Snowpack/runoff news: “At this point we [Denver Water] do expect that our reservoirs will fill” — Stacy Chesney #COdrought #ColoradoRiver

April 22, 2014
Statewide snow water equivalent as a percent of normal April 21, 2014 via the NRCS

Statewide snow water equivalent as a percent of normal April 21, 2014 via the NRCS

From CBSDenver4.com:

The mountain snow is melting and it looks like Colorado’s white winter in the high country will bring good news for residents along the Front Range. Denver Water thinks Dillon Reservoir will fill to capacity for the first time in years.

It was the end of March last year when Denver Water put in Stage 1 water restrictions as Lake Dillon was only 65 percent full. As on Monday it’s at about 85 percent full and it’s actually being drained to get ready for more melting snow, which will mean even more water.

“It’s always a balancing act with our reservoirs across the state — Dillon in particular. We want to ultimately keep it full so people can enjoy recreation on the reservoir, but we have to be really conscious too as to what happens below the reservoir,” Stacy Chesney with Denver Water said.

With the snowpack well above average surrounding the largest reservoir that sends water to Denver, officials have been planning all winter to let some go.

“We’ve been proactively releasing water into the river below to create that room to help reduce any risk of flooding that could happen later in the season,” Chesney said.

But officials from Denver Water are keeping an eye on the snowpack with the hope of having full reservoirs for the first time since July of 2011.

“At this point we do expect that our reservoirs will fill and we hope that customers will continue that wise water use and not overuse water and follow our watering rules which will start on May 1,” Chesney said.

What many people in the high country are going to be watching is a layer of dust on the Western Slope that has sat on the snow for nearly a month. That, along with rain and warm temperatures over the last week, helped rush the melt over the past few days.

From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

This week, the persistent snow in the mountains just outside Steamboat Springs is reminiscent of the impressive snowpack of 2011, when the Yampa River overran Bald Eagle Lake and caused the youth minister at the Steamboat Christian Center and his family to evacuate their parsonage.

Is spring 2014 another 2011 in the making? It’s unlikely, according to a hydrologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who keeps close tabs on the Yampa River Basin.

Ashley Nielson confirmed that the total volume of water that flowed down the Yampa in 2011 beginning on April 1 and continuing through July 31 was the highest on record. And this year’s snowpack doesn’t measure up.

“We do see a 10 percent chance the peak flow on the Yampa will go over flood stage, but it’s totally dependent on what kind of spring we have and how that snow comes off,” Nielson said Monday. “There’s a lot less snow than what we had in 2011.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is reporting that the snow at the top of Buffalo Pass is currently 134 inches deep, which is down from 149 inches April 14, and the snow water equivalent is 112 percent of median. That compares to a record 180 inches of snow depth that stood at 130 percent of average in 2011. At the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass on Monday, the snow water equivalent was 150 percent of median compared to 157 percent April 23, 2011…

Still, the hydrograph for this week closely mirrors 2011, Nielson agreed, when low elevation runoff peaked on April 23. Nielson’s office is forecasting that the Yampa will shoot up Wednesday at about 1,900 cfs, then slip back to the range of 1,000 to 1,200 cfs through the end of the month when a cold front is expected to apply the brakes. It’s very typical, she said, for the Yampa to rise steeply in late April as snow melts suddenly from the valley floor and lower slopes.


Jamestown recovery from #COflood

April 22, 2014

From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Mayor Tara Schoedinger says 80 percent of the [Jamestown’s] 300 residents remain displaced. They’ve rented houses in Boulder, Longmont, or elsewhere. This winter, Schoedinger feared few would return if water service and roads were not restored by August.

Now, it looks like they will. Bids will soon go out for design and construction of restored infrastructure of water treatment, mains and service lines. If all goes as planned, construction will begin in late May or early June. Completion is expected by August.

For repairs above ground, the town’s insurance will pay for replacements. But for the more costly below-ground work, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75 percent of costs and the state of Colorado 22.5 percent.

That leaves the town paying just 2.5 percent. This is expected to cost just under $2 million.

In an interview at the Boulder County Courthouse, where the town board has met since last September, Schoedinger recently explained that temporary roads associated with the water works will be completed by early August, with one significant bridge repair likely to be done by November.

As before, sewage treatment is handled through individual septic tanks, and $50,000 has been donated to that cause.

Roots of the settlement are traced to 1863, when evidence of gold nearby drew prospectors. It’s the most northerly extent of the belt of gold and other precious metals that sweeps across Colorado to the Durango area. The gold never amounted to that much, but the town stayed.

This isn’t the first challenge. Schoedinger describes floods in the late 1800s, then again in 1913 and 1969—and with at least comparable ferocity to that which occurred in September.

Jamestown was probably drenched worse than any other town in the four days of storms that dropped up to 18 inches in some locations. The flooding waters destroyed 20 percent of the houses and 50 percent of roads, plus the water treatment plant and the fire station. A mudslide also killed Schoedinger’s next-door neighbor, Joey Howlett, who was regarded as the town’s patriarch.


Northern Water’s 2013 Annual Report is hot off the presses

April 21, 2014
Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

Click here to read the report. Here’s an excerpt:

In April when the Board considered the quota, forecasts indicated below average runoff. Because the C-BT Project delivered more than 300,000 acre feet in 2012, storage reserves were significantly below normal in early 2013, and inadequate to provide the higher quota many would have preferred.

As this roller coaster year progressed, mountain snowpack and resulting runoff increased. The Board felt it prudent to not increase the declared 60 percent quota, hoping to build C-BT reserves and be better positioned for future years.

The September record-breaking rains and devastating floods will be forever remembered. Our hearts go out to all who were impacted. In addition to the personal and public property devastation, water supply infrastructure suffered severe damage. In many areas streamflows exceeded maximum levels recorded since the advent of South Platte Basin irrigation in 1859.

Rebuilding has been the region’s focus since the floods. Some efforts have succeeded, some will require more time. The Colorado Water Conservation Board stepped up and provided

As this roller coaster year progressed, mountain snowpack and resulting runoff increased. The Board felt it prudent to not increase the declared 60 percent quota, hoping to build C-BT reserves and be better positioned for future years.

The September record-breaking rains and devastating floods will be forever remembered. Our hearts go out to all who were impacted. In addition to the personal and public property devastation, water supply infrastructure suffered severe damage. In many areas streamflows exceeded maximum levels recorded since the advent of South Platte Basin irrigation in 1859.

Rebuilding has been the region’s focus since the floods. Some efforts have succeeded, some will require more time. The Colorado Water Conservation Board stepped up and provided $2.55 million in grants to help those in need. Northern Water was honored to act as CWCB’s agent, administering over 100 grants in accordance with CWCB criteria and direction.

Northern Water suffered relatively light flood damage compared to many. We are blessed with a very dedicated and talented workforce that aggressively took on the challenge of flood recovery. As a result, Northern Water completed flood repairs by early January.

Reclamation repaired additional C-BT Project facilities damaged by the floods. The exception is the Dille Tunnel Diversion on the Big Thompson River, which will likely not be fully operational until the beginning of the 2015 irrigation season.

In 2013 Northern Water successfully finished refurbishing the original Carter Lake outlet. This past year also marked the culmination of a 13-year effort to meet the annual water delivery requirements of the Colorado River Endangered Species Recovery Program. Through a unique solution that does not diminish C-BT Project yield, water was released from Lake Granby for beneficial uses in the Grand Valley while also meeting endangered species needs. This effort, implemented by Northern Water, was funded by East Slope entities that divert water from the Colorado River.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


USGS: Geologic Sources and Concentrations of Selenium in the West-Central Denver Basin, Including the Toll Gate Creek Watershed, Aurora, Colorado, 2003–2007

April 21, 2014

selenium

Here’s the abstract from the USGS (Suzanne S. Paschke/Katherine Walton-Day/Jennifer A. Beck/Ank Webber/Jean A. Dupree)

Toll Gate Creek, in the west-central part of the Denver Basin, is a perennial stream in which concentrations of dissolved selenium have consistently exceeded the Colorado aquatic-life standard of 4.6 micrograms per liter. Recent studies of selenium in Toll Gate Creek identified the Denver lignite zone of the non-marine Cretaceous to Tertiary-aged (Paleocene) Denver Formation underlying the watershed as the geologic source of dissolved selenium to shallow ground-water and surface water. Previous work led to this study by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the City of Aurora Utilities Department, which investigated geologic sources of selenium and selenium concentrations in the watershed. This report documents the occurrence of selenium-bearing rocks and groundwater within the Cretaceous- to Tertiary-aged Denver Formation in the west-central part of the Denver Basin, including the Toll Gate Creek watershed. The report presents background information on geochemical processes controlling selenium concentrations in the aquatic environment and possible geologic sources of selenium; the hydrogeologic setting of the watershed; selenium results from groundwater-sampling programs; and chemical analyses of solids samples as evidence that weathering of the Denver Formation is a geologic source of selenium to groundwater and surface water in the west-central part of the Denver Basin, including Toll Gate Creek.

Analyses of water samples collected from 61 water-table wells in 2003 and from 19 water-table wells in 2007 indicate dissolved selenium concentrations in groundwater in the west-central Denver Basin frequently exceeded the Colorado aquatic-life standard and in some locations exceeded the primary drinking-water standard of 50 micrograms per liter. The greatest selenium concentrations were associated with oxidized groundwater samples from wells completed in bedrock materials. Selenium analysis of geologic core samples indicates that total selenium concentrations were greatest in samples containing indications of reducing conditions and organic matter (dark gray to black claystones and lignite horizons).

The Toll Gate Creek watershed is situated in a unique hydrogeologic setting in the west-central part of the Denver Basin such that weathering of Cretaceous- to Tertiary-aged, non-marine, selenium-bearing rocks releases selenium to groundwater and surface water under present-day semi-arid environmental conditions. The Denver Formation contains several known and suspected geologic sources of selenium including: (1) lignite deposits; (2) tonstein partings; (3) organic-rich bentonite claystones; (4) salts formed as secondary weathering products; and possibly (5) the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. Organically complexed selenium and/or selenium-bearing pyrite in the enclosing claystones are likely the primary mineral sources of selenium in the Denver Formation, and correlations between concentration of dissolved selenium and dissolved organic carbon in groundwater indicate weathering and dissolution of organically complexed selenium from organic-rich claystone is a primary process mobilizing selenium. Secondary salts accumulated along fractures and bedding planes in the weathered zone are another potential geologic source of selenium, although their composition was not specifically addressed by the solids analyses. Results from this and previous work indicate that shallow groundwater and streams similarly positioned over Denver Formation claystone units at other locations in the Denver Basin also may contain concentrations of dissolved selenium greater than the Colorado aquatic-life standard or the drinking- water standard.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


SB14-147 hits a wall in the Senate Ag Committee — indefinite postponement

April 20, 2014
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate:

Senate Bill 14-147, “A Study to Determine the Impact of Increased Well Alluvial Well Pumping In District 2 of Water Division 1,” would have allowed wells to pump 20 percent more than their decrees permitted under the auspices of a study.

Testimony was given during the hearing that the additional 20 percent of pumping proposed in connection with the study would injure other water rights and should not be used to solve high ground water issues. Additionally, Jim Yahn of the North Sterling Irrigation District told lawmakers that, based on court documents, there have been localized areas of high ground water in the South Platte since the early 1900s.

“The bill would have conflicted with existing water court decrees and undo stipulations between parties in hundreds of water court cases, making it unconstitutional,” the press release from WRASP said. “It could also interfere with Colorado’s obligations under the South Platte River Compact.”

Following the hearing, WRASP member Joe Frank expressed ongoing concern with the idea behind this legislation: “Water rights in Colorado are property rights. WRASP will always oppose proposals that undermine these property rights to the detriment of Colorado farmers. Taking our water should never be an option to solving water shortages in other areas. WRASP remains committed to working with all parties for reasonable solutions.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


“…the waterways of Grand County have become the poster child for aquatic death by a thousand cuts” — Allen Best #ColoradoRiver

April 20, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Another independent journalist covering water issues is Allen Best purveyor of The Mountain Town News. Here’s an analysis of the recent agreement between Denver Water, Trout Unlimited, and Grand County for operating the Colorado River Cooperative agreement. Here’s an excerpt:

Located at the headwaters of the Colorado River, the waterways of Grand County have become the poster child for aquatic death by a thousand cuts…

Called the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, the agreement between Denver Water, Grand County, and Trout Unlimited proposes to govern Denver’s incremental diversions through the Continental Divide known as the Moffat firming project. However, according to the architects of the deal, it should also serve as a model in the ongoing dialogue as Colorado’s growing metropolitan areas look to squeeze out the final drops of the state’s entitlements to the Colorado River, as defined by the Colorado River compact of 1922 and other compacts.

“It is a demonstration of a new way of doing business that should be a model as Colorado talks about meeting its water gaps (between demands and supplies),” says Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water.

“Instead of platitudes or politics or parochialism, you need to do it by sitting down and working together and dealing with the issues,” he adds…

There are skeptics, unable to explain this strange alchemy in which a river can in any way benefit from having less water, as the agreement insists can be the case.

Among those withholding enthusiasm is Matt Rice, the Colorado coordinator for American Rivers. He points out that the agreement covers just 4 of the 32 creeks and streams trapped by Denver Water in the Fraser Valley and the adjoining Williams Fork. Too, like too many other similar programs, the data collection begins after permits are awarded, not before, which he thinks is backward.

In short, while Denver is careful to talk about “enhancements,” he thinks it falls short of addressing full, cumulative impacts.

Cumulative impacts are likely to be a focal point of federal permitting. While the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to have a voice, the vital 404 permit must come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The parties to the new agreement have asked that their agreement be incorporated into the permit…

A far greater financial cost to Denver specified by the agreement is the agency’s commitment to forfeit up to 2,500 acre-feet annually of the city’s added 18,700 acre-foot take.

Based on the firm yield of the water and Denver’s rate for outside-city raw water to customers, this commitment is valued at $55 million.

Denver will make this water available for release into the creeks and rivers, to keep water temperatures colder and hence more hospitable to insects and fish. The water can also be used for flushing, to mimic what happens naturally during spring runoff, scouring river bottoms, to clear out the silt that clogs the spaces between rocks where mayflies and other insects live – and upon which fish feed…

A final environmental impact statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected in late April. The federal agency can also impose conditions of its own making. They would be included in a record-of-decision, which is expected to be issued in late 2015.

A permit from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is also needed. Boulder County insists it also has say-so over enlargement of Gross Reservoir, an assertion contested by Denver Water.

In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must award a permit for revised hydroelectric generation at Gross.

At earliest, expansion of Gross could start in 2018 and be ready to capture spring runoff in 2022…

The agreement represents a new wave of thinking about impacts of water diversions. The older way of thinking was demonstrated in the Colorado Big-Thompson project. Financed by the federal government, it gave the Western Slope a one-time package, Green Mountain Reservoir, between Kremmling and Silverthorne, to serve Western Slope needs, particularly the farmers near Grand Junction who need water for late-summer fruits and produce. The agreement did not cover a more recent problem seemingly caused by the diversion, algae that obscure the clarity of Grand Lake.

The most recent of of the new agreements since the 1990s provides more living, breathing elasticity. The foundation for the new agreement was announced in 2011 but not finalized until recently. Called the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, it sharply restricts Denver’s ability to develop new water sources on the Western Slope and also calls for Denver to provide both water and money to address problems in the Vail, Breckenridge and Winter Park areas.

Then, in 2012, came agreements addressing the ambitions by five cities along the northern Front Range to increase the take of spring flows at Windy Gap, similar to what Denver wants to do at the Moffat Tunnel.

The Windy Gap settlement introduced adaptive management, an idea gaining favor in management of rivers of the West for several decades. The essential idea of Learning by Doing, the program embraced for both Windy Gap and the Moffat projects, is that it’s impossible to know exactly what to do in advance…

“In the past, you’d build a project, do the required mitigation and move on. That’s no longer the case. Denver Water is committed to a new way of doing business – one that approaches water management in a way that is collaborative and as beneficial to West Slope interests as possible. The partnership we’ve created through Learning by Doing is permanent. Our commitment is t o work with Grand County, Trout Unlimited and all the partners in Learning by Doing in an ongoing manner permanently into the future.”

More Denver Water coverage here.


Gov. Hickenlooper expects federal money to start moving soon to help with with recovery from the September #COflood

April 18, 2014
Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

He was coy about specifics except to say he’s built up solid relationships with federal officials during Colorado’s series of disasters, including having cooked dinner at his house for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

“They aren’t going to bend any rules for you, but they’ll do everything they can possibly do to help us,” Hickenlooper told the editorial board of the Coloradoan on Thursday.

He predicted accelerated approval of recovery plans, which allows $62 million from HUD recovery money to start flowing. The plan dictates how it will be spent.

“I think we’re going to get some very encouraging news in the next week,” he said.

Hickenlooper added the federal government has pledged tens of millions more for disaster recovery above original predictions. HUD pledged almost $200 million in March, on top of the original grant.

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s plans call for rebuilding roads to better withstand the floods that devastated Northern Colorado in September, he said. It could even include a 6-foot-wide bike path up the Big Thompson Canyon, though it doesn’t have set money yet.

“We’re not just going to build it back to what you had before, we’re going to build it back better than before,” he said.


Adams County water and sanitation districts elections preview

April 17, 2014
South Platte River Basin

South Platte River Basin

From The Denver Post (Megan Mitchell):

One of the largest combined water and sanitation districts in the state is having an election May 6 for three open board seats. The South Adams County Water and Sanitation District provides water and wastewater services to about 50,000 consumers over 65 square miles in Commerce City. The office is at 6595 E. 70th Ave.

There are five candidates running in the board election, and none of them are incumbents. Residents Vicki Ennis, John Kuchar, Mizraim Cordero, Brett Steinbar and Aaron Phillips have applied to serve four-year stints on the five-member board. All members serve at-large.

The board helps facilitate partnerships that expand the district’s water supply and resources. As north suburban communities like Reunion grow in Commerce City, one of the district’s top priorities is the development of a separate irrigation system in those new development sites for non-potable use.

Voters served by the water and sanitation district may drop off their ballots from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. May 6 at the Stevenson Administration Building at 6595 E. 70th Ave.

There is no election for the Strasberg Sanitation and Water District, at 56829 Colorado Ave., because there were only two open seats and two applicants. Teresa Roy will start her first four-year term after stepping in as an appointee in 2012, and Eric Hart will begin his second, full term with her in May.

At the Hiland Acres Water and Sanitation District at 9902 E. 157th Ave. in Brighton, only four people applied for the five available seats. The fifth seat will be appointed by the board after the May 6 election. Incumbents Jim Roos and Chris Fetter will continue to serve on the board, and Rob Heim and Fred Brinkerhoff will begin their first terms.

The Hyland Hills Parks and Recreation District at 8801 Pecos St. in Federal Heights also canceled its election after only two candidates applied for the two open seats. Newcomer Lori Mirelez and previous board member Bob Landgraf Jr. will be appointed.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


Loveland crews are racing to complete repairs ahead of runoff #COflood

April 15, 2014
Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald Jessica Maher:

When floodwaters poured across South Lincoln Avenue last September, damaging businesses and closing the street for a week, the culprit was the Big Thompson River at the fire training grounds.

That’s where the flood caused an avulsion, or the creation of a new river channel by rapid erosion, that cut southeast across a private pond and spilled out onto Lincoln Avenue.

Now, emergency repairs are underway at the fire training grounds to make sure it doesn’t happen all over again.

“This was one of our top four priority projects to beat spring runoff,” said public works engineer Chris Carlson, who heads river restoration work for the city.

The $226,000 project started earlier this month, with crews from Wheat Ridge-based RMC Consultants removing debris, pumping water from the new channel and then backfilling it. When complete, there will be about 7 feet of fill — much of it hauled in from repair work under the Lincoln Avenue bridge — where the land had been washed out.

The entire area is in the floodway, so Carlson said there’s no doubt it will flood again. But the restoration was designed in attempt to reduce the cost of any future damages and the effort required to make future repairs.

“One of the themes of all the recovery work is resiliency,” Carlson said. “We want to try to do everything we can to prevent it from having as much damage as it did before.”[...]

Crews are expected to be complete with the spring runoff preparation river work by the end of this week, designed to withstand a 50-year flood event, or about 14,000 cubic feet per second.

While snowpack levels remain far above average with anyone’s guess as to peak river flows during spring runoff, Carlson is confident that the emergency work will hold up.

“Everything we’re doing now will easily handle spring runoff. The only thing that put this at risk is if we get a major rain event,” he said.

The city’s other top priority spring runoff preparation projects — the waterline replacement project at the Water Treatment Plant, repairs to the Lincoln Avenue bridge and work at Morey Wildlife Reserve — are all wrapping up or on schedule to be completed before peak river levels.

“We’re starting to see these things come together,” Carlson said. “There’s still years of work ahead, but I think we’ll get to catch our breath.”


Pure Cycle Corporation Announces Second Fiscal Quarter 2014 Financial Results

April 14, 2014

waterfromtap

Here’s the release from Pure Cycle Water:

Pure Cycle Corporation (NASDAQ Capital Market: PCYO) today reported financial results for the six months ended February 28, 2014. Basic and diluted loss per share decreased 38% from a loss of $.08 per share in last year to $.05 per share this year.

“During the second quarter we continued to see our business grow and develop driving long- term shareholder value” commented Mark Harding, President of Pure Cycle Corporation. “We are very excited to have record water sales and deliveries and are continuing to add value to our Company through monetizing our valuable water assets.”[...]

Revenues increased approximately 51% during the our six months ended February 28, 2014 compared to our six months ended February 28, 2013 primarily as a result of increased water sales used for fracking.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Seasonal fill for Horestooth and Carter underway #ColoradoRiver

April 13, 2014
Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We are in the process of filling both Horsetooth and Carter Lake. Currently, Horsetooth is roughly 80% full at an elevation of 5414 feet above sea level. This is its average water elevation high mark for the beginning of the summer season in a typical year. But, this is not a typical water year and Horsetooth’s water elevation is projected to continue going up.

Similarly, Carter Lake is 90% full at a water level elevation of about 5749 feet. Like Horsetooth, it is projected to continue filling. At this time, we are anticipating Carter will fill, hitting its highest water level elevation for the season by mid-May. Horsetooth will likely hit its highest water level elevation for the season by late June.


Big Thompson River Restoration Coalition host first of a hoped-for series of master planning meetings #COflood

April 13, 2014
Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 -- photo via Northern Water

Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 — photo via Northern Water

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jessica Maher):

Leaning over a map of the post-flood Big Thompson River in the Loveland High School cafeteria on Saturday, John Giordanengo asked Glen Haven residents to point to their properties.

Then the million-dollar question: How do you think the river should be restored?

The first of what’s expected to be a series of master planning meetings hosted by the Big Thompson River Restoration Coalition focused on gathering input to that very question, as well as explaining the numerous factors that are involved in its answer.

The coalition, chaired by Giordanengo, has grown to include hundreds of stakeholders, nonprofit groups, local businesses and government entities, representatives of which were available Saturday to meet one on one with property owners.

“As we’re turning gears toward long-term recovery, us being able to coordinate on meaningful restoration will impact the river for years to come, including where you live,” Giordanengo told meeting attendees.

In an hour-long presentation, about 70 people were introduced to the early stages of a master plan for the entire river corridor, which is being developed by Fort Collins-based Ayres Associates.

It started with an analysis of the kind of damage that occurred during September’s historic flood, including bank erosion, channel shifting, flanking of bridges, loss of hillsides and massive sediment deposition.

“Our master plan effort will be largely focused on looking at these different types of damage and do what we can to mitigate and reduce the risk of those types of damage,” said John Hunt with Ayres Associates.

More Big Thompson River Watershed coverage here.


Northern Water board sets C-BT quota to 60% #ColoradoRiver

April 11, 2014
Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR

Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

Northern Water, which manages water stored throughout a massive system of linked reservoirs in Northern Colorado, set its annual water quota at 60 percent, despite customer requests to receive 70 percent of their full potential water allotment.

Since 1957, Northern Water has issued the water quotas, which dictate the amount of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects that will flow to cities, industrial complexes and farmers in Northern Colorado. The city of Fort Collins typically gets half of its water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, and has been particularly dependent on the system after High Park Fire debris polluted the Poudre River.

Fort Collins was among customers who lobbied Northern Water for a 70 percent quota on Wednesday, during a stakeholders meeting held to discuss this year’s quota. Despite those requests, Water Resources Manager Andy Pineda recommended that Northern Water’s board opt for a 60 percent quota.

A few factors went into Pineda’s recommendation, including Colorado’s above-average snowpack, high reservoir levels, and the general absence of drought in Northern Colorado. Spring runoff this year is expected to release an extra 100,000 acre feet of water down area streams and rivers, which should limit the region’s need for supplemental water from the Colorado-Big Thompson.

Pineda’s opinion was not shared by all. A few farmers asked the board for a 70-100 percent quota to help them plan for the growing season. Fort Collins wanted 70 percent to help offset troubles with Poudre River water quality. There is also a chance that Lake Granby reservoir will spill over this June, and a few stakeholders were concerned that water would be wasted with a reduced quota.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


“We’ve got to start thinking about rivers as rivers” — Ken Neubecker #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

April 11, 2014
Blue River

Blue River

From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

The Blue and the Snake are in trouble. These two Summit County rivers are part of the Upper Colorado River Basin, which was named the second most endangered river in the country Wednesday by American Rivers, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit focused on river advocacy.

“If you want to have healthy rivers and a recreational economy and agriculture on the West Slope, there really is nothing left to take,” said Ken Neubecker, associate director of the organization’s Colorado River project…

The nonprofit’s biggest fear is a new diversion, Neubecker said, because taking a lot of water out of the Colorado anywhere would have serious repercussions.

American Rivers and other conservation organizations say the Colorado Water Conservation Board, charged with creating the state water plan, should make sure it prioritizes river restoration and protection, increases water efficiency and conservation in cities and towns, improves agricultural practices and avoids new transmountain diversions.

Rivers on the Western Slope are already drained and damaged, Neubecker said. He called it wrong to divert more water instead of focusing on alternative methods to meet the gap between water supply and demand.

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

Right now, he said, details on a new diversion project have been vague, but Front Range proposals have considered developing the Yampa, Flaming Gorge and Gunnison and taking more water out of the Blue, Eagle, Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers…

The Colorado River and its headwaters are home to some endangered fish species. They support wildlife, agriculture and multi-billion dollar tourism industries.

And they provide some or all of the drinking water for the resort areas of Breckenridge, Vail, Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Winter Park and Crested Butte and most of the urban Front Range.

To meet its customers’ water needs, Denver Water is focused on Gross Reservoir enlargements as well as conservation and forest health efforts, said CEO Jim Lochhead Thursday.

Colorado’s largest water provider has no current plans to construct a new transmountain diversion, he said, but the state as a whole should consider that option.

A new diversion is “probably inevitable at some point,” he said. “We want to do that in partnership with the West Slope.”

And after signing the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement last year, the utility has to.

The agreement does not allow future water development without the permission of all parties, including Western Slope representatives. Lochhead said, it “establishes a framework where we are really working together as partners instead of the old framework of East Slope versus West Slope.”

But the push is not coming from Denver Water.

“They’re really not the ones that are after a new diversion,” Neubecker said. “They got what they want.”

Pressure for more water from new or existing transmountain diversions comes mainly from north and south of Denver, the Arkansas and South Platte basins and especially Douglas County, he said. Those areas should look at conservation efforts more seriously, he said, and “pay attention to land use policies that basically encourage wasteful water use.”[...]

“We’ve got to start thinking about rivers as rivers” instead of engineering conduits for delivering water, Neubecker said, and “understand that we may think that growth should be infinite, but the resources like water that support the growth are not.”

From the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent (Mike McKibbin):

There is no more unclaimed water in the Colorado River Basin, so if the state’s population nearly doubles by 2050, as some have projected, the consequences for everyone along the river – including Rifle – could be dire. That was the message Louis Meyer, a civil engineer, president and CEO of SGM in Glenwood Springs, told City Council as he detailed the ongoing Colorado Water Plan process at an April 2 workshop…

Of the counties in the Colorado River basin, he noted, Garfield is projected to have the most growth, around 274 percent, or 119,900 people, by 2030.

“The Front Range is expected to have serious water shortages by 2020, unless they find more water,” he said. “They can’t take any more from agriculture on the Front Range, so they want a new supply from the Colorado River basin.”

“We have a target on our back,” Meyer continued. “But we have no more water to give.”

If every entity on the Front Range implemented some strict conservation measures, such as banning all new lawns and perhaps the removal of some existing lawns, Meyer said, the water gap could possibly be eliminated in coming years.

“But if we put that in the [water] plan, we need to do the same thing in our basin,” he added.

All storage water in Ruedi and Green Mountain reservoirs is allocated, along with nearly every other reservoir in the state, Meyer said.

Water quality issues are already becoming acute, Meyer said, because there is less water in the Colorado River.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Northern Water hears from C-BT customers about this year’s quota #ColoradoRiver

April 10, 2014
Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

City officials, farmers and industry representatives Wednesday urged the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to significantly raise the amount of water the district allocates from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project this year…

The meeting comes as Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoirs contain an average amount of water. Officials say that water storage will swell with higher than average snowpack in the Colorado and South Platte river basins.

Farmers such as Steve Shultz, who farms corn, sugar beets and other crops, advocated a 100-percent quota at Wednesday’s meeting. Shultz said he needed the added water to finish his crops later in the growing season when he runs out of other water supplies.
“We still depend on that late season storage water,” he said.

Beth Molenaar, water resources engineer for the city of Fort Collins, said the city would support a quota of at least 70 percent this year because it has received multiple requests from farmers to rent water. The city rented very little water to farmers last year because of shorter supply of water related to poor Cache la Poudre River water quality caused by fires. Fort Collins gets about half of its water from the Poudre River and the other half from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Much to their relief, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District officials aren’t in the same predicament now that they were a year ago. During presentations on Wednesday, Northern Water personnel — tasked with overseeing the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, the largest water-supply project in the region — explained how they now have nearly enough water to meet full quotas for two years.

Since the C-BT Project went into use in 1957, the Northern Water board has set a C-BT quota every April to balance how much water could be used through the upcoming growing season and how much water needed to stay in storage for future years. In nearly all years, the board can set a quota of 100 percent, although it rarely does, and still have some in storage for the next year.

That wasn’t at all the case a year ago. Snowpack in the mountains and reservoirs were so low that a quota of 87 percent would have depleted everything in the C-BT system. It was only the second time in the 57-year history of the project that the board had been so limited in the quota it could set. The board last year settled on a 60 percent quota, falling short of the historic average of about a 70 percent quota.

“The outlook is much brighter this year,” said Andy Pineda, water resources manager for Northern Water, referring to his numbers, some of which showed snowpack in the South Platte Basin, as of April 1, rivaling that of 2011 — one of the best snowpack years on record (although a sizeable chunk of that year’s historic snowpack came after April 1).

As part of Wednesday’s meeting, C-BT shareholders and the public — about 225 people altogether — provided input as to what they think the quota should be set at this week. While good snowpack typically calls for a low C-BT quota (the C-BT was built to serve as a supplemental supply, with high quotas usually set in dry years, Northern Water officials stress) the majority of input from the crowd called for the typical 70 percent quota. Agricultural users said that while there’s plenty of snowmelt expected to fill their irrigation ditches this spring, they’d still like to see a higher quota set to make sure water is still available later on — especially if things turn dry in the middle of the growing season, in July or August.

Water officials from the city of Fort Collins and other communities also asked for a 70 percent quota on Wednesday — not to meet their own needs, but because they’re getting a lot of inquiries from farmers in the region wanting to rent extra water this year. A number of city officials said in recent days they’re waiting to see where the quota is set before deciding how much water they’ll have to lease to farmers this year. Most cities leased little or no water to ag users last year, forcing some farmers to cut back on how much they planted.

A 70 percent quota means that for every acre-foot of water a C-BT shareholder owns, they’ll get 70 percent of an acre-foot to use throughout the year. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons of water.

While cities and ag users were seeing eye-to-eye at this year’s water users meeting, it was a different story in 2013. Last year, farmers wanted a quota of 70 percent, stressing that with little snowpack in the mountains at the time, they would need the supplemental C-BT water to get them though the growing season. But cities, for the most part, wanted the quota set at 50-60 percent, worried about using too much water in storage last year, because of the shortages and uncertainty.

A 10 percent difference in the C-BT water quota amounts to about 31,000 acre-feet of water — or about 10 billion gallons.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Full list of Great Outdoors Colorado flood-recovery grants #COflood

April 9, 2014

Jon Monson retires from @GreeleyWater

April 7, 2014
Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

When Jon Monson was hired by the city of Greeley to act as director of the Water and Sewer Department 18 years ago, he was all arms in the air and enthusiasm for the job.

“You’re on the side of angels,” Monson told The Tribune in an April 29, 1996, interview — just 10 days into the job. “You’re one of the good guys protecting the environment … and providing water that’s necessary for life. That’s exciting.”

On Thursday — just three days into retirement — not much had changed.

“I would like to stay involved in water,” Monson said of his plans as a retiree. “People respect the transformative power of water to create the environment we want to create.”

Monson’s passion for the job came up a number of times among coworkers and friends at Monson’s last day this week as something they will remember him by and miss.

Monson will be missed for his quotes from famous people like Benjamin Franklin and Plato, his “data-dense” graphics, his Socratic style and his Christmas bread, said Harold Evans, chairman of the Greeley Water Board, at Monson’s retirement party Monday.

But more importantly, Monson will be missed for his leadership.

“Things work well and are delivered in a cost-effective manner, plus Greeley is positioned well for the future with its critical infrastructure of water and wastewater,” Evans said. “That’s the definition of leadership.”

In his time with the city, Monson set the tone for the development of Greeley’s water system with the 2003 Water Master Plan, helped rebuild both the Bellvue and Boyd Lake water treatment plants, was recognized by the state for the city’s water conservation program, expanded the Bellvue pipeline to near completion, acquired at least 10,000 more acre-feet of water in anticipation of population growth, oversaw a great deal of improvements on the sewer system and created more local water storage, such as at the Poudre Ponds.

Through it all, Monson has never faltered in saying he loves his job, said Charlotte Hansen, his wife.

“To be able to love your work, that is a true gift in life. Well, this man loves his work. Believe me,” Hansen said at Monson’s retirement party.

There were challenges through the years, the worst of which was the painstakingly long process of environmental permitting for projects like the Bellvue pipeline or water storage, Monson said. Although even those things he said he understood as necessary components of the job.

Greeley Mayor Tom Norton said Monson steered the city particularly well through major upgrades to Greeley’s wastewater treatment plant, which has been recognized by the EPA for sustainability and energy efficiency.

“Jon led the way to making the wastewater facilities as important as water facilities, and our stewardship for clean water downriver as well as clean water upriver,” Norton said. “I think that’s very, very important.”

Monson also was honored this week by the Farr family, who said W.D. Farr — a Greeley leader who left a number of legacies, including planning for water — was particularly fond of him.

“It was such a wonderful gift that W.D. gave me in the last decade of his life, to give some inkling, some fraction of what he knew about water,” Monson said Thursday. “The more I think about it, it was a gift from me to him to give him the opportunity to share what he knew. And I hope to do that, to find some way of passing that on.”

During retirement, Monson said he hopes to work for Engineers Without Borders and work on his fly-fishing skills. In the near future, Monson will be sailing, traveling to Europe to visit his wife’s family and track down his own ancestors and meet his daughter in Nepal as she and her husband motorcycle through South Asia.

Before Greeley, Monson worked in south Florida as a utility director. Before that, he lived in Boulder and moved around the South as a water engineer.

“Greeley has been really good to me,” Monson said Thursday with a nostalgic smile. “It was a good place to spend half my career.”

More Greeley coverage here.


Snowpack/runoff news: Roaring Fork watershed early April accumulations looking good #COdrought #COflood

April 7, 2014


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Will Grandbois):

he state as a whole is roughly 115 percent of normal, with a sub-par winter in the southern mountains (including the Rio Grande, Dolores and San Juan drainages) bringing the average down somewhat. Snow telemetry (SNOTEL) data provided by the Roaring Fork Conservancy shows a snow-water equivalent of 126 percent of normal in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

That’s the equivalent of about 20 inches of liquid water across the valley’s high country, well above peak snowpack in both 2012 and 2013, as well as the 30-year average for the region. It has been a good year for skiers, and it looks promising for healthy rivers and forests into the summer.

April is a key month in forecasting the year’s stream flow. Often it represents the peak snowpack for the Water Year, which runs October through September. This trend has been subverted in recent years. Early melting in 2012 signaled the beginning of one of the worst fire years in memory, while late runoff in 2013 was a small salvation in an otherwise below average year…

Dust storms, a frequent occurrence in recent years, also speed melting. The Colorado Dust-On-Snow Program recorded five such storms in the Rockies so far this year. That’s slightly less than 2012 and 2013, with a clean fall and an average March. April and May are big months for dust storms, so it’s too early to be sure how this year will compare on that metric.

“We’re now entering the thick of it,” Chris Landry, executive director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton, told the Aspen Times. He called the most recent dust storm on April 1 “a significant event,” but added that subsequent weather will dictate how this dust will play out.

So far, stream flows throughout the region are mostly above average. Discharge at Ruedi Reservoir has been set to 210 cubic feet per second, well over the 45-year average of 137 cfs. That might increase if snowpack continues to accumulate in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, many eyes are on the snowpack and the potential runoff problems in the flood affected areas along the Front Range. Here’s an report from Ryan Maye Handy writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Here’s an excerpt:

Since September 2013 flooding swept across the Front Range, communities from Colorado Springs to Glen Haven have been preparing for the spring runoff, which could dislodge leftover flood debris and further damage areas torn apart by fall floodwaters. In a year with above-average snowpack, everyone from federal government conservationists to mountain fire departments are bracing for the worst.

But hydrologists and climatologists say there is no guarantee this year’s spring runoff will be as catastrophic as many anticipate. As with wildfire season, the intensity of spring runoff depends entirely on weather.

“Not all runoff seasons are created equal,” said Nolan Doesken, the state’s climatologist. “Just because you have a certain amount of snow, doesn’t mean you have a certain flooding potential. It all comes down to how snow melts.”[...]

Colorado hasn’t had this good of a snowpack — roughly 130 percent of normal — since 2011. Northern Colorado soils are still saturated after the fall floods; reservoirs are filled higher than normal, and rivers are running at twice or three times their average volume for early April.

River communities like Drake, Glen Haven, and parts of Estes Park are still scrambling to remove flood debris from the Big Thompson River’s path.

Since the September floods, places like Big Thompson Canyon have been in a race against time, trying to beat the arrival of spring runoff. The Colorado Department of Transportation hastily rebuilt the ravaged U.S. Highway 34, and has since been readying the canyon for snowmelt. Since January, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has poured all of its local energy into clearing debris or shoring up more than 44 weak points — or “exigent sites” — along the river…

Treste Huse, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, worries that runoff will move sediment left behind by the September floods, or possibly cause land and rock slides along highways. River channels changed after the floods, and Northern Colorado residents could see water and dirt being poured into new places this spring.

But for Huse, like Doesken, this spring’s runoff potential depends on a few relatively unpredictable factors.

“It’s going to be dependent on future snowfall, how high stream levels are during the snowmelt, freezing and thawing in the mountains, future rainfall and the timing, and whether the rain falls on the snowpack,” she said.

The long and variable list of factors recently convinced Doesken that runoff might not be the catastrophe that everyone expects it to be. The state climatologist has changed his mind about this year’s snowmelt a few times–at first it wasn’t a big deal, then it was, and now the current weather pattern has him thinking Colorado could escape relatively unscathed.

If Colorado has a consistently warm spring, then the snowpack will slowly melt over time, as it did in 2011. Come summer, there will be little left once the temperatures rapidly rise, Doesken said.

On the other hand, a colder spring with a few lower-elevation snowstorms could create the opposite effect. Then, the snowpack would stay intact — even increase — until warmer temperatures suddenly hit, melting the snow rapidly. If Colorado gets a multi-day upslope winter storm that dumps moisture on the foothills, then Doesken says he will start to worry.

“The longer you push the snowmelt to when it (summer) starts, the closer to midsummer you are, it’s going to be really interesting,” he said. “It will all unfold day by day, week by week, over the course of the next six to seven weeks.”


Ditch companies are running out of time for repairs, the runoff is coming #COflood

April 6, 2014
St. Vrain River floodplain November 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call

St. Vrain River floodplain November 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call

From the Longmont Times-Call (Tony Kindelspire):

Left Hand Creek has been diverted from its main channel by a temporary earthen dam with two 48-inch pipes running through the middle of it. That’s so the workmen can rebuild the diversion dam and headgate that last September’s flood obliterated.

“We have like 13 spots that we’re working on, various levels of destruction, with this being the worst. This is the Allen’s Lake diversion,” said Plummer, vice president of maintenance and operations for the Left Hand Ditch Co. “Most everything was just buried in debris. … The Allen’s Lake diversion was just rolled up into a ball of concrete and steel.”[...]

Ditch companies control the water rights to irrigation ditches and are charged with maintaining them. The Left Hand Ditch Co. is typical of most such entities: it’s privately held and owned by shareholders — in the case of Left Hand, 460 shareholders. Sixteen percent of its shares are owned by the Left Hand Water District and goes toward drinking water, and the rest goes to agriculture.

Ditches operate using diversion dams and headgates. The dams slow the water and back it up so it can then flow through the headgate, which is opened to let water through.

In the Allen’s Lake diversion both the dam and headgate were wiped out, and in the narrow riverbed of Left Hand Canyon, the only way to replace them is to divert the river, build half the structure, then move the river again and build the other half.

“We’ll get that (side) done and then we’ll move the river back over,” Plummer said as he watched the construction crew pour concrete. “What we’re doing is racing, we’re racing the run-off.”[...]

Sean Cronin, executive director of the St. Vrain & Left Hand Water Conservancy District, attended an emergency meeting of the Highland Ditch Co. in the days following the flood.

“Not repairing this is not an option,” Cronin recalls hearing the shareholders — many of whom are farmers — saying in the meeting. “This is how we make our living.”

Cronin said there are 94 ditches and reservoirs within the St. Vrain & Left Hand district, and of those 43 suffered some amount of damage, totaling about $18 million. Some, such as the Highland, were completely destroyed.

September’s flood all but wiped out the Highland’s diversion dam and headgate, which were built in 1870. What little remained after the water subsided was not repairable.

The Highland Ditch, the biggest in the St. Vrain basin, goes all the way to Milliken, primarily serving ag land but also providing some of the city of Longmont’s drinking water.

The diversion dam and headgate were rebuilt at a cost of $750,000, according to Wade Gonzales, superintendent of the Highland Ditch Co…

The “Big Three” headgates, as far as Longmont is concerned — the Highland, the Oligarchy and the Rough & Ready/Palmerton — were all destroyed by the flood, according to Kevin Boden, environmental project specialist with the city of Longmont’s Public Works and Natural Resources Department.

The Oligarchy, it should be noted, actually held up during the initial flood but then finally gave way the following Sunday during heavy rains.

All three either have been or will be repaired by May 1, Boden said…

[Dave Nettles] said that although the Poudre, Big Thompson and Boulder Creek watersheds all sustained some damage, none of them reached the “catastrophic” levels seen in the St. Vrain and Little Thompson watersheds.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Water summit drew large crowd — Fort Morgan Times

April 5, 2014

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute


From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The large crowd at Progressive 15′s Water Summit had their fill of water-related information March 28 at the Country Steak-Out in Fort Morgan, but it seemed they were still thirsty for more, asking nearly every speaker lots of questions and seeking more resources.

The speakers addressed a number of different topics, including: potential and currently pending legislation and ballot issues that could affect water law, and weather forecasts and the plan the state is forming for dealing with water for the future.

After Progressive 15 Chairman Barry Gore explained the nonprofit group’s mission as an advocacy agency for its members, Joe Frank from the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District spoke about the history of public trust doctrine and how it could affect Colorado if adopted here…

After a break for lunch, the crowd heard from National Weather Service Senior Hydrologist Treste Huse about weather and flood forecasts for Colorado.

She said that while Morgan County received 300 percent of normal precipitation in 2013, “it’s drying up this year.”

Northeast Colorado could see higher risks of flooding this spring and summer due to higher water tables, reservoirs already at capacity and the melting of a high snow pack. Landslides also could be possible with that flooding.

Huse also said that it was possible that 2014 would have El Nino weather patterns in Colorado, which could lead to wetter than average conditions in the south and far east parts of the state.

Later, former Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp, who now is an advisor in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Water Office, spoke about the Colorado Water Plan.

He said that while drought was growing in southeast Colorado, most of the state was not in a drought.

Yet, he recognized that flooding could become an issue again.

“We’re hopeful that the snowpack comes down in an orderly manner,” he said.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


Water Hazards: From Risk to Recovery — AWRA Colorado Section Annual Symposium (May 2)

April 5, 2014
September 2013 flooding

September 2013 flooding

Click here to go to the symposium page for the pitch and to register.

Managing water resources in Colorado requires managing risk. This year’s symposium will feature discussions on the various types of risks to our water resources, with special consideration given to the impacts and implications of the September 2013 floods.

We are pleased to have an outstanding and diverse group of speakers, including our Keynote Speaker, James Eklund who will discuss the relationship between the State Water Plan and managing risk. Presenters in our morning session will help us better understand the types of risks to water resources. The afternoon break-out sessions will feature experts from a variety of disciplines who will discuss the on-the-ground impacts of the September 2013 floods. The day will conclude with insights from Jamestown Mayor Tara Schoedinger and CSU Sociology Professor Stephanie Malin, who will help us understand how risk impacts our communities.

To raise money for the Scholarship Fund, we are holding our fourth annual silent auction at the symposium.


Recover Colorado Businesses Grant and Loan Programs available for businesses and non-profits affected by #COflood

April 4, 2014
Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Callie Jones):

Businesses and non-profits affected by the South Platte River flood last year are getting more help, through the Recover Colorado Businesses Grant and Loan Programs, part of the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program.
Dick Pickett, executive director of the Northeast-East Central Small Business Development Center, and Jeff Kraft, of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International trade, gave a brief presentation about the program to a small crowd at the Gary DeSoto Building on Thursday.

Kraft explained the CDBG-DR program is one the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) main programs, in which they provide assistance to communities in various ways – housing, infrastructure and economic development.

States can apply for funds from the program by developing an action plan, based on what their needs are. Colorado applied and will be receiving $62.8 million, which will be split up between housing, infrastructure and economic revitalization. Of that $62 million, approximately $9 million will go toward small businesses.

In addition to those funds, the state will also be receiving another $199 million at some point.

Kraft noted the philosophy of this program is to be more flexible in what it can cover than many other types of funds, though there will still be some federal strings attached. He also said “it’s designed to cover a small slice of unmet needs after other funding sources have been used and exhausted.”

Through the Recover Colorado programs, businesses and non-profits that suffered substantial economic harm from the flood can apply for economic revitalization funding. Grants of up to $10,000, or $25,000 for entities with multiple flood impacted areas, and loans of up to $50,000 with favorable terms will be awarded. The grants do not have to be paid back.

Approximately 80 percent of funds will be allocated to the three most impacted counties: Boulder, Larimer and Weld.

“So, you’re saying ‘I’m here in Sterling, that’s not going to help me’. We know Sterling is one of the most impacted areas in the remaining 20 percent, so absolutely there will be substantial funds available for Sterling businesses,” Kraft said.


More snow same adventure – Denver Water crews measure snowpack

April 4, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Tracking snowpack is a vital part of managing Denver Water’s water supply. But, with sample sites in remote locations throughout our watersheds, this is no easy task.

Take a journey with Jay Adams, from Denver Water’s Communications and Marketing Department, as he joins Denver Water crews to take on this adventurous mission.

Per Olsson, Jones Pass caretaker; Brian Clark, equipment operator; Tim Holinka, assistant district foreman on the Arrow snow course near Winter Park.

Per Olsson, Jones Pass caretaker; Brian Clark, equipment operator; Tim Holinka, assistant district foreman on the Arrow snow course near Winter Park.

What a difference a year makes in snowpack levels

By Jay Adams

It’s a trek not many people take, but one that provides critical information to more than 1 million people. The journey begins just below the Continental Divide in a Trooper Snow Cat. The ride leads up the side of a mountain, past a group of snowmobilers and two wandering moose. Onboard the Snow Cat heading into the forest are Denver Water employees Brian Clark, equipment operator; Tim…

View original 467 more words


The Weld County Youth Corps Association recently received grant dollars to help mitigate invasive plant species — Greeley Tribune

April 3, 2014

tamarisk
From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

The Weld County Youth Corps Association recently received grant dollars to help mitigate invasive plant species along the area’s rivers and protect the state’s water resources.

This will likely come as exciting news to water users in northeast Colorado’s South Platte River Basin, who see invasive phreatophyte plants — deep-rooted plants that obtain water from permanent ground supplies or from the water table — as a major problem.

A study conducted last year by the Colorado Water Institute showed that invasive phreatophyte plants continue to increase in the South Platte basin, resulting in large quantities of non-beneficial consumptive water use — perhaps as much as 250,000 acre feet per year, or 80 billion gallons.

According to a news release, the Weld County Youth Conservation Corps will receive $15,000 to remove invasive vegetation from riverbanks and sandbars of the South Platte River.

The project is coordinated with and sponsored by Ducks Unlimited.

The corps will also receive $7,500 to eradicate tamarisk and Russian olive along the St. Vrain River in a project for the Weld County Weed Division.

A total of five projects in 2014 — funded through a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which is a division of the Department of Natural Resources — will be conducted by Colorado Youth Conservation Association-accredited youth corps in conjunction with local project sponsors in four counties throughout the state.

For the South Platte River project, the Weld County Youth Corps Association crew will clear invasive vegetation from three protected properties located along the South Platte River in Weld and Morgan counties. This work will improve the river channel habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife and reduce consumptive water use.

The project will start at Weld County Road 1 and extend about three linear miles toward the confluence with the South Platte River.

The Weld County Youth Corps Association proposal was one of eight representing $105,000 in requests for 14 weeks of work to mitigate these plants throughout the state.

The Weld County Youth Corps Association — serving youth and young adults ages 14-24 — engages its corps members in community and conservation service projects throughout Weld County.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.


Windsor: The West Greeley Conservation District eduction program made a stop at Skyview Elementary School

March 31, 2014

WaterCycleKidsUSGS
From The Greeley Tribune (T.M. Fasano):

Pam Wright wants to educate today’s youth about how precious water is, and will be, in their lives.

Wright, the public outreach and education coordinator for the West Greeley Conservation District, brought her rolling river education trailer to Skyview Elementary School in Windsor on Thursday and taught students about water cycles, erosion, how humans impact the water table and how pesticides and chemicals can enter a river or lake through ground water. Toy people, sand, rocks, trucks, cars, animals, farm equipment, trees and brush were sprinkled throughout the trailer that represented the dynamics of a watershed. Once the flowing water caused erosion, the students had to move around the models and fix the river’s surroundings.

“I really stress that this water situation is not going to change,” Wright said. “We’re going to be drinking the same water in the future, so it’s important for them to take care of it not only for themselves but for future generations. We stress the importance of healthy soil. Especially since we’re such an ag community, we do a lot of work out in the community, too.”

Second-grader Gavin Leagjeld, 7, a member of the after-school Roots & Shoots club that is working on a project to rehabilitate Skyview’s wetlands east of the school and make it into an outdoor classroom, was all about sticking his hands into the flowing water and makeshift sand by the river. Gavin learned about the dangers of polluting the water.

“If farmers keep using fertilizer or chemicals and if it goes into the river as ground water, it could pollute the river or ocean,” Gavin said.

Fifth-grader Blaine Tonnies, 10, said he liked what he learned.

“Since we’re younger, we should probably learn it now so later we don’t (pollute),” Blaine said. “I really like nature, plants and animals.”

Skyview teacher Kendra Jacoby, who is an adviser for Roost & Shoots along with fellow teacher Roxanne Visconti, said it’s exciting to see the first- through fifth-graders learn about what will impact them in their future.

“It’s huge, especially because we are in Colorado and our arid climate, they need to know that the water that we have is the water that we have. There is never going to be any more,” said Jacoby, a SOAR and Gifted and Talented Education teacher.

Visconti said it’s vital for students to learn what’s happening around them.

“They are very engaged. That’s what we want this to be, is them giving of themselves and learning about what surrounds them and not just going back and forth to school every day,” said Visconti, a first-grade teacher.

Second-grader Emma Johnson, 8, said she learned how a river can be polluted.

“If you’re too close to the river, you can pollute in it or you can spill oil into it and it can make it really bad for the animals who drink it,” Johnson said. “Because if they drink it they’ll die or get sick.”

Wright said she takes her riparian water trailer, the conservation district has two of them, and visits 20 to 30 schools annually throughout Weld County. She said she has an entire curriculum for different grade levels.

“Right after the flooding in the schools in Greeley and Evans, we were busy out in those schools,” Wright said. “There was not one kid I dealt with that wasn’t affected by those floods in one way or another. Their main question was: ‘Is this going to happen again?’”

Wright said it’s never too early for the kids to learn.

“For those little kids to realize that their water source is never going to change, that they’re drinking the same water the dinosaurs did, that always sticks with them,” Wright said. “It’s never too early to start teaching them the importance of where their water comes from. It needs to be started early.”

More education coverage here.


Northern Water books $40.3 million in revenue in 2013

March 29, 2014
Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Revenue increased about $10.5 million for the year ended Sept. 30 primarily because Berthoud-based Northern Water received nearly $9 million from Front Range water entities, including Denver Water, Aurora Water and the Pueblo Board of Water works, for water releases from Granby Reservoir.

Northern Water provides water to portions of eight Colorado counties with a population of 860,000 people and serves more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land.

Last year, Northern Water completed several contracts and agreements related to the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. The goal of the program is to recover four unique fish species listed as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Because they divert water from the Colorado River, Northern Water and other water users have made a permanent commitment to release 10,825 acre-feet of water annually. Northern Water releases more than 5,400 acre feet from the Granby Reservoir to support the project. An acre foot equals 326,000 gallons and is enough to serve 2.5 households annually.

The one-time compensation paid to Northern Water for the project came this year, according to the annual report. Northern Water’s expenses for the project came in previous years, said John Budde, financial services department manager for Northern Water…

Northern Water ended 2013 with $241.6 million in assets compared with. $231.4 million in assets in 2012. The organization also had $26.5 million in liabilities last year compared with $29 million in liabilities the prior year.

The organization had expenses of $29.2 million in 2013, down from $31.2 million in 2012.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Recently executed agreement designed to increase river health in the Upper #ColoradoRiver and Fraser River

March 26, 2014
Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day

Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day

From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Grand County is that part of the snow-rich Western Slope most proximate to the farms and cities of the Front Range. It juts like a thumb eastward, the most easterly point of the Pacific drainage in North America.

As such, it became a target, early and often, of transmountain diversions. The first major diversion across the Continental Divide was completed in 1890 and the last, located at Windy Gap, where the Fraser River flows into the Colorado, in 1985. Several others, more audacious in scale, came between.

Taken together, these great engineering achievements annually draw 60 percent or more of the native flows of this headwater region eastward, over and through the Continental Divide. The water delivered to cities between Denver and Fort Collins have made them among the most vibrant in the country, and the water that flows to farms as far east as Julesberg, hundreds of miles away, among the nation’s most productive.

But this achievement has had a hidden cost that became more apparent in recent years. Combined with the frequent drought since 2000, the depletions have left the Colorado River shallow and warm as it flows through Middle Park. It is, according to environmental advocates, a river on the edge of ecological collapse, unable to support sculpin, trout, and other fish…

Now come new efforts, the most recent announced earlier this month, to bring the Colorado River and its tributaries back from this brink.

Called the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, the agreement between Denver Water, Grand County, and Trout Unlimited proposes to govern Denver’s incremental diversions through the Continental Divide known as the Moffat firming project. However, according to the architects of the deal, it should also serve as a model in the ongoing dialogue as Colorado’s growing metropolitan areas look to squeeze out the final drops of the state’s entitlements to the Colorado River, as defined by the Colorado River compact of 1922 and other compacts.

“It is a demonstration of a new way of doing business that should be a model as Colorado talks about meeting its water gaps (between demands and supplies),” says Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water…

David Taussig, a native of Grand County and now the county’s water attorney, working from the 16th Street firm of White & Jankowski in downtown Denver, also sees the agreement as a model. “Nobody knows what (the agreements) will look like, but there are ways to develop things that benefit the Western Slope,” he says.

There are skeptics, unable to explain this strange alchemy in which a river can in any way benefit from having less water, as the agreement insists can be the case.

Among those withholding enthusiasm is Matt Rice, the Colorado coordinator for American Rivers. He points out that the agreement covers just 4 of the 32 creeks and streams trapped by Denver Water in the Fraser Valley and the adjoining Williams Fork. Too, like too many other similar programs, the data collection begins after permits are awarded, not before, which he thinks is backward.

In short, while Denver is careful to talk about “enhancements,” he thinks it falls short of addressing full, cumulative impacts.

Cumulative impacts are likely to be a focal point of federal permitting. While the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to have a voice, the vital 404 permit must come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The parties to the new agreement have asked that their agreement be incorporated into the permit…

Under terms of this agreement, however, Denver Water is required to spend $10 million in direct costs in Grand County.

A major concern on the Fraser River is higher temperatures caused by more shallow flows, harmful or even deadly to fish. The money would go to such things as temperature-monitoring stations, to track how warm the Fraser is getting in summer months.

In places, creeks and the Fraser River will be rechanneled. A river with 75 percent of its flows diminished over a year’s cycle has less need for width. Instead, it needs a narrower course, to allow more depth and hence the colder water needed for aquatic life. Such work was already started several years ago on a segment near the Safeway store in Fraser.

A far greater financial cost to Denver specified by the agreement is the agency’s commitment to forfeit up to 2,500 acre-feet annually of the city’s added 18,700 acre-foot take…

A final environmental impact statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected in late April. The federal agency can also impose conditions of its own making. They would be included in a record-of-decision, which is expected to be issued in late 2015.

A permit from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is also needed. Boulder County insists it also has say-so over enlargement of Gross Reservoir, an assertion contested by Denver Water.

In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must award a permit for revised hydroelectric generation at Gross.

At earliest, expansion of Gross could start in 2018 and be ready to capture spring runoff in 2022…

Mely Whiting, an attorney for Trout Unlimited, says the new deal builds on both the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Windy Gap settlements. They mesh together and, downstream from Windy Gap, should have great benefit.

The weakness is that in the Fraser Valley, there is little existing baseline data. “We don’t have a very good grasp on either what we have lost or what we may lose in the future,” she says. “We know there have been declines, but don’t have nearly as much information (as below Windy Gap). So the effort will be to develop a strong baseline and get a strong understanding of what is going on up there.”

At the end of the day it is a compromise, and Whiting admits that not all environmentalists are thrilled.

“On my side of the equation, when I talk to people in the conservation community, some people want language that nails Denver to the ground, so that they have no wiggle room. They want things very predictable,” she says.

“This Learning by Doing agreement is not extremely predictable,” she added. “We have some basic parameters. There are three ways we are going to measure, to monitor to make sure the values of the streams aren’t going down.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Longmont: Council asking voters for $20 million bond issue to deal with September #COflood

March 26, 2014

From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

The City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to prepare the ballot issue; the exact language will be approved at a later meeting.

“I see this bond election as vital,” Councilman Gabe Santos said.

City officials hope to make the St. Vrain River capable of holding a 100-year flood all the way through Longmont, something it has never been able to do. Before September’s flood, the St. Vrain’s maximum capacity was about 5,000 cubic feet per second; a 100-year flood carries 10,000 cfs.

That kind of carrying capacity comes with a price tag between $65 million and $80 million, public works director Dale Rademacher said. With $20 million in “flood bonds,” he said, the city could pull together a stronger local match to attract state and federal dollars.

If those bonds pass, he said, the city could put together $47.6 million itself, including:

• $8.5 million in already-approved bridge work at Main Street, Sunset Street and South Pratt Parkway.

• $7 million from the street fund (which is due to be reapproved by voters in November).

• $1.6 million in open space and water fund money.

• $500,000 from the conservation trust fund.

• A possible $10 million in “alternative project” funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, money that would normally go to re-creating the eastern stretch of the St. Vrain that could be used elsewhere if the river’s course is left alone.

Even with the bonds, that still leaves a funding gap of $17.4 million to $32.4 million. But the money can let Longmont be in a stronger position to get funds from FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers and from Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery grants. The city plans to apply for $52 million of grants from all those sources, but doesn’t expect to get everything.

“I think if we get a fraction of that, we should be happy,” Rademacher said of the FEMA grant application, a shot at a $37 million target.


Longmont Reservoir refilling after dredging #COflood

March 25, 2014
The dam at Longmont Reservoir March 18, 2014 via the City of Longmont

The dam at Longmont Reservoir March 18, 2014 via the City of Longmont

From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

After a four-month effort to remove 50,000 cubic yards of debris from the reservoir, city workers declared the Longmont Reservoir usable again on Thursday. The lake had been dredged for the cleanup efforts; water began to re-enter on Wednesday.

“We’re filling it slowly on purpose, so we can watch it and control it as it comes up,” said project manager Josh Sherman. “We anticipate it being full by the end of the week.”

The reservoir had been taken out of service by September’s flood, a deluge that also knocked out the connecting North St. Vrain Pipeline and any road access to the area. By the flood’s end, Longmont had only one working pipeline, to Carter Lake, and only one-third of its normal water supply.

By December, crews from Nixcavating, a Longmont firm, had re-opened enough emergency road access to get the pipeline going again and start work on Longmont Reservoir. The lake had to be dredged to get all the silt, rocks and other debris out; much of the rock has been re-used for road work…

According to Holly Milne, a marketing specialist for the public works department, the last bit of debris in Longmont Reservoir was removed the week of March 10.

There’s still more to do. Still more debris — most of it wood — is clogging the inlet to Ralph Price Reservoir. The flood left more logs and wood in the reservoir itself; city workers lowered the lake level there to beach the material.

The inlet needs to be cleared before the runoff, which typically comes in two phases: early to mid-May and then late June to early July. But the wood on the beach will probably be cleared about the time the runoff hits, Sherman said, as workers use rising water levels to bring the logs across the lake and to a more accessible location.


Progressive 15 will host a Water Summit this Friday in Fort Morgan #COWaterPlan

March 25, 2014
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The nonprofit advocacy group will host a Water Summit this Friday in Fort Morgan. The various speakers will discuss topics that will educate their audience about water and its importance to Colorado, according to a press release…

John Stulp, the governor’s special policy advisor on water and former state agriculture commissioner, will speak at the forum about the Colorado Plan for water, according to the release.

The South Platte and Republican rivers will the subject of another session, with Deb Daniel and Jim Yahn as the speakers.

Public legislation related to water will be the focus of Joe Frank’s talk, which will include the potential local impacts to water rights and use of proposed legislation.

Jerry Gibbens will provide an update on the Northern Integrated Storage Project, which is a proposed massive water storage project that would build two reservoirs, with one near Fort Collins and one near Ault.

The featured luncheon speaker will be Treste Huse from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who will provide forecasts for moisture and potential flooding issues.

The summit will end with a panel discussion featuring people who represent different ideas and thoughts on the roles water will play in future plans and how it could impact on the northeast Colorado economy…

Reservations are required and can be placed online at progressive15.org, by calling 970-867-9167 or by email to cathy@progressive15.org.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Clear Creek: Colorado’s hardest working river?

March 24, 2014
Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

From All Wet: The Colorado Water Blog (Allen Best):

Dave Holm called Clear Creek “perhaps the hardest working river in Colorado,” and to back up that statement he noted that it provides water for 400,000 people and has the second most numbers of rafters in Colorado.

As for fish? Well, not so good. “It’s a rough and tough stream, and it’s tough on fish,” he said at a March 20 presentation before the Colorado Renewable Energy Society. “They really get beat up.”

Holm directs the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, which was set up in 1990. He explained that after just a handful of people at the first meeting, 100 people were affiliated with the group by 1994.

The foundation seeks to clean up and improve Clear Creek, no small task. It was the site of Colorado’s first industrial-scale mining, first placer operations and then tunneling. This occurred at Central City, on the north fork of the creek, and also at Idaho Springs. Other mining towns in the drainage include Black Hawk, Georgetown, and Silver Plume…

The foundation has done 80 projects altogether, but the creek still has major troubles. Interstate 70 probably has the “biggest physical impact.” The creek has been channelized to make roof for the four-way highway, creating what amounts to a “rip-rap gulley.”

Holm also described how the doctrine of prior appropriation benefits the creek. “Colorado’s—rococo comes to mind—legal framework for administering water rights,” he said. But that first-in-right means that most of the water in Clear Creek gets left there until far downstream, where it issues from the foothills into the piedmont of the Front Range.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.


Flood insurance costs are skyrocketing after the September 2013 #COflood

March 24, 2014
Air search for flood victims September 2013 via Pediment Publishing

Air search for flood victims September 2013 via Pediment Publishing

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott) via The Pueblo Chieftain:

Thousands of Coloradans could face major cost increases for their flood insurance, just as many are trying to decide whether to rebuild or move on after the devastating September flooding. More than 5,700 federally subsidized policies in Colorado could be hit with annual premium increases in the years ahead despite a federal law signed Friday that rolls back rate hikes for many homeowners whose premiums recently soared by thousands of dollars overnight.

“They made it very clear to our residents that if you chose to remain in the flood plain, they would see a significant increase in their insurance premiums,” said Victoria Simonsen, town administrator for Lyons, where more than 200 of the community’s 960 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Nationwide, up to 1.1 million policies face increases, according to an Associated Press analysis of records from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The government is trying to shrink a $24 billion shortfall in the National Flood Insurance Program created by long-running subsidies and a series of catastrophic storms.

In Colorado, 4,000 property owners could face increases of up to 18 percent annually on owner-occupied homes. Another 1,700 policies on second homes and businesses will face annual increases of 25 percent until they reach a rate based on the actual risk of flooding.

Measuring the impact in Colorado is difficult amid the uncertainty left behind by the September disaster, which destroyed 2,000 homes and damaged nearly 18,000 others along the Front Range and on the Eastern Plains. FEMA estimates the total damage at $2 billion and says flood insurance policies have paid $63.6 million in claims.

Charlie Corson, a retired bus driver who has lived in Lyons for more than 20 years, already has seen his flood insurance premium jump by a third, to nearly $2,000. But that’s because he and his wife had to increase their coverage to qualify for a low-interest loan they might need if they decide to rebuild.

Dan Matsch, another longtime Lyons resident, said his rates might actually go down. He discovered after the flood that his house stood on higher ground than anyone realized — even though it was heavily damaged — so he might qualify for a lower premium than the $1,200 a year he had been paying.

Lyons, a village of 2,000 in the foothills about 35 miles northwest of Denver, was devastated by the flooding. Two canyons funneled high water into a neighborhood of modest old houses and trailer homes. About 60 houses are considered substantially damaged by federal standards, meaning repairs would cost more than half the value of the home.

“People here are very, very distressed,” Simonsen said. Residents are trying to decide whether to rebuild or apply for a federally funded buyout that would pay them the pre-flood market value of their home and turn their property into open space.


New Miliken and Evans floodplain rules too costly #COflood

March 23, 2014
Evans Colorado September 2013 via TheDenverChannel.com

Evans Colorado September 2013 via TheDenverChannel.com

From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

Although they may meet different fates in the end, the owners of flood-ravaged mobile home parks in Milliken and Evans face similar plights as they navigate new floodplain rules and regulations the park owners say make it impossible to continue doing business. Some suggest it’s an underhanded way to drive the parks out of their respective cities.

But local officials say it doesn’t make sense to build in an area that could again be flooded , and they are obligated to ensure homes and structures aren’t seriously damaged for the public’s health and safety.

In Milliken, town officials’ first priority was to house flood victims through the winter, said Jim Burack, Milliken town administrator and chief of police. The town allowed the two mobile home parks that sustained flood damage — Evergreen Mobile Home Park and Martin Family Trailer Park — to reopen immediately for that reason, he said.

Since then, Evergreen has continued redevelopment on the property, where 21 mobile homes were destroyed in the flood, said Jerrie Solomon, who owns the mobile home park with her husband. Per new floodplain standards implemented by Milliken, Solomon said they hired a geotechnical engineer, did a soil sample and installed backfill to raise the undamaged homes and bring in four new ones. But she said the park can’t keep up with the new rules.

“Every time we get one more thing done, they invent another set of rules and regulations,” Solomon said.

Burack said the town has been working cooperatively with both mobile home parks since the flood struck, and he said they have been transparent about all of the possible scenarios that could come out of redevelopment. Among other options, Burack said the town is looking into purchasing the damaged mobile home parks through a Federal Emergency Management Agency hazard mitigation grant, which would cover 75 percent of the cost of the parks at pre-flood prices.

Solomon said that isn’t welcome news, as she fears the purchase price would be too low. After paying for debris cleanup, down payments on the new homes and the cost to set them in the park, Solomon estimated she and her husband have invested more than $300,000 since the flood.

“If we had not gone in there and started work on that, Milliken would have the same kind of park as Evans,” Solomon said.

In Evans, city officials this week said they may seek to condemn Eastwood Village and Bella Vista mobile home parks to eliminate the health hazards posed by contaminated flood debris.

Keith Cowan, owner of Eastwood Village, filed a lawsuit against the city in February, saying the city’s new floodplain rules prevented him from reopening the park because it would be too costly to comply.

Perry Glantz, the attorney representing Cowan, said Cowan would need compensation not just for his property, but for the loss of his business, which together he said are worth several million dollars. Glantz said last week the whole situation places a financial burden solely on Cowan, which is unfair because his property — the land where the mobile homes sat — technically wasn’t destroyed in the flood.

In Milliken, much depends on a floodplain map the town board will consider Wednesday. The map, commissioned by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, is meant to provide a temporary resource for flood-ravaged communities as they attempt to redevelop, said Kevin Houck, chief of the Watershed and Flood Protection Section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. After the flood, the Little Thompson and other rivers had erosion and, in some instances, changed course, meaning old floodplain maps may no longer be a trusty resource. Some communities were left with nothing to work with, he said.

Houck said Icon Engineering, a Centennial-based civil engineering firm, is using automated methods to at least provide communities with better data.

“What we are trading off here is quick information to localities at the expense of higher detail,” he said.

Milliken officials may adopt the floodplain temporarily because it could take years for the updated FEMA map to be approved, said Anne Best Johnson, Milliken’s community and economic development director. She said the town is currently working with a FEMA floodplain map crafted in 1978. But if the land where Evergreen Mobile Home Park sits is deemed unsuitable for homes, Solomon said she fears there will be little to no affordable housing left in Milliken.

Burack said the town is working on a housing needs assessment, which should be done in a few months. He said the town is working aggressively alongside the Milliken Housing Authority and Habitat for Humanity to find solutions.

Burack said he is also heartened by the announcement that more federal money will soon be available. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last week announced $199.3 million more to be added to the $62.8 million pot of money for flood-ravaged Colorado communities.

The money will be doled out by the state through a competitive application process, and Burack said he expects Milliken will fare well once those funds are available.


Most Weld County water suppliers are ready to divert having repaired the damage from the September #COflood

March 22, 2014

New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods -- photo via the Longmont Times-Call

New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods — photo via the Longmont Times-Call


From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

The predictions made in recent months by water providers are holding true. Many are at different stages of recovery, but most ag water providers across northeast Colorado believe they’ll have needed irrigation-system repairs done in time for the rapidly approaching growing season, and be able to deliver water to farmers. However, some are still up against the clock, with work left to be done — particularly in Boulder County and in far west Weld County.

Following September’s historic flood, a number of representatives from irrigation ditches, reservoir companies and other water providers were reporting damage along their systems — ditches, dykes, gravel pits, canals, head gates and other diversion structures that needed repairs, or even to be rebuilt. Many of the large water providers near Greeley and Sterling and the surrounding areas, though, said around Jan. 1 that they were progressing well with their repairs. And many reported this past week they’re now done.

That’s good news for those massive ag-producing regions (Weld, Morgan and Logan counties, all of which experienced flood damage, represent three of the four largest ag-producing counties in the state).

Randy Ray, executive director for the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley that saw $1.8 million in damage from the flood, and Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District that oversees the largest water-supply project in the region (the Colorado-Big Thompson Project), each said this past week that their systems are ready to go. As did Jim Yahn, manager of the North Sterling Irrigation District, among many others.

Much of the repair work still taking place is along the St. Vrain River in Boulder County and in far west Weld County.

Sean Cronin — executive director of the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District in Longmont — explained that water providers farther upstream had more time to take precautionary measures before the floodwaters arrived, helping minimize some of the damage to their systems. He added that the floodwaters had more room to spread out once they made it to the plains, meaning they weren’t carrying the same intense pressure as they did in his neck of the woods, where the velocity wiped out much more infrastructure.

The St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District encompasses about 80,000 acres. Cronin — who also serves as chairman for the South Platte Roundtable, a group of water experts from the region who meet throughout the year to address the region’s water issues — said the district endured about $20 million in damages. The district includes 94 irrigation ditches, 43 of which sustained damage. Of those 43 ditches that were damaged, Cronin explained this week:

» Four ditches are repaired.

» One is under construction and was projected to be repaired by March 1.

» 19 are under construction and are projected to be repaired by April 1.

» Five under construction and projected to be repaired by May 1.

» Three are under construction, though the projected completion dates were yet to be determined.

» 11 are not yet under construction.

Of the 11 not yet under construction:

» Three cited lack funding for the work needed.

» Three were still in discussions on designs.

» Two were waiting for repairs of another ditch to be done first.

» One was waiting for a FEMA project worksheet.

» One was listed as “not a priority.”

» One was still finding a contractor.

Cronin stressed that the Highland Ditch Company — which supplies about 40,000 acres, and is by far the biggest ditch in the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District — is ready to go for the growing season. The other 93 ditches are much smaller, supplying much fewer farm acres.

“There’s definitely a success story there,” Cronin said. “In the couple weeks after the flood, I wouldn’t have ever thought we’d be in as good of shape as we’re in now.”

Cronin said there will still be challenges for some farmers, certainly those where repairs are still taking place, or haven’t even started. Even for ditch repairs still in the works, those water providers might miss the peak of spring runoff, and could take in less water as a result.

“It’s shaping up to be a good water year, so hopefully those who aren’t done (with repairs) in the near future will still have water coming into their systems later in the year,” he said.

One of the major concerns initially was that the river changed locations in some spots, moving away from diversion structures. All sides have agreed to put the river back in its previous locations to help water providers, Cronin said, and those efforts are coming along well, although there’s still uncertainty regarding how the river will respond in those areas.

And even where work is nearing completion or is complete, there’s some uncertainty regarding payments of the repairs, and how much money they’ll see in reimbursements from FEMA, and how much might be coming out of shareholders’ pockets.

Cronin said one ditch in the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District has already increased its fees from $5 per water share to $200 per water share to pay for repairs, waiting to see how much FEMA kicks in.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know, and a lot that still needs to play out,” Cronin said. “But overall, I think we’re very happy to be in the position we’re in, compared to how things looked a few months ago.”


#COflood relief money headed to where it is needed?

March 21, 2014
Flooding St. Vrain River September, 2013 via Voice of America

Flooding St. Vrain River September, 2013 via Voice of America

From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

So far, FEMA has obligated $3.4 million of flood money to rebuild Longmont. So far, Longmont has seen $143,000. Why? Because when you try to do that much with a handful of state officials, it only goes so far.

“In September, before the flood, we had three finance people,” said Micki Trost, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “We staffed for our normal operations, our steady-state operations. We would not (normally) have the amount of requests coming through our finance office that we had following the flood.”

That’s changing. Not only has the division ramped up to six finance people and borrowed another three from its grant department, but last week, the state contracted with Deloitte — one of the “Big Four” accounting and audit firms — to provide another six. On Thursday, Longmont emergency manager Dan Eamon had his first meeting with a Deloitte representative. Eamon said he hoped that things were looking up from here.

“The biggest thing is that the state wasn’t ready for a $1 billion disaster,” he said. “It’s larger than we’ve ever experienced. … We’re all learning as we go.”

Why is Denver involved at all? Because of the way reimbursement works through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It goes roughly like this:

• Cities and counties submit estimates for work that they consider to be FEMA-eligible. This gets a quick sign-off from the state.

• FEMA considers the request and decides how much to obligate. If an estimate is deemed to be eligible, FEMA can reimburse up to 75 percent of the project’s expense.

• At that point, the city or county has to submit a different set of paperwork to the state on the actual costs as the work gets done. This is reimbursement money, not an up-front grant, so the state has to verify that the work was done, who did it, and several other details before the money can be released.

So it’s FEMA’s dollars — but it’s the state who has to oversee and verify. And until recently, there just weren’t enough people to do that, Trost said.


World Resources Institute: World’s 18 Most Water-Stressed Rivers #ColoradoRiver

March 20, 2014

watertressbymostpopulousriverbasinsviaworldresourceinstitute

From the World Resources Institute (Andrew Maddocks/Paul Reig):

The world’s 100 most-populated river basins are indispensable resources for billions of people, companies, farms, and ecosystems. But many of these river basins are also increasingly at risk. As water demand from irrigated agriculture, industrialization, and domestic users explodes, major rivers on several continents are becoming so depleted that they sometimes fail to reach their ocean destinations. Add climate change, nutrient and chemical pollution, and physical alterations like dams and other infrastructure development to the mix and it’s clear that many communities rely on water resources that face an increasingly risky future.

WRI’s Aqueduct project recently evaluated, mapped, and scored stresses on water supplies in the 100 river basins with the highest populations, 100 largest river basins, and 180 nations. We found that 18 river basins— flowing through countries with a collective $US 27 trillion in GDP —face “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress. This means that more than 80 percent of the water naturally available to agricultural, domestic, and industrial users is withdrawn annually—leaving businesses, farms, and communities vulnerable to scarcity…

Decision-makers in many of world’s water-stressed basins have attempted to put management plans in place—with mixed results. The United States’ Colorado River is a prime example of a plan that, while well-intentioned, may ultimately be unsustainable. Starting in Colorado and running 1,400 miles to the Gulf of California, the Colorado River is the 14th most stressed among the world’s most populated river basins, and the sixth most stressed if ranked by size. More than 30 million people depend on it for water. The seven states receiving its water comprised 19 percent of the United States’ total GDP in 2010.

Because of its naturally arid setting—and due to its large and growing number of users and resulting high level of baseline water stress—the Colorado has become one of the most physically and legally managed rivers in the world. It is also under serious duress, exacerbated by a decades-long drought. This imbalance between supply and demand means that the river often runs dry before it reaches the Pacific Ocean—posing significant problems for wildlife, ecosystems, and communities that depend on it.

The Colorado River is an example of a basin where natural water stress is already severe. The complex web of infrastructure and governance structures around the river was, in a sense, created to ensure predictable, steady water supplies in a stressed region. On the other hand, that same development has driven increasing demands for limited supplies. Aqueduct’s country and river basin rankings deliberately do not include the effects of such extensive management, instead focusing on objective measures of underlying hydrological conditions. But the overall picture is clear: Even the most-established, iron-clad management systems start to crumble under increasing scarcity and stress…

What Is Water Stress?

Water stress is the ratio of total water withdrawals to available renewable supply in an area. In high-stress areas, 40 percent or more of the available supply is withdrawn every year. In extremely high-stress areas, that number goes up to 80 percent or higher. A higher percentage means more water users are competing for limited supplies. See the high and extremely high-stress areas highlighted in red and dark red on the maps.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Announcement: State and Division One Engineers forum, April 15

March 19, 2014
South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

The State and Division One Engineers will be hosting a forum on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at the Southwest Weld County Services Building (4209 Weld County Rd 24 ½, Longmont, CO 80504) from 8:30 am to 11:30 am. Water professionals, attorneys, engineers and the general public are invited to attend.

This forum will provide an opportunity to hear personnel from the State and Division offices talk about current issues regarding engineering practices for establishing historical consumptive use in change of water right cases, summary of consultation changes and participation with the Water Court, and new policy. The goal of this forum is to generate awareness among the water community and provide a discussion on issues, including a question and answer session with personnel from the State and Division offices.

Please plan to attend! Space is limited. Please RSVP by Wednesday, April 9th, via email to Linda.Korf@state.co.us or by calling Linda at (970) 352-8712 if you plan to attend.

More Colorado Division of Water coverage here.


South Platte River: CH2M HILL Spring RiverSweep, April 26th

March 19, 2014

southplattecanoe

Click here to register. Click here for the pitch from The Greenway Foundation. Here’s an excerpt:

We will host the Spring RiverSweep and Ceremonial Groundbreaking on Saturday, April 26th 2014. This exciting day will bring volunteers of all ages from across the city to help improve our urban greenways and celebrate the $22 million in improvement projects to be completed along the South Platte River over the next two years. Learn more about the South Platte River Master Plan HERE.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


COGCC issues ‘Lessons Learned’ report for operations affected by September #COflood

March 18, 2014
Production fluids leak into surface water September 2013 -- Photo/The Denver Post

Production fluids leak into surface water September 2013 — Photo/The Denver Post

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

…while images of tipped storage tanks and flooded well sites were part of the national media coverage of the storm and the aftermath, the amount of petroleum products spilled into the rushing waters was small compared to the raw sewage and chemicals from flooded wastewater treatment plants, homes, stores and other facilities, state officials said in the weeks following the flood.

Now, the COGCC, which oversees the state’s multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry, issued its staff report to focus on “Lessons Learned” from the flood. The report doesn’t suggest putting new laws in place, but does propose the COGCC consider adopting “best management” practices for oil and gas equipment located near Colorado’s streams and rivers.
Along with encouraging remote wells, the COGCC recommends boosting the construction requirements for wells located near streams and rivers and developing an emergency manual to help the the COGCC staff better respond in the early days of a future emergency.

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Jerd Smith):

In the wake of last September’s floods, a new report from state oil and gas regulators recommends that oil companies maintain precise locations and inventories of wells and production equipment near waterways, that all new wells near waterways contain remote shut-in equipment, and that no open pits be allowed within a designated distance from the high-water mark of any given streams.

In the report, released Monday, staff of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said they would not recommend any new state laws to address flood damage in oil and gas fields, but that they would suggest changes to regulations governing how production and gathering facilities are sited and constructed.

The commission noted that more than 5,900 oil and gas wells are within 500 feet of a Colorado stream.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, however, said that the industry responded well to the emergency and that no further regulatory action was needed.

“The floods were a difficult and trying event for everyone, and we are proud at our ability to engage meaningfully in the response and recovery of our Colorado communities,” Tisha Schuller, president and chief executive of the association, said in a statement Monday afternoon. “The flood report reiterated facts supporting that Colorado’s oil and gas industry was extraordinarily well prepared, responded in real time, and is committed to Colorado’s recovery.

From the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

The suggestions from the commission’s staff include requiring that storage tanks be anchored with cables so they’re less likely to tip and spill and requiring all wells within a certain distance of waterways to be equipped with devices that allow operators to shut them down remotely.

The staff recommendations didn’t say what that distance should be.

The commission is expected to discuss the proposed rules at a meeting this spring.

The report described the flood damage to storage tanks and production equipment as “substantial and expensive” but gave no dollar amount. It also said oil and gas production has still not returned to pre-flood levels but again gave no figures.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


COGCC: A Staff Report to the Commissioners “Lessons Learned” in the Front Range #COFlood of September 2013

March 17, 2014
Flooded well site September 2013 -- Denver Post

Flooded well site September 2013 — Denver Post

Here’s the release from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (Todd Hartman):

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission today released a comprehensive public report describing the lessons learned from the September 2013 flood. This 44-page report will support a Commission discussion in coming months as it decides whether to modify its regulations and policies that apply to Colorado’s oil and gas industry.

The flood along the Front Range and eastern plains of Colorado in September 2013 inundated many oil and gas facilities. Production equipment and oil and gas locations were damaged by rushing flood waters and debris. Colorado experienced spills of oil, condensate and produced water.

The report, Lessons Learned in the Front Range Flood of September 2013, describes the Commission’s investigation and conclusions following its flood response so far. The Commission has completed more than 3,400 individual inspections of oil and gas facilities affected by flood waters. It has discussed flood observations and lessons learned with the oil and gas industry, first responders, federal, state and local government agencies, conservation groups, and many other interested parties. On February 6, 2014, the Commission held a workshop in Denver to support a wide-ranging public discussion of these matters.

The report describes recommendations for changes to Colorado’s oil and gas program, and it also collects the flood response information gathered by the Commission. Recommendations include improved construction and protection of oil and gas facilities sited near Colorado’s streams. The report also includes recommendations for how the Commission can work better in a future emergency, emphasizing the importance of the Commission’s collection and dissemination of reliable oil and gas information in the very early days of an emergency.

The COGCC will schedule a hearing in the near future to discuss the report and take additional public comment.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission oversees the responsible development of oil and gas in Colorado and regulates the industry to protect public health, safety, welfare and the environment. The Commission oversees wells, tank batteries, and other oil and gas equipment located, in some cases, near streams throughout the state.

Click here to read the report. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (“COGCC” or the “Commission”) estimates that more than 5,900 oil and gas wells lie within 500 feet of a Colorado waterway that is substantial enough to be named. When these streams flood, nearby oil and gas facilities are at risk of damage, spills, environmental injury and lost production.

COGCC continues its work in the state’s recovery from the September 2013 flood along the Front Range of Colorado. COGCC has completed more than 3400 firsthand inspections of the oil and gas facilities affected by the flood. It has discussed flood observations and recommendations in detail with industry, other federal and state agencies, first responders and local governments, conservation groups and many others. The agency participates fully in Governor Hickenlooper’s broad flood response efforts started when the extraordinary rains began to fall.

COGCC has learned from these experiences, and this report is built upon that information. Section III collects and describes flood observations by COGCC staff and others. These observations range from highlighting significantly varying levels of protection offered by different anchoring systems to the importance of releasing to the public accurate and comprehensive COGCC information in the early days of the flood. Section IV assembles suggestions to improve Colorado’s oil and gas program – suggestions gathered from many sources by COGCC since the flood. These suggestions also vary widely, from those who believe COGCC regulations worked well to protect against the flood and should be left as they are today to those who believe that additional construction and other regulations are called for statewide as a result of the flood experience.

From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

The the state and the oil and gas industry need to do a better job of managing the 20,850 Colorado wells within 500 feet of rivers and streams, according to a report released Monday.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission report on lessons learned from the 2013 floods sought to identify the potential risks and suggest steps to be taken.

“The flood that struck the Front Range of Colorado in September 2013 was a major disaster and emergency,” the report said. “Damage to the oil and gas industry was significant.”

The oil and gas commission conducted more than 3,400 flood-related inspections and evaluations, and evaluated each of the 1,614 wells in the flood zone.

The inspections determined that wellheads generally fared well, but that tank batteries and other production equipment were toppled or dislodged by flood waters.

Flowing water, for example, eroded earthen foundations below tanks and equipment.

“Many oil and gas facilities located near flooded streams were damaged in the September 2013 flood,” the report said. “Oil, condensate and produced water spilled into the environment.”

About 48,250 gallons of oil and condensate spilled and more than 43,478 gallons of produced water also spilled, the report said.

Among the recommendations are that tanks and equipment be located as far from waterways as possible.

Secondary containment should be constructed with steel berms, which held up better in the flood, and lined with synthetic liner material bolted to the top of the steel berm.

Tanks should be constructed on compacted fill to reduce sub-grade failure and they should be should be ground-anchored, with engineered anchors and cabling.

The report also suggests regulatory changes including requiring each driller to have an inventory of all wells and production equipment in waterway areas.

Wells within the high-water mark of a waterway should be equipped with remote shut-in devices. These were very effective in closing wells during the flood, the report said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


Cache la Poudre River: Time-lapse footage of the removal of the Josh Ames Diversion Dam

March 17, 2014


‘Our water right requires us to replace the water in the Box Elder. That’s what they (Select Energy) should do’ — Mark Harding

March 16, 2014
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

The meandering Box Elder Creek has become a battlefield as farmers and ranchers are facing off against a plan to drill wells along its banks to provide water for fracking and other oil-field operations. While the creeks wends its way north from Elbert County to the South Platte River in Weld County — Arapahoe County is ground zero for the fight.

Boxelder Properties LLC is proposing sinking four wells to draw 500-acre feet of water annually for the fracking and other oil-drilling operations. That is enough water to supply 200 average Denver homes for a year.

Ranchers and farmers along the Box Elder say the plan will dry out wells and pools used by cattle, as well as kill vegetation along the creek’s banks east of Aurora.

“These boys from Texas think they can just ride in. Well, the people on Box Elder are going to meet ‘em at the hill,” said Jerry Francis, who grazes about 30 head of cattle on the creek.

The dispute underscores the problem of trying to balance oil and gas development in Colorado with other economic activities.

“We want oil and gas development, but we have to do it so we don’t jeopardize our agricultural community,” Arapahoe County Commissioner Rod Bockenfeld said.

The county commissioners have sent a letter opposing the project to the Colorado Division of Water Resources, which must decide on the proposal.

The proposal has become so controversial that Houston-based Conoco-Phillips, the main company drilling in the area, announced that it wouldn’t use water from the wells. Houston-based Select Energy Services, the Conoco contractor that initiated the plan, has also abandoned the idea, according to company spokeswoman Brooke Jones.

Still, the permit application to drill the wells is pending with the water division, also called the Office of the State Engineer.

“The project isn’t dependent on Conoco; there are other oil service companies,” said Walraven Ketellapper, head of Boulder-based Stillwater Resources and Investment.

Stillwater, a water broker and agent, is handling the permit for Boxelder Creek Properties.

The state engineer has received 16 letters — from farmers, public officials, water districts — objecting to the plan and raising concerns about its impact on water supplies.

“We are going to do the engineering analysis, the groundwater modeling to show the wells can withdraw water without adverse impacts,” Ketellapper said. “That is our burden of proof.”

Just 15 miles east of Denver, suburban sprawl gives way to silos, barns and broad fields seemingly running all the way to the snow-capped Rockies. It is through this landscape that Box Elder Creek snakes its way to the South Platte River, 2 feet deep in some places, sometimes as wide as 12 feet, while in other spots it is just a dry, sandy bottom most of the year.

“We are a dry county,” said Bockenfeld, the Arapahoe County commissioner. “Many farms dry farm; there just isn’t a lot of water.”

Only in the early spring with the first snowmelt does the creek run full, but all year long a subterranean stream feeds ponds and pools, residents say.

“This pool is here all summer long,” Francis said as he stood in a field next to the creek. “The water and this buffalo grass gets cattle fat as a fritter.”

A retired John Deere worker who raises cattle to keep busy, the 67-year-old Francis said what he is most concerned about is the future.

“They take away the water, what’s left for my kids and grandkids?” he said.

A neighboring farmer, Bill Coyle, 60, has more immediate concerns. Coyle estimates he spent about $300,000 in an eight-year battle with the state engineer to get a water right for four irrigation wells on his 1,000-acre farm. Standing at one of his center-pivot wells, Coyle can see the spot where one of the proposed wells would be. It is beyond the state-required 600-foot setback — but still within sight.

The application for the four water wells says that they are drawing water from the creek and won’t impact local wells. Coyle doesn’t believe it.

“They are proposing pumping at 1,000 gallons a minute,” Coyle said. “My well is 42 feet deep. It will have an impact on the well, and it will be immediate.”

The decision to issue a temporary permit to drill and pump the four wells to produce 500-acre feet a year or 163 million gallons rests with the state engineer. The award of a long-term water right would be determined in Colorado Water Court — a process that can take as much as five years. The process is governed by Colorado water law — a byzantine set of rules organizing the right to draw water based on a priority system.

The key to being allowed to pump the water is a so-called augmentation plan to replace it so that the older or “senior” water rights are not impaired. This is an expensive process.

Select Energy offered four landowners — none of them local residents — $10,000 to drill a water well on their land and 1 cent for every barrel of water — about 42 gallons — pumped, according to one of the contracts.

They also purchased shares in the Weldon Valley Ditch to replace the pumped water. The application estimates that 10.4 shares — worth about $950,000 — would be needed to replace the 500 acre-feet drawn from the water wells.

Water, however, is vital to the oil and gas industry, with demand growing 35 percent to 18,700 acre-feet from 2010 to 2015, according to state estimates. The water, mixed with sand and chemicals, is pumped into wells under pressure to “hydrofracture” or frack shale rock and release oil and gas. About 4 million gallons is pumped into a single horizontal well.

“Water has always responded to the market in Colorado,” said Ken Carlson, director of the Center for Energy and Water Sustainability at Colorado State University. “First it was urban areas buying the water rights of farms. Now it is oil and gas.”

Select Energy is now getting its water from Denver-based Pure Cycle Corp., which has deep wells on the former Lowry Bombing and Gunnery Range, in Arapahoe County. Pure Cycle is opposing the plan because it also has a water right on the Box Elder that would be hurt, said Mark Harding, Pure Cycle’s president. The problem is that the plan calls for pumping along the Box Elder but returning the water about 50 miles to the north near Wiggins.

“Our water right requires us to replace the water in the Box Elder. That’s what they should do,” Harding said.

The state engineer will rule in the next few months on the temporary permit, which could enable pumping this year and last for as long as five years.

“This application is unusual in that the Box Elder isn’t a continuously flowing stream where the groundwater is continuously replenished,” Deputy State Engineer Kevin Rein said.

“We take the concerns seriously, and we’ve asked the applicant to respond to them,” Rein said. “We’ll have to see what they say.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


South Platte River Basin: ‘…no simple answers’ to the issue of groundwater management in the area — Bill Jerke

March 13, 2014
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

The question was asked: Is the conversation about agriculture issues more emotional today than ever before?

Responding before the crowd at the University of Northern Colorado for the day’s panel on Colorado agriculture, Paul Sater, a Kersey-area farmer, threw in his two cents.

His answer was “yes.”

Sater said only a generation or two ago, everyone was just a grandfather or other relative away from the farm or ranch, and now, with only about 1 percent of the population involved in ag, an unknowing public has questions — leading some to even have suspicions.

“In absence of reason, you have emotion,” he said. “That’s where we are today.”

Taking the emotion out of the ag-conversation equation and providing information for voters on Colorado agriculture was the goal of the League of Women Voters of Greeley-Weld County, who hosted the event.

On the panel was Bill Jerke, a LaSalle-area farmer and former Weld County commissioner and state legislator; Brent Lahman, relationship manager at Rabo AgriFinance in Loveland; Ray Peterson, a Nunn-area rancher who serves as president of the Weld County Farmers Union and as a board member of the Weld County Livestock Association; Luke Runyon, agribusiness reporter for KUNC and Harvest Public Media, the latter of which is a reporting collaboration of several public media stations across the country that covers issues related to food and food production; and Sater, a rancher and farmer with experience in the dairy industry.

One of the topics brought up most was that of the use of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in food production.

The farmers and ranchers on the panel explained to the crowd that humans have been genetically modifying crops and livestock for thousands of years, through cross-breeding.

“Now, it’s just being done in a lab,” Jerke said. “That’s the only difference.”

Jerke also stressed that he has no issue with labeling food that contains GMOs on a voluntary basis, but not making it mandatory, which has been a ballot measure in some states recently.

Jerke said he was fine letting the producer or processor use the “GMO-free” label simply as a marketing tool, like the “organic” label is used.

He and others on the panel further noted, though, that true GMO-free food might be tough to come by, because of genetic engineering’s deep roots historically in human food production.

Peterson stressed the need for genetic modifying, explaining that his wheat crop one year was wiped out by pests before he began using a wheat variety that was resistant to it.

On the issue of water, Jerke stressed that there’s “no simple answers” to the issue of groundwater management in the area, and noted the ongoing depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer. One of the world’s largest aquifers, underlying portions of eight states, including far east Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas, is being mined and not replenished at an alarming rate, he said, and could become a major issue for the U.S.

He further stressed agriculture’s needs for completion of two area water-storage projects still in the works — the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which if approved would include two new reservoirs and provide 40,000 acre feet of water to northern Colorado, and prevent the drying up of about 60,000 acres of farmground, according to supporters’ studies; and the Chatfield Reallocation, an endeavor that would raise the Denver-area lake by as much as 12 feet, and, in doing so, provide additional water for area farmers and others.

In reference to the Chatfield project, Jerke said he didn’t understand why the studies and mitigation efforts to raise an existing reservoir just by 12 feet would cost the estimated $183 million.

Sater stressed that one of his biggest needs in agriculture is labor, but there’s no affordable way to bring to the U.S. the migrant workers who are willing to do the work.

“I do need labor, but don’t know what to do about it,” Sater said.

Lahman said some of his customers tell him that labor shortage is the No. 1 issue they have.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


Estmates of unmet needs for Boulder County flood damage = tens of $ millions #COflood

March 12, 2014
Surfing Boulder Creek September 2013 via @lauras

Surfing Boulder Creek September 2013 via @lauras

From the Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar):

World Renew has reported that its interviews indicated that the “recovery costs” of those Boulder County households — the expenses, often uninsured, of rebuilding or repairing homes and other structures were destroyed or seriously damaged in the floods — could total nearly $31.3 million.

The costs of replacing the furniture, appliances and other contents of those flood-ravaged homes and structures could total another $1.3 million, World Renew’s interviewers reported.

Those estimates will change, as other flood-impacted victims discover and report what it would cost or is costing them to rebuild, make repairs and replace the contents of the homes they own or the units they were renting, Anderson said.

But she predicted that total estimated costs for housing construction and repair expenses and for replacing the contents of that housing — an estimate Anderson said was based largely on a set of hour-long interviews — is a number that’s “going to grow.”


Weld County irrigation dealers busy due to conversion from flood irrigation to sprinklers on many area farms

March 12, 2014
Crop circles -- irrigated agriculture

Crop circles — irrigated agriculture

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

A year ago, a historic drought spurred farmers to whip out the checkbooks more than ever and invest in new irrigation equipment to stretch their limited water farther. Today, the water outlook is exponentially better, but business between area crop growers and irrigation-supply companies hasn’t slowed at all, locals say. This year might even set the new standard in spending for farmers who are looking to be more water-efficient, some stressed.

Matt Pletcher, sales manager at Quality Well and Pump in LaSalle, said that from late fall to early spring — the time between growing seasons — his company in recent years was converting about 30-40 fields from flood irrigation to center-pivot sprinkler irrigation, the latter of which uses water much more efficiently. That workload doubled to about 80 fields last year, and Pletcher said Quality Well and Pump is on pace this year to reach those numbers again, maybe even surpass them.

Vic Fiscus, general manager at Valley Irrigation Supply near Greeley, agreed in that last year was his business’s best on the books, but this year could match it — maybe even top it.

“We certainly aren’t having any trouble staying busy right now,” Viscus said. “Need things to dry out, so we can get back in the fields and get caught up before planting time. A lot left to do.”

The giant spike in business a year ago came at time when the Greeley area had just endured 2012 — its driest year in decades — and snowpack at the start of 2013 in the South Platte Basin was only about 70 percent of historic average, while reservoirs were only filled to 77 percent of normal levels. The water outlook was bleak.

But that’s not the case this year. The Greeley area is coming off what was its fifth-wettest year on record in 2013, South Platte Basin snowpack at the start of 2014 was back up to average and has climbed to about 150 percent of average since then, and reservoirs are filled to above-average levels.

However, while this year is looking good, there’s still no telling what the future holds, local farmers say. And, in addition to anticipated roller-coaster weather down the road, farmers are still spending big on irrigation upgrades because of tightened supplies of water in the region and the increasing price of the resource

Agriculture, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources, uses about 85 percent of the state’s water, with the heaviest ag use coming here in Weld County — the 8th-most ag-productive county in the entire U.S.

While ag is the biggest user in Weld, it’s certainly not the only one. The population of Weld County has doubled in less than 25 years and is expected to continue growing sharply, like the entire Front Range, meaning surrounding cities will need more water in the future, and also might have less excess water to rent out to farmers. And, while oil and gas development uses less than 1 percent of the state’s water, about 80 percent of the drilling in Colorado is taking place in Weld County, increasing local water demands.

The demand for water has pushed the price of the resource out of reach for farmers, local water experts say.

While the water-efficiency rate of center-pivot irrigation exceeds that of flood irrigating, making the change isn’t cheap. Pletcher estimates that overhauling a field to center-pivot irrigation ranges from $500-$1,300 per acre — so, on the typical 160-acre plot, that can add up to over $100,000.

Pletcher said he’s seeing a lot of used center-pivots selling, helping lower the cost of the transition. Pletcher also noted that activity with drip irrigation — even more expensive, ranging from about $1,500 to $2,500 per acre, but even more efficient — has increased. After doing only a couple drip-irrigation projects each year, Quality Well and Pump is doing seven this year.

Along with saving water, farmers say center-pivot irrigation and drip systems require less manual labor than flood irrigating, which, over time, are savings that can help cover the costs for irrigation upgrades. Plus, many in the ag industry have reported difficulty in finding labor.

“It’s for a number of reasons, but regardless, we’ve had a lot of farmers coming to us,” Pletcher said.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Breakthrough water agreement benefits cities and rivers

March 11, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Water management is never easy. And in Colorado, where the resource is scarce, everyone’s interest is valuable, and needs are often widely divergent.

Last year, Denver Water and Trout Unlimited came together to pen a guest editorial for The Denver Post, Together, we can meet Colorado River challenges, acknowledging the fact that there are differences over how to best use water to meet our diverse needs. But, more important, the editorial highlighted the fact that smart water planning and cooperation are the only way to meet the future water needs of all interests along the Colorado River.

Less than a year later, Denver Water and Trout Unlimited have come together again, this time with Grand County, to reveal an agreement that balances municipal needs and environmental health. And, just like the recently finalized Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this partnership demonstrates the benefits of working together to protect our…

View original 790 more words


Six months later a lot of irrigation infrastructure is still not in place after the September #COflood

March 11, 2014
New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods -- photo via the Longmont Times-Call

New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods — photo via the Longmont Times-Call

From CBS4Denver.com:

Much of the infrastructure that irrigates Colorado farmlands was destroyed last September, and people are racing against the clock before the spring runoff. This year, those who rely on snowpack will get their share but the problem is getting that water where it needs to be…

Sean Cronin of the Saint Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District says, “irrigating crops in Colorado is absolutely critical.”

He feels getting the irrigation infrastructure intact and running is a number one priority. The floods wiped out dozens of floodgates and diversions. This included the main highland ditch system in Lyons. That system provided water to about 40, 000 acres of farmland and rural communities.

Most areas have been quick to repair damages and are expecting many of the water ditches to be ready by April 1st.

Other areas, like near the Big Thompson and Saint Vrain water districts, may not be ready until October.
“That’s an example of the magnitude that we were looking at,” said Cronin.


Colorado continues long-term recovery efforts, marks six months since September floods #COflood

March 10, 2014
Colorado Boulevard crossing at Big Dry Creek below the Union Pacific Railroad during the September 2013 flood

Colorado Boulevard crossing at Big Dry Creek below the Union Pacific Railroad during the September 2013 flood

Here’s a release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office (Val Beck):

Gov. John Hickenlooper today recognized the continued flood recovery and progress to rebuild from the September floods. The flooding started on Sept. 11, 2013, and impacted more than 24 counties and more than 2,000 square miles in Colorado. This Tuesday, March 11, marks six months since the flooding started.

“From the moment the devastating floods hit Colorado, we have been fortunate to receive assistance from first responders, and from State and Federal agencies, who all have worked with remarkable dedication and efficiency,” Hickenlooper said. “Because of that kind of collaboration and commitment, we opened roads before our deadline and winter’s worst, and we began getting people back to their communities. We now face the spring runoff. There’s still much to be done. This recovery will be a long-term effort. But now six months in we have been reminded like never before that Coloradans are resilient. Coloradans don’t break. We remain united in rebuilding stronger and better than before. We remain focused and will continue to collaborate and listen to the impacted communities. We will help and continue to do all we can to secure funding for their recovery.”

Since the flooding, the Governor has visited all 24 impacted counties. The Governor, his staff and Chief Recovery Officer Molly Urbina have worked with impacted communities to assess their greatest needs and have joined with the Congressional delegation to secure funding to help rebuild.

“Since the flooding in September we have been working with our partners in Federal Agencies like HUD and FEMA, the state legislature, private resources and the Congressional Delegation to secure funding for long-term recovery,” said Molly Urbina, the state’s Chief Recovery Officer. “Coloradans have accomplished a great deal in this short term recovery, but now is when we rebuild for the future. The commitment to Colorado’s recovery is needed more than ever as we hit the 6 month anniversary of the flooding.”

Here is an update of completed and ongoing long-term recovery efforts six months since the flooding began:

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) opened all 27 flood-impacted state roadways before the Dec. 1 deadline. All highways are in temporary condition and require permanent repairs. CDOT has begun the first long-term repairs on the US 36 emergency reconstruction project between Estes Park and Lyons, and also continues stabilization efforts on US 34 and SH 7. The stabilization efforts have resulted in some closures on the highways this Spring, but will help in an overall effort to maintain the temporary repairs through the Spring thaw until permanent repairs can be made. CDOT also made flood debris removal pick up available on the flooded state highways from November through March 7, which has resulted in the removal of over 115,000 pounds of flood debris. CDOT has $450 million allocated toward flood recovery funding with $55 million used to date.

The Federal government continues to be a critical partner in on-going flood-recovery efforts. In preparation for Spring runoff, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced they will reimburse the state and local governments for eligible costs to reduce hazards in streams caused by the September floods that pose an immediate threat to lives and property. For impacted mountain communities, FEMA determined last week that some publicly owned roads that are not routinely maintained by the county are eligible for reimbursement. Working with the State, FEMA announced on Monday that Colorado will receive a Disaster Case Management Program (DCMP) in the amount of $2,667,963. DCMP is a time-limited process that involves a partnership between a disaster case manager and a survivor to develop and carry out a personal Disaster Recovery Plan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has obligated $62 million in Public Assistance funding to 538 projects in from 18 flood impacted counties. The agency funds 75 percent of eligible state and local projects for emergency measures, debris cleanup and repair of roads, bridges and other infrastructure. FEMA has approved $60.4 million in funding for Individual Assistance for rental assistance, basic home repairs and other critical needs of emergency assistance and has approved 16,542 individuals and families in 11 flood impacted counties, 28,368 have applied for Individual Assistance. The US Small Business Administration has loaned $98.8 million to date to 2,089 homeowners and 357 businesses. National Flood Insurance has made payments of $ $63.6M to more than 2,000 claims. The US Department of Labor awarded the State a National Emergency Grant (NEG) that provides $5.7 million to perform debris removal and clean up. The funds may also be used to provide humanitarian assistance for flood victims and subsidized jobs aimed at supporting the restoration of public infrastructure in FEMA-designated areas. The US Department of Agriculture’s, Farm Service Agency (FSA) provided $2.3 million through the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to cover rehabilitation to farm and ranch land, debris removal, and restoring permanent fencing and water-related structures to Colorado farms and ranches. The Town of Jamestown opened their Post Office in February and Drake will re-open their Post Office on Monday, March 10th.

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced $62.8 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to assist in long-term recovery efforts. In December 2013, a statewide damage assessment was completed to determine those in most need specifically in housing, infrastructure and economic development. HUD requires that 50% of the eligible applicants for these funds be low to moderate income Coloradans and 80% of the funds must go to the three most impacted counties, Boulder, Larimer, and Weld Counties. In January a CDBG-DR Draft Action Plan was written based on the damage assessment and public input. The Draft Action Plan was made available at the end of January and early February for public comment and the public comment was incorporated into the final CDBG-DR Action Plan. Public comment was gathered through stakeholder meetings, public meetings and a public comment period on the website. The CDBG-DR Action Plan was submitted on February 21, 2014 to HUD which has 45 days to review and approve the Action Plan. Once approved the application process for the funds can begin. David Bowman, CDBG-DR Project Manager, will officially take on the role of CDBG-DR Project Manager on March 31st and manage the application and distribution process. An overview of proposed process to distribute the funds is available on the CDBG-DR Department of Local Affairs website: http://dola.colorado.gov/cdbg-dr.

Molly Urbina became Chief Recovery Office in February 2014, she leads the Recovery Office in collaboration and comprehensive long-term planning with Federal, State and local partners to build back a more resilient Colorado after the floods. Since the legislative session has started the Recovery office has worked with the bi-partisan Legislative Flood Committee to introduce bills that focus on Cost Share Allocation, Disaster Assistance, Tax Credits for property destroyed in natural disasters, and streamlining emergency response in future disasters. There are 621 employees from CDOT, OEM and FEMA currently working closely to address the ongoing needs of all Coloradans impacted by the disaster. A total of $1.42 billion has been allocated to date and $822 million is currently being used today to recover from our September flood. The Recovery Office is coordinating a long-term stream recovery group to focus on stream recovery, resilency planning and implementation strategies across State and Federal experts for Colorado Streams impacted by the flooding.


Sides agree to innovative Fraser River deal to help slake Denver Water thirst — Colorado Independent #ColoradoRiver

March 6, 2014

eisenhowerfishing

From the Colorado Independent (Bob Berwyn):

Ranchers, anglers and big-city water bosses raised a white flag in Colorado’s long-running water wars this week by setting aside bullying and threats of lawsuits and permit appeals. Instead, Grand County and Trout Unlimited have agreed to let Denver Water siphon another 18,000 acre feet from the headwaters of the Colorado River — but only under a strict checklist of requirements designed to ensure the Fraser River recovers from decades of depletion.

The deal announced Tuesday could make the Fraser the most-watched river in Colorado – and maybe in the West. It sets out an innovative, science-based plan that seeks to balance increasing urban needs for water with an imperative to restore crucial habitat for river trout…

Denver Water – Colorado’s biggest and thirstiest water provider — currently diverts more than half the Fraser River’s flow to keep toilets flushing, dishwashers running and sprinklers spouting along the Front Range. The dispute started in 2003 when the utility applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the permit it needs to divert more water from the river — as much as three-quarters of its average annual flow — to keep up with growth in the Denver metro area…

This week’s pact seeks to honor Denver Water’s longstanding river rights while ensuring the Fraser will be protected no matter how much more water is diverted for urban use. The restoration plan will use real-time data to track critical temperature increases in key streams caused either by Denver Water’s seasonal diversions or the long-term effects of climate change. When temperatures spike, additional flows will be released to cool the water when needed. In good water years, the deal will give Denver up to 18,000 acre feet of additional water, which will mostly be tapped during the peak spring runoff season. The timing of the diversions is a key part of the utility’s promise to improve the Fraser.

“We’re not going to be diverting water all the time. We won’t divert water in critically dry years, and we’ll only divert water during spring runoff. At other times of year, we’ll put water back into the river and improve conditions,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water’s CEO and manager.

The agreement also will require shifts in the timing of the water harvest. High flows are needed in the spring to help flush sediments that gunk up habitat for trout and aquatic bugs…

The Army Corps of Engineers’ final environmental study is due in late April, with a formal decision on the proposed diversion project expected in early 2015.

This week’s pact minimizes the likelihood of a permit appeal or a time-consuming lawsuit by conservationists. That’s important for Denver Water, which is eager to dig its shovels into the ground as soon as possible. Some of the extremely dry years in the early 2000s — especially 2002 — already have put the water giant’s delivery system to the test.

The deal also gives Grand County some assurances that the Fraser will remain a vibrant part of its outdoor recreation economy. Anglers from throughout the state and country visit Grand County to wet their lines in a river that was favored by President Dwight Eisenhower.

The additional water will help Denver Water balance its supplies. Currently, the utility gets about 80 percent of its water through the southern portion of its collection system, from the Blue River in Summit County via the Roberts Tunnel and a chain of reservoirs along the South Platte River. Lochhead says increased diversions from the Fraser River will make urban water supplies less vulnerable to extreme events such as forest fires, which are expected more frequently because of drought and climate change. The ability to pump more water out of the Fraser when needed would give Denver a much-needed back-up plan in case of another massive blaze like the 2002 Hayman Fire in a key watershed…

West Slope water managers acknowledge Denver Water’s legal rights. But they question whether any new trans-divide diversions are needed, claiming that Front Range communities could easily meet existing and future needs with more efficient use of the water the utility already is diverting over the Continental Divide. Under any plan, they say, drawing more water from any Colorado River tributary will have ripple effects felt far downstream, from endangered Colorado River fish near Grand Junction to lettuce growers in the salty deserts near the Mexican border.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Trout Unlimited, Denver Water, Grand County reach agreement on river protections for Moffat Project #ColoradoRiver

March 5, 2014
Gross Dam

Gross Dam

From email from EarthJustice (McCrystie Adams):

As Denver Water’s proposed Moffat Collection System Project has undergone initial federal permitting review, numerous stakeholders on both sides of the Continental Divide have raised serious concerns about the scheme to bring more water from the Fraser River to the Front Range. Today, two entities announced an agreement with Denver Water that will lead to what is being termed a Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan.

McCrystie Adams, attorney in the Rocky Mountain Office of Earthjustice issued the following statement today:

“We look forward to thoroughly reviewing this private agreement to determine whether it fully addresses the impacts of the potentially river-killing Moffat expansion proposal. Any plan to mitigate additional diversions from this already heavily-stressed river system—or repair past damage—must be independently enforceable and fully funded before a decision to approve the project is made.

“The Fraser and the other streams targeted by this project are the headwaters of one of America’s great river systems, the Colorado, and are of importance far beyond Grand County. We and our conservation partners are committed to keeping these waters flowing. The Moffat permitting process is not complete, and we will continue to evaluate all alternatives to protect the long-term health and preservation of these streams.”

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Three major stakeholders involved in a project to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County, as part of Denver Water’s proposed $250 million Moffat Collection System Project, have reached an agreement to protect the Fraser River and its trout population if the project is ultimately approved. Denver Water, Trout Unlimited and Grand County were party to the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, which was struck on Tuesday. The three parties have submitted it to state and federal agencies reviewing the project…

The Moffat project is designed to shore up Denver Water’s supply system on the north side of metro Denver, an area that came dangerously close to running out of water during the drought of 2002-2003. Denver Water first proposed enlarging Gross Reservoir, so it can hold more water from the Western Slope including the Fraser River, in 2003.

At the center of the agreement is a program to monitor the health of the stream — including water temperature, aquatic life and plant health, according to the announcement. If problems emerge, Denver Water would provide water, money and other resources to improve the condition of the river, according to the agreement.

“This plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO and manager of Denver Water…

The management team will include representatives from the three parties to the agreement as well as from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency, the Colorado River District and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District.

“This package of protections and enhancements, if adopted in the final permit, gives us the best opportunity to keep the Fraser River and its outstanding trout fishery healthy far into the future,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited…

Lurline Curran, Grand County’s manager, said the county reached out to Denver Water and Trout Unlimited to try to get past previous disagreements about the impact of the Moffat Project.

“To all parties’ credit, this effort has succeeded,” Curran said.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project is expected by the end of April, and a final permitting decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in early 2015.

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

As long as I’ve been old enough to hold a fishing rod, maybe longer, I’ve heard there’s no substitute for experience. I suppose that’s why the new Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan announced Tuesday for the Fraser River’s Moffat Collection System Project seems to make so much sense at first glance.

The centerpiece of the package of river protections designed to keep the fragile Fraser River and its fish and wildlife populations healthy in the face of Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project is a concept stakeholders refer to as “learning by doing.” In the working world, it might be considered on-the-job training, only with the enterprising twist of entering into uncharted waters, so to speak.

The notion behind learning by doing is managing the ecological impacts of diverting a significant slice of the Fraser to Front Range water users on a cooperative basis as problems arise. Should the project permit be issued, a management team that includes Denver Water, Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado River District and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District will enact a monitoring program to assess stream health based on specific parameters such as stream temperature, aquatic life and riparian vegetation health.

Rather than focusing efforts on finger pointing when the Fraser’s health suffers from water depletion, the plan is to focus available resources on addressing the actual issue at hand. That means water, money and other resources committed by Denver Water through project mitigation, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and other agreements will be deployed to prevent declines and improve conditions as they are identified. Ideally, what’s learned from the experience will help keep the same problems from recurring again and again.

“Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said in a statement released Tuesday. “Since the beginning of our planning for the Moffat Project, we set out to do the right thing for the environment, and we believe coming together with Trout Unlimited and Grand County on the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan demonstrates a monumental step in making the river better. It’s satisfying that after more than 10 years of study and discussion, Trout Unlimited and Grand County have stayed at the table with us in good faith.”

Calling the agreement “a victory for the river,” Trout Unlimited said the plan closes discussions over the proposed Moffat project designed to improve the reliability of Denver Water’s system by capturing remaining water rights in the upper Colorado basin. Denver Water, Grand County and TU have submitted the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan to federal and state agencies charged with permitting the Moffat Project and have requested that it be made part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit.

“This package of protections and enhancements, if adopted in the final permit, gives us the best opportunity to keep the Fraser River and its outstanding trout fishery healthy far into the future,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project is expected by the end of April, and a final permitting decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in early 2015.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


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