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.


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.


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

March 4, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Here’s the release via Denver Water, Grand County, and Colorado Trout Unlimited (Stacy Chesney/Lurline Curran/Mely Whiting):

Denver Water, Trout Unlimited and Grand County today announced agreement on a package of river protections designed to keep the Fraser River and its trout populations healthy.

The Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan brings to a close several years of discussions over the proposed Moffat Collection System Project and its potential impacts on the Fraser River. All sides hailed the stakeholder agreement as a breakthrough that balances municipal needs and environmental health.

Trout Unlimited called the agreement “a victory for the river.”

“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. “This pragmatic agreement underscores the value of a collaborative approach to water planning — one that recognizes the value of healthy rivers. It shows that, working together, we can meet our water needs while protecting our fisheries and outdoor quality of life.”

“In an effort to move past a disagreement on impacts from the Moffat Project, Grand County reached out to Denver Water and Trout Unlimited to propose additional environmental mitigations,” said Lurline Curran, Grand County manager. “To all parties’ credit, this effort has succeeded.”

“The Fraser is a river beloved by generations of anglers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts — it’s the lifeblood of our community,” said Kirk Klancke, president of TU’s Colorado River Headwaters chapter in Fraser and a longtime advocate for the river. “As an angler and Fraser Valley resident, I’m gratified that this agreement keeps our home waters healthy and flowing.”

The package includes environmental enhancements and protections to ensure the Fraser River will be better off with the Moffat Project than without it, said Denver Water. The Moffat Project will improve the reliability of Denver Water’s system, which serves 1.3 million people in the Denver-metro area.

The centerpiece of the agreement is Learning by Doing, a monitoring and adaptive management program overseen by 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. Upon the project permit being issued, the management team will implement an extensive monitoring program to assess stream health based on specific parameters including stream temperature, aquatic life and riparian vegetation health. Water, financial 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 where needed.

Learning by Doing is a unique and groundbreaking effort to manage an aquatic environment on a permanent, cooperative basis. Notably, the program will not seek a culprit for changes in the condition of the stream, but will provide a mechanism to identify issues of concern and focus available resources to address those issues. Mitigation measures to prevent impacts of the Moffat Project on stream temperature and aquatic habitat will also be implemented through Learning by Doing.

“Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “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.”

Denver Water, Grand County and Trout Unlimited 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.

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.

For more information about the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, see the full agreement here.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


USACE: Moffat Collection System final EIS to be released on April 25 #ColoradoRiver

February 11, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Here’s the release from the US Army Corps of Engineers:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, has announced April 25, 2014 for the release of its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project. At this time the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the Final EIS, which will in turn be considered prior to final decision-making by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Final EIS and public comments, will serve as a basis for the Corps’ decision on whether to issue or deny a Section 404 Permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County, Colo. The Corps is charged with the responsibility of impartially reviewing Denver Water’s proposal in light of environmental and other Federal laws.

A year ago, the Corps had tentatively predicted that the Final EIS would be released in February 2014, however, due to further agency coordination, and a request from Denver Water to work with stakeholders to further refine a mitigation plan to present in the EIS, the schedule was extended.

Background:

Through the Moffat Collection System Project, Denver Water proposes to meet its water supply obligations and provide a more reliable supply infrastructure, while advancing its environmental stewardship. The project intends to enlarge the existing 41,811-acre foot Gross Reservoir to 113,811 AF, which equates to an expanded water surface area from 418 acres to 842 acres. Using existing collection infrastructure, water from the Fraser River, Williams Fork River, Blue River and South Platte River would be diverted and delivered to Denver’s existing water treatment system during average and wet years.

In June 2012, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the president use his authority to coordinate federal agencies to work together more effectively and expeditiously to release a Final EIS. Cooperating agencies involved in the EIS include the Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Division, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Grand County.

To remain up-to-date on the progress of the final report, please visit our Web site at: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/RegulatoryProgram/Colorado/EISMoffat.aspx

Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


Fish Habitat Improved in South Boulder Creek

January 14, 2014

South Boulder Creek near the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel via Jason Lee Davis

South Boulder Creek near the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel via Jason Lee Davis


Here’s the release from the US Forest Service (Maribeth Pecotte):

More than a mile of fish habitat along South Boulder Creek has been improved, thanks to a partnership between the Boulder Ranger District of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland (ARP), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), Denver Water, Boulder Flycasters (Trout Unlimited) and Union Pacific Railroad. The 1.5-mile stretch of the creek west of Rollinsville, Colo., will see enhanced in-stream habitats, allowing trout to thrive.

“”Trout biomass in Upper South Boulder Creek averages 60 lbs/acre, drastically lower than the abundance of trout within most front range streams such as the Poudre, Big Thompson, and St. Vrain Rivers,” said Ben Swigle, CPW aquatic biologist. “This project focused on improving in-stream habitats at all flows, which will allow a greater number of trout to inhabit the restored sections and support better natural reproduction.Thanks to this partnership, the fisheries and anglers of tomorrow will reap the benefits of our actions today.”

The portion of South Boulder Creek that has been improved lies between Rollinsville and the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel. This stream picks up water from the West Slope and is carried through the Moffat Tunnel. The parties involved had long felt that significant habitat improvements could be made to benefit the fishery. In 2001, Denver Water, which operates the Moffat Tunnel, agreed to financially support habitat mitigation projects downstream of the tunnel and fund an additional $125,000 for fish habitat improvement upstream.

“Denver Water is committed to doing our part to help protect and enhance the natural environment,” said Dave Bennett, water resource manager for Denver Water. “We are happy to be a part of this collaborative effort to enhance the river for the benefit of the fish.”
Despite the floods of September 2013, the project moved forward this fall, with habitat structures and channel construction compete in early November 2013. As a result, CPW and Forest Service biologists expect to see more fish using the constructed habitat next year and larger fish in the future.

“This was an outstanding project that exemplifies how much more can be achieved when forces join together,” said Boulder District Ranger Sylvia Clark. “Enhancements to fish habitat in South Boulder Creek could not have been done by any of us alone. We’d like to extend a big ‘thank you’ to our partners, and we look forward to future opportunities for working together.”

The final phases of the project will be complete in spring 2014. The contractor will complete construction of the boardwalk for angler access off of the South Boulder Creek Trail. Disturbed sites will be revegetated with native plants with the help of Boulder Flycasters’ volunteers and staff from CPW and the USFS.

Background

This collaborative effort was the brainchild of Swigle, who worked with the ARP to find a project that would offer the greatest public benefit. The USFS initiated analysis for the project in 2012, and the decision memo was signed in March 2013.

The Boulder Flycasters applied for a CPW Fishing is Fun grant and obtained $80,000 for the project. The group also contributed an additional $4,000 and volunteer support.

The Boulder Flycasters, CPW, Denver Water and the USFS came together to select a contractor to design and construct the habitat features in South Boulder Creek and the boardwalk for angler access just west of the Moffat Tunnel.

Union Pacific Railroad allowed the use of a portion of their easement near the Moffat Tunnel for staging materials and equipment. Through close coordination, they also allowed heavy equipment to cross over the railroad tracks to access the creek.


‘Denver-West Slope water agreement finally final’ — Glenwood Springs Post Independent #ColoradoRiver

December 4, 2013
Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Denver can take a little more water from the Colorado River’s headwaters to increase the reliability of its system, but won’t develop any new transmountain diversions without West Slope agreement and will help repair damage from past diversions.

Those are some of the key provisions in the Colorado Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and 42 West Slope water providers and local governments from the Grand Valley to Grand County.

The Colorado Cooperative Agreement covers a whole suite of issues related to Denver’s diversion of water from the Fraser and Blue River drainages, tributaries to the Colorado River. In October, with little fanfare, this historic agreement received its final signatures and was fully executed. It took five years of mediation and nearly two years of ironing out the details with state and federal agencies, against a backdrop of decades of litigation, to get to this point.

According to material from the Colorado River District’s latest quarterly meeting, the agreement, “is the direct result of Denver Water’s desire to expand its Moffat Tunnel transmountain water supply from the Fraser River in Grand County and to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County.” This project is expected to divert, on average, approximately 18,000 acre feet/year of water beyond the average of 58,000 acre feet/year it already diverts, which amounts to about 60% of the natural flow in the Fraser River at Winter Park.

Under the agreement, the West Slope parties agreed not to oppose the increased Moffat Collection System diversions, and Denver Water agreed not to expand its service area and not to develop new water projects on the West Slope without the agreement of the resident counties and the Colorado River District. The agreement also includes dozens of other provisions designed to limit water demands in Denver and address water quality and flow conditions in the Colorado River and its tributaries. Here’s a sampling:

Denver will contribute both water releases and several million dollars for a “learning by doing” project to improve aquatic habitat in Grand County. The project will be managed by representatives from Denver Water, Grand County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited and other water users.

Denver will not exercise its rights to reduce bypass flows from Dillon Reservoir and its collection system in Grand County during droughts unless it has banned residential lawn watering in its service area.

Diversions and reservoirs operated by both Denver Water and West Slope parties will be operated as if the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon were calling for its (very senior) water right, even at times when the plant is down. This is important for recreational and environmental flows in the river, as well as for junior water users downstream from plant.

Denver Water will pay $1.5 million for water supply, water quality or water infrastructure projects benefiting the Grand Valley, and $500,000 to offset additional costs for water treatment in Garfield County when the Shoshone call is relaxed due to drought conditions.

A similar agreement is under development between West Slope entities and Northern Water, which currently diverts about 220,000 acre feet/year of water from the Upper Colorado River to the Front Range through the Colorado Big Thompson Project. Like the Colorado Cooperative Agreement, the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement trades West Slope non-opposition to increased transmountain diversions for mitigations to address the impacts of both past and future stream depletions.

Both the Colorado Cooperative Agreement and the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement have been hailed as models of cooperation. Meanwhile, East Slope – West Slope tensions continue to mount over how the Colorado Water Plan, currently under development, should address the possibility of additional diversions of water from the West Slope to meet growing urban demands on the Front Range. These agreements demonstrate that such tensions can be overcome, but also that it could take more time than allowed by the 2015 deadline Gov. Hickenlooper has set for completion of the Colorado Water Plan.

Full details on the Colorado Cooperative Agreement can be found on the River District’s website, under “features” at http://www.crwcd.org/. More information on the Colorado Water Plan can be found at http://coloradowaterplan.com/.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Boulder County ‘Water Tour 2013′ is Saturday, June 8

May 12, 2013

Boulder County won’t yet sign IGA with Denver Water for Moffat Collection System Project

January 9, 2013

grossdamandreservoirenlargement.jpg

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Amy Bounds) via the Longmont Times-Call:

The Boulder County commissioners on Monday night declined to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Denver Water, withholding their approval for a planned expansion of Gross Reservoir.

About 40 residents and environmentalists, in a public hearing that lasted three-and-a-half hours, urged the county commissioners not to sign the agreement, citing concerns that ranged from noise to traffic safety to Denver Water’s need to conserve instead of expand…

The intergovernmental agreement would have established a pool of at least $500,000 to compensate area residents and another $2 million the county could use to limit urban sprawl or pay out to residents. Another $4 million would have gone toward the preservation of land around Gross Reservoir. Another $500,000 would have been contributed to use for forest treatments on private property, $1 million to assist the Coal Creek Canyon Parks and Recreation District with its master plan goals and $250,000 for recreation projects recommended by the Preserve Unique Magnolia Association. Other conditions included requiring dust mitigation on gravel roads and improvements to Colo. 72 and affected county roads.

But, public speakers said, the limits were too vague and the amount of money that would be contributed much too low. “Don’t take the minuscule bribe that Denver Water is proposing,” said Coal Creek Canyon resident Anita Wilks. “No amount of mitigation will be enough.”[...]

County staff members, who recommended approval of the intergovernmental agreement, have said a 1041 permit denial likely would result in a legal fight. County open space attorney Conrad Lattes previously said that Denver Water has contended that Boulder County’s 1041 powers would be pre-empted by a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permit that Denver Water is seeking. Although the county has not conceded that issue, he said the agreement would give the county more flexibility than the 1041 process and would avoid extensive litigation.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


Conservation groups raise issues with fast-tracking the Moffat Collection System Project

October 28, 2012

grossdam.jpg

Here’s the text of a letter from the Colorado Environmental Coalition, et. al., to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers:

We write to express our serious concerns with the permitting process for the Moffat Collection System Expansion Project proposed by Denver Water. Governor Hickenlooper has submitted a letter calling for the permitting process to be expedited, and our understanding is that finalizing the Environmental Impact Statement has been put on a fast track for completion. While we certainly support the agencies in working promptly and efficiently on this project – indeed on any of their permitting work – the desire for speedy completion should not come at the expense of completing the studies and analyses needed to accurately assess and disclose impacts, and to honestly determine the “Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative” pursuant to the Clean Water Act.

The Governor’s letter touts the benefits of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and west slope interests as an important factor in moving Moffat permits forward. We agree that the Cooperative Agreement takes many important steps in addressing the current challenges facing the Upper Colorado River watershed. What it does not do is address the impacts of the new Moffat Collection System Expansion Project. Any suggestion that the Cooperative Agreement has somehow reduced or eliminated concerns about the Moffat Collection System Expansion Project or the need to rigorously evaluate its impacts and design mitigation is simply wrong. Our constituencies are not satisfied with Moffat Collection System Expansion Project moving forward without significant further environmental disclosure and mitigation requirements.

Our organizations remain gravely concerned with the potential impacts on the Fraser and Williams Fork watersheds and the Upper Colorado River due to the depletions proposed under the Moffat Collection System Expansion Project. Specific concerns which have been raised previously in the public process surrounding this project include:

Temperature. Already sections of Ranch Creek, the Fraser River, and the Upper Colorado exceed water quality standards for temperature and are listed on the Colorado 303(d) list of impaired waters. Further flow depletions during the summer months, as proposed under the Moffat Collection System Expansion, cannot help but extend and worsen these problems absent operational restrictions (such as curtailment of diversions during periods of elevated temperature) or strong mitigation (channel reconfiguration, riparian restoration). The Draft EIS can, at best, be said to have given short shrift to this issue – particularly since it is a water quality issue where the affected environment is already experiencing water quality standard violations.

Sedimentation. This issue was similarly given a dismissive treatment in the Draft EIS. However, as evidenced by a sediment transport study completed by Dr Brian Bledsoe (previously submitted to you and shared with us by Trout Unlimited) – and as is obvious to all of us who have spent time in the Fraser River and seen the evidence of excessive sediment building up with our own eyes – sedimentation is a significant issue and one that will be worsened by the loss of flushing flows under the Moffat Collection System Expansion. As with temperature, operating requirements (such as mandatory flushing flows) or mitigation measures (such as channel reconfiguration to promote sediment transport at a lower flow) are needed.

Impacts to Recreation and Tourism. The river-based recreation and tourism economy of Grand County and the Colorado River basin are highly dependent on predictable and sufficient streamflows to attract visitors to the area seeking world-class rafting, kayaking, and float-fishing opportunities. In the Upper Colorado River, commercial rafting alone contributes nearly $10 Million dollars in economic benefit, and is enjoyed by over 32,000 visitors a year. Our concern is that not enough analysis has been made of how the Moffat Collection System Expansion will reduce streamflows that support this important industry. The impacts from additional depletions out of the Fraser and Colorado River Systems on existing river-based recreation have not been adequately disclosed, nor have the project proponents made available to the public the models of how future streamflow conditions are likely to change – attributable to the Moffat Collection system solely. Changes in streamflow, and the potential loss of a sustainable recreation economy in Colorado is very concerning to us, and we feel deserves a more substantive review.

Adaptive management. Even if the Corps and EPA were able to complete thorough impact studies that gave adequate guidance to disclose impacts and design mitigation for temperature and sedimentation – a premise that we fear may in itself be flawed given the rush to move forward a Final EIS – there will still be major uncertainty about the impacts associated with Moffat Collection System Expansion. Simply put, there is a real risk that diversions at the level proposed for the Fraser – with a cumulative total of 75% of water being removed from the environment – may cause unanticipated adverse effects. Scientists call these “nonlinear” responses, points where passing a certain threshold can lead to dramatically increased impacts.

Front Range Impacts. In addition we remain seriously concerned about impacts that would occur on the Front Range, namely in Boulder County where Gross Reservoir and dam would be dramatically increased in size. These impacts—and the concerns of County property owners— have not be adequately addressed yet either.

In light of these unpredictable impacts, coupled with the apparent desire to quickly complete analysis of even more predictable impacts, we urge you to include strong monitoring and adaptive management requirements in any permit for Moffat Collection System Expansion. These should include monitoring of the physical, chemical and biologic conditions of the streams affected by the project and require implementation of measures to prevent degradation of aquatic and riparian ecosystems, to be paid for by the project beneficiary—Denver Water. Monitoring must be broad and thorough enough to determine changes in fish, aquatic invertebrate, and plant populations, as well as assessing water quality, and particularly water temperature as indicators of degradation.

While these efforts should be coordinated with the “Learning by Doing” effort from the Cooperative Agreement, they must be a specific and separate requirement of the permit. Learning by Doing – like the rest of the Cooperative Agreement – was not designed to address the impacts of the new Moffat Collection System Expansion, indeed by its own terms it does not address mitigation. It is the job of the Corps and EPA to ensure mitigation as a condition of any approved permit, and a robust adaptive management plan should be required. Given the inherent difficulty of predicting impacts at such high levels of diversion from a river, and in light of the Governor’s stated desire to expedite permitting for Moffat Collection System Expansion, a program by which river health continues to be monitored and Denver Water remains responsible for mitigating the actual effects of their project – not just those that can be accurately predicted in the current EIS process – offers the best opportunity for moving the project forward while ensuring that water quality and ecosystem health can be protected for the future.

In short “fast tracking” this process will only undercut the good work that has been done to date. Any assurances you have heard that “everyone” is on board with the Moffat Collection System Expansion proceeding without the required review and mitigation are simply not true. Our organizations and the more than 180,000 members we represent remain deeply concerned about what the Moffat Collection System Expansion will mean for the health of the Fraser, Williams Fork and Upper Colorado watersheds. We support the permitting process moving forward only if it includes thorough assessment and mitigation to address temperature and sedimentation concerns, and a robust monitoring and adaptive management requirement.

As Colorado moves forward in planning for our water supply future we must ensure that we “do it right”. This is both an enormous opportunity as well as an incredible responsibility. Let’s work together to ensure that the river, our communities and our state are not short-changed in an effort to move quickly.

The letter was signed by: Becky Long, Colorado Environmental Coalition; Bart Miller, Western Resource Advocates; Steve Glazer, Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club; Nathan Fey, American Whitewater.

Update: A thousand pardons. I left three signatures off in the list above: Gary Wockner, Clean Water Action; Jen Bock, High Country Citizens Alliance; Matt Rice, American Rivers.

Thanks to Coyote Gulch reader Doug Pflugh for the heads up.

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit Daily Voice. Here’s an excerpt:

“We’re worried that that we’re going to hit fast forward and miss some things,” said Becky Long, water caucus coordinator with the Colorado Environmental Coalition, explaining why several groups recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, reiterating their concerns about water temperatures and sediment loading in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

The fast-tracking was requested by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper back in June. In a June 5 letter to President Barack Obama, Hickenlooper touted a far-reaching water agreement as “removing” West Slope opposition to the Moffat project, and urged the Corps to release a final Environmental Impact Statement by the end of 2012, followed by a formal decision in early 2013.

The letter illustrates the governor’s fundamental misunderstanding of the NEPA process, which requires agencies to take a “hard look” at impacts and alternatives. It shows that, despite claims to the contrary, the Colorado water establishment is still focused on the folly of more water development and storage as the primary answer to the state’s drought woes. It also shows that state leaders still don’t understand that Colorado could easily — and much less expensively — use basic conservation measures to save as much or more water than would be stored by the Moffat project.

And while it’s true that institutional West Slope water users agreed to not oppose the Moffat Project — a devil’s bargain to some — the environmental community still has serious concerns about the increased diversions.

On top of all that, Long said rumors have circulated that the conservation community is OK with the Moffat project and the mitigation measures that have been proposed during the early phases of the review process. The letter to EPA regional director Jim Martin and Corps of Engineers regional commander Joel Cross was sent partially to refute those rumors.

More Moffat Collection System coverage here and here.


Boulder: Hydroelectric plant scores $1.18 million grant to help defray upgrade costs

October 4, 2012

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From The Denver Post (Howard Pankratz):

Originally built in 1910, the facility was in need of the upgrade in order to continue to operate. Without a new turbine and generator, operation of the facility was expected to stop within five years or less, city officials said…

Over the years, the system was owned and operated by numerous companies. In 2001, the city of Boulder purchased the system from the Public Service Co. of Colorado.

The total project cost was approximately $5.15 million and was funded by city water utility funds in addition to the federal grant.

More Hydroelectric coverage here and here.


Patty Limerick’s ‘A Ditch in Time: The City, the West, and Water’ book signing Wednesday on the CU campus

September 4, 2012

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Limerick is a terrific speaker and writer so I’ve been looking forward to her book about Denver Water for a while now. Here’s the book description from the Tattered Cover website.

“The history of water development…offers a particularly fine post for observing the astonishing and implausible workings of historical change and, in response, for cultivating an appropriate level of humility and modesty in our anticipations of our own unknowable future.”

Tracing the origins and growth of the Denver Water Department, this study of water and its unique role and history in the West, as well as in the nation, raises questions about the complex relationship among cities, suburbs, and rural areas, allowing us to consider this precious resource and its past, present, and future with both optimism and realism.

Patricia Nelson Limerick is the faculty director and board chair of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, where she is also a professor of history and environmental studies. She currently serves as the vice president for the teaching division of the American Historical Association. Her most widely read book, “The Legacy of Conquest,” is in its twenty-fifth year of publication.

Here’s a review of the book from Jane Earle writing for Your Colorado Water Blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The line [for a history of Denver Water] went back in the budget and, backed by Chips Barry, then Manager of Denver Water, it was passed by the Board. This time, the proposal was to ask Patricia Limerick, Colorado’s McArther prize winning historian, to write the history. And that was my idea. This time, it was [Charlie Jordan] who was incredulous. After all, Professor Limerick was not always kind to the white builders in her history of the West, “The Legacy of Conquest.” But that was why I wanted her: No one could accuse Denver Water of commissioning a coffee table book about the glories of its past if Patricia Limerick was the author. Chips was beguiled by the idea. The rest is history, as they say. This time, literally.

Professor Limerick doesn’t call her book a history of Denver Water. She subtitles it, “The City, the West, and Water.” It’s well named. She has set the story of some of the major events in the development of Denver’s water system in their proper geographic and historic context. The contributions of the people who built the water system and their legacy are stories that needed to be told. They were men of vision who could imagine a great city on the treeless plain next to the (mostly dry) South Platte River.

Here’s an interview with Ms. Limerick from the Colorado Water 2012 website.

More Denver Water coverage here and here.


Fraser River: ‘Eisenhower Reach’ dedicated July 14

July 19, 2012

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

President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, who vacationed and fished in the Fraser Valley, will receive recognition across the state and this will help to preserve the history of the valley, [Fraser Mayor Peggy Smith] said.

Thanks were given by the speakers at the event to the sponsors of the state resolution which created the Eisenhower Reach, state Rep. Randy Baumgardner and state Sen. Jeanne Nicholson. The resolution passed through both the Senate and House of Representatives without a single nay vote, according to Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited…

The dedication was lighthearted and fun, but the elephant in the room seemed to be the Moffat Firming Project. Denver Water’s Moffat Firming Project has been in the works since 2003, and the approval process is nearing completion, according to Klancke…

Trout Unlimited is not totally opposed to supplying more water to the Denver area; however, they are asking for certain mitigation efforts to be undertaken if the Moffat Project is approved…

The proposed mitigations Trout Unlimited wants to see as part of the deal include:

• Management of water supply to ensure adequate flows with seasonal flushing to clear out sediment and to keep the temperature of the river cool;

• Funding to deepen the river channels and add streamside plants for shade;

• Intensive monitoring of the river and aquatic life in order to prevent and respond to negative changes in trout and other aquatic species;

• And a bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir to help restore the Colorado River’s flow and overall health below the Windy Gap Dam (to offset reduced flows from Windy Gap diversions).

More Fraser River coverage here and here.


‘Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water’ — Alan Hamel

June 10, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We have to protect the water we have, as well as provide water for endangered species,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works and a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water, particularly for use in power generation.” Last month, the Pueblo water board and other members of the Front Range Water Council weighed in on the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for oil shale and tar sands…

The Front Range Water Council includes the major organizations that import water from the Colorado River: Denver Water, the Northern and Southeastern Colorado water conservancy districts, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. and the Pueblo water board. Collectively, they provide water to 4 million people, 82 percent of the population in Colorado.

More Front Range Water Council coverage here and here.


The Denver Post editorial board weighs in on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

May 20, 2012

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From The Denver Post:

One of the linchpins is that Denver Water, which serves more than 1.3 million customers on the Front Range, gets approval for the expansion of Gross Reservoir near Boulder. The utility needs the project so it may ensure adequate water for customers on the northern edge of its service area…

The agreement calls for Western Slope parties to not oppose — and in some cases support — the Moffat Collection System project, which includes the reservoir expansion.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Denver Water, Grand and Summit counties sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

May 19, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Gov. John Hickenlooper presided over a ceremonial signing of agreements among Denver Water, Grand and Summit counties and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. on Tuesday in Hot Sulphur Springs.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Denver Water: ‘A historic moment for Colorado water’

May 16, 2012

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

Leaders from Grand and Summit counties, Denver Water and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. — entities that for decades battled in court over water — stood today with Gov. John Hickenlooper and signed the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, changing the way water will be managed in Colorado.

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement is the product of years of negotiations, and ultimately included more than 40 parties stretching from Grand Junction to the Denver metro area. The historic agreement is the largest of its kind in the history of the state. It shifts Colorado away from a path of conflict to a path of cooperation and collaboration in managing the state’s water resources.

Signatories described the agreement as a meaningful way forward to protect the Colorado River.

“Our goal through the whole negotiation was to be better off tomorrow than we are today with our water resources,” said Grand County Commissioner Nancy Stuart.

“The collaborative spirit is alive and well in Colorado,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “This is a state where we get things done. From farmers and families to businesses and wildlife, this agreement will help protect Colorado’s water and is a testament to how collaboration can overcome even long-standing differences in managing this vital resource.”

The comprehensive agreement focuses on significantly enhancing the environmental health of Colorado’s rivers and streams, as well as supporting many West Slope cities, towns, counties and water providers as they work to improve water quality and quantity of water through new municipal projects and river management initiatives.

“This is a new way of developing water in Colorado,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry. “Only through cooperative effort can we do the right thing for the resource.”

“The agreement we sign today marks the beginning of a new era of inter-regional cooperation with one broad goal: a brighter and more sustainable future for Colorado,” said Penfield Tate, vice president, Denver Board of Water Commissioners. “Today, we are saying there is a better way — a way that will make the Colorado River and its tributaries healthier, ensure a more reliable water supply for our customers, and that will develop and use water in a way that protects and improves the environment and benefits all users from the West Slope to the Front Range.”

In exchange for environmental enhancements, including financial support for municipal water projects and providing additional water supply and service area restrictions, the agreement, with the required mitigation, will remove opposition to Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project.

“This agreement honors the recognition that protecting water resources and tourism in our headwaters counties also protects the entire state of Colorado’s economy,” said Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier.

Bill Baum, president of the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Company, said: “Since 1992, Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Company has been a monument to what cooperation can achieve. Governmental entities and private industry have worked together through Clinton to provide a source of water for the residents of Summit and Grand County, for the visitors who are our economic lifeblood, and for the industry that provides the resources that allows all of us to live and play in this magnificent part of Colorado.” He continued: “Twenty years later, this new cooperative agreement carries on and extends that spirit of collaboration to a wider group and a new century. Clinton is pleased to be a part of it, and we will all be better off as a result of it.”

The entities also signed on to the “Learning by Doing” process, by which Denver Water, Grand County, the Colorado River District, the Middle Park Water Conservancy District and others will use the flexibility in Denver Water’s water system to manage flows for the benefit of the environment in Grand County.

In addition to today’s signatories, the agreement has been signed by Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company. Other West Slope entities are expected to sign in the near future.

From the Denver Business Journal:

“The collaborative spirit is alive and well in Colorado,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “This is a state where we get things done. From farmers and families to businesses and wildlife, this agreement will help protect Colorado’s water and is a testament to how collaboration can overcome even long-standing differences in managing this vital resource.”

The agreement specifies that any new water project by Denver Water in the Colorado River Basin will be developed only in cooperation with those entities impacted by the development.

Other provisions of the agreement:

• Additional water for towns, districts and ski areas in Grand and Summit counties to serve the needs of residents and to improve the health of rivers and streams.

• An agreement to operate key Denver Water facilities, such as Dillon Reservoir in Summit County, and Williams Fork Reservoir and the Moffat Collection System in Grand County, in a way that better addresses the needs and concerns of neighboring communities and enhances the river environment.

• Greater certainty for Denver Water to develop future water resources for its customers by resolving long-standing disputes over its service territory, its ability to use West Slope water, its ability to develop future water supplies in the Colorado River Basin, and other legal issues.

• Additional water and enhanced system reliability for customers of Denver Water, representing nearly 25 percent of the state’s population, by moving forward the Moffat Collection System Project.

• Agreement by all partners to not oppose Denver’s storage of its Blue River and Moffat Project water on the Front Range.

• Reinforcement of the priority and increased conservation and reuse within Denver Water’s service area.

• Improves the health of Colorado’s rivers and streams by dedicating funds to pay for watershed, water treatment and aquatic habitat improvements in the Colorado River Basin.

• Changes in water management associated with the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon that preserves historic flows in the middle and lower Colorado River.

A key part of the agreement allows Denver Water to move ahead with the Moffat Collection System Project to address shortages like the one that occurred in the drought of 2002, when the north end of the system nearly ran dry.

“It is critical to the Denver region that this project moves forward,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver. “I applaud Denver Water and all of the signatories for their dedication to settling old conflicts and coming together to the benefit of our quality of life and economy.”

From email from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Statement by Trout Unlimited on Denver Water Cooperative Agreement:

Colorado Trout Unlimited today praised the Cooperative Agreement to be signed Tuesday, May 15 in Hot Sulphur Springs by Denver Water, west slope officials and other stakeholders, but cautioned that additional measures are needed to protect the Upper Colorado River ecosystem.

“The Cooperative Agreement shows that by working together, we can find ways to meet our water needs while protecting our natural resources,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “But the job isn’t finished. It’s important to remember that this agreement does not cover the future impacts of Denver Water’s proposed Moffat Tunnel expansion on the Fraser River Basin, nor does it address the combined impacts of the Moffat Tunnel expansion and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming Project on the Upper Colorado.” Collectively, these diversion projects will take another 15-20 percent of the flows of the Upper Colorado River, which is already significantly impacted by water diversions. Unless the impacts of these new projects are mitigated, the river habitat will continue to decline, according to the state’s own studies.

“The Colorado River is still very much a river at risk,” said Whiting. ”We call on Gov. Hickenlooper, Denver Water, Northern and other key players to follow through on this achievement by securing a package of protections that offsets these looming impacts on the Upper Colorado.”

For more info: http://www.defendthecolorado.org

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

Against a backdrop of an intensifying mountain drought, Hickenlooper said this year’s dry conditions magnify the need for cooperative solutions and highlight the fragility of the state’s rivers in the face of possible climate change impacts and increasing demand from a growing population. “Some of our watersheds are reporting the driest conditions in our recorded history … this puts Colorado on a better footing, with more secure water sources both for headwaters counties and Denver,” Hickenlooper said.

Most importantly for Denver Water, Summit and Grand counties agree not to oppose a plan to expand diversions from the West Slope through the Moffat Tunnel Collection System, a project that, in its present form, is still bitterly opposed by conservation and river advocacy groups.

In return, the headwaters counties get some assurances on flows, as well as money for mitigation and enhancements. All the agreement documents are online at the Colorado River District website. Denver Water also agrees not to expand its service area and to increase water recycling and storage for reuse.

More coverage from the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

Gov. John Hickenlooper joked that the water wars have now been scaled back to “rubber bullets and bean bag shotguns.” He said he hoped other similar deals would be worked out across Colorado, where 80 percent of the water comes from west of the Continental Divide but 80 percent of the demand is in the more populous east.

“Colorado is the ultimate beneficiary,” he said.

Denver Water — which serves about 1.3 million people in the Denver area — and nearly three dozen Western Slope water users announced the proposal last year. Eagle County and its water districts became the first to sign in February. The endorsement of the cities of Rifle and Glenwood Springs and some irrigation districts is still pending.

Under the deal, Denver Water will contribute $25 million to western Colorado projects and limit its service area. In return, the signers won’t oppose Denver Water’s proposal to hold more mountain water in Gross Reservoir…

In Summit County, home of the utility’s largest reservoir, Denver Water agreed to pay $11 million for projects including improvements to a wastewater treatment plant and to provide 250 acre-feet of water to districts and towns for free. Denver Water also plans to keep Dillon Reservoir full enough to support summer boating and fishing.

More coverage from KUNC (Kirk Siegler). From the article:

“This agreement solidifies and shows a new way of doing water business in Colorado,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newbury. Newbury spoke at a signing ceremony in Hot Sulpher Springs that included Governor John Hickenlooper, the head of the Colorado River District and others.

More coverage from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News via the Summit Daily News. From the article:

The signing took place more than one year after Gov. John Hickenlooper last visited Grand County, when he first rolled out the Colorado Cooperative Agreement, deemed an unprecedented water agreement for our time. The agreement aims to settle years of East and West Slope water disputes. “I’m not sure the fighting’s ever going to completely stop,” Hickenlooper said…

Denver Water’s Moffat Firming Project and its goal to enlarge Gross Reservoir to divert more water from the West Slope, plus its 2006 diligence application in federal court regarding water rights under the Blue River decree, sparked negotiations in an arena when litigation and political disputes between Colorado’s West and East Slopes were ripe with potential. A mediator was hired in 2007 under then-Denver Mayor Hickenlooper’s advisement, and as many as 35 parties from the Front Range to the western state line joined in to try and resolve some of the state’s longest-standing water issues.

The result is a 50- page document, plus pages upon pages of legal attachments, that spells out water resolutions or “enhancements” for the Fraser and Blue rivers, certain tributaries and the upper and middle rivers of the Colorado River to the Grand Valley…

Besides $11 million in Denver Water dollars promised to address some river issues specifically in Grand County, with more dollars for Summit and Eagle counties, the agreement highlights the importance of the Shoshone Power Plant to the entire Western Slope. The plant, which has been around since 1902, “puts a demand on the stream,” according to Eric Kuhn, executive director of the Colorado River District, during an annual State of the River meeting last week. “When it puts a demand on the stream, water is released from Wolford to Green Mountain and from Williams Fork (reservoirs). All that water reaches Kremmling and runs downstream and provides stability,” he said. “The thing we’ve been concerned about is the 110 year-old plant has started to behave like a 100 year-old plant. We’ve asked, and Denver has agreed … to operate its system like the plant was operating, so we wouldn’t put a hole in the river. That hole in the river causes problems for irrigators, causes problems for fishing and causes problems for rafting.”

The agreement is also poised to settle a Green Mountain Reservoir administration dispute, which has been brewing since 1955, according to Kuhn, as well as the Blue River Decree settlement. And in the agreement, Denver Water set its service area so that it does not become a conduit for expansion on the Front Range.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Hot Sulphur Springs: Denver Water along with Grand and Summit counties to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement today

May 15, 2012

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From the Associated Press via The Aspen Times:

Denver Water and the leaders of Grand and Summit counties are set to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement at noon Tuesday in Hot Sulphur Springs. Denver Water and nearly three dozen Western Slope water users announced the proposal last year. Eagle County and its water districts became the first to sign in February. The endorsement of the cities of Rifle and Glenwood Springs and some irrigation districts is still pending.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Denver Water, et al: A historic moment for Colorado water — Signing of historic agreement for cooperative water management and supply

May 10, 2012

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

WHO: Governor John Hickenlooper; Grand County Commissioners James Newberry, Nancy Stuart Gary Bumgarner; Penfield Tate, Denver Water Commissioner; Summit County Commissioners Dan Gibbs, Karn Stiegelmeier; William J. Baum, Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co.; Eric Kuhn, Colorado River District, General Manager.

WHAT: Leaders from Grand County, Summit County, Denver Water and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. will sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. This unprecedented agreement achieves better environmental health for the Colorado River Basin, maintains high-quality recreational use and improves economics for many cities, counties and businesses impacted by the river. The agreement is the result of five years of negotiations.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 15, 2012, noon

WHERE: Grand County Administration Building, 308 Byers Ave., Hot Sulphur Springs, CO 80451

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Colorado TU Gives Conservation Award to Grand County

May 9, 2012

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Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Colorado Trout Unlimited today announced that Grand County government – led by County Commissioners Gary Bumgarner, James Newberry, and Nancy Stuart – is the recipient of TU’s 2012 Trout Conservation Award for its work protecting the Upper Colorado River watershed in the face of Front Range water diversions and other threats.

The award is presented each year to recognize outstanding achievements in conserving Colorado rivers and trout habitat.

“I have never seen a local government place the level of attention, resources, and overall emphasis on river conservation as has been the case with Grand County over the past five years,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “Commissioners Bumgarner, Newberry and Stuart, and County Manager Lurline Curran, have worked tirelessly to preserve healthy river flows along with the wildlife, local communities, and quality of life that depend on them. They have been true champions for the Colorado headwaters.”

“As a resident of Grand County for 40 years, and as a father who wants his children and their children to experience the same natural wonders that I’ve enjoyed here over the years, I am deeply appreciative of the unified effort from our commissioners and staff in their fight to save our rivers and lakes,” said Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of TU. “I am proud of my county for having courageous leaders like these, who are an example to all of the Davids that are facing Goliaths.”

Nickum called Grand County “a longstanding and valued partner” with Trout Unlimited in working to protect and restore the Upper Colorado River watershed. He noted that Grand County officials have invested more than $3 million into assessing and addressing the needs of its rivers, and spent thousands of hours negotiating with Front Range water users and advocating to federal permitting agencies for better protections for the Upper Colorado River watershed.

Among other accomplishments in the past year, Grand County (along with other west slope governments and Denver Water) unveiled a historic “cooperative agreement” that includes many important benefits for the Colorado River and its tributaries, including millions of dollars for river restoration and environmental enhancement; 1,000 acre-feet of water to help with low flows in the Fraser River watershed; guarantees that the vital Shoshone call continues to operate in the future to keep water in the Colorado River year-round; and an agreement that any future transbasin projects will only be pursued with the consent of the West Slope. The agreement is also important in establishing a stakeholder partnership called “Learning by Doing” to provide ongoing monitoring of river health to ensure adequate protection measures.

Grand County has also worked with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to use Windy Gap pumping capabilities to re-manage some “excess” water for the benefit of flows in the Colorado River and has filed for a Recreational In Channel Diversion to help support a new in-river water right on the Colorado mainstem.

Moreover, Grand County leaders are negotiating with Northern for enhanced funding for river restoration projects—including a needed bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir to improve Colorado River habitat—and additional water for use in Grand County to boost flows and river health. Grand County is also promoting an agreement to release water for endangered fish in the downstream Colorado River out of Granby Reservoir – thereby benefiting the Colorado through miles of key trout habitat – instead of releases solely from Ruedi Reservoir, as has been done in the past.

For all the progress in recent years, the health of the Upper Colorado River ecosystem will continue to decline unless further protections are put in place to address looming impacts from two new Front Range diversion projects, Denver’s Moffat Tunnel expansion and Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project. Nickum noted that EPA recently issued recommendations that supported Grand County and TU’s case for stronger mitigation on the Windy Gap Firming Project.

“Grand County officials understand that the Colorado headwaters are the lifeblood of their communities and of our state’s tourism economy and outdoor quality of life,” said Nickum. “They have set an example for our public leaders of what strong river stewardship looks like.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Fraser: Part of the Fraser River may be designated as the ‘Eisenhower Memorial Reach’

April 22, 2012

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Back when I was a kid I remember folks talking about how much President Eisenhower loved fishing the Fraser River. We thought it was cool that he came to Colorado once in a while. His wife Mamie spent part of her time growing up in Denver and Colorado Springs. Here’s a report about the proposed “Eisenhower Memorial Reach” from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

State Rep. Randy Baumgardner (R-Cowdrey), is sponsering the bill that could authorize the Colorado Department of Transportation to accept and expend gifts, grants, donations and federal funds for sign placement on US Highway 40 in downtown Fraser, directing motorists to the river’s newly designated “point of interest.”[...]

The effort to designate the Fraser River’s two-mile stretch from the bridge-crossing at Rendezvous Road to the bridge-crossing at County Road 8 was spearheaded by the Grand County chapter of Trout Unlimited. TU plans to pay for additional signage to direct visitors to the Eisenhower statue along the river and to talk about the river designation, according to chapter president Kirk Klancke of Fraser. The designation, Klancke said, “is to draw attention to the fact that the Fraser River is a pristine environment, pristine enough to have drawn the leader of the free world back in the ’50s.”

Naming this reach of the Fraser after 34th president Dwight David Eisenhower makes a “historical and political statement,” Klancke said. River advocates hope the resolution highlights “what’s being sacrificed for the sake of municipal water supplies,” he said…

According to a draft of the resolution, Eisenhower first made his way to Byers Peak Ranch in the Fraser Valley as late as 1952 and returned each year until his heart attack in 1955. Eisenhower enjoyed fishing in the Fraser River and its tributary St. Louis Creek, which he referred to as his “home water” when visiting Colorado.

More Fraser River coverage here and here.


Prior appropriation snags plans by the University of Colorado to implement a graywater system in a new dorm

February 22, 2012

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Brittany Anas):

… it may be at least another year before CU can begin recycling the dorm’s water through a planned pilot program. “It’s a simple concept,” said Moe Tabrizi, CU’s campus conservation officer. “The complexity is in the water law and water rights.”[...]

So far, CU has spent $230,000 on a plumbing system in the Williams Village North building capable of recapturing water from showers and sinks, sending it to a collection tank to be disinfected through a filtration system and then re-circulating it through separate plumbing system that would only be used for toilets, said Malinda Miller-Huey, a spokeswoman for CU’s Boulder campus.

Once CU gets the green light to use the graywater system, campus officials will need to install a collection tank and filtration system, according to Miller-Huey. She didn’t have a cost estimate for that portion of the project.

A bill introduced earlier this year would have given local municipalities greater control over graywater use, allowing them to pass their own regulations. The measure, which had Boulder County’s support, died in committee.

More graywater reclamation coverage here.


Windy Gap Firming: Recently released final EIS acknowledges potential declines in streamflow in the Upper Colorado River basin

December 7, 2011

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Even more worrisome to conservation advocates are the projected declines in summer flows. Below Windy Gap Reservoir, July flows could drip by as much as 20 percent, according to the Bureau’s study, which also acknowledged that extensive mitigation measures will be needed to protect West Slope aquatic ecoystems…

But the proposed mitigation falls short of what’s needed to protect the Upper Colorado, according to Trout Unlimited, a cold-water fisheries conservation group.

Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

A new federal report on the environmental impacts of a plan to expand the Windy Gap water diversion project in Colorado falls short of recommending what’s needed to protect the fragile Upper Colorado River, according to Trout Unlimited.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement, released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Nov. 30, outlines the anticipated effects of the proposed project and recommends needed mitigation.

“This new document is an improvement over the previous version in that it acknowledges the Windy Gap project will worsen conditions in the Upper Colorado River and Grand Lake unless measures are taken,” said Drew Peternell, executive director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. However, the mitigation proposed by the bureau falls far short of what is needed and critical problems continue to be ignored. We urge the Bureau to require additional protective measures to preserve this irreplaceable natural resource.”

“Trout Unlimited’s concerns with the Environmental Impact Statement are echoed by the Upper Colorado River Alliance, a nonprofit group that is also seeking to require more mitigation to protect the river,” said Boulder attorney Steven J. Bushong, a representative of the Alliance.

The report comes out as Trout Unlimited is launching a petition campaign to protect the Upper Colorado River and its tributary, the Fraser River, and the mountain communities, businesses, people and wildlife that depend on them. The petition campaign, based online at DefendTheColorado.org, is being spearheaded by Trout Unlimited to engage advocates for the iconic but threatened rivers. The website allows advocates to sign on to a petition that will be delivered to decision makers before the bureau makes a final decision on the Windy Gap project. That decision is expected in early January.

“The good news is that the Bureau of Reclamation’s Environmental Impact Statement says additional mitigation measures may be added before the agency makes a final decision. That highlights the importance of taking action to stand up for the river now,” Peternell said.

Already 60 percent of the Upper Colorado is diverted to supply Front Range water users. The Windy Gap proposal, along with a separate Moffat Tunnel water project, could divert as much as 80 percent of the Upper Colorado’s natural flows. According to Trout Unlimited, steps must be taken to protect the rivers including:

· Managing the water supply to keep the rivers cool, clear and healthy.
· Funding to deepen river channels and create streamside shade.
· Monitoring of the rivers’ health and a commitment to take action if needed to protect them.
· Bypassing the Windy Gap dam to reconnect Colorado River and restore river quality.

“The Final Environmental Impact Statement continues to ignore existing problems that will be made much worse by the Windy Gap project,” said Sinjin Eberle, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “A study released by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife earlier this year shows that entire populations of native fish and the insects they feed on have all but disappeared from the Colorado River below the Windy Gap Reservoir. The state study blames the reservoir and the lack of spring flows that clean sediments from the stream beds and warns that expansion of the Windy Gap project poses additional threats to the health of the river and the aquatic life in it.” See http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/op/wqcc/Hearings/Rulemaking/93/Responsive/93rphsTUexG.pdf

The Windy Gap project also impacts the health of Grand Lake. “Grand Lake – once a pristine lake of dramatic clarity and scenic beauty – has become cloudy, weedy and silty because of diversion water pumped into the lake from Shadow Mountain reservoir,” said John Stahl of the Greater Grand Lake Shoreline Association. “Nothing in the FEIS mitigation plan is helpful in addressing the existing problems–at best it maintains the status quo while more likely creating even bigger problems.”

The Environmental Impact Statement indicates that the Bureau of Reclamation will monitor to ensure that mitigation is adequate and will impose additional measures if necessary. “That’s helpful but needs to be more clearly articulated. Another critical addition is the construction of a bypass around the Windy Gap dam,” Eberle added.

The DefendTheColorado.org campaign highlights the people who depend on the rivers.

“The Colorado and Fraser rivers aren’t just bodies of water, they are the lifeblood for wildlife, local communities and the state’s recreation economy,” Eberle said. “But many Coloradans are unaware that these rivers are on the brink of collapse because of diversions. DefendTheColorado.org’s purpose is twofold – to raise awareness about the threats facing the Colorado and Fraser and to give people a way to stand up for our rivers.”

Eberle added, “We can’t afford to let these rivers literally go down the drain.”

A new feature of the website called “Voices of the Fraser” profiles local Fraser Valley residents and visitors who speak eloquently about their connection to the Fraser River and the need to preserve healthy flows. Among the individuals profiled are Olympic skier Liz McIntyre, logger Hoppe Southway and landscape artist Karen Vance.

“It would be a shame to see any of these tributaries dry up just for the sake of developing the Front Range,” said Southway in his profile. “It’s the water my children and grandchildren are going to want to see someday, and I hope it’s protected for future generations.”

Visitors to the site also have added their voices about why the river is important to them.

“I have fished and hiked the Fraser and Upper Colorado river regions for over 30 years and am deeply saddened by the degradation of these great watersheds,” a Golden, Colo., resident wrote.

A Bonita Springs, Florida, resident wrote: “I LOVE fishing that stretch of water and find such a simple peace of being in that area. Please don’t mess with such a special place.”

“As a visitor and fisherman to Colorado on a regular basis, my tourist dollars help the local communities,” noted a resident of Blue Springs, Missouri.

More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.


Audubon International recognizes the Boulder Flatirons Golf Course as a certified cooperative sanctuary

December 3, 2011

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Update: Here’s a correction sent in by Joellen Lampman with Audubon International:

The post states that the National Audubon Society recognized the course. In fact, the course was recognized by Audubon International through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. Audubon International has no relationship with the National Audubon Society.

Here’s the release from Boulder Parks and Recreation:

The Parks and Recreation Department’s Flatirons Golf Course has acheived a one-year milestone as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” through the International Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. Flatirons was the 35th golf course in Colorado to achieve full Audubon certification. Doug Cook, PGA Director of Golf, led the effort to obtain sanctuary status. The course was recognized for Environmental Stewardship by Audubon International.

“After a year in the program, I can honestly say that the golf experience has been enhanced by our participation in the Audubon International Sanctuary golf course program,” Cook said. “We are very happy with all of the results of this program.”

To be certified, a course must demonstrate it is maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in a number of areas: environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, outreach and education, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, and water quality management.

The most recent program improvements to Flatirons Golf Course have included improving and installing 12 bird boxes and six bat boxes, and completing an irrigation upgrade that is saving water and electricity at a rate of up to 15 percent.

“The Audubon certification is another way we are achieving our department goal of environmental leadership as well as meeting the City of Boulder’s environmental and sustainability goals,” said Kirk Kincannon, director of the City of Boulder’s Parks and Recreation Department. “We are proud of the environmental achievements at Flatirons Golf Course.”

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, endorsed by the United States Golf Association, provides information and guidance to help golf courses preserve and enhance wildlife habitat, and protect natural resources. Golf courses from the United States, Africa, Australia, Canada, Central America, Europe and Southeast Asia also participate in this environmental certification program.

More conservation coverage here.


The water in Boulder’s distribution system wins award

November 24, 2011

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

The city of Boulder’s water treatment facilities at Betasso and Boulder Reservoir have earned the Partnership for Safe Water Director’s Award for their commitment to water quality and consumer safety. Boulder joins the ranks of seven other Colorado water treatment facilities that have received the award for optimizing water treatment facility performance.

More water treatment coverage here.


DefendTheColorado.org website launches to build awareness of upper Colorado River basin streamflow issues

November 6, 2011

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Say hello to DefendTheColorado.org, a new website designed to connect interested people and raise awareness of the issues around transbasin diversions from the Upper Colorado River here in Colorado. Here’s a report from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

For the Trout Unlimted Project, [Editorial Photographer and Videographer Ted Wood of Story Group, Boulder] brought in Boulder colleagues Beth Wald, a photojournalist who of late has been covering environmental and cultural stories in Afghanistan, and Mark Conlin, a seasoned underwater photographer.

“We launched the project as a way to get more visibility of the stream-flow issues on the Fraser and Upper Colorado,” said Trout Unlimited’s Randy Schoefield. “What we’re trying to portray is the community’s deep connection to the river.”

The Story Group plans to add more portraits to the website in coming days and weeks. Eventually, Trout Unlimited hopes to host public events that display the portraits as well as work by other photographers, granting a full sense of the river’s significance in Grand County and the consequences of further transbasin diversions.

Click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right for a map of Denver Water’s collection system. More Colorado River basin coverage here.


The dam at Baseline Reservoir is getting rehabbed

September 25, 2011

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (John Aguilar):

The Baseline Land and Reservoir Co., which owns the reservoir at Cherryvale and Baseline roads, is slowly draining it in order to put $400,000 worth of work into two century-old, earthen dams.

“It wasn’t that it failed,” said Brad Dallam, assistant city engineer for Lafayette. “It’s just a new modern standard.”

Lafayette counts on the Baseline Reservoir for about half of its drinking water, and the city owns the majority — 68 percent — of the shares in the lake. Others that draw from the reservoir include Boulder, Louisville and the Boulder Valley School District.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.


Dillon Reservoir starting to drop

September 13, 2011

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

…the reservoir has once again been dropping slowly, down to an elevation of 9,016.26 feet on Sept. 7, or about nine inches below the lip of the spillway as of late last week. Last year, the reservoir was about three feet lower on the same date, at 9,013.33 feet.

Last winter’s big snowfall is still reflected by runoff numbers. The combined flow of the Blue River and its tributaries totaled 323 cubic feet per second on Sept. 7, almost triple of the inflow on the same date in 2010 (111 cfs). Currently, flows in the Blue River below the dam are at 126 cfs, with 230 cfs going out through the Roberts Tunnel and into Denver Water’s South Platte storage system.

The Roberts Tunnel will be shut off around Thanksgiving, but the tunnel will remain full to enable Keystone to use the water to supplement flows in the Snake River based on snowmaking use.

More Denver Water coverage here.


Boulder: The Environmental Group and the Greater Gross Dam Citizens Coalition are hosting an informational Rally and ‘Afternoon on the River’ today to protest the Moffat Collection System Project

September 12, 2011

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Here’s the release from The Environmental Group and the Greater Gross Dam Citizens Coalition:

The World’s Largest Kayak Drum Circle, Citizen Rally and Public Meeting before the Boulder County Commissioners to Stop The Expansion of Gross Dam, Monday, September 12, 2011, 2:30-7:30pm.

The Environmental Group and the Greater Gross Dam Citizens Coalition are hosting an informational Rally and “Afternoon on the River” on the Boulder County Courthouse lawn. Join us for the World’s Largest Kayak Drum Circle where boaters and River Lovers alike are invited to participate. Bring Boats, bailing buckets, musical instruments or whatever else you want to bang on. We can Save Our Rivers, but we have to make some noise! Bring your boat, and bang it like a bongo! Wear Blue and dress for the River.

The Rally and Kayak Drum Circle begin at 2:30. The Public meeting with the Boulder County Commissioners begins at 4:30 pm.

The Boulder County Commissioners are determining their stance on the expansion of Gross Dam and after a barrage of citizen letters, have invited citizens to share their thoughts. Gross Dam is located wholly within Boulder County, but will take water from the Fraser and Colorado Rivers, pump it through the Continental Divide, and feed it to urban sprawl and golf courses along the front range. Specifically, much of the water from the Gross Dam expansion will be fed to the new Candelas Development along the HWY 93 corridor in between Boulder and Golden, and just south of Rocky Flats. Join us to Save Boulder County & Stop Gross Dam!

The Fraser River has already been declared an endangered River by national nonprofit American Rivers and because of too much diversion, the Colorado River no longer reaches its Delta at the Sea of Cortez. The expansion of Gross Dam means even more water will be taken out of these rivers pushing them definitively to the brink.

Colorado is a Local Rule State, which means land use decisions and planning are made at the local level. Our State Legislators tell us they have no authority at this time to create a statewide water allocation strategy or to stop water diversions and dam projects, even when river ecosystems are on the brink of collapse. That’s why it is so essential that we ask Boulder County to utilize its 1041 Local Rule Powers (just like Eagle County did) to stop this dam – because no one else can or will!

These events are centered around the public asking the Boulder County Commissioners to use their 1041 local rule powers to Stop Gross Dam, to save our Rivers and natural ecosystems, to save Boulder and to save our mountain communities. We are also asking Boulder County to use its 1041 or other powers to Stop Gross Dam in order to create a statewide discussion about our water use and allocation policies and strategies to protect river ecosystems, recreational activities and river-related economies. Until now, developers and water extractors have controlled water policy in the state. That’s about to change!

There are two pieces to the day’s events. First, The Environmental Group and the Greater Gross Dam Citizens Coalition will host a Rally, The World’s Largest Kayak Drum Circle and Workshop on the Courthouse Lawn at 1325 Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado. This will include:

- Live Music and the World’s Largest Kayak Drum Circle. Bring your boat – and bang it like a bongo! Citizens are invited to bring their boats, inner tubes, paddles, bailing buckets and other musical instruments. Wear blue and dress for an afternoon of music on the River on the Boulder County Courthouse lawn. We can save our Rivers, but we gotta make some noise!
- Information about the issues of Gross Dam, what Boulder County can do to stop it, and water use issues in Colorado will be provided.
- Workshop and talking points to assist citizens in writing their public statement for the evening’s Public Meeting with the Boulder County Commissioners.
Billboard Slogan Contest.
- Kid friendly events including art stations to create pictures about rivers.
- Bring signs, slogans and river gear. Families welcome!
- Boats can be dropped off from 12:00 noon on.
- This is a 100% peaceful event.

Second, citizens are invited to attend a Public Meeting hosted by the Boulder County Commissioners to discuss the issue of the expansion of Gross Dam and what the County can do about it. The County will give a presentation on the Gross Dam project and then open the floor to citizen comments. Each citizen can speak for up to 3 minutes. It is recommended that citizens arrive early to sign up for a speaking slot. Sign up begins at 3:30pm. The Public Meeting begins promptly at 4:30pm at 1325 Pearl St., 3rd Floor, Boulder, CO.

This deal is far from done, and now is the time for citizens to join together with our elected officials and together save our Rivers and our Communities. Be part of this important conversation to determine the fate of our State and to Preserve Colorado. The Rally and Kayak Drum Circle will begin at 2:30pm on Monday, September 12, 2011, at 1325 Pearl St., Boulder, Colorado on the Courthouse Lawn. The Public Meeting before the Boulder County Commissioners begins at 4:30pm at the Boulder County Courthouse located at 1325 Pearl St., 3rd Floor, Boulder, Colorado.

Visit www.StopGrossDam.com for full schedule and additional details.

More coverage from Laura Snider writing for the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

…some opponents of the Gross Reservoir expansion are asking the Boulder County commissioners to consider using their own 1041 powers to fight Denver Water, which says that nearly tripling the size of the reservoir is necessary to quench the thirst of its growing number of customers and to provide more stability in its supply system. Denver Water would like to pull more water from the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers through the Moffat Tunnel to fill the newly expanded reservoir. “We’re trying to say to Boulder County, ‘You have the power to stop this project, and you should use it to protect people in the mountain communities and, on a bigger scale, to protect the Colorado River Basin,’” said Liz Brown Morgan, a resident of Coal Creek Canyon who has worked to connect neighborhood groups and local environmental groups into the Greater Gross Dam Citizens Coalition.

Letters of concern about the reservoir expansion — many of which are from people who live near the reservoir and who would be directly affected by the construction on the dam — have begun to fill up the Boulder County commissioners’ inboxes. In response, the commissioners are holding a meeting at 4:30 p.m. Monday. “The intent on Monday night is really for us to hear more about the concerns that residents are bringing forward and to make sure that we have as much information as we can on the potential impacts,” said Commissioner Will Toor…

Boulder County’s 1041 rules are designed, among other things, to protect the beauty of the landscape and to conserve soil, water and forest resources. But even if the county decides to use its 1041 powers in the case of Gross Reservoir, the commissioners must grant a development permit to Denver Water if the agency is able to show that it can meet the criteria laid out in the county’s land use code. “We wouldn’t just be deciding if we liked the project,” Toor said. “We would be looking at the impacts and requiring a set of conditions to mitigate those impacts.”

For its part, Denver Water disputes the county’s authority to regulate the Gross Reservoir construction. “Gross Reservoir is governed under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” said Joe Sloan, of Denver Water’s community relations department. “Any permitting that we go through at Gross related to recreation of dam height or the perimeter is under FERC control. It’s our opinion that the federal governance by the FERC would cover all the issues.” But even though Denver Water does not agree that the county can use its 1041 powers, the agency said it’s still willing to work with the county to mitigate construction impacts through an intergovernmental agreement. “We’re working on IGAs on the West Slope with the folks in Summit and Eagle and Grand counties on flows,” Sloan said. “We’re hoping to use that model that we’ve already used on the West Slope with Boulder County.”

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


Denver: Mayor Hancock reappoints Tom Gougeon and Penfield Tate to the Denver Water Board

August 23, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Jeremy Meyer):

“These two men have been committed to the sustainability of our City, while keeping the best interest of our residents and statewide partners at the forefront of their work,” Hancock said. “I believe they have earned the trust of the people and will continue to provide stable leadership during a critical time in Denver Water’s history.”[...]

Gougeon has been a commissioner since August 2004 and was reappointed in 2005. He is president of the Gates Family Foundation and a principal in Continuum Partners LLC, a Colorado-based development company known for mixed use and transit oriented “green” building projects. He also served as chief executive officer of the Stapleton Redevelopment Foundation, assistant to the mayor of Denver, executive director of a charitable foundation and was a research associate at the Denver Research Institute in community planning and natural resource economics.

Tate, once a candidate for mayor in 2003, has been a water commissioner since October 2005. He also is a former state legislator and a shareholder in the Public Finance Group at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig. He has served on the boards for the Colorado Bar Association, State of Colorado Banking Board, Cerebral Palsy of Colorado, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Five Points Community Center and Metropolitan State College of Denver Foundation.

More Denver Water coverage here.


Moffat Collection System Project: Coal Creek Canyon town hall attended mostly by opposers to Denver Water’s plans

July 28, 2011

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Mitchell Byars):

The meeting was held by state Sen. Jeanne Nicholson and Rep. Claire Levy, who also expressed their opposition to the project. “I’ve made no secret that I don’t think we should have this project,” Levy said. “We can’t keep sucking water out of a river and killing it.”[...]

Residents brought up the noise that would accompany the construction and were concerned about the number of trucks that would be making their way up the winding Colo. 72. Denver Water estimated that construction would put 2.2 more trucks on the road per hour for a 10-hour work day. But residents said that increase in heavy, slow-moving trucks would damage and congest the roads, creating dangerous situations. Denver Water said a rail system would cost about $20 million and would be too costly to put in for the project. Travis Bray, project manager for the project, said studies showed the increase in truck traffic would not pose any significant delay or safety issue, but residents disputed the accuracy of those studies.

“I can’t imagine the road is safe with these trucks,” said Susan Simone, who works in Boulder and commutes on Colo. 72. “We don’t need a study to see that; we’re not stupid. My own car got totaled on that road.”

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


Boulder County Commissioners approve two stream improvement projects

July 22, 2011

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From the Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar):

Commissioners Ben Pearlman and Will Toor approved an application by the county’s Parks and Open Space Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rechannel and restore riparian and wetland habitat along a stretch of Lower Boulder Creek that runs through county-owned land between 109th and 115th streets northwest of Erie.

Pearlman and Toor also approved the city of Boulder’s application to improve in-stream habitat for native and non-native fish and restore riparian areas on a stretch of South Boulder Creek, a project that includes city-owned Open Space and Mountain Parks properties that extend into unincorporated Boulder County south of U.S. Highway 36 and west of Cherryvale Road.

The county’s project, which still must get final Corps of Engineers approval, would excavate a new, meandering stream channel about 6,400 feet long on the south side of the existing stream channel in which Lower Boulder Creek flows northeast.

Lower Boulder Creek’s existing straight channel through the area was created during past gravel mining operations and earthen levees were built along parts of its banks. That, the county staff reported to commissioners, disconnected the stream channel from its historic floodplain and created “a degraded and impoverished stream environment.”

After the new channel is excavated, Lower Boulder Creek’s current straight channel would be plugged and its path converted to a groundwater-fed wetland.

More restoration coverage here.


Boulder: The city has embarked on an $8.1 million 18 month project for wastewater treatment plant imprvovements

July 16, 2011

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

The project, which is now underway, will upgrade several critical components of the plant at 75th Street and Jay Road that turns the city’s raw sewage into water that’s clean enough to discharge into Boulder Creek. The work will include three separate projects.

One will convert the facility to use an ultra-violet sterilizer instead of chlorine gas. “The gas chlorine system is the single greatest danger at the wastewater treatment plant,” said Douglas Sullivan, the city’s utilities project manager…

Sullivan said upgrading the system to no longer rely on the chemical is the department’s “No. 1 priority.” The total cost of the new system is about $3.5 million…

A second project will upgrade the headworks at the plant. Headworks carry all of the raw sewage into the plant. The headworks contain screening devices that remove large debris from the sewage, and system that remove grit and rags. Those systems are now about 30 years old, and need to be replaced…

The third project will upgrade two large, cylindrical tanks that act as the stomachs of the wastewater plant. Known as the digester tanks, the devices heat and mix sewage to create solid waste “cake” that is sent to agricultural lands in east Adams County. The $1.6 million of upgrades will install a new mixing system that will help meet federal safety standards.

More wastewater coverage here.


Windy Gap Firming Project/Moffat Collection System Project update: Denver and Northern plan to fully mitigate project impacts

July 10, 2011

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

The developers of the two water projects, Denver Water and Northern Water, say they plan to not only offset any future environmental problems created by their new projects in the upper Colorado River basin, but to also work together to voluntarily “enhance” the existing habitat in the area. “By fully mitigating our impacts, we keep (the basin) the same,” said Denver Water’s Travis Bray. “Through enhancement and through our cooperative efforts we’re making it better.”

But [Kirk Klancke], who works as a water manager in Grand County, and some Colorado environmental groups contend that more aggressive mitigation and rehabilitation plans are needed to save what’s left of the Colorado River. “Both of these (water utilities) wrote an environmental statement that said there would be no impacts,” said Klancke, who also serves as the president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “But the third-grade class at Fraser Elementary can tell you what happens when you take 80 percent of a river.”[...]

Because Windy Gap’s water rights are relatively junior, the project only can divert water during wet years. But in wet years, Lake Granby — a critical storage reservoir for the Colorado-Big Thompson system — is often full, leaving no room for the Windy Gap water to travel to the Front Range. This makes the water supplied by Windy Gap to its original participants extremely unreliable…

If approved, the firming project calls for building a new reservoir west of Carter Lake in Larimer County. The Chimney Hollow Reservoir would be able to store 90,000 acre-feet of water, giving the Windy Gap water that can be drawn in wet years a place to go…

In Boulder County, Denver Water plans to offset the impacts of flooding hundreds of acres of land to expand Gross Reservoir by replanting woody riparian vegetation and by buying credits from buying credits from an approved “wetlands mitigation bank” to offset the two acres of wetland that will be inundated…

But what both water providers are most proud of is their cooperatively created “enhancement plan,” which they say will go beyond mitigating the impacts of the new project and actually improve the current conditions in the upper Colorado River basin. The idea is to restore the section of the Colorado River that lies downstream of both the Windy Gap and Moffat projects where the populations of giant stoneflies and sculpins, both of which are food for trout, have declined over the years. Together, Denver Water and Northern Water have agreed to spend $4.5 million on the restoration effort and put another $1.5 million into a reserve fund that can be used to tweak elements of the restoration project that aren’t working as designed. “This is not what we think is required by the state. We are not required to go back and make changes based on the impacts of past projects,” said Dana Strongin, spokeswoman for Northern Water. “This is a benefit — it’s something extra. We don’t have to do this, but we wanted to…

Mely Whiting, senior attorney with Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project, said the plans don’t adequately address stream temperature problems and flushing flows. When the mountain snowpack begins to melt in the late spring and early summer, the influx of water “flushes” the rivers, scraping sediment off the streambed and, in some years, overflowing the banks and recharging adjacent wetlands. Because both of the new projects plan to draw water during the periods of high runoff, Whiting said the rivers are being robbed of the critical flush. When flows stay low throughout the summer, the sediment builds up on the bottom of the rivers and destroys the habitat used by aquatic insects. The low flows also increase the danger that stream temperatures will climb higher earlier in the summer…

The solution proposed by Trout Unlimited is to essentially reconstruct the habitat of the Fraser and the upper Colorado River to create narrower channels that would allow the remaining water to run deeper, faster and cooler…

Trout Unlimited commissioned a study to see how much it would cost to do the work that it believes needs to be done on the Fraser and upper Colorado rivers. According to the study, $3 million to $5 million more needs to be budgeted in the mitigation plan to adequately rehabilitate the Fraser and about $5 million more is needed for the upper Colorado River. Western Resource Advocates then analyzed how much an additional $5 million each from Denver Water and Northern Water would cost their customers. The result is that Denver Water customers would have to pay an additional $0.53 a year for 30 years and Northern Water customers would have to pay an additional $1.60 a year for 30 years. “Is protecting a river worth a dollar a year?” Beckwith asked. “It’s not a lot of money. People lose that much money in the couch.”

But Denver Water’s Travis Bray said it’s not fair to expect his utility and Northern Water to shoulder the entire burden of rebuilding the upper Colorado River basin, which has been degraded over the decades due to multiple projects. “In a perfect world, Denver Water and Northern Water would have unlimited funding and we could just make the whole Fraser River a gold medal (trout) river,” he said…

The final environmental impact statements for both projects are expected to be released late this year or next year. When each statement is released, the public will have the opportunity to give public comment before a final decision is made about whether to give the projects final approval.

More coverage from Laura Snider writing for the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

If a Denver Water plan to nearly triple the size of Gross Reservoir gets the final OK, hundreds of acres of shoreline, tributaries, wetlands and vegetated slopes in southwest Boulder County would be underwater. The construction necessary to raise the dam more than 100 feet also would require trucks laden with sand to make 44 round trips up to the reservoir each day during peak construction from sand quarries near Longmont. Denver Water estimates that it will take five years to complete the project. These impacts have raised concerns with the Boulder County commissioners as well as reservoir neighbors…

Earlier this year, Denver Water also released its proposal for how the utility plans to mitigate fish and wildlife impacts for the project. The plan, which was approved in June by the Colorado Wildlife Commission, calls for mitigating the loss of about two acres of wetlands by buying credits from an approved “wetlands mitigation bank.” Denver Water also plans to replant native woody riparian vegetation along the edge of the newly enlarged reservoir to replace the four acres of riparian habitat that would be flooded if the expansion goes forward. Since the reservoir is largely fed from water traveling through the Moffat Tunnel from the Western Slope and emptying into South Boulder Creek, Denver Water would also monitor the effects of a greater volume of water on stream bank stability. The Boulder County commissioners have said that they do not believe Denver Water’s mitigation plan adequately addresses the impacts of the reservoir expansion.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.


Colorado River basin: Mitigating further declines to the riparian and stream environment from transmountain diversions in the upper river watersheds

July 5, 2011

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A while back Trout Unlimited signaled pretty strongly that the Moffat Collection System Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project were in for a fight, even as Denver Water and Northern Water were making efforts to appease west slope concerns with increased diversions from the upper Colorado and Fraser rivers. Despite the historic agreement between Denver Water and west slope water wonks and the recently announced Colorado Division of Wildlife approval for mitigation there may be a long battle ahead for the two Front Range providers to move more water through the Adams and Moffat tunnels.

Here’s a guest commentary about new proposed diversions from Drew Peternell running in The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

Earlier this month, Denver Water and the Northern District presented to the Colorado Wildlife Commission plans to mitigate the impacts of their projects. While the plans do include some meaningful provisions, they do not go far enough.

First, under the proposed mitigation, Denver can divert from the Fraser River even when diversions violate stream temperature standards designed to prevent fish mortality.

Second, the increased diversions could eliminate the spring high-water flows necessary to flush stream channels of sediment, which is choking many stretches of the river to death.

Third, the mitigation plans do not include a bypass of Windy Gap Reservoir, a measure that would reduce rainbow trout whirling disease and significantly improve conditions in the Colorado River downstream of the reservoir.

And fourth, while the mitigation plans include some funding for habitat projects to adapt the streams to the new, lower flow reality, the dollar figures fall short of what is needed by nearly $10 million, according to estimates by independent restoration contractors.

Yes, protecting the health of the upper Colorado River basin from the impacts of the proposed water diversions requires money. And $10 million may sound like a lot. But for Denver Water customers, it would be less than $1 a year per household, according to an analysis by Western Resource Advocates.

Denver Water and the Northern District won’t have to pay a nickel for the water they propose to take from the upper Colorado River basin, and they refuse to pony up the money needed to offset the impacts of their diversions, arguing that their customers won’t tolerate the rate increase.

Is saving our state’s namesake river worth a buck a year to you?

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Moffat Collection System Project and Windy Gap Firming Project: The Colorado Division of Wildlife commissioners approve both mitigation plans

June 11, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Mitchell Byars):

Now the plan must clear the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to release its final environmental impact study later this year. If the Army Corps gives the project the green light, construction on the expansion of Gross Reservoir in southwest Boulder County could start as early as 2015. The project is expected to take four years. The wildlife commission voted unanimously to accept Denver Water’s environmental mitigation plan. “We take this unanimous vote as an endorsement of our cooperative approach with local stakeholders,” said Denver Water’s planning director Dave Little. “Now we want to move aggressively towards implementing these measures.”[...]

In the mitigation plan, Denver Water agreed to stop diverting water from July 15 through the end of August if temperatures in the river reached levels that could possibly threaten local fish populations. The utility also pledged money to enhance stream habitats in cooperation with local counties and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Make the river better, that’s sort of our mantra,” Little said. “We’ve addressed all of the impacts in the scientific study the Army Corps of Engineers did, which was an exhaustive effort. But we know the Corps did not capture the impacts that some others have brought up and that’s why we went above and beyond in our mitigation plan.”

More coverage from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

In a series of unanimous votes, the commissioners approved mitigation plans for Denver’s Moffat Collection System project and Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project and also authorized the Colorado Division of Wildlife to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Denver and Northern to help manage a significant restoration project for the upper Colorado River…

The votes came after Denver and Northern described to Commissioners several new or modified plan elements, which include enhanced temperature and flow protections, creation of contingency funds for unanticipated impacts and enhanced funding for river restoration plans. The restoration plans were not required by the permitting process but were offered voluntarily by Denver and Northern to help address impacts from past water development. The agreements hinge on the water providers obtaining final federal approval for their projects…

Prior to the vote, Wildlife Commission chairman Tim Glenn summarized concerns expressed by several commissioners regarding the complex package of plans and the potential that development of the projects may have unintended consequences for the Upper Colorado, Fraser and Williams Fork rivers. “Is it perfect?” Glenn asked “No. But staff has evaluated it inside and out and I’m confident that it’s better than where we are.” The Commission’s recommendation will now be transmitted to the federal permitting agency for each project…

To further address impacts from its Moffat Collection System project, Denver has agreed to new elements including increased safeguards for maintaining cool water temperatures and minimum flows in the Fraser during high summer and additional funds for aquatic habitat improvements in that river. Denver also agreed to reserve $600,000 for a “mitigation insurance policy” to address any new impacts identified by the Final Environmental Impact Statement being developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This is in addition to Denver’s previous proposal to fund a Colorado River cutthroat restoration project and other aquatic habitat restoration work on the Fraser. On the Colorado River, Denver would maintain two water temperature gauges and agree to release water in August if high temperatures threatened fish…

East of the Divide, Denver would allow Boulder and Lafayette to store water in the enlarged Gross Reservoir for release during winter months, replace wetlands inundated by the larger reservoir and monitor stream channel stability.

In its final proposal, Northern agreed to increase minimum peak flows during drought conditions to maintain fish spawning habitat, to further restrict or curtail pumping during extreme conditions to protect cool water temperatures and to reserve $600,000 for a “mitigation insurance policy” to address any new impacts identified by the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Windy Gap being developed by the Bureau of Reclamation. Northern’s proposal included mitigating impacts on the Upper Colorado River system by managing their pumping to maintain water levels in Lake Granby and keep water temperatures cool, looking for ways to improve flushing flows in the Upper Colorado River below Windy Gap Reservoir and contributing to water quality projects that reduce nutrient loading in Lake Granby, Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir.

East of the Divide, Northern proposed to replace lost wetlands and improve enhance wildlife habitat near the new Chimney Hollow reservoir…

In their final plans, Denver and Northern agreed to add $1 million in funding to the Upper Colorado River Habitat Project to $4.5 million and increase money set aside to address future contingencies or operating and maintenance costs on that project to $1.5 million. Denver and Northern also pledged to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the DOW to manage the habitat project, and urged that the DOW be given a more direct role in developing and managing stream restoration projects contemplated under the Learn By Doing adaptive management process created by Denver’s global settlement with Grand County and other stakeholders…

Senior Northeast Region aquatic biologist Ken Kehmeier said Division staff believes that in total, the agreements, including those made with mountain communities, would not only address impacts from the new projects but also help repair impacts to the Colorado and Fraser rivers caused by previous projects.

More coverage from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

Commissioners were generally still worried about the “unintended consequences for the Upper Colorado, Fraser and Williams Fork rivers” but felt the revised mitigation plans – including greater temperature and flow protections for aquatic life, more funding for river restoration and a contingency fund for unanticipated impacts – were a lot better than previous plans. “It has always been Denver Water’s goal to go beyond mitigating the project impacts to make the river better than it is today,” Denver Water’s director of planning Dave Little said: “We look forward to working with stakeholders on mitigation for the project and the significant enhancement plan also accepted by the Commission that will improve aquatic habitat in the Upper Colorado River Basin.”

The fish and wildlife mitigation plans still must be approved by federal regulators. Also on Thursday, Denver Water provided a statement on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report that includes one scenario in which water levels in the Colorado River decrease by 10 to 20 percent by the middle of this century as a result of global climate change.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Moffat Collection System Project and Windy Gap Firming Project: The Colorado Division of Wildlife commissioners approve both mitigation plans

June 10, 2011

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife:

The Colorado Wildlife Commission Thursday endorsed Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plans submitted by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to mitigate impacts that would be caused by two proposed transmountain water development projects.

In a series of unanimous votes, Commissioners approved mitigation plans for Denver’s Moffat Collection System project and Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project and also authorized the Division of Wildlife to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Denver and Northern to help manage a significant restoration project for the upper Colorado River. Three members of the Colorado State Parks Board joined the Commission at the workshop, which was held at the Doubletree Inn on Horizon Drive.

The votes came after Denver and Northern described to Commissioners several new or modified plan elements, which include enhanced temperature and flow protections, creation of contingency funds for unanticipated impacts and enhanced funding for river restoration plans. The restoration plans were not required by the permitting process but were offered voluntarily by Denver and Northern to help address impacts from past water development. The agreements hinge on the water providers obtaining final federal approval for their projects.

Prior to the vote, Wildlife Commission chairman Tim Glenn summarized concerns expressed by several commissioners regarding the complex package of plans and the potential that development of the projects may have unintended consequences for the upper Colorado, Fraser and Williams Fork rivers.

“Is it perfect?” Glenn asked “No. But staff has evaluated it inside and out and I’m confident that it’s better than where we are.”

The Commission’s recommendation will now be transmitted to the federal permitting agency for each project. Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System project would firm up the yield from Denver’s existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by enlarging Boulder’s Gross Reservoir and diverting additional water from the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue rivers. Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project proposes to firm up the yield from its existing water rights in the Upper Colorado River by diverting additional water to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Loveland.

Since last fall, Denver and Northern have been in discussions with Division of Wildlife staff to address concerns voiced by the public and by Wildlife Commissioners. The two utilities have simultaneously been negotiating a complimentary set of agreements with a diverse group of stakeholders, including affected local governments like Grand County.

To further address impacts from its Moffat Collection System project, Denver has agreed to new elements including increased safeguards for maintaining cool water temperatures and minimum flows in the Fraser during high summer and additional funds for aquatic habitat improvements in that river. Denver also agreed to reserve $600,000 for a “mitigation insurance policy” to address any new impacts identified by the Final Environmental Impact Statement being developed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

This is in addition to Denver’s previous proposal to fund a Colorado River cutthroat restoration project and other aquatic habitat restoration work on the Fraser. On the Colorado River, Denver would maintain two water temperature gauges and agree to release water in August if high temperatures threatened fish. East of the Divide, Denver would allow Boulder and Lafayette to store water in the enlarged Gross Reservoir for release during winter months, replace wetlands inundated by the larger reservoir and monitor stream channel stability.

In its final proposal, Northern agreed to increase minimum peak flows during drought conditions to maintain fish spawning habitat, to further restrict or curtail pumping during extreme conditions to protect cool water temperatures and to reserve $600,000 for a “mitigation insurance policy” to address any new impacts identified by the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Windy Gap being developed by the Bureau of Reclamation.

Northern’s proposal included mitigating impacts on the Upper Colorado River system by managing their pumping to maintain water levels in Lake Granby and keep water temperatures cool, looking for ways to improve flushing flows in the Upper Colorado River below Windy Gap Reservoir and contributing to water quality projects that reduce nutrient loading in Lake Granby, Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir. East of the Divide, Northern proposed to replace lost wetlands and improve enhance wildlife habitat near the new Chimney Hollow reservoir.

Under state statute, the Wildlife Commission’s authority was limited to mitigating impacts from proposed projects. Restoring the river to a past condition was beyond the scope of Commission authority. However, Denver and Northern voluntarily proposed to help enhance conditions for fish and wildlife resources on both sides of the Continental Divide.

The enhancement plans would support the Upper Colorado River Habitat Project, a collaborative plan designed to re-establish a functional channel system and improve habitat for trout and other important aquatic species on a roughly 14-mile stretch of river between Windy Gap Reservoir and the Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Area.

In their final plans, Denver and Northern agreed to add $1 million in funding to the Upper Colorado River Habitat Project to $4.5 million and increase money set aside to address future contingencies or operating and maintenance costs on that project to $1.5 million. Denver and Northern also pledged to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the DOW to manage the habitat project, and urged that the DOW be given a more direct role in developing and managing stream restoration projects contemplated under the Learn By Doing adaptive management process created by Denver’s global settlement with Grand County and other stakeholders.

That global settlement, announced recently by Denver Water, would address longstanding concerns about the health of the Colorado River. The settlement includes funding for aquatic habitat and for an adaptive management process designed to help maintain river health.

Northern is also working on similar agreement with communities on the Upper Colorado River.

Senior Northeast Region aquatic biologist Ken Kehmeier said Division staff believes that in total, the agreements, including those made with mountain communities, would not only address impacts from the new projects but also help repair impacts to the Colorado and Fraser rivers caused by previous projects.

Commissioner David Brougham credited the Division, Denver and Northern for negotiating agreements which went beyond the Commission’s limited jurisdiction under the statute.

“I think in looking at this the Division has gone beyond and done more than that statute gives us the power to do,” Brougham said. “Denver and Northern could have said no, but they didn’t and I think that’s telling.”

Additional information regarding the Wildlife Commission’s review, including links to the mitigation and enhancement plans being offered by Denver Water and Northern, can be found on the Division’s web site at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/Water/MoffatWindyGapMitigationProjects/.

During the morning session, North Park District Wildlife Manager Josh Dilley was presented with the 2010 Shikar-Safari Club International Officer of the Year Award. Dilley, who for the past three years has had responsibility for two wildlife management districts in the high mountain basin, was presented with the award by Bob Boswell of Shikar Safari Club International.

Dilley, who was surrounded by his family, said he was honored by the award. “I don’t have to go to work every morning, I get to go to work every morning,” Dilley told the Commissioners. “Wildlife officers in Colorado have a passion like no other. I work with my heroes every day.”

Grand Junction’s Lynn Ensley, who founded the nonprofit Pathways for Fishing, was recognized for his outstanding service in recruiting young anglers in Colorado. “I can’t say enough about Lynn’s continued dedication, his passion and his enthusiasm,” said Northwest Regional Manager Ron Velarde. “Since 1995, Lynn has introduced almost 15,000 kids to the sport of fishing.”

Ensley expressed to the Commissioners his appreciation for the Division’s support over the years, adding that he is looking to develop a new program to recruit young deer hunters.

Commissioners also received an update on draft black bear management plans for the northern Front Range, the Sangre de Cristos, the Uncompahgre and the Bears’ Ears area of northwestern Colorado, as well as an update on the impending July 1 merger of the Division of Wildlife with Colorado State Parks.

In other action, the Commission adopted final regulations removing bag and possession limits at Bonny Reservoir State Park and allow the use of trotlines and jugs. This action permanently implements an emergency regulation passed by the Commission at its last meeting in May 2011. Bonny Reservoir is scheduled to be drained in the fall of 2011, and this change is intended to allow the public to use all game fish prior to the draining of the reservoir.

The Wildlife Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. The complete agenda for the June Wildlife Commission meeting can be found on the Wildlife Commission web page at:

http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeCommission/Archives/2011/June92011.htm.

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

More coverage from Wayne Harrison writing for TheDenverChannel.com. From the article:

Plans for minimizing the effects on wildlife include ways to maintain cool water temperatures and minimum water flows, restoring fish habitat and increasing flows during drought to maintain fish spawning areas. Denver Water planning director Dave Little says the goal is to improve the rivers.

More coverage from the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

Members of the Colorado Wildlife Commission voted unanimously Thursday to accept a plan by Denver Water to mitigate the impacts of a proposed expansion to Gross Reservoir in southwest Boulder County. The mitigation plan addresses impacts in Boulder County as well as impacts to the headwaters of the Colorado River, where more water will be drawn to fill the enlarged Gross Reservoir.

More coverage from the Longmont Times-Call. From the article:

The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which has its headquarters in Berthoud, provides water for agricultural, municipal, domestic and industrial uses in portionis of Boulder, Larimer, Weld, Broomfield, Morgan, Logan, Washington and Sedgwick counties. According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Northern has agreed: to increase minimum peak flows during droughts to maintain fish spawning habitat; to further restrict or curtail pumping during extreme conditions to protect cool water temperatures, and to reserve a $600,000 “mitigation insurance policy” to address any new impacts identified in a final Windy Gap environmental impact statement being developed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Vote Slated on Water Mitigation Plans

June 4, 2011

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

The Colorado Wildlife Commission plans to vote on the adequacy of plans to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife resources from two proposed transmountain water development projects during its meeting in Grand Junction.

The vote will complete the Commission’s 60-day review of the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plans submitted by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District at the Commission’s April meeting in Meeker.

The Moffat Collection System Project proposes to firm up the yield from Denver Water’s existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by diverting additional water from the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue rivers to an enlarged Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. The Windy Gap Firming Project would firm up Northern’s yield from existing water rights in the Upper Colorado River by diverting additional water to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Loveland. The mitigation plan review by the Wildlife Commission is part of each project’s federal permitting process.

Last month, Ken Kehmeier, a senior aquatic biologist with the Division, presented staff’s analysis of the plans during the Commission’s May meeting in Salida. Following Kehmeier’s analysis, Commissioners questioned whether additional protections might be needed to guard against high water temperatures and whether flushing flows contemplated by the plans would be enough to maintain channel health. They also asked for more consideration of mitigation and enhancement funding, and for a clarification of the role that the Division would play in developing and managing restoration projects.

As part of its mitigation package for the Fraser River and upper Williams Fork River, Denver has proposed to fund a Colorado River cutthroat restoration project and fund other aquatic habitat restoration work. On the Colorado River, Denver and Northern Water would monitor water temperatures and agree to release water in August if high temperatures threatened fish. East of the Divide, Denver would replace wetlands inundated by the enlarged Gross Reservoir and monitor stream channel stability in South Boulder Creek. Denver would also allow Boulder and Lafayette to store water in Gross Reservoir to boost minimum flows in the Boulder Creek drainage during winter.

Northern, for its part, has offered [to] manage their diversions to maintain water levels in Lake Granby and keep water temperatures cool in the Upper Colorado River below Windy Gap Reservoir. Northern also said it would contribute to water-quality projects designed to reduce nutrient loading in Grand Lake, Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Reservoir. On the other side of the Divide, Northern would replace wetlands submerged by the new Chimney Hollow Reservoir and enhance nearby wildlife habitat.

Denver and Northern are also voluntarily proposing enhancement plans to improve conditions for fish and wildlife on a roughly 14-mile stretch of river between Windy Gap Reservoir and the Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Area. The enhancement plans are not required by the Commission’s review process.

Once the Wildlife Commission adopts its final recommendation, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will have 60 days to affirm or modify the state’s position. Governor John Hickenlooper will also have 60 days to affirm or further modify it before it’s submitted to federal permitting agencies.

Recently, Denver Water announced it had reached a complex legal settlement with Grand County and 33 other groups regarding longstanding concerns about the health of the Colorado River. The settlement includes funding for aquatic habitat and for an adaptive management process designed to help maintain river health.

Additional information regarding the Wildlife Commission’s review, including links to the mitigation and enhancement plans being offered by Denver Water and Northern, can be found on the Division’s web site at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/Water/MoffatWindyGapMitigationProjects/.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Colorado River basin: Wildlife Commission hears water plan concerns

May 12, 2011

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife:

Colorado Wildlife Commissioners heard a day of presentations and testimony Friday as they continued to evaluate draft plans to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife resources submitted by proponents of two major transmountain diversion projects.

The public hearing came midway through the Commission’s 60-day review of mitigation and enhancement plans pertaining to Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System project and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming project. The meeting was held at the Hampton Inn and Suites on Highway 50 in Salida.

Wildlife Commission Chairman Tim Glenn said he was encouraged that Denver and Northern had incorporated additional changes to their draft plans based on public input during the past several months.

“Denver Water and Northern have listened to the concerns about impacts to fish and wildlife in the Upper Colorado River system and improved their plans in response,” Glenn said. “I think everyone’s focus is the health of these rivers and we look forward to continuing these discussions through staff during the next month.”

Ken Kehmeier, a senior aquatic biologist with the Division, presented staff’s analysis of Denver’s and Northern’s plans for mitigating impacts from the proposed projects as well as enhancing existing conditions on the impacted streams and rivers.

Following staff and public testimony, Commissioners asked for additional information about whether the mitigation plans were sufficient to protect cool water temperatures in the headwaters of the Colorado and Fraser River systems.

They questioned whether flushing flows would be adequate to rejuvenate cobble beds important for trout spawning and trout forage that have been degraded by previous water development. Commissioners said that they would like to see additional funding to help restore healthy river conditions and a legally binding agreement to ensure restoration would occur. They also suggested the Division should have an integral role in developing and managing restoration projects through the adaptive management process known as Learning by Doing.

Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project is designed to firm up the yield from its existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by enlarging Boulder’s Gross Reservoir and diverting additional water from the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue rivers.

Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project is proposing to firm up the yield from its existing water rights in the Upper Colorado River by diverting additional water to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Loveland.

In addition to the Commission’s fish and wildlife mitigation plan process, Denver Water recently announced it had reached a complex legal settlement with Grand County and 33 other groups regarding longstanding concerns about the health of the Colorado River that includes funding for aquatic habitat and development of the Learn by Doing process.

The Wildlife Commission is scheduled to make a final recommendation on the adequacy of the mitigation plans at its June meeting in Grand Junction.

“Healthy river systems are critically important to the future of this state,” Glenn said. “The Commission’s review of these projects has been lengthy and we greatly appreciate all of the input we have received on how we can best fix the river. Water projects like this have to be done right if we’re going to have healthy wildlife and a healthy tourism economy.”

Additional information regarding the Wildlife Commission’s review, including links to DOW staff evaluations of the mitigation and enhancement plans being offered by Denver Water and Northern, can be found on the Division’s web site at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/Water/MoffatWindyGapMitigationProjects/.

More coverage from Bruce Willoughby writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The commission dedicated the day solely to public commentary on two controversial transmountain water diversion projects proposed for Colorado River headwaters, and river advocates crammed the docket with impassioned pleas for assurance that the projects won’t decimate fragile fisheries such as the Fraser River, Williams Fork, Blue River and the Upper Colorado itself. They came away with none…

Representatives from Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Colorado River Landowners and Western Resource Advocates expressed concerns over the proposals by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to annually draw thousands of acre-feet more water from Windy Gap Reservoir for Front Range storage and by Denver Water to increase diversions through the Moffat Tunnel to an enlarged Gross Reservoir near Boulder…

“I see dead brown trout on the bank every year in August because the water temperatures are too high,” said rancher Ron Jones, whose Fraser River frontage merits Gold Medal designation. “If they want to take the water, then they should put the money into doing what it takes to protect the rivers.”

It’s an interesting perspective — putting the health of the rivers ahead of the perceived need for more water elsewhere. There is some money on the table dedicated to enhancement of a portion of the Colorado, but consensus holds that it’s not nearly enough. And as currently proposed, many mitigation measures are conditional upon the volume of water already diverted and stored in East Slope reservoirs, not necessarily what’s happening in the rivers it’s being drawn from.

The Wildlife Commission, meanwhile, finds itself in the compromising position of attempting to address flaws it has identified in the proposals and finding a way to enforce its stance in the next month. After that, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will have 60 days to affirm or modify the commission’s recommendation as the state’s official position.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: Prior appropriation often conflicts with maintaining streamflow

May 9, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“A change to a water right has become a suicide mission and hamstrings these types of agreements,” [Eric Kuhn, executive director of the Colorado River Conservation District] said at last week’s Interbasin Compact Committee. His comments brought a chorus of agreement, and talk of how to implement flexibility and creativity in water rights among others around the table.

Actually, the state has spent months talking with the negotiators about the kinds of things that might be acceptable in guaranteeing flows, State Engineer Dick Wolfe said this week. “We’ve looked at the agreement in order to talk about implementation,” Wolfe said. “We went through a process to identify flexibility in existing laws.”[...]

There are five separate agreements with state and federal agencies that have to be reached in order to implement the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. State provisions include a Blue River consent decree from Division 5 Water Court in Summit County, agreement on delivery of consumptive flows from Denver in Grand County, and an agreement on environmental flows. Agreements with the Bureau of Reclamation must be reach on the Shoshone power plant and for Green Mountain Reservoir operations…

“We push to have them take it to water court,” Wolfe said. “It minimizes what a future state engineer or division engineer may decide.” While court decrees are paramount, the state engineer can administer contracts between water users, and can also shepherd state in-stream flow rights (which can only be held by the Colorado Water Conservation Board) to meet flow demands. Water court case filings serve to notify other water users if changes are being contemplated.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Colorado Division of Wildlife: Moffat Collection System and Windy Gap Firming projects hearings recap

May 9, 2011

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Commission chairman Tim Glenn pointed out that authority of the commission is limited to review of mitigation plans to address impacts to fish and wildlife by the proposed projects.

Representatives from Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Colorado River Landowners and Western Resource Advocates urged commissioners to seek more extensive measures than those proposed in mitigation plans. Specific issues during public testimony include higher water temperature, insufficient flushing flow, nutrient loading, effect of climate change, need for monitoring and adaptive management and adequacy of long-term financing…

Studies cited during testimony indicate mayfly species below Windy Gap Reservoir have been reduced from 17 species in 1983 to five species in 2010. Stonefly species have declined from 10 to four during the same time. Both insects are important food sources for trout.

Commissioners heard from the City of Broomfield and Platte River Power Authority who support mitigation proposals. They said reservoir projects would strengthen their operations…

Final recommendation from wildlife commissioners is due in June. After the wildlife commission adopts a final recommendation, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will have 60 days to affirm or modify it.

More coverage from the Associated Press via the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

At a meeting Friday in Salida, Grand County was among those who told wildlife commissioners to better preserve stream flows so that river temperatures are cool enough for fish to thrive, and so that river systems can be flushed of sediment that can choke bugs that provide food for trout…

Both water suppliers have proposed steps such as not diverting water to their systems in the summer when stream flows drop below a certain level or when water temperatures get too high. Critics said diversions should be restricted whenever those thresholds are crossed, not just on certain dates.

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


Colorado River basin: Anglers are still working on protection for upper basin streams

May 6, 2011

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Anglers are still concerned with potential streamflow issues at the Colorado River headwaters, in light of the proposed Moffat Collection System and Windy Gap Firming projects, despite the euphoria over the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement announced a week ago. Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

Altogether, the projects have the potential to reduce Colorado River flows to less than 25 percent of their historic native flows. Biologists and anglers have already observed increases in stream temperatures, algae blooms, and declines in fish populations throughout the Colorado River headwaters. Taking more water out of these rivers could be catastrophic if mitigation efforts fall short, according to Trout Unlimited. Both proposals are currently under review by federal and state agencies, with detailed mitigation plans at issue. The Colorado Wildlife Commission will take input on the mitigation plans Friday, May 6 at a public hearing in Salida, and Trout Unlimited, a coldwater fisheries conservation group, plans to ask the commission to make sure there’s an insurance policy in place for the Fraser River and the Upper Colorado.

“We think what we’re asking for is pretty reasonable,” Whiting said. “This is the only chance we’re going get to address some of these impacts. We need to have an insurance policy,” she added. Whiting said the environmental studies for the Moffat and Windy Gap projects dealt with some of the anticipated impacts in a speculative way, and that there’s no way of knowing exactly how the increased diversions — planned during the peak flow season — will play out. If the money currently earmarked toward enhancements is sufficient, great. But if not, there needs to be a pot of money in reserve to do the needed work, she said. Specifically, Trout Unlimited said that significant restoration work and monitoring will be needed to ensure healthy aquatic ecosystems on the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers. The group estimates that it will cost about $14 million for the needed work, yet only a fraction of that funding is included in the mitigation plans…

Trout Unlimited also wants the Front Range utilities to make a commitment to stop diversions when the water gets too warm or flows drop too low. Removing too much water from the river during runoff or during critical hot summer months raises stream temperatures and eliminates flushing flows that are needed to keep river ecosystems alive. If flushing flows are not occurring or if temperatures rise above state standards, fish can die. Water providers need to make a commitment to stop diversions when stream temperatures approach state standards or if flushing flows are not occurring in accordance with the community-led Grand County Stream Management Plan. These commitments, combined with ongoing monitoring, are what is referred to by the concept of ‘Adaptive Management.’

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: ‘Summit State of the River’ speakers tout win-win for Summit County and Denver Water

May 5, 2011

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjin):

“I remember thinking, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever gotten myself into. There are so many issues. There are so many players,” said Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson, who was the point person for many of the water conversations.

As Denver Water takes on responsibilities such as defining its service area, recycling and reusing water, setting conservation goals and timelines, Summit County reaps many specific benefits, officials said. In particular, county municipalities and ski resorts get more water — 1,743 acre-feet more water. Some is free, some has conditions, but what it translates to is a firmer supply in dry years for towns and ski resort snowmaking — which likely means a more protected economy.

Denver Water has also agreed to maintain the Dillon Reservoir water level at or above 9,012 feet in elevation between June 18 and Labor Day. It’s the critical level for Frisco Marina to be operational, helping drive the county’s summertime economy. “It’s their reservoir and their water rights,” Summit County manager Gary Martinez said, but they’ve agreed to not take water for recreational or hydropower on the Front Range to the detriment of Dillon Reservoir.

Also on the tourism front, the deal helps maintain recreational flows at or more than 50 cubic feet per second — primarily to benefit fishing, Silverthorne-Dillon joint sewer operations and, at higher flows, boating — into the Blue River below Dillon Dam in normal years. Dire drought circumstances are the exception, when lawn watering is banned by Denver Water — an event that’s never occurred, Lochhead said.

A one-time $11 million windfall from Denver Water comes to the county for wastewater treatment plant improvements, environmental enhancements, forest heath projects and local water and sewer work. Also, Denver Water will have the ability to sell water to some south metro area water providers, with some of the money going toward a Western slope fund for similar projects in Summit County.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: Deal lauded as win-win at the ‘Summit State of the River’ meeting

May 4, 2011

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

[Colorado River Water Conservation District general manager Eric Kuhn] sat on a panel with Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead and Summit County manager Gary Martinez, as well as the Summit County commissioners, together outlining the give and take of the deal that clears the way for Denver Water’s proposed expansion of its Moffat Tunnel collection system in Grand County — a project still under scrutiny by federal and state agencies, including the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The Moffat Tunnel project wouldn’t directly take any new water from Summit County, but because of the complex plumbing involved, it would result in increased diversions from the Blue River Basin — 5,000 acre feet, taken during spring runoff in wet and average years…

“Long-time disputes were resolved,” said County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier, adding that Denver Water will impose a West Slope surcharge on certain types of water sales, potentially providing an ongoing source of funding for environmental projects, including forest health work.

At one point, Lochhead was asked by an audience member how much of Denver Water’s total usage — about half — goes to outdoor lawn irrigation. “We’re not going to dry up all the bluegrass lawns on the Front Range, we’re not going to get that,” said Commissioner Thomas Davidson. What you’ve got to understand is what we’re getting in this agreement is far more than what we could have gotten in water court from a judge,” Davidson said.

From Steamboat Today (Mike Lawrence):

Local water policy experts say the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, announced Thursday in Tabernash and touted as a historic framework for future collaboration between Front Range and Western Slope water interests, has little, if any, direct impact on the Yampa River and its tributaries in Northwest Colorado. The agreement primarily addresses Denver Water, metro area suburbs and their interaction with municipalities and river managers along the Colorado River…

While the Upper Yampa and Northern Colorado water conservancy districts are not participants in the agreement, the districts’ interests are deeply intertwined with those who are. In recent years, for example, the Northern Colorado water district has studied the potential for a trans-mountain diversion, or pumpback, of Yampa River water to the Front Range. One hypothetical project proposed diverting Yampa River water near Maybell, in western Moffat County.

Dan Birch, deputy general manager of the Colorado River District, said last week’s agreement, a deal several years in the making, cools pumpback [Yampa Pumpback] proposals. “I think it takes the heat off, for the time being, for trans-mountain diversions,” Birch said…

Talk of pumpbacks also has cooled recently because of the multi-billion-dollar costs of such projects, the recessionary economy and other factors. “I don’t know of anyone else stepping forward at this stage of the game seriously talking about a Maybell pumpback,” Birch said. “I just don’t see anything happening in the near-term out of the Yampa.”[...]

District officials plan to discuss water issues with the Steamboat Springs City Council on May 17 in Centennial Hall.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Denver: Denver Water’s summer watering rules took effect May 1

May 3, 2011

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Lori Peck):

Denver Water would like to remind its customers that its summer water use rules began May 1. In addition to the rules, the utility encourages customers to pay attention to weather and lawn conditions before watering.

“Half of a household’s water use goes to outside watering,” said Melissa Essex Elliott, manager of conservation. “Most lawns don’t need as much water as you might think. Watering your lawn two days a week should be sufficient during May and into June.”

Denver Water’s watering rules, in effect until Oct. 1, are:

- No lawn watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- Do not water more than three days per week (there are no assigned days for watering).
- Do not waste water by allowing it to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
- Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete and asphalt.
- Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
- Do not water while it is raining or during high winds.
- The utility will continue to enforce its rules with a team of 11 Water Savers, including four on bikes.

“The Water Savers’ purpose is as much about educating customers as it is about enforcing Denver Water’s rules,” said Elliott. “We continue to have some monitors on bikes as a more approachable way to talk with our customers one-on-one about wise water use.”

If you see water waste in one of Denver’s parks, call 3-1-1. To report waste elsewhere, call Denver Water at 303-628-6343 or fill out online form.

Colorado’s dry climate means everyone needs to take part to ensure adequate water supplies will be available well into the future. “A small step like adjusting your watering times based on the weather is a great way to become more efficient,” said Elliott. Denver Water’s long-term plan to secure water for the future includes encouraging water conservation as a permanent way of life for Denver residents.

Visit conservation for tips, rebates, irrigation calculators and many more tools for saving water outdoors, including suggested watering times.

More Denver Water coverage here.


Boulder: Boulder Wastewater Treatment Facility employs cogeneration to reduce power costs

April 15, 2011

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From the Boulder Weekly (Chelsea Long):

…since 1986, the treatment facility has been finding ways to offset that electrical necessity. Back then, it was methane gas. Now, it’s solar power. “For the last 25 years, we’ve been beneficially using the methane gas that we derive from treated solids. As we break down and treat solids, a gas is formed that’s primarily methane,” Douville says. “Methane has a combustion value, and we use a system called co-generation to make electricity.” That system generates an average of 20 percent of the facility’s power needs, and it keeps methane from being released in the atmosphere. “Not all communities do that. We’re on the exception end of things,” Douville says. “Normally what a facility would do is burn the gas, so they’d flare it, ignite it and combust it, and it would go off in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and heat. Boulder made the commitment to produce electricity.”[...]

One of the last steps in decontamination is to rid the water of bacteria and other pathogens that are present in high levels. Currently, the center uses gaseous chlorine to disinfect the water of these pathogens. “It’s very effective but is extremely toxic to aquatic life and a huge safety risk to city staff and residents nearby, if we had a leak or tank rupture. That’s a low-probability event, but still a realistic risk scenario that we face,” Douville says. The center uses a second gas to dechlorinate and remove residual chlorine, so that toxins aren’t released into the stream, but both of those gases will be replaced with a UV disinfection system. “It’s a focused, targeted wavelength of high energy that only takes a matter of seconds to disinfect the wastewater and achieve compliance with our regulations,” Douville says.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Denver Water releases their Moffat Collection System mitigation plan

April 13, 2011

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

…the “Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plan” released last week by Denver Water, which says the Gross Reservoir expansion is necessary to meet a projected shortfall of 18,000 acre-feet of water per year for its customers by 2030. The water to fill the newly expanded reservoir would be drawn from the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers — both tributaries of the Colorado River — and pumped across the Continental Divide to Boulder County via the Moffat Tunnel. The Colorado Wildlife Commission now has 60 days to review the mitigation plan, which addresses impacts on both sides of the divide, before providing a recommendation to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

In Boulder County, the mitigation plan also calls for monitoring the stability of South Boulder Creek’s stream channel above Gross Reservoir, which would carry an increased amount of water if the expansion is approved. Denver Water would also add an extra 5,000 acre-feet of water to the reservoir that could be released in the winter to increase flows in South Boulder Creek below the dam.

The mitigation plan for the Gross Reservoir expansion was released at the same time as a mitigation plan for the Windy Gap Firming Project, which also seeks to bring more water to the Front Range from the Colorado River watershed. The Windy Gap project, which is being proposed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, would bring more water to some Boulder County towns, including Erie, Superior, Lafayette, Longmont and Superior…

Managers for the two projects also worked together to create an “enhancement plan” for the upper Colorado River tributaries that would address some of the ecological issues caused by low water flow in the area. Enhancements could include narrowing and deepening the river channel in some areas…

“The heavy focus on what they call enhancements — they are fine and good — but they really address past problems,” [Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited's Colorado Water Project] said. “What does this mean about these new projects?” Peternell said he also worries that the plan lacks teeth and clear thresholds for enforcement. For example, Trout Unlimited would like assurances that Denver Water will stop withdrawing water from the upper Colorado River if stream temperatures get too high, endangering fish. And they’re also concerned that spring “flushing flows” — which are ecologically important to the river — won’t be preserved.

Here’s the link to the Colorado Division of Wildlife website for the projects.

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


Conservation: Boulder city agencies cut consumption 19 percent over the past three years

April 10, 2011

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

“We’ve decreased our usage by 19 percent,” said Joanna Crean, a project manager for the city’s public works department. A recent report to the City Council shows that some city departments saw double-digit reductions in their water consumption between 2008 and 2010. Conservation efforts and fixing leaky pipes helped the Housing and Human Services division reduce its water use by 34 percent, while the Boulder Municipal Airport used 33 percent less water and Boulder police used 15 percent less water over the past three years. In total, the city has reduced its indoor water use by 5.5 million gallons, while its outdoor water usage has dropped by 43.3 million gallons.

More conservation coverage here.


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

April 3, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The complete agenda for the April Wildlife Commission workshop, as well as a discussion of proposed regulation changes for Lon Hagler and Lone Tree state wildlife areas, can be found on the Wildlife Commission web page at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeCommission/Archives/2011/April72011.htm.

More information on Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System proposal and Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project may be found here: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/Water/MoffatWindyGapMitigationProjects/.

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

To access the live audio feed during the meeting, click on the “listen to live audio” link at the bottom of the Commission webpage at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeCommission/

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

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

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

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

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

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


Colorado River Basin: Where does your water come from?

March 9, 2011

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Here’s a post from Alan Predergast from the Westword Blogs. Click through for his links to videos on the subject. Here’s an excerpt:

[The video Tapped Out from Colorado Trout Unlimited] starts out with some ignoramus-on-the-street interviews along the Sixteenth Street Mall, in which Denver citizens are asked just that question: “Where does your water come from?” The most common answer? “The sink.”

As much as 60 percent of the metro area’s water consumption goes to landscaping — mostly that nice green grass imported from somewhere else.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


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