Chatfield Reallocation Project: “This a premier state park, and it’s going to have the heart knocked right out of it” — Polly Reetz

July 10, 2014
Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

From The Denver Post (Joe Vaccarelli):

The Army Corps of Engineers has approved an expansion of Chatfield Reservoir that will also bring some infrastructure improvements to the park, but patrons shouldn’t expect to see work done any time soon. According to Army Corps of Engineers project manager Gwyn Jarrett, it could be three to four years before work is underway and two to three years after that before it’s complete.

The project was approved in late May and has been in discussion since the mid-1990s. The expansion will add 20,600 acre feet of water capacity — which could raise water levels in the reservoir by 12 feet — for joint use, flood control and water conservation. The $183 million project will help supply water providers in the metro area and across the Front Range as population and demand increases.

“This project will meet a portion of the expected demand in Colorado,” Jarrett said. “It’s not going to solve the problem, but it will help with the growing population.”

Once construction does start, most of the work will be done in the off-season, but people can expect that certain portions of the park could be closed at times. Part of the construction will include improving some of the amenities at the park such as new recreation buildings, picnic tables, beach areas and bathhouses.

“A lot of amenities date back to the mid-to-late 1970s when the project was constructed,” Jarrett said.

Chatfield State Park manager Scott Roush said the park doesn’t have to do much to get ready for the construction, but his staff will be involved with the design process when that kicks off, possibly this fall.

Part of that discussion will include the marina, which may have to move because of the rising water levels.

Public feedback had not been all positive, as some organizations feel that this project will damage some environmental aspects of the park.

The plan will flood more than 500 acres of the park and inundate some cottonwood trees near the reservoir, destroying habitat for several species of birds.

“We initially thought at first that (the project) was fairly benign, but we didn’t know that it will do massive environmental damage on one of the largest parks in the metro area,” said Polly Reetz, conservation chairperson for the Audubon Society of Greater Denver.

Reetz had other problems with the plan, saying that increasing the capacity of the reservoir doesn’t guarantee more water. She was also displeased that the state passed legislation to permit loans to water providers in order to pay for the project.

Roush said that while they will lose some trees, some would be relocated to other parts of the park.

“There’s been a lot of feedback about the cottonwood trees. We’re going to lose some trees; they will come back eventually,” he said.

But Reetz said there is no guarantee that the trees will come back and she was surprised the corps went with the proposal, saying it was the most harmful environmentally.

“It’s a really bad deal for the public,” Reetz said. “This a premier state park, and it’s going to have the heart knocked right out of it.”

More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here.


Tribune Opinion: U.S. Army Corps approval of Chatfield water project is ‘big deal’ for some Weld County farmers

June 11, 2014

Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE


From The Greeley Tribune editorial staff:

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re glad to see the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers give its blessing to a proposal to expand Chatfield Reservoir south of Denver.

The Chatfield Reallocation Project, as it’s officially called, would cost $184 million and raise the lake by 12 feet. There are a dozen participants in the project, including the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley.

Without the approval of the Army Corps, the project wouldn’t move forward. But the Corps last week officially signed off on the plans, including its wildlife-mitigation efforts and other efforts to minimize the impacts of the project.

“It’s a major milestone,” said Randy Knutson, president of Central Colorado’s board of directors. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we at least have the needed approval now to do that work.”

One might wonder why Greeley-area farmers would be interested in a reservoir expansion project south of Denver. The reasons are complicated, but in essence the new Chatfield water will allow some groundwater wells in this part of the state to begin pumping again.

Central Colorado oversees two subdistricts providing augmentation water to farmers in the LaSalle and Gilcrest areas and other parts of south Weld.

For someone to legally pump water out of the ground in Colorado, most wells must have an approved augmentation plan to make up for depletions to the aquifer. But because of increasing water prices, some in the ag community — many in the Central Colorado’s boundaries — have struggled to find affordable water they can use for augmentation.

For example, the price of a unit of Colorado-Big Thompson Project water has more than doubled to over $20,000 per unit since January 2013.

Thousands of groundwater wells in the area have been curtailed or shut down in recent years, and the Chatfield project will help get some of those wells pumping. Through some water exchanges and trades, Chatfield will provide an additional 4,274 acre-feet of water annually to some of Central Colorado’s water users.

It’s not easy to get Army Corps approval for water storage projects. That’s a “big deal,” as Knutson says, to help irrigate thousands of acres in Weld County that have been dried up in recent years.

Water officials estimate it will be 2017 before the new Chatfield water can be used in northern Colorado, but nonetheless we join many farmers and Central Colorado water users in celebrating the news.

Here’s the release from the Corps of Engineers (Gwyn Jarrett/Eileen Williamson):

The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, approved the Chatfield Reservoir, Colorado, Storage Reallocation Project in a Record of Decision sent to the Omaha District on May 29.

In the accompanying memo, Darcy said, “The proposed reallocation project alternative is technically sound, environmentally acceptable and economically justified.”

The Omaha District released the final Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement (FR/EIS) in July 2013, regarding the request from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to evaluate using Chatfield Reservoir as a solution for meeting future Front Range water needs while balancing the health of Colorado’s rivers and streams.

Gwyn Jarrett, project manager said, “The Corps has worked with the Department of Natural Resources’ Water Conservation Board in Colorado, 15 water use districts, multiple interested stakeholders and non-governmental organizations, including environmental groups, through a highly collaborative process, which helped lead to the approval of this complex, comprehensive project.”

The feasibility report and environmental impact statement aligns with the guidelines of the National Environmental Policy Act, to ensure public input plays a major role in the decision making process and that impacts to wildlife, vegetation, ecosystems, water and air quality, flood control, cultural resources and other factors are properly mitigated.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Director of Civil Works, Steven L. Stockton, requested approval of the FR/EIS earlier this year. In his request, Stockton included an addendum to the report, which provides an update to project costs for Fiscal Year 2014, as well as a summary of public and agency comments on the Final FR/EIS, completed biological opinions related to the South Platte River and the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse, and the finalized Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Report.

On learning of the Record of Decision, Jarrett said, “The Corps worked with many outstanding agency and organization representatives on this project to assist the State of Colorado in meeting a portion of its growing water demand.”

The project will allocate 20,600 acre feet of storage in Chatfield Reservoir for municipal and industrial water supply and other purposes including agriculture, environmental restoration, and recreation and fishery habitat protection and enhancement.

By reallocating storage from the exclusive flood control pool into a joint conservation/flood control pool, the conservation pool level at Chatfield will increase by 12 feet, and provide an average of 8,539 acre feet of water per year for municipal and industrial use at less cost than other water supply alternatives.

Implementation of the pool rise and use of the reallocated storage will occur incrementally as recreational and environmental mitigation projects are completed. The reservoir operations plan will also be modified to reflect the changes.

In addition to water supply benefits, the FR/EIS states that flood control capabilities at Chatfield and within the Tri-Lakes system will not be affected. The pool raise and more frequent fluctuations in pool elevations will require significant modifications to relocate and replace existing recreation facilities, resources and project roads with new facilities and roads.

The plan includes expansive environmental mitigation to replace or compensate for habitat on Chatfield project lands inundated by the pool raise, including wetlands, bird habitat and habitat (including designated critical habitat) of the federally threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. The selected plan includes up to five years of monitoring the environmental mitigation features and adaptive management to ensure mitigation success.

Associated costs including the updated cost of storage, water supply infrastructure, recreation area modifications and environmental mitigation will be funded at no cost to the Federal government.

More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here.


HB14-1333: Legislature to fund Long Hollow project — The Durango Herald #COleg

May 9, 2014
Long Hollow Reservoir location map via The Durango Herald

Long Hollow Reservoir location map via The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

A Southwest Colorado water district can expect $1,575,000 from the Legislature to help build a dam just off the La Plata River. It’s one of the few water projects statewide the Legislature is funding this year.

Long Hollow Reservoir, about five miles north of the New Mexico border, is being built to help farmers and ranchers in southwestern La Plata County keep water through the dry months, while at the same time letting the state meet its legal obligation to deliver water to New Mexico.

“Part of the reservoir would be for interstate compact compliance when Colorado has a difficult time making deliveries to New Mexico,” said Bruce Whitehead, executive director of the Southwest Water Conservation District…

With the money from the state’s water projects fund, Long Hollow reservoir should be finished by fall, he said. Most of the money to build the reservoir was set aside when the Animas-La Plata Project was scaled down.

The Legislature’s annual water projects bill, House Bill 1333, often has something for water users all across the state. But this year, Long Hollow is the only construction project to get direct funding. The bill also makes up to $131 million in loans to two projects on Denver’s south side – an expansion of Chatfield Reservoir and a water-efficiency and reuse project in the southern suburbs.

The bill has passed the House on a 61-1 vote, and it is on track to pass the Senate early this week.


Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project: Episode One

December 28, 2013

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


Highlands Ranch water rates to go up in 2014

November 30, 2013
Highlands Ranch

Highlands Ranch

From the Highlands Ranch News (Ryan Boldrey):

Following spikes of 2 percent in 2012 and 3.8 percent in 2013, Highlands Ranch residents are expected to see rates go up 6.8 percent this coming year. This year’s proposed increase is due to the district’s involvement with both the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership (WISE) and Chatfield Reallocation Project, said Bruce Lesback, CWSD director of finance and administration…

“We held off as long as we could before increasing rates to this level for our customers, but it appears both projects are now going forward,” Lesback said.

For CWSD, the two projects are a major step toward cementing a long-term water supply and not relying as much on groundwater or leased water.

“We’ve got many years of full supply, but some of that full supply comes from leases that are not long-term,” CWSD General Manager John Hendrick told Colorado Community Media earlier this year. “We want to add to our portfolio with long-term or near-permanent surface water sources.

“We’ve got ample groundwater for droughts, but in wet years we’ll now be able to take in more than we need to and top off our reservoirs with surface water.”[...]

A public hearing was held Nov. 25 on the proposed CWSD budget. The board of directors will vote to adopt the 2014 budget at its Dec. 16 meeting.

More infrastructure coverage here.


The Chatfield Reallocation Project presents their ‘Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Mitigation Plan’ to CPW

November 17, 2013
Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Philosophically, the proposed water storage expansion of Chatfield Reservoir makes some sense. In reality, it makes some headaches.

Participants of the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project took their turn before the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission in Lamar on Friday, formally presenting the “Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Mitigation Plan” essential for approval of the proposal to double the water storage in the south Denver reservoir. The presentation started the 60-day review clock for commission approval required by state statute and offered a closer look at the likely impacts to one of Colorado’s most popular state parks.

“No water project is without environmental impacts and the statute doesn’t require that the impacts be eliminated, it requires that we mitigate them,” said Mike King, executive director of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources. “(The participants and stakeholders) are to be commended for being creative in getting us to this point. I’m hopeful that we can get this across the finish line in the next couple of months.”

The hurdles to be overcome at Chatfield range far beyond the environmental, however. The 1,423-acre reservoir and surrounding topography serve as a cornerstone of the state park system, annually attracting more than 1.5 million visitors and generating some $2.2 million in revenue. Impacts to the park during and after inundation of 587 additional acres are expected to be significant.

Wide fluctuations in water levels are anticipated as additional municipal and agricultural water storage join the reservoir’s current primary uses of flood control and recreation. An additional 12 vertical feet of potential water fluctuations is likely to have considerable impact on park operations and will require the relocation of multiple facilities when the reservoir fills to its new level.

The law does not require that a mitigation plan for recreation impacts be approved by the commission, however project participants have proposed plans to alleviate unavoidable impacts to recreation facilities and amenities.

“Areas that were recognized as being potentially impacted included the park, fish and wildlife, recreation and financial,” said Randy Knutson, board member of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Mitigation plans for all these impacts either have been developed or are in the development phases.”

“We feel that we’ve gone above and beyond the state law requirement,” added Randy Ray, water resources manager for the Centennial Water & Sanitation District. “This plan addresses all the concerns.”

While the 11 project participants have pledged up to $116 million to finance the potential impacts identified in studies by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, concerns remain. Foremost among them is the reservoir’s dramatically fluctuating water level.

Under the state park’s current operating agreement with Denver Water, Chatfield typically fluctuates no more than five feet between Memorial Day and Labor Day, offering recreational users reliable water levels for boating, fishing and other summer activities. The “Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Mitigation Plan” notes that the new “fluctuation zone” could be up to 21 feet, citing a comparison study of six other Front Range reservoirs showing that impacts (mud, weeds, mosquitoes, etc.) would be negligible.

Project participants insist that the reallocation proposal will have a positive impact on the South Platte River downstream from Chatfield, including an improved fishery as water is conveyed to downstream users from mid to late summer and through fall and winter. The “new reservoir” effect of added nutrients also has potential to improve fishing within Chatfield in the short term, although fluctuating water levels have been associated with elevated mercury levels in walleye at other reservoirs.

Reallocation participants have agreed to maintain water levels in the reservoir during critical walleye and smallmouth bass spawn periods. They also announced a new plan to preserve a gravel pond popular among recreational users that was initially subject to inundation.

“It’s an ongoing process. I feel better about some of the changes that they’ve made but we’ve got 60 days still to work through some of the details,” said Ken Kehmeier, a CPW aquatic biologist working on the project. “Bottom line is that it won’t be the Chatfield that everybody knows right now.”

More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


The draft Chatfield Watershed Plan is ready for public comment

November 9, 2013
Chatfield Watershed via the Chatfield Watershed Authority

Chatfield Watershed via the Chatfield Watershed Authority

Here’s the release from the Chatfield Watershed Authority via the Littleton Independent:

The group working on a vision for the future of the Chatfield watershed has developed a draft plan and wants the public to weigh in.

“The Chatfield Watershed Plan provides an essential framework for prioritizing and protecting our local natural resources,” Casey Davenhill, executive director of the Colorado Watershed Assembly, said in a press release. “It also offers citizens educational information to help adults, kids, pet owners, farmers and others take responsible action to safeguard public health and safety that ultimately affects water quality in all of our communities.”

The CWA was established in 1984 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in an effort to protect water quality throughout the watershed, which includes parts of Douglas and Jefferson counties. Member agencies include the Audubon Society, Denver Water, a variety of water and sanitation districts, several municipalities, the Denver Urban Water Partnership and many more.
The plan focuses on stream restoration and mitigating the effects of wildfire and erosion. It calls for diverting runoff away from areas polluted by such things as animal waste and deteriorating septic systems, in an effort to protect the groundwater and the South Platte River south of Chatfield Reservoir.

“In addition to its primary purpose of flood control, (Chatfield) serves as one of many water-supply reservoirs for the City of Denver and other Front Range communities, which is why it’s essential for all citizens to understand how human, animal and recreational activities affect water quality and the natural ecosystems that co-exist with one another,” said Julie Vlier, supervising engineer at Tetra Tech, the firm that conducted the study for CWA. “The inclusive public process in which the watershed plan has been carefully developed focuses on the practical actions that will lead to significant improvements to water quality in this vital watershed.”

CWA will accept public comments through January, then organize them in time for a final public meeting in the spring. It can be viewed at http://www.chatfieldwatershedauthority.org; click on “Watershed Plan,” then “Plan Documentation.” Send comments to julie.vlier@tetratech.com.

This plan is entirely separate from the pending Chatfield reallocation project, the final draft of which was released in September. It can be viewed at http://www.chatfieldstudy.org.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


‘With this new plan, the reservoir is expected to fill up maybe three out of every 10 years’ — Scott Roush

September 23, 2013
Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE

Chatfield Reservoir proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Attempting to separate Chatfield Reservoir and Chatfield State Park is a bit like splitting conjoined twins. There is significant risk, potential reward and inevitable growing pain. Yet that’s essentially what the proposed Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation does. The plan to double water storage in the reservoir from its current recreational pool size will significantly alter the identity of the popular park that relies upon it.

The comment period on the project’s Final Environmental Impact Study closed at the beginning of September, and if the recommended alternative for reallocation is approved, neither Chatfield will ever be the same.

“It’s going to change the way the park operates if it goes through,” Chatfield State Park manager Scott Roush said. “The way we operate now, we know the water that Denver has is going to be there when we fill the reservoir back up in the spring. With this new plan, the reservoir is expected to fill up maybe three out of every 10 years. That makes it hard on the recreational side.”

Constructed on the South Platte just south of Denver in 1975, Chatfield Reservoir was built for both flood control and recreation. The 1,423-acre reservoir and encompassing 3,768 acres of land are owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and leased to Colorado Parks and Wildlife in 25-year cycles currently running through 2028. The park originally opened in 1979, the same year the state arranged an agreement with Denver Water granting storage rights in the reservoir with the understanding that, in general, it would be operated to allow for 20,000 acre-feet of storage (5,427-foot elevation) every summer for recreational purposes. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Chatfield typically fluctuates no more than 5 feet. According to Roush, 2013 marked the first summer since 1979 that the pool dipped below the baseline elevation of 5,423 feet.

“That’s a pretty good track record,” Roush said. “We’re trying to maintain the water in the reservoir at a reasonable level for recreation like we’ve been able to do in the past. Visitors that come to Chatfield, that’s what they’re used to.”

Consensus holds that will no longer be the case should the reallocation proposal preferred by the Corps of Engineers be approved by federal and state officials as soon as January 2014. That plan to allow up to 20,600 additional acre-feet of storage for a conglomeration of municipal, industrial and agricultural water providers would raise the reservoir 12 vertical feet.

But the Corps’ own analysis recognizes that the junior water rights of the reallocation mean filling the pool to the new operating elevation of 5,444 feet will be inconsistent at best. And the absence of an operating agreement akin to the 1979 contract leaves park managers to deal with potentially frequent water fluctuations of 17 feet or more, affecting recreational users in a number of ways.

Filling the reservoir to the new level will flood 587 additional acres. Roads, parking lots, beaches, bike paths, trails, boat ramps, picnic shelters, fishing ponds and dog parks will be inundated. Restrooms and other buildings will be relocated to more than 600 horizontal feet above the low water line. Many relocated facilities will be constructed within the 10-year floodplain in order to provide reasonable access to the reservoir.

In a recent report to the state Parks and Wildlife Commission, Roush cited an increase in boating hazards along the reservoir’s shallow southern edge, shoreline mudflats exposed in dry years, loss of existing wetlands and new weed proliferation because of more frequent and greater water level fluctuations. Increased bank erosion is anticipated along with the loss of 0.7 upstream miles of the South Platte and wildlife habitat as up to 285 acres of trees will be removed.

Increased water fluctuation may disrupt spawning and recruitment of the lake’s wild smallmouth bass, CPW senior aquatic biologist Ken Kehmeier said. Similarly vacillating water levels are associated with elevated mercury levels in walleye at other reservoirs. Kehmeier says the proposal is likely to result in an additional 70 “zero flow” days per year in the South Platte below the Chatfield dam.

“We’ve been in discussion with the participants for the last year to try to put together a plan that would, if not mitigate, then minimize impacts. The toughest ones, obviously, have been park infrastructure and taking care of the park itself. And then the downstream issues,” Kehmeier said. “Because they’re such junior rights, there’s going to be a lot of years that they’re not going to have any water to release.”

Officials estimate a three-year construction period to restore services and implement proposed environmental mitigation in the park that annually attracts more than 1.5 million visitors and generates $2.2 million for the economically strapped state park division.

Not everyone believes the park’s current natural aesthetic can be re-established, however. “The quality of the recreational experience will be vastly different,” said Gene Reetz, a retired EPA employee and volunteer with SaveChatfield.org. “A lot of people think it will be just like it is now, only with higher water level. But most of the time it won’t be like that. It would be pretty devastating, not just to recreation, but to wildlife as well.”

Project proponents such as Rick McCloud with Centennial Water and Sanitation District maintain that even a changed Chatfield will remain a superb recreation and wildlife area. Others are skeptical. “I’m concerned as a manager about how successful the mitigation will be,” Roush said. “Is it going to be successful enough to maintain what you have today?”

More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


Windy Gap Firming Project update: Analysis paralysis #ColoradoRiver

September 6, 2013

chimneyhollowsitedpviareclamation.jpg

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Joshua Zaffos):

Begun in 2003 and scheduled to be up and running by 2011, the project, known as the Windy Gap Firming Project, like many others across the state, still is mired in regulatory delays. Whether or when Windy Gap will be built is still unclear 10 years after the first regulatory review took place.

Three other major water projects face similar delays and uncertainty…

Northern is working with 13 Northern Colorado water providers to develop the latest phase of Windy Gap, which is designed to serve 60,000 households.

Northern Water initially submitted the project for environmental he project for environmental review to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 2003. Through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a project’s environmental impacts are reviewed during several stages of technical analysis and public comment. A 2005 Northern Water fact sheet projected a final “record of decision” could come by the end of that year, meaning construction could start soon after and the reservoir would be ready by 2011.

That forecast was wildly optimistic. The bureau didn’t issue a final environmental impact statement, a key step in NEPA, until late 2011. Reviews by federal and state scientists, environmental groups and western Colorado interests each triggered calls for mitigation and changes that added months and then years of delay…

Project partners have spent $12 million to date just on permitting, agreed to pay millions more than expected for environmental mitigation and watched the cost estimate jump nearly 28 percent, from $223 million to $285 million. That’s roughly $1,033 per household.

Similar delays and cost overruns have plagued nearly every other major Colorado water-development project that has sought regulatory approval since the 1990 defeat of Two Forks Dam. Proposed by Denver Water, the $1 billion Two Forks project passed through NEPA with government approval before the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed the decision because of study inadequacies and unresolved water-quality impacts.

After more than a decade of drought and a new wave of growth, water utility planners believe the project review system is broken and must be fixed. Legal experts and environmental watchdogs say the projects themselves are outdated in concept and that utilities need to rethink how they obtain, store and deliver water…

Drager has had to ask Windy Gap Firming Project partners for an extra $1 million four separate times in the past five years to pay for unexpected mitigation. Consideration of the upper Colorado River as a federally designated wild and scenic river triggered additional analysis. State fish and wildlife managers required further mitigation plans, including a study for a fish bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir. Northern Water also had to agree to enhance river habitat and operate water diversions to support endangered fish in the Colorado River. The EPA filed comments that led to further changes. When an end seemed near in June 2012, Grand County exercised its “1041 powers,” requiring a new permit and an agreement from partners to improve clarity for Grand Lake, which has deteriorated in part because of Northern’s water diversions. Now mostly settled, the Grand Lake revision marked the fifth major project stoppage.

“It’s not just NEPA,” Drager said. “There are a whole bunch of federal requirements – the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act – and then you’ve got a group of state laws which don’t always work well with the federal laws. So, it’s very hard to know when is the last step. When are you done?”

Communities and water districts that are footing the bill have weathered the delays and tacked-on costs so far. The Little Thompson Water District in Berthoud has avoided charging existing customers extra, said district manager Jim Hibbard, because one developer is shouldering the district’s share of the costs and adding those dollars to the cost of new homes he is building. “Probably the most significant impact is the costs of the project keep going up,” Hibbard said.

The city and county of Broomfield, another project partner, has used money from water tap fees for its share of the project and paid the additional costs with reserve funds stashed away for such purposes, said public works director David Allen. But even with the added mitigation and expenses, both managers say the project remains an inexpensive and preferred alternative to purchasing shares in existing water projects, such as the Colorado-Big Thompson system or buying out farmers’ water rights and drying up local agriculture…

Since Two Forks, federal agencies involved with NEPA reviews are “gun shy,” said Dave Little, planning director for Denver Water, which also has spent more than 10 years seeking approval for its own major water project, the Moffat Collection System…

Cost overruns may look excessive, but initial estimates often come in low to ease early acceptance of a project, [Western Resource Advocates Drew Beckwith] said, adding that some delays are squarely on the shoulders of project managers who haven’t adequately analyzed certain impacts or mitigation actions. “I don’t think anyone is really happy with the way the process works right now,” Beckwith said. “Utilities think it takes too long. Conservationists would say there’s not enough good input.”

He said he would like to see a more open-ended, upfront approach to water-supply challenges instead of a water agency selecting a preferred solution and then following a “decide and defend” strategy.

The changing pressures from environmental organizations also have factored into delays. The proposed $140 million Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation southwest of Denver, another storage expansion project under consideration, has received support from several conservation groups, including Western Resource Advocates, because it avoids building an entirely new reservoir, but the Audubon Society of Greater Denver opposes the development because it would flood wetlands and other bird habitat…

The plodding pace of regulatory review may remain an annoying reality – unless a water utility can devise ways to provide water without massive new storage or delivery pipelines.

Aurora did just that. A decade ago, facing water shortages and drought, Aurora Water planners recognized the need for swift action to protect system reliability and service for existing customers. The utility decided to build its Prairie Waters Project, an $854 million pipeline and treatment facility that would allow the city to reuse 50,000 acre-feet of water annually and meet its water demands through 2030. Since the project didn’t include new storage, managers avoided prolonged federal review, said Darrell Hogan, the project manager, and Aurora Water further expedited its work by tunneling under waterways. To have disturbed the waterways otherwise would have required Clean Water Act 404 permits. Hogan said the project didn’t evade environmental protections; planners still consulted with government scientists and conservationists, and had to acquire more than 400 permits for local construction and operations. However, working around the federal system facilitated progress. Prairie Waters went from concept to completion in less than six years, delivering water in October 2010 on time and under budget.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Chatfield Reallocation Project update: ‘We seem to be getting there, finally’ — Randy Knutson

August 31, 2013

chatfieldreservoirreallocationprojectalternatives.jpg

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Weld County farmers working against the clock to acquire more water could finally be nearing the finish line in one of their endeavors.

This month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moved forward with its plan to nearly double the size of Chatfield Reservoir south of Denver — a project that would store and deliver more water to farmers in the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley, along with other water users. After conversations of the project started in the 1980s and permitting efforts began in the mid 2000s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final environmental impact study of the Chatfield Reallocation Project earlier this month and will accept comments regarding its final EIS until Tuesday. Afterward, recommendations will be forwarded to the assistant secretary to the Corps of Engineers, who will make the final decision.

Central Water executive director Randy Ray and Randy Knutson — a Weld County farmer who serves on the board of directors for Central Water — both said the final decision on the project could be released as early as the start of 2014. “We seem to be getting there, finally,” Knutson said. “It’s a good thing.”

Central Water, which provides augmentation water to more than 100,000 acres of irrigated farm ground in the area, is one of 11 water-providers participating in the proposed Chatfield project. The $184 million Chatfield Reallocation Project would raise the Denver-area lake by as much as 12 feet, and, in doing so, would provide an additional 2,849 acre-feet of water annually to some of Central’s users.

But before additional water can be stored at Chatfield Reservoir, facilities at the state park must be relocated to higher ground and new wildlife habitats must be created, along with many other measures.

While farmers in Weld County and others have supported the project, some people have been against it, questioning if enough efforts are in place to mitigate the potential impacts to wildlife and recreation in the area.

Local farmers say they need to secure such water supplies, and quickly, because the cities around them are growing and are increasing their own water needs.

Central Water and the farmers within its boundaries have long been dependent on leasing excess water from local cities, but those supplies are becoming more limited, and expensive. Farmers need augmentation water to make up for depletions to the aquifer and surrounding surface flows caused by pumping water out of the ground.

In addition to battling cities for supplies, more augmentation water is needed since many of the groundwater wells in Central Water’s boundaries were either curtailed or shut down in 2006, when the state made augmentation requirements more stringent. Some farmers haven’t been able to use their wells since then because they haven’t had the necessary amount of augmentation water to do so.

More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here.


Chatfield reallocation project update: Public comment period closes Tuesday, September 3

August 30, 2013

chatfieldreservoirreallocationprojectalternatives.jpg

From The Denver Post (Karen Groves):

The deadline for public comment on potential changes to Chatfield Reservoir is near. A reallocation study aimed at expanding the reservoir has been an ongoing effort of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Colorado water providers, environmental organizations and other agencies for many years. By enlarging the reservoir, the recommended plan will ensure water supplies are secure for generations to come.

According to the report, Colorado’s population is projected to be between 8.6 and 10.3 million by 2050. It’s calculated that the state will need between 600,000 and 1 million acre-feet per year of additional municipal and industrial water.

“This proposed reallocation project will help enable water providers to utilize a surface water supply source to provide water to local users, mainly for municipal, industrial and agricultural needs,” the report states. The reallocation under consideration is 20,600 acre-feet, which will mean a 12-foot rise in the surface level of the reservoir.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the public is encouraged to review the final feasibility report and Environmental Impact Statement and comment by Sept. 3. The 500-page report, which has grown to 3,208 pages, is available at local libraries and agencies. A final decision will be made by Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, probably by the beginning of 2014.

According to Cheryl Moore with public affairs at the Omaha District of the Army Corps of Engineers, if approved, the design phase will take a year, followed by two years of construction.

One concern from opponents of the plan has been the removal of the cottonwood forest and, with it, the reduction or demise of a bird population and wildlife viewing. Moore said some trees will be inundated and removed, but will be replanted.

“Ultimately, we anticipate there will be a mosaic of trees for people to enjoy,” Moore said. She stressed that facilities will be replaced to ensure park users have the same experience.

Since Chatfield State Park gets at least 1.6 million visitors a year, if the plan is approved, visitors will no doubt experience the effects of construction, but Moore said work will take place in phases and during the offseason. According to Scott Roush, park manager, the distance from the parking area during low water will be farther away. He said all facilities will be moved to a higher elevation. Visitors seeing the biggest changes are boaters and users of the swim beach on the west and south sides. “The facilities will be moved back and redeveloped,” Roush said.

Hard copies of the report are at the Highlands Ranch Library, 9292 Ridgeline Blvd.; Columbine Library, 7706 W. Bowles Ave., Columbine (Littleton); Aurora Library, 14949 E. Alameda Parkway; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office, 9307 S. Wadsworth Blvd. in the Littleton area; and the Colorado Water Conservation Board, 1313 Sherman St., Denver.

Written comments may be sent to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, Attn: Chatfield Reservoir, 1616 Capitol Ave., Omaha 68102-4901 or e-mail chatfield study@usace.army.mil.

More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Reports available for public review

August 2, 2013

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Here’s the release from the US Army Corps of Engineers (Gynn Jarrett):

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has prepared a Final Feasibility Study / Environmental Impact Statement for the Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation, Littleton, Colo.

The final report identifies and compares four main alternatives and outlines in detail the preferred alternative for reallocating storage space in the Chatfield Reservoir for joint flood control- conservation purposes, including storage for municipal and industrial water supply, agriculture, environmental restoration and recreation and fishery habitat protection and enhancement. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 requires the Corps to assess and report the socio-economic and environmental effects of reallocating storage for these purposes.

“Extensive coordination with Colorado Department of Natural Resources, the project sponsor, and water providers occurred throughout this project to complete the final report. Representatives from federal, state, local governments and nongovernmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Audubon Society as well as members of the public provided substantial input into the development of this project and provided comments on the draft report. This input was taken into consideration to prepare the final document,” said Gwyn Jarrett, project manager.

The public is encouraged to review the final report and environmental impact statement during the open comment period from Aug. 2, 2013 to Sep. 1, 2013.
BACKGROUND: Population growth within the Denver, Colo., metropolitan area continues to create a demand on water providers. Colorado’s population is projected to be between 8.6 and 10.3 million in 2050. The Statewide Water Supply Initiative, commissioned by the State Legislature, estimates that by 2050, Colorado will need between 600,000 and 1 million acre-feet/year of additional municipal and industrial water. There is also a strong need for additional water supplies for the agricultural community in the South Platte Basin as thousands of acres of previously irrigated land has not been farmed in recent years due to widespread irrigation well curtailments.

The purpose and need of the Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Study is to increase availability of water, sustainable over the 50-year period of analysis, in the greater Denver area so that a larger proportion of existing and future (increasing) water needs can be met.

The final Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Feasibility Study Report and Environmental Impact Statement is available for viewing at: http://cdm16021.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16021coll7/id/10 and in hardcopy at the following locations:

  • Highlands Ranch Library, 9292 Ridgeline Blvd., Highlands Ranch, CO 80129, (303) 647-6642
  • Colorado Water Conservation Board, 1313 Sherman Street, Room 721, Denver, CO 80203, (303) 866-3441
  • Columbine Library, 7706 West Bowles Avenue, Littleton, CO 80123, (303) 235-5275
  • ‎Lincoln Park Library, 919 7th Street, Suite 100, Greeley, CO 80631, (970) 546-8460
  • Aurora Public Library, 14949 E. Alameda Parkway, Aurora, CO 80012, (303) 739-6600
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tri-Lakes Project Office, 9307 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Littleton, CO 80128
  • Written comments should be sent to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District; CENWO-PM-AA; ATTN: Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation FR/EIS; 1616 Capitol Avenue; Omaha, NE 68102-4901. Comments can also be emailed to: chatfieldstudy@usace.army.mil.

    Comments must be postmarked or received no later than Sep. 1, 2013.

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


    SB13-181: Water Conservation Bd Construction Fund Projects moves out of committee, would fund Chatfield reallocation

    February 25, 2013

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    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    A water development project of huge interest to local farmers got a big boost Thursday, after it had endured setbacks in recent weeks when a couple of participants backed out. The Colorado Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee moved forward a bill that supports $70 million in water projects, with about $28 million of that going toward the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project, according to a news release from Senate Majority Whip Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, who introduced the bill. The measure, [Senate Bill 13-181: Water Conservation Bd Construction Fund Projects] will go to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

    The Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley, which provides augmentation water to more than 100,000 acres of irrigated farm ground in the area, is one of 13 water-providers participating in the proposed Chatfield project. The endeavor would raise the Denver-area lake by as much as 12 feet, and, in doing so, would provide an additional 2,849 acre-feet of water to some of Central’s users.

    The $184-million Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project wouldn’t provide immediate help for local farmers, who battled drought last year and are potentially facing another round in the upcoming growing season. But local farmers say they need to secure future water supplies quickly, because the cities around them are growing and are increasing their own water needs.
    Central Water and the farmers within its boundaries have long been dependant on leasing excess water from local cities, but those supplies will soon be limited, and are already becoming more expensive. Augmentation water is needed to make up for depletions to the aquifer and surrounding surface flows caused by pumping water out of the ground.

    In addition to battling cities for supplies, the additional augmentation water is needed since many of the wells in Central Water’s boundaries were either curtailed or shut down in 2006, when the state made augmentation requirements more stringent. Some farmers haven’t been able to use their wells since then because they haven’t had the necessary amount of augmentation water to do so. Randy Ray, executive director for Central Water, said that, if S.B. 181 goes through, it could speed up the Chatfield project by at least several months. Ray said he expects the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project to get federal approval by the end of 2013, meaning participants can go forward with needed mitigation efforts.

    Before additional water can be stored at Chatfield Reservoir, facilities at the state park must be relocated to higher ground and new wildlife habitats must be created, along with other measures. Without the new bill freeing up state funding, the water-providers participating in the proposed project wouldn’t have enough dollars to get going on those mitigation efforts, Ray said.

    Two water providers — Aurora Water and the Roxborough Water and Sanitation District — recently backed out of the Chatfield project to pursue other projects. Ray described that development as a “setback.” They had accounted for about 20 percent of the funding for the project. But if the bill can pass this year and make state funds available, mitigation efforts at Chatfield can take place as soon as federal approval comes.

    Without the state funds, though, there’s uncertainty about whether there would be enough dollars available, and the project, even with federal approval, would be at a standstill until state funding was available later in 2014, or maybe even farther down the road. According to the news release from Schwartz, the 15 water projects in the bill would get under way without taking money from the General Fund. The funds will come from the state’s Construction Fund and the Severance Tax Trust Fund Perpetual Base Account, both of which include sustainable revolving loan programs. The Construction Fund has helped nearly 440 water projects get going since 1971, according to Schwartz.

    In November, voters in the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District approved a pair of water measures, including a $60 million bond issue that would help pay for Central Water’s portion of the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project, along with other endeavors. Central Water officials also are considering the construction of gravel pits for an additional 8,000- 9,000 acre-feet of storage, and buying 1,000 acre-feet of senior water rights with the approved bonds.

    More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.


    Chatfield Reallocation Project: Public comments help to delay EIS

    February 18, 2013

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    From the Columbine Courier (Ramsey Scott):

    Jeffco will have to wait until the end of the year before it can see an Army Corps of Engineers report on the proposed expansion of Chatfield Reservoir.

    The controversial expansion would raise the reservoir by 12 feet and flood 600 acres to help meet the area’s rising water needs. The corps’ report was originally due at the end of 2012 but was delayed due to the extensive public comment on the project.

    Monique Farmer, a senior spokeswoman for the corps, confirmed that the public unleashed a barrage of opinions about the plan.

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


    First public meeting for the Chatfield Watershed Plan is March 7

    January 29, 2013

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    Here’s the announcement from the Chatfield Watershed Authority:

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


    Chatfield Reallocation Project: Littleton plans to take streamflow protection lead

    September 10, 2012

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    From the Littleton Independent (Jennifer Smith):

    “I think it’s appropriate for Littleton to take the lead, because we are probably the most impacted by this,” said City Manager Michael Penny. City staff has reached out to Denver Water, the state, Centennial Water and Sanitation, Colorado Water Conservancy and Aurora, among others. Penny said there’s been general willingness to come together to discuss how to keep maximum flow running through the river should the project come to fruition…

    Council noted that the Corps says a minimum of 10 cubic feet per second of water flowing north through the South Platte River would benefit the fish habitat, but the number of days that would happen would be reduced under the proposal.

    Additionally, the study was designed to predict levels during months and years rather than hours and days; council believes that could mask the real impacts. Council is also perplexed as to why the Corps didn’t take measurements between the dam and Denver, where point several tributaries raise water levels.

    More Chatfield Reservoir 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.


    Chatfield Reallocation Project update: ‘A re-timing of when water would be flowing downstream’ — Rick McLoud

    August 23, 2012

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    Here’s an in-depth look at project proponents’ assurances, from Ryan Boldrey writing for the Highlands Ranch Herald. From the article:

    As a public comment period nears its Sept. 6 close, the issues of environmental and recreational impact remain at the forefront of the discussion.

    Both the Audubon Society and the South Platte Working Group – which includes officials from the City of Littleton and South Suburban Parks and Recreation District – have expressed concerns. Issues include possible negative effects on animal habitat, potential damage to the South Platte River and loss of trees and recreational amenities.

    Proponents say all environmental and recreational impacts would be fully mitigated.

    “Change is never easy and we are not going to suggest that it is going to look exactly like it does today,” said Steve Welchert of the Chatfield Water for Life Coalition. “But more water is a good thing, it increases habitat for everybody. The bike paths, hiking paths and marina would all be moved, but not eliminated. Included in the cost of the project is $45 million dedicated to the modification of recreational facilities.”

    According to Rick McLoud, water resource manager for Centennial Water and Sanitation District, another $70 million of the total $180 million price tag is dedicated to environmental mitigation…

    According to McLoud, the project would take extra water from the South Platte River during high-runoff flow months such as April, May and June and hold it in the reservoir. Sixty percent of that water would then end up being released downstream at points later in the summer during high-drought times.

    “In essence we would be doing a re-timing of when water would be flowing downstream,” McLoud said. “We would see stream enhancements and work on the channel configuration to aid the low-flow times, benefitting not just farmers in Weld County and people in the suburbs, but habitat as well.”

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


    Chatfield Reallocation Project comment period ends September 6

    August 21, 2012

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    From CBS4Denver:

    The reservoir was created for flood control along the South Platte River, but the expansion would allow the area to be used to hold excess water supply. The Audubon Society says that would only happen in three years out of 10 and would not make the expansion worthwhile.

    Comments about the project are still being accepted. Visit the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Study website for more information.

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


    Chatfield Reallocation Project: Reservoir expansion = Smart bottom-up, community-wide public policy?

    August 20, 2012

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    Here’s a guest column in support of the Chatfield Reallocation Project written by Randy Knutson and Rick McLoud running in The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

    Chatfield is a common-sense solution that will help bring locally grown produce to Colorado citizens, provide greater sustainability for domestic water supplies, and stabilize South Platte stream flows through the metro area.

    Expanding the reservoir is an example of smart bottom-up, community-wide public policy. It is indeed rare that the suburbs, agricultural interests and the environmental community agree on anything, let alone a water project. Chatfield is that model. For over six years, stakeholders from all of these groups and more have been talking with the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a transparent and open process. Supporters and opponents have been involved in these meetings since the beginning. And in June 2012, the corps conducted three packed public hearings, from Gilcrest to the Dakota Hogback, where citizens shared their views of the project.

    That’s why groups as diverse as Trout Unlimited, The Sierra Club, The Greenway Foundation and Western Resource Advocates have joined the members of our bipartisan Colorado congressional delegation to back this project in support of farmers, families and the environment.

    Click here to view a letter of support from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable.

    The Greeley Tribune editorial board has come out in favor of the project as well. They write:

    Water storage projects are never easy. Public support can be splintered; permitting can take years; environmental concerns frequently surface; they are expensive. You’ll never hear anyone say that a water storage proposal is a slam dunk. But from where we sit, the proposed expansion of Chatfield Reservoir southwest of Littleton is at least an uncontested lay-up, and we’re hoping the project wins quick approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


    Chatfield Reallocation Project: Many are eyeing the project warily

    August 7, 2012

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    From the Littleton Independent (Jennifer Smith):

    “The political support seems overwhelmingly in favor of the project as one small step to ease the projected shortfall in water for the metro region,” reads a staff report to the South Suburban Parks and Recreation District board. “However, it does not seem as though South Platte Park or South Suburban recreation users or park patrons are guaranteed any mitigation or specific benefits from this plan as written.”[...]

    Members of the local Audubon Society said during an Aug. 2 meeting they are planning to sue should the Corps’ preferred alternative go forward. One significant problem, they say, is a little amphibian called the northern leopard frog, which is one step below being endangered.

    Joe Farah is a Chatfield volunteer who has been studying reptiles and amphibians at Chatfield for a decade. He says he gave his work to the Corps, but it’s not reflected in the proposal – which never mentions the frog. Farah said the project would have a devastating impact on its habitat.

    The Corps’ study notes it won’t negatively affect the threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, which also lives at the lake and caused quite a stir a few years ago when it was threatened by development in Douglas County…

    “This is potentially disastrous,” Farah said. “I fail to see how this project will do anything positive for anything but humans.”[...]

    Audubon has launched a website, www.savechatfield.org, and is planning tours of the affected areas in Chatfield the weekend of Aug. 18-19.

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here.


    The Colorado River District is on board with the Chatfield Reallocation Project

    July 24, 2012

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    Here’s a letter from Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River Water Conservancy District, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (Thanks to Mark Shively, Douglas County Water Authority, for sending it along in email.):

    On behalf of the Colorado River Water Conservation District (River District), I am writing to express the District’s support for the proposed Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Project as described in the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement (FR/EIS) for the Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Study recently released for public comment.

    The River District is the principal water policy and planning agency for the Colorado River Basin within the State of Colorado. The District is a public water policy agency chartered by the Colorado General Assembly in 1937 to be “the appropriate agency for the conservation, use and development of the water resources of the Colorado River and its principal tributaries in Colorado.” The River District provides legal, technical, and political representation regarding Colorado River issues for our constituents.

    The River District has actively monitored the development of the Chatfield Reallocation Project since its inception. We believe this is a much needed and appropriate water supply opportunity for Colorado water providers.

    The U.S. ACOE determined that Chatfield Reservoir can safely store an additional 20,600 acre feet of water without jeopardizing the reservoir’s original and authorized flood control purposes. This water is critically needed by various Colorado Front Range water providers. This reallocated storage space will allow several communities in the southern Denver metro area to more efficiently and effectively use existing water supplies and will reduce their current over-reliance on non-renewable groundwater supplies.

    With this letter, the River District joins Colorado’s Congressional delegation, the Colorado General Assembly, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and others in support of this commonsense solution to additional water storage for consumptive use in Colorado. We support the Tentatively Recommended Plan in the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement on the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project and request that our letter be included in the record of public comments on this draft FR/EIS.

    Additionally, we respectfully encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete its final review of the project and issue a Record of Decision in a timely manner so that requisite mitigation work can begin and additional consumptive use water can be stored in Chatfield Reservoir.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


    The Morgan County Commissioners are supporting the Chatfield Reallocation Project

    July 21, 2012

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    From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

    The goal of the Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Project is to clean silt out of existing water storage at Chatfield Reservoir and expand its capacity. Overall, it is expected to mean the reservoir could hold an extra 20,600 acre feet of water or more, said Morgan County Commissioner Laura Teague during Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Morgan County Commissioners. That would prevent that amount of water from running out of Colorado, and save it for use in the state, she said…

    Water providers who contract and pay for the use of the water storage have agreed to pay for the needed mitigation of environmental impacts and modification of recreational facilities…

    The commissioners approved a resolution to support the project, and it will be delivered to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the record of public comments on the project…

    The Town of Wiggins Board of Trustees approved a similar letter last week.

    More South Platte River basin coverage here and here.


    The Metro Roundtable is on board with the Chatfield Reallocation Project

    July 17, 2012

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    Here’s the resolution of support:

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here. More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.


    ‘While the impacts to recreation in Chatfield State Park will be significant, they can be mitigated’ — Amy Conklin (Barr-Milton Watershed Association)

    June 12, 2012

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    From the Highlands Ranch News-Herald (Jennifer Smith):

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft of the Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement on June 8. In an effort to help meet the growing demand for water in the metro area, the study recommends reallocating 20,600 acre-feet of water from flood control to usable storage. This would raise the water in the recreation area by 12 feet, flooding some of the park and requiring reconfiguration of the marina and other amenities.

    “The Chatfield Reallocation project has been intensively worked on for about 20 years,” said [Amy Conklin of the Barr-Milton Watershed Association]. “It is one of the few water projects in Colorado to gain support from agricultural, municipal, environmental and recreational stakeholders. While the impacts to recreation in Chatfield State Park will be significant, they can be mitigated. The impacts to the environment will likely be a net positive because of the increase in in-stream flows.”

    Conklin notes the state will need the equivalent of four more Lake Dillons to meet its water needs by 2050. “Chatfield Dam is already there, and the lake has the storage capacity,” she said. “It is a water project that makes good sense.”

    The Corps of Engineers says the proposal will regulate the flow of water from the reservoir into the river. Skot Latona, manager of South Platte Park, said such efforts could benefit the river habitat, depending on when water is stored and how it’s released.

    More South Platte River basin coverage here and here.


    South Platte River Basin: Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project comment period now open

    June 8, 2012

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    Here’s the release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

    The Corps of Engineers, Omaha District (Corps) is pleased to announce the release of the Draft Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Feasibility Report /Environmental Impact Statement (FR/EIS) on June 8, 2012.

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposes to reallocate 20,600 acre-feet of storage from the exclusive flood control pool to the conservation pool at Chatfield Reservoir. Chatfield Reservoir is well placed to help meet this objective for the following reasons: the reservoir provides a relatively immediate opportunity to increase water supply storage without the development of significant amounts of new infrastructure; it lies directly on the South Platte River (efficient capture of runoff); and it provides an opportunity to gain additional use of an existing federal resource.

    The FR/EIS has been prepared by the Corps under the authority of Section 808 of the Water Resources Development act of 1986, in sponsorship with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). The study provides a comprehensive evaluation and comparison of water supply alternatives and their associated impacts and benefits. Based on the analysis presented in the FR/EIS, the Corps recommends reallocating 20,600 acre-feet of storage from the exclusive flood control pool to the conservation pool at Chatfield Reservoir for purposes of M&I water supply. Implementation of the tentatively recommended plan would reallocate storage from the flood control pool to the conservation pool, effectively raising the top of the conservation pool by 12 feet. This reallocation of storage would help meet part of the growing demand for water in the Denver Metro by using existing federal infrastructure, and lessen the dependence on non-tributary ground water.

    The tentatively recommended plan meets all federal National Economic Development goals by providing average year yield of 8,539 acre-feet at less cost than other alternatives for water supply. The plan also balances environmental and recreational needs by requiring mitigation to offset impacts to terrestrial based effects (wetland and riparian habitats, including Preble’s jumping mouse critical habitat), and modification of recreational facilities affected by increasing the top of the conservation pool. The reallocation of flood storage to water supply storage would primarily result in greater and more frequent reservoir pool fluctuations at Chatfield Reservoir, but the impact on downstream flood frequency is negligible.

    The FR/EIS is available online at http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/html/pd-p/Plan_Formulation/GI/GI_Chatfield.html.

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    A massive draft environmental impact statement sets out the engineers’ proposals for mitigating impact and opens a public comment period…

    The proposed mitigation is designed to compensate for the loss of a cottonwood-studded shoreline and stretches of free-flowing river within Chatfield State Park. Other work would offset lost habitat for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, a federally-protected endangered species, and replace park facilities, including a boating marina. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project would flood about 587 acres of 5,400-acre Chatfield State Park, with water levels rising by up to 12 feet. More than 1.6 million people visit the park each year, spending about $9.5 million.

    Metro Denver communities dependent on water from underground aquifers and agricultural producers favor the re-allocation of the reservoir storage – a way to meet growing demands for water while using existing federal infrastructure. Gov. John Hickenlooper and state water-supply planners have supported this $100 million Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project. Some conservationists are also supportive because it may be less harmful than other possible water supply projects…

    The federal engineers’ tentatively recommended plan would provide an average annual yield of 8,539 acre-feet of water at less cost than other alternatives for water supply.

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


    Centennial: Good planning has the city ready to meet short-term supply needs

    September 21, 2011

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    From the Highlands Ranch Herald (Chris Michlewicz):

    Whether it was securing an agreement with the city of Englewood in 1980 to store 4,000 acre-feet of water in McLellan Reservoir or the recent discovery of a mutual benefit in loaning out some underused infrastructure to Castle Pines, the Centennial Water and Sanitation District has gradually tightened its grasp on what will only become a hotter commodity as the years pass…

    Years of planning and a decision to shift from its reliance on groundwater from the Denver Basin, Denver-Arapahoe and Laramie-Fox Hills aquifers have put Centennial Water on a track that is much different than other providers in the region. But because the district is not openly touting its fortunate position, it is sometimes lumped in with other districts. Incorrect information and rumors have given some customers a wrong impression. Hendrick says it drives him nuts to hear that some believe Highlands Ranch is entirely on groundwater. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Sherry Eppers, community relations manager for the district.

    Between McLellan and the South Platte Reservoir, there is 10,000 acre-feet of raw water storage capacity exclusively for Highlands Ranch users. Centennial Water also helped build a 400-acre-foot reservoir in Park County that has been in operation for two years. Surface water rights for Plum Creek came with the initial purchase of the ranch in 1979, but leaders have been actively seeking and developing other sources for several years…

    Centennial Water continues to become involved in new endeavors, including the reallocation project that could nearly double the capacity at Chatfield Reservoir within a few years.
    The district, which is part of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, is also a potential participant in the WISE program, which if approved will funnel 100,000 acre-feet of reclaimed water from Denver and Aurora to the south metro suburbs over a 10-year period…

    Centennial Water wants to continue reducing its groundwater use; it takes 10 percent of the groundwater it’s entitled to, and has used only surface water over the last four years because of wetter seasons. It has even replenished some of the water it has removed from the aquifers over the years. “We’ve recharged 14,000 acre-feet over the last 20 years,” Hendrick said. “That has reduced the drain on the aquifers.”

    More South Platte River basin coverage 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.


    Federal funding may become available for the south Metro suburbs, Aurora and Denver to use for the WISE project

    August 14, 2011

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Suburban water authorities said the project [Water Infrastructure Supply Efficiency or WISE], designed to reduce reliance on dwindling underground water, will cost about $558 million.

    U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said “rural water supply” funds may be available for the project, if it survives a detailed feasibility review. Congress would need to authorize the federal funding, which could decrease the bill passed on to water customers. “What we’re looking at: Is this project capable of being completed? Is the cost-benefit going to work out? Is it going to be beneficial?” Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Peter Soeth said.

    Meanwhile, a crucial wastewater purchase deal with Denver and Aurora has yet to be done. How much wastewater could be diverted, and how often, remains under negotiation. The suburbs told federal officials the WISE project would deliver 5,000 to 11,000 acre-feet a year for the first five years, then as much as 37,000 acre-feet a year…

    The federal rural water-supply funds could be used because suburbs with populations under 50,000 are deemed “rural,” said Mark Shively, executive director of the Douglas County Water Resource Authority. “We have very aggressively pursued this opportunity,” Shively said. “We’re now about 20 percent into the feasibility study.”[...]

    Beyond pipeline construction, the proposed project involves new storage of treated wastewater in surface reservoirs and by injecting it into depleted aquifers. “We have a couple reservoirs we’re looking at,” Shively said. “Between the Chatfield and Rueter Hess (reservoirs) we have a good amount of storage.”

    Here’s the report from Reclamation.

    More WISE project coverage here.


    South Platte River basin: Chatfield Reservoir expansion would change the character of Chatfield State Park

    May 24, 2011

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    “It now appears impacts of this project will be quite severe and cannot be mitigated,” said Polly Reetz, conservation coordinator for the Audubon Society of Greater Denver. The new water that would be stored to sustain 15 south-metro suburbs “wouldn’t be there all the time, and you can’t get trees to grow back if you don’t have water all the time. . . . What you’ll have is a big, weedy mud flats,” Reetz said. “If it is a big mud flat, it’s not going to be nice for recreation or anything else.”

    Gov. John Hickenlooper and state water-supply planners support the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project. Some conservationists are also supportive, saying the “reallocation” of Chatfield from flood control to holding up to 40,000 acre- feet of water is less harmful than other projects to supply suburbs.

    State environmental overseers acknowledged significant harm — including the reduction of rivers and the creation of mud flats. “One of the identified impacts will be a mud-flats area. We’re working to determine what the best way to mitigate that will be,” said Alex Davis, assistant director of the state Department of Natural Resources.

    The project would flood 587 acres of 5,400-acre Chatfield State Park as water levels rise by up to 12 feet. More than 1.6 million people visit the park each year, spending $9.5 million in the process.

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


    Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project update

    January 2, 2011

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    The $100 million project, intended to help sustain new growth in water-poor Denver suburbs, also will inundate 45 acres of cottonwood, willow and Russian olive groves in the park, destroying habitat for about 60 bird species. This has put the Audubon Society, Denver Field Ornithologists and other birder groups at the front of opposition to the project. “You take away all those trees, all those birds that nested in the trees aren’t going to be here,” said Joey Kellner, who coordinates Denver’s annual bird count…

    “We want to make sure that the ecological benefits are captured — because there are losses,” [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager Gwyn Jarrett] said. “We’re going to do as much on-site as possible. It’s imperative that the public be involved. It’s in (suburban water agencies’) interest to meet the environmental concerns, because that means less opposition.”[...]

    …authorities say the dam is strong enough to hold an additional 20,600 acre-feet trapped from the South Platte and Plum Creek. That would bring the total capacity to about 48,000 acre-feet of water.
    The additional water could sustain about 41,200 households…

    Colorado Water Conservation Board officials asked the Army Corps of Engineers to expand the reservoir on behalf of 15 metro water-user agencies. Residents who pay monthly water bills would have to pay the $100 million if the federal engineers approve the project. The South Metro Water Supply Authority and water suppliers in Castle Rock, Centennial and other suburbs currently rely heavily on groundwater wells that in some areas are running dry.

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


    Douglas County: Colorado Congressional Delegation Supports Efforts for Chatfield Study

    October 30, 2010

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    Here’s a release from the Douglas County Water Resource Authority (Thanks to Mark Shively for the link):

    A study process concerning how water can best be stored at Chatfield Reservoir will soon be moving forward to invite public comment. The effort at Chatfield has brought together farmers in northern Colorado, municipal water users in Douglas and Arapahoe Counties, as well as recreational and environmental users throughout the Metro Denver area. “This sort of cooperation is unprecedented”, said Jeff Shoemaker, Executive Director of The Greenway Foundation, an environmental advocate for Front Range water issues.

    Colorado’s federal elected officials have been instrumental in the success of this process. All nine members of the delegation recently pulled together in signing a letter of support for the completion of the study in a timely fashion. Sen. Udall’s staff helped pull together this joint letter effort. Sen. Michael Bennet personally made telephone calls to help facilitate communication with Federal agencies. Congresswoman Betsy Markey directed her staff to attend meetings with the Chatfield supporters to talk out issues with federal agencies. Congressman Ed Perlmutter worked hard to make sure the Chatfield study is completed, not lost in the shuffle with other Federal initiatives. Congresswoman DeGette and Congressman Coffman directed their staff to participate in conference calls on important interagency cooperation. Congressman John Salazar and Congressman Doug Lamborn have been untiring in their support for good process and successful completion of the study effort. Without this support and teamwork from our Federal elected officials, this important cooperative study of a Front Range water project may not have been possible.

    The state is the local sponsor of the effort. Special thanks to Gov. Ritter for his letters of support.

    The study will determine if additional water can be stored at the existing facility, without having to perform any new construction on the existing dam facilities. The study will consider mitigation of environmental impacts as well as recreational modifications that will be required at the facility. “This is a Win-Win-Win situation for the environment, for recreational users, and for water users. It could be water supply for farmers to grow crops, and water for families along the Front Range” said Shoemaker, who also heads the Foundation for Colorado State Parks. The process is being directed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and water users with service areas that stretch from Park County, through the Denver Metro area, to Ft. Morgan. Invitation for public comment on the process is expected early next year.

    More South Platte River basin coverage here.


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