Georgetown residents toast newly reconditioned water and wastewater facilities, with tap water of course

April 7, 2011

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From The Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

Of the $9.1 million, $3.3 million went to the water treatment facility for improvements, which included filtration upgrades, rehabilitation of the existing storage tank and a new 400,000-gallon storage tank.

The town’s wastewater facility received a $5.8 million upgrade, with major improvements to the treatment process. Of that money, the town will have to pay back, interest free, $3.8 million over the next 20 years.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

The Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership will hold its next stakeholders meeting to discuss the findings from the Rapid River Habit Assessment of October 2010 April 21

April 7, 2011

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From the Montrose Daily Press:

The meeting will be Thursday, April 21, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., at the Ridgway Community Center. A potluck dinner will follow. The [Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership] is dedicated to understanding the health of the Uncompahgre River, according to Rachel Boothby of the UWP. It was created in 2007 when regional groups and citizens applied for a consensus-based watershed plan that details how the land, people, and water interact in the Uncompahgre Watershed…

In October 2010, 20 volunteers joined the UWP in a full day of visiting sites along the Uncompahgre River from Ouray to Delta to assess the health of the riparian habitat. At the April 2011 meeting, analyzed data will be ready to present in a “report card” of the river’s physical health.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here and here.

Fort Morgan: Council okays lease price for Colorado-Big Thompson shares

April 7, 2011

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The Fort Morgan City Council voted Tuesday night to set the prices for shares of Colorado-Big Thompson water owned by the city, which could be purchased by local businesses.
The price has been set based on a rolling three-year weighted average of C-BT shares bought by the city. Over the course of three years, the city bought 199 shares for a total cost of $1,479,250. That averages out to $7,433.42, which is the price council members approved for the current year. That rate would be adjusted in the future based on future averages. The $7,433.42 per share covers the cost of “the water rights portion of a tap fee, when C-BT water must be purchased to cover increased water use by an existing customer, and for new business purchases,” according to a memo to the council from City Water Resources Director Gary Dreessen. In addition, council members approved a $500 service fee per related transaction, except for certain tap fees that have all fees included in one price.

More Morgan County coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1274 (Water Conservation Board Construction Fund) passes state House and will allocate $12 million for Animas-La Plata Project water for southwestern Colorado

April 7, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

House Bill 1274 spends $14 million for water projects across the state, including $12 million so the state can buy water from the federal government in the reservoir southwest of Durango. The state has the right to buy 10,460 acre-feet of water in Lake Nighthorse. If it refuses to make the purchase, the water would be split between the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian tribes, each owns 33,050 acre-feet already…

The water purchase will cost around $36 million, which the state plans to pay in three yearly installments. The Legislature approved the first payment in 2010. The Colorado Water Conservation Board will decide later this year whether to buy all the water or stop this year. The board has not decided yet how it will use the water, but it could serve as a hedge against lawsuits from downstream states to force the state to supply more water to the Colorado River system.

More Animas-La Plata Projec coverage here and here.

Pueblo County: Sediment collector for Fountain Creek to be placed over the next few weeks

April 7, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Bedload sediment is the stuff that forms sandbars and clogs the channel during floods. As it passes over the collector, it will drop into a chamber where a vacuum will periodically suck it out. Left in the water will be fish — yes, there are fish in Fountain Creek — and the fine silts that farmers downstream rely on to seal ditches. “It will harvest and beneficially reclaim what the river delivers,” said John McArthur, president of Streamside Systems…

The Findlay, Ohio, company is building the 30-foot collector for a demonstration project in Pueblo that already has gained the attention of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its potential to deal with problems throughout the West. There already are smaller collectors in New Mexico, to improve fish habitat, and Silverthorne, where the Colorado Department of Transportation is using one to remove traction sand (used on icy roads) from mountain streams. The Fountain Creek project will be the first large collector installed west of the Mississippi River, however. If successful, it could lead to as many as three others placed along Fountain Creek in Pueblo to deal with the large piles of material constantly moving downstream…

The high-capacity collector will be able to remove up to 130 12-cubic-yard truckloads of sediment from Fountain Creek after it is installed, probably in mid-May. The collector should arrive in Pueblo within the next two weeks, and will be installed just upstream of an out-of-service railroad bridge near the confluence with the Arkansas River. Contract arrangements for installation are being worked out. The collector can pump up to 800 gallons per minute. But it won’t run at full tilt all the time. “It’s variable frequency, so it depends on what’s going on in the creek,” McArthur said. “The motor will turn on once or twice a day, when it needs to pump.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science exhibit — ‘Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict’

April 7, 2011

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From (Blair Shiff):

“Basically, we just have too many straws in the drink,” said [Peter McBride]. “The reality is it’s everyone in the West. It supplies water for 30 million people, seven states and we’re all users. There’s not really one culprit out there. There are some bad boys in the river so to speak, but we’re all users, and we all need to be far more conscious of this river.”

McBride’s artistic and educational findings compile a new exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. “The Colorado River: Flowing through Conflict,” is a collection of McBride’s photographs of the river and its surroudnings. It includes several breathtaking aerial shots taken by McBride while his father piloted a small plane 5,000 feet above the river. The exhibit goes hand-in-hand with McBride and Waterman’s book, “Running Dry: A Journey from Source to Sea Down the Colorado River.”

For more information about the exhibit, visit the museum’s website at:

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Public runoff season meeting April 13

April 7, 2011

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

First, beginning this evening April 6, releases from Granby Dam to the Colorado River will be increased by 60 cfs, raising the flow at the Granby Dam gage from around 20 cfs to about 80 cfs. Northern Water will make a similar increase tomorrow, bringing the flow below the dam to 140 cfs. Another change on Friday, will bring the flow to about 200 cfs. We anticipate the 200 cfs will remain at least through the weekend.

Northern is also making changes at Willow Creek Dam tomorrow and Friday. By the weekend, flows in Willow Creek below the dam could be as high as 350 cfs.

To help keep folks updated on the pending run-off season, Reclamation and Northern Water will host a public runoff season meeting a week from tonight, April 13, in Granby at the Granby Library, starting at 6 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to provide the community information on what to expect from this year’s run-off season including possible changes in flows and operations. A flier announcing the meeting is attached to this e-mail.

Both Reclamation, who owns the C-BT, and Northern Water, who operates the non-power related features of the project, have links to current information on water levels and C-BT ops. For current water levels, visit Reclamation’s pages at or For Northern Water’s blog on run-off, please visit

More information about Northern Water is available at To learn more about Reclamation, please visit or for local Reclamation information:

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: Reclamation to ramp up releases to 500 cfs by Friday

April 7, 2011

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We’ve recently received the April 1 forecast and April is looking to have a little higher run-off than what the March 1 forecast showed. As a result both we and Denver Water will be upping releases over the next few days to balance reservoir storage with anticipated inflow. At Green Mountain Reservoir, we’ll be ramping up in increments of 50 cfs over the next four days, starting…April 5…

That means by Friday afternoon, releases from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue will be 500 cfs. I anticipate that level will stay through this coming weekend, but keep an eye on the gage, just to be sure. With these releases in anticipation of run-off, we’ve been maintaining a surface water elevation of about 7895 in Green Mountain Reservoir. That’s approximately 55 feet down from full–a difference in water level elevation we’re fairly certain to make up during run off.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

The Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Colorado Trout Unlimited scores $5,400 to facilitate restoration plans for the Arkansas River

April 6, 2011

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Trout Unlimited this week awarded a $4,500 Embrace-A-Stream grant to its Collegiate Peaks chapter in the Upper Arkansas River Valley. The chapter, based in Salida and Buena Vista, proposes to conduct assessment and stakeholders meetings for the South Arkansas River to create a plan for conservation and restoration of the entire river corridor. This plan would act as the blueprint for future work conducted by the Collegiate Peaks Anglers Chapter and the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas by identifying projects that would improve fish habitat, stabilize banks, remove obstacles, restore native vegetation, and reduce negative impacts into the system. Many of these future projects would be in partnership with private landowners and utilize community volunteers.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Florence: City council approves $25,000 for the Florence Regional Water System Master Plan update

April 6, 2011

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Charlotte Burrous):

“The engineers have included two things I requested in here,” Mayor Paul Villagrana said. “One was a looping deck in the future and also looking to the possibility of repairing the South Water Reservoir plus raw water storage.” He said this is a good first step in providing the city a guide or a map for future water needs…

If this is approved, Richard Saxton, of The Engineering Company, will put the document together before August, said City Clerk Dori Williams. “So you’ll have your budgeting tool for 2012, 2013 and 2014 budgets,” she said.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1208 (Conservation Easements) gets a look-see from the state House Finance Committee

April 6, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

State Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh, told the House Finance Committee that HB1208 aims to hold the state to its promise. “We made a deal with these people,” McKinley said. “We’re just going to have to go ahead and honor the deal.”[...]

McKinley said when the state began offering tax credits to leave land untouched, many in the land-rich but cash-poor agriculture community seized the opportunity. Because tax liabilities in the agriculture world are few, land donors parted with their tax credits for about 75 percent of their value to purchasers facing steep tax liabilities. When buyers redeemed those tax credits, the Department of Revenue rejected many because appraisers had overvalued the land by 500 to 1,000 times its true worth, in some cases. Buyers of the credits in turn sought to be made whole by the donors they had purchased the tax credits from, but often the proceeds of the easement sale had long been devoured by the expenses associated with agriculture — feed, seed and sustenance during droughts and blizzards that decimated crops and herds…

In short, HB1208 “simply says the credit will be allowed,” and the director will not contest or dig deeper into the appraised value of the conservation easement or its validity unless an appraiser associated with the credit has been found to commit fraud. The Department of Revenue has decried McKinley’s amnesty bill because landowners who recognize a prospect that could spare them the expense of squaring up with the state have been reluctant to participate in scheduled mediation sessions in hopes that the Legislature will whisk their problem away.

John Swartout, executive director of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, testified against the bill “because it treats everybody the same.”

More coverage from Debi Brazzale writing for the La Junta Tribune Democrat. From the article:

McKinley says the department has been demanding interest, fees and penalties on easements that they now say were overvalued. Some landowners receiving the notices have been waiting years, in some cases, for the department, who say they are overwhelmed and lack resources to resolve the disputes.

Rep. Cindy Acree, R-Aurora, expressed dismay at the predicament the landowners find themselves in. “This seems absurd that these cases are dragging on and on while interest is accruing,” said Acree.

Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch said the department is doing what it is obligated to do on behalf of taxpayers. Couch said that $466 million has been granted to filers since 2001 when the conservation-easement program began and that 16,000 tax returns have been honored.

“We don’t believe we’re the bad guys,” said Couch. “Our job is to protect the taxpayers, and we have the responsibility to make sure that the credits that are claimed are due to the filer.”

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources enter into agreement to improve and coordinate exploration applications

April 6, 2011

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Here’s the release from the BLM and DNR (Vanessa Delgado/Todd Hartman):

The Bureau of Land Management and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources have signed an agreement designed to assist geothermal energy development on state and federal lands and mineral holdings.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will allow more efficient and effective leasing, permitting and administration of geothermal resources in Colorado where federal ownership or administration is involved. The MOU should streamline geothermal work by fostering better cooperation and communication between the agencies.

“The Bureau supports renewable energy development on public lands to meet the nation’s energy needs,” said Helen Hankins, Bureau of Land Management Colorado State Director. “By working with the state, we want to make it easier to take advantage of opportunities for geothermal energy development.”

“We look forward to collaborating with our partners at the Bureau of Land Management to ensure Colorado can benefit from its geothermal energy potential,” said Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources. “This work creates jobs, builds and diversifies local economies and harnesses a clean and reliable source of energy.”

The clean energy potential on America’s public lands is significant, which is why the Interior is investing $41 million through the President’s economic recovery plan to facilitate a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of renewable energy. The BLM currently manages more than 816 geothermal leases as of December 2010 in California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah. Last November, BLM Colorado leased an 800-acre geothermal parcel in Buena Vista during its quarterly lease sale. This was the first of its kind for Colorado in 35 years. The BLM is also evaluating geothermal leasing in at least two other field offices in southwestern Colorado.

Colorado ranks extremely high nationally in geothermal potential. An MIT report written by a team of international experts calculated that Colorado has the largest quantity of geothermal heat of any U.S. state that could potentially be used to generate electricity in the depth range of 10- to 13,000 feet – a depth easily reached by oil drilling rigs. A separate study by the Idaho National Laboratory showed that Colorado ranks fourth in the nation in the number of hot-spring sites with good potential for geothermal electricity generation.

The MOU ensures an exchange of information and consultation between agencies when BLM and the Colorado State Land Board receive nominations to lease geothermal parcels, as well as when any other division within DNR seeks to convey rights to geothermal resources. The agreement also ensures that lessees will be notified of applicable state and federal laws and regulations related to water rights, rights-of-way issues and protection of existing geothermal features.

The BLM is responsible for leasing and developing geothermal resources on the federal mineral estates, including such resources beneath U.S. Forest Service lands. The Colorado State Land Board, a division of the DNR, manages three million acres of land and four million acres of mineral rights that the federal government gave to Colorado to generate revenue for public education and some of the state’s institutions.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

IBCC: Proceedings from the Statewide Roundtable Summit are available online

April 6, 2011

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From the executive summary:

On March 3, 2011, the Statewide Roundtable Summit drew participants from all corners of Colorado to discuss how to move forward with planning for the State’s water supply future. The Summit was designed by the Public Education, Participation and Outreach Workgroup of the IBCC as an opportunity to meet fellow water supply planning cohorts from around the state and continue connecting the activities and entities within the Basin Roundtable process. Lively dialogue at the Summit centered on the role of the roundtables and the IBCC Framework. Of the 275 people that registered for the Summit, 128 were from a Basin Roundtable or the Interbasin Compact Committee, representing about 40% of the roundtable community (see table below). Of the remainder of participants, 22 were supporting staff and consultants, and 125 were members of the interested public. The latter represented government agencies, water providers, engineering firms, non-profit organizations, congressional offices, and academic institutions…

Additional detail, including complete notes, can be found by going to the Statewide Roundtable Summit webpage.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Salida: New rates are designed to more adequately fund fixed costs

April 6, 2011

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From The Mountain Mail (Cailey McDermott):

Flat fees have two components – service water charge and service maintenance charge, [city finance director Jan Schmidt] said. Maintenance fees cover costs to repair water lines and meters. Those fixed costs haven’t changed, she said, so that fee wasn’t increased much. Maintenance fees increased by $3.23 or 9 percent…

“We increased the flat fees more because we felt the need for a more reliable revenue stream to match our fixed costs,” Schmidt said. She said residential multi-family homes, example 3, were “hit pretty hard” on the base rate because they would have to pay for both the residential water service charge and the second unit service charge. Their total bill will increase by $88.81…

Another increase customers will see when their first quarter bill arrives will be the automatic 5 percent increase that went into effect Jan 1. after a decision by the previous council.

More infrastructure coverage here.

H.R. 1, Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 would strip Clean Water Act Protections from streams in Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield and Park counties

April 6, 2011

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From an oped penned by Sharon Lance and Jo Evans running in the Boulder Daily Camera:

One of the riders that Coloradans should be most concerned about also strikes at the heart of the Clean Water Act. This rider blocks federal guidance and rulemaking that would restore protection for some wetlands and streams which were curtailed by two harmful and confusing Supreme Court decisions, Rapanos (2006) and SWANCC (2001). Taken together, these decisions and existing agency guidance have removed protections for at least 20 million acres of wetlands, especially prairie potholes and other seasonal wetlands that are essential to waterfowl populations throughout the country.

In Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield and Park counties, 40 percent to 60 percent of the stream miles feeding the drinking water supplies for 725,000 people are at risk of losing Clean Water Act protections from pollution. Preventing action on this issue denies protections for Colorado`s rivers, lakes and streams and denies clarity to landowners, conservationists and the regulated community.

The Colorado Department of Wildlife is holding a meeting in Meeker about the proposed Moffat Collection System Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project April 7

April 6, 2011

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

Under consideration will be the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s proposal to divert additional water from the Upper Colorado Basin to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Longmont, and Denver Water’s plan to firm up the yield from its existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by enlarging Boulder’s Gross Reservoir and diverting additional water from the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers. Denver and Northern are both proposing steps to address impacts to fish and wildlife on both sides of the Continental Divide. Both the mitigation and enhancement plans will be presented to the Commission at the meeting.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here. More Windy Gap coverage here.

Snowpack/Precipitation news: Northern Colorado irrigators and water suppliers are smiling, San Juan and Rio Grande not so much, Cameron pass has record snow

April 6, 2011

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjun):

The Colorado, Yampa, White and South Platte rivers are among those favored by March’s La Niña weather patterns, which favored the northern mountains and left but a dusting on the southern mountains. The North Platte River is at the highest percent of average across the state, at 135 percent. The April 1 totals for the northern mountains are the highest for the time of year since the computation of basinwide totals began in 1968, a conservation service news release said…

In the Upper Colorado River Basin, snowpack rose again after three months of decline and remains above average. January’s measurements showed the basin was at 147 percent of average. In February and March, it dropped to 135 percent and 128 percent, respectively. But with March snowfall, the April 1 amounts are back to 130 percent of average and 172 percent of last year.

The Arkansas River Basin is at 103 percent of average, down from March’s 108 percent of average. January and February were at 105 and 103 percent of average, respectively. The basin currently sits at 99 percent of last year’s snowpack, compared to 110 percent last month. Percentages elsewhere in the southern mountains declined sharply in April 1 readings.

They’re now at the lowest readings of the year and are consistently below average in the Rio Grande and combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins.

Compared to northern Colorado, some smaller tributary basins in the Rio Grande Basin have dropped to nearly 50 percent of average, meaning the spring and summer water supply in the southern portion of the state — including the southern tributaries of the Arkansas River — is for below average runoff this year.

From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

…in a survey taken last week, John Fusaro of the USDA NRCS office in Fort Collins said the 105-inch average depth of snow was the highest recorded at Cameron Pass, and the water content at the survey field was the third-highest since record-keeping began in 1936. That feeds the Poudre River, which flows into the South Platte River east of Greeley. That helped the South Platte River basin to a 121 percent of average reading and more than 50 percent more than last year’s readings…

“About the only basins likely to see below-average runoff this year are the Rio Grande, the southern tributaries of the Arkansas River, and the southwestern basins,” [Allen Green, state conservationist with the NRCS] said in the news release. Those areas, along with rest of the state, have good reservoir storage that will help supplement expected lower supplies.

From the Associated Press via (Kim Nguyen):

The Natural Resources Conservation Service said the snowpack statewide on the first of April was 113 percent of average, down slightly from a month ago.

From The Mountain Mail (Shelley Mayer):

Failing to live up to its reputation as the snowiest month, March in Salida continued a seven-month dry period with a total of .13 inch of precipitation. Historical average for the month is .73 inch of moisture. Although scattered raindrops, snowflakes and graupel occurred several times, measurable precipitation was recorded twice – .05 inch March 8 and .08 inch March 13. Salida January-March precipitation was .62 inches, nearly an inch less than the historical average of 1.59 inches. From September through March, Salida totaled 1.61 inches of moisture compared to the historical average of 4.56 inches.

Aspinall Unit update: Flows in the Gunnison Gorge and Black Canyon should remain at 1,400 cfs for a while yet

April 5, 2011

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users are beginning to increase diversions from the Gunnison River. Consequently releases from the Aspinall Unit are increasing a corresponding amount. Today, releases from Crystal were increased by 200 cfs to 1,800 cfs, to match the Water Users’ diversion increase. Flows in the Gunnison Gorge and Black Canyon should remain at 1,400 cfs for the time being. This is significantly higher than last year at this time (550 cfs) due to the above average hydrologic conditions.

We are beginning to plan for spring runoff operations, including operations related to the Crystal Exciter Realignment. The Crystal work will take place the week of April 18th and will require flow through the powerplant to vary on an hourly basis on April 20th and possibly the 21st. However, any increases or decreases in flow from the unit during calibration will be compensated through bypasses, thus fluctuations in the river will be minimal. Due to the current runoff forecast, we anticipate releases during the Realignment to be at or near the powerplant capacity of 2,150 cfs.

Speaking of the forecast, throughout the snowfall season, the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) has been providing a fairly consistent April through July forecast of 800,000 af runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir. If the May 1st forecast remains at 800kaf, the one day peak target for the Black Canyon water right is 6,369 cfs, which will likely require a total release from Crystal in excess of 7,000 cfs (combined Crystal powerplant and bypass is about 4,300 cfs; expect a Crystal spill of over 2,700 cfs). Reclamation plans to operate the Aspinall Unit to allow this peak target to be met sometime between mid-May and early June.

We will be discussing this in more detail at the April Aspinall Operations meeting on April 21st starting at 1:00 p.m. in Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office, Grand Junction. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Dan Crabtree or Erik Knight by replying to this email or call 970-248-0600.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

April 5, 2011

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Bump and update: Here are the notes from today’s webinar, from the Colorado Climate Center.

I’m way late in posting this. Here are the notes from last week from the Colorado Climate Center.

Center for ReSource Conservation: (Free) Water-Wise Landscaping Seminars

April 5, 2011

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Here’s the link to the web page with all the inside skinny. From the web page:

Each spring and fall, the CRC partners with our community to provide numerous free seminars on the how-to’s of xeriscaping and other water-wise landscape practices. From getting started to more advanced topics, there is surely a seminar to suit your needs.

Seminars are FREE and open to anyone.

More conservation coverage here.

American Water Resources Association — Colorado section Annual Symposium April 22

April 5, 2011

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Here’s the link to the website. From the web page:

The Art of the Deal: Colorado’s Landmark Water Agreements
Friday, April 22nd, 2011

This year’s symposium will feature talks on agreements that shape the use and distribution of Colorado’s Water Supplies.

We are pleased to announce that John Stulp, Special Policy Advisor to Governor John Hickenlooper, will be our keynote speaker and Patty Limerick, Faculty Director of the Center of the American West, will be our luncheon speaker.

To raise money for the Scholarship Fund, we are holding our second annual silent auction at the symposium. If you would like to donate an item for the auction, please contact the Scholarship Committee Chair, Laurel Stadjuhar (303) 806-8952.

USGS: Well Installation, Single-Well Testing, and Particle-Size Analysis for Selected Sites in and near the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin, North-Central Colorado, 2003–2004

April 5, 2011

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Here’s the release from the USGS:

This report describes results from a groundwater data-collection program completed in 2003–2004 by the U.S. Geological Survey in support of the South Platte Decision Support System and in cooperation with the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Two monitoring wells were installed adjacent to existing water-table monitoring wells. These wells were installed as well pairs with existing wells to characterize the hydraulic properties of the alluvial aquifer and shallow Denver Formation sandstone aquifer in and near the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin. Single-well tests were performed in the 2 newly installed wells and 12 selected existing monitoring wells. Sediment particle size was analyzed for samples collected from the screened interval depths of each of the 14 wells.

Hydraulic-conductivity and transmissivity values were calculated after the completion of single-well tests on each of the selected wells. Recovering water-level data from the single-well tests were analyzed using the Bouwer and Rice method because test data most closely resembled those obtained from traditional slug tests. Results from the single-well test analyses for the alluvial aquifer indicate a median hydraulic-conductivity value of 3.8 x 10-5 feet per second and geometric mean hydraulic-conductivity value of 3.4 x 10-5 feet per second. Median and geometric mean transmissivity values in the alluvial aquifer were 8.6 x 10-4 feet squared per second and 4.9 x 10-4 feet squared per second, respectively. Single-well test results for the shallow Denver Formation sandstone aquifer indicate a median hydraulic-conductivity value of 5.4 x 10-6 feet per second and geometric mean value of 4.9 x 10-6 feet per second. Median and geometric mean transmissivity values for the shallow Denver Formation sandstone aquifer were 4.0 x 10-5 feet squared per second and 5.9 x 10-5 feet squared per second, respectively. Hydraulic-conductivity values for the alluvial aquifer in and near the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin generally were greater than hydraulic-conductivity values for the Denver Formation sandstone aquifer and less than hydraulic-conductivity values for the alluvial aquifer along the main stem of the South Platte River Basin reported by previous studies.

Particle sizes were analyzed for a total of 14 samples of material representative of the screened interval in each of the 14 wells tested in this study. Of the 14 samples collected, 8 samples represent the alluvial aquifer and 6 samples represent the Denver Formation sandstone aquifer in and near the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin. The sampled alluvial aquifer material generally contained a greater percentage of large particles (larger than 0.5 mm) than the sampled sandstone aquifer material. Alternatively, the sampled sandstone aquifer material generally contained a greater percentage of fine particles (smaller than 0.5 mm) than the sampled alluvial aquifer material consistent with the finding that the alluvial aquifer is more conductive than the sandstone aquifer in the vicinity of the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin…

Beck, J.A., Paschke, S.S., and Arnold, L.R., 2011, Well installation, single-well testing, and particle-size analysis for selected sites in and near the Lost Creek Designated Ground Water Basin, north-central Colorado, 2003–2004: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1024, 23 p.

Here’s the link to the report. More groundwater coverage here.

Gunnison River basin: Trout Unlimited hires new basin coordinator

April 5, 2011

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From Colorado Trout Unlimited:

Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project today announced the hiring of Cary Denison as project coordinator for the Gunnison River basin in west-central Colorado. Denison, a native and long-time resident of the Gunnison basin, will be headquartered in Delta.

Denison will plan and implement habitat improvement projects on key stream reaches in the Gunnison basin, with the goal of protecting, reconnecting and restoring trout populations. Cary will collaborate with water users, private land owners and agency staff to improve streams and implement cooperative arrangements that benefit both agricultural producers and fish habitat.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: School of Mines Geophysics Field Camp in Chaffee County is assessing geothermal potential including drill sites for exploration

April 5, 2011

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Enhanced geothermal systems require injecting fluid into hot underground rock to create fractures. After rock is fractured, water can be injected and pumped back to the surface after it has been heated by the hot rock.

Geophysics Field Camp supports the project by gathering data helping refine and validate imaging technology, [Mike Batzle, professor of geophysics at Colorado School of Mines] said. The imaging project will provide an overall understanding of the Mount Princeton geothermal system and “identify potential drill sites to optimize the geothermal yield of the valley,” according to the energy department on-line project description.

It gives students a real-world problem to which they must apply classroom knowledge, Batzle said. Students have used a variety of techniques to help map underground water and heat resources. Electrodes on the ground can identify hot water flow within 60 feet of the surface, including “one really big one up above Deer Valley Ranch near the (Chalk) Cliffs,” Batzle said. Batzle said the dramatic white cliffs consist not of chalk but kaolinite, “an alteration of granite that indicates a stable hydrothermal system active for thousands of years.” Field camp students have also been gathering data on deeper features using seismic and gravity imaging that can provide a subsurface map to the bottom of the basin, Batzle said. He said field camp studies are not directly concerned with hot water flow, but with deep geologic structure of the basin at the northern end of the Rio Grande Rift. The rift formed where tectonic plates were pulling apart. Near Mount Princeton, hot water reaches the surface along fractures at intersecting faults.

From a scientific viewpoint, Batzle said, researchers are “more interested in what’s happening in the center of the valley.” He said a deep borehole is needed to determine if the geothermal resource is hot enough to support generation of electricity. He said state-owned land near the center of the valley could be a potential location for drilling. Drilling on the Colorado-owned parcel would require state approval, but the location would have none of the split-estate issues that generated protests from landowners potentially affected by the Mount Princeton geothermal lease…

Copies of Geophysics Field Camp reports from 2007-2010 are available on-line at

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Republican River basin: The U.S. Supreme Court clears the way for Kansas to get Nebraska back in court

April 5, 2011

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From the Associated Press via the Lawrence Journal World:

The high court gave Kansas permission to file a new petition over its allegations that Nebraska took more than its share of water in 2005 and 2006 — enough to supply a city of 100,000 people for a decade. Kansas sued Nebraska over the Republican River in 1998. The two states settled the case five years later, but Kansas contends Nebraska violated the terms of the agreement. Now Kansas wants to force Nebraska to reduce farm irrigation in its portion of the nearly 25,000-square-mile river basin and to pay Kansas back for the economic gains Nebraska allegedly saw for using too much water. Kansas previously calculated the amount of the potential payment at $72 million…

If Kansas prevails, Nebraska will be forced to stop irrigating about 500,000 of the 1.2 million acres in its portion of the Republican River basin, and farmers there would have to rely on rain to grow crops. Nebraska officials have acknowledged some overuse of Republican River water but questioned Kansas’ accounting, and they’ve noted that Nebraska has been in compliance with the settlement since 2006…

Lawsuits among states over water are filed directly with the Supreme Court, but it typically appoints a special master to review evidence and make recommendations to the justices. To hear Kansas’ latest petition, the Supreme Court appointed William J. Kayatta Jr., an attorney from Portland, Maine. Use of the Republican River’s water is governed by a 1943 compact between Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Colorado was given 11 percent of the water, while Nebraska was allotted 49 percent and Kansas, 40 percent.

More Republican River basin coverage here and here.

Snowpack/Reservoir storage news: State’s Snowpack Remains Above Average

April 5, 2011

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right to see the table. Here’s the release from the Natural Resources Conservation Services (Mike Gillespie):

The latest measurements of mountain snowpack, conducted by the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), indicate that Colorado’s statewide totals continue to track above average. The April 1 surveys show statewide snowpack is 113 percent of average, and is 28% above the state’s readings of one year ago. Although these statistics show a slight decline from last month, they continue the trend of above average totals measured throughout the winter of 2011. This is good news for the state’s major water users who rely on melting snowpack for a majority of their annual surface water supplies.

March weather brought a continuation of the La Niña pattern where most of the storms crossing the state favored the northern mountains, while only dusting the southern mountains, according to Allen Green, State Conservationist with the NRCS. As a result, snowpack readings across the northern and central mountains saw significant increases in snowpack percentages, while percentages declined sharply across the southern mountains. “It was a month where the rich got richer and the poor just got poorer”, said Green.

For those river basins with their source in the northern mountains, including the Colorado, Yampa, White and South Platte Rivers, this year’s April 1 snowpack is the highest since back in 1996. At 135 percent of average, the North Platte River Basin had the highest basinwide total in the state. These totals are the highest for April 1 since the computation of basinwide totals began in 1968. The outlook for spring and summer water supplies in these river basins is excellent this year. Seasonal runoff volumes are anticipated to be well above average, and this year’s flows are expected to be drastically different than last year which was plagued by low runoff.

Meanwhile, the latest readings show snowpack conditions across the southern mountains continued to decline for the third consecutive month. Percentages have now declined to the lowest readings of the year and are consistently below average in the Rio Grande and combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores, and San Miguel basins. In striking contrast to the snowpack readings across northern Colorado, some smaller tributary basins in the Rio Grande Basin have dropped to nearly 50 percent of average. As one might expect, the outlook for spring and summer water supplies across southern Colorado is for below average runoff throughout the Rio Grande, San Juan, Animas, Dolores, San Miguel and the southern tributaries of the Arkansas basin this year. While it’s still possible for spring snowstorms to improve conditions in these basins, the chances are extremely remote, given that the normal maximum snowpack is reached in early April in these basins.

From the Associated Press via CBSNews5:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service says the snowpack statewide on the first of April was 113% of average, down slightly from a month ago. But the federal agency’s survey of the northern mountains shows the snowpack there is at its highest levels since 1996. The North Platte River Basin’s reading was 135% of average, the highest basinwide total. In southern Colorado’s Rio Grande basin, the snowpack is only 76% of average. That’s still better than the 66% of average it showed this time last year.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Statewide, the federal survey data released Monday indicate snowpack settling at 113 percent of average. That’s down from 117 percent of average in February and 136 percent at the start of winter but 28 percent above readings last spring…

In northern Colorado, the data that federal snow-measuring crews collected during March showed snowpack at 130 percent of average in the Colorado River basin, 135 percent along the North Platte River and 131 percent along the Yampa and White rivers. The South Platte basin is at 123 percent of average, the highest since 1997.

In southern Colorado, however, tributary basins emptying into the major rivers contain 50 percent to 70 percent of average snowpack, said Gillespie. The snowpack along the Rio Grande was measured at 76 percent of average, and 86 percent for the San Juan, Animas, San Miguel and Dolores rivers. Arkansas River basin snowpack registered at 103 percent of average, and the Gunnison River basin had 115 percent of average snowpack.

The Crystal fire is not expected to impact water quality for northern Colorado communities

April 4, 2011

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Here’s the map page.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The fire “can mobilize a lot of organic material,” said Steve Gunderson, director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Division. “If that gets into a public water sys-tem, that can be tough to treat. It can mobilize a lot of sediment, and that can wreck havoc on a stream.”

Kevin Gertig, Fort Collins water resources and treatment operations manager, said it’s unclear if the Crystal Fire could impact the city’s water supply, but it’s unlikely the fire is burning in an area that drains into Horsetooth Reservoir, one of two major sources of the city’s municipal water. “Our current assessment is no impact,” he said, adding that city utilities officials can’t make that de-termination final until they see a detailed topographic map showing the burn area.

The city of Loveland takes its water from the Big Thompson River upstream of its confluence with Buckhorn Creek. “We don’t have any impacts to our domestic water supply,” said Steve Adams, Loveland water utilities manager.

Officials at Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which manages the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, do not believe the fire will impact Northern Water’s facilities, said spokesman Brian Werner.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Snowpack news

April 4, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“We’ll be seeing drastically different runoffs when we get things warming up,” said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “We’re likely to see water availability shortages down south. We’ll probably have a little more water than we know what to do with up north. It could be some high water.”[...]

Data collected during March showed the snowpack at 130 percent of average in the Colorado River Basin, 135 percent along the North Platte River, 131 percent along the Yampa and 123 percent along the South Platte. That’s the best snowpack report for the South Platte since 1997.

Around southern Colorado, however, tributary systems flowing into major rivers contain 50 to 70 percent of average snowpack, Gillespie said. The snowpack along the Rio Grande River was measured at 76 percent of average, and 86 percent for the San Juan, Animas, San Miguel and Dolores rivers.

Metro Roundtable Reception: Five million more Coloradans by 2050 will put tremendous pressure for water on the agricultural sector

April 4, 2011

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From the Colorado Independent (Alan Best):

The bigger losers in this water-soluble game of Chinese fire drill are agriculture, which currently uses 85 to 90 percent of the state’s water, and natural ecosystems, such as the vast complex of life along waterways…

Already, much water originally allocated for farms in the Fort Morgan and Sterling areas has been sold to water providers in the Denver metropolitan area, said Joe Frank, executive director of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District. “It’s not very visible yet because the water hasn’t been removed from the (agricultural) land,” said Frank, whose district distributes water from Fort Morgan to the Nebraska border…

But John Sanderson, water program director for The Nature Conservancy, pointed out that free-running rivers during spring also have value. “Those high flows are important to maintaining habitat,” he said. Sanderson noted that 15 percent of aquatic species found in and along Colorado’s creeks and rivers by the first settlers have been extirpated form this region, while another 40 percent are now endangered, threatened or otherwise at risk…

Among the new ideas to emerge since the 2002 drought was development of water in the Green River in either Wyoming or Utah. The water later passes through Colorado for about 20 miles, giving Colorado an arguable right to water in the river even if it is diverted to another state. Aaron Million, a Fort Collins-based entrepreneur, came up with the idea and continues to pursue it. But the South Metropolitan Water Supply Authority later proposed a similar idea, drawing on either Flaming Gorge Reservoir or Fontenelle Reservoir, both located on the Green River. Rod Kuharich, executive director of the South Metro group, said his group has met with people from the Wyoming cities of Cheyenne, Casper, Torrington and Green River, but he ultimately sees the deal being a state-to-state transaction, if it ever occurs.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Colorado Supremes ruling solidifies King Consolidated Ditch Co. and seven others winter livestock watering rights

April 4, 2011

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From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

The 4-3 ruling solidified water rights for the King Consolidated Ditch Co. and seven others. The companies wanted to make sure their 1930s-era rights are protected against a plan to fill Vallecito Reservoir twice a year in order to maintain winter flows in the river…

Lawyers for the [Southern Ute] tribe argued the Utes and about 100 other water rights owners on the Pine River should have been served with legal notice that the ditch companies – which own the some of the most senior water rights on the stream – were going to court to clear up their rights. “This is a declaration that affects not particular water rights, but virtually all senior water rights on the Pine River,” said Adam Reeves, a lawyer for the tribe, during September’s arguments.

The high court was sharply divided on its March 14 ruling. Dissenting Justice Nancy Rice called the ruling a precedent that “opens the floodgates for the scope of already-adjudicated water rights to be revisited and reinterpreted without direct notice to rights holders.”

More San Juan basin coverage here.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education: President’s Award Reception Friday

April 4, 2011

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From email from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education:

This Friday, CFWE will honor two water resources professionals who have shown exemplary leadership in water resources education throughout Colorado. Join CFWE and friends on April 8 at the NCAR Lab in Boulder to honor Nolan Doesken, State Climatologist, and Hannah Holm Coordinator of Mesa County Water Association. This Reception is CFWE’s only fundraising event of the year and we rely on supporter attendance to fund important water education programs. Registration is open so sign up while there is still room! Click here for more information.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Updates on two west slope micro-hydro projects

April 4, 2011

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

Both projects penciled out looking like profitable opportunities in the early stages. The difference in bringing the two to completion turned out to be the cost, complexity, and lengthy compliance burden of federal regulations. The [Tarr family of Delta's] hydro project is a planned 27 kilowatt (kW) turbine that will be built on their own property using their own irrigation water. The project has received USDA grant funding and loan approvals and, says Janell Dawson, daughter of Pete and Sandra Tarr, they hope to be producing electricity a year from now.

By contrast, [Mike Mason of Cedaredge's] idea of using water flows of Kiser Creek to generate 750 kW from a turbine located near Hwy. 65 and Old Grand Mesa Road hit the federal regulatory wall. He explained that agency known as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is known among low-head hydro enthusiasts for the project killing complexity of its regulatory scheme. The FERC regulatory regimen came into play with Mason’s project because it would be located on public land administered by the Forest Service. The Tarr family project by contrast is on their own property…

Mason said that low-head hydro project proposals can also run into problems finding a buyer for their power if the electricity generation is produced by seasonal water flows, or if the amount of power generated is not in at least the several megawatt range.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Current chair of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District hopes to be reappointed — he’s stepping down due to Springs city council term limits

April 4, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs will elect seven of its nine council members and a mayor on April 5, creating uncertainty about who will replace Small on the Fountain Creek board. “I have been proud to be a part of this,” Small said at Friday’s meeting. “I can envision a band of life along this creek in the future.”

Small was praised by several board members for his hard work on the board and as a member of the Vision Task Force to resolve differences over Fountain Creek between El Paso and Pueblo counties…

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Colorado Springs Utilities presented a competing plan to have its employees run the district. They are working on a Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan under a four-year $1.2 million agreement. Part of that agreement has been to provide $100,000 annually to fund the district. The three groups jointly are administering about $3.6 million in grants and other payments that have been leveraged for projects along Fountain Creek…

The Fountain Creek board also:

Heard an update on a study by Summit Economics to look at an approach to finding a regional stormwater solution. The demise of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise in 2009 has created questions about promises made during negotiations for Southern Delivery System permits. In February, Chostner successfully argued against putting district money toward the study, because it remains solely an El Paso County issue…

Learned about the progress of Fountain Creek dredging in Pueblo from Dennis Maroney, Pueblo stormwater consultant and head of the technical advisory committee. A bid has been awarded for work on a side detention pond, while an in-stream sediment removal system is still being negotiated.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Yampa River Flow Survey closes April 6

April 3, 2011

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Here’s the post from American Whitewater. From the article:

To take the survey, CLICK HERE.

We have developed this survey so individuals can help American Whitewater represent recreational interests in deciding what the future of the Yampa and White Rivers will look like. Our goal is to utilize information from the survey to help us quantify flow preferences for whitewater boating, which will identify the range of flows necessary to provide whitewater recreation experiences, from technical low water to challenging high water trips. The information will provide us with the data necessary to describe flow-dependant recreation experiences and to protect and manage flows for river-based recreational opportunities.

American Whitewater is working to identify the range of flows that support the full range of boating opportunities for the main stem and tributaries of the Yampa and White Rivers. As part of our Yampa River Project, we are working with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Yampa-White roundtable to identify and define flows needed for whitewater boating throughout the basin. Results of our assessment will inform future negotiations over water supply planning, and resouce management actions.

More Yampa River basin coverage here. More White River basin coverage here.

Metro Roundtable Summit: John Stulp — ‘It doesn’t mean we all agree. It just means we’ve gotten to the point where we can sit in the same room and talk’

April 3, 2011

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From the Associated Press (Catherine Tsai) via Westport News:

“We’re in year six now and we haven’t gotten there,” said Metro Roundtable Chairman Rod Kuharich, also executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. “The state needs to step out in this process and begin supporting water projects in an environmentally and economically sound way.”

Kuharich was among water officials at a public reception Thursday on whether there’s enough water for Colorado in the future. The event was hosted by the Metro Roundtable and Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s special water policy adviser, John Stulp, said before Kuharich spoke that it’s important for the roundtables to continue their work and that the roundtables are making some progress. “It doesn’t mean we all agree. It just means we’ve gotten to the point where we can sit in the same room and talk,” he said…

Water planners developing reservoir and pipeline projects face funding challenges but also have to balance water needs of populated cities, the environment, wildlife and Colorado’s robust recreation industry, all of which draw tourism dollars. “These projects take years and years to develop and get going,” Colorado Water Conservation Board Director Jennifer Gimbel said. “We need to be planning now.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Lake Pueblo excess capacity contracts require Corps of Engineers waiver in order to avoid spilling non-project water

April 3, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

for the second consecutive year the problem has been avoided by a waiver by the Army Corps of Engineers to leave water in the reservoir a little longer, rather than vacating the flood pool by April 15. “This isn’t a blanket to do this every year, and the mode we’re running in is spilling,” Jim Broderick, executive director, told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District last month. “The way we’re managing reservoirs has shifted. In my opinion, we’ve been fortunate to get the two waivers.”

After dealing with the question of scarcity for years, the Southeastern district is bumping up against the limits of storage contemplated in its 1990s studies that led to the controversial Preferred Storage Options Plan.

“The 2002 drought provided a wake-up call for all of us in the valley, and in particular the Pueblo Board of Water Works,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the board. “It pointed out that relying on historical records was not sufficient, and we had to triple the amount of water we had in storage to work between the wet and the dry years.”

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Glenwood Springs: Governor Hickenlooper pow wows with west slope water leaders — ‘Shoshone is a small drop in their [Xcel's] bucket’

April 3, 2011

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Heather McGregor):

Western Slope water leaders who are negotiating a “global” water agreement for Colorado met Thursday with Gov. John Hickenlooper, who agreed with their view that water is a statewide resource. “There’s a legitimate argument to say it’s in the best interests of Denver to use as little water as possible, and to keep every drop we can in the river,” Hickenlooper told members of the Colorado River District board…

Hickenlooper, the former mayor of Denver, said he has received calls from Denver residents with large lawns who complain that conservation efforts by Denver Water have forced their water bills up by thousands of dollars a year. “They’re irate, and they tell me Denver has the senior water rights, and ask why they have to cut their use,” Hickenlooper said. “My response is that legally it is Denver’s water, but it’s Colorado’s water, too. You know, what makes Denver special and unique is because it’s in Colorado. And part of what makes Denver ‘Denver’ is the Western Slope economy — its ski resorts, the ranches and fruit orchards — and the Eastern Plains,” the governor said. So he tells Denver constituents that key values of the city are enhanced by preserving the natural beauty of the whole state, including healthy rivers — which means limiting new transmountain water diversions…

The River District, Denver Water, Summit County, Grand County and water interests in Eagle County are negotiating what is being called a “global agreement” on those transmountain diversions and related water management. “We appreciate your appointments to Denver Water, and we are looking forward to the rollout of the agreement,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry. He said the agreement should be ready for release in late April.

Meanwhile, the River District is also involved with negotiations on the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant, which holds a critical senior water right for the Colorado River that protects river flows above and below Glenwood Canyon. The plant and the water right are owned by Xcel Energy. River District Board President Tom Sharp, of Steamboat Springs, asked Hickenlooper for help in getting Xcel involved in the discussions aimed at protecting the Shoshone water right. “Shoshone is a small drop in their bucket,” Hickenlooper said. “They’ve got no reason not to do it.”

“Or, they’ve got no reason to do it,” Sharp replied.

“Oh, but if they do, they will get to the top of my ‘Most Cherished Persons’ list,” Hickenlooper said.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Salida: Colorado water law workshop recap

April 3, 2011

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Sponsored by Colorado Water Trust, water lawyers Marcus Lock and Kendall Burgemeister presented an overview of Colorado water law. Lock discussed the doctrine of prior appropriation, which provides the basis for Colorado water law, and provided an overview of state and federal laws that affect water rights…

Burgemeister provided an overview of methods for enhancing water supplies and optimizing water use, including changes of water right, which must be adjudicated in water court…

Terry Scanga, Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District manager, offered an overview of events that have influenced water use in the Arkansas River basin. He spoke about the 1948 Colorado-Kansas Compact, the 1969 Administration and Adjudication Act, the 1985 Kansas v. Colorado lawsuit, the voluntary flow management program and trans-mountain diversions. Scanga said 126,748 acre feet, about 20 percent, of water in the Arkansas basin comes from trans-mountain diversions.

Kaylea White, senior water resources specialist with Colorado Water Conservation Board, discussed the Colorado In-Stream Flow Program. Amy Beatie and Zach Smith, Colorado Water Trust executive director and staff attorney, respectively, discussed “hot topics,” including the Breem Ditch in-stream flow project near Gunnison and abandonment of water rights.

More water law coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: BLM To Hold Regional Forums on Hydraulic Fracturing in Natural Gas Production

April 3, 2011

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Here’s the release from the Bureau of Land Management (Matt Spangler):

Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey today announced that the BLM will hold a series of regional public forums in late April to further discuss the use of hydraulic fracturing techniques to stimulate natural gas production on Federal lands. The sessions will be held in Bismarck, North Dakota; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Denver, Colorado. These locations will help to highlight increased regional interest in natural gas development on Federal lands and other areas where the BLM has responsibility for mineral leasing.

“These forums will help inform BLM as we work closely with industry, the states, other Federal agencies and the public to develop a way forward on natural gas so that the United States can safely and fully realize the benefits of this important energy resource,” Director Abbey said. “The Interior Department has a responsibility to study the potential impacts and to identify commonsense, best management practices that should be used in fracturing operations on public lands to ensure that this development is carried out in the right way and in the right places.”

The regional forums will build upon a forum the Department of the Interior hosted in November 2010 in Washington, D.C. on best practices for hydraulic fracturing and will provide a more in-depth, technical review of natural gas development practices on public lands. The meetings are part of the Department’s proactive efforts to ensure that oil and gas development is taking place on public lands in a responsible and environmentally sustainable manner.

Topics to be discussed will include best management practices, disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids, well construction and integrity, production wastewater management and other techniques for protecting drinking water resources. Panelists will include experts from Federal and state governments, industry, and environmental organizations that have been engaged in natural gas development issues.

Safely harnessing the nation’s abundant natural gas resources is a vital component of America’s energy portfolio and has the potential to power the U.S. economy for decades to come and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Natural gas development on Federal lands has more than doubled over the last 20 years, from 1.2 trillion cubic feet in Fiscal Year 1991 to nearly 3.0 trillion cubic feet in Fiscal Year 2010. In Fiscal Year 2010, about 14 percent of domestically produced natural gas came from onshore public lands.

The BLM issues leases for natural gas development on lands managed by the BLM as well as lands managed by other Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service. The BLM also manages the subsurface mineral estate in a number of areas where the surface is privately owned. The use of hydraulic fracturing in these areas has similarly increased in recent years.

Meanwhile, Governor Hicklooper backs hydraulic fracturing according to From the article:

Gov. John Hickenlooper is backing hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas drilling. But he said companies should disclose what chemicals they use in their fracturing fluids. Hickenlooper made the comments Thursday during a visit to Glenwood Springs.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1289 (Water Supply Structure Historic Register)

April 3, 2011

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, this week has quickly marshaled through a bill that would require consent of users of historic water structures when the state historical society wants to place the structure on an historic register. House Bill 11-1289 passed the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, received approval from the House on second reading on Wednesday and got a 51-12 vote from the full House on Thursday. It now heads to the Senate…

There are more than 22,000 ditches and reservoirs in the state, Shimmin said, and the document [History Colorado put out a 70-page document, prepared several years ago by an architecture professor at the University of Colorado Denver] suggests that all of them might qualify for historical designation on the National Register of Historic Places. “It raised the level of concern in the water user community” because it seemed to designate every ditch and reservoir as an historic structure, he explained. The potential for listing includes regulatory implications, Shimmin said. Any project with federal action, money or property and that requires a federal permit has to go through historical preservation review.

If a third party requests the listing and the owner objects, it can`t be listed, he said, but it can be designated as eligible for listing at the national level, and that triggers the same federal regulations, including control over maintenance or repair. That would include anything in the structure along the system — from headgates right down to the cottonwood trees along the ditch — and implies that every feature is somehow historically significant. “It scared the holy heck out of the owners of the ditch and reservoir systems” that a new wave of federal or state regulations was coming that would impact any act of maintenance, repair or other operating changes, he said.

Under HB 1289 the society must get consent from anyone who has a property interest, including water rights, in a water supply structure, prior to the structure`s nomination on the state or national register. In addition, the state engineer would also have to give his consent. Water users were excluded from the public process, and no public hearings were held by the history society, Shimmin said.

Democrats, however, objected to the bill, stating that requiring permission from the users would permanently end any efforts to put a structure on the National Register.

The four structures already designated as historical are two segments of the [Grand Diversion] structure in the Palisade Canyon along I-70, the San Luis Peoples Ditch and Smith’s Irrigation Ditch in Denver (now known as Denver Ditch).

Steve Turner from History Colorado said that 800 water structures have been reviewed in the past five years and that 200 are considered historic and could be considered for inclusion on the state or federal registers. Sonnenberg said currently there are no plans to put any historic water structures on the state or federal register. “This bill is proactive,” he said, and added that HB 1289 has the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife commissioners will open a 60 day comment period for the Moffat Collection System Project and Windy Gap Firming Project Thursday

April 3, 2011

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife (Theo Stein):

The Colorado Wildlife Commission will initiate a formal review of plans to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife resources that would be created by two major transmountain water development projects at its April 7 workshop at the Fairfield Center in Meeker.

The 60-day review of mitigation plans to be presented by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District is required by statute.

Denver Water is proposing to firm up the yield from its existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by enlarging Boulder’s Gross Reservoir and diverting additional water from the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers. Northern is proposing to firm up the yield from its existing water rights in the Upper Colorado River by diverting additional water to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Longmont.

Under state statute, the Commission’s authority is limited to a review of plans to mitigate impacts from proposed projects. Restoring the river to a past condition is beyond the scope of the project approval process and Wildlife Commission authority.

However, Denver and Northern are voluntarily proposing steps to address impacts of existing water development projects to fish and wildlife resources on both sides of the Continental Divide. Both the mitigation and enhancement plans will be presented to the Commission at the meeting.

In other business, the Commission will consider draft regulations to amend the existing prohibition on dogs at Lon Hagler and Lone Tree Reservoir state wildlife areas near Loveland.

Under the proposed change, dogs must be on a leash less than six feet long, unless they are on a boat in which case a leash is not required. Additionally, dogs would be prohibited from portions of both properties during certain times of the year except as an aid to hunting. The current dog ban would be maintained around the Lon Hagler annex pond and adjacent land to protect wildlife habitat.

The Wildlife Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. During the rest of 2011, the Commission is scheduled meet in Salida in May, Grand Junction in June and in locations to be determined from July through December.

The complete agenda for the April Wildlife Commission workshop, as well as a discussion of proposed regulation changes for Lon Hagler and Lone Tree state wildlife areas, can be found on the Wildlife Commission web page at:

More information on Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System proposal and Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project may be found here:

Members of the public who are unable to attend Commission meetings or workshops can listen to the proceedings through a link on the DOW’s website. This opportunity is provided to keep constituents better informed about the development of regulations by the Commission and how they and DOW staff are resolving issues facing Colorado’s wildlife.

To access the live audio feed during the meeting, click on the “listen to live audio” link at the bottom of the Commission webpage at:

The Colorado Wildlife Commission is an 11-member board appointed by the governor. The Wildlife Commission sets Division of Wildlife regulations and policies for hunting, fishing, watchable wildlife, nongame, threatened and endangered species. The Commission also oversees Division of Wildlife land purchases and property regulations.

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

The Colorado Wildlife Commission will initiate a formal review of plans to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife resources that would be created by two major trans-mountain water-development projects at its Thursday workshop at the Fairfield Center in Meeker.

Denver Water is proposing to firm up the yield from its existing water rights on the Western Slope, primarily by enlarging Boulder’s Gross Reservoir and diverting additional water from the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers. Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District is proposing to firm up the yield from its existing water rights in the Upper Colorado River by diverting additional water to the proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Longmont.

The 60-day review of mitigation plans to be presented by Denver Water and Northern is required by statute. A voluntary enhancement plan designed to address impacts of existing water-development projects also will be presented.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here. More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.

Snowpack/Lake Mead/Lake Powell news: No shortage declaration foreseen for lower Colorado River basin this season

April 3, 2011

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From the Deseret News (John Hollenhorst):

“It is highly, highly unlikely that we’ll see a shortage declared for the lower basin,” [Malcolm Wilson, water resources chief of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation] said. “It is a good year. It’s one of the better ones we’ve seen certainly in the last decade, and we’re looking to a really good inflow.”[...]

Many expect hard bargaining in the future over the river’s water supply. McCool thinks there are pluses and minuses for Utah: Extended drought might wipe out proposals for Lake Powell pipelines, but Utah farmers might get rich by selling water to Las Vegas.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jackie Hutchins):

…the March 29 snow survey at four sites in Rocky Mountain National Park shows that snowpack levels have increased there since February. And what’s even more encouraging for those worried about a drought, the snow has above-average water content. “It could be a record-setter,” said John Fusaro of the Natural Resource Conservation Service…

At all four snow courses the agency measured in the national park this week, water content of the snow was ahead of the 30-year average. “That’s really good,” Fusaro noted, “just the opposite of what we’ve had down here with all the dryness.”[...]

At Deer Ridge, at 9,000 feet in elevation, the average snow depth was 30 inches, up by 4 inches since the end of February. The water content of the snow was 173 percent of the amount a year earlier and 205 percent of the 30-year average. Similar increases were recorded at 9,480 feet at Hidden Valley, 9,500 feet at Bear Lake and 10,700 feet at Willow Park. Bear Lake has 68 inches of snow, up by 14 inches from a month ago, with water content at 185 percent of last year’s figures. The average snowpack at Hidden Valley increased from 37 to 45 inches, with water content at 181 percent of last year’s figures. At Willow Park, the snowpack increased from 62 to 77 inches, with water content at 158 percent of last year’s figures.

Metro Roundtable Summit: Conservation, economic development, new supplies, transmountain water and bait fish

April 2, 2011

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The Colorado Water Conservation Board, “is the technical backbone to facilitate the work of the IBCC [Interbasin Compact Committee] and basin roundtables,” said Jennifer Gimbel, the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, during her remarks preceding the panel discussion.

After the 2002 drought it, “was clear that we did not have enough information.” The state legislature acted and the IBCC and roundtables were established by HB 1177, The Water for the 21st Century Act, she said.

She listed the top five recurring questions about Colorado’s future water supplies.

Can’t we just control our population? Gimbel answered, “It’s not a question of if we grow its how we grow.” Most of the projected increase in Colorado’s population will be internal growth not people moving here, she said. “Land use planning and water planning need to get together.”

Can’t we just use less water? Most systems have seen, “lower per capita consumption. We just don’t know what is causing it.”

“Conservation is very important,” in meeting future needs, she said.

Do nonconsumptive needs really deserve equal treatment with consumptive needs? “We have an economy established around nonconsumptive uses,” she said. “How do we ensure that these needs are met and that the needs of people are also met,” she asked.

Does it really matter if Colorado agriculture dries up “Ag is important [because] we need to feed the people that are coming,” she answered.

Do we really need a portfolio of solutions? “There is no silver bullet,” according to Gimbel. Colorado needs conservation, build out of projects already on the drawing board, alternative methods for moving ag water to cities and new supplies. “Do we care where we are going, I think the answer is yes,” she said.

Gimbel then introduced the first panel member, John Sanderson, Water Program Director and Senior Freshwater Ecologist from The Nature Conservancy.

“Rivers and streams are part of the landscape of Colorado and the reason many of us are here,” he said. He mentioned two companies in the Fort Collins area that told him that the, “Poudre River is an important part of how we get employees to come to work for us.”

“We are in a new phase in Colorado where we are not so much deciding how to develop water but we’re deciding on priorities,” he said. “It’s very clear that we have to let go of some of the old ways…we have to be more collaborative.”

Another panel member, Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District used his time to talk in part about the importance of irrigated agriculture in Colorado. He said he is, “as optimistic about agriculture as any time in the past.” He mentioned the, “ever increasing pressure on ag to meet the future needs of municipal and industrial needs,” and stated, “but I think we have to step back and question whether this is the right place to look for water supplies.”

Colorado agriculture represents a $17 billion wedge in the state’s economic pie, according to Frank. He reminded everyone that much of the dry up of land is still to come as water acquired by cities from farm purchases has yet to be moved off the land.

Return flows help make the lower South Platte River in Colorado a perennial stream, Frank said, while detailing the benefits of irrigated agriculture.

“A live stream is not necessarily a good thing,” countered Sanderson later in the discussion. “The fish that are living in the perennial stream are from Virginia and are eating our bait fish [native species],” he said. He added, “I don’t have any illusions that we will have pristine streams.”

“I believe it all boils down to conservation,” Frank said, “doing more with less water, individually,” and, “capturing and storing water to use in times of need.”

Rod Kuharich, executive director of the South Metro Water Authority board of directors, is part of a group advocating direct state involvement in future water projects. The, “state [needs] to step up and support new water projects,” he said.

He is also a proponent of the new major transmountain diversion. He names the Aspinall Unit in the Gunnison River basin and two Green River main stem reservoirs, Flaming Gorge and Fontenelle as sources for undeveloped water available for the Front Range. During the 2002 drought both Flaming Gorge and Fontenelle filled and spilled, he said.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Metro Roundtable Reception: Water providers, hydrologists, engineers, conservationists, CWCB staffers, farmers and interested citizens gather to learn and inform each other

April 1, 2011

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I’m not good at estimating crowd numbers but I think it’s safe to say that billions of brain cells showed up at the Sherman Events Center in Denver for an update on the progress of the Interbasin Compact Committee, Metro Roundtable and the Colorado Water Conservation Board towards solving Colorado’s long-term supply challenge. According to IBCC director John Stulp it’s going to take all those brain cells and a few billion more to find and implement solutions.

Stulp set the theme of the meeting asking, “Is there enough water?” Of course that depends on who you ask and in what context. Yes, there is enough water, but can the state manage it as an economic driver without mangling the rural economies that depend on agriculture, sportsmen and tourists? Stulp reminded everyone that water is a high priority in the Hickenlooper administration and that the governor is experienced and knowledgeable and hopes to see a plan come out of the IBCC/Roundtable process that is built on consensus with no one feeling like their views have been ignored or marginalized.

“The baseline is we’re all consumers of water,” and, “In the arid west water is a very limiting thing,” he said.

He quoted Ben Franklin saying, “You don’t really realize the value of water until the wells runs dry,” emphasizing that water supply has challenged civilization throughout history.

“Water is the resource we need to take the most care of,” he said, adding, “Water is the lubricant that makes the economy work,” and, “What we do here in the Front Range has an impact on the rest of the state.”

The meeting was part of the IBCC strategy to increase outreach in 2011 to get more people at the table who understand the data and the challenge that comes from the specter of the expected increase of five million more Coloradans by 2050. Governor Hickenlooper favors bottom-up consensus based solutions and Director Stulp is driving that strategy.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Aspen: The city’s Environmental Health Department staff is gearing up to promote tap water as an alternative to bottled water

March 31, 2011

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From The Aspen Times (Andre Salvail):

In a recent memorandum to the council, [Ashley Cantrell, a city environmental health specialist] wrote that the complete elimination of bottled water “is neither an achievable nor a manageable goal at this time.” But a campaign to promote and market Aspen tap water is doable, depending on costs, most council members agreed during Tuesday’s meeting. “Rather than target bottled water as a negative thing, we want to promote Aspen tap water as a positive thing,” Cantrell told council members.

More water treatment coverage here.

Lake Mead news: Reclamation projects another 9 foot rise in water levels even with the summer’s projected draw down

March 31, 2011

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From The Wall Street Journal (Jim Carlton):

The fierce winter did bring some good news. The vast lake [Lake Mead] is rising for only the second time since the Southwest entered a debilitating drought 12 years ago. The water is 14 feet higher so far, and is projected to rise about nine feet more from the spring’s snowmelt by the end of the current water year in September. That takes into account the expected drawdown…

Lake Mead’s water level now stands at 1,096 feet, near its lowest point since the reservoir began filling in the 1930s and 110 feet below when the drought began in 1999, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The lake last rose in 2005. Already, that low level has forced the bureau to cut power from the lake’s Hoover Dam by 20%.

Colorado River basin: Flaming Gorge pipeline update — Million needs billions

March 31, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million announced plans to pursue the project five years ago, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is evaluating his proposal in an environmental impact statement. Last year, the Corps said it could take until 2018 to reach a decision, although Million remains confident he can move the timetable up. About one year ago, the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Parker Water General Manager Frank Yeager, announced its own study of the feasibility of the project. Communities with a combined population of more than 500,000 are participating in that group.

Shortly after the announcement, Drew Peternell of Colorado Trout Unlimited, published an article claiming the cost of water from Million’s project was too much for anyone but growing urban areas to afford, and suggested sticking in the fork.

Not long after that, Gary Barber, chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable floated the idea of a state task force on either Flaming Gorge idea, modeled after the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force. Within the next few months, the Colorado Water Conservation Board had approved a $40,000 grant to determine whether the task force should be formed. A report is expected in June…

Million was encouraged earlier this month when one of his consultants, former State Engineer Jeris Danielson, asked Gov. John Hickenlooper about the potential for private-public partnerships to develop water projects in the state. Hickenlooper, speaking at the first State Roundtable Summit, said all options need to be considered. “I think Governor Hickenlooper understands the private-public model of cooperation better than many in state government,” Million said. Million’s plan includes setting aside some of the water, whether directly or through return flows, to serve agriculture and fill environmental needs in Colorado. But even if every drop went to cities, he sees the project as beneficial because it relieves the pressure on other water rights in Colorado. “What’s the issue? Do we continue to let water flow down the Colorado River while we dry up farms in Eastern Colorado?” Million said.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Project coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1289 (Water Supply Structure Historic Register)

March 30, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

A bill moving briskly through the Legislature could make it more difficult for those old water supply structures to be included in either the Colorado Register of Historic Properties or the National Register of Historic Places. House Bill 1289, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Adams County, would require the consent of everyone with a property or water rights interest in a water supply structure for it to be considered for inclusion in the state or national register.

If any one of possibly many property owners objects, the structure would be ineligible for historic recognition by History Colorado, formerly the Colorado Historical Society, the state’s administrator of the National Register of Historic Places. “The fear was if someone needed to upgrade a diversion or a headgate, if it was on the historic list, then you have to go through extra paperwork or time and may not be able to get that done in a timely manner if you need to fix it,” Sonnenberg said.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Colorado River basin: Are transmountain diversions degrading the Upper Colorado River riparian habitat?

March 30, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

“We do a lot of guiding on the Fraser and Colorado rivers, and even before this we’ve lost a lot of insects. The green drakes on the Fraser are completely gone, a whole insect class that’s just disappeared,” said Ehlert, owner of Winter Park Fly Fisher and a 20-year guide with Grand County Fishing Company. “The other one was the salmonfly hatch on the Colorado. We still have them below Kremmling. But we used to get them on the river above Kremmling and now they are completely gone.” Ehlert believes he knows the culprit behind the mystery, and he’s not alone in pointing his finger squarely at trans-mountain water diversions he believes are sucking the life out of the Fraser River and Colorado headwaters. Shallow rivers and rising water temperatures have pushed the ecosystem to the brink, he said. “We’re fighting right now just to keep the water we have in the river, but I personally think we’re not being aggressive enough. We need to get the water back that’s gone,” he said. “If we lose any more, I think the whole system is going to crash. It may be too late now. Once the insects and food are gone, the fish are going to follow.”

Concerns over the health of the entire Upper Colorado River drainage have been magnified in recent months by proposals from Denver Water and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to annually draw an additional 45,000 acre feet from the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue rivers through the Moffat Collection System Project and Windy Gap Firming Project. If approved, the water that would otherwise make its way into the Upper Colorado will instead be diverted across the Divide primarily for residential use among multiple municipalities along the Front Range from Greeley to Denver.

As part of the proposal, the water districts are expected to submit both a Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plan and an Enhancement Plan to the Colorado Wildlife Commission at the April 7 workshop in Meeker. While the required FWMP addresses expected future impacts from the two projects, the optional enhancement plans are designed to address past and ongoing impacts to the river suffering the combined effects of development, agriculture, sediment loading, whirling disease and diversions, among others. The formal presentation of the plan starts a 60-day clock in which the Wildlife Commission will determine its official recommendation for or against the projects to the state.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: Governor Hickenlooper signs HB 11-1083 (Hydroelectricity and pumped hydro)

March 30, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Under HB1083, the Public Utilities Commission can authorize hydro projects and allow rates to be adjusted to recover the costs of the projects, similar to other renewable energy sources like wind and solar…

Concessions to environmental groups that worried about the impact on aquatic life and others who were concerned about its impact on downstream water users paved the way for the bill’s popularity. “When we started out, I was scratching my head wondering how we were going to get this passed. We were butting our heads against a wall,” said sponsor Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West. “We backed up, just started communicating with the people that had concerns, and then it came on board.”

The bill passed through two committees, the Senate and the House twice without a vote against it. Experts testified that hydro is an economical way — except for the hefty up-front investment — to store and generate energy in order to fill gaps in wind and solar generation, and that up to six sites throughout the state have been identified as suitable sites for hydroelectric plants.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here. More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


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