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.


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.


No more fluoride dosing for Uncompahgre Water

August 9, 2014

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south


From The Watch (William Woody):

Last week, the Project 7 Water Authority, which provides drinking water to the Montrose, Olathe and Delta communities (and the Menoken, Chipeta and Tri-State water districts, as well) stopped using sodium silicofluoride in its water treatment to boost fluoride levels.

At Monday’s work session of the Montrose City Council, Public Works Director John Harris explained he has already received some positive comments about the change. Harris, who also sits on the Project 7 board, said the supply of sodium silicofluoride, produced by a manufacture in Louisiana, was interrupted due to hurricane Katrina in 2005. He said that supply never recovered, leaving municipalities in the United States looking elsewhere, including China.

In July — just as supplies were running out — Harris said the Project 7 board voted in favor to end the practice.

“I’m not willing to take a risk on a Chinese-based project,” Harris told The Watch Monday. “Something would have to change to make us rethink that.”

Harris said residents can use supplemental fluoride found in toothpastes and mouthwashes, but because of the shortage, fluoride “just wouldn’t be added to the drinking water.”

Although fluoride can occur naturally, sodium silicofluoride has been used in America’s public drinking water for more than half a century, for prevention of tooth decay.Studies published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest there has been an 18-to-40 percent reduction in cavities, in children and adults, as a direct result of water fluoridation.

In a press release, Project 7 said “sodium silicofluoride will no longer be added to boost the naturally occurring fluoride in the water to the “optimum level” as defined by the EPA…

“We can no longer obtain sodium silicoflouride that is manufactured in the USA, with the only supplier being China,” ” said Adam Turner, manager of Project 7. “We are not comfortable with the long-term quality control of the product we would be adding.”

According to the Project 7 website, water supplied to Project 7 from the Blue Mesa Reservoir contains a concentration range of naturally occurring fluoride (from 0.15 to 0.25 mg/l); the EPA limit of fluoride in water is 4 mg/l. Consuming levels higher than 4 mg/l, the EPA states, can cause bone disease and, for children, pits in their teeth…

For more information visit: http://www.project7water.org. or call 970/249-5935.

More water treatment coverage here.


A rise in alternative energy demand has led to a fourth hydroelectric power facility on South Canal — The Watch

August 4, 2014

southcanalhydroelectricsitethetelluridewatch

From The Watch (William Woody):

A rise in alternative energy demand has led to a fourth hydroelectric power facility now in the planning stages for the South Canal, east of Montrose.

The Delta-Montrose Electrical Association currently operates two facilities, at Drop 1 and Drop 3, with plans for a facility on Drop 2.

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its draft environmental assessment for yet another proposed hydropower project, at Drop 4. Drops 1 and 3 is currently producing approximately 6.5 megawatts of power this summer, according to James Heneghan, renewable energy engineer for DMEA.

The proposed Drop 4 location, 0.8 miles downstream from the existing Drop 3 hydropower plant that was completed last year, drops approximately 71 ft. from Drop 3 to Drop 4. With a fourth facility, water would be diverted into a penstock and through the hydropower plant and returned to the canal to meet mounting irrigation delivery demands downstream.

The project also includes 1.27 miles of new overhead interconnection line across federal Bureau of Land Management and Reclamation lands.

“The purpose of the Drop 4 Hydropower Project is to develop a 4.8 megawatt (MW) hydropower plant on the South Canal at Drop 4 to provide a clean, renewable energy source that is locally controlled,” according to the bureau’s assessment. “Current federal policy encourages non-federal development of environmentally sustainable hydropower potential of Federal water resource related projects.”

The project, proposed by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association and a private developer, and would not affect the seasonal delivery of irrigation water.

Like Drops 1 and 3, the power generated at Drop 4 would be handled by DMEA, and transmitted to the Municipal Energy Association of Nebraska.

“The electricity generated by the Project would provide the UVWUA with an additional source of revenue that can be used to defray annual operating expenses and assist in the maintenance and improvement of the Uncompahgre Project,” according to the assessment.

Structural plans for Drop 4 call for a new concrete intake canal connecting to an intake structure; a metal bar trash screen would remove debris as the water is forced into a 10-ft. pipe and flushed 1,347-ft. downstream to a new 30-ft. by 40-ft. powerhouse with a power generating turbine. It’s the same method now used in Drops 1 and 3…

When completed, the Drop 4 station could produce about 15,744 megawatt hours of energy per year, with an offset reduction of 32,000,000 to 34,000,000 pounds of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

On May 14 of this year, a Preliminary Lease of Power Privilege was entered into by the UVWUA and the Bureau of Reclamation for the project, putting it on the fast track. “I would say with the promise of privilege being drafted, Drop 4 will be competed before Drop 2,” Heneghan told The Watch this week…

Amendment 37 to the Colorado Constitution established a Renewable Energy Standard, an initiated state statute approved by voters in 2004, requires Colorado providers of retail electric services serving over 40,000 customers to secure a minimum percentage of electricity from renewable energy sources (such as wind, solar, and hydroelectricity to be 10 percent) by 2020. DMEA is close to achieving that standard, thanks in large part to the two existing South Canal projects. The Drop 2 project could be the next addition of renewable energy to DMEA’s portfolio, Heneghan said.

Wholesalers, like Tri-State Generation have to reach 20 percent by 2020.

The draft environmental assessment is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/index.html, or a copy can be received by contacting the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Comments can be submitted to the Terry Stroh at the email address above, or to Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501, up until Aug. 8. The bureau will consider all comments received by that date, prior to preparing a final environmental assessment.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: 1,000 cfs in Black Canyon

July 29, 2014

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced from 2000 cfs to 1900 cfs on Monday, July 28th at 10:00 AM. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1500 cfs. The weather forecast calls for rain in the basin over the next few days and the river forecast shows flows continuing to increase during this time.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the flow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1500 cfs for August.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are 1100 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 1000 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 900 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Colorado Parks and Wildlife: Event to honor builders of Ridgway dam and reservoir

July 8, 2014

Ridgway Reservoir during winter

Ridgway Reservoir during winter


Here’s the release from CPW:

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the construction of the Ridgway dam and the establishment of Ridgway State Park. A special event to recognize those who worked on the construction project is scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 8 at the park.

Did you work on the project? Or do you know someone who did? This includes former or current employees of the Bureau of Reclamation or other government agencies, construction workers, and municipal and county officials who assisted with the project. If so, please send your contact information via e-mail to: rhonda.palmer@state.co.us, or call her at 970-626-5822, ext. 11. You’ll be contacted about the event.

Planning for the Dallas Creek Project, as it is called formally by the BOR, began shortly after the end of World War II. Construction eventually started in 1978 and the reservoir filled completely for the first time in 1990. The dam stores water for agricultural, municipal and industrial uses for the Uncompahgre Valley in western Colorado.

One of Colorado’s premier recreational facilities, Ridgway State Park offers camping, hiking, bicycling, boating, fishing and swimming. More than 300,000 people visit the park every year.

For more information about Ridgway and all of Colorado State Parks, see: http://cpw.state.co.us.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here.


Water Lines: Hydropower kicks off at nearby Ridgway Dam #ColoradoRiver

June 25, 2014
Ridgway Dam

Ridgway Dam

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

When Ridgway Dam was constructed on the Uncompahgre River back in the 1970s and 1980s, hydropower was anticipated to be one of its uses — along with providing irrigation water, drinking water and flood control.

Mike Berry, general manager of Tri-County Water (company operating the dam), continues to look for opportunities to start generating hydropower since 2002.

It wasn’t until this month, however, this vision was finally realized.

In June, Tri-County Water officially commissioned a new eight-megawatt generating station powered by water flowing through the dam.

Finding a customer to buy the power at the right price was the key allowing the project to go forward.

The $18 million project is financed through the City of Aspen. The agreement includes payment of a premium for the power generated by Ridgeway Dam for a few years of the 20-year contract in exchange for better rates later.

Tri-County will also sell power to Tri-State Generation & Transmission and the Town of Telluride.

The power generated by Ridgway Dam will vary seasonally, with peak generation coinciding with large summer releases of water to downstream irrigators. The Grand Junction Sentinel reported last week the plant will produce a total of about 24,000 megawatt hours of electricity in an average year — enough to supply 2,500 average homes and eliminate 50 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

The Ridgway Dam generating station was commissioned just one year after the completion of a 7.5-megawatt power generation project on the South Canal — carrying water from the Gunnison Tunnel near Montrose to the irrigators of the Uncompahgre Valley.

Both the Ridgway Dam and South Canal projects avoid the opposition previous hydropower projects faced because it’s installed on existing infrastructure and harvesting power from the regular operations of the facilities. As a result, irrigation deliveries are uninterrupted and no additional disruptions to river flows.

Interest in retrofitting existing water infrastructure to add power generation capability has surged in recent years. Both the State of Colorado and the federal government have made moves to support the trend with new laws to streamline the permitting process.

Finding customers for the power generated at affordable prices for construction is one of the key challenges faced by those interested in developing such facilities. Low prices for natural gas and the irregular supplies generated by such projects are complicating factors in working out power purchase agreements.

On the other side of the equation, renewable energy standards passed by Colorado and other states have created new opportunities.

From The Watch (Samantha Wright):

A decades-long quest to convert the power represented by the 84,600 acre feet of water pent up behind the dam into clean, green hydropower came to fruition at a commissioning ceremony hosted by Tri-County Water Conservancy District [June 6].

Tri-County’s new 8 megawatt hydroelectric plant will produce approximately 24,000 megawatt-hours of electricity in a typical water year, enough energy to supply about 2,500 homes, on average. The emissions reduction benefit from the new plant is equivalent to removing approximately 50 million pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (the same effect as taking about 4,400 cars off the road each year).

Federal officials including Larry Walkoviak, the Upper Colorado Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton were on hand at the commissioning ceremony on Friday to praise the project’s merits.

But the folks who are really celebrating this historic moment are those who have steered the hydro project through choppy waters toward its completion including officials from Tri-County and the City of Aspen, which helped fund the project and is purchasing a significant portion of the energy it produces.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Green and grassy, Ridgway Dam looms high 15 miles southeast of Montrose, holding back Ridgway Reservoir. It’s flanked by a rocky ridge and U.S. Highway 550, with the Uncompahgre River bubbling up from the base of the dam to a prized stretch of trout water running through Ridgway State Park.

There is more to Ridgway Dam, though, than appearance.

“It’s not just a beautiful pile of dirt,” said Ion Spor, who has managed the dam for decades for the Tri-County Water Conservancy District.

Ridgway Dam is now generating electricity, eight megawatts worth during the height of the water year.

Tri-County — referring to Montrose, Delta and Ouray counties — commissioned the generating station earlier this month, marking the culmination of a project that was anticipated well before construction of Ridgway Dam, begun in 1978 and completed in 1987. Ridgway Reservoir filled in 1990.

The dam was built with hydropower in mind. Pipes were run through the dam in anticipation of someday being hooked up to generators, said Mike Berry, Tri-County general manager.

After years of debate, Tri-County opted to move ahead with the $18 million project. It reached agreements with Aspen, Telluride and Tri-State Generation and Transmission to get enough money for the project.

The station also generates power for the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and the San Miguel Power Association.

As part of its agreement to purchase power, Aspen is buying renewable-energy credits created by the project during winter months. Telluride is purchasing the credits that are created by the project during summer months.

Renewable-energy credits represent the added value and environmental benefits of the electricity produced by the generating station.

Tri-County will use the revenues generated from the sale of the electricity and renewable-energy credits to repay loans on the project for the first 30 years and then to offset its operating expenses, Berry said.

Tri-County’s generating station contains two turbines and generators.

The smaller is a 0.8-megawatt system, which will operate solo during the winter when flows are low, in the range of 30 to 60 cubic feet per second. The larger, 7.2-megawatt system will operate on flows of 500 cfs during the summer.

Both generators are in a powerhouse at the base of the dam.

The plant will produce about 24,000 megawatt-hours of electricity in an average water year, enough energy to supply about 2,500 average homes and eliminate the equivalent of 50 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

Now, Tri-County needs one thing to make the system work, Berry said.

“We’re counting on Mother Nature,” Berry said, “To bless us with enough water to repay the notes.”

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.


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