RMNP plans to restore the Lulu City wetland

February 20, 2014
Grand Ditch

Grand Ditch

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Leia Larsen):

According to National Park Service officials, the 47,600 cubic-yard debris flow changed the river channel, deposited a large debris fan, increased sedimentation in the Colorado River, degraded ecosystems and damaged the aesthetics of a wilderness area. Because the area now contains more sediment and debris that it would under natural conditions, had the man-made canal never existed and never breached its bank, the Park began exploring solutions for restoration.

On Feb. 12, Park representatives announced the availability of their “Record of Decision,” which selected the referred alternative from the Environmental Impact Statement guiding the restoration process. Plans are to remove large debris deposits from the alluvial fan in the Lulu City wetland, stabilizing slopes and banks and restoring the Lulu City wetland by removing debris piles. Some small-scale motorized equipment will be used in the stabilization and revegetation efforts, and large equipment will be used to remove debris deposits and reconfigure the Colorado River through the Lulu City wetland.

According to a Park statement, there will be “short-term, adverse impacts on natural soundscape, wilderness, water resources, weltands, visitor use and experience, and wildlife from restoration activities and the use of mechanized equipment.” The long-term benefits, however, will be the high-level restoration to the area. At this time, he Park does not have any information regarding when restoration activities will begin.

A copy of the Record of Decision is available online at http://www.parkplanning.nps.gov/romo or by calling 970-586-1206.


CSU Sponsors First Poudre River Forum Feb. 8

January 21, 2014
Cache la Poudre River

Cache la Poudre River

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

The Cache la Poudre River is life-blood for Northern Colorado. In recognition of its importance to the area, the community is invited to the first Poudre River Forum, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8 at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland. The forum, “The Poudre: Working River/Healthy River,” will focus on all of the river’s stakeholders, representing perspectives from agricultural, municipal, business, recreational and environmental backgrounds. Topics to be discussed include:

• The water rights of agricultural and municipal diverters;
• Where the water in the Poudre comes from and what it does for us;
• Ecological factors such as flow, temperature, fish and sedimentation.

The forum will feature presentations and dialogue, including remarks by State Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs about how the Poudre itself was the site of early conflict and cooperation leading to the development of the doctrine of prior appropriation in the West, and how water law has evolved in recent years.

Following the event, a celebration of the river will be held until 6 p.m. with refreshments and jazz by the Poudre River Irregulars.

Pre-registration is required by Jan. 31. The cost is $25; students 18 and under are free and scholarships are available. To register, visit http://www.cwi.colostate.edu/thepoudrerunsthroughit

The event is sponsored by The Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group facilitated by CSU’s Colorado Water Institute.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


Ag practices in Weld County impact RMNP, the Colorado Livestock Association hopes to help

October 23, 2013
Nitrogen Deposition via Knight Science Journalism

Nitrogen Deposition via Knight Science Journalism

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

The local agriculture industry is teaming up with scientists and other experts, looking to possibly take the “biggest step yet” in addressing what’s been a major concern at Rocky Mountain National Park for several years. While Greeley is about 60 miles away from the park, ammonia drifting westward from ag operations in Weld County and surrounding areas, among other sources, has impacted the park’s ecosystem, according to studies.

Biologist Jim Cheatham said the 2006 Rocky Mountain National Park Initiative report revealed that nitrogen levels in the park are about 15 times more than natural amounts — with the excess coming in the form of nitrogen oxide from sources like fossil fuels, and also ammonia from ag operations. Such levels, according to Cheatham, have altered the vegetation composition, aquatic communities and overall natural processes of the alpine tundra the park was created to protect under its designations as a National Park, an International Biosphere Reserve and a Class I Airshed.

Now, the Colorado Livestock Association is voluntarily working with climatologists and other scientists in hopes of controlling the problem.

The Greeley-based organization is spearheading an effort to develop a warning system that will tell ag producers — based on atmospheric conditions — when they should or shouldn’t scrape manure from pens at feedlots and dairies, fertilize crops or perform other tasks that release ammonia into the atmosphere. Only when weather conditions are right does that ammonia drift from farms, ranches and dairies along the Front Range and northeast Colorado plains to Rocky Mountain National Park.

“So if we can just get more exact data about how and when that ammonia is moving into Rocky Mountain National Park … and then develop a warning system … that could really go a long way in fixing the problem,” said Bill Hammerich, president of the Colorado Livestock Association. “We know we’re not the only contributor to the issue, but we certainly want to do our part to help fix it.”

Such a warning system has been in discussions for about two years, Hammerich said, and it finally got off the ground this month, thanks to a recent $100,000 boost from the Conservation Innovation Grant program.

Cheatham said he’s “very appreciative” of the efforts being made by the Colorado Livestock Association and others, saying the development of a warning system could be the “biggest step yet” in addressing the high nitrogen levels in the park.

There’s no exact numbers showing how much of an impact agriculture operations have on the high nitrogen levels, but he said the 2006 report showed that about 55 percent of the excess nitrogen was coming from sources in Colorado, while the other 45 percent drifted in from outside the state. Cheatham said ongoing studies are attempting to pinpoint precisely how much ag and other industries are affecting nitrogen levels.

“We know agriculture’s impact is significant.”

William Brock Faulkner — a professor at Texas A&M University’s Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department, who’s helping with the warning-system endeavor — said the Colorado Livestock Association and other parties involved (Cheatham, the Colorado Corn Growers Association in Greeley and Colorado State University Atmospheric Science Department professors Jeffrey Collett and Russ Schumacher, among many others) are hoping to have about 30 to 40 producers in the region participating in a “pilot” program by March or April of next year, after more data is collected. Faulkner said some of the effort will be determining whether a warning system would even be economically feasible — not requiring producers to delay practices like manure removal, needed as part as of animal-health measures, for too many days.

But local producers say they’re willing to do their part.

“Myself and others in agriculture certainly don’t want to have a negative impact on the environment,” said Steve Gabel of Eaton, former president of the Colorado Livestock Association, and also operator of Magnum Feedyards, which has the capacity to hold nearly 25,000 head of cattle.

Gabel explained that many producers already have practices in place that help reduce the release of ammonia into the atmosphere, but added that, if a warning system can be developed, he could hold off on performing ammonia-releasing tasks for as many as a few days at a time, or even up to a week, if needed.

Cheatham said the overall goal is to ultimately cut nitrogen levels in the park by half — 1.5 kilograms of reactive nitrogen per hectare per year. He noted that it’s a “realistic and achievable goal,” but those levels would still be about seven or eight times the natural amounts of nitrogen in the park.

“We understand that, with human activity, natural levels are not achievable anymore,” he said, describing Rocky Mountain National Park as ahead of the curve in addressing the nitrogen issue compared to other parks. “But we certainly need to do what we can to control the problem.”

More water pollution coverage here.


Grand Lake: Reclamation lays out alternatives to help restore the lake’s historical clarity

September 2, 2012

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Tulley):

Some of the alternatives for improving the clarity of Grand Lake that are discussed in the report include: Stopping pumping at the Farr Pumping Plant in July, August, and September; modify pumping at the plant during these three months; bypass Grand Lake with a buried pipeline and pump flows directly to Adams Tunnel; or bypass both Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir with a buried pipeline and pump flows directly to Adams Tunnel…

Two standards for the clarity of Grand Lake were adopted by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission in 2008.

The first standard is a narrative clarity standard requiring “the highest level of clarity attainable, consistent with the exercise of established water rights and the protection of aquatic life,” according to the report.

The second standard is a numerical clarity standard of a 4 meter Secchi disk depth that will be assessed by comparing 85 percent of available recordings from the months of July, August, and September. That means at least 85 percent of the measurements taken during those three months must meet the 4 meter Secchi disk depth standard, while 15 percent can be below the minimum requirement.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Rocky Mountain National Park: The Lily Lake Dam Project will start turning dirt September 4

September 1, 2012

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From The Estes Park Trail (John Cordsen):

“…the only option available to the park is to repair the dam, ” said park superintendent Vaughn Baker during his May report to the Estes Park board of trustees.

The work was required after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation rated the Lily Lake Dam, located in Rocky Mountain National Park, as a high-hazard dam. This study was released in 2010. Failure of the dam was not imminent, which gave park staff time to evaluate long-term solutions, which ultimately became one option because of the legal requirements to maintain the water rights.

The Lily Lake Dam is situated at the headwaters of Fish Creek, which flows into Lake Estes in Estes Park. Fish Creek is about 5 miles in length and the elevation difference between Lily Lake and Lake Estes is about 1,500 feet. If the dam were to fail, the ensuing floodwaters could result in the loss of life and property along Fish Creek…

Repair to the Lily Lake Dam will be done in a manner to retain the lake and its features in a manner similar to what currently exists. The repair work may last through the end of November. During the repair work, a roughly 500-foot area of the Lily Lake Trail across the dam will be closed…

The repairs will involve the removal of surface vegetation on the downstream face of the dam, stripping and salvage of topsoil, regrading the downstream face of the dam and the area around the toe of the dam, placement of filter fabric (geotextile), filter gravel and another layer of filter fabric and installation of articulated concrete blocks (ACB).

More infrastructure coverage here and here.


Rocky Mountain National Park: The Park Service intends to repair Lily Lake Dam

June 13, 2012

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Park superintendent Vaughan Baker said a contractual requirement that the park retain the water rights assigned to the lake and maintain the dam forced the decision to repair the aging structure rather than remove it. “It turns out we are legally obligated to keep it,” Baker said in an interview Tuesday.

The decision is tentative based on the outcome of final consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Baker said. The lake is stocked with greenback cutthroat trout, which is a native but threatened species. Repairing the dam is expected to cost more than $800,000. Construction is expected to begin in the fall…

Lily Lake was a natural lake before a dam was built on its eastern edge in 1915. The dam raised the lake’s water level about 4 feet, increased its surface area from 14 acres to 17 and increased its capacity from about 39 acre feet of water to 75. The lake was added to the park in 1991 after it was acquired and saved from development by the Conservation Fund in 1989. The park acquired water rights for the lake about 10 years ago. An agreement with the Estes Valley Land Trust requires the park to retain the water rights and maintain the dam in perpetuity, Baker said.

More Rocky Mountain National Park coverage here and here.


Reflections on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — W.D. Farr

November 28, 2011

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Here’s a video with W.D. Farr explaining the origins of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Thanks to Greeley Water for posting the video.

Next year is the 75th anniversary of the 1937 act that established the water conservancy districts and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Farr explains that Congressman Taylor would not support the project unless Green Mountain Reservoir — for west slope supplies — was built first.

“The biggest cloud of dust I ever saw came out of that tunnel [Adams Tunnel],” Farr says, “I never saw men so happy in my life.”

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Cool photo of the week so far: Long Draw Reservoir spilling in 2010

July 12, 2011

A picture named longdrawreservoirspill2010

We love a good reservoir spilling photo here at Coyote Gulch. Here’s a picture of Long Draw Reservoir spilling in 2010. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a larger view.


Fort Collins: Rocky Mountain National Park public meeting seeking input on possible restoration of Grand River Ditch breach Thursday

October 11, 2010

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The federal government sued the ditch owner, Fort Collins-based Water Storage and Supply Co., demanding compensation for the damage. A settlement was reached in 2008. Since then, park officials have been working with Colorado State University to gain a better understanding of the ecology of the area and how to return it to its natural state. The park is now turning to the public to comment on which of the five alternative reclamation plans works best before a final decision is made in late 2012. Those interested in voicing their concerns about the project have until Nov. 1 to do so and can meet with Rocky Mountain National Park officials to discuss the environmental impact of the reclamation process…

The National Park Service’s public meeting on Grand Ditch repairs will be at 7 p.m. Thursday inside the Café Columbine conference room, 802 W. Drake Road, Fort Collins.

More Rocky Mountain National Park coverage here and here.


Long Draw Reservoir operations update

September 13, 2010

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Fort Collins-based Water Supply & Storage Co. plans to appeal a U.S. Forest Service decision released Sept. 3 that would make it fully responsible for implementing a 15-year plan to restore the greenback cutthroat trout in the reservoir and surrounding streams. The mitigation program’s cost could be considerably higher than the approximately $800,000 projected by the Forest Service in an environmental impact statement, said Dennis Harmon, general manager of the irrigation company. But even that figure would be more than the company should have to pay in order to keep its permit to operate the reservoir, which was built in 1929 and expanded in 1974. “We just think this is way out of line for something that is already permitted,” he said. “We haven’t changed how this facility operates since the ’70s. “We think this mitigation is more appropriate for a new reservoir in the wilderness than on 53 acres of existing reservoir.”[...]

An effort to renew a Forest Service permit for the expanded portion of the reservoir turned into a decade-long fight when Colorado Trout Unlimited sued in 1994 over a plan that would keep La Poudre Pass Creek dry during the winter. In 2004, a U.S. District Court threw out the permit, forcing the Forest Service to start the permitting process over and to come up with a plan that would protect trout habitat. The revised environmental study came up with a plan for restoring the greenback cutthroat trout to more than 40 miles of streams in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. The plan called for eliminating invasive fish species and building barriers to keep them from getting re-established in the Poudre headwaters. Trout Unlimited worked with Water Supply & Storage and other entities, including the Colorado Division of Wildlife, to come up with a way to fund the mitigation program, which would be the largest native trout restoration project in state history.

But the decision by Glenn Casamassa, supervisor of the Arapaho and Roosevelt national forests, puts the responsibility for funding the restoration program on Water Supply & Storage because it holds the permit for the reservoir…

The National Park Service is expected to release its record of decision on the project within the coming weeks, said Larry Gamble, chief of planning and compliance for Rocky Mountain National Park. The decision will mirror the directions laid out by the Forest Service, he said.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update

June 24, 2010

A picture named carterlake

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

I hope everyone is enjoying the full reservoirs we have this spring. As most of you already know, Carter and Horsetooth are each only a couple of feet down from full. Horsetooth remains at a water level elevation of 5427; Carter is at an elevation of 5757.

We are anticipating these higher levels for a little while, although now that it is starting to get hot, we also anticipate we will start seeing water users begin to pull water from both reservoirs. Some water has already been going out of Carter. Although we had initially projected it would not come on for a few more weeks, we will actually resume pumping water to Carter tomorrow, Friday June 25.

Also, for more information on Horsetooth and Carter reservoirs, please visit our new Webpage. Bookmark it! www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao/horsetooth_carter/index.html.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.


Grand County ‘State of the River’ meeting recap

May 20, 2010

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

Colorado River Basin snowpack levels are at 77 percent of average, in line with statewide averages this year, according to information shared at the annual State of the River Meeting. “It’s been a poor year until recently,” said Senior Water Resources Engineer Don Meyer of the Colorado River District to a roomful of water stakeholders Tuesday at the Mountain Parks Electric meeting room in Granby…

Forecasted elevation of Lake Granby is expected to be at 8,268 feet, according to Andrew Gilmore, hydraulic engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that operates the Colorado-Big Thompson project. That level equates to about 12 feet from full. But Don Carlson of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency that delivers water to Northeastern municipalities, water districts, industries and farms, had a slightly less conservative prediction for Granby Reservoir. Because of moisture on the East Slope, Northern may be able to use some of its low priority rights for water, he said, which will take some pressure off of West Slope supplies this year. Granby Reservoir may be closer to 4 to 5 feet below full, he said…

Snowpack has “been behind all year, although did make a nice recovery recently,” said Bob Steger, Denver Water’s manager of raw water supply. “The good news is, we think we’re going to fill all of our reservoirs anyway, despite the low snowpack.”[...]

State of the River

The Colorado River District, which operates Wolford Mountain Reservoir is extending its offering of bounty for anglers who catch northern pike, a predator to native species. Anglers will be awarded $20 for each Pike caught.

• Northern and the Bureau of Reclamation are planning to replace the dam structure between Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake this year. The dam/bridge at the eastern end of the canal is old, doesn’t perform well and poses safety concerns to boaters, said Northern’s Don Carlson. To avoid Grand Lake’s heavy summer traffic season during which many boaters use the canal, work on the dam project is planned for 30 days during the month of October.

• Pumping started at Windy Gap near Granby on April 29 to send 15,000 acre feet for storage to partners in northeastern Colorado, with another 40,000 acre feet from Lake Granby for their use.

• During the 25-year anniversary of the Windy Gap Reservoir, water will be taken down in mid-July through the end of September to address sediment build-up. Although sediment has been building up through the years, the reservoir was further impacted by a pond breach last year at the Orvis Shorefox property, which added silt to the reservoir.

• Denver Water customers are conserving more water due to a tiered rate structure that increases with increased water use per gallon. Graphs show that since Denver Water implemented its new rate structure, water use has plateaued even though the utility’s customer base has increased.

• Denver Water is redoing the outlet works at Williams Fork Reservoir and constructing a new auxiliary power plant at a cost of $17 million. The new outlet works should increase the capacity from 275 cfs to 750 cfs when completed. In the meantime, this summer the dam will operate with temporary outlet works with limited release capabilities, at 125 cfs. “We’ll get through this year as best we can with the limited release capabilities,” said Denver Water’s Steger.

• At the Vasquez Canal, Denver Water is replacing 1,500 feet of covered canal with pipe.

• There were several temperature exceedances in the Fraser River last year, according to the Grand County Water Information Network. They were upstream from Windy Gap and at the conjunction of Ranch Creek, she said. As many as 32 temperature monitoring sites will be in place again this year. Through partnerships, algae toxin monitoring and gathering of water clarity data will also continue at reservoirs and lakes this summer.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Moffat Collection System Project: Corps Denver hearing recap

December 4, 2009

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The Fraser River of the 21st century is much different from the river that former President Eisenhower used to fish back in the day. Low flows due to transmountain diversions have diminished the fishery there.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a hearing last night in Denver for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project which would divert additional water from the Fraser watershed. Residents, planners and politicians (many from Grand County) showed up to be heard. A majority of the speakers asked for the comment period to be extended 45 days.

Speakers for the most part voiced opposition to the proposed Denver Water expansion of Gross Reservoir and the increased diversions to fill the new space. The hope is to raise the dam 125 feet or so to get another 18,000 acre-feet of firm yield on the north side of their service area. They also hope to build a new reservoir on Leyden Creek.

“It breaks my heart to see a natural environment disappear while the east slope creates an environment that belongs east of the Mississippi River,” said Fraser resident Kirk Klanke during the hearing.

He also voiced support for an extension of the comment period. The EIS is a couple of thousand pages and many of the speakers said that they’ve not had enough time to probe the proposed workings.

Canton O’Donnell wants the Corps to evaluate the Moffat project in conjunction with the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project. Windy Gap is the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s plan to increase municipal supply for the Front Range using the Colorado-Big Thompson project to transport water stored downstream of Granby Reservoir. One speaker asked the Corps to hold off on issuing permits for either the Windy Gap Firming Project or the Moffat Collection System Project until Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District come up with their plan to coordinate the two projects to minimize impacts to the headwaters area.

“If your house is on fire and you have two bedrooms you’d want the fire department to take care of both,” said 4th generation Grand County rancher and county commissioner Gary Bumgarner in support of consolidating the environmental impact statements for both projects.

“This is a very bad project for many reasons,” said Grand Lake Mayor, Judy Burke, while reminding the Corps that pumping warmer water upstream to Grand Lake is causing algae blooms in the lake.

The Colorado-Big Thompson project moves water from Granby Reservoir, through Shadow Mountain Reservoir and into Grand Lake for transport under the Continental Divide through the Adams Tunnel. The Windy Gap Firming Project would increase the volume of water pumped up to the Adams tunnel so presumably the lake clarity problem will increase along with lowered water quality.

Whitewater enthusiasts oppose the drowning of the reach of South Boulder Creek just above Gross Reservoir. One commenter called it a, “Premier whitewater run.”

Interested parties have one more chance to speak publicly on the project next week in Keystone. Here’s the release from Denver Water with details about the hearings.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


National Ecological Observatory Network may build two climate monitoring stations in Rocky Mountain National Park

September 2, 2009

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The National Ecological Observatory Network, or NEON, is proposing to build two climate monitoring stations at the park. One may be built on the west side of Colorado Highway 7 south of Goblins Castle Road, and the other is being considered for a site in Glacier Creek near the Sprague Lake Picnic Area. At the Goblins Castle site, a 59-foot tower would be built to house monitoring equipment, while water sampling equipment would be installed in Glacier Creek.

More Rocky Mountain National Park coverage here.


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