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.


Reclamation Releases the Final Environmental Assessment for Developing Hydropower at Drop 4 of the South Canal

September 5, 2014
Uncompahgre River watershed

Uncompahgre River watershed

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 a hydropower project at Drop 4 of the South Canal, part of the Uncompahgre Project in Montrose, Colorado.

The project, proposed by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, will be located at existing Reclamation facilities on the South Canal. A Lease of Power Privilege will authorize the use of federal facilities and Uncompahgre Project water to construct, operate, and maintain a 4.8 megawatt hydropower facility and 1.27 miles of associated interconnect power lines.

The hydropower plant will operate on irrigation water conveyed in the South Canal, and no new diversions will occur as a result of the hydropower project. Construction activities and operation of the hydropower plant will not affect the delivery of irrigation water.

The final environmental assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact is available on our web site or a copy can be received by contacting Reclamation.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: Summer rains bolstering flows in Black Canyon

September 4, 2014

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced from 1600 cfs to 1450 cfs on Wednesday, September 3rd at 1:00 PM. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows have remained relatively high due to the August 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 baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for September.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are around 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 600 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be around 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 450 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.


Aspinall Unit operations meeting Thursday, Septmember 4

September 2, 2014

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The next Aspinall Unit Operations Meeting will be held at the Elk Creek Visitor Center at Blue Mesa Reservoir this Thursday, September 4th at 1 PM. Handouts will be available on the website prior to the meeting.


Uncompahgre River: Float Highlights River Improvements, Future Visions — The Watch

August 28, 2014

From The Watch (William Woody):

Last Sunday [August 17, 2014], under beautiful sunny skies, members of the Friends of the River Uncompahgre (FORU) hosted a tour of the river from boats launched at an access point behind Chipeta Lake to a take-out near Taviwach Park on the city’s north side.

The tour was developed to give local officials and residents a first-hand experience of the river since improvements were made along its banks earlier this year; the improvements will continue in 2015 as part of the city’s continuing Uncompahgre River Master Plan, completed in 2011.

Along with local boaters, officials from the city, county, Bureau of Land Management, Parks and Wildlife and the Montrose Recreation District clambered into rafts and kayaks for the three-hour float.

Along the way, wooden markers on the river’s banks highlighted both public and private property boundaries bordering the water. Officials and residents are continuing to brainstorm ideas for possible public-property development. With a trained eye, one could see the next phases of the river master plan, which includes the addition of a whitewater park set for construction next year.

The whitewater park will be located between the pedestrian bridge in Baldridge Park and the West Main Street Bridge.

Due to the rising popularity of river sports, the trend in adding whitewater parks has continued in recent years in sites across the country as a way to draw more visitors.

“We wanted to get some ideas on how we make the river safe for families,” said Montrose City Manager Bill Bell. “We’re really trying to give locals who like the fishing or the outdoor recreation a chance to come and do that in a family friendly environment. But we also want to attract visitors and tourists.”[...]

Durango added its “watermark” years ago, incorporating its downtown with the Animas River through boardwalks and a variety of businesses. Unlike Durango, the Uncompahgre River is fed with water from the Ridgway Reservoir and the Gunnison Tunnel. This means water levels can be more sustainable throughout the year, whereas the Animas runs very low later in the summer.

The sustainable water flow offers the potential for Montrose to become a destination for whitewater companies and guides, allowing them to teach and float later in the season.

Another reason for the whitewater park is to give boaters a safer place to have fun in the rapids. With local knowledge, boaters can learn to ride the famed “M-Wave,” a large, continuous whitewater wave located on the south canal, east of Montrose. Using the park – at least at first – and avoiding the M-Wave will reduce the risk of injury, lawsuits and fatalities, according to officials…

In February, heavy equipment and surveyors with Evergreen-based Ecological Resources Consultants, Inc., spent weeks digging out a 1,500-foot stretch of the river to improve fishing habitat. The work took place directly south of the fishing bridge in Baldridge Park behind the park’s softball fields.

Re-shaping the river’s channel will not only improve the fishing habitat but also riparian wildlife areas along with entire river corridor, according to Renzo DelPiccolo of Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Montrose…

Through grants, lottery funds and city contributions, the cost of renovating the river corridor has amounted to about $900,000 so far, according to Bell.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here.


Aspinall unit operations update: 1100 cfs through the Gunnison Tunnel diversion

August 27, 2014

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced from 1800 cfs to 1600 cfs on Tuesday, August 26th at 4:00 PM. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1500 cfs. Significant rainfall has been occurring in the basin this week and the river forecast shows flows continuing to remain above the target for the 10 day forecast period.

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 1500 cfs for August. For September, the baseflow target will be 1050 cfs.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are 1100 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 750 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be 1100 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 550 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.


Water Lines: New film on Grand Valley’s rivers #ColoradoRiver

August 21, 2014


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

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.

In order to cultivate appreciation and understanding of the ways we depend on our rivers, the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University contracted with local filmmaker Mara Ferris of Gen9 Productions to create a 30-minute documentary film.

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 is inviting the public to the first showing of this new film on Thursday, Aug. 28, at 6:30 p.m. in CMU’s University Center Ballroom. This free event will include a reception with a cash bar, displays by film sponsors, and a panel discussion. People who pre-register at http://www.coloradomesa.edu/watercenter may receive a free drink donated by the Palisade Brewing Company at the reception.

The panel discussion following the film will feature Mark Harris of Grand Valley Water Users Association; Bennett Boeschenstein of the Riverfront Commission, Grand Valley Audubon and Grand Junction City Council; Stacy Kolegas Beaugh of the Tamarisk Coalition; and Tom Kleinschnitz of Adventure Bound Outfitters.

Following the Aug. 28 event, the film will be made available for showings to schools and community groups around the region. It was made possible by financial contributions from 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 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 this event are available at http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter or by calling 970-248-1968.


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