Aspinall Unit update: 350 cfs in Black Canyon

October 22, 2014
Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be decreased from 1150 cfs to 1050 cfs on Wednesday, October 22nd at 10:00 AM. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association will be decreasing diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel Wednesday morning. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the October baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for September through December.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are around 800 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 350 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be around 700 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will still be around 350 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Reclamation Releases the Final Environmental Assessment for Two Salinity Control Projects

October 15, 2014

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south


Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Terry Stroh/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it has released a final environmental assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for two proposed salinity control projects. The documents assessed and addressed the potential effects of the Bostwick Park Water Conservancy District’s Siphon Lateral Salinity Control Project in Montrose County, Colorado and the Forked Tongue/Holman Ditch Company’s Salinity Control Project located in Delta County, Colorado.

The Bostwick Park Project will pipe 1.76 miles of existing earthen ditch and will result in an annual reduction of 413 tons of salt contributions to the Colorado River. The Forked Tongue/Holman Ditch Project will pipe 1.89 miles of existing earthen ditch and will result in an annual reduction of 412 tons of salt contributions to the Colorado River. The purpose of both projects is to improve the efficiency of water delivery to canal users and reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.


Wringing juice from irrigation canals — Mountain Town News

October 15, 2014
South Canal hydroelectric site

South Canal hydroelectric site

From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

In 1909, President William Howard Taft arrived in Montrose on a train to dedicate one of the federal government’s first reclamation projects. With aid of federal funds, a 5.8-mile tunnel was bored from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River to divert water onto the fertile fields of the Uncompahgre Valley.

Even when the portly president (he weighed 340 pounds and once overflowed a bathtub), there was talk in Montrose about harnessing the power of fast-moving water to produce electricity. Emerging from the Bureau of Reclamation’s tunnel from April through October, the time of irrigation, the water churns with great power as it tumbles toward the 80,000 acres of irrigation around the towns of Montrose and Delta.

At long last, electrical production began last year. The first small hydroelectric plant began generation in June 2013 and the second two months later. Both were developed by Delta-Montrose Electrical Association. Together, the two units can produce 7.5 megawatts of electricity.

Two more are now being built, both by a private company called Shavano Falls Hydro. They are expected to be completed in spring of 2015 and produce a maximum 7.6 megawatts.

The four units altogether will produce 15.1 megawatts.

Delta-Montrose will sell the power to co-op members, while Shavano will sell the power to Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. Among others, MEAN sells energy to the municipalities of Delta and Aspen.

Jim Heneghan, renewable electricity engineer for Delta-Montrose, says the return on investment is 11 years. However, a better way of calculating the investment may be that it produces electricity for 3 cents per kilowatt hour more cheaply than the power delivered by wholesale supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

Both these figures are without a rate increase in the wholesale price. Coal-fired electricity has been rising rapidly in cost, however. The water will be essentially free and the turbines should last at least 50 years before they need to be retooled.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: 350 cfs in Black Canyon

October 14, 2014
Aspinall Unit

Aspinall Unit

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be decreased from 1250 cfs to 1150 cfs on Wednesday, October 15th at 8:00 AM. Releases are being decreased to time with the brown trout spawn. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows have remained relatively high due to the September rains and flows are expected to stay above the October baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for September through December.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are around 800 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 450 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be around 800 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 350 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.


Aspinall Unit operations update: 450 cfs in Black Canyon

September 30, 2014
Aspinall Unit

Aspinall Unit

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced from 1450 cfs to 1350 cfs on Tuesday, September 30th at 9:00 AM. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association will be reducing diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel by 100 cfs on Tuesday morning. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows have remained relatively high due to the September rains and flows are expected to stay above the September baseflow target at the new rate of release.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the base-flow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for September through December.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are around 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 450 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be around 950 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should still be around 450 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Water Lines: New film on Grand Valley rivers available for viewing — Grand Junction Free Press #ColoradoRiver

September 24, 2014
Colorado National Monument from the Colorado River Trail near Fruita

Colorado National Monument from the Colorado River Trail near Fruita

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

A new documentary film, “Water in the Desert” — which explores Grand Valley’s evolving relationship to the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers — is now available for viewing on the Internet, via DVD, or through presentations to community groups. The documentary was produced by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University and local filmmaker Mara Ferris of Gen9 Productions

Without the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, and the human determination to apply their waters to the land, there would be no human settlement as we know it in the Grand Valley. Instead of our towns, parks, farm fields and orchards, the landscape would resemble the desolate, empty territory along I-70 between the state line and Green River, Utah.

The film tells the story of how the communities in the Grand Valley have depended on the Colorado and Gunnison rivers since the origins of these communities in the late 1800s, and how the communities’ relationship to the rivers has changed over time. It also addresses regional and climate factors that could pose challenges for current uses and the health of the river. The film is narrated by Steve Acquafresca and includes interviews with numerous local residents.

The Water Center would like for this film to inspire viewers to share their own river stories. Please send written work, links to videos, or artwork that expresses your connection to our rivers, and the Water Center will create a gallery for sharing them with the public. Email watercenter@coloradomesa.edu for more details.

This film was made possible by the financial contributions of the following sponsors: Chevron, the Colorado River District, the City of Grand Junction, the Western Colorado Community Foundation, Xcel Energy, the Grand Valley Water Users Association, Redlands Water and Power, the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, the Palisade Irrigation Company, the Tamarisk Coalition, Colorado Riverfront Foundation, Grand Valley Audubon, Trout Unlimited’s Colorado River Project, and the John McConnell Math & Science Center of Western Colorado.

Full details on opportunities for viewing the film are available at http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter or by calling 970-248-1968.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


9News series about #COwater and the #COWaterPlan — Mary Rodriguez

September 10, 2014


9News.com reporter Mary Rodriguez has embarked on a series about the Colorado Water Plan and water issues in Colorado. The first installment deals with Cheesman Dam and Reservoir. Here’s an excerpt:

It is something most of us take for granted: running water. Colorado is now beginning to grapple with how to keep the tap flowing, both now and in the future. As the state develops a water plan, set to be released in December, we are beginning a series of stories revolving around that precious resource…

Cheesman Reservoir and Dam

Nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, it’s a place of stillness and a quiet refuge. Yet, it’s also a place capable of wielding immense power.

Cheesman Reservoir is a major source of water for communities up and down the Front Range. It holds 25 billion gallons of water. That’s enough water to cover Sports Authority Field with a foot of water more than 79,000 times. All of it is held in place by the Cheesman Dam, which was built nearly 110 years ago.

“It was tremendous foresight that this reservoir has been pretty much unchanged in all that time,” documentary filmmaker Jim Havey of Havey Productions said.

The reservoir is just one of the places Havey is beginning to capture as part of an upcoming documentary called “The Great Divide.” The subject? Water.

“We looked at water, initially, as a great way to tell the story of Colorado,” he said.

Colorado’s water system is a complex combination of reservoirs, rivers and dams. As the state’s population has grown, though, there has been a greater need to come up with a water plan that can evolve with time.

“Really, it is all connected,” said Travis Thompson, spokesperson for Denver Water, which bought the Cheesman Reservoir nearly 100 years ago.

Denver Water– along with water municipalities and agencies across Colorado– is now working on a long-term plan for Colorado’s water. It includes, among other things, figuring out the best way to manage the state’s water as it flows between different river basins and whether or not to create more reservoirs.

“We’re not planning just for today, we’re planning for tomorrow– 25 years, 50 years down the road,” Thompson said. “And we have many challenges that we’re looking into, just like our forefathers had.”

Those challenges include how to provide enough water for people and industries in Colorado, as well as people in 18 other states– and even two states in Mexico– which also get their water from rivers that begin in Colorado.

“What the water plan is going to mean, I don’t think anybody knows yet,” Havey said.

Yet, it’s a plan that has a lot riding on it below the surface. The first draft of the state’s water plan is due in December and is expected to be presented to the state legislature next year. For more information about the water documentary, “The Great Divide,” go to http://bit.ly/1qDftUO.

More Denver Water coverage here. More South Platte River Basin coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


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