Salida: Council OKs water treatment plant improvements — The Mountain Mail

September 17, 2014
Salida Colorado early 1900s

Salida Colorado early 1900s

From The Mountain Mail (Brian McCabe):

Salida City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to increase the water treatment plant improvements Phase 2 project from the original project scope of 2 million gallons to 4 million gallons.

Councilman Hal Brown voted no, and Councilman Mike Bowers was absent. The upgrade will cost the city an additional $20,000 from the capital fund reserves, plus $6,000 to replace the windows. Brown said he could not vote for the increase because it will use reserve funds.

More infrastructure coverage here.


2014 Colorado November election:

September 15, 2014

Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative


From The Colorado Statesman (Ernest Luning):

“High and dry is not a water plan,” Beauprez responded to a question about water storage. “We simply must put a shovel in the ground.”

Saying he supports building water storage, no question, Beauprez contended that regulation gets in the way of building the projects Coloradans need. “A governor needs to lead on behalf of the people to eliminate regulatory hurdles, not add to them,” he said.

Hickenlooper countered that any big water storage project will take decades to complete and that “Every conversation has to start with conservation.” He also declined to take a position on the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a proposal to build reservoirs on the northern Front Range. “I’m not allowed to take — if I took a stand on NISP, it would jeopardize the entire federal process,” he said.

“On my watch,” Beauprez rebutted, “we’re going to build”


Sean Cronin: “…as of August 28, 2014, 91% of the 44 damaged ditches are now back online” #COflood

September 15, 2014

Sean Cronin and John McClow at the 2014 CFWE President's Award Reception

Sean Cronin and John McClow at the 2014 CFWE President’s Award Reception


After the flood Mr. Cronin found himself in meeting after meeting from the early hours on September 12 thru the weekend and on and on for the next few months. Here’s what he told the folks at the Colorado Water Foundation for Water Education President’s Award shindig this spring where he was named an Emerging Leader. Here’s part of the story of the flood from his point of view:

When asked back in January of 2014 to put something together for Coyote Gulch I responded “am really short on time, my calendar frees up in March”. Well spring came and went, summer was a blur and now it is a full year since the devastating floods of September 2013. To be honest, if I wrote something in January, I think it would have been a bit pessimistic, as often times the recovery efforts were all consuming and really challenged any sense of hope. Ironic that it was the workload of the flood recovery that prevented me from writing and it was the flood that taught me yet another lesson, let things ferment and breath; given time even dire situations will eventually show you an encouraging future.

In September 2013, St. Vrain Creek experienced a catastrophic flood event which uprooted roadways, severely eroded private property, ruined homes, dramatically changed the creek corridor, and significantly damaged or destroyed public and private raw water infrastructure. Because there were limited federal, state and local jurisdictions to modify the post-flood stream condition, it became clear to many that private/public partnerships and multi-agency cooperation was critical for a successful recovery.

During the early weeks of the September 2013 Flood recovery, repairs were occurring in some locations, though in other areas property owners were asking “who is going to fix this?” The St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District immediately recognized that the property owners’ rights needed to be a top priority. However, the scale of the flooding disaster and the interconnectivity of a living steam and associated ecosystem presented some financial and interdependency challenges. For example, it was not a stretch to imagine that there would likely be instances of individual efforts to restore specific segments of the stream that would then create problems downstream.

To minimize recovery challenges and maximize limited resources, many agencies, including Boulder County, City of Longmont, Town of Lyons, and the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District, promoted and implemented a strategy of collaboration. The collaboration along St. Vrain Creek started in the weeks following the flood and was quickly viewed by impacted citizens as safe, un-bureaucratic, nimble, and effective. In the months to follow, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) provided significant financial assistance to ditch companies, in addition to numerous agencies for the furtherance of collaboration. Today these collaborative efforts are now known as “Coalitions”, and one is occurring in each of the flood impacted tributaries of the South Platte River.

Through vision, leadership, hard work, multi-agency and nonprofit support, and Ditch Company and property owner persistence the recovery effort has far surpassed the expectations of many who stood in awe of the flood ravaged areas. For example, within the boundaries of St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District (DWR District 5) 44 of the 94 local ditches suffered damaged infrastructure from the flood at an estimated cost of $18.4M.

Through FEMA, CWCB, and grants administered by Northern Water, financial assistance was provided and as of August 28, 2014, 91% of the 44 damaged ditches are now back online, with 93% expected back online after 2014. Furthermore, many ditch companies recognized the need to rebuild their infrastructure with consideration given to the ecosystem and to design elements that would withstand future high-flow events. In the St. Vrain Creek alone, there are three new diversions that pre-flood were fish impediments, and are now fish passable, with an additional four diversions under consideration or design. Although the collaborative Coalitions didn’t lift a shovel, their collective expertise, continual internal and external communications, and identification of financial and technical resources played a key role in the recovery.

A full report and executive summary of the ditch infrastructure repairs, maps, and photos are available on the website of St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District (http://www.svlhwcd.org), under the “2013 Flood” tab.

One year later, the work is still not complete. Each of the Coalitions are actively working on producing their own watershed specific “Master Plans” that when complete will promote a holistic healthy riparian corridor and a stream system that will be better able to handle future floods, while preserving critical infrastructure, including that used for agricultural production. If successful, these Master Plans will be embraced by affected property owners, water rights owners, ditch companies, and government agencies.

As water mangers we are trained to manage around the extremes of drought and spring runoff. September 2013 reminded me that Mother Nature is letting us manage, but when she wants to change the rules, we are pretty much at her mercy. It is said that over time memories of disasters wane resulting in some people rebuilding in a manner that does not mitigate future disaster risk. Time will tell – for now I am hopeful that our professional water community learned from this disaster and those lessons can be passed on to future water managers.

For me, the events that transpired in September 2013 will shape my approach to water management. As I look back, I am confident the water system we rebuilt is reflective of our societal values and a wonderful legacy for future caretakers of our natural resources. Everyone involved in this recovery should be very proud to be in a profession that cares so deeply about “managing” a resource that provides for the incredible quality of life we all enjoy. I will just continue to be mindful who is really in charge.

Below is a gallery of then and now photos of the irrigation infrastructure along the St. Vrain River. Credit to the ditch companies.

Here’s a presentation from Boulder County: 2014-08-05_ByTheNumbers_FinalWithTalkingPoints

Finally, here’s a map of the river with the locations of enhanced fish passage noted.

More St. Vrain River coverage here


Pagosa Springs geothermal project: Concerns over legality of funds transfer to public-private partnership

September 14, 2014
Pagosa Hot Springs

Pagosa Hot Springs

From the Pagosa Springs Sun (Ed Fincher):

According to 18th century Scots poet Robert Burns, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Pagosa Verde owner Jerry Smith must have this line of poetry running through his mind all the time when dealing with the federal, state and local government, and Monday night’s meeting of the Pagosa Area Geothermal Water and Power Authority was probably no exception.

The authority, which consists of three town councilors (David Schanzenbaker, John Egan and Mayor Don Volger), the three county commissioners (Michael Whiting, Steve Wadley and chairman Clifford Lucero) and one at-large seat held by Mike Alley, just barely had enough members show up at Town Hall to achieve a quorum for the meeting.

Town Manager Greg Schulte, along with County Administrator Bentley Henderson and County Attorney Todd Starr, acts as staff for the authority, began by giving some background information for the people in the audience who may not have attended the authority’s previous meetings.

The original intent of the authority, as spelled out in the agreement between the town and the county, was to enter into an agreement with Pagosa Verde to form a separate entity — Pagosa Waters LLC — as a public/private partnership.

Pagosa Waters would then consist of three people: one appointed by the authority, one appointed by Pagosa Verde and one at-large member. The point being, this arrangement would ensure joint ownership of the project between the two local governments and Pagosa Verde, while at the same time allowing the project to be managed by a full-time, working board instead of part-time government volunteers.

According to Schulte, a wrinkle in the plan occurred because of a recently awarded grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs worth nearly $2 million. Archuleta County was the official applicant for the grant because DOLA only deals with local government bodies, not private companies.

The $2 million grant from DOLA counts as matching funds for a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which was awarded earlier this year to Pagosa Verde. However, since Pagosa Verde is a privately owned, for-profit company and Pagosa Waters LLC would be a public/private partnership, DOLA had concerns about the legality of Archuleta County funneling its funds into the project.

Schulte then alluded to a meeting held last week involving himself, town attorney Bob Cole, Starr and another attorney, Russ Dykstra, who has some experience with similar situations.

Starr then took over the briefing, explaining, “He has been involved in some very large public/private partnerships … and his suggestion was that, from everybody’s stand-point, an LLC is probably not the form we want to take. Some sort of concession agreement is the best way to do it because we can take care of all of Jerry’s requirements and all of our requirements.”

More Pagosa Springs 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.


Colorado Springs: Reduced water rates for Parks?

September 8, 2014
Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground

Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Mayor Steve Bach said he needs to slash about $6 million from the 2015 budget, and hinted that the nearly $4 million parks watering bill from Colorado Springs Utilities is among the reasons.

Bach said he is not ready to release all of the 2015 budget details, but he did say that part of the budget problem is the high cost of water. There is no discount for the city’s parks, something he said is typical in many cities. Bach did not say if the parks budget would be cut or if he would trim from other areas.

Last year’s general fund budget was $245 million, with $14 million spent on parks, recreation and cultural services. Bach will present his proposed budget to the City Council in October. City Council will host a series of budget hearings in November and is expected to vote on the budget in December.

The price of the city’s parks watering bill has been an issue for more than a decade – long before the current council and mayor began their water wars. For years, the city administration has asked for a discounted water rate from Utilities. For years, Utilities had said no.

Chuck Fowler, a member of the City Committee, which has offered input to the mayor on the budget, said there should be a benefit to having a city-owned utility, and it should be a discount on water for city parks.

“If you owned your own carwash, you would think you could bypass the meter to get your car washed,” he said…

Water bills have doubled for Utilities customers in the past five years, said councilman Merv Bennett. The money has been used to pay for the Southern Delivery System project, a 53-mile pipeline that will pump water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs. That project is scheduled to be completed in 2016.

Bennett said the Utilities board could consider reducing water rates for the city’s parks after the SDS project is completed, but not likely before then.

“It comes down to is (park watering) the responsibility of the taxpayer or the ratepayer,” Bennett said. “This council is of the mindset that it is the cost of running the city.”

Bennett and other council members wanted to strike a compromise between Utilities and the city during the last budget session. But once the budget was approved in December, talks broke down…

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t come up with a solution,” Bennett said…

Council president Keith King said Utilities cannot afford to offer a discounted rate to the city because of the major capital projects in the works. “If you make one group a better deal, who picks up the price of that better deal?” he asked. “We base the (water rates) on the true cost of service. Those are legitimate numbers.”

More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here.


“…all measures, including…storage…must also be part of the conversation” — Charlie Bartlett #COWaterPlan

September 6, 2014


From ColoradoCorn.com (Charlie Bartlett):

Colorado Corn board member and Colorado Agricultural Water Alliance (CAWA) president Charlie Bartlett recently voiced concerns about the Colorado Water Plan draft, stressing to officials that it focuses too much on alternative water transfer methods as the way to protect agriculture, and not enough on other avenues, like new water-storage projects.

“We disagree with the premise that ATMs will sustain a viable agriculture,” Bartlett, a Merino-area farmer, wrote in a letter to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “CAWA believes that the Colorado Water Plan needs a much more significant analysis and treatment of how we can sustain our vibrant and critical industry though keeping water in agriculture.”

Colorado cities have long bought water rights from farmers and ranchers to help meet the needs of their growing populations, and, because of that and other factors, Colorado is on pace to see 500,000 to 700,000 acres of irrigated farm ground dry up by 2050, according to the Statewide Water Supply Initiative report.

To help with the problem, many in Colorado are exploring alternative transfer methods (ATMs), agreements that more easily allow the ag community and cities to use the same water supplies without the farmers and ranchers selling off their water rights altogether. The Colorado Water Plan draft includes language about further exploring ATMs to protect the state’s agriculture – an industry, that, in addition to supplying food, feed, fuel and fiber, has a $40 billion economic impact on Colorado.

However, all measures, including more water-storage projects, must also be part of the conversation in developing a Colorado Water Plan that will help ensure there’s enough to go around for agricultural, municipal and industrial needs down the road, Bartlett stressed in a letter to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“Certainly, ATMs are a part of that approach, but only one aspect,” Bartlett continued.

About the Colorado Water Plan

Gov. John Hickenlooper has put in charge the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) of developing a comprehensive, statewide water plan, in conjunction with other state water agencies. Roundtables of water experts from each of the eight major river basins in Colorado have already submitted drafted plans to the CWCB. The CWCB is now combining those eight draft plans, along with other input, into one that covers all of Colorado, which is due to the governor’s office in December. The final version Colorado Water Plan is to be completed by the end of 2015.

Draft chapters of the Colorado Water Plan and each of the eight basin’s draft plans are available online at http://www.coloradowaterplan.com/.

Those wanting to provide comments can do so at the same website.

Thanks to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat for the heads up.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


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