October 7, 2012
From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman/Alissa Johnson):
The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission voted September 11 to impose the stricter standards despite an argument from U.S. Energy that nearby domestic wells were pumping water from the Slate River instead of Coal Creek. “Frankly, I don’t even recognize my town in the diagrams presented to you from U.S. Energy,” said High Country Citizen’s Alliance (HCCA) water director Jennifer Bock in reference to the claim that the wells were pumping water from the Slate River. The portion of the creek affected by the decision starts at just below the town’s water supply intake to the confluence with the Slate River. By voting to put stricter regulations on that portion of Coal Creek, the commission voted in agreement with positions advocated by HCCA, Gunnison County, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, and the Gunnison County Stockgrowers.
The segment of Coal Creek is out of compliance with state water quality standards, and has been since temporary modifications were first put in place in the early 1990s. Bock explained that temporary modifications are put in place when a discharger releasing pollutants into a water body cannot meet quality standards and needs more time to assess the situation. “The legal word in the regulations is uncertainty, so if there’s uncertainty about why there’s a pollution problem, it does give the discharger time to resolve it,” Bock said. In this case, U.S. Energy Corp. was requesting an extension of the temporary modifications and more lenient standards on cadmium, zinc and copper.
Initially, U.S. Energy proposed loosening the temporary modifications in addition to extending them. Yet the current temporary standards are already significantly above state standards: of 2.3 micrograms per liter for cadmium as opposed to the more typical range of .15 to 1.2 depending on water hardness, and 667 micrograms per liter for zinc. State standards for zinc are typically between 34 and 428 micrograms per liter, again depending on the hardness of the water. After some back and forth, U.S. Energy instead proposed a slight tightening of the temporary modifications to 2.1 micrograms per liter for cadmium and 440 for zinc. In HCCA’s eyes, that amounts to the status quo, but that’s acceptable for the time being if steps are taken to understand where that pollution is coming from.
In addition to standards for drinking water, the commission granted U.S. Energy’s request for temporary modifications on standards for copper, cadmium and zinc. As part of the decision the Water Quality Control Commission is asking U.S. Energy to develop a comprehensive study on metal loading from Mt. Emmons, which will be the subject of another hearing on December 10 in Denver.
More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.
August 13, 2012
Here’s a profile of Rancher and water wonk, Bill Trampe, written by Jennifer Bock running in the Grand Junction Free Press. From the article:
Although water is probably more essential to his livelihood than many of us in the Gunnison Basin, Trampe admits that his philosophy on keeping water in the Gunnison Basin has changed over the years.
When Arapahoe County proposed the Union Park project, Trampe recalls that the local sentiment was “not one drop” and no one dared stray from that strict line in the sand.
Today, Trampe thinks that Western Slope interests are “better off at the table than on the menu” when it comes to talking to the Front Range and others about West Slope water. Trampe’s philosophy is tied to real life experience: He has spent the last seven years negotiating with the Front Range to develop the Colorado River Water Cooperative Agreement.
Perhaps characteristic of a rancher’s outlook, Trampe is both hopeful and frustrated when it comes to resolving Colorado’s water disputes.
He believes, as many do, that big, transmountain water projects simply won’t be able to provide enough firm yield to satisfy Front Range interests. In statewide water planning discussions, Trampe has been a proponent of addressing this problem through risk management — the idea that the state must have a comprehensive way to evaluate and guard against the potential consequences of failing to meet water delivery obligations to downstream states as it considers new diversions out of the Colorado River Basin.
More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.
July 3, 2012
Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series. Frank Kugel details water operations and facilities in the Gunnison Basin. Here’s an excerpt:
The Gunnison Basin is home to the largest body of water entirely within the state of Colorado, Blue Mesa Reservoir, which has a capacity of 940,000 acre-feet (830,000 acre-feet active capacity). It is the primary storage component of the three reservoirs comprising the Aspinall Unit. Morrow Point Dam is the middle structure and its primary purpose is production of hydropower. Crystal Dam creates a stabilizing reservoir for the variable flows produced by Morrow Point Dam releases. Below Crystal lies the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River National Park…
The Bureau of Reclamation has a number of other storage projects in the basin, in addition to the Aspinall Unit reservoirs, including Taylor Park on the Taylor River, Ridgway on the Uncompahgre River, Silver Jack on the Cimarron River, Crawford on the Smith Fork of the Gunnison, fruit growers on Current Creek and Paonia on Muddy Creek, tributary to the North Fork of the Gunnison River.
One of the first projects developed by the Bureau of Reclamation was the Uncompahgre Project, which provides irrigation water for a variety of crops in the Uncompahgre Valley between Colona and Delta. A key component of the project is the Gunnison Tunnel, a 5.7 mile long tunnel that diverts water from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and discharges it into a series of canals in the Uncompahgre Valley. The tunnel has a 1913 water right for 1300 cfs and supplies some 60% of the irrigation water for the 76,000 acres under the project.
Taylor Park Dam was constructed in 1937 to provide supplemental irrigation for the Uncompahgre Valley. Taylor Park Reservoir has a capacity of 106,230 acre feet. The 1975 Taylor Park Exchange Agreement allows for transfer of storage downstream to Blue Mesa Reservoir to provide the Gunnison Tunnel with a more readily available source of irrigation water. An additional benefit of this exchange was the flexibility to make releases in time and amount that would benefit recreational and agricultural users in the Upper Gunnison basin.
More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.
November 21, 2011
From The Crested Butte News (Alissa Johnson):
In spite of early concerns that funding for cloud seeding might dry up, Gunnison County entered into an operational agreement with North American Weather Consultants for the 2011-2012 winter season on November 15. With the total bill projected at $95,000, a 3.26 percent increase over last year, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District came through with a $26,500 contribution. The county will contribute $10,000 and Mt. Crested Butte budgeted $3,000. The Colorado Water Conservation Board will cover $47,500 in matching funds, and the remaining moneys will be collected from a variety of local contributors.
More cloud-seeding coverage here and here.
June 29, 2011
From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):
As the runoff continues to subside, Reclamation believes it is necessary to further reduce flows in the Gunnison River below the Aspinall Unit. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center is showing inflow to Blue Mesa continuing to drop from the current level of around 5,000 cfs to 2,100 cfs by mid July. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users, who had reduced diversions through the Gunnison Tunnel a week ago because the Uncompahgre River was filling their needs, are now in need of filling the Tunnel. To facilitate the filling of Blue Mesa Reservoir, Reclamation will not be matching their increased diversions, which will take place starting on Thursday, June 30th, with increased releases from the Aspinall Unit. This will result in a flow reduction in the Gunnison River of approximately 200 cfs bringing flows in the Canyon and Gorge to around 1,100 cfs as measured at the gage below the Gunnison Tunnel. We know this is inconsistent with information previously provided, but hydrologic conditions are constantly changing and we must react to current circumstances and forecasts.
More Aspinall Unit coverage here.
July 3, 2010
From the Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):
In his ruling, Patrick said the court had received numerous letters of recommendation to reappoint Steckel. It was pointed out that he had served as a “mentor” to many new board members and this was a positive attribute he brought to the board. Patrick said Sibley too brought knowledge, familiarity and experience to the board. Patrick lauded Spencer as being qualified to sit on the UGRWCD but chose to go with tenure. He has also reappointed directors Brett Redden and Steve Schechter to the board.
More Gunnison River Basin coverage here.
July 4, 2009
Here’s a retrospective looking back on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the UGRWCD, from Evan Dawson writing for The Crested Butte News. From the article:
The Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD) was created in June 1959 to work along with the federal government in creating a series of water storage projects throughout Gunnison County.
The Upper Gunnison Storage Project, as it came to be known, was never entirely feasible or cost effective. The idea was finally abandoned altogether in 2008…
Gunnison area resident Richard Bratton served as the District’s attorney from 1959 to 1999. Bratton says he was in the office when the district was first created in 1959. Note, however, the “office” at that time consisted of Bratton and board members like Bill Trampe and Lee Spann, talking on the phone at 7 a.m. Bratton says the true beginning of the district happened in 1956 when the Colorado River Storage Project was authorized by Congress and construction began on a number of large reservoirs across the southwest, such as the Navajo, Flaming Gorge and Blue Mesa reservoirs. Alongside the big reservoirs, the government agreed to provide financing for “participating” water storage projects, Bratton says. The state water court formed the UGRWCD in 1959 to act as a liaison between the local participating project and the federal government. “Gunnison had a project called the Upper Gunnison Project. They had reservoirs and ditches all across the basin,” Bratton says. But in order to get the funding, there had to be an equal cost benefit ratio on each project—the cost of constructing the water storage project had to be equal to the benefits water users would receive. “We searched for years to find a project that met that demand. We did engineering and feasibility studies. We scaled it way down. To make a long story short, we never could find a project,” Bratton says.
More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.