Colorado Springs Utilities: Northfield Reservoir is getting a $3.4 million facelift

September 25, 2014
Northfield Reservoir via The Mountain Jackpot

Northfield Reservoir via The Mountain Jackpot

From The Mountain Jackpot (Beth Dodd):

The dam at Northfield Reservoir, built back in 1890, is getting a $3.4 million facelift…

The Northfield Water System is part of a collection of 25 reservoirs that supplies water to Colorado Springs and other communities including Green Mountain Falls, Chipita Park, and Cascade. It is located in the rugged country between Woodland Park and the Air Force Academy. It was purchased by Colorado Springs Utilities for about $1.25 million in 1949. Today the system includes Rampart, Nichols, and Northfield Reservoirs.

Colorado Springs Utilities is making modifications and upgrades to the Northfield Dam to comply with state dam safety recommendations. The State Engineer’s Office currently classifies Northfield Dam as a small, significant hazard dam. The 124 year old structure is a 30 foot high, 350 foot long earth embankment with a storage volume of 245 acre feet of water. The spillway is an uncontrolled overflow concrete structure at the south end around 6 feet below the crest of the dam. A water treatment plant, just downstream of the dam, was retired from service in 1996.

The Northfield Dam Modification Project will be conducted by ASI Construction. They have three main tasks to complete. They will construct a new spillway with flow meters and a regulation gate and remove the old spillway. They will raise the height of the embankment by about 8 feet and provide new roads and grading downstream from the dam. Finally, they will demolish the old water treatment plant and associated structures. The work will include removal or abandonment of unused pipes, the inspection and possible replacement of the steel outlet pipe, and reclamation of the area after the end of construction.

More infrastructure coverage here.


USBR: On this day in 1913, construction started on the Grand Valley Project #ColoradoRiver

September 23, 2014
The Grand River Diversion

The Grand River Diversion

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


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.


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