up our reserves to purchase Ruedi (last year), and now that we have purchased it, we kind of need to replenish those reserves for capital projects,” said Joe Burtard, external affairs manager for the Ute Water Conservancy District. He further called the Ruedi purchase a “hidden gem” in terms of the cost of the purchase as compared with others in the industry.

    In practical terms, Ute Water customers who use less than 3,000 gallons a month will see their bill go from $17 to $19. For larger-scale users, $.10 will be added to the cost per tier of usage, officials said.

    Ute’s tiered system of billing for higher-use customers is in place for a reason, Burtard said.

    “That’s our way of enforcing conservation. We do have a fairly aggressive rate structure, but that’s because we live in a desert, and we don’t want people using treated water for outdoor use,” he said.

    The rate increase will happen for water delivered in December, appearing on users’ January billing statements. Also after the first of the year, tap fees will go up $200 to $6,700.

    In announcing the rate hike, Ute said that a 2011 study pegged the district’s future customer base at 197,000 customers by 2045, up significantly from the 80,000 people it serves today.

    The Ruedi water sale represented the largest single purchase made by the district over its entire 57-year history, according to a press release.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Monsoon moisture bolstering Arkansas River streamflow heading into the winter storage program

    November 16, 2013
    Arkansas River at Cañon City via the Division of Water Resources

    Arkansas River at Cañon City via the Division of Water Resources

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The monsoon rains in August and September still are boosting flows in the Arkansas River. The winter water storage program began Friday with Arkansas River flows that are above average — an unusual development in a year marked by drought.

    “The flows are still good at Canon City,” said Bill Tyner, assistant division engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. “We’re still benefitting from the late monsoons, even though we haven’t had any rain for a while.”

    There should not be a noticeable drop in Arkansas River readings as the program begins, largely because of the still vigorous flows.

    The winter water program allows ditches to store water from Nov. 15-March 15 rather than forcing farmers to irrigate outside the growing season. Water can be stored either in Lake Pueblo, John Martin or reservoirs owned by ditch companies. The amount of water stored depends on weather conditions and can’t be accurately predicted.

    On the other hand, releases from upper reservoirs in Lake County will be temporarily cut back slightly during the next week to allow Colorado Parks and Wildlife to work on a project to improve the Helena Ditch diversion structure near Buena Vista. The structure has resulted in rafting deaths in the past, and the state wants to modify it to make a fish passage as well, said Rob White, manager of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Reclamation is projecting that there will be about 45,000 acre-feet of storage space in Turquoise Lake for Fryingpan-Arkansas Project diversions from the West Slope next spring.

    If the winter snowpack is greater than average, more space can be created in Turquoise Lake by running water to Lake Pueblo over the winter months. However, there are no plans to do that as long as river levels stay robust, said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fry-Ark Project.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: Construction starting up on the Juniper pump station

    October 30, 2013
    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    There’s room in a $900 million water pipeline project for all sorts of businesses. Even brick-makers.

    Joe Welte, whose grandfather founded Summit Brick and Tile in Pueblo in 1902, gave a brief account of his family’s business at Tuesday’s celebration for local contractors who have worked on the Southern Delivery System. The event also marked the beginning of work on the Juniper Pump Station, the final piece of SDS construction in Pueblo County. He concluded with a story about his brother Tom’s visit to an elementary school, where he asked students to build a wall using either klinkers — bricks deformed by heat — or straight bricks. The students chose straight bricks, saying the wall would tumble with klinkers on the foundation.

    “Whether you are starting an education, planning your life or building for our water future, make sure that you use straight brick at the bottom,” Welte said.

    Summit Brick is one of about 100 local companies that are benefiting from contracts for SDS, a water delivery pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs that also benefits Pueblo West. Its part is relatively small: 50,000 4-by-4-by-12-inch bricks for the facade of the Juniper Pump Station, which amounts to about two days’ production.

    “With the downturn in the economy, this came at a good time,” Welte said.

    The bricks played a symbolic role at Tuesday’s event, as representatives of local companies build a wall and received commemorative bricks — made in Pueblo County, of course.

    The largest amount of local contracts went to ASI Constructors, which holds three contracts for $50 million. The company builds dams and other water projects all over the world.

    “It’s not often that we get to participate in a project of this magnitude in our own backyard,” ASI President John Bowen said.

    He touted the safety of the project, 68,000 man-hours without a lost-time accident, and economic benefit, $800,000 in wages, for his company alone.

    Government officials from both El Paso and Pueblo counties, including newly elected state Sens. George Rivera of Pueblo and Bernie Herpin of Colorado Springs, attended the event as well.

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    On Tuesday, the city kicked off construction of the Juniper pump station not far from the outlet from the dam that was built earlier as part of SDS. It’s one of three pump stations that, according to Colorado Springs Utilities, represent some of the largest components of the project; cumulatively, they’ll cost $76.5 million. A third of that will go to Colorado contractors. The prime contractor is Archer Western Constructors of Arlington, Texas.

    To update, here are some notes on SDS’ progress, provided by Springs Utilities:

    • The SDS pump stations will move water 1,500 feet in elevation from Pueblo Dam to the new water treatment plant under construction in El Paso County. At full capacity, SDS will be able to transport up to 96 million gallons of water per day (MGD) – 18 MGD to Pueblo West and the remaining 78 MGD to the El Paso County partner communities of Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain.

    • Garney Construction of Kansas City, Mo., is installing a 0.3-mile, 90-inch-diameter pipeline that will link Pueblo Dam to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District and other project partners. After Colorado Springs, Pueblo West is the second leading beneficiary of the SDS project.

    • Major SDS construction work commenced in Pueblo County in 2011 with the start of the new connection to Pueblo Dam. Since then 18 miles of pipe have been installed in Pueblo County and a total of 42 total miles installed project-wide. Recently, the SDS pipeline construction project through Pueblo West was recognized by Engineering News Record as the Best Water Project in 2013 for the mountain states region.

    • Construction of the nearly $1 billion project is resulting in significant benefits to the local economy. To date, more than 300 companies and organizations in Colorado have helped plan and construct SDS, including 100 in Pueblo County. Of the more than $362 million spent to plan and build SDS, more than $289 million has gone to Colorado companies.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

    When complete, the Juniper water pump station in Pueblo will have many motors and one of them will have the horsepower of four Formula 1 racing cars.

    It will need it to pump water 1,500 feet in elevation from Pueblo Reservoir to Pueblo West, Fountain, Security and Colorado Springs. Juniper station at Lake Pueblo State Park will be one of three water pump stations needed to move up to 96 million gallons of water up hill 53 miles in the Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System pipeline…

    The entire $1 billion project is expected to be completed by April 2016 and could pump 5 million gallons daily at first but with eventual capacity to pump up to 96 million gallons daily.

    From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Rebecca Tonn):

    The Southern Delivery System starts construction of the Juniper Pump Station at Lake Pueblo State Park and the last remaining section of pipeline in Pueblo County on [October 29, 2013]. Area businesses that will perform work or provide materials to build SDS components in the county will participate in a brick-laying ceremony, from 2 – 3 p.m.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


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

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

    Ruedi Dam and Reservoir — Photo via USBR

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

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

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

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

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

    Other entities contracting for water include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.


    Several El Paso County water suppliers are interested in Southern Delivery System deliveries

    September 25, 2013
    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic/Reclamation

    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic/USBR

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Even before a drop of water flows through Southern Delivery System, other El Paso County communities are making plans to hook up to the pipeline.

    Donala Water & Sanitation District, which serves 2,600 people north of Colorado Springs plans to begin an environmental impact statement process with Bureau of Reclamation within the next two weeks in order to obtain a long-term storage contract in Lake Pueblo.

    Cherokee Metro District, serving about 18,000 people in a community surrounded by Colorado Springs, wants to hook up to SDS in the future.

    Those communities will be held to the same environmental commitments, including federal environmental review and stormwater management, under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit.

    Donala purchased a ranch south of Leadville for its water rights in 2009, but will need SDS to deliver about 280 acrefeet annually — about 25 percent of its needs. “We have been talking to the city for years,” said Kip Peterson, manager of the Donala District. Donala already has a temporary contract in place to use Colorado Springs water delivery systems to deliver water from the ranch.

    Stormwater controls are problematic, because 95 percent of the land in Donala already has been developed, but the district is looking at how to amend its plan to address stormwater, Peterson said.

    Like Donala, Cherokee has a contract to buy water from or have its water delivered by Colorado Springs Utilities. Cherokee has a two-year lease from the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Cherokee gets most of its water from wells, but needs additional sources to round out its supply. “Unlike Donala, we don’t yet own any water we could store in Lake Pueblo,” said Sean Chambers, Cherokee manager.

    But Cherokee is interested in using SDS for the long-term. Like Colorado Springs, it has some water and wastewater lines that cross Sand Creek, a tributary of Fountain Creek. Those would be held to the same level of scrutiny as Colorado Springs lines.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System update: North outlet works ready to roll, most of the pipe is in the ground

    September 22, 2013
    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

    The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A major water pipeline through Pueblo County has moved quickly since construction began two years ago. A connection at Pueblo Dam is complete, all but a fraction of Southern Delivery System pipeline is in the ground and work will start soon on the Juniper Pump Station, Colorado Springs Utilities officials told Pueblo County Commissioners last week.

    “There has been significant progress on construction in Pueblo County,” said John Fredell, SDS program director for Utilities. That includes more than 18 miles of pipeline through Pueblo West and the northern part of Pueblo County on Walker Ranches.

    Under the 1041 permit, Colorado Springs also has committed to spend at least $145 million in mitigation. About $42 million of that has been spent so far.

    Commissioners are reviewing Colorado Springs commitments made under the 2009 1041 permit. Terry Hart, Sal Pace and Liane “Buffie” McFadyen all joined the board this year, and were not on the board when the permit was issued. Friday’s meeting was an opportunity for them to evaluate SDS compliance.

    SDS also benefits Pueblo West, by more than doubling its water supply capacity and giving it another way to deliver water from Pueblo Dam.

    “On our own, it would have been difficult to accomplish this,” Pueblo West Manager Jack Johnston told commissioners. “It’s been a $6 million cost to Pueblo West of a $30 million project.” Pueblo West now has a line that delivers 12 million gallons per day from the South Outlet Works. When SDS is complete, it will have another 18 million-gallon line from the new North Outlet Works. “Everything they committed to has been exceeded,” Johnston said.

    Pueblo County staff has received quarterly and annual updates on compliance with the 1041 regulations, said Keith Riley, deputy program director for SDS. During the four-hour hearing there were some complaints from Pueblo West landowners about the way they have been treated as the pipeline crossed their property. But Riley pointed out that condemnation of property was a last resort, and some of the purchases of houses along the route provided materials for Habitat for Humanity and training opportunities for firefighters. Any large project is bound to leave some people unhappy, he said. “My heart goes out to those who have been (adversely) affected,” Riley told commissioners. “Our staff does care about landowners and we plan to respond to each point.”

    Hart, who chairs the commission, said the county plans to see that Colorado Springs lives up to its commitment. “We’ve directed staff to match the comments we heard today with the conditions in the 1041 agreement and see if we can settle the differences,” Hart said.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    While Colorado Springs officials painted a serene picture of compliance with Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions, local landowners offered different viewpoints. After listening to a presentation addressing major points of the Southern Delivery System by Colorado Springs Utilities staff, several people took issue with the rosy outlook.

    Dwain Maxwell plopped down a 6-inchthick stack of paper and explained how a team of Colorado Springs lawyers outflanked him in court over what he says is a low-ball property appraisal for an easement on his property in Pueblo West.

    LaVetta Kay told about how her complaints of workers trespassing on her property were disregarded by SDS management.

    Engineer Laurie Clark showed photos of how large areas of pipeline revegetation areas on Walker Ranches have been washed out by relatively light summer storms.

    Jane Rhodes talked about how unchecked flows on Fountain Creek continue to wash acres of her ranch land downstream. “I only have two acres, but they’re just as important to me as Gary Walker’s thousands of acres,” Maxwell told the board.

    A Pueblo district court jury awarded Maxwell only $1,850, rather than the $2,200 Colorado Springs Utilities first offered him or the $18,500 his own appraiser valued the property. Commission Chairman Terry Hart asked Keith Riley, assistant project director for SDS, why Utilities did not pay Maxwell the amount it originally offered. “What I worry about when I hear about this is that Mr. Maxwell was not properly represented,” Hart said.

    “The court ordered us to pay $1,850,” Riley replied.

    Maxwell said the construction led to dust and disruption. Revegetation has created 4-foot tall weeds due to overwatering, but little grass. “Their promises have not been followed,” Maxwell said. Construction has created problems for Kay as well.

    “I get no communication,” she said. “There’s no accountability. They disrespect me and disregard my property.”

    Clark’s photos countered Utilities slides that portrayed orderly green­ belts along the pipeline route. Instead, large ravines that cross the pipeline route were gouged out, ruining revegetation that had begun. Utilities is aware of the problems and is working with Walker to solve them, said Mark Pifher, permit manager.

    Rhodes’ problems relate to stormwater control, a long-standing problem on Fountain Creek that she believes will be made worse by SDS. “With all of the water coming from the north, when SDS gets done and in full force, we possibly won’t have any farms on Fountain Creek,” Rhodes said.

    Commissioners directed staff to compile complaints according to conditions Colorado Springs agreed to in the 1041 permit and determine if they can be resolved. “This gives us an opportunity to address any issues out there and see where we are headed,” Hart said.

    Colorado Springs indicated it would work with Pueblo County in resolving issues. “We take our obligations seriously and are sure that we could meet every one of them,” Utilities CEO Jerry Forte told him.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Southern Delivery System construction has provided a shot in the arm to Pueblo County’s economy, commissioners heard during a meeting last week on the progress of SDS. “There has been a positive economic benefit to Pueblo,” said John Bowen, president of ASI Constructors.

    The Pueblo West company won a $50 million contract for construction of the North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam and some of the pipeline associated with SDS. “We’ve added employees during the recession,” Bowen said. “We are part of balancing the public trust with environmental concerns.”

    It is important to ASI and Pueblo County for SDS to stay on course for its 2016 completion, because that will speed up work on Fountain Creek. ASI would be among bidders for future dam projects, he said.

    Sherri Weber of M&S Trucking in Boone also spoke of the economic benefits. The company has hauled materials to construction sites for nearly two years under its SDS contract.

    Overall, Colorado Springs Utilities said it has spent $60 million with more than 100 Pueblo County contractors. The total spent through the end of July on SDS construction was $382 million.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo County commissioners Friday looked at a menu of issues ranging from economic benefits to environmental damage surrounding construction of the Southern Delivery System pipeline through the county. Hanging over the discussion like a storm cloud, however, was whether Colorado Springs is serious about reining in flood control, as its council once promised. “In light of the recent flooding in Colorado Springs, this is a timely meeting that brings up concerns that have been with us for a long time,” Commissioner Sal Pace said. “The low point was in 2009, with the elimination of the stormwater enterprise.”

    It was a repeated theme throughout a four-hour meeting. Resolving Fountain Creek issues played a big role in years of discussions that led to Bureau of Reclamation approval of the $940 million SDS project.

    The 1041 permit itself does not require any level of spending or even that a stormwater enterprise has to be in place. It only requires that return flows from SDS do not exacerbate flows, said Mark Pifher, SDS permit manager. That position is being contested by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which this week decided to sue the Bureau of Reclamation, which issued a favorable record of decision for SDS based on the existence of a stormwater enterprise.

    At Friday’s meeting, Jay Winner, Lower Ark general manager, asked Colorado Springs officials why council chose to drop the stormwater enterprise in 2009 while ignoring the main goal of the 2009 Proposition 300, which was to elimi­nate Utilities transfers to the city’s general fund. The move came after Springs voters defeated a 2008 issue to make stormwater payments voluntary. “As elected officials, we felt there was a message from voters that the stormwater fee should be stopped,” said Colorado Springs Councilwoman Jan Martin, the only council member still serving who was on the board in 2009. She voted to repeal the enterprise.

    Martin is working on a stormwater task force that plans to put a ballot issue for a stormwater fee or tax on the November 2014 ballot in Colorado Springs and El Paso County. What appears on the ballot depends in part on a prioritization of needs ordered by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, who has not cooperated with the task force.

    Dorothy Butcher, a former state representative from Pueblo, questioned how much of current stormwater spending in Colorado Springs, reported at $46 million, is addressing the issue of reducing Pueblo flood impacts. “With your potential 2014 ballot initiative, if it’s turned down, what source of revenue will you use?”

    Martin said the council would transfer money from other sources, as it is doing now, adding that she is confident voters will support a ballot issue that clearly outlines its purpose, such as last year’s ballot measure to continue a transportation tax.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    The Lower Ark District is moving to file a complaint against Reclamation over SDS Record of Decision

    September 20, 2013
    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

    Southern Delivery System route map

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A federal decision on the Southern Delivery System is headed to court. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is preparing a complaint to file in federal court over the Bureau of Reclamation’s refusal to reopen its record of decision on SDS. The central issue is the abolishment of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise in 2009, which was in place when Reclamation granted approval of a 40-year contract for storage, exchange and connection at Pueblo Dam for SDS.

    “I’m asking our board to draft a legal complaint against the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Melissa Esquibel, a Pueblo County board member. “We’ve asked the Bureau of Reclamation to reopen the record of decision, and gotten no action. We need to direct staff to draft a lawsuit.”

    Lower Ark board members say SDS should not be allowed to deliver water until the stormwater issue is resolved. “If there had not been a stormwater enterprise, SDS never would have gotten a 1041 permit,” said Anthony Nunez, a Lower Ark board member who was a Pueblo County commissioner in 2009.

    Last year, the Lower Ark district sent letters to Reclamation asking to reopen the record of decision on the stormwater issue. Reclamation declined to take any action.

    This will be the second lawsuit the Lower Ark district has filed against Reclamation, if the board approves it at its October meeting. In 2007, the Lower Ark sued Reclamation over a 40-year storage and exchange contract with Aurora, claiming it illegally allowed the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the Arkansas River basin. The lawsuit was settled in 2009, after Aurora and the Lower Ark signed an agreement for mitigation of some of the issues surrounding the contract.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Flood protection for the Lower Arkansas Valley should not be an afterthought. That message was delivered to Colorado Springs Wednesday during a presentation about regional stormwater efforts in El Paso County to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Protection District. “We quibble about data. What I want to see is the problem fixed,” Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner told Mark Pifher, point man for the Southern Delivery System.

    Colorado Springs Utilities disputes the Lower Ark’s interpretation of state and federal data about water quality. The Lower Ark claims it shows higher flows have increased sedimentation and bacteria in Fountain Creek since Colorado Springs got rid of its stormwater enterprise in 2009. Pifher countered that’s just because of higher peak flows in the past three years. Fountain Creek monitoring has begun and safeguards are built into the Bureau of Reclamation’s contract through an adaptive management program if unexpected pollution occurs, he said. A stormwater task force and Mayor Steve Bach are close to coming to consensus and moving a stormwater issue to the 2014 ballot.

    All of which served to aggravate Pueblo County members of the Lower Ark board:

    “My heartburn is that the discussions center around the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon as far as Fountain Creek is concerned, but nothing for us” said Melissa Esquibel. “I don’t think anything substantive has happened.”

    “It’s been a fractured thing up there since I was a commissioner. It almost doesn’t seem real. We’ve heard the same thing over and over and over,” said Anthony Nunez. “I have to say there is a small amount of trust.”

    “We have to put limits on SDS until the stormwater issue is taken on,” said Reeves Brown.

    Colorado Springs voters defeated a Doug Bruce measure in 2008 to make payment of stormwater fees voluntary by 30,000 votes, but City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise after a second ballot measure that did not even mention it by name passed in 2009, Winner said. While Bruce campaigned against a “rain tax,” the 2009 Proposition specifically tried to sever utility payments from the Colorado Springs general fund. Council has not ended Utilities payment in lieu of taxes, Pifher said in response to a question by Winner.

    Pifher said stormwater fees would be collected again beginning as soon as 2015 if voters approve it in 2014. That didn’t do much to allay fears. “You got what you needed and the stormwater enterprise went away,” Winner said. “Do you see the pattern here?”

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Fountain Creek: ‘What I would like to see is for Pueblo to stop being flooded’ — Buffie McFayden

    September 3, 2013

    fountaincreekmonsoonjuly2012.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Fountain Creek connects Pueblo with Colorado Springs, and controlling it remains a key issue if the Southern Delivery System is to be turned on in three years. So there is bound to be a torrent of discussion on a stormwater enterprise, dams on Fountain Creek and water quality over the next few months.

    Pueblo County commissioners set the stage last week for a Sept. 20 meeting to air issues surrounding the county’s 1041 permit for SDS. While there is a varied menu of issues that were hammered out over several months back in 2008-09, it’s clear that Fountain Creek is at the top of the agenda. “I don’t know if any of this works, because I’ve seen the power of the water,” Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen said last week after reviewing a federal study of dams on Fountain Creek. “What I would like to see is for Pueblo to stop being flooded and for people in north Pueblo County to keep from losing their land to these floods.”

    The commissioners — none of whom were on the board when the 1041 permit was negotiated — also are working through the details of exactly how to handle $50 million, plus interest, that was pledged by Colorado Springs to protect Pueblo from flooding that will be made worse by SDS. Their lawyers are focusing the board on what it can do to keep Colorado Springs on track with the conditions agreed to in the 1041 permit.

    But a different set of issues is swirling around the sides.

    Chief among them is stormwater. It was taken for granted by the Bureau of Reclamation in the studies leading up to a 40-year contract for SDS to operate from Pueblo Dam. In the 1041 conditions, only the incremental flows directly caused by SDS are mentioned. “It’s a moral question and potentially a legal question,” Commissioner Sal Pace said.

    In July, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District claimed flooding has worsened and water quality deteriorated after Colorado Springs City Council eliminated its stormwater enterprise fee in 2009. Commissioners want to hear that report, as well as the rebuttal from Colorado Springs Utilities.

    Last week, public wrangling over the stormwater question broke out again in Colorado Springs. Mayor Steve Bach was quoted in the Gazette as favoring a city stormwater fee, while Council President Keith King argued for a regional approach — possibly extending to the confluence and including Pueblo.

    The Colorado Springs Council plans hearings of its own in the next few months to sort out which approach voters would be most likely to favor.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


    Drought news: Water temperatures soar below Pueblo Dam, not enough stored water to make a difference

    September 1, 2013

    NorthOutletWorksConeValveTestViaMWHGlobal.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Wildlife officials are watching water temperatures in the Arkansas River for potential harmful effects on fish. “The combination of low flows and weather are making for uncomfortable conditions for fish up and down the river,” said Doug Krieger, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. While fishermen have reported finding some dead fish, it appears that fish in the water are not stressed, he added.

    As temperatures climbed into the 90s this week, water temperatures in the Pueblo reach of the Arkansas River have hit 80 degrees or higher each day after flows dropped below 40 cubic feet per second at Moffat Street on Monday. Closer to Pueblo Dam, temperatures have been about 70 degrees.

    The problem is being complicated by mud that washed into the river near the Nature and Raptor Center earlier this month, said Ben Wurster, of Steel City Anglers and Trout Unlimited. “It’s been so dry, and with no moisture the water heats up,” Wurster said.

    There is little that can be done. There are about 5,000 acre-feet of agricultural water stored in Lake Pueblo, but farmers likely want to hold it back to start crops next year. Parks and Wildlife has some water, but not enough to make a difference. Cities have curtailed exchanges into Lake Pueblo, but are not releasing any additional water.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs have an agreement to release water to maintain flows of 50 cfs below Pueblo Dam once the Southern Delivery System is in operation. Conditions this week are not dry enough to trigger releases, even if that agreement were active.

    In another development, the Bureau of Reclamation and Colorado Springs reached a temporary agreement to release water through the river gate on the North Outlet Works rather than the spillway.

    Under its SDS contract, Reclamation will own the North Outlet Works, which was built by Colorado Springs. Details still are being negotiated.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update: $15 million needed for engineering

    August 19, 2013

    arkansasvalleyconduitproposed.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The exact route and cost of the Arkansas Valley Conduit won’t be known until engineering is complete, but the water line to serve 40 communities in Eastern Colorado is becoming a reality. “There are a whole lot of people who thought we’d never get to this point,” Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District told the board Thursday. “The work we’ve done so far is preliminary. We still have to get this done.”

    The Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement on the project was released Aug. 9. A record of decision is expected to be issued after a 30-day comment period, meaning work on the actual project can begin. It took just two years for the EIS to be completed, which is less time than a typical project would take. However, the conduit was approved by Congress in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act.

    District officials and members of Congress are working on strategies to get the estimated $15 million needed for engineering in the 2015 fiscal year, and possibly to shift some Reclamation funding sooner than that. Construction of the conduit could begin as soon as 2016, largely depending on funding. The EIS also covers Southeastern’s master storage contract that will serve 37 communities and a federal project to interconnect the north and south outlet works.

    Negotiations still are ongoing to build the first leg of the conduit, which would go from the south outlet works to Pueblo Boulevard. From there, the pipeline would head to the Pueblo Board of Water Works Whitlock Treatment Plant, where it would be filtered and moved south through City Park, along Pueblo Boulevard and then south of Pueblo and the Comanche Power Plant. It would run east from there to the St. Charles Mesa treatment plant, then head north of the Arkansas River where it would begin its route eastward with spurs to serve communities along the way.

    In all, there would be 227 miles of pipeline tapering from 48 inches in diameter to 6 inches.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    AWRA Colorado Section summer field trip recap: What happens when you dig a 40 foot hole in the ground?

    August 18, 2013

     

    Coffee and bagels at Denver Water just before heading to Pueblo Dam

    Every now and again you sign up for the right water tour. The American Water Resources Colorado Section tour of the Southern Delivery System — which is slated to move Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water to serve several Arkansas Valley communities — turned out great.

    First off, we visited the valve house for the project at the base of Pueblo Dam.

    Valve house north outlet works Pueblo Dam, August 2013

    Folks from Colorado Springs Utilities and USBR detailed much of the design and proposed operational facts about the outlet works. The release to the Arkansas River was engineered for 1120 CFS. One of our hosts smiled as he said, “You can feel a vibration when it’s open.”

    Valve test north outlet works Pueblo Dam via MWH Global

    We also visited the site where CSU is building a new treatment plant out by the Colorado Springs airport. That’s where the MWH Global project manager explained that they had spent most of the week pumping stormwater out of the 40 foot hole that they dug in the wind blown sand soil at the site. It seems that one of those monsoon storms dumped an inch or so of precipitation in 30 minutes. They had accomplished pouring one section of the slab base for the plant that day.

    New CSU water treatment plant site, August 2013

    Converstion on the bus between stops ranged from the cultural differences between white europeans and the native american tribes to the announcement earlier in the day from Reclamation of a 24 month operating plan for Lake Powell that would reduce deliveries downriver to Lake Mead.

    We heard about Castle Rock’s plans to move to 75% renewable supplies from their director, Mark Marlowe.  They’re hoping to eventually only use their wells  to get through a drought.

    We also heard some roadside geology from one of the folks at the Colorado Geological Survey. He explained a bit about the Denver Basin Aquifer System and hydraulic fracturing in the Niobrara.

    More Southern Delivery System Coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit Final EIS Available

    August 12, 2013

    arkansasvalleyconduitproposed.jpg

    Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb/Buck Feist):

    The Bureau of Reclamation announces the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long-Term Excess Capacity Master Contract. To access the document, its Executive Summary, and supporting appendices please visit http://www.usbr.gov/avceis. A list of local libraries housing hard copies of the Final EIS is also included on the website.
    In the Final EIS, Comanche North is identified as the agency-preferred alternative. It minimizes cost and urban construction disturbance, avoids the U.S. Highway 50 expansion corridor, and maximizes source water quality and yield. It is a hybrid alternative developed in response to comments on the Draft EIS by using components of other alternatives analyzed in that document. Of the AVC alternatives, Comanche North would be least costly and provide the most benefits.

    “After extensive public involvement and consideration of comments, scientific data and regional water needs, Reclamation is pleased to release this Final Environmental Impact Statement and announce Comanche North as the agency-preferred alternative,” said Mike Ryan, Regional Director for Reclamation’s Great Plains Region, which includes eastern Colorado.

    Reclamation completed the Final EIS in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. In it, the agency proposed and analyzed three federal actions pertaining to AVC and the Master Contract:

  • Construct and operate the AVC and enter into a repayment contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District;
  • Enter into a conveyance contract with various water providers for use of a pipeline interconnection between Pueblo Dam’s south and north outlet works; and,
  • Enter into an excess capacity master contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.
  • When completed, the pipeline for the AVC could be up to 227 miles long.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado’s congressional delegation wants more funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and sent a joint letter last week to the Department of Interior arguing for more funds in 2015. The letter came at the same time as the final environmental impact statement by the Bureau of Reclamation for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which recommends construction of a 227-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads, serving 40 water districts and a population of 50,000 that is expected to grow to 75,000 by 2070. The conduit route would move water through the Pueblo water board’s Whitlock Treatment Plant for filtration, swing south of the Comanche Power Plant, then run primarily north of the Arkansas River east of Pueblo. In the letter, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, both Republicans, asked Anne Castle, Interior undersecretary for science and water, for increased funding in the 2015 budget, when construction of the conduit could start.

    The EIS also recommends an interconnection at Pueblo Dam between the North Outlet Works construction by Colorado Springs for the Southern Delivery System and the South Outlet Works, which will primarily serve the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The south connection also serves Pueblo West, the Fountain Valley Conduit and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The EIS also recommends 40-year Lake Pueblo storage contracts for 25 conduit participants and 12 other water providers. The contracts would total almost 30,000 acre-feet annually. The total cost for all three projects is estimated at $400 million in the EIS, and some of that would be repaid by storage contract revenues under 2009 federal legislation.

    While the conduit itself benefits 50,000 people, the interconnect benefits more than 665,000, by providing redundancy for SDS and Pueblo. About 178,000 people would be served by the master contract, including some El Paso County communities outside of Colorado Springs and several Upper Arkansas water users.

    But the push for funding in austere federal times continues. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which sponsors the projects, sought $15 million in funds for the 2014 fiscal year, but received just $1 million. With the record of decision for the projects expected in 30 days, Colorado’s congressional representatives asked Castle to consider more “robust” funding for the conduit.

    Here’s the full text of their letter from the Boulder iJournal:

    Dear Assistant Secretary Castle and Commissioner Connor:

    As the Department of Interior begins consideration of its FY 2015 budget, we write to express our strong support for robust funding of water conservation and delivery studies, projects and activities. In particular, we want to highlight the Arkansas Valley Conduit project in southeastern Colorado. Adequate funding is essential in order to meet federally mandated water quality standards in the region.

    The Arkansas Valley conduit is a planned 130-mile water delivery system from the Pueblo Dam to communities throughout the Arkansas River Valley in Colorado. The conduit is the final phase of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which Congress authorized in 1962. When completed, it will help bring clean drinking water to up to 42 municipalities, towns, and water providers in the lower Arkansas valley.

    Many of the wells in these areas have been contaminated with radon or uranium. As a result, many of the water providers in the region are out of compliance with federal water quality standards. More importantly, however, because of the lack of funding for water projects like this, the populations of these regions have been denied clean high quality water. Providing clean and safe water to all Americans should be at the forefront of the Department’s mission, and these water quality issues underscore the urgent need for progress on the conduit.

    The federal government has already funded planning and feasibility studies for four years in order to make the conduit a reality, and President Obama signed legislation in 2009 committing to fund a substantial share of the project costs. Unfortunately, the Administration’s budget proposal for FY 2014 did not fund the project adequately. While planners in the Arkansas valley expect costs to exceed $15 million in FY 2014, the Bureau of Reclamation’s budget justification requested just $1 million for the project. Adequate funding to compensate for this shortfall in 2015 will be essential to complete the project on schedule.

    As you know, the final Environmental Impact Statement will be released this month. Following a 30-day comment period, a Record of Decision (“ROD”) will be announced. The issuance of an ROD stating a preferred alternative removes any regulatory barrier to moving forward with the project, and signals the start of the design and engineering phase. The Office of Management and Budget indicated that the lack of the ROD was the reason for reducing the funding to only $1 million for FY 2014. With the ROD due to be announced soon, adequate project funding is essential for moving this vital infrastructure and water quality project forward in a timely manner.

    Thank you for your consideration of this request.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project operations update: 47,000 acre-feet across the Great Divide this season #ColoradoRiver

    August 11, 2013

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    From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

    An estimated 47,000 acre-feet of water will be diverted from the upper Fryingpan River basin this year to municipalities and farmers on the Front Range, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    The diversion is significantly above the paltry 14,000 acre-feet that could be diverted last year but still 13 percent below the average annual diversion of 54,000 acre-feet, according to bureau records.

    The diversion season from the upper Fryingpan is just about finished, according to Kara Lamb, a spokeswoman for the agency, which manages Ruedi Reservoir’s water…

    The snowpack melted quickly, so the diversion season is coming to an end. Sailers and anglers might be disappointed to know the water level in Ruedi Reservoir peaked earlier this week. Even though diversions are easing, less water is flowing into Ruedi Reservoir than must be released, according to Lamb. Her email said the bureau increased the release of water by 60 cfs recently to satisfy owners of superior water rights on the Colorado River near Cameo. An additional 50 cfs was released as part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Plan. Ruedi Reservoir is under contract to supply more than 10,000 acre-feet of water for that federal program.

    The total release from the reservoir combined with Rocky Fork Creek is producing a flow of about 268 cfs in the lower Fryingpan River below the dam, a level that generally pleases trout fishermen.

    Ruedi Reservoir peaked around 95,500 acre-feet, or 93 percent of capacity, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The water level started dropping this week because the inflow fell off so drastically. About 120 cfs was flowing into the reservoir Wednesday.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.


    Fountain Creek: Mayor Bach takes position that Pueblo County’s 1041 permit is non-specific with respect to projects

    July 31, 2013

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    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    After Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King sent a June 6 letter to Pueblo County misstating the facts about Colorado Springs Utilities’ permit to build the Southern Delivery System (“Storm brewing,” News, July 17), they corrected the record with a new letter sent July 19.

    In the June 6 version, the city said a Stormwater Enterprise projects list was submitted “as part of” the 1041 construction permit process for the water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir. There was no such project list or dollar figure submitted by the city as part of the 1041 permit itself, records show, meaning the city made no concrete pledges to spend a certain amount of money on stormwater or to do certain projects.

    Rather, the permit, issued in April 2009, simply requires the city to ensure that Fountain Creek peak flows that result from new development served by the water pipeline are no greater than prior peak flows.

    Although City Attorney Chris Melcher said in a statement to the Indy on July 15 that the June 6 letter “was accurate,” Bach and King wrote a new letter on July 19 “to clarify any potential misunderstanding of our letter of June 6, 2013.”

    This letter also said that while there were “conversations” about stormwater projects, “it is clear that the 1041 Permit itself does not require or adopt any specific list of capital projects that must be implemented … [n]or does the 1041 Permit require a specific dollar amount to be allocated.”

    The July 19 letter prompted Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace to tell the Pueblo Chieftain he was “furious” and “confused.”

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Arkansas River Basin update on Colorado River Basin imports this season #ColoradoRiver #COdrought

    July 28, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Imports of water from the Colorado River basin are providing a substantial amount of water to the Arkansas River basin during the drought. Almost 98,000 acre-feet of water have been imported through the three largest transmountain tunnels — Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Twin Lakes and Homestake — and more than 7,000 acre-feet through smaller tunnels and ditches. In all, the diversions added 105,500 acre-feet to the Arkansas River system this year. That amounts to about 144 cubic feet per second of river flows all day long, every day of the year in the Arkansas River. That’s a lot, considering that the flow near Salida is only around 600 cfs in the middle of summer. It’s been around 100 cfs through Pueblo most of the year, and was languishing at 270 cfs at Avondale last week.

    To put it in other terms, it’s nearly four times as much water as Pueblo runs through its treated water system in a year, and about the average amount used by the Catlin Canal. According to preliminary figures from the Colorado Division of Water Resources:

    The Fry-Ark Project brought over more than 46,300 acre-feet this year. It provides supplemental water to cities and farms in the Arkansas River basin.

    Twin Lakes, mostly owned by Colorado Springs, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Aurora and Pueblo West, brought in 34,000 acre-feet this year.

    Homestake, which delivers water to Colorado Springs and Aurora, brought in more than 17,600 acre-feet.

    Busk-Ivanhoe, a tunnel owned by Pueblo and Aurora, added 3,792 acre-feet.

    Columbine Ditch, near Fremont Pass and owned by Aurora and Climax, added 1,459 acre-feet.

    Pueblo’s Wurtz and Ewing Ditches contributed another 2,273 acre-feet.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    The Pueblo County D.A. will appeal reversal of Judge Reyes’ order for a CWQCC redo for certification of SDS

    July 26, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo District Attorney Jeff Chostner will ask the Colorado Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling on Fountain Creek.

    Last week, a three-judge appellate panel overturned District Judge Victor Reyes’ order for the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission to redo its certification of Colorado Springs’ mitigation plan for Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River. The case was originally filed by former District Attorney Bill Thiebaut. “I think there are contradictions within the opinion about what Judge Reyes could and couldn’t do,” Chostner said Tuesday. “They were also wrong on the facts and in saying that he acted in a capricious way.”

    One of the major criticisms in last week’s reversal of Reyes’ order was that he chose to adopt Thiebaut’s complaint almost in its entirety. “It’s not unusual for a judge to pick one side over the other,” Chostner said. A petition for a writ of certiorari will be filed with the Supreme Court by the Aug. 29 deadline, Chostner said.

    John Barth, a Hygiene water attorney hired by Thiebaut, and Chostner’s staff will work on the appeal.

    Reyes issued the order last year for the commission to re-evaluate its certification for Colorado Springs Utilities’ plan for mitigation of impacts from the Southern Delivery System on Fountain Creek and the reach of the Arkansas River from Pueblo Dam to Avondale.

    Thiebaut and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition opposed the plan, mainly because it relies on an adaptive management program that was spawned in the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for SDS. The opponents argued for a numerical standard instead.

    The state certification is necessary for Army Corps of Engineers’ approval to work in Fountain Creek under the federal Clean Water Act.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Arkansas River: Voluntary flow program to be honored by the Palmer Land Trust on October 9

    July 26, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A program that keeps flows for fish and recreation in the Upper Arkansas River is being recognized by the Palmer Land Trust with an innovation in conservation award. The award will be presented Oct. 9 in Colorado Springs. It recognizes unique partnerships that protect natural heritage.

    The voluntary flow program allows transfer of water in the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project in a way that benefits fish on the Arkansas River. Water brought from the Colorado River basin is stored in Turquoise and Twin Lakes and moved to Lake Pueblo under the Fry-Ark Project. In 1990, a program was established to move the water at opportune times in order to control temperature and spawning conditions for fish, as well as to boost flows for rafting during the summer months. During the drought, the water has been crucial to meeting flow targets on the river. “This year we’ll move 14,000 acre-feet,” said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fry-Ark Project for the Bureau of Reclamation. “It’s water that we would have to move anyway.”

    The program is coordinated by Reclamation, which controls river releases; Colorado Parks and Wildlife; the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District; and the Arkansas River Outfitters Association, along with other water users and groups in the Arkansas River basin.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    ‘They [Colorado Springs] disguise their intentions and do nothing’ — Jay Winner

    July 24, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs leaders have told Pueblo County commissioners the city is not required to address specific stormwater projects or spend a set amount under its Southern Delivery System 1041 permit. It’s infuriated Commissioner Sal Pace, because the position apparently contradicts an June 6 letter in which Colorado Springs pledged to address the needs identified in the permitting process for SDS, a pipeline that will deliver water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County. “I don’t know if I’m more furious or confused,” Pace said. “All one has to do is read the SDS environmental impact statement and see that the stormwater enterprise is mentioned over and over. In the June 6 letter, they indicated they were committed to addressing their stormwater needs. Now, in one simple letter, the city has reversed all that.”

    As a state lawmaker, Pace challenged the elimination of the stormwater enterprise and continues to question the decision as a commissioner.

    Pueblo County commissioners are seeking a meeting with Colorado Springs officials to discuss SDS compliance, but no date has been set. Violations of the 1041 permit would have to be addressed at a formal compliance hearing, and are not subject to the individual opinions of commissioners. Apparently, Colorado Springs is taking the position that it is only required to pay $50 million to a Fountain Creek improvement district, spend $75 million on bolstering sewer lines and ensure that SDS does not increase flows under the county permit for its $940 million water supply project. “It is clear the 1041 permit itself does not require or adopt any specific list of capital projects that must be implemented to address Fountain Creek peak flows, run-off volumes or other flood hazards,” Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King wrote in a letter to Pace last week. ‘’Nor does the 1041 permit require a specific dollar amount to be allocated toward stormwater projects.”

    Comments in March 2012 by City Attorney Chris Melcher that Colorado Springs should be spending at least $13 million annually on stormwater touched off a flurry of stormwater activity three years after council abolished the city’s stormwater enterprise.

    An El Paso County task force identified $900 million in capital projects, $686 million in Colorado Springs. Bach launched an independent review of Colorado Springs’ share.

    During that time, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District asked the Bureau of Reclamation to reopen its environmental analysis of SDS because it originally assumed the stormwater enterprise was in effect. Last week, the district released figures showing the city’s expenditures on stormwater dwindled to nearly nothing in 2012.

    Colorado Springs is spending $46 million on stormwater projects this year, with more than half going toward dealing with impacts from the Waldo Canyon Fire.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The burden of meeting water quality standards will increasingly fall on farmers in the Lower Arkansas Valley as a result of inaction on stormwater in Colorado Springs. “It’s outrageous that they do not want to take the responsibility for stormwater,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “Pueblo and the Lower Ark district have tried to cooperate, but it seems that every­ The federal Food Modernization and Safety Act passed last year puts increased responsibility for water quality on farmers who irrigate and market raw food, Winner said. Lower Ark district studies show that water quality on Fountain Creek has continued to decline since Colorado Springs abolished its stormwater enterprise.

    Winner was reacting to news reported in The Chieftain Tuesday that Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and Council President Keith King say their city is not obligated to do any specific projects or fund stormwater at any certain levels under Pueblo County permits for the Southern Delivery System.

    Bach and King made that clear in a letter to Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace last week.

    That’s a slap in the face to Winner, who received assurances stormwater would be funded at Colorado Springs City Council meetings in 2005, when the stormwater enterprise was formed, and in 2009, when it was dissolved. But a recent analysis by the Lower Ark district shows funding dropped to almost nothing in 2012. It has increased to $46 million this year, largely because of concerns about funding levels for SDS permits raised by Colorado Springs attorney Chris Melcher last year and the after-effects of the Waldo Canyon Fire. “The enterprise was supposed to fund the backlog of projects,” Winner said. That backlog now is estimated to be $686 million, a figure Bach questions. “They disguise their intentions and do nothing.”

    Winner said the stormwater enterprise was listed as reasonably foreseeable in the 2009 environmental impact statement for SDS by the Bureau of Reclamation. “It has to be in place before one drop of water moves through SDS,” Winner said.

    Conversely, Reclamation says a stormwater enterprise in Colorado Springs or El Paso County is not reasonably foreseeable in its current evaluation of the Arkansas Valley Conduit. But Reclamation has not reopened the EIS for SDS, despite a Lower Ark request last year.

    Winner also questions whether the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District is weighted too heavily in favor of El Paso County. He is critical of the district for focusing on impacts of Waldo Canyon near Colorado Springs rather than downstream impacts. The district was formed in part to satisfy how $50 million in payments from Colorado Springs to improve Fountain Creek would be handled under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for SDS. The district played a role in the current discussion over stormwater in El Paso County, backing a study that showed Colorado Springs’ stormwater funding lagged far behind other Front Range communities.

    However, Colorado Springs leadership has at times ignored the district. For six months in 2011 no representative from Colorado Springs attended Fountain Creek meetings, as reported in the Sept. 24, 2011, Pueblo Chieftain. “I don’t recall that Mayor Bach ever has attended a Fountain Creek board meeting,” Winner added.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Appeals court reverses Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes’ order regarding the SDS’s 401 permit

    July 19, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A Colorado appeals court Thursday reversed Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes’ order for the state to re-evaluate its assessment of the impacts of the Southern Delivery System on Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

    Reyes issued an order on April 12, 2012, for the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission to reopen hearings on a 2011 Water Quality Act Section 401 permit for SDS. The permit is necessary for construction of the SDS pipeline across Fountain Creek because it is tied to Army Corps of Engineers permits.

    Colorado Springs Utilities is building the $940 million pipeline, which will take water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County.

    The state decision was challenged by former Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition.

    They argued that a numerical water quality standard was needed rather than relying on an adaptive management program that the Bureau of Reclamation established as part of an environmental impact statement leading up to approval of SDS.

    They also challenged the way public notices were made and said the state failed to look at the possibility of further degradation of Fountain Creek from population growth in Colorado Springs.

    The appeals court opinion said the Water Quality Control Commission did not violate applicable water quality standards, reversing Reyes’ decision.

    Judge Stephanie Dunn wrote the opinion, with Judges Nancy Lichtenstein and James Casebolt concurring.

    The opinion criticizes Reyes for adopting most of the wording in his decision from the complaint filed by Thiebaut and the coalition, saying it is not the court’s role to reverse a state agency’s decision without more rigorous investigation.

    “Where, as here, a district court adopts an order drafted by counsel, we scrutinize the order more critically,” Dunn wrote.

    The opinion also said Reyes erred by citing Colorado Springs Utilities’ land condemnation cases in Pueblo West when writing his order. Reyes “made credibility determinations based on information outside the administrative record.”

    From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Amy Gillentine):

    The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed a Pueblo County judge’s ruling against a state water quality certification for the SDS project, which will bring water from the Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, the biggest water project in decades for Colorado Springs Utilities. The multi-million project is well underway, with miles of pipeline already finished and construction started on water treatment plants The appeals court ruled that the state Water Quality Control Commission was correct in approving the SDS water quality certification, according to a press release from Colorado Springs Utilities.

    The decision reverses Pueblo County District Court Judge Victor Reyes’ April 2012 ruling against the Water Quality Control Commissions’ unanimous decision approving the 401 water quality certification.

    “We are pleased that the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in support of the 401 water quality certification for SDS,” said John Fredell, SDS program director. “We always believed that the state Water Quality Control Division did a thorough and complete evaluation of SDS and correctly decided that it would meet State water quality standards. We are pleased that the Court of Appeals has recognized that. It is unfortunate that this matter had to be resolved in the courts, which is a costly process and one that goes against our approach of collaborating with other local governments and stakeholders.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Even before he took office, District Attorney Jeff Chostner realized he would have a decision to make on a case he inherited from Bill Thiebaut. Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes ruled in Thiebaut’s favor in April 2012 on a challenge to a Colorado Water Quality Control Commission decision to certify Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System, a pipeline to deliver water from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County.

    On Thursday, an appeals court overturned Reyes’ order, saying opponents failed to prove their case.

    It’s unknown if there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court. “Jeff Chostner is not in his office today, so I have not even been able to talk to my client. I haven’t had time to carefully read the decision,” said John Barth, a Hygiene attorney. “We’re still reviewing the decision and evaluating our options.”

    Those options include a petition for rehearing or calling for a writ of certiorari, which would ask to overturn the appeal decision.

    Before he took office, Chostner told The Chieftain that an appeal is not automatic. “If it goes against Colorado Springs, I would certainly defend a successful case,” Chostner said in December. “If it goes against us, I would have to read the language of the opinion before making a decision.”

    Colorado Springs Utilities officials were happy with the appeals court decision. “We are pleased that the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in support of the 401 water quality certification for SDS,” said John Fredell, SDS Program Director. “We always believed that the state Water Quality Control Division did a thorough and complete evaluation of SDS and correctly decided that it would meet state water quality standards.”

    From the Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

    Colorado Springs Utilities has done all the necessary work to ensure that its Southern Delivery System does not wreck water quality in Fountain Creek, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. The ruling is a big win for the utilities’ $1 billion dollar pipeline project and creates “a clean path” for the project to continue, said Keith Riley, deputy program director for SDS. “It means we go forward as planned without adding additional mitigation,” Riley said.

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    “Pleased” probably doesn’t even get close to the feeling of those at Colorado Springs Utilities, given a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling upholding the state’s approval of a certification for the Southern Delivery Pipeline water project. Nevertheless, that’s the word used in a news release by John Fredell, SDS program director, regarding the water quality permit issue. The ruling means a hurdle that has been cited by Pueblo County in correspondence with the Interior Department as a roadblock for SDS has been removed.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    AWRA Colorado Section: AWRA Summer field trip of the Southern Delivery System — Friday, August 16

    July 16, 2013

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    Click here to go to the AWRA Colorado Section website for the pitch and to register.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Ruedi reservoir operations update: 160 cfs in the Fryinpan River below the dam, summer operations meeting July 17

    July 11, 2013

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    We saw some demand come up downstream on the Colorado River today–the Fish & Wildlife Service has asked for additional water to bump up the Colorado per the Endangered Species Recovery Program. As a result, this afternoon, we bumped up releases from Ruedi Dam to the Fryingpan River. Flows past the Ruedi gage should now be around 160 cfs. To learn what to anticipate for the rest of summer and early fall, be sure to join us at our annual operations meeting on Wednesday, July 17, at the Basalt Town Hall from 7-8:30 p.m.

    From the Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    The Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a public meeting regarding Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations.

    July 17: Basalt Town Hall, 101 Midland Avenue, Basalt, Colo., 7 to 8:30 p.m.

    The meeting will provide an overview of Ruedi Reservoir’s 2013 spring run-off, and deliver projected operations for late summer and early fall, which are key tourist seasons in Basalt. The meeting will include a public question and answer session.


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