Robert Woods was named the 2014 River Conservator Award at River Rendezvous last week. http://t.co/S9mTTyJO5F
— RoaringFkConservancy (@rfconservancy) July 16, 2014
Roaring Fork watershed: Robert Woods was named the 2014 River Conservator Award at River Rendezvous last weekJuly 16, 2014
From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):
In 1974, Aspen’s future seemed clear enough. The town was growing briskly, the ski industry booming, and by the 1990s the town would need to make major investments to provide water for the future.
With that in mind, town officials filed for storage rights on two upstream creeks, Castle and Maroon, where the municipality already had significant senior water rights. Had the town gone ahead with construction of those reservoirs, the cost today would be roughly $50 million.
Instead, in about 1994, Mayor John Bennett and council members chose a different approach. They would emphasize water savings.
Phil Overeynder, who was the city’s utility manager then, says he has calculated that today water rates would need to be quadrupled to pay for the reservoirs and other infrastructure.
But there was another reason for Aspen to pursue conservation beginning in the 1990s. Overeynder said improved efficiency bolstered the argument that Eastern Slope water providers needed to make do with what they had before expanding diversions. In his eyes, Eastern Slope water providers still have not done everything they can. “Not to the extent it was promised 40 years ago,” he says.
For Aspen, improving water efficiency has several components. The city couldn’t account for 55 percent of the water being sent to customers. There were leaks, lots of them. It was, says Overeynder, a third-world water system. But a lot of water was used to bleed pipes. Water mains were buried deep, but the service lines to individual houses were within the frost line. During winter, homeowners left their faucets running, to avoid freezing. It was city policy to overlook that use.
Over time, these inefficient uses have been eliminated. The rate structure was revised to strongly recommend efficiency.
From 450 gallons per capita daily in 1974, use peaked in 1993 at 516 gallons.
Last year, it was 164 gallons per capita daily.
Use still spikes in summer, but not as much. The water treatment plant expanded in the 1980s has surplus capacity.
More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here.
From the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:
The state Water Quality Control Commission this week approved a special “Outstanding Waters” designation for several branches of Thompson Creek and its tributaries in the upper Thompson Creek watershed, west of Carbondale.
Trout Unlimited and the Roaring Fork Conservancy said in a news release that the designation will ensure that the watershed’s water quality is protected in perpetuity.
The Water Quality Control Commission’s decision means that anyone seeking approval for development or discharge permits in the watershed must demonstrate that the proposed activity does not degrade the creeks’ baseline water quality.
“This is a huge conservation win that ensures there will be no degradation of these pristine waters,” said Aaron Kindle, Colorado Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “The designation will safeguard the streams, wetlands and tributaries of a nationally significant watershed, and the genetically pure populations of cutthroat trout found there.”
To qualify for the designation, a stream must exhibit high standards on 12 different water quality parameters, including ammonia, dissolved oxygen, e. coli, nitrate, pH and various metals.
The protections will be applied to North Thompson, Middle Thompson and the South Branch of Middle Thompson Creek, as well as several tributaries, including Park Creek, a stronghold for a rare subspecies of cutthroat trout. The vast majority of the designated creeks are on Forest Service lands.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
A state commission has provided new watershed protections in the Thompson Divide area, where numerous entities are trying to stop oil and gas development.
However, such development apparently will be compatible with the “Outstanding Waters” designation by the state Water Quality Control Commission Tuesday.
Trout Unlimited and the Roaring Fork Conservancy had sought the designation. It applies to the north, middle and south branches of Middle Thompson Creek, and tributaries including Park Creek, home to a rare subspecies of cutthroat trout. The protections cover some 130 miles of waterways.
Stream segments qualifying for the designation must exhibit high standards based on water quality parameters such as ammonia, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, pH and various metals. Any entity discharging into a designated segment must show it won’t degrade existing water quality.
Interests including the Thompson Divide Coalition have been trying to prevent drilling on more than 200,000 acres west of Carbondale. Much of that acreage is leased, but certain leases are currently in suspension pending a Bureau of Land Management review.
Trisha Oeth, administrator for the Water Quality Control Commission, said Trout Unlimited testified that it reached out to energy companies holding leases in the areas and none opposed the designation.
“Trout Unlimited indicated the companies felt the designation would not impact their activities and that the designation would be compatible with their operations and plans,” she said.
The commission decided the sensitivity of cutthroat trout and diminishing extent of their habitat made the additional protection necessary.
David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, called the designation “a clever maneuver that doesn’t concern us too much.”
“As modest drilling begins in the Thompson Divide, this important designation is in alignment with what our member companies already do to protect water and wildlife resources. We have shown a tremendous ability to safely produce natural gas in other sensitive western Colorado watersheds and will do so in the Thompson Divide, too.”
In a news release, Aaron Kindle, Colorado field coordinator for Trout Unlimited, called the designation “a huge conservation win that ensures there will be no degradation of these pristine waters.
“The designation will safeguard the streams, wetlands and tributaries of a nationally significant watershed, and the genetically pure populations of cutthroat trout found there,” Kindle was quoted as saying.
From Aspen Public Radio (Marci Krinoven):
To win approval the stream has to meet several high quality standards and, the designation prohibits certain pollutants from being discharged into the water. Aaron Kindle is with Colorado Trout Unlimited, which fought for the designation. He says it protects fish.
“Cutthroat trout have been dwindled down to about 10 percent of their native range, so the populations that do exist are pretty critical and those creeks up there are really critical for cutthroat trout.”
The protected creek runs through an area where energy companies would like to drill for natural gas. The gas leases are currently at a stand-still while the Bureau of Land Management does a review. Kindle says Trout Unlimited had discussions with the oil and gas companies and he says they neither supported nor disapproved of the new designation.
More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.
From the Snowmass Sun (Steve Alldredge) via the Aspen Times:
Since the last ice age receded, water in Snowmass Creek has flowed from the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, carving out what’s known as Old Snowmass Valley. The water irrigates ranches and supports wells for a few subdivisions and scattered homes before joining the Roaring Fork River in Old Snowmass.
Over time, additional demands for water to support the development of Snowmass Village and snowmaking at the Snowmass ski area added to the pressures on Snowmass Creek, giving rise to concerns over the preservation of sustainable flows in the creek. But the inevitable conflict, which first existed between users in Snowmass Valley and those in the Brush Creek drainage over the water in Snowmass Creek, is now developing into a novel and promising partnership to manage and protect water that people in both valleys depend on.
The centerpiece in this partnership is Ziegler Reservoir.
The creation of this off-stream reservoir provides the flexibility and water security to support a 21st century approach to sustainable water management where water is shared between agriculture and a municipality, and across two basins.
When the resort of Snowmass Village was created in 1967, senior water rights from Snowmass Creek pertaining to the underlying ranch lands were converted to serve the newly planned community, the tourist condominiums and hotels, and, eventually, snowmaking at the ski area. The Snowmass Water and Sanitation District was created to provide clean water and treat wastewater for a growing base of Snowmass customers at the new resort.
Over 96 percent of the district’s water flows from the Snowmass Creek basin. East Snowmass Creek provides most of that water, with the rest coming from Snowmass Creek. Less than 5 percent of the sanitation district’s water comes from Brush Creek. All of the water from East Snowmass Creek is gravity fed down to the water treatment plant at the bottom of the Snowmass ski area.
Over the years, the shared use of Snowmass Creek water became a contentious issue between residents in Old Snowmass and the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District — particularly in the winter. The town of Snowmass Village needs the most water in winter around the holiday season, when the cold temperatures of December and January cause the lowest flows in the creek. When the need for water for snowmaking was added in the ‘90s, the pressure on Snowmass Creek increased.
Worried about the health of Snowmass Creek, the Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus challenged the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District and the Aspen Skiing Co. over minimum stream flows in Snowmass Creek. In 1996, the Colorado Water Conservation Board established a stair-step minimum stream flow baseline for Snowmass Creek in an attempt to balance human and environmental demands for the water. But tensions remained between the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District, the Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus and Skico because the minimum in-stream flow rights set by the state are not binding on more senior water right holders like the sanitation District
Chelsea Congdon is a member of the Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus and a leader in their efforts to protect Snowmass Creek.
“Snowmass Creek has shaped and defined the Snowmass Creek Valley, and it is literally the lifeblood of all the ecosystems of this valley,” Congdon said. “That creek is shared by people in two watersheds and the caucus spent a lot of time and a lot of money trying to find a way to compel or convince SWSD to join in the effort to protect that creek.”
Sharon Clarke is the watershed action director for Roaring Fork Conservancy, a local environmental organization dedicated to water.
“For a lot of years, it was very contentious between the SWSD and the Snowmass Creek Caucus,” said Clarke. “Now they are working together to figure out how to best get water for the district and help the creek at the same time.”
A significant factor in that transition was the staff and board changes at Snowmass Water and Sanitation District in the early 2000s when Kit Hamby was hired as district manager. Doug Throm was a member of the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District board from 2004 until 2014.
Since he was hired by the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District, Hamby has initiated a series of operational changes to increase water conservation programs and manage water more efficiently. After instituting a study on the district’s water assets and future needs, Hamby led an effort to expand raw water storage to mitigate the catastrophic effects of a natural disaster or drought. This effort led to the district purchasing a small pond in 2008 located on top of a hill overlooking Snowmass Village for $3.5 million from the Peter Ziegler family.
In October 2008, construction of Ziegler Reservoir began and then quickly came to a stop: During excavation, bulldozer operator Jesse Steel unearthed bones from a 16-year-old female mammoth. Two extensive digs by the Denver Museum of Natural History uncovered bones from a wide variety of animals that lived over 45,000 years ago. They also discovered one of North America’s premiere locations to study climate science.
After the digs, Ziegler Reservoir was completed and put into service by the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District. The reservoir holds roughly 82 million gallons of water and is about 252 acre-feet in size.
The original plan for the reservoir was to hold water for an emergency. But Hamby led an effort to develop a plan to use Ziegler Reservoir to do more — to serve as the linchpin in a state-of-the-art municipal water system, with conservation at its core.
“Using Ziegler is a balancing act,” said Hamby. “We fill the reservoir when water flows in the creek are high and then use that water when flows are low. And it’s an extraordinary water-management tool. We can take out 104 million gallons for snowmaking and then take another 100 million gallons out over the next three months for municipal use and still not drop the reservoir below 50 percent.”
Frank White is the snowmaking manager for Skico. After Ziegler Reservoir came online, Skico concluded a multi-year agreement to use the water from Ziegler Reservoir for snowmaking. In an average year, the Skico uses about 80 million gallons of water for snowmaking at the Snowmass ski area over a 60-day period.
White recalls how snow made at the Snowmass ski area by pumping water out of Snowmass Creek and up the hill to snow guns that roared to life and spit out snow when temperatures were low enough. Those same low temperatures are often the times when Snowmass Creek was at its lowest flow, stressing the health of the Snowmass Creek ecosystem. With the construction of Ziegler Reservoir, the company takes water for snowmaking out of the reservoir, without impacting the creek, and also saves the expensive cost of using energy to pump the water uphill.
Auden Schendler is the Skico’s vice president of Sustainability. “If you are going to make snow, it’s more efficient to make it all at once,” explained Schendler. “In the past we couldn’t do that because we were limited on how much water we could take out of the stream when temperatures were the lowest. Now, we can fire on all cylinders and pump out as much snow as efficiently as possible during a cold snap. Using Ziegler saves energy and therefore money. And using Ziegler buffers Snowmass Creek because not as much water is withdrawn when the flow of the creek is at its lowest.”
Using Ziegler Reservoir for snowmaking and municipal demand during the winter so that Snowmass Creek is protected from diversions is one benefit most everyone agrees on.
Dave Nixa is on the board of the Pitkin County nonprofit Healthy Rivers and Streams.
“I think the most significant aspect of Ziegler Reservoir is that it is a tremendous resource for storage in case of landslides, fires and other catastrophes,” said Nixa. “But we need to maintain the riparian life of (that) creek and the animals that use it, and the biggest animal that uses that creek is Man, for domestic water and irrigation. Having that kind of resource in our valley is pretty important in protecting the long-term health of Snowmass Creek.”
In the ‘90s and ‘00s, the focus of the Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus was on maintaining a minimum stream flow in Snowmass Creek in order to maintaining healthy flows to protect river ecology — and most people measure river health by the health of fish populations. In this case, the fish is trout.
Trout spawn at different times of the year. They lay their eggs in nests in the gravels of the stream and the nests are called redds. The eggs laid in the fall are susceptible to low winter stream flows. If the water gets too low, the redds become exposed and freeze. If the water gets too low and anchor ice forms on the bottom of the stream, the ice starts moving and it destroys the redds.
“Before Ziegler was built, the creek’s flow was the lowest at the same time of the year that beds in Snowmass Village were filled and snowmaking was needed,” Congdon said. “Now, the district is using Ziegler as a bucket, and they use that off-stream storage of Ziegler as part of a water-management system, filling the reservoir back up when the creek has excess water and using the reservoir to buffer the creek.”
In addition to using Ziegler as a water-management tool, the sanitation district has earned high praise from the caucus and others because of additional investments in sustainability they have made the last few years.
“Other than building Ziegler, we have focused in on water loss,” explained Hamby. “We probably have the most aggressive leak detection system in the state of Colorado. We perform leak detection on about 60 to 80 percent of our 45 miles of water line each spring, and then we retest about 40 to 45 percent of those lines again each fall. Each year, we’re retesting 100 percent of our lines.”
“The district has a keen awareness in how to manage their resources in the most effective way,” said Nixa. “One good example is their leak-detection program. It was probably in the upper percentile of poor, and is now in the lower percentiles of outstanding. I would venture that the SWSD is in the top 1 percent of all water districts in the state. It’s a formal program and inherent in how they run their business now.”
In fact, the conservation and leak detection programs of the sanitation district have reduced overall water usage in the district from 642 million gallons in 1998 to about 480 million gallons a year now.
“The district has made huge investments in storage, conservation and leak detection and their current low water loss rate makes them a state-of-the-art water district,” Congdon said. “They are protecting their rate payers and delivering water without wasting money. And they are operating with an awareness that we all depend upon this one little creek. We should manage it efficiently.”
As a testament to the commitment to conservation, in December, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District Board passed resolution No. 9 to operate their water system to adhere to the state minimum in-stream flow standard for Snowmass Creek to the maximum extent possible.
The district’s commitment to use Ziegler Reservoir to manage water more efficiently and protect the Creek has helped motivate the Snowmass Creek Caucus to lead a water conservation and education effort in Snowmass Creek Valley.
While the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District is the largest user of Snowmass Creek water in the winter, the irrigators of the ranches and farms in Snowmass Creek Valley use the most water in summer. Even though they use their water at the time of the creek’s highest flows, their cumulative demand, coupled with the pressures of climate change, threaten the health of Snowmass Creek in the summer.
Under the most accepted assumptions of climate change, the historic diversions in the Snowmass Creek Valley are predicted to begin to drive late summer flows below the summer in-stream flow level of 15 cfs. The Snowmass Capitol Creek Caucus has initiated an outreach effort to work with local irrigators to find ways to increase water efficiency. Some irrigators in the valley, including the McBrides and Wildcat Ranch, have installed sprinkler systems that use less water and use it more efficiently than traditional flood irrigation systems.
“One of the biggest thing the Caucus is doing now is education,” explained Congdon. “We’re developing information materials and meeting with irrigators to help them understand the issues, and we’re getting their commitment to conserving water in times of low flows, which is huge commitment for them to make, and it’s voluntary.”
In order to conserve and manage water the most efficiently, the water has to be gauged and measured. Both the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District and the Snowmass Creek Caucus are currently leading efforts to construct small barriers or weirs to more effectively measure stream flows on Snowmass Creek and its tributaries.
Today, the disputes between Snowmass Water and Sanitation District and the Snowmass Capitol Creek Caucus seem like a thing of the past. The construction of Ziegler Reservoir was something water users in both Brush Creek and Snowmass Creek drainages could agree on. And it has proved to be the keystone in an unlikely partnership between municipal and agricultural water users in 2 basins to protect a shared stream.
It is not unusual for rivers or streams in Colorado to be diverted from one basin to another, but it is rare to find such a promising collaboration across such a divide. If the predictions for climate change in this region are accurate, and demands for water continue to grow as they surely will, then the story of conservation and cooperation around Snowmass Creek could be a model for other water users in the West.
More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here.
Click here to read the report. Here’s an excerpt:
Our watershed action program addresses current issues and future threats to our watershed. Proactive science and watershed planning help inform decision-makers and drive on-the-ground projects to improve and restore our watershed. Many of these actions come from the recently published Roaring Fork Watershed Plan and take the form of scientific studies, restoration projects, changes to policies and educational campaigns. Our watershed action staff address areas of water quantity and quality, hydrology, riparian and river ecology, geomorphology, and economics.
Inspiring people to take action requires knowledge. Each year our watershed education programs reach thousands of students and adults with hands-on science, exploration and experiences. Our student classes range from water chemistry and river ecology to watershed mapping and economics. When we cannot bring students to the river we often bring the river to them.
Our adult community outreach programs include River Guide Trainings, Watershed Explorations, educational dialogues and forums, and our popular river float trips. Each of these programs are designed to engage participants with people and/or places in the watershed to which they might not have access otherwise.
More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here.
Weekly River Report – River flows throughout the Roaring Fork Watershed are significantly lower than normal for this time of yearMay 15, 2014
Weekly River Report – River flows throughout the Roaring Fork Watershed are significantly lower than normal for this time of year due to…
— RoaringFkConservancy (@rfconservancy) May 15, 2014
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Will Grandbois):
For Gavin Metcalf, April 15 isn’t just tax day. It’s the beginning of six months of full time work as Carbondale’s official “Ditch Rider.”
Metcalf’s steed is a John Deere utility vehicle, but otherwise his job description looks like something out of the previous century. He starts the morning by turning a wheel on a large metal gate along the bank of the Crystal River. When the water in the Carbondale Ditch reaches a certain point, he locks the gate in place.
“You can tell it’s the right depth because that root is just barely sticking out of the water,” he explains. Sure enough, when he walks down to the flume for a more scientific measurement, it’s dead on…
In addition to natural challenges, Metcalf struggles with human interference. People construct makeshift dams which can flood upstream and burn out downstream pumps. They dump all manner of things into ditches they wouldn’t dream of throwing in the river. Not that most of it makes it that far. Even grass clippings tend to stick around and clog the system, explains Metcalf. And when he has to turn off the water to fix the problem, few residents connect the dots.
“The water is there to be used,” Metcalf says, “but a lot of people don’t seem to understand what it takes to make that happen.”
Carbondale’s water rights on the Crystal are as old as the town itself. It’s one of the few municipalities in the region — along with Aspen and Silt — that has kept its system intact. The original 1880s rights were expanded considerably in the 1920s. Since then, usage has fluctuated as the community expands and the ranches begin to disappear.
So far, the runoff forecast for this year looks bright, but Carbondale’s utilities department is planning ahead. “If, at some point, we elect to go into water rationing, we want a really firm idea of what it’s going to take to maintain the system under drought conditions,” explains Utilities Director Mark O’Meara. “It’s going to take some time to really dial in, but I think we have enough foundation to make better judgment calls on how much we take out of the river.”
More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.
Transmountain diversions: “I think the Twin Lakes company needs to be more open-minded” — Jay Winner #COWaterPlanApril 11, 2014
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Twin Lakes Reservoir & Canal Co. took umbrage at the way working drafts of an upcoming state water plan viewed its future. A report prepared by the Interbasin Compact Committee uses an example of a way to create new supply, suggesting that Twin Lakes could cut back its diversions from the other side of the Continental Divide in drought years to aid the Western Slope. Trouble is, Twin Lakes has no plans to do that, said Kevin Lusk, who is president of the Twins Lakes company as a representative of Colorado Springs Utilities, the majority shareholder in Twin Lakes.
“In our discussions, we’re trying to keep what we’ve got, and we have no intentions of increasing the use,” Lusk told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday.
Lusk asked for a retraction of the statement by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and from the basin roundtable chairs. The document was discussed in a March 17 conference call among roundtable chairs and alluded to in an Aspen Daily News story. Several roundtable members questioned how the statement landed in the document, since it was not discussed at a meeting.
“It was cited as an example in the process as we move forward,” said Betty Konarski, chairwoman of the roundtable.
Lusk said the distribution of the information is detrimental to Twin Lakes. While there have been past discussions along the same lines, the company has never committed to changing its operations to accommodate the Western Slope.
“Twin Lakes is not considering a reduction of diversions. We haven’t agreed to do it or not to do it,” added Alan Ward, water resources manager for the Pueblo Board of Water Works, the second largest Twin Lakes shareholder. “We wouldn’t have a reason to give any of it up unless there was some benefit to us. It’s gravity-flow and inexpensive water for us.”
But a minority Twin Lakes shareholder, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, said the company should be more open to actions that could have a statewide benefit. comments,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district. “I think the Twin Lakes company needs to be more open-minded. It’s looking at what’s good for Colorado Springs Utilities, not the whole state.”
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.
The City of Aspen has a long list of projects for the #ColoradoRiver Basin Implementation Plan #COWaterPlanApril 7, 2014
From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):
Tall new dams in pristine spots on upper Castle and Maroon creeks. Bigger dams on Lost Man and Lincoln creeks in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River. A bigger reservoir at the city’s water plant. Water pumped up from deep underneath Aspen. Treated effluent pumped from the Aspen wastewater plant to the city golf course. Water left in the river instead of being diverted to the Wheeler irrigation ditch.
These projects are all on a list that Mike McDill, the city of Aspen’s deputy director of utilities, wants included on a larger list of regional water projects now being compiled by the Colorado River Basin Roundtable.
“If it is already on the list, at least people can’t say they didn’t know we were thinking about it,” McDill said…
Over 500 “projects, policies and processes” are now on the Colorado roundtable’s draft priority list, including Aspen’s suggested projects. The list, which is part inventory, part to-do list, and part wish list, is to be winnowed down in the next two months by the roundtable.
“Putting projects on the roundtable’s list is a good way to provoke conversation,” said Louis Meyer, a consulting engineer with SGM, who is leading the development of the Colorado roundtable’s basin plan. “It is also incumbent on us to show the state that we have a list of water needs.”[...]
During recent public roundtable meetings, McDill has described Aspen’s list of projects in a calm and pragmatic matter, despite the scale of some of them.
“Our concern is we have a lot of water in June and not so much water the rest of the year,” McDill said about the potential value of reservoirs on upper Maroon and Castle creeks.
Today the city of Aspen diverts water from lower Castle and Maroon creeks for its water supply, but it does not have any water storage capacity beyond the tiny Leonard Thomas Reservoir at the water plant, which can hold 14 acre-feet of water.
If built someday as described by the city’s conditional water right, the Maroon Creek reservoir would store 4,567 acre-feet of water behind a 155-foot-tall dam just below the confluence of East Maroon and West Maroon creeks, which is known as a stunningly beautiful location. A Maroon Creek reservoir would cover 85 acres of U.S. Forest Service land about a mile-and-a-half below Maroon Lake.
The Castle Creek reservoir would hold 9,062 acre-feet of water behind a 170-foot-tall dam located about two miles below the historic town site of Ashcroft in a verdant valley. It would inundate 120 acres of mostly private land.
The city has renewed the conditional water rights for the two reservoirs eight times since they were decreed in 1971 and is required to do so again in 2016, when it must show it is making progress toward building the reservoirs.
“Aspen will build the Castle Creek and Maroon Creek reservoirs if necessary and if in the best interest of citizens of the community,” city officials said in 2012…
Also on Aspen’s list of potential projects is the enlargement of existing reservoirs, including Grizzly Reservoir and Leonard Thomas Reservoir…
Grizzly Reservoir was built in the 1930s on upper Lincoln Creek, a tributary of the Roaring Fork River. The reservoir is owned by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., of which the city of Colorado Springs is now the majority owner. The reservoir holds about 570 acre-feet of water and primarily serves as the forebay to the tunnel that Twin Lakes uses to divert water under the Continental Divide…
The smaller Lost Man Reservoir, also owned by Twin Lakes, backs up water on Lost Man Creek and then diverts it to Grizzly Reservoir…
But Kevin Lusk, a principal with Colorado Springs Utilities, and the president of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., threw cold water this week on the idea of expanding either Grizzly or Lost Man reservoir.
“Twin Lakes has no plans or interest in enlarging these facilities,” Lusk said via email. “Nor has anyone talked to us about these ideas.”[...]
Also on the city’s list is expanding Leonard Thomas Reservoir at the city’s water plant above Aspen Valley Hospital so it can hold 25 acre-feet instead of 14 acre-feet…
Another water project on the municipal list is to determine just how much water is under the city of Aspen, and whether it is suitable for drinking.
In 2012 and 2013, the city drilled a water-well near Herron Park 1,520 feet underground in search of hot water it could use for geothermal energy.
But in July 2013 the city announced that it did not find water hot enough to make electricity, but it did find a steady stream of clear water coming up out of the well at 29 pounds per square inch, about half of the water pressure in a normal household.
“This summer, we’re putting a pump into the well to analyze the water and get some feel for the capacity of the aquifer,” McDill said.
If it turns out there is still a lot of water 1,500 feet underground Aspen, the city may install a larger, permanent pump into its test well to create a back-up supply of water…
The pump back project, which is well under way, will allow the city to reuse water from the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District to supplement its irrigation water on the municipal golf course, and to provide irrigation and snowmaking water for other entities, including the Buttermilk Mountain ski area.
“It is intended to keep more water in the Castle Creek by not diverting for the golf course,” McDill said.
The source of the water is “treated municipal effluent” and pipes already have been installed from the sanitation plant, past the Burlingame neighborhood, and to a pond on the city golf course.
The city is still seeking a water right for its pump back project from state water court, and has been working out agreements with a long list of opponents.
The water is to be primarily used to irrigate 12.3 acres of landscaping along Highway 82 and Cemetery Lane, according to documents in water court. It also could supplement irrigation on 131 acres of the Aspen golf course, 21 acres of land in the Burlingame project, and 80 acres of the Maroon Creek golf course.
In all, 233 acres of land could receive water from the project and water could be used to make snow on as much as 156 acres of land at Buttermilk…
The Fork is often below a flow level of 32 cfs, which is the minimum amount of water the CWCB has determined is necessary to protect the environment “to a reasonable degree.” Last year, the city entered into a short-term water [lease] with the CWCB to leave 6 cfs of water in the river instead of diverting the water into the Wheeler Ditch, which is located river-left just downstream of the Aspen Club pedestrian bridge. The water in the Wheeler Ditch is typically used by the city for landscaping and irrigation in various parts of central Aspen…
The Colorado River basin roundtable is scheduled to next discuss its draft list of projects on Monday, April 14, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Glenwood Springs community center.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.
From the Aspen Daily News (Nelson Harvey):
Residents of the agricultural bottomlands along Catherine’s Store Road east of Carbondale have been deluged with legal paperwork in recent weeks, as various parties respond to billionaire Tom Bailey’s attempts to clarify his water rights on an irrigation ditch there.
Bailey, the founder of Janus Mutual Funds and a breeder of cutting horses at his Iron Rose Ranch near Carbondale, filed a so-called “quiet title” lawsuit against more than 60 of his neighbors last year attempting to clarify his right to about 5.7 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water on the Slough Ditch and Banning Lateral Ditch, enough to irrigate his 28-acre property several times over.
Since then, both the homeowners association for the Roaring Fork Preserve subdivision (RFPHOA) and Henry Hite, a neighbor of Bailey’s and the owner of the nearby Dragonfly Ranch, have responded to Bailey’s claim with their own assertions of water ownership. The RFPHOA is claiming to own 5.54 cfs of water on the ditch, while Hite is laying claim to about 2.44 cfs.
More water law coverage here.
From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):
The Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board on Thursday voted to seek approvals for, and build, a whitewater park in the Roaring Fork River across from the entrance to the Elk Run subdivision in Basalt.
The board agreed to develop a detailed proposal, gain approval from Pitkin County commissioners and the town of Basalt, and to fund the project.
It will cost about $750,000 to install two wave-producing concrete structures in the river and make improvements to a steep riverbank above the structures to allow for river access and viewing, according to whitewater park designer Jason Carey of River Restoration, Inc. A stripped-down version of the park, without amenities, could cost $550,000.
The five-year-old county river board is funded by a sales tax that brings in about $800,000 a year and it currently has $1.4 million set aside for future expenditures.
The county river board previously endorsed the project in 2010, but now that a water right for the whitewater park is nearly in hand, Pitkin County Attorney John Ely encouraged the board on Thursday to commit to actually getting the project built…
Carey, who designed the popular surf wave in the Colorado River in West Glenwood Springs, has been working on the “Pitkin County Whitewater Park” design since 2009…
Carey said the two concrete and rock structures would be placed in the river along a steep bank next to Two Rivers Road that had been eaten away by high water in 1995 and then crudely restored by CDOT…
The location has other good attributes, he said, including that the river is relatively deep in this reach, compared to the rocky and shallow stretches above and below it…
Most years, though, there will be plenty of water in the river to create surf waves in the park, and the county won’t have to exercise its water right and call for water, according to Lee Rozakalis, a consulting hydrologist with AMEC, who has been working on the park for the county.
More whitewater coverage here.
Aspen: Both sides in the city’s hydropower abandonment case have engaged experts to determine streamflow needsMarch 4, 2014
From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via the Aspen Daily News:
A collaborative committee, formed by opposing parties in a lawsuit claiming the city of Aspen has abandoned its rights to divert water from Castle and Maroon creeks for a proposed hydro plant, is making slow progress toward its goals.
When the settlement effort was announced last year after a “stay” was filed in the case, there were hopes that a stream ecologist could be agreed upon and hired early this year to study the proposed hydro plant and the streams and make recommendations about “stream health goals.”
Steve Wickes, a local facilitator guiding the committee and working for both parties in the case, said the committee’s goals were narrowly defined: Can the two sides, with the help of a mutually trusted expert, agree on how much water can be taken out of the creeks?
But before a “request for proposals” can be written to attract a third-party stream ecologist, the committee has agreed that two experts who are working for either side should first review the list of prior studies done on the two rivers to determine where there are information gaps…
To help review the existing studies and draft the request for proposal, the city has hired Bill Miller, the president of Miller Ecological Consultants of Fort Collins, who has been working for the city on river issues since 2009.
And the plaintiffs have hired Richard Hauer, a professor of limnology (freshwater science) at the University of Montana and the director of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems. Hauer appeared at an event in Aspen in 2012 to discuss the importance of keeping water flowing naturally through a river’s ecosystem…
On the committee from the city are Steve Barwick, Aspen’s city manager, Jim True, the city attorney, and David Hornbacher, the head of the city’s utilities and environmental initiatives.
Representing the plaintiffs on the committee are Paul Noto, a water attorney with Patrick, Miller, Kropf and Noto of Aspen, and Maureen Hirsch, a plaintiff in the suit who lives along Castle Creek.
The other plaintiffs include Richard Butera, Bruce Carlson, Christopher Goldsbury, Jr. and four LLCs controlled by Bill Koch. All of the plaintiffs own land and water rights along either Castle or Maroon creeks.
Wickes said the members of the committee have agreed with his suggestion that they not discuss their ongoing work with the media, and instead refer questions to him.
The claim of abandonment against the city was filed in 2011 water court, in case number 11CW130, “Richard T. Butera et al v. the city of Aspen.”
The case was poised to go to trial on Oct. 28, 2013 and both sides filed trial briefs on Oct. 14.
On Oct. 18, however, the parties filed a stay request with the court so they could “cooperate in engaging a qualified independent, neutral, stream ecology expert.”
The ecologist is to study the rivers and the proposed plant and then “determine a bypass amount of water, to be left in the stream by Aspen.”
The opposing parties are then supposed to “use their best efforts to define the stream health goals to be achieved by said amount of water.”
That could mean, as one example, that a flow regime is agreed upon, with varying levels of water being left in the rivers below the city’s diversions at different times of year, depending in part on the natural amount of water in the rivers during any given year.
Such a protocol exists today on Snowmass Creek as it relates to diverting water for snowmaking at the Snowmass Ski Area.
The city is currently proposing to divert up to 27 cubic feet per second of water from Maroon Creek and 25 cfs of water from Castle Creek for the proposed hydro plant, on top of the water it currently diverts from both streams for municipal uses and the existing Maroon Creek hydro plant.
The city also has a policy to keep at least 13.3 cfs in Castle Creek and 14 cfs in Maroon Creek below its diversion dams in order to help protect the rivers’ ecosystems…
The plaintiffs in the suit against the city have told the court they are concerned that if the city diverts more water for hydropower, it could hurt their ability to use their junior water rights on Castle or Maroon creeks. They also claim the city intended to abandon its hydro rights connected to an old hydro plant on Castle Creek, which the city concedes it has not used since 1961.
But the city has denied it ever intended to abandon its water rights and has challenged the plaintiffs’ standing to bring the suit.
Whether the September court dates are needed likely depends on whether the two sides can agree to hire a third-party stream consultant, and then agree to follow their recommendations.
If so, Wickes thinks such an exercise could influence how rivers and streams around the West are managed.
“I’m actually hopeful that when the study is completed, not only will it inform future conversations about the hydroelectric plant, it will inform a wide number of decisions about stream ecology, how we treat our streams, and how things are interconnected,” Wickes said.
More hydroelectric coverage here.
From the Aspen Daily News (Nelson Harvey):
Colorado District Five Water Court Judge James Boyd signed a decree on Feb. 3 granting Carbondale the recreational, in-channel water right necessary to built a whitewater park consisting of five obstructions — rocks or concrete barriers that would create waves of varying sizes — placed in the river over a 1,425-foot span between the Highway 133 bridge and the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers.
The new water right is non-consumptive, meaning Carbondale can use the water for its kayak park so long as it leaves that water in the river and doesn’t divert it for irrigation, municipal use or other purposes.
Judge Boyd’s decree entitles Carbondale to varying amounts of water throughout the year, which would translate into waves that changed with the seasons.
Between March 15 and April 14, Carbondale could run 230 cubic feet per second (cfs) through its kayak park between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. That same rate would apply in the late fall, between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30.
During periods of historically high runoff, such as between May 15 and July 14, the flow rate would be boosted to 1,000 cfs. Carbondale would also have the right to as much as 1,600 cfs for two special events such as kayak competitions lasting up to four days apiece in June, and to as much as 1,160 cfs for another special event between May 15 and May 31. During the June events, water could be used until midnight to facilitate the possibility of nighttime competition.
Although Carbondale has long contemplated building a kayak park to boost recreational opportunities for locals and tourists alike, there are no active plans to do so at this point. Placing obstructions in the river to create the park would require permits from other government agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and perhaps Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Still, the recent water decree provides the town with the legal foundation necessary to proceed with the project sometime over the next six years if desired…
Over the last eight years, Hamilton has been negotiating to placate several local and Front Range water interests who registered objections to Carbondale’s application for the new water right, including the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the State and Division Engineers, Colorado Springs Utilities, the Southeastern Water Conservancy District, the Basalt Water Conservancy District, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, and Stanley and Valerie Koziel, who used to own Gateway Park near the intersection of Highway 82 and Highway 133.
More whitewater coverage here.
From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):
The CWCB is required by state law to determine if a proposed recreational in-channel diversion, or “RICD,” meets certain requirements. Having found that the county’s proposed water right for the Basalt kayak park passes the test, its written finding will now be sent to District 5 water court, which is reviewing the county’s water right application.
If the water court ultimately issues a decree for the new in-channel water right, it will form the basis of what will be known as the “Pitkin County River Park.”
The kayak park will include two surf waves created by placing two rock structures in the Roaring Fork River. The waves are designed to be accessible for beginner and intermediate kayakers, and would be rated at “green” and “blue” levels of difficulty, akin to the rating of ski trails.
The section of river is just below the Basalt bypass bridge on Highway 82 and above the confluence of the Roaring Fork and the Fryingpan rivers near downtown Basalt…
If the water right is decreed as presently configured, it would allow the county to call for differing levels of water to be sent down the Roaring Fork River to the Basalt kayak park.
From April 15 to May 17, the county could call for 240 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water to flow through the park. By comparison, the Roaring Fork River below Maroon Creek has been flowing at about 100 cfs in January.
Then, from May 18 to June 10, the county could call for 380 cfs. And during peak runoff, from June 11 to June 25, it could call for 1,350 cfs of water to flow through the kayak park and create the biggest surf waves of the season.
After June 25, the water right steps back down to 380 cfs until Aug. 20, and then back to 240 cfs until Labor Day…
The new water right would be “non-consumptive,” meaning the water would stay in the river and not be diverted for a “consumptive” use, such as irrigation.
The county applied for the new water right in water court in December 2010. If it is approved, the water right would have an appropriation date of 2010, making it a “junior” water right, compared to “senior” water rights dating back to the early 1900s or late 1880s, as many water rights in the region do.
As part of the water court process, the county has negotiated settlement agreements with over a dozen other water rights holders in the Roaring Fork River basin. As such, the scope of the county’s proposed water right has been narrowed.
For example, the length of the season when the new water right would be in effect was reduced by 25 days to a period between April 15 and Labor Day, and the county can only call for water from upstream junior water rights holders to flow through the park during daylight hours.
And the county agreed to a “carve out” provision that allows up to 3,000 acre-feet of new water rights to be developed upstream of the kayak park over the next 15 years, without being subject to the local government’s new water right.
Those provisions, and others, were enough to convince the CWCB board on Monday to rule in favor of the in-channel diversion water right.
There is, however, still one party objecting to the water right in state water court, the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co.
Twin Lakes diverts about 50,000 acre-feet of water each year off the top of the Roaring Fork river basin, primarily for municipal use in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Pueblo West and Aurora.
Twin Lakes is concerned the water right for the kayak park will limit its ability to develop other new water rights in the Roaring Fork River basin in the future.
However, at the CWCB meeting, the water attorney for Twin Lakes sounded OK with new language approved by the board that was designed to address Twin Lakes’ concerns.
“It sounded positive,” [Pitkin County Attorney John Ely] said of Twin Lakes’ evolving position. “They have to go back to their board, and so, we’ll see.”
More whitewater coverage here.
From The Aspen Times (Michael McLaughlin):
On Wednesday, the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of two Redstone River parcels that comprise approximately 21.3 acres and are contiguous to Elk Park and Redstone Park on the south as well as the Redstone Boulders Open Space on the northeast.
The two parcels up for purchase would tie all of these properties together into a seamless river corridor containing more than a mile of riverfront between Coal Creek and a well-used beach area upstream from the north Redstone Bridge…
One of the properties includes the confluence of Coal Creek with the Crystal River. The current confluence isn’t the natural area where the two waters meet but one that was put in when the state was working on Highway 133 in that area. In its natural state, Coal Creek used to run through wetlands before it met with the Crystal River downstream from the present confluence area. Coal Creek experiences frequent debris flows that feed coarse rock and wood into the creek, which in turn collect at the confluence of Coal Creek and the Crystal River. This causes pooling of water and erosion by both streams. It also causes a sediment buildup that raises the riverbed of the Crystal near Redstone, elevating flood danger…
A public hearing concerning the purchase will be held at the commissioners meeting on Nov. 20. Will said the public can rest assured that questions of access will be driven by habitat management.
From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):
Town Manager Mike Scanlon said he believes town residents felt the time was right to restore a more natural bank of the Roaring Fork River and ease the flood threat. The project has been outlined and discussed for more than 10 years. A top goal for the town also has been to relocate residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park out of the floodplain. Studies show the neighborhood is at high risk of flooding.
“I think a lot of people said it’s time to get it done,” Scanlon said.
It probably helped that people saw work underway, Scanlon said. The town of Basalt had funding for the first phase of the project from existing funds. The ballot question asked voters for permission to issue $5 million in general obligation bonds to undertake a greater share of the project.
The ballot question wasn’t a thumbs-up or -down on the project. The town already has started relocating residents of the 35 trailers that were occupied in the park, and a contractor is starting the first phase of the river work. Instead, the question sought the funds needed to finish the project more quickly.
The ballot question gives the town permission to raise property taxes to pay off the general obligation bonds, but the Town Council and administration don’t anticipate a property tax hike. They contend the bonds can be repaid through the existing 1 percent sales tax for parks, open space and trails and money available in the general fund.
More Roaring Fork Watershed coverage here.
From The Aspen Times (Jill Beathard):
Pitkin County residents should receive their mail-in ballots for the Nov. 5 election starting this week. In addition to some statewide measures, Snowmass Village residents will be asked to approve a mill levy of 2.135 mills that would fund the replacement of aging water and sewer infrastructure, much of which is 30 to 50 years old, according to the district.
Emergency repairs are becoming more commonplace and taking away funding from proactive replacement projects. They also cost more than scheduled repairs, said Kit Hamby, director of the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District…
Dave Spence, former president of the water board, said no one wants to see property taxes go up. However, most residents would probably “rather do it and be sure that the pipes are still working” than not have a replacement program, he said. Spence joined the board after pipes running to his building broke during the holiday season many years ago…
The only naysayers of district projects in the past were members of the Snowmass Capitol Creek Caucus, Spence said. Most of those individuals are supportive of measure 5A because it will conserve more of the precious water that the district diverts from Snowmass Creek.
More infrastructure coverage here.