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.


Snowpack news: Officials are wary of this spring’s runoff #COflood

March 4, 2014
Statewide Snow Water Equivalent as a percent of normal March 3, 2014

Statewide Snow Water Equivalent as a percent of normal March 3, 2014

From the Estes Park Trail-Gazette (David Persons):

With above average snow conditions, there is the very real possibility that a couple warm days in the spring could trigger a sudden runoff that could evolve into a flash flood occurrence for a community still recovering from last September’s floods. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by town officials. “We’ve been doing a lot of public outreach to prepare the community for runoff,” said Estes Park Town Administrator Frank Lancaster. “While 2014 may or may not end up being a significant runoff year, our floodplains have changed, and so runoff will certainly have different effects this year…

Will Birchfield, the town’s floodplain manager, is another official who is keenly aware of what the spring runoff could mean. He attended the 2013 Colorado Flood Forum hosted by the Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Managers and Colorado State University on Feb. 27. This forum included presentations by experts and discussions among public agencies of the 2013 flood and preparation for spring runoff.

“At this time, it’s too early to predict what runoff will bring, so we will constantly monitor, reevaluate conditions, and keep the community informed,” Birchfield said. “If current weather patterns persist, it’s possible we could see an event equal to at least a 25-year event.

“Variables include how much snowfall comes in March and April, how quickly temperatures rise in the spring, how much rain falls during snow melt, and how the new floodplains in the Estes Valley handle the melt.”

From The Greeley Tribune:

Good news for local farmers, ranchers and other water users: Greeley is receiving about 50 percent more than its normal precipitation so far in 2014, according to numbers provided by the Colorado Climate Center.

During January and February, Greeley saw 18.5 inches of snow — 7.8 inches above normal — that brought with it 2.48 inches of precipitation, surpassing the 1.6 inches of precipitation the city typically receives over the course of those two months.

It’s been colder than normal as well so far in 2014. The mean temperature was 29.6 degrees through the first two months of the year — 3.6 degrees below normal.

For February alone, snowfall amounted to 4.7 inches (0.3 inches above the normal), precipitation was 0.96 inches (0.56 inches above normal), and the mean temperature was 27.2 degrees (7.8 degrees below normal).


Public meetings for the South Platte Basin implementation plan #COWaterPlan

March 3, 2014
South Platte River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

South Platte River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Greeley Tribune;

The South Platte Roundtable is hosting a series of input and information sessions around the region during the upcoming weeks, as it continues piecing together its comprehensive, long-term water plan for northeastern Colorado.

Each of the basins in Colorado is putting together individual water plans, which will help make up the collective Colorado Water Plan — an effort put in motion by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

All meetings will be from 3:30-7 p.m., will include an overview of the South Platte River Basin’s water supplies and needs, and will also feature question-and-answer sessions and information displays.

The remaining meetings will take place on:

» Wednesday at the Southwest Weld County Complex, 4209 Weld County Road 24 1⁄2 in Longmont.

» March 19 at the Fair Barn, 880 Bogue St. in Fairplay.

» April 10 in Yuma (held in conjunction with the Republican River Water Conservancy District’s regular quarterly meeting).

For more information, go to SouthPlatteBIP@hdrinc.com or http://cowaterplan@state.co.us.

From PublicNewsService.org (Stephanie Carroll Carson):

“Just add water.” Simple instructions on the back of your muffin mix, but coming up with the Colorado Water Plan dictated by the Governor last year is proving to be much more complicated. Currently, regional meetings are taking place to put together a plan that will work for the entire state, but Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said she is concerned about the competing needs of the Front Range and the mountain communities.

“The concern is that the water is on the western slope and the people are on the eastern slope,” she pointed out. “While it’s always a great idea to collaborate and work together, we always are a little protective of the water that we need to keep on the western slope.”

According to the Northwest Council of Governments, people incorrectly make several assumptions about water: that population growth can’t be contained, that there’s plenty of water on the west slope for the Front Range, and that new water projects are needed to save agricultural interests.

The Colorado Water Plan now in the works is the first of its kind and is to be complete by 2015. It will then influence water decisions for the foreseeable future.

Chandler-Henry and others also question predictions that Colorado’s population is going to double by 2050.

“We don’t think that’s necessarily true,” she said. “We’ve has some big changes with the recession recently that have slowed down population growth, and would like to see more land planning, community planning be a part of this whole water discussion.”

Colorado water allocation has historically been guided by local governments. Supporters of Colorado’s Water Plan say its goal is to get those communities to work more cohesively and streamline efforts to provide adequate water while not compromising the environment.

Link to more information on the Colorado Water Plan at http://NWCCOG.org and the relevant executive order at http://1.usa.gov/NCQbWD.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Aaron Million still has his eye on the prize #ColoradoRiver

March 2, 2014
Conceptual route for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline -- Graphic via Earth Justice

Conceptual route for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline — Graphic via Earth Justice

From the Green River Star (David Martin):

The Aaron Million water project continues on in the form of a request to the Bureau of the Interior. Million’s request, as published in the Federal Register Feb. 12, calls for a standby contract for the annual reservation of 165,000 care-feet of municipal and industrial water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir for a transbasin diversion project…

Mayor Hank Castillon, who is a member of Communities Protecting the Green, said he isn’t sure what Million’s plans are with this latest move. Citing his previous denials from the Army Corp of Engineers and FERC, Castillon said the amount Million wants to use has dropped from the initial 250,000 acre feet of water his project would require. Castillon said he expects a battle to occur between the eastern and western sides of the continental divide. Castillon is aware Cheyenne and other cities in eastern Wyoming need water, along with locations in northern Colorado. The problem they need to address, according to Castillon, is the fact that the water isn’t available…

The Sweetwater County Commissioners commented on Million’s proposal Tuesday, voicing their opposition to the idea. Commissioner Wally Johnson said the transfer of water to Colorado isn’t in Sweetwater County’s best interest, saying “it doesn’t matter if it’s Mr. Million or Mr. Disney” making the proposal. Commissioner John Kolb also voiced his opposition, saying opposition to the idea is unanimous between Gov. Matt Mead, the Wyoming County Commissioners Association and the commissioners themselves.

“I’d like to see us not wasting our time on crazy, hare-brained schemes,” Kolb said. “(Transbasin water diversion) doesn’t work.”

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


Dille Diversion Dam: making progress on our facilities in Big Thompson Canyon — Kara Lamb

March 2, 2014

CDOT is planning for runoff flooding #COflood

February 28, 2014
Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 -- photo via Northern Water

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

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Spring flooding could destroy some CDOT repairs to major highways destroyed in September, said Sheaffer, who said he has obsessively monitored the state’s above-average snowpack.

“We have a 25- to 50-year (flood) event coming to us if it’s just a normal spring runoff,” said Sheaffer, who has become CDOT’s chief of operations for flood recovery efforts since September.

Although CDOT is still working to repair $535 million in damage done to Front Range roads, road repair is only a sliver of the long-term recovery concerns that flood and stormwater experts discussed on Thursday. Hosted by the Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Managers and Colorado State University, the 2013 Colorado Flood Forum covered subjects ranging from climate and weather to water quality issues.

The conference also served a statewide debrief on the September floods that killed eight people and destroyed more than 1,500 Front Range homes.

Panelists recalled horror stories of endless work days and sleepless nights. Mike Chard with the Boulder County Office of Emergency Management recalled moments when he was convinced that hundreds of people had died in a crush of floodwater. He compared dealing with the endless rain and ongoing flood as “getting punched in the face every five minutes with a new problem.”


The South Platte River Corridor Vision report is hot off the presses from the South Platte Working Group

February 27, 2014

southplattecanoe

Here’s the release from Arapahoe County:

After completing a nine‐month visioning process, the South Platte Working Group – a collaboration of city, county, state and special district elected leaders and staff ‐ has released a report outlining a future vision plan for recreation, accessibility and economic development opportunities for the South Platte river corridor in Arapahoe County.

The South Platte River Corridor Vision report, which is available for review and comment at http://www.arapahoegov.com/DocumentCenter/View/1792, is the result of several months of research, discussions and outreach to stakeholders and communities, including a half‐day charrette in September 2013.

“This report provides a more comprehensive picture of what we envision for the South Platte River corridor in the future,” said Commissioner Nancy A. Doty, who represents District 1, which includes the communities along the South Platte. “By working together, the members who make up the South Platte Working Group will be able to prioritize projects, pool resources and continue to accomplish our goals for this important amenity in a deliberate and thoughtful way.”

Convened by Arapahoe County in 2006 with an initial $3 million pledge, and another $5 million in 2012 – both funded from the Open Space sales and use tax, the South Platte Working Group has racked up several accomplishments in its short existence.

The South Platte Working Group, which consists of 21 local jurisdictions and agencies, has contributed more than $25 million (including a $5.25 million Legacy grant from Great Outdoors Colorado) for projects that have improved the environmental viability, restoration and beautification, as well as improved connections to the river greenway and park system from C‐470 on the south to Yale Avenue on the north.

“This vision document is our way of strategically identifying how we can continue to restore this beautiful recreational, environmental and economic development amenity,” said Littleton City Council member Debbie Brinkman. “The South Platte Working Group has accomplished a great deal to improve the river corridor and this report charts a new path for future opportunities.”

By working collaboratively, the South Platte Working Group has acquired 50 acres of open space; built six new bike/pedestrian bridges and added six trailheads and 3.2 miles of new trail – all designed to protect, improve and restore this popular recreational amenity, which continues to be impacted by urban development and population growth.
The South Platte River Corridor Vision report outlines the group’s future efforts to improve and protect the river corridor. Some of the outcomes and recommendations from the report include:

  • Identifying approaches to further integrate the communities of Englewood, Sheridan, Littleton and Columbine Valley to the river in ways that both increase recreational opportunities and facilitate economic development.
  • Completing a series of “quick wins” or projects that can be pursued immediately to improve the recreational experience along the South Platte. The plan identifies 11 projects that are supported and can be completed with appropriate funding. Some of the projects identified include: improving the Oxford to Union Avenue corridor; enhancing the Little Dry Creek Corridor and improving the Centennial Park Oxbow Nature area, to name a few.
  • Embracing the unique qualities of the South Platte by building on and embracing the industrial character of some of its areas for education, public art and cultural events.
  • “It really is exciting to see how the Vision Plan essentially captures some of the best qualities of the South Platte River in the northern part of Arapahoe County,” said Englewood Mayor Randy Penn. “This plan charts the future for the varied land uses that will make its mark on Englewood and other communities for years to come.”

    Comments on the draft report are welcomed from anyone interested in the recreation, habitat and economic development along the South Platte. For more information about the South Platte Working Group, visit http://www.arapahoegov.com/index.asp?NID=469. A copy of the report is available at: http://www.arapahoegov.com/DocumentCenter/View/1792. Photos of the South Platte are available at: http://www.arapahoegov.com/gallery.aspx?AID=13

    From The Denver Post (Clayton Woullard):

    The South Platte Working Group has put out its first South Platte River Corridor Vision report that identifies more than 20 projects to be completed over the next few decades in the river corridor.

    The working group is a collection of about 21 different entities, including Littleton, Englewood, Arapahoe County, the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District and several others. They first came together in 2006 to discuss and propose projects to enhance recreational opportunities, enhance the habitat along the river and potentially provide for economic development opportunities.

    “How do we create this cool relationship between the community and the businesses and the neighbors and nature without destroying this amenity,” said Debbie Brinkman, who represents District 4 as council member in Littleton and has been a part of the group since the beginning when she was Littleton’s mayor.

    The group has spent $25 million since 2006 on various projects that have helped with the restoration, beautification and environmental viability of the South Platte, plus improved connections with the greenway and park system throughout the corridor.

    Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Doty, whose District 1 encompasses the river corridor, said the report is important because it’s the culmination of varied groups working together. She said one of the most important and immediate projects in the report is the Dry Creek Channel and Trail Potential Enhancements, which would include reconstructing the corridor and basically make conditions better life for vegetation and the health of the creek as a tributary to the South Platte River.

    “What we hope to accomplish with that is improvement of the connection with the South Platte River and the city of Englewood Center,” Doty said, adding that would help recreational and economic development opportunities.

    Doty said another important, immediate project is the Oxford-Union Channel and Habitat Improvement Project, which would include the reconfiguration of the channel, including the installation of riffles and pools for recreation.

    Another is the Centennial Park/Oxbow Pond Nature Study Opportunity, in which some concrete slabs among the pond banks may have led to water stagnation. It has the potential to become an educational resource as part of Englewood’s Centennial Park.

    For more information, or to read the report, click here.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


    Custer County Stockgrowers Association annual meeting recap #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

    February 27, 2014

    organicdairycows

    From The Wet Mountain Tribune (J.E. Ward):

    One of the most significant issues addressed during the meeting surrounded water. It is a problem not only for the county, but the state as a whole.

    “Water ownership, immunization and management are the key issues with the water problems,” Kattnig explained.

    “For us, water is vital to our Valley and our industry. We know we will have to change, but it is incumbent upon us as landowners to be at the table as these decisions are being developed.”

    Local water laws were developed for the mining industry here, and as industrial utilization of water declined, agriculture became the biggest user. Today, given the size of Custer County’s population and voting strength, Kattnig said that water policies can be changed. These issues affect not only Custer County and the Arkansas River Basin, but also the Colorado River, the Rio Grande and the Platte River basins.

    “People in San Diego and Los Angeles have a voice in water in the Colorado River,” Kattnig said, “and indirectly there is potential impact for water in Custer County. These water laws were made through legislation, and can be changed with legislation.”[...]

    Among the dignitaries in attendance were the president of the Colorado Cattlemen Association, Gene Manuello, and the Director of the Southeast Quarter and past CCA president David Mendenhall. Together they produced information concerning Senate Bill 17, which covers the use of agriculture water transfer to new municipal developments. This bill limits the percentage of water used for lawn landscaping and to promote xeriscaping.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Boulder County preps for what could be a hard to manage runoff season

    February 26, 2014
    South Platte Basin High/Low graph February 20, 2014 via the NRCS

    South Platte Basin High/Low graph February 20, 2014 via the NRCS

    From the Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar) via the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    While it could cost as much as $14 million to remove debris from public and privately owned properties and stabilize stream banks to reduce spring and summer flooding risks, the county has only about $3.5 million in its 2014 budget, officials said Tuesday.

    “The bottom line is, we need a bunch of money in order to accomplish this mitigation,” Sheriff Joe Pelle told Boulder County commissioners. “We need that funding and we need it badly.”

    The commissioners and their staff have been striving to get financial help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other sources.

    Boulder County is “obviously trying to shake the tree for all possible sources of funding,” said Commissioner Elise Jones…

    The ground near the streams is saturated and likely to remain so through 2015, reducing its ability to absorb some of the water from the streams, [Mike Chard] said. The mountain snowpack is at about 150 percent of normal, with March and April — typically the snowiest months — still ahead, he added. The region’s reservoirs are at capacity and will spill over their dams earlier than usual this year, causing higher stream flow during spring runoff and thunderstorms, he said. The floods left behind deposits of sand, gravel, trees and brush that could create mini-dams and cause flooding behind them during spring runoffs or even during heavy thunderstorms; further damage could occur downstream, as well, when those mini-dams burst. In some locations, the floods also eroded and weakened creek and river banks.

    Officials are now prioritizing which streams to target with whatever money turns out to be available.

    Boulder County has assigned “threat levels” to 208 sites it’s identified as flood risks. Level 1 locations, about 90 of the total, are those with a high risk unless work is done on them. Level 4 sites can await further evaluation after the spring runoff.

    The county assessments have found 43 locations where bank stabilization is needed; 94 where debris removal would reduce risks; and three where berms should be built to hold back water.

    Spring runoff is about 30 to 60 days away, Chard noted.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


    2013 #COflood documented in book by Lyons students — Denver Post

    February 25, 2014
    Bear tracks in the mud near Big Thompson River west of Loveland via Craig Young

    Bear tracks in the mud near Big Thompson River west of Loveland via Craig Young

    From The Denver Post (Whitney Bryen):

    Lyons High School senior Cole Bonde spent two months sleeping on an air mattress while his family cleaned the debris and mud that washed up around their home during the September flood. Bonde’s family evacuated their home a couple of days after the flood — leaving in a four-wheel-drive vehicle that barely cleared the debris — to stay with friends while power was restored.

    “The rebuilding was more stressful than anything,” Bonde, 17, said. “The worst part was not waking up in my own bed every morning for two months.”

    Bonde is one of 20 Lyons High students who share their flood stories and photographs in the book “Our Town, Our Story: The Lyons Flood of 2013.” The students from Stephanie Busby’s fall photography class launched the project in November as a way to cope with the devastation they faced and contribute to rebuilding efforts. The proceeds from the 200 printed copies will go to the Lyons Community Foundation and are earmarked for rebuilding community trails that students used to walk to get to and from school, said Busby, an art teacher at Lyons Middle/Senior High School.

    The first books will be sold Monday [February 24, 2014] at a photographers’ reception at Oskar Blues in Lyons. The students who contributed to the book will be there telling their stories and selling large prints of their photographs to raise money for the community foundation.

    Loveland photographer and writer Robert Campagna helped the class develop the concept and worked with students on photography and writing.

    “I felt like the kids needed to document what they went through,” Busby said. “It’s through their eyes, their point of view.”

    Bonde used a wide-angle lens for most of his photos to provide a “big picture” look at the destruction in Lyons, he said. “I used the sun to capture what the flood actually did,” Bonde said. “I wanted to shine some light on the damage.”

    Senior Alexis Eberhardt, 18, told the story of a close friend, Caleb, who lost his childhood home in the flood. Eberhardt’s pages feature a photograph of a wooden lamppost next to a pile of dirt and rubble where her friend’s childhood home once stood.

    Senior Joe Christiansen, 17, had a different perspective. Instead of wide photographs that captured the large piles of debris and pools of muddy water, Christiansen focused on the details.

    A tattered American flag and a torn and muddied page of a Bible lead Christiansen’s series of photos that he calls “the memories among the debris.”

    Christiansen summed up his view of the destruction at the end of his story next to a photograph with a silhouette of a flower and a colorful sunset.

    “Change is a strange thing, but it is necessary and at some point it must happen,” he wrote. “Now is as good a time as any, and sometimes we need forces beyond our control to direct the way.


    SB14-007: Gov. Hickenlooper signs bill #COleg #COflood

    February 24, 2014

    Greeley: ‘One of the alternatives we need to take a serious look at is to use less’ — Jon Monson

    February 21, 2014

    watersprinkler

    From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

    Greeley’s water supply will run out in about 30 years if we continue to consume water the way we do now, city officials say. By 2050, they say, half of the demand for water in Greeley will be to irrigate outdoor lawns That estimate has prompted Greeley officials to dig for more solutions to water conservation this year, which could include new landscaping and development policies.

    Everything is still in its early stages, but the city’s water experts this spring will hold a set of public meetings to spread awareness about Greeley’s water use and what could be done to curb it, said Jon Monson, Greeley’s water and sewer director.

    Greeley has been moved to action now but the city is not alone in facing limited water resources, a statewide issue. In fact, Greeley has done well purchasing water rights and creating the infrastructure to store it for future use, Monson said.

    And the city has more recently been recognized for encouraging residents to be more efficient with their water through the city’s showerhead exchange program, lawn watering schedule and water budget included on water bills.

    But conservation has been less of a focal point, Monson said.

    “One of the alternatives we need to take a serious look at is to use less,” he said, by reducing demand.

    For example, the amount of water needed to irrigate a front lawn is reduced by using native plants instead of buffalo grass.

    Monson and Brad Mueller, Greeley’s director of community development, discussed the city’s water situation and possible solutions with the city council last month.

    Mueller said the city is taking a slow approach with a number of public meetings before moving forward with any decisions or even a direction on how to lower water use.

    “We don’t want people to just go into the reaction of saying we need to be a desert, or let’s just make sure we have all of the water we could possibly buy, because both of those extremes are probably not consistent with Greeley’s values or its history,” Mueller said. “Greeley is probably not going to be a desert hole in the middle of that donut” of agricultural land, he said.

    At a council work session in January, Greeley city planner John Barnett presented some possibilities for landscaping that include a mixture of trees and native and non-native plants.

    Greeley has a semi-arid environment, meaning rain dries up quickly. With shrubs and ground cover that require low water use and trees that require medium water use, Barnett projected the city could cut back on water use by about 30 percent.

    Mueller said the city this fall will take questions to the public that include whether the mix and match option is a good one. Greeley residents will also have a chance to say how much water they think should be used for their lawns and other purposes, what the city should do differently to conserve water, what Greeley’s landscape should look like, and, if there are any new requirements that come of this process, how they should be applied to existing properties. There is no set schedule yet for when those public meetings will be, but Mueller said the city is aiming for late March or April. Monson said they hope to get input from builders, developers, homeowners and more before going back before the city council to present their findings.

    “To do something different, it’s going to take a little more effort, and it could be more expense, but we could save quite a bit of water doing it,” Monson said. “There’s always trade-offs.”

    More conservation coverage here.


    RMNP plans to restore the Lulu City wetland

    February 20, 2014
    Grand Ditch

    Grand Ditch

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

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

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

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

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


    The latest newsletter from the Greeley Water is hot off the presses

    February 19, 2014

    The latest newsletter from the Coalition for the Upper South Platte Watershed is hot off the presses

    February 17, 2014
    Upper South Platte Basin

    Upper South Platte Basin

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

    A lot of people depend on the Upper South Platte Watershed for drinking water, irrigation, and business. This makes millions of residents (and visitors, too) dependent upon our work of maintaining a clean water supply. In a spirit of collaboration, we’re very excited to be involved in a proactive program Denver Water is spearheading to protect source water within our watershed. Denver’s Source Water Assessment and Protection (SWAP) program is focusing on the Upper South Platte Watershed in a first phase of planning that will extend to other basins in the future.

    The SWAP is designed to keep our shared water resource clean and safe for everyone who depends on it by getting stakeholders involved in planning. By identifying potential pollutant sources and best management practices for protecting our water, the plan will provide a blueprint for implementing effective programs that address contaminants of concern. The process began by discussing prevention of septic system pollution with local experts, and will continue in the coming months with discussions about issues such as wildfires, forest health, agriculture, energy development, mining, land use and development, transportation, and recreation as they relate to water quality. Other water providers, county governments, state and federal agencies, and citizens are participating in this effort.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


    The September #COflood knocked out stream gages used for administration

    February 16, 2014
    Typical stream gaging station via the USGS

    Typical stream gaging station via the USGS

    From CBS4:

    As of Friday night, crews have replaced or repaired fewer than half of the gauges damaged by the September Flooding.

    Engineers take the data they get from gauges and compare that with what they know about how a stream flows, where it’s deeper and shallower, wider and narrower. During the floods, rushing water changed all that, making it difficult to figure out what the data means, and which areas could flood next…

    [Dave Nettles, Division Engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources] said he’s used to working with 23 gauges, but flooding ruined them.

    “It will be a new world for all of us this spring, for all of us, because we never in most of our careers experienced anything like this,” Nettles said.

    Last fall’s flooding changed the landscape. Crews continue to clear debris to keep it from forming new dams.
    In Lyons, floods washed away boulders, leaving a clear, open channel…

    Moving forward means shifting strategy. In Larimer County, Emergency Management plans to rely heavily on sending people up into the canyon to look at conditions…

    “Remote reporting that we have helps us a lot, but there’s also no substitute for a pair of human eyes and judgment,” Nettles said.

    Runoff season typically does not start until May. That gives a window of time to try to repair more gauges, and to survey how rivers and streams changed and where new flood dangers lie.


    Evans: Floodplain changes force mobile home park out of business #COflood

    February 15, 2014
    Evans Colorado September 2013 via TheDenverChannel.com

    Evans Colorado September 2013 via TheDenverChannel.com

    From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

    The owner of a flood-ravaged mobile home park in Evans has announced he is suing the city over a change in floodplain rules that he says will keep him from reopening the park. Keith Cowan, owner of Eastwood Village Mobile Home Park, was led to believe that Evans would purchase his property through a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, but city officials reneged, and the city’s new floodplain rules mean it would be too costly to reopen Eastwood, Cowan’s lawyers said in a news release on Thursday.

    Cowan in his lawsuit said he was relying on the FEMA hazard mitigation grant, and delayed any debris removal in anticipation of the outcome. After Evans chose not to pursue the grant and passed its new flood ordinance, Cowan said it would not make financial sense to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to clear the property, only to spend another several million to meet the city’s new code.

    News of the lawsuit follows a plea for help from Evans officials earlier this week, who said time is running out before the 208 destroyed homes at Eastwood and Bella Vista Mobile Home Park, which is next door, pose a threat to public health. Evans officials said they asked the owners of the two parks to remove the sewage-contaminated debris, household hazardous waste, mold and other materials before warmer weather comes in the spring, but the property owners have not complied.

    Cowan’s lawsuit, filed in Weld District Court in December, states that according to state law, the city cannot pass a regulation that leads to a property’s demise if the city allowed it to be there in the first place. Attorneys with Stinson Leonard Street LLP, a Greenwood Village law firm representing Cowan, argue that by imposing the floodplain regulations, the city of Evans overtook his property. Even so, the city continues to insist that he clean up the property. The new floodplain rules, finalized in January, move Eastwood into the city’s 100-year floodplain instead of a 500-year floodplain, and require the mobile homes to be elevated. The flood boundaries were crafted by FEMA.

    Evans City Attorney Scott Krob said the city’s actions were lawful and simply adopt federal flood boundaries. He said the city council added the elevation measures to ensure this same disaster doesn’t happen again.

    Sheryl Trent, Evans’ director of community and economic development, said earlier this week that the FEMA hazard mitigation grant would cover 75 percent of the cost for the city to purchase the mobile home parks at pre-flood prices and remove the debris, but nothing could be built on that land afterward. Trent said the city decided not to pursue the grant because it could not get the funding before spring, and it wouldn’t be a prudent use of taxpayer money to invest in land that can’t be developed.

    Evans is in the process of appealing a different FEMA grant that would reimburse the city for private property debris removal. FEMA denied the city’s first application, saying the threat to public health and safety is not immediate or widespread enough to qualify.

    Evans Mayor Lyle Achziger spoke at a news conference to bring attention to the looming health hazards at the two mobile home parks, and wrote a letter to the Governor’s Office and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs requesting help.

    On Thursday, a smattering of state officials — including Stephanie Donner, executive director of the Governor’s Recovery Office, who responded to that letter — were in Evans to present a plan to dole out $62.8 million in federal disaster funds announced in December.

    Two programs in the plan were crafted specifically with Evans in mind, Donner said. One would give financial assistance to the city and the other would give money to the mobile home park owners for removing the flood debris.

    But all of the programs presented in the plan on Thursday must get approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development before applications are available, Donner said.

    She said she is hoping to hear back from HUD around April, but Achziger said after the meeting that will still be too late.

    “I want to be proactive on this, instead of reactive,” he said.

    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    People in Colorado communities affected by the September 2013 flooding will have opportunities this week to comment on the state’s plan to spend $62.8 million in federal funding.

    In November, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the community development block grants for disaster recovery.

    The state will use the money to address needs not covered by other sources of federal assistance, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to a press release from the office of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

    The meetings will take place:

    • 4:30-6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, Manitou Springs Memorial Hall, 606 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs.
    • Noon-2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, Estes Park Town Hall, 170 MacGregor Ave.
    • 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, Houston Room, 1750 33rd St.
    • 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, Evans City Hall, Cottonwood Banquet Room, 1100 37th St.

    Public comments also will be accepted at https://dola.colorado.gov/cdbg-dr/content/public-comments.


    Wiggins trustees approve hitching up with the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative…augmentation credits

    February 15, 2014

    Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.

    Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.


    From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

    The Wiggins Board of Trustees voted to buy a share of the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative during its monthly meeting Wednesday night. That will cost $2,000.

    On any one day, an individual or group with an augmentation plan might have more water credits than the person or group can use or less than it needs, and having the option of sharing credits could help those who are part of the cooperative, said agricultural producer Mike Groves. As it is, if a person or group has excess water credits, the individual or group has to just let it go down the river without use, but the cooperative may change that, he noted.

    “It’s something that’s never been done before, but I get sick and tired” of seeing water lost because it cannot be used, Groves said.

    Members could transfer water credits to help out those who need them, he said.

    Even a little bit of water can make a difference at times, Groves said.

    The copperative became official as of Jan. 1, after about seven years of work to put it together, he said. So far, a number of people and groups have become members, said Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District. There are two kinds of members: voting and non-voting, which cost $2,000 or $1,000 respectively for shares. That money becomes capital, and would buy one share of cooperative stock, just like other agricultural cooperatives, Frank said.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


    North Poudre pulls out of the Halligan Reservoir expansion project, @fortcollinsgov last partner standing

    February 13, 2014
    Halligan Reservoir

    Halligan Reservoir

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    City officials learned this week that North Poudre Irrigation Co., which owns the storage capacity of the existing reservoir, is backing out of the permitting process for the proposed enlargement of the reservoir northwest of the city. The move likely will increase Fort Collins’ costs for building the project, if it is approved by federal regulators, by about $1 million to an estimated $31 million, said Donnie Dustin, water resources manager with Fort Collin Utilities.

    The irrigation company has seen little progress on the project during the nearly 10 years it has been going through an environmental review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Scott Hummer, general manager of North Poudre.

    “For as much money as the company was putting into the project, the board came to the opinion that some of that money could be going to some of our infrastructure needs and upgrades,” Hummer said. “It was a business decision.”

    The Fort Collins-Loveland, East Larimer County and North Weld County water districts, also known as the Tri-Districts, cited the same reasons when they withdrew from the project in 2009…

    North Poudre has put $1.8 million toward the permitting process over the years, said Nels Nelson, president of the irrigation company’s board of directors.

    Initially, the cost of the environmental review, which covers the proposed Halligan expansion and a proposal by Greeley to expand Seaman Reservoir, was expected to be $4 million. Costs related to the process have reached $7.3 million, with Fort Collins paying about $3.7 million, officials said…

    Halligan Reservoir is on the North Fork of the Poudre River. The 6,500-acre foot reservoir is about 100 years old.

    Originally, partners in the project were seeking to expand the reservoir to 40,000 acre feet. But the size of the project has been reduced to about half after the Tri-Districts withdrew and Fort Collins’ water use changed with increased conservation efforts.

    With North Poudre out of the project, the expansion will be resized again to match the smaller requirement, said Kevin Gertig, city water resources and treatment operations manager.

    How the change will affect the review process is not known, he said. A draft Environmental Impact Statement of the Halligan-Seaman project is expected to be released in fall 2015.

    “Fort Collin Utilities is committed to moving ahead with the project unless, of course, the City Council directs us otherwise,” Gertig said.

    The city needs to acquire 8,125 acre feet of water storage capacity to meet its needs and protect against drought, Gertig said.

    More Halligan/Seaman expansion coverage here and here.


    Evans: Weld county needs help removing trailer homes contaminated by the September #COflood

    February 12, 2014
    Evans Colorado September 2013 via TheDenverChannel.com

    Evans Colorado September 2013 via TheDenverChannel.com

    From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

    Evans officials on Tuesday said time is running out before two mobile home parks ravaged in the September flood turn into a health hazard, calling on state and federal officials to help before the issue turns into a “second disaster.”

    Last week, the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment confirmed what Evans officials said they have been worried about — that, as soon as the weather warms, the piles of trash, old food, household hazardous waste, construction debris and mold left at Eastwood Village and Bella Vista mobile home parks will putrefy.

    Soon, rodents and other animals will be attracted to the waste, and the threat of disease will be imminent, city and county officials say.

    “Every day that goes by, spring gets closer,” said Evans Mayor Lyle Achziger from outside of the fenced-in Eastwood Village park, where Evans officials held a news conference on Tuesday.

    They estimate removal of the 208 destroyed units between the two parks will cost about $1 million. They say the responsibility to remove the debris lies with the park owners.

    But Keith Cowan, the owner of Eastwood Village, said he can’t legally remove the trailers because all of the people living in that park owned their own units.

    He said he is also facing a stark financial situation, as he still owes a mortgage on Eastwood Village and won’t be able to rebuild the park because of revised floodplain regulations.

    Sheryl Trent, Evans’ director of community and economic development, said there is a legal method the park owners can go through so that they have the right to remove the destroyed units, which is what the owner of Bella Vista has done.

    Evans officials applied for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to remove the private debris, but the city’s application was denied.

    “Now we’ve hit a brick wall, because we’ve been denied at every turn,” Achziger said.

    He said Evans has appealed the denial.

    FEMA very rarely approves of money to be used for debris removal from private property, said FEMA spokesman John Mills.

    The private debris removal grant is awarded only in instances where enormous amounts of debris are spread across a great area, causing a widespread threat to public health and safety, Mills said.

    Trent said another FEMA program would allow Evans to purchase the mobile home parks to mitigate the hazards, but nothing can be built on that land, and the city must still pay a 25 percent match to purchase the land at pre-flood prices.

    Moreover, the city can’t apply for that program for another four to six months, which is too late to address the health hazards, which will worsen as soon as the weather warms, Trent said.

    She said that has been the issue with most of the solutions the city is exploring.

    Achziger and Weld County commissioners last week sent a letter to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Reeves Brown, executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, requesting a meeting to find a solution to the mobile home park issue.

    Stephanie Donner, executive director and general counsel for the Governor’s Recovery Office, responded on Monday, saying she and the Department of Local Affairs are “keenly aware” of health and demolition issues at the two mobile home parks and specifically raised those issues at recent meetings in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    “We are hopeful our advocacy will provide additional support for Evans’ appeal to FEMA for assistance under the Private Property Debris Removal Grant,” she said.

    Donner said the state is also waiting for approval from HUD to implement a plan that would allow Evans to apply for money from a community development grant specifically geared toward disaster recovery.

    The plan would allow communities that sustained localized flood damage to get aid in removing debris and structures to avoid slum and blight in those areas, she said in the letter.

    State officials will be in Evans for a public meeting on that plan on Thursday.

    The Weld health department last week sent letters to the owners of Eastwood Village and Bella Vista notifying them that surrounding neighbors have complained of odor and other issues in the parks, and the department has deemed it a public nuisance.

    If the nuisance isn’t removed, the property owners must go before the county’s Board of Health, at which point the legal issues surrounding the units’ ownership could be brought up, said Mark Wallace, executive director of Weld County’s Department of Public Health and Environment.

    He said a very last resort would be for the county to contract a company for the debris removal and then try to recover the costs from the property owners.


    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.


    Morgan County Conservation District annual meeting recap #COWaterPlan

    February 9, 2014

    fortmorganrainbowbridge

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

    As the Colorado population grows — from people moving here or new families starting — water must be found to meet that hugely increasing demand, said Jim Yahn, manager of the North Sterling and Prewitt reservoirs.

    He was speaking during the annual meeting of the Morgan Conservation District at the Country Steak Out in Fort Morgan on Thursday evening. After speaking on the history of Colorado water-law, he addressed the challenges facing water use in the state.

    Between the year 2000 and today, Colorado’s population grew by about 500,000, and is expected to grow another 5 million by 2050, Yahn said.

    More specifically for Morgan County, demographers project that the population will increase by 73 percent along the South Platte River Basin, he said.

    Water leaders are trying to find ways to meet the water needs of the state, but also trying to avoid just selling off agricultural water rights to meet the needs of Colorado’s cities, Yahn noted.

    If agricultural water rights were just bought up and transferred to city use, as has been the historical trend, from 22 to 32 percent of agricultural water along the South Platte River would be taken for use by cities by 2050, he warned.

    That would mean the loss of production on 180,000 to 270,000 acres, Yahn said.

    It is the state population that uses the water, not agriculture, because the water that goes into agricultural products eventually goes back to people in the form of food, he said. Water that does not go into the food largely soaks back into the underground aquifers after use for crops.

    That means the state needs to develop new water strategies, and that is underway as various groups work on a state water plan, Yahn said.

    Those working on the plan hope to address the expected water shortages in ways that will not dry up farm land and still preserves the state’s rivers.

    The basin implementation plans which will be part of the overall plan are due back to Gov. John Hickenlooper this coming summer, and the draft of a state water plan is expected by the end of the year, Yahn said.

    The trick is creating a plan that will be of actual use, not just another glossy report on the shelf, he said.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Poudre River Forum recap: ‘Frankly, I think the more compelling story is the history of collaboration’ — Doug Robotham

    February 9, 2014
    Cache la Poudre and Big Thompson watersheds via @ftcollinsgov

    Cache la Poudre and Big Thompson watersheds via @ftcollinsgov

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Josie Sexton):

    “The story around water is often one of conflict,” The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado Water Projects director Doug Robotham said as the event got underway. “Frankly, I think the more compelling story is the history of collaboration.”

    The forum was facilitated by CSU’s Colorado Water Institute and sponsored by The Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group, a team composed of 30 community water stakeholders with backgrounds in fields ranging from ecology and irrigation to brewing and law.

    Since 2012, the group has convened to discuss differing views on the Poudre and to finally put forward a trio of initiatives, which the group presented at Saturday’s forum.

    Its suggestions, or the “three F’s,” as Colorado Water Institute’s MaryLou Smith explained, are “flow, funding and forum,” the last of which the team began with Saturday’s event and now hopes to hold annually.

    For the first initiative, a five-person steering committee explained a vision of improved water flow along the Poudre, utilizing methods such as a “designated instream flow reach” to essentially lease leftover water upstream and send it downriver, meeting a specified minimimum flow requirement along a certain length of the Poudre, such as the stretch running right through Fort Collins.

    The cost for such a project is where the group’s funding initiative comes in.

    “All of that would take big money,” Smith said, adding it would need to be public money and not just “philanthropic seed dollars.”

    According to John Stokes, director of the city of Fort Collins’ Natural Areas Department, the city did test such a water leasing project early last September.

    “We tried to rent water, but our little 10 (cubic feet per second) got buried in 10,000 (cubic feet per second),” Stokes said, refering to Sepember’s flooding.

    More Cache la Poudre River coverage here and here.


    Main breaks 101 – Raising our infrastructure GPA

    February 5, 2014

    Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

    A meain break at Sheridan Boulevard and Fifth Avenue in July 2013 stopped traffic. Denver Water spent more than $2 million on main breaks and leaks last year.

    A main break at Sheridan Boulevard and Fifth Avenue in July 2013 stopped traffic.

    The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 grade for America’s drinking water infrastructure was a D, which is no surprise considering there are 240,000 water main breaks each year in the U.S.

    With a significant portion of our system installed right after World War II, Denver Water is no stranger to main breaks and leaks. Not only does this mean disruption to our customers, it also means we’re losing our most precious resource – water.

    But, we’re working hard to limit these issues and help raise the GPA of the nation’s water infrastructure.

    Check out the curriculum for Main Breaks 101:

    Home Room – The basics.

    Denver Water operates and maintains more than 3,000 miles of pipe – enough to stretch from L.A. to New York. The treated water distribution pipes in our system vary in…

    View original 715 more words


    Restoration: North Empire Creek acid mine drainage mitigation

    February 4, 2014
    Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

    Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

    From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

    The Clear Creek Watershed Foundation will spend $536,000 to remove the waste and re-vegetate the area between April and August. David Holm, the foundation’s executive director, hopes the mitigation will begin to make the water less acidic, eventually allowing plants to grow along the creek’s banks and fish to live in its waters.

    However, he doesn’t want to mislead people into thinking the creek will be perfect when the work is complete.

    “So how will it look afterward?” Holm asked. “We hope the stream corridor is going to look pretty good. There’s not going to be mine waste in it. It is going to look like a natural stream, and it is going to have vegetation on both sides as far out as we can get it.”

    Empire Mayor Wendy Koch lauded the effort, saying the stream does not currently support life of any kind.

    Koch said an Empire resident once questioned why he could never find deer, elk or any wildlife in that area.

    “Well, that’s why,” Koch said of the stream and its acidity level. “(The project) will support our various wildlife, everything from bears to birds and anything in between.”

    The project will be paid for by Miller Coors, which gave $394,000; the watershed district; the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety; and in-kind donations from the county, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited.

    Holm said the stream has a pH of 3, compared to a neutral pH of 7.
    “When you get down to pH 3, you’re into 10,000 times more acidic than what you’re really going for,” Holm said. “So acidity is a real problem in North Empire Creek. There are very high elevations of copper and zinc. Both of those are very toxic to aquatic life.”

    Holm said the stream also has toxic levels of iron, aluminum and manganese…

    Holm said the area has an interesting history, being one of the earliest mining sites in the state.

    “Initially, they did hydraulic mining in this area, which involves high-pressure hoses that are used, essentially, to wash the unconsolidated soil and subsoil … which in this area had disseminated gold deposits,” Holm said. “But it is a brute-force, ugly kind of mining that results in the hill slopes really not having a growth medium when it is said and done.”

    More water pollution coverage here.


    Morgan Conservation District’s Annual meeting February 6 #COWaterPlan

    February 4, 2014
    Fort Morgan vintage photo from Moody's Vintage Collectible Postcards

    Fort Morgan vintage photo from Moody’s Vintage Collectible Postcards

    From The Fort Morgan Times:

    Jim Yahn, manager of North Sterling and Prewitt Reservoirs and the past chairman of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, will be speaking at the Morgan Conservation District’s Annual meeting on Thursday, Feb. 6.

    Yahn will speak on the Past, Present and Future of Colorado’s Water.

    This is a very important meeting to attend if you are concerned about your water rights.

    Yahn is responsible for overseeing the diversion and distribution of water to farmers. He also serves as one of the two South Platte Basin Roundtable representatives Statewide Interbasin Compact Committee.

    It is not too late to RSVP to Morgan Conservation District’s Annual meeting which will be held at the Country Steak-Out Restaurant in Fort Morgan at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $25.

    Please RSVP to the conservation district office at 970-867-9659, x 3.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    2014 #COleg HB14-1005: ‘Flew through the House’ — Marianne Goodland

    February 4, 2014
    New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods -- photo via the Longmont Times-Call

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

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

    House Bill 14-1005 flew through the House this week; it was passed by the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, got approved on second reading by the House Wednesday and a final 61-2 bipartisan vote on Thursday. It now heads to the Senate for further action. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) and other members of a flood relief committee appointed by the Governor after September’s floods.

    Under HB 1005, a water right owner can relocate a ditch headgate without going to Water Court, so long as the relocation doesn’t interfere with other water rights. “We can do what we need to do to recover from the floods by rebuilding headgates so agriculture and cities have access to the water they’re entitled to,” Sonnenberg told the committee Monday.

    Representatives from the Colorado Municipal League and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources testified in favor of the bill. Bob Randall, deputy director of DNR, said the bill would help bring water structure back online.

    Next week, Sen. Greg Brophy, (R-Wray) will look for support from the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee for a bill that may try to find some good from the September floods.

    Brophy and Rep. Randy Fischer (D-Fort Collins) are the sponsors of Senate Bill 14-072, which deals with groundwater depletions.

    SB 72 simply states that all “out of priority” groundwater depletions that occurred in parts of the South Platte River Basin prior to Sept. 12, 2013 were “fully replaced” by the flooding. The bill impacts Division One, districts one through seven; and district 64, which encompasses the area east of Fort Morgan. Districts one through seven cover the areas from Clear Creek County north to Larimer County and east to Weld County.

    What that means: Since 1974, some groundwater pumping exceeded allowed amounts, causing injury to senior water rights. Water users have been “paying back” those depletions through court-approved plans to replace the overpumped water. These augmentation plans protect the rights of senior water users.

    Brophy told this reporter that “Mother Nature provided a huge augmentation plan that wiped out past pumping depletions.” His bill would recognize that the September floods “paid back” those past depletions. The only question is how much, and on that point Brophy says he is willing to negotiate. While the bill says “all” depletions were refilled, Brophy acknowledged that in some parts of the Division, such as district 64, the floodwater may have replaced about 30 percent of the groundwater depletion. The flood acted the same as an augmentation plan, Brophy said.

    SB 72 will be heard on Thursday, Feb. 6.

    More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


    The downside of a Twitter fest: You were out of line Wockner #COWaterPlatform

    January 31, 2014

    I’m really uncomfortable writing this post in a public forum, but Gary Wockner chose a public forum…

    Today Gary Wockner retweeted one of my Tweets from the Colorado Water Congress’ Annual Convention. The Twitter UI allows you to edit the retweet.

    Gary Wockner called Brian Werner a liar in the retweet. That was out of line.

    First, he should clarify his charge. He is wrong about Brian being a liar.

    Second, he should of used his own website — bare ass and all — or his own Twitter feed, and not piggybacked on mine. Brian Werner is my colleague and my friend. Anyone reading the Tweet could easily think that I typed the word liar and I would never characterize Brian in that way.

    Here’s the offensive retweet:

    Gary Wockner calling Brian Werner a liar piggybacking on @CoyoteGulch

    Gary Wockner calling Brian Werner a liar piggybacking on @CoyoteGulch

    I wish Gary hadn’t chosen such a public place to vent. I believe that he lives in a world without context.


    Noble Energy looks to the Denver Basin Aquifer System for non-tributary groundwater for operations

    January 29, 2014
    Denver Basin Aquifers confining unit sands and springs via the USGS

    Denver Basin Aquifers confining unit sands and springs via the USGS

    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    Many water needs in the region have been met by buying supplies from farmers and ranchers, but a Noble Energy manager said Tuesday the oil and gas industry could and should stop being a part of that problem, and explained what his company is doing to get water. The large energy developer is looking to use deep groundwater wells — drawing “non-tributary water” — to meets its needs down the road, said Ken Knox, senior adviser and water resources manager for Noble, during his presentation at the Colorado Farm Show in Greeley.

    Farmers and others who pump groundwater typically draw water that’s less than 100 feet below the Earth’s surface — water that’s considered to be “tributary,” because it’s connected to the watershed on the surface and over time flows underground into nearby rivers and streams, where it’s used by farmers, cities and others. Wanting to avoid water that’s needed by other users, Knox said Noble is looking to have in place about a handful of deep, non-tributary groundwater wells that draw from about 800 to 1,600 feet below the Earth’s surface. Digging wells that deep is considered too expensive for farmers, Knox and others said Tuesday, and the quality of water at that depth is typically unusable for municipal or agricultural uses.

    One of Noble’s deep groundwater wells is already in place, and the company is currently going through water court to get another four operating in the region down the road, Knox said. Along with digging deeper for water, Knox explained that Noble across the board is “strategically looking” to develop water supplies that don’t put them in competition with agriculture or cities.

    Oil and gas development, according to the Colorado Division of Natural Resources, only used about 0.11 percent of the state’s water in 2012 — very little compared to agriculture, which uses about 85 percent of the state’s supplies. But in places like Weld County — where about 80 percent of the state’s oil and gas production is taking place, and where about 25 percent of the state’s agriculture production is going on, and where the population has doubled since 1990 and is expected to continue growing — finding ways for an economy-boosting energy industry to not interfere with the water demands of farmers, ranchers and cities is critical.

    The growing water demands of the region is coupled with the fact that the cheapest way to build water supplies is to purchase them from farmers and ranchers who are leaving the land and willing to sell. Those factors leave the South Platte Basin, which covers most of northeast Colorado, potentially having as many as 267,000 acres of irrigated farmland dry up by 2050, according to the Statewide Water Supply Initiative Study, released by the state in 2010.

    With that in mind, the Colorado Farm Show offered its “Water Resources Panel: Agriculture, Urban and Oil and Development Interactions.”

    Joining Knox on the panel were John Stulp, who is special policy adviser on water to Gov. John Hickenlooper; Dave Nettles, division engineer with the Water Resources Division office in Greeley; and Jim Hall, resources manager for the city of Greeley. The panel was moderated by Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University.

    Knox also spoke Tuesday of Noble’s and other energy companies’ efforts to recycle the water they use in drilling for oil and gas — a hydraulic fracturing process, or “fracking,” that involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into rock formations, about 7,000 feet into the ground, to free oil and natural gas. The average horizontal well uses about 2.8 million gallons of water. Some water initially flows out of the well, but another percentage flows back over time. Knox stressed it is cheaper for companies to dispose of that returned water and buy fresh water for drilling purposes than it is to build facilities that treat used water. But, seeing the need to make the most of water supplies in the region, Noble is willing to invest in water-recycling facilities and other water-efficiency endeavors.

    Hall noted that the city of Greeley, which leases water to both ag users and oil and gas users, has seen a decrease in the amount of water it leases for energy development. With improved technology and improved drilling techniques, also decreasing is the amount of land oil and gas development is using, and the number of water trucks on rural roads.

    Knox said oil and gas companies — once requiring about 8 acres for one well site — can now put four to eight wells on just 3 acres, meaning the impact on farm and ranch land is less than it once was. By becoming more water efficient, he said Noble has decreased its water truck loads by 1.65 million annually, and reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 264,000 tons.

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.


    Fort Collins loses 1985 conditional right for Halligan Reservoir

    January 28, 2014
    Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

    Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

    Fort Collins Utilities is working to assess the value of the water right it lost that was meant to expand Halligan Reservoir.

    The Coloradoan first reported last week that the city had lost the water right due to failure to file the required paperwork. Utilities officials said Wednesday they did not know the value of a water right canceled by a water court last month.

    “It’s not a straight calculation,” Lisa Rosintoski said. “There are a lot of variables involved. Our efforts are to quantify that accurately.”

    The city bought the junior water right in 1985 as part of a project to expand Halligan on the North Fork of the Poudre River from 6,400 acre-feet to 21,000 acre feet. The expansion is part of the Halligan-Seaman Water Management Project, which involves expanding Fort Collins’ Halligan Reservoir and Greeley’s Milton Seaman Reservoir…

    The utility’s conditional water right amounted to more than 33,000 acre feet…

    City officials say, however, that the loss of the water right will not affect the Halligan expansion.

    “We have the water rights to support filling the bucket,” Rosintoski said.

    Utilities officials will report to City Council on the value of the water right and what impacts the lost water right might have, if any. A date for such a presentation hasn’t been set yet.

    “We need to do some internal analysis on how you break out what we spent on the project to try to figure out what the price of the right would be,” said Donnie Dustin, water resource manager for Fort Collins Utilities.

    More Cache la Poudre watershed coverage here.


    The winter 2014 ‘In the pipeline’ newsletter from United Water is hot off the presses

    January 26, 2014

    United Water's operations north of I-70

    United Water’s operations north of I-70


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

    Officials from United Water and Sanitation District joined state and local government dignitaries and leaders of area water districts on October 18 to dedicate Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority’s (ACWWA) Chambers Reservoir and celebrate ACWWA taking initial renewable water deliveries from its ACWWA Flow Project.

    United played a key role in development of both the Chambers Reservoir and the ACWWA Flow Project, building the reservoir for ACWWA and acquiring the 4,400 acre-feet of renewable water that is the keystone of the ACWWA Flow Project.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


    A section of the St. Vrain Greenway on the west end will re-open Monday #COflood

    January 25, 2014
    St. Vrain Greenway Trail washout September2013 via Longmont Times-Call

    St. Vrain Greenway Trail washout September2013 via Longmont Times-Call

    From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

    Starting Monday, the westernmost end of the trail — from Hover Street west to South Airport Road — will be completely usable again, according to city project manager Steve Ransweiler and city natural resources director Kim Shugar. On Friday, the city had begun to replace boulders for the “Waterline” public art project near Hover.

    The stretch is part of the “Phase 1″ work on the trail, the flood damage considered easiest to repair. City officials had hoped to have all the Phase 1 work done by mid-January, but snowy weather put the work a week or two behind…

    On Friday, the area around Roger’s Grove and the Boulder County Fairgrounds pond had begun to be closed off for about two weeks of repair work, including restoration of the crusher fine trails. Once done, Ransweiler said, the Greenway will reach the southeast of Roger’s Grove, specifically to the bridge near the “Listening Stones” sculpture.

    Massive flooding in September destroyed much of the St. Vrain Greenway, the most popular feature of the city’s parks and trails system, and one that had taken 20 years to build. In November, its restoration was broken down into three stages of increasing difficulty: Phase 1, where the trail needed to be repaired; Phase 2, where it needed to be rebuilt; and Phase 3, where it needed to be redesigned due to a shift in the course of the St. Vrain River.

    Complete restoration of the Greenway is expected to take two to three years…

    …a piece of one Phase 3 area may be back in action sooner than expected. The trail from Ken Pratt Boulevard to just past County Line Road should be finished by the end of this year, Shugar said; the easternmost tip, from County Line to Sandstone Park is still a longer-term project, though decisions on the river’s course there should be pretty straightforward…

    In February, the city will also put up maps of the flood-damaged areas and signs to help route around them, and will also begin removing large debris from the river. In March, work is set to begin on restoring the channel of Left Hand Creek.


    Loveland: Senior center utilizes geothermal for heating and cooling

    January 23, 2014
    Geothermal exchange via Top Alternative Energy Sources

    Geothermal exchange via Top Alternative Energy Sources

    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jessica Maher):

    In most buildings, the center of heating operations is called the boiler room, but the three-story Mirasol Phase II building is unlike most buildings, and is the first of its kind in Loveland. There are no water boilers, no air conditioning units. Instead, the 60 units in the building are heated and cooled by a geothermal exchange system and hot water to faucets comes from a solar collector system on the roof…

    So how does it work? Temperatures below the earth’s surface remain unchanged throughout the year. By capturing that water and pumping it through a buried loop system, a heat exchange either cools the water down or heats it up. There are five closed loop heat exchange systems located in the basement of the Mirasol Phase II building, and the thermostat inside each unit dictates the action of the heat exchange…

    Geothermal exchange systems can also be used to heat and cool homes but carry a hefty price tag, largely because of the need for wells to access the underground water. At Mirasol, 36 holes 500 feet deep were drilled where the parking lot is currently located, according to Joe Boeckenstedt of Pinkard Construction Co., which was the general contractor for the Phase II project.

    Of the $13.4 million to build Mirasol Phase II, the solar panels and the geothermal exchange cost about $460,000, according to Loveland Housing Authority maintenance supervisor Bill Rumley, who said the agency expects to see a return on investment for the alternative energies within a decade.

    More geothermal coverage here.


    @fortcollinsgov loses 1985 Halligan conditional water right, throws law firm under bus

    January 21, 2014
    Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

    Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    Vranesh and Raisch LLP, which represents the city on variety of water and environmental legal matters, failed to file a “diligence” application with the state Water Court to maintain the right by a Nov. 30 deadline, city officials said. As a result, the conditional storage right was canceled. The city has since reapplied for its claim on 33,462 acre feet of water on the North Fork of the Poudre River and streams that flow into it. The North Fork ties into the main stem of the Poudre River west of Fort Collins.

    Managing the city’s water rights is the responsibility of the Water Resources Division of Fort Collins Utilities. The city has relied on internal documents, such as lists and spreadsheets, and communication with outside water lawyers to keep track of its conditional rights, stated Deputy City Attorney Carrie Mineart Daggett in an email to the Coloradoan.

    In this case, utilities officials forwarded a notice from Water Court that an application was due on the Halligan conditional right to Vransh and Raisch on Sept. 5. But the firm did not follow through by sending in the required diligence application and $224 filing fee as expected.

    Steps are being taken to ensure similar mistakes don’t happen, Daggett stated.

    “The city is in the process of evaluating professional tracking systems and expects to acquire and use such a system in the near future in order to better assure timely completion of necessary actions related to city water rights,” Daggett wrote.

    Eugene Riordan, a partner with Vranesh and Raisch, said the firm has communicated with Fort Collins officials about the matter…

    The firm has borne the cost of reapplying for the conditional right, Daggett said.

    The conditional storage right for an expanded reservoir was established in 1985 by the North Poudre Irrigation Co. and the Halligan Resources Co. The city acquired Halligan Resources’ interest in the right in 1987, and then North Poudre’s interest in 1993, city officials said…

    Fort Collins has proposed expanding Halligan Reservoir, which is on the North Fork of the Poudre River, by 40,000 acre feet to shore up its water supplies for future growth and as protection against drought. The proposal is undergoing a lengthy Environmental Impact Statement and permitting process through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers…

    Before problems with Halligan right popped up, the City Attorney’s Office received approval from the City Council to add a lawyer and a paralegal to its staff to handle water-related issues. The hiring process has begun. Salaries for the posts in 2014 are expected to total about $200,000, Daggett stated.

    More water law coverage here and here.


    CSU Sponsors First Poudre River Forum Feb. 8

    January 21, 2014
    Cache la Poudre River

    Cache la Poudre River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


    The latest Greeley Water Conservation newsletter is hot off the presses

    January 20, 2014

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water


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

    5 Ways To Save Water and Money in 2014

    1. Review the graphs on your water bill. Compare the “this month” column with the “water budget” column. If your monthly use exceeds your budget, you could make adjustments to save more water. This is most critical when lawn watering begins and many people use more water than their lawns need.

    2. Year-round wastewater rates are based on January and February water use. Practice indoor water conservation early in the year and save all year long.

    3. Heating water for showering, bathing, shaving, cooking, and cleaning also requires a considerable amount of energy. Homes with electric water heaters, for example, spend one-fourth of their total electric bills just to heat water.

    4. Winter months are the prime time to check water use and see if you may have a leak. If a family of four exceeds 10,000 gallons per month in the winter, you probably have leaks!

    5. Give you bathroom a mini-makeover. Buy a new toilet that uses less water and you may be eligible for a water conservation rebate. Switch out your showerhead with a new model at no cost when you participate in Greeley’s Showerhead Exchange program. Add aerators to sinks, they slow the flow and can be picked up at Greeley’s showerhead exchange events.


    Denver Water: Ashland Reservoir — Treated Water Tank Replacement

    January 18, 2014

    Fort Collins loses 1985 Halligan Reservoir conditional storage right, no diligence filing

    January 16, 2014
    Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

    Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

    The Coloradoan first reported last week that the city had lost the water right due to failure to file the required paperwork. Utilities officials said Wednesday they did not know the value of a water right canceled by a water court last month.

    “It’s not a straight calculation,” Lisa Rosintoski said. “There are a lot of variables involved. Our efforts are to quantify that accurately.”

    The city bought the junior water right in 1985 as part of a project to expand Halligan on the North Fork of the Poudre River from 6,400 acre-feet to 21,000 acre feet. The expansion is part of the Halligan-Seaman Water Management Project, which involves expanding Fort Collins’ Halligan Reservoir and Greeley’s Milton Seaman Reservoir…

    The utility’s conditional water right amounted to more than 33,000 acre feet…

    City officials say, however, that the loss of the water right will not affect the Halligan expansion.

    “We have the water rights to support filling the bucket,” Rosintoski said.

    Utilities officials will report to City Council on the value of the water right and what impacts the lost water right might have, if any. A date for such a presentation hasn’t been set yet.

    “We need to do some internal analysis on how you break out what we spent on the project to try to figure out what the price of the right would be,” said Donnie Dustin, water resource manager for Fort Collins Utilities.

    More Cache la Poudre River Watershed coverage here and here.


    Drought news: The #COdrought is not over by a long shot, 15 counties designated by USDA

    January 16, 2014

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo and 14 other Colorado counties have received drought disaster designation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The designation makes farmers in the counties eligible for federal assistance, including Farm Service Agency emergency loans.

    The Arkansas Valley has been in a widespread drought since August 2010, but some areas have experienced drought conditions since 2000. [ed. emphasis mine] Lower precipitation, decreased stream flows and declining soil moisture levels have degraded farm and rangeland. Farmers have thinned cattle herds and cut back on production.

    Ten other counties contiguous to those also are in the drought disaster declaration.

    “Farmers in Southeastern Colorado are facing extreme drought conditions that are devastating their crops and hurting local economies,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said. “The availability of these needed resources will be welcome news for struggling family farms that have worked this land for generations.”

    Bennet added the designation underscores the need for a comprehensive farm bill to give agricultural producers more certainty and stability.

    The counties included in the drought designation are: Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Crowley, El Paso, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Las Animas, Lincoln, Otero, Phillips, Prowers, Pueblo, Sedgwick and Yuma. Surrounding counties are: Arapahoe, Costilla, Custer, Douglas, Elbert, Fremont, Huerfano, Logan, Teller and Washington.


    South Platte Basin: Irrigators hope HB12-1278 study will help curtail pumping curtailment

    January 15, 2014
    HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University

    HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University

    From KUNC (Grace Hood):

    Many Northern Colorado wells were shutdown, or access to them was reduced, by a 2006 Colorado Supreme Court ruling. Other owners had to follow augmentation plans, spending thousands of dollars to replace water they’ve taken out of the South Platte River.

    Prompting the study was the issue of high groundwater in some locations along the river. When some farmers weren’t allowed to pump, homeowners were starting to see flooding in their basements.

    Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute spent more than a year holding stakeholder meetings and researching the 209-page report [.pdf] — much of it before last year’s flooding. The report found a connection between the lack of pumping and required augmentation plans. It also said the system helped to protect senior surface water rights from injury.

    The study proposes reintroducing well pumping as a way to manage the issue in specific locations like Gilcrest and Sterling. Other CWI recommendations call for more data collection abilities for the Colorado Division of Water Resources and a basin wide entity focused on more flexible management of water rights…

    Longtime farmer Bob Sakata poked at the augmentation policy requiring well owners to cover past depletion of surface water. He thinks the situation was improved by the September floodwater.

    “We should not have to pay past depletion,” said Sakata to applause. “That is the biggest nonsense there is in the rule.”

    Republican State Senator and gubernatorial hopeful Greg Brophy enthusiastically took on the issue of erasing all past well debt along the South Platte.

    “I agree with you guys,” Brophy said, announcing plans to co-sponsor a bill with Democratic Rep. Randy Fisher to wipe out those past pumping depletions as of Sept. 12, 2013.

    Scientists question just how much September’s floods filled up the South Platte’s aquifers.

    Colorado Water Institute Director Reagan Waskom says that floodwater replenishment may be true for wells right next to the South Platte. But that’s not the case miles away from the river.

    “The groundwater data outside of the river floodplain was not affected by the flood,” Waskom said.

    Meantime, Colorado legislators will need to introduce other bills to implement the recommendations of the Colorado Water Institute.

    Rep. Randy Fisher says study recommendations that require funding — like proposed pilot projects in Gilcrest and Sterling — will require follow up…

    In the last decade, [Nursery owner Gene Kamerzell] says state management of water rights has become more political than scientific, and farmers are suffering.

    “A lot of our friends have gone out of business,” Kamerzell said. “We have friends that have large operations that have relocated to New Mexico because the water policy in this state isn’t being managed right.”

    Kamerzell hopes that the scientific report and the proposed legislation will help restore a different balance. Along with most things in Colorado water policy though, he knows it can take years — not days — to measure progress.

    More South Platte River Basin 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.


    2014 Colorado legislation: Potential groundwater bills bring hope for some irrigators in the South Platte Basin

    January 13, 2014
    HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University

    HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University

    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    Talks of a proposed bill, one that’s expected to draw plenty of attention, highlighted the first meeting of the Ground Water Coalition on Friday. During the meeting, guest speakers Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, and gubernatorial candidate Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, each said they plan to push legislation that would allow South Platte River Basin groundwater users to stop making up for depletions to the aquifer that precede September’s flooding.

    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. When Colorado’s augmentation requirements became more strict in the mid-2000s, many groundwater pumpers were not only required to fully augment for their depletions going forward, but also to make up for their estimated depletions to the aquifer going back years, or even decades. In some cases, the rules have farmers making up for depletions from as far back as the 1970s.

    In their discussions Friday, Fischer, Brophy and others stressed that, with the many reports of high groundwater problems in recent years and the historic flooding in the South Platte Basin during September, the aquifer is believed to be plenty full, and groundwater pumpers — mostly farmers — only need to make up for their depletions from September 2013 and on.

    The bill comes as yet another source of discussion — and likely friction — about how groundwater is used in the South Platte Basin. In general, some believe the existing rules and system work well, but others — many of whom have lost the ability to pump some of their groundwater wells — believe groundwater is being mismanaged and changes need to be made to get the maximum beneficial use out of groundwater and surface water and address the water shortages the region is expected to face in coming decades.

    In 2012, the heated debate led to legislative approval of a groundwater study in the basin. That study was recently completed, and a report was delivered to lawmakers Dec. 31. Now, some lawmakers are looking to continue the discussions during the 2014 legislative session.

    Talk Friday of Fischer and Brophy’s bill was music to the ears of many in attendance.

    When the state increased its augmentation requirements in 2006, many farmers couldn’t afford all of the needed augmentation water, and thousands of wells were either curtailed or shut down across Weld County and northeast Colorado, and many remain so. Some have estimated that the curtailment and shutdown of the many groundwater wells has amounted to about a $50-100 million loss in agriculture’s economic impact.

    Glen Fritzler — a LaSalle-area farmer and member of the new Ground Water Coalition, which was formed last month by other local farmers with the help of Weld County commissioners — said such a bill, if put into law, would help his agriculture operations, and that of others, tremendously.

    The portion of water resources he’s been using to make up for his past depletions could be used for augmentation going forward. That would allow Fritzler to pump much more water from his curtailed wells without acquiring more augmentation resources.

    “It’s certainly a good starting point,” said Fritzler, who, like several others in the LaSalle, Glicrest and Sterling areas, saw his basement flood and some of his fields become over-saturated from high groundwater in recent years. “There’s still a lot of things to be addressed.”

    Many, like Fritzler, believe the high groundwater levels were caused by the state increasing its augmentation requirements in the mid-2000s. They’re now over-augmenting and over-filling the aquifer, they say.

    But others disagree, saying the high groundwater levels were caused by a variety of factors — such as the historically wet years of 2010 and 2011 — and they believe the existing augmentation rules are needed to protect senior surface water rights. Over-pumping of groundwater — in addition to depleting the aquifer — also depletes surface flows, because it draws water that would otherwise make its way to rivers and streams over time.

    All sides agree farmers years ago were pumping too much water out of the aquifer and not enough was being put back in the system. There just hasn’t been agreement on how much groundwater pumpers should be augmenting, among other issues.

    The debate came to a head in 2012. That summer, Weld County farmers, along with Weld County commissioners, asked Gov. John Hickenlooper to make an emergency declaration that would allow them to temporarily pump some of their curtailed wells — in hopes of bringing down the damaging high groundwater, and to also save their crops during the ongoing drought. But objectors, and ultimately Hickenlooper, said no to the idea.

    While those in attendance Friday were excited to hear of Fischer and Brophy’s proposed legislation, they’re also predicting the bill will see plenty of pushback. However, they also believe it’s just one of many things that need to be addressed when it comes to groundwater issues in the South Platte Basin.

    One of the main objectives of the new Ground Water Coalition, organizers say, is to make sure groundwater is fully taken into account in the South Platte Basin and statewide long-term water plans.

    “It’s a resource that’s an estimated 10 million acre feet underneath us, but we’re not including it in our long-term plans, and that’s unacceptable,” said Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway. “That’s why we started this coalition … to make sure this resource is not only a part of the equation, but is used responsibly, and to its full potential.”


    Sterling: ‘The plant is doing what it was built to do’ — Jim Allen

    January 12, 2014
    Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

    Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

    From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

    …Allen said they have yet to receive any reports of discolored water, and there is no evidence of issues with lines breaking due to the new water. He said he didn’t believe a problem last week with the service line to Pizza Hut was due to the water treatment system, although he acknowledged it would be hard to prove either way. But, he said, when the problem arose and city crews dug up the line, they found it was an old lead service line, which they usually replace anyway with newer materials.

    Allen was reluctant to talk about the probability of those problems — he said he doesn’t like to discuss things he doesn’t want to happen — but he was happy to report that the uranium levels in the water, which prompted the need for the new treatment plant, are falling. The membranes (in the reverse osmosis system) are working, he said.

    He said that the newly treated water likely has not fully replaced the “old” water in the system, as it has to cycle through the storage tanks and into the water service. The timeline on that depends on the volume of water in storage and usage.

    The water is safe to drink, he reiterated.

    “The plant is doing what it was built to do,” he said.


    ‘The problem is getting all this back online before the start of the growing season’ — Ron Carleton #COflood

    January 12, 2014
    New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods -- photo via the Longmont Times-Call

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

    From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

    “The problem is getting all this back online before the start of the growing season,” deputy state agriculture commissioner Ron Carleton said of the irrigation network that was blown apart by the raging waters. “And there’s not a lot of time left.”

    Federal agriculture agencies say they expect to award emergency aid to eligible Colorado applicants in a month or two, possibly longer.

    U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency spokeswoman Isabel Benemelis said enough money should eventually be available for each of the 236 farmers and ranchers who have applied for the agency’s most popular vehicle for disaster aid, the Emergency Conservation Program…

    Water flooded 18,033 acres of hay and alfalfa, 8,646 acres of corn and 500 acres of sugar beets. CSU estimated 100 percent of the beets, 29 percent to 40 percent of the corn and 14 percent to 19 percent of the alfalfa was ruined.

    CSU estimated total crop losses ranging from $3.4 million to $5.5 million . The tally doesn’t include damage to fences, irrigation systems, farm buildings and machinery, and losses logged by small food-crop farmers…

    the bill is huge for damage to irrigation ditches, dams and headgates. The system nourishes tens of thousands of acres of cropland that weren’t directly hit by the flood.

    The state has estimated $62 million in damage to farming ditches.

    If repairs aren’t completed by early March — and some surely won’t make the deadline — large swaths of land may go without water needed to make a crop, several state and local authorities said.

    “Our biggest fear at this point is that there’s going to be plenty of water this spring, but are we going to be able to get it to the fields?” said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which serves 120 ditch companies in northeast Colorado.

    Werner said most ditch companies are owned by groups of farmers who depend on them, and most of those partnerships have little or no money above their normally minimal operating costs.

    “They’ve never had to take on this kind of situation,” he said.

    Ken Bohl, superintendent of two ditch companies in Fort Morgan and Orchard, expected to pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars to get his systems restored.

    Now nearly 70 percent done with repairs, Bohl said he could hardly remember what aid his office manager had asked state and federal agencies for this fall. He said he needed to act quickly and couldn’t wait for government response.

    Though the state is now offering some loans and grants to ditch companies, federal sources have not, unless the projects were linked to municipalities or other public shareholders.

    “We’re the last on the totem pole to receive funds,” Bohl said, “if they have enough.”

    From The Greeley Tribune:

    To help flood-ravaged communities restore damaged or destroyed parks, trails and open spaces, Great Outdoors Colorado will provide up to $5 million in emergency grant funds.

    Communities in the 11 counties declared federal disaster areas after the flooding in mid September will be eligible to apply for the special GOCO grants starting next week.

    The grants, which are funded by GOCO’s portion of Colorado Lottery revenues, will be awarded in April.

    “The state has done an excellent job of quickly repairing damaged roads and infrastructure and finding new housing for those who were displaced,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, GOCO executive director. “But these communities have told us they will not be made completely whole until their parks, trails and open spaces that people use daily or weekly are restored as well.”

    She added, “Communities are particularly concerned because citizens are trying to access and use the recreation areas despite the damage and sometimes unsafe conditions.”

    GOCO’s flood recovery initiative is designed to be flexible so as to fit communities’ various needs, such as matching Federal Emergency Management Agency funding or to pay for items FEMA cannot, said Jim Smith, GOCO board chairman. FEMA can only pay to replace what was lost without any modifications.

    Grantees also can use funds to employ youth corps or use volunteers to perform repair work, Smith said.

    “Repairing trails damaged in the floods is another important step to reconnecting communities,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said. “These trails link all of us to Colorado’s unbeatable natural beauty and help promote the kind of active, outdoor spirit that helps make our state great. We appreciate GOCO’s efforts to further help local communities recover and rebuild.”

    Priority will be given to communities with the highest percentage of loss and those that have the least financial ability to match FEMA funding or make repairs on their own.

    FEMA provides up to 75 percent while the state is giving 12.5 percent, leaving communities to raise the remaining 12.5 percent.

    Because the funding will not be enough to meet all the needs, GOCO is looking for partners to help these communities. Outdoor companies, led by ActiveBoulder and the Outdoor Industry Association, and other corporate partners have already stepped up and raised $100,000 for the Fund to Restore Colorado’s Trails, Waterways and Parks to help communities.

    Application review will begin Feb. 7 and the board will award grants April 3.

    More information about the initiative and applications for GOCO grants are available at http://www.goco.org/flood.


    @fortcollinsgov loses 1985 storage right for Halligan Reservoir, no diligence filing

    January 10, 2014
    Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

    Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

    Here’s the story from Kevin Duggan writing for the Fort Collins Coloradon. Here’s an excerpt:

    Failure to file required paperwork has cost Fort Collins a water right on the Poudre River it has held for 28 years.

    The right was intended to help fill Halligan Reservoir, which sits on the North Fork of the Poudre River, if a project to enlarge the reservoir is ever approved and built.

    The city has been working on the enlargement proposal for many years. It secured a conditional right to receive up to 33,462 acre-feet of water in 1985 in hopes of storing part of it in Halligan to meet future water needs and protect the city’s water supply during times of drought.

    More Halligan Seaman expansion coverage here and here.


    Fort Morgan councillors pony up $90,000 in 2014 for NISP

    January 9, 2014
    Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

    Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

    The Fort Morgan City Council on Tuesday night approved spending $90,000 in 2014 to continue funding work toward getting the Northern Integrated Supply Project built.

    The expenditure further ensures the city’s 9 percent stake in the massive water storage project would remain in place. NISP would involve building two reservoirs to hold water for 15 participants, including Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District, which has a 3.25 percent share…

    The money the city is giving to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District for 2014 participation will go toward providing more information to the Army Corps of Engineers by consultants from Northern Water, as well as to administrative costs for Northern Water, “continuing engineering efforts” and “a fair amount” of public relations work, Nation explained.

    “We’ve been working with the various members that are participants in the NISP project, and our latest report was actually one of the most positive reports that I think we’ve heard in a long time,” City Manager Jeff Wells said. “The’ve actually come up with a date when we’re going to get the supplemental (environmental impact statement)back for public comment,” likely in July.

    He said that once public comment is opened, it gets closer to ending that portion of the study and moving toward a decision about permitting the project from the Army Corps of Engineers.

    More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


    Colorado’s legislative Flood Disaster Study Committee approves seven new bills #COleg #COflood

    January 9, 2014
    Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

    Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Alex Burness):

    “Our goal is to empower local governments and the state government to act swiftly and without any red tape,” said Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, D-Blackhawk, one of the bipartisan committee’s 12 members.

    One of the bills approved Tuesday will create a grant program aiming to help repair water and wastewater facilities damaged by natural disasters. Another water-related bill, which will allow any irrigation ditch’s head gate to be relocated due to changes in the natural flow of the ditch, passed earlier this month and was unanimously re-approved at the committee’s latest meeting…

    On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Colorado’s highway department $110 million to repair roads and highways damaged by flooding. The grant is part of the $450 million in emergency road repair funding that was secured for the state thanks to bipartisan legislation passed in October.

    From The Denver Post (Lynn Bartels/Kurtis Lee):

    The “biblical” floods and ferocious wildfires that Coloradans coped with last year got a starring role Wednesday at the opening of the 2014 legislative session.

    Legislative leaders outlined the efforts of those who helped, the devastation left behind and the legislation that will be introduced to try to deal with the twin disasters…

    The first bill introduced in the House, by Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, establishes an income-tax credit for taxpayers who own property destroyed by a natural cause as determined by a county assessor…

    Lawmakers introduced more than 100 bills Wednesday, the opening day of the 2014 session. Here are some of them:

    House Bill 1: Establishes an income tax credit for a taxpayer that owns property that was destroyed by a natural cause as determined by a county assessor.

    House Bill 2: Creates a natural disaster grant fund and directs the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment to award the grants from the fund to local governments. The bill appropriates $12 million to the fund.

    From the Longmont Times-Call (Victoria A.F. Camron):

    September’s flooding damaged Erie High School so extensively that the St. Vrain Valley School District could spend $850,000 to make repairs.

    Chief operating officer Rick Ring said during Wednesday night’s school board meeting that most of the damage was caused by “expansive soils,” so the district’s insurance company won’t pay for the repairs.

    Ring and other district staff members have been meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but there’s no guarantee that agency will reimburse the district, he said.

    During the flooding — which hit Erie before the storms moved to the mountains — the soil beneath the school raised up, pushing up the electrical conduits and the plumbing in the school’s crawl space, Ring said after the meeting.

    A small sewer line also broke during the storm, he said.

    From the Holyoke Enterprise (Marianne Goodland):

    Water, voter representation, animal abuse and eminent domain rights for oil pipeline companies top the agendas for the two legislators representing northeastern and eastern Colorado. The 2014 session also marks the end of the House and Senate careers of Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, respectively, although both seek new elected offices in November.

    Sonnenberg’s legislative agenda includes a bill based on the “Phillips County Proposal.” That proposal arose last year during unsuccessful efforts by 11 counties, all but one in northeastern Colorado, to secede and form a 51st state.

    The bill suggests House representatives be elected by county rather than by district. “Rural Colorado would have a more appropriate voice in the legislature,” Sonnenberg said this week.

    Sonnenberg acknowledged that getting Democrats to support such a bill in the legislature would be an uphill battle, and there are constitutional issues as well. “However, I think the argument can be made that in a sovereign government, each county could have their own representation,” he said.

    But if successful (and it would require a vote to change the state’s constitution), Democrats “would have to have more rural-minded members to represent rural Colorado, and that would be a challenge,” Sonnenberg said.

    More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


    Groundbreaking agreement to benefit Colorado and the environment is official

    January 7, 2014

    Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

    A groundbreaking agreement is now effective, ushering in a new era of cooperation between Denver Water and West Slope water providers, local governments and several ski areas.

    The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement was fully approved Sept. 26, 2013, with signatures from all 18 partners complete. The overall goal of the agreement is to protect watersheds in the Colorado River Basin while allowing Denver Water to develop future water supplies.

    The agreement is the result of more than five years of negotiations and creates a spirit of cooperation – instead of litigation – over water resources.

    From L to R: Penfield Tate III, Denver Board of Water Commissioners; Grand County Commissioner James Newberry; and Gov. John Hickenlooper share a light moment during the CRCA signing between Grand and Summit counties, Denver Water and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. in May 2012. From L to R: Penfield Tate III, Denver Board of Water Commissioners, Grand County Commissioner James Newberry, Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Summit County Manager Gary Martinez share a light moment during the CRCA signing between Grand and Summit counties, Denver Water and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. in May…

    View original 228 more words


    HB12-1278, South Platte Groundwater Study Augmentation report released

    January 7, 2014
    HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University

    HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University

    Here’s the executive summary. Click here to access the full report.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    A long-awaited groundwater report suggests lawmakers give Colorado’s state engineer more say in future water functions, add staff to the Water Resources Division office in Greeley and further monitor areas where high groundwater caused extensive damage in recent years in Weld and Logan counties. The groundwater research endeavor in the South Platte River Basin — referred to as the HB 1278 study, and spearheaded by Colorado Water Institute Director Reagan Waskom — was initiated in 2012 and has been of great interest to many northeast Colorado farmers and other residents. Waskom’s report and his 2014 legislative suggestions had to be finished and delivered to state lawmakers by Dec. 31. He met the deadline, and his findings were posted on the Colorado Water Institute’s website on Monday morning.

    Many water providers and users might have something to gain or lose from any new policy in the state’s groundwater management. Some believe the existing system works well, but others believe changes need to be made to get the maximum beneficial use out of groundwater and surface water and address the water shortages the region is expected to face in upcoming decades. The debate goes back years and came to a head during the 2012 drought, when crops were struggling in fields but some farmers couldn’t pump their wells to provide relief, even though groundwater was at historically high levels in some spots — even seeping into basements, over-saturating fields and causing other issues. Many impacted residents and others believed the high groundwater problems were caused by the state’s augmentation rules, which had become more stringent in 2006.

    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 rivers because groundwater pumping draws water that would otherwise make its way into nearby rivers over time. When the state increased its requirements in 2006, some farmers couldn’t afford the augmentation water, and about 8,000 wells were either curtailed or shut down in Weld County and northeast Colorado.

    In the summer of 2012, local farmers, along with Weld County commissioners, asked Gov. John Hickenlooper to make an emergency declaration that would allow them to temporarily pump some of those curtailed or shutdown wells — in hopes of bringing down the damaging high groundwater, and to also save their crops. But many other water users — particularly surface users downstream from Greeley — urged the governor not to allow it. They said it would deplete senior surface water supplies to which they were entitled. The governor didn’t allow any emergency groundwater pumping for local farmers, saying that the state would likely face a barrage of lawsuits if he did so.

    However, those 2012 discussions led to lawmakers approving the groundwater study, to see if the state has rules in place that are getting the best use out of its water supplies. Now, that study is complete.

    In his recommendations, Waskom wrote that the state engineer — the head of the Colorado Division of Water Resources, a position currently held by Weld County native Dick Wolfe — should be more involved and have more input in augmentation and recharge projects.

    Waskom also wrote that “the state engineer should be directed by the General Assembly to promulgate new rules for the S. Platte to establish a framework for the voluntary movement of excess water supplies between augmentation plans … ” and “promulgate new rules for the S. Platte to establish basin specific guidelines for the implementation of administrative curtailment orders … that reduce waste and facilitate efficient management and distribution of available water supplies …”

    A number of farmers have called for the state engineer to have more authority and more of a say in water functions, rather than being dominated by Colorado’s Water Court system.

    Additionally, Waskom also writes that:

    • “Two pilot projects should be authorized and funded by the General Assembly to allow the state engineer to track and administer high groundwater zones for a specified period of time to lower the water table at Sterling and Gilcrest/LaSalle while testing alternative management approaches.”

    • “Funding should be authorized to provide the Division 1 Engineer (Dave Nettles in Greeley) with two additional FTEs (full-time employees) and greater annual investment in technology upgrades. Additionally, Colorado DWR (Division of Water Resources) needs one additional FTE to focus on data and information services.”

    • “The General Assembly should authorize the establishment of a pilot basin-wide management entity with a defined sunset date.”

    • “The CWCB (Colorado Water Conservancy Board), CDA “Colorado Department of Agriculture” and DWR (Colorado Division of Water Resources) should work with the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) to implement the basin-wide groundwater monitoring network outlined in this report.”

    • “The State should cooperate with the S. Platte Basin Roundtable and water organizations in the basin to fund and conduct a helicopter electromagnetic and magnetic survey to produce detailed hydrogeological maps of the S. Platte alluvial aquifer.”

    More groundwater coverage here.


    High Sierra Water Services opens new oil and gas production fluids recycling facility

    January 7, 2014
    Wattenburg Field

    Wattenburg Field

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):

    The sun shines, the temperature is still unaware of a looming arctic freeze and Josh Patterson chats happily in his new truck as it lumbers down a maze of Weld County roads headed northeast from High Sierra Water Services offices in west Greeley. Heading toward his company’s latest accomplishment, his truck turns, moves ahead and turns a few more times before we’re in open country of blue skies and golden plains. He tears open his breakfast burrito, and manages to swallow a few bites as he answers questions about C7, High Sierra Water Services’ latest commercial water recycling facility about 10 miles southwest of Briggsdale.

    This one is unique in that it is the first water recycling facility in Colorado that will transport water via pipeline. As of early December, the planned four miles of pipeline remain to be set to connect it to Noble Energy’s central processing facility — a centralized area that will become one of the global oil and gas company’s hubs. The facility will take in oil, natural gas, and water piped in from the wellhead, separate it all on one 40-acre space, recycle the water, and pipe out the oil and natural gas to the markets. As a unit, it will eliminate hundreds of truck miles spent transporting from one place to another. Noble plans to build a few more in the field to centralize its operations.

    “This is the big brother to C6,” says Patterson, director of operations for High Sierra Water, of the nine-acre water recycling and injection facility called C7.

    High Sierra is one of a few companies in the Wattenberg Field that recycles used production water from wells, a process that Patterson designed, and which he continues to upgrade. High Sierra’s C6 facility, unveiled publicly last year west of Platteville, is High Sierra’s other recycling facility in the Wattenberg where produced water can be recycled or injected into underground wells. The company also has a recycling facility in Wyoming.

    Recycling water has been on the rise in recent months as companies strive to become more environmentally friendly — Noble Energy, especially, with it is Wells Ranch central processing facility, and Anadarko Petroleum, are both big customers of High Sierra.

    We stop outside the sprawling Wells Ranch Central Processing facility to view the route of the four miles of pipeline to bring water in and out of the facility for Noble, which will be the chief customer at C7.

    “C7 was built in concert with C6, but it sat idle for a year,” Patterson explains. “The demand essentially wasn’t there. It took time to prove up the water quality to frac-fluid compatibility. A lot of water isn’t compatible with gel-frac chemistry. It requires a certain water quality. So we’re taking treated water and making sure it doesn’t ruin a $7 million frac job.”

    The trench for the last bit of pipeline is already dug in some spots, and workers work to fuse the pipes together along the pipeline’s route as we travel those four miles north. The pipeline typically sits about 4 feet underground, depending on the frost line.

    “There are lot of rolling hills and we want to lay the pipe out as flat as possible,” Patterson said. “We don’t do it by gravity. We have a medium pressure pipeline set at 120 psi.”

    At Weld County roads 74 and 69, we stop finally at High Sierra, where a backhoe is digging the trench that will feed into the recycling plant. To the eastern side of the site, workers are on a rig, drilling a directional well to dispose of production water that doesn’t get recycled. It is the facility’s second injection well.

    On the outside, it looks as if it’s one massive storage facility, with several tank batteries, and an open concrete pad where the company plans to place more for storage of both produced and recycled water.

    The company started operations with a 2,000-barrel sale on Thanksgiving Day. It has the capacity to process 15,000 barrels a day.

    “Now, we can store 6,000 barrels for incoming water, and 3,000 barrels for finished water,” Patterson said. Noble will have the capacity to store 80,000 barrels (enough for about one frack job) at the central processing facility, all piped in from High Sierra.

    “It’ll get to capacity and based on my projections, it will require an expansion,” Patterson said of C7’s capabilities. “With the drilling plans and projected water use (in the field), by 2018, we’ll need another facility or an expansion to that facility.”

    To date, C8, a new injection facility with planned recycling capabilities, has been built in Grover, and officials are mulling plans for future expansion.

    We walk inside to don hard hats and step into the belly of the beast. Actually, the big blue beast, an injection pump, sits in the middle pumping production water downhole into the plant’s first injection well, arguably the loudest piece of equipment in the metal building with concrete flooring. Across the room, a door leads to the recycling facility, where tanks and equipment are placed strategically and carefully in tight quarters, leaving just enough room for a body to roam through and maybe clean and check tanks. Each massive tank inside has a function in the four-step process that takes four hours from production wastewater to recycled product. The process starts by removing the suspended solids from the water, such as cuttings from the wells. Step two is dissolving other solids; step three is polishing, and step four is filtration. It’s a process that Patterson has honed in his time at High Sierra, and in which he takes enormous pride. With each step, or system design, he tries to improve on the process.

    The facility has eight employees who work on the disposal side and nine for the recycling side; the process is 24/7, and the facility is open 15 hours a day.

    After about 30 minutes, and Patterson disappearing to discuss a site production issue with staff, we’re back in the truck en route to Greeley.

    His burrito barely touched, Patterson swigs from a bottle of water nabbed for the trip, and he talks about the future needs of recycled water.

    While not every company in the field is going with recycled water, Patterson said more inquires are coming in all the time. It’s a rather expensive process, and volume dictates the cost. With a long-term contract with Noble, dealing in millions of gallons of water, the costs make it on par with trucking costs. Some companies have experimented with recycling water at the wellhead — Patterson himself has even tried it. But the amount of power needed to recycle water, makes the paltry amount coming out of wells cost-prohibitive, Patterson said.

    “It’s just not economic. Just the power required to run a treatment system brings the costs way up,” Patterson said. “A lot of companies have put together treatment technology. But there’s just not enough water. If you’re on a seven-well pad, with a seven-well pad next door, it could be economic. But it goes back to the fixed costs (which don’t fluctuate).”

    Recycling water is not the only answer in this growing field, which produces roughly 85,000 barrels of water a day, but it is growing. Between C6 and C7, High Sierra has the capacity to recycle 25,000 barrels a day. The rest must be put into injection wells. Barring additional storage capacity for a growing need for recycled water, it must go somewhere.

    “We’re still a drop in the bucket compared to the water that could be utilized,” Patterson said.

    More oil and gas coverage here.


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