Reclamation, Northern Water Reach Tentative Agreement on Windy Gap Firming Project #ColoradoRiver

October 10, 2014

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Tyler Johnson):

Bureau of Reclamation, Northern Water Conservancy District and Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict have been negotiating a contract that would allow the Subdistrict to use excess, or unused, capacity in Reclamation’s Colorado-Big Thompson Project for the Windy Gap Project and future Windy Gap Firming Project.

The 30-day public comment period will open October 8, and close November 7. The comment period provides the public the opportunity to comment on the Contract, Senate Document 80, and Section 14 (Reclamation Project Act of 1939) Determination Memos.

“This project will make more efficient use of existing water rights,” said Reclamation’s Great Plains Regional Director Mike Ryan. “When completed, Windy Gap Firming would provide water storage for 13 municipal providers.”

The contract will allow for the introduction, storage, conveyance, exchange, substitution, and delivery of water for Municipal Subdistrict, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and allows the flexibility to move or preposition water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project in Colorado.

Section 14 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to enter into contracts for the exchange or replacement of water, water rights, or electrical energy for the adjustment of water rights. Senate Document 80 contains guidelines for Project Facilities operations and Auxiliary Features.

“There has been a need for a storage reservoir for Windy Gap water for more than 25 years,” said Ryan. “We are getting much closer to making that a reality, and making better use of America’s infrastructure, while also creating needed jobs in the process.”

For more information on the contract, Senate Document 80, and Section 14 Determination Memos, contact Lois Petersen at (406) 247-7752 or

More Windy Gap coverage here.

Chatfield Reservoir water supply project OK’d by feds, faces lawsuit — The Denver Post

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

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Federal water engineers on Thursday launched the long-planned and controversial Chatfield Reservoir water supply project, closing a deal with Colorado sponsors.

Audubon Society opponents filed a lawsuit in federal court trying to block construction.

A reallocation of the South Platte River water that is captured in the reservoir, created in 1975 for flood control, is expected to add 2.8 billion gallons a year to water supplies.

But the project will inundate 10 percent of the premier state park.

Col. Joel Cross, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha district commander, signed an agreement with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board — clearing the way for state-supervised construction after 15 years of negotiation.

“This completes the study and gives approval to move forward. This is a huge milestone,” Army Corps of Engineers project manager Gwyn Jarrett said.

Colorado natural resources director Mike King on Oct. 6 signed for the state. Colorado water supply planners have estimated that, by 2050, the state’s population probably will grow to between 8.6 million and 10.3 million people, up from 5 million in 2010. Today’s water supplies are expected to fall short by 390,000 to 450,000 acre-feet.

“As we look to meet our state’s future water needs, taking advantage of existing infrastructure and maximizing yield from Chatfield is by far the most environmentally responsible option available,” King said.

“This project will not pull any additional water from the West Slope, and the environmental impacts can and will be mitigated through an aggressive plan to ensure that Chatfield remains a tremendous recreational and wildlife viewing site,” he said. “At the same time, the new project will provide additional water to the already stressed farms and communities along the South Platte.”

The 20,600 acre-feet of water stored in Chatfield Reservoir, located 25 miles southwest of downtown Denver, has been reallocated for municipal and industrial water supply along with other purposes, including agriculture, environmental restoration, recreation and improving fish habitat.

Federal engineers said using Chatfield to augment water supplies is better than building a new dam and reservoir elsewhere.

The plans say the water level will rise by up to 12 feet and the project will provide an average of 8,539 acre-feet of water (about 2.8 billion gallons) for municipal, industrial, environmental and agricultural use.

This will inundate 10 percent of the 5,378-acre Chatfield State Park, which draws 1.6 million visitors a year.

Lengthy reviews and negotiation among federal engineers, state officials and water users led to plans to mitigate adverse impacts.

The plans describe new habitat for birds and replacement of park structures and roadways. State officials said water providers purchasing storage space in the reservoir must place funds to pay for mitigation work in an escrow account before construction begins. And no new water can be stored until on-site recreational and environmental work is done.

The Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, has deemed the Chatfield project “technically sound, environmentally acceptable and economically justified.”

Bird-watchers opposed it. Cottonwoods that serve as bird habitat likely will be lost.

The Audubon Society of Greater Denver this week filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, arguing that federal authorities arbitrarily dismissed better alternatives and that the Clean Water Act allows only the least-damaging alternative. It argues that federal documents show the “dependable yield” of water from the project is zero and that project reviewers’ “segmentation” in evaluating impacts led to an improper analysis.

“They need to take another look at alternatives they dismissed,” Audubon Society member Gene Reetz said. “Everybody realizes that demands for water are growing. And, especially with climate change, water is going to be very short. We all have to get more serious about conservation.”

More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here.

SDA Honors St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District as a 2014 Collaboration Award Winner

October 8, 2014
St. Vrain River floodplain November 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call

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

Here’s the release from the Special District Association (Ann Terry):

The St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District has been named one of three winners of the Special District Association of Colorado’s 2014 Collaboration Award.

The Special District Association of Colorado (SDA) presents this award annually to special districts that have effectively and efficiently partnered with other entities and local governments to form successful working relationships for the benefit of their citizens. The awards were presented at the SDA Annual Awards Luncheon as part of the SDA Annual Conference which was held September 10-12, 2014 in Keystone, Colorado.

In the aftermath of the disastrous flood of September 2013, the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District, Boulder County, City of Longmont, Town of Lyons, and local property owners began the incredible challenge of addressing short term recovery and the channel’s ability to handle spring runoff. The group became known as the St. Vrain Creek Recovery and Restoration Team or R2T for short.
From the beginning, R2T identified rebuilding and repair opportunities and aligned them with state and federal financial resources. “R2T was really the first multiagency collaboration to address creek repairs after the flood”, said Board President Dennis Yanchunas. “R2T was quickly viewed by impacted citizens as safe, un-bureaucratic, nimble, and effective – that is really what you want from your local government.” R2T has now shifted to the long term recovery of the area as part of the St. Vrain Creek Coalition. The Coalition is working on a comprehensive St. Vrain Creek Watershed Master Plan that will promote for a holistic healthy riparian corridor and a stream system that will be better able to handle future floods.

Ann Terry, SDA’s Executive Director, was pleased to recognize the exceptional work of the District and R2T. “The commitment of the District and R2T to their residents has played a significant role in the area’s recovery, and this collaboration is a true testament to the success that can be achieved through partnerships.”

More Saint Vrain River coverage here.

Some still wait for #COflood relief dough

October 8, 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 Estes Park Trail-Gazette (David Persons):

The town, local businesses and residents have rolled up their collective sleeves and gone about the task of rebuilding the community.

It has taken a lot of hard work. It’s also taken a lot of money from a variety of sources. But, a large part of the recovery work has been accomplished.

The work was expected. The recovery money was expected, too.

What wasn’t expected was how hard and how long it was going to take to get funds – especially grant money – that was needed to offset huge losses.

While some federal and state recovery funds have been received by the town, the only money that local businesses have received has been SBA loans, which must be paid back, and some assistance from the United Way of Larimer County’s Small Business Recovery Funds.

The latter amounted to 42 small businesses divvying up a gracious pot of $1.17 million. That’s about $28,000 per business on the average. While it helped a lot, and business owners admit they’re very grateful, most of those businesses suffered a loss in business exceeding those amounts.

That’s why receiving federal and state flood recovery grant funds – assistance they applied for many months ago – would be a big help right now for local businesses as the tourist season winds down.

Gov. Hickenlooper releases year-in-review and outlook report of flood recovery efforts

October 7, 2014
Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

Governor John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Recovery Office today released an annual report that provides an overview of the recovery efforts of the September 2013 floods, looks at lessons learned and an outlook to ongoing and continuing recovery efforts.

“With the release of this report, we take a short pause in the recovery efforts to review a year of both tragedy and inspiration,” said Hickenlooper. “We committed to build back better, stronger and more resilient and while we’ve made tremendous progress, there continues to be communities in need. We remain a strong partner in those efforts and will continue to move with the same urgency as we did in the immediate aftermath.”

The historic flooding – the single most devastating natural disaster in the state’s 138-year history – took 10 lives, forced more than 18,000 people from their homes, destroyed critical roads and bridges and wreaked an estimated $3 billion in damages. In rapid response, the Colorado Recovery Office was created and the governor called upon more than 20 state agencies to immediately begin work on plans to assess damage and recovery efforts.

One year later, this report captures the recovery plans for the state, including how state and federal agencies, non-profits, the private sector and citizens collaborated to secure $1.6 billion in resources and continue to work with communities most in need to distribute funds.

The report highlights the accomplishments resulting from these collaborations and the heroic, day-to-day work of Coloradans united in their efforts, demonstrating their resiliency and working toward recovery, including:

  • Opened all state highways by December, 2013, and utilized an innovative approach in designing, engineering and reconstructing highways and restoring streams that makes Colorado highways and stream corridors more resilient to future disasters.
  • Created an online resource at to provide up-to-date information to local communities and the public at large, as well as a forum to request support from the state. To date the website has been visited more than 60,000 times;
  • Partnered with the agriculture industry to ensure more than 88 percent of damaged diversions and ditches were operational before growing season.
  • Finally, the report lays out the framework for how the Colorado’s long-term recovery support for local communities will continue in the weeks, months and years ahead to help them rebuild better, stronger and more resilient.

  • Develop more affordable housing, incorporating technology, energy efficiency and other sustainable building practices.
  • Synchronizing the rebuilding of transportation infrastructure and stream restoration activities to protect roadways from future damages while preserving natural stream function, and enhancing wildlife habitat.
  • Supporting business recovery with access to capital and promoting economic diversification in impacted communities.
  • Facilitating local multi-objective planning efforts that chart a clear course for recovery and long-term resiliency while leveraging federal, state and non-governmental resources to implement those plans.
  • The full report is available online at

    New storage project aims to ease demand for West Slope water — Grand Junction Daily Sentinel #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

    October 4, 2014
    Proposed reallocation pool -- Graphic/USACE

    Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    The state of Colorado has signed an agreement to boost Front Range water storage, one of the things a growing chorus of Western Slope voices has been calling for to ease the demand for more transmountain diversions. Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday announced the agreement between the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide for greater water storage at Chatfield Reservoir in Chatfield State Park. The action will result in an increase of up to 75 percent in storage for uses other than flood control.

    It comes after Club 20’s board last month weighed in on an ongoing state water planning process by calling for measures including prioritizing “the storage of Front Range water on the Front Range.” That’s a position that also was endorsed earlier as part of a position paper on the state water plan that was signed by numerous headwaters counties, towns, water utilities and other entities. That paper specifically mentioned Chatfield as an example of such a project that could be undertaken.

    The storage project announcement comes amid increasing Western Slope concern that the new state water plan will result in yet more transmountain diversion projects being pursued. In August, Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado sent Hickenlooper and Colorado Water Conservation Board director James Eklund a letter urging them to oppose any more diversions of water across the Continental Divide.

    “The Western Slope in Colorado has no more water to give,” said the letter, signed by AGNC Chair Mike Samson, a Garfield County commissioner, and Vice Chair Jeff Eskelson, a Rio Blanco County commissioner.

    It also was signed by former Western Slope state lawmakers Ron Teck and Jack Taylor, several local office holders in the region including Mesa County Commissioner John Justman, and ranching, energy and other business interests.

    The AGNC refers to a letter from several Front Range water interests this spring calling for assurance that a new water project involving Colorado River water will be part of the state plan for meeting future needs.

    “This would be too much of the same old story,” says the AGNC letter, which argues that for too long the thirst of the Front Range has been quenched “at the sacrifice of Western Slope communities.” It notes that western Colorado already provides more than 400,000 acre-feet of water a year to the Front Range.

    Club 20 didn’t specifically oppose more diversions, but said the state plan should contain provisions including prioritizing municipal conservation, “including a statewide conservation goal and measurable outcome, and a higher goal for water providers that are using water supplies of statewide concern such as permanent dry-up of agricultural land and/or need a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River basin.”

    The idea of more Front Range storage of water originating there has received additional attention after last September’s Front Range flooding caused some to lament about water running downstream that might have been stored instead.

    The Chatfield project has been in the planning and permitting stages for more than a decade, Hickenlooper’s office said in a news release.

    “The Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Project will help farmers irrigate crops and assist communities working to replace limited groundwater with sustainable surface supplies. The project also has the benefit of storing more Front Range water and easing demand for water from the Western Slope. Importantly, as well, the project increases the capacity of an existing reservoir, reducing the impacts to the environment that could be associated with an entirely new reservoir site,” the news release said.

    The state water plan principles endorsed by the headwaters jurisdictions don’t include outright opposition to more transmountain diversions, but lay out numerous conditions for more diversions occurring, including that existing diversion water first be “re-used to extinction to the extent allowed by law.”

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here.

    Gov. Hickenlooper announces agreement for greater Front Range water storage

    October 3, 2014

    Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

    Gov. John Hickenlooper announced today that the State of Colorado and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have signed an agreement that will provide for greater water storage – up to a 75 percent increase for uses other than flood control – at Chatfield Reservoir, a project in the planning and permitting stages for well over a decade and one securing important new water supplies for the Front Range and northeast Colorado.
    The Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Project will help farmers irrigate crops and assist communities working to replace limited groundwater with sustainable surface supplies. The project also has the benefit of storing more Front Range water and easing demand for water from the Western Slope. Importantly, as well, the project increases the capacity of an existing reservoir, reducing the impacts to the environment that could be associated with an entirely new reservoir site.

    Possible impacts that may occur from the project, located within the popular Chatfield State Park, will be mitigated to highest standards required by the Army Corps and State of Colorado. Water providers purchasing new storage space in the reservoir are required to mitigate impacts and to place funds for such mitigation in escrow before construction begins. Additionally, no new water will be stored until key on-site recreational and environmental mitigation milestones are complete.

    With the signing of the storage agreement, the early phases of mitigation work can begin. The State of Colorado now has the ability to contract with water providers who wish to purchase space in the reservoir. The project will support agricultural partners including the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District and municipal partners, such as the Centennial Water and Sanitation District and other members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority.

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.


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