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

March 17, 2014


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.


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.


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.


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.


@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.


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.


@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.


Windsor Town Board approves purchase of 1,100 acre-foot gravel pit for storage

December 30, 2013
Kyger Pit via the Fort Collins Coloradoan

Kyger Pit via the Fort Collins Coloradoan

From The Greeley Tribune:

Windsor Town Board members OK’d a $4.5 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board toward the purchase of the Kyger Gravel Pit, allowing the town to move forward in its process to buy the property for use as an 1,100-acre-foot water storage area. The town was midway through the process of a state-mandated leak test to make sure water couldn’t seep into or out of the reservoir when September’s flooding filled it with an estimated 1,000-acre-feet of water. Town Manager Kelly Arnold said the state recently restarted the clock on the leak test, which is expected to take 45 days.

Kevin Rein, deputy state engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said recently the new test focuses on a section of the pit damaged when flood water spilled into it in September.

“That (45-day test) started in the last week or two,” Rein said. “Should that test OK, then the pit will be OK going forward to store water as a lined pit.”

The town previously entered into and agreement to purchase the property from its owner, River Bluffs Ventures. Arnold said the town will now need to negotiate another contract amendment with the owner and have the amendment approved by the town board.

“We’ve closed this one, so now we can deliberate and negotiate another contract amendment, and we’ll bring that back to the board, probably in January, with a new closing date and whatever else needs to be negotiated,” he said.

He added that further negotiations could include the capacity of the reservoir.

“There’s a possibility that the capacity has been reduced because of the dirt that has gone into it,” Arnold said.

The term of the $4,545,000 loan is 20 years, at an interest rate of 2.75 percent. The town anticipates making annual payments of $295,000, which will be financed with revenues from the town’s Water Enterprise Utility fund, according to town finance director Dean Moyer. Revenues in the water fund include water fees and tap fees.

Beyond the loan, the town plans to finance the remainder of the estimated $6.3 million project cost from a few different sources. Moyer said the town has budgeted an additional $750,000 from the water fund, which came from money the Greenspire Subdivision paid the town for half of the cost of the lake pump house, which allowed the subdivision to buy irrigation water from the town. Instead of buying $200,000 worth of water to store in Windsor Lake, Moyer said the town instead plans to put the money toward the cost of the project. The town also budgeted $625,000 toward the project from both the Park Improvement Fund and the Capital Improvement Fund. Moyer said the town has set aside more money than is needed to allow for price fluctuations. He said in the event costs come back lower than expected, the town would likely reduce the amount taken from the loan.

Moyer said the town originally planned to spend some of the project money in 2013 before being delayed by complications caused by the flooding, and that the payments have been pushed back into 2014.

“It’s a reservoir to hold untreated water, but really it’s a big deal,” Moyer said. “Water is really precious here in Colorado … It really is an important project for us and will help us manage our water for years to come.”

More infrastructure coverage here.


Poudre Runs Through It/Colorado Water Institute: Poudre River Forum, Saturday February 8

December 26, 2013
Cache la Poudre River

Cache la Poudre River

Click here to go to the website for the announcement:

About the Forum

The Poudre River is life-blood for Northern Colorado communities. Bringing those communities together to celebrate the river, learn more about it, and explore its opportunities and challenges is the focus of the first annual Poudre River Forum, Saturday, February 8, at The Ranch Events Complex.

The theme of the forum is The Poudre: Working River/Healthy River. Over the past year, agricultural, municipal, business, recreational, and environmental stakeholders have been meeting to teach one another about their different perspectives on the Poudre. The group’s mantra is “Let’s Make the Poudre River the World’s Best Example of a Healthy Working River.” In the spirit of that mantra, the group resolved to bring the Poudre’s communities together to learn more about the river and to celebrate it.

Understanding the water rights of agricultural and municipal diverters, learning about where the water in the Poudre comes from and what it does for us, and digging into details about ecological factors such as flow, temperature, fish and sedimentation, are all a part of getting the wide angle view of the Poudre. The group believes that only by traveling all those waters—the working aspect as well as the health aspect—will citizens have the background to form sound decisions about the Poudre’s future.

The Poudre River Forum will feature presentations and dialogue. State Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs will speak 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 the law has evolved in recent years to make it easier for us to consider together both water rights and ecological needs.

The Poudre River Forum will take place at The Ranch Events Complex, 5280 Arena Circle, Loveland, on Saturday, February 8, from 10am to 4pm, followed by a celebration of the river until 6pm with donated local beer and jazz by the Poudre River Irregulars.

$25 pre-registration by January 31 is required. Scholarships available. Students 18 and under, free. Register now here!


NISP: Fort Morgan is planning (and budgeting) for new supplies from the project

December 18, 2013
Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

From the Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

Fort Morgan’s stake in NISP is 9 percent, with the city having invested around $1 million so far. And much more would need to flow from city coffers toward the project before it is all built, according to Nation.

The city has budgeted $90,000 for that purpose for 2014, and planned water rate increases are likely this year and in 2015 to start preparing for needing to contribute even larger amounts toward the project in coming years, he said.

“That’s just kind of where we’re at,” Nation said. “We need to be prepared for when we’re ready for construction.”

Right now, the plan calls for preliminary construction activities to start in 2018 and 2019, he said.

And while the costs to the city may seem astronomical, Nation quickly puts the numbers in perspective:

• Each unit of C-BT water that the city buys right now costs $18,500, a number that keeps rising.

• One C-BT unit is 7/10 of an acre foot of water, and each acre foot is going for $26,000 currently.

• But because of the city’s participation in NISP, the city will have water for about $12,500 per acre foot.

“We’re investing in something that will give us water at $12,500 an acre foot versus $26,000 an acre foot,” Nation said…

Getting the project built is a complicated process, and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, aka Northern Water, is working its way through that process, according to Nation.

During the environmental review process, the engineers for Northern Water have been gathering up data for technical reports, which they soon will pass on to the Army Corps of Engineers for the project’s updated draft environmental impact statement.

The Corps is the lead federal agency for the Northern Integrated Supply Project’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, which aims “to help public officials make decisions based on understanding of environmental consequences, and take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the environment,” according to a press release from Northern Water.

The process of putting together the environmental impact statement helps the Corps make a final decision ultimately on whether to issue a permit to build NISP.

The environmental impact statement process for NISP started in August 2004, which led to an initial draft being released for public comment in April 2008, according to Northern Water.

In February 2009, the Corps had announced they would move forward with a supplemental draft environmental impact statement “to include additional studies primarily centered around hydrologic and flow modeling,” the press release stated.

Also helping with the environmental impact statement process are the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Larimer County, according to Northern Water…

With all of the technical reports due to the Corps by Dec. 23, Nation said work on the supplemental draft environmental impact statement could begin “right after the first of the year.”

Once the Corps has all the updated technical data, both from the project’s supporters and objectors, a draft report is put together and then made public. Then there would be public hearings and comment periods.

“We should be getting the draft environmental impact statement taken care of yet this coming calendar year, possibly by summer 2014,” Nation said.

The final environmental impact statement would then be completed in spring 2015 with a final permit decision “due in fall 2016,” according to Northern Water.

But just getting further into the environmental impact statement process shows progress, Nation said.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Water Court cancels @fortcollinsgov 2007 Halligan Reservoir expansion conditional water right — no diligence filing

December 7, 2013

The Tweet above has been deleted from Twitter.

Update (January 10, 2014): The right is actually a 1985 right. I got that wrong and the source document is now unavailable. Also, the right is not directly associated with the Halligan expansion. Fort Collins has other rights that will fill the expanded vessel.

Here’s the story from Kevin Dugan writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. 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.


‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

December 3, 2013
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

“Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

“We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

“The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

“There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

“It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[...]

The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

“This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

“Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Northern Integrated Supply Project survey shows 72% support for the project

October 25, 2013
Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post

Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post

Update: Here’s the release from Northern Water about the Ciruli poll showing strong support for NISP in Weld, Larimer and Morgan counties. Here’s an excerpt:

After five years of extended Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) studies, public support for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) remains steady. A survey conducted in July 2013 with 900 voters in Larimer, Weld and Morgan counties shows voter support for the project at 72 percent. The 2013 survey follows a survey conducted in August 2008 with 800 Larimer and Weld county voters that showed NISP had combined county support of 70 percent.

From Northern Water via The Greeley Tribune:

Public support for the Northern Integrated Supply Project remains steady after five years of extended Environmental Impact Statement studies, according to a recent survey. The survey was conducted in July 2013 with 900 voters in Larimer, Weld and Morgan counties, and shows voter support for the project at 72 percent. The 2013 survey follows a survey conducted in August 2008 with 800 Larimer and Weld county voters that showed NISP had combined county support of 70 percent.

The NISP project would build two new reservoirs, along with necessary pump stations and pipelines in Larimer and Weld counties. The project would store runoff from the Poudre River.

A draft supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is due in 2014.

Ciruli Associates conducted both surveys for the consortium of water providers proposing the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

The latest telephone survey, conducted in July 2013 with 900 registered voters in Larimer (400), Weld (300) and Morgan (200) counties, has a statistical range of accuracy of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for the entire sample.

More coverage from Ryan Maye Handy writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Here’s an excerpt:

The recently completed survey is the second the company has commissioned since 2008. The first survey was released when the first Environmental Impact Statement — a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers examination of the project’s potential environmental damage — was finished. Although 70 percent of Larimer and Weld county participants in the first survey said they were in favor of the NISP project, outcry at the environmental study’s results convinced the Corps of Engineers to do a supplement study, to be completed in 2014.

The second survey, completed in July, showed participants slightly more in favor of NISP — 72 percent said they support the project, according to Denver-based polling and consulting company Ciruli Associates.

Cirulli, which also did the 2008 survey, called 900 registered voters in Larimer, Weld and Morgan counties and asked them two questions. One asked if residents were basically in favor of the project, while the second asked if the decade spent studying the environmental impacts of the project is sufficient time…

The project still has several hurdles to clear before it can become a reality. Once the new EIS is released, Northern Water must settle legal disputes.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


United Water: Chambers Reservoir beginning to fill

October 20, 2013

‘We [NISP] are mired in the environmental permitting process’ — Brian Werner #COflood

October 6, 2013
Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

Here’s a report about the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project from Ryan Maye Handy running in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Here’s an excerpt:

…whatever the contentious Northern Integrated Supply Project might be to Northern Coloradans, at least one thing is (mostly) certain: Despite numerous claims to the contrary, the Poudre River-fed reservoir could have done little to stem the tide of the Poudre during the September floods.

“As much as I’d like to say ‘Glade would have had a big impact on the flood,’ it really wouldn’t have,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water, the water managers organizing the NISP project…

The project to build Glade Reservoir is roughly 30 years in the making, since President Ronald Reagan declared the Poudre a National Wild and Scenic River in October 1986. Then, the declaration was a victory for environmentalists — it limited where the river could be diverted for water conservation but set aside a portion of the river, at the bottom of the canyon, for projects such as the Glade Reservoir.

In theory, the reservoir would divert water off a swollen Poudre River when flows were high, conserving it in the reservoir for dry years, such as 2012, when extra water would be desperately needed, Werner said. The system would hypothetically pull up to 1,000 cubic feet per second from the river; typically, a Poudre flow peak reaches up to 3,000 cfs, Werner said.

But during the early September floods that pushed record levels of water down the Poudre, a loss of 1,000 cfs would have done little to mitigate the water’s power, Werner said. Glade’s ability to help Northern Colorado would be in its ability to hold water in reserve for dry times, Werner argued, not in its capacity to control a 500-year flood event…

Until it gets the results of the 2014 assessment, Northern Water is checking off the necessary boxes to put the project in order — checks that mean nothing until the project gets the go-ahead. Re-routing portions of U.S. 287, which currently runs through the center of the reservoir’s footprint, is one of those “checks.”

For the re-route, CDOT has chosen a 7-mile “rock cut route” through a hogback ridge just north of the current intersection of Overland Trail and U.S. 287, northwest of Fort Collins. It would mean new passing lanes at Ted’s Place — the intersection of U.S. 287 and Colorado Highway 14 — and would cost between $40 million and $50 million.

In the project’s early days, the highway re-route was one of its more contentious aspects. Public meetings were held to address residents’ concerns about the road changes; diverting water from the Poudre wasn’t “the overriding issue” that it has become, Werner said.

“We used to joke in the early days of this project that it was a highway reclamation project, with a reservoir on the side,” Werner added…

“We are mired in the environmental permitting process,” Werner said…

“The CDOT decision is irrelevant. Because NISP would drain and destroy the Poudre River and violate the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, the project will never get built,” he said in an email to The Coloradoan. “So, where CDOT proposes to put a road that will never be built for a project that will never be built is irrelevant.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Cache la Poudre River: The Colorado Water Trust is spearheading a diversion dam removal and restoration project

October 4, 2013
The soon to be removed Josh Ames diversion on the Poudre River -- photo via the Fort Collins Coloradaon

The soon to be removed Josh Ames diversion on the Poudre River — photo via the Fort Collins Coloradaon

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

A decades-old water diversion that stretches across the river about a quarter mile west of Shields Street is scheduled to be removed in November. The Josh Ames diversion, which backs up the river about 100 yards, formerly fed an irrigation ditch that was abandoned in 1985.

Once the 8-foot-tall concrete wall and stout headgate that make up the diversion are removed, the river will flow freely with fish-friendly pools and riffles. “It will look like a natural river that doesn’t have a barrier across it,” said Tara Schutter, an engineer working with the Colorado Water Trust. “It will look nice.”[...]

Removing the diversion is connected to a series of projects the city of Fort Collins has going aimed at restoring the river and improving habitat. The projects include lowering the north bank of the Poudre near the North Shields Ponds Natural Area so the river can better connect with its natural floodplain.

Other projects linked to the restoration effort include replacing the Shields Street bridge over the Poudre River. Larimer County expects to replace the bridge in 2015.

Taking out the diversion structure is a critical piece of the overall project, said Rick Bachand of the Fort Collins Natural Areas Program and the project manager.

Occasional floodwater from the river will rejuvenate the area’s vegetation and boost habitat for a variety of aquatic creatures, he said. Public access to the ponds area will include pedestrian and bike trails.

More Cache la Poudre River coverage here and here.


Fort Collins: Open house for proposed Poudre River project, September 5

August 13, 2013

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The city of Fort Collins will hold a public open house to discuss planned improvements along the Poudre River from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 5.

The drop-in open house will be held at the Lincoln Center Columbine Room, 417 W. Magnolia St. A variety of projects are planned along the Poudre River between where it crosses Shields and Mulberry streets, addressing issues of flood protection, recreation and habitat.

A presentation regarding kayaking opportunities will precede the meeting, at 5-6 p.m. in the Lincoln Center Founders Room, a release states.

Information: http://www.fcgov.com/riverprojects.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


Cache la Poudre River: Fort Collins Utilities tour recap

August 3, 2013

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From the North Forty News (Dan MacArthur):

Sponsored by Fort Collins Utilities Services, the July tour took participants through forests scorched by the High Park Fire to learn about the special challenges of treating water laden with ash and sediment flowing from charred slopes.

From there it moved to the top of Cameron Pass, where the Upper Cache la Poudre River watershed begins. A stop at the Gateway Natural Area on the return trip offered the opportunity to identify the microscopic bacteria in the river that could make one dance a more frantic jig were they not intercepted before flowing from our taps.

“Basically the reason (Fort Collins) was founded was water,” explained Clyde Greenwood. The utility and water supply supervisor serves as the utility’s resident historian.

Greenwood said Fort Collins was fortunate in that there were no mines in the Poudre Canyon watershed. A watershed is the territory that drains into a body of water.

“Fort Collins is a unique town with pristine water,” he said…

Fort Collins takes half of its water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project’s Horsetooth Reservoir. The other half comes from the Poudre. As a result of quality problems caused by the fire, water supply engineer Adam Jokerst said last year the city took no water from the Poudre for 100 days and depended solely on Horsetooth. This helped the city avoid water restrictions, but reduced the amount of reservoir water it could carry over to this year.

This year, last-minute heavy snows in the high country, the availability of more C-BT water, and the ability to once again take water from the Poudre allowed the city to avoid restrictions, he said.

The main problem plaguing the city’s water supply, he said, is the lack of flexibility with limited reservoir space. “We kind of live from year to year. If we get storage, our system is pretty robust.”

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


Restoration projects targeting riparian health and recreational opportunities planned for the Poudre River

July 14, 2013

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Fort Collins officials are planning a series of projects aimed at improving the river’s ecological health and recreational opportunities. Highly visible work is expected to be done at city-owned natural areas from the North Shields Ponds to Arapaho Bend near Interstate 25. Part of the work will involve reducing the height of river embankments that were built up over the years through gravel mining and building irrigation ditches to carry away the river’s water. The construction won’t be pretty, said John Stokes, the city’s director of natural resources. But in time, affected areas are expected to recover as plantings of native grasses, shrubs and trees take root…

Intertwined with the work at natural areas in the coming years will be several major construction projects, including building a channel to carry stormwater runoff from the area around West Vine Drive to the river. The Colorado Department of Transportation is planning to replace the bridge that carries Mulberry Street over the river — a project that is expected to begin this fall and last more than a year — and Larimer County is planning to replace the Shields Street Bridge in 2015…

Restoring and supporting the river’s ecology is a major thrust of projects planned at the city’s natural areas, Stokes said. But so is enhancing the recreational experiences of residents who bike, walk, fish, watch wildlife and float along the river. The popular Poudre River Trail will be redesigned and moved in places, including the former site of the Link-n-Greens golf course, where Woodward Inc. is planning to build its world headquarters. Woodward has donated 31 acres of the 101-acre site to the city for a natural area. The construction site is expected to be fenced off soon with grading work expected to begin in August, said Rick Bachand, environmental program manager for the Natural Areas Department…

Extensive embankment work also is planned at the Sterling Natural Area. Material heaped along the river decades ago will be used to fill in part of Sterling Pond, which is a former gravel pit, to create habitat The work is expected to begin this winter if permits can be obtained from regulatory entities including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Stokes said…

At the same time, a massive concrete diversion built to supply the Josh Ames Ditch, which no longer carries irrigation water, will be removed or modified. The structure stretches across river; its drop of roughly 5 feet prevents fish and insects from moving upstream.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


Federal money for wildfire mitigation lands in Colorado

July 6, 2013

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From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

Greeley has been reimbursed another $350,000 in federal dollars for mitigation following last year’s High Park and Hewlett Gulch fires, bumping up the city’s total reimbursement to $576,000. It brings the final count for the city’s out-of-pocket expenses to clear Greeley’s water supply of soot and ash to $1.2 million. Eric Reckentine, Greeley’s deputy director of water resources, said that’s the last Greeley will pay. Following Congress’ passage of a bill this spring to fund the protection of threatened water sources in Colorado, the remainder of mitigation will be fully funded by federal dollars, he said.

Last fall, stakeholders in the Poudre Canyon — Greeley, the city of Fort Collins and the tri-districts (North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland and East Larimer County water districts) — agreed to share the cost of keeping water supply in the Poudre River clean. They paid a combined $4 million to treat the most-damaged areas, covering about half of what was needed.

This year, the rest of the tab — at a cost of about $7.3 million — will be picked up by the federal government, with Greeley’s $1.2 million used as matching funds for federal grant money, Reckentine said.

Fort Collins and the tri-districts also have been reimbursed by National Resources Conservation Services.

In the mitigation process, mulch and straw is dumped from helicopters to keep soot, ash and debris from slipping off of hills and into the water supply. Reckentine said Greeley will still be responsible for managing some of the mitigation. He said the city hopes to see work on burn areas start in mid-August.

From KUNC (Erin OToole):

Last fall, the three water districts in Weld and Larimer counties, and the cities of Greeley and Fort Collins agreed to share the cost of keeping water in the Poudre River clean. Stakeholders paid a combined total of $4 million to treat the most damaged areas – only about half of what was needed.

This year the rest of the tab – about $7 million – will be picked up by the federal government. Fort Collins and the tri-districts are also being reimbursed.


Fort Collins begins using new water quality presedimentation basin

June 23, 2013

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Here’s the release from Fort Collins Utilities via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Fort Collins Utilities officials on Tuesday began using a new basin that will help remove sediment from Poudre River water before it hits the city’s water treatment facility.

The Pleasant Valley Presedimentation Basin was fast-tracked to address wildfire-related water quality issues that began last summer, according to a city release. While the Poudre River is experiencing normal runoff water quality, it’s expected that summer rainstorms in the High Park Fire burn area will cause increased sediment levels in the river water.

The basin was built adjacent to the Munroe Canal, north of the mouth of the Poudre Canyon.

Information: www.fcgov.com/water-quality.


Northern Water ponies up dough to keep NISP on schedule

May 31, 2013

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Keeping the Glade Reservoir environmental review on schedule is worth $139,254.95 to Northern Water. That’s how much the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District is giving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to pay for a project manager who will help complete the supplemental environmental review for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP.

A draft of the review, part of the yearslong permitting process for NISP, had been expected to be released to the public sometime this year, but now the Army Corps is saying it’ll be sometime in early 2014, said Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner. Northern Water and the Army Corps signed an agreement May 17 for the Army Corps to take Northern Water’s money to pay for a part-time project manager for two years. The money is coming from all the cities and water and irrigation districts that are participating in NISP…

In the Army Corps’ May 23 announcement that it had decided to take the money, the agency said it would take numerous steps to prevent the permitting process from being biased toward the approval of NISP. Northern Water’s money will not pay for any work done by people high up in the Army Corps’ chain of command who will be making final decisions on NISP, the announcement said. Franklin said the Army Corps will be unbiased in its decision-making process regardless who pays for the NISP permitting process.

Environmentalists opposing NISP said the money creates the appearance that the Army Corps will have a conflict of interest when decideing whether to give final approval to Glade Reservoir and NISP.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Entities hope to coordinate restoration efforts for the High Park fire burn scar

May 24, 2013

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From The Greeley Tribune (Dan England):

The snows that fell again and again this spring did more than just annoy you. It saved this year’s rafting season on the Poudre River. In fact, outfitters and kayakers are looking forward to a normal year, whatever that is . The snowpack hovers around 100 percent of average, and the flows are pretty standard for this time of year. The river should peak around June 10, and it should be good for Memorial Day.

No one’s taking those flows for granted after the last two years. In 2011, an historic snowpack turned the river into a monster, with high, fast flows, and last year’s barely-there snowpack not only killed the season early, it stopped it all together for a few weeks in May because of the wildfires. Outfitters lost a quarter of their business just from the closures, said David Costlow, executive director of the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

Outfitters fretted this year before the spring because the snowpack was low and the reservoirs were almost empty. Outfitters need both for a good year. The cool spring not only saved the snowpack, it preserved it until rafting season opened on May 15. “The outlook’s really changed in the last six weeks,” Costlow said. “The river didn’t really start running until last week, and last year, it was March and April. We’ll enjoy it until August at least. It’ll be great.”

Still, because of those fires, the Poudre Canyon as a recreation area and a water provider won’t be normal for quite some time, maybe a decade or more, despite the efforts of volunteers, city and county officials in northern Colorado and a nonprofit group that should start operating in June. The burn area is closed, and that includes some popular spots such as the Mount McConnel/Kruetzer and Young Gulch trails. But the closed area will shrink after July 1, when mulching operations are complete, said Reghan Cloudman, spokeswoman for the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and the Pawnee National Grassland. All campgrounds are open and will close only for the season, not because of the burn. The area commonly referred to as the “Crystal Wall” climbing spot is open. The Old Flowers, West White Pine and Monument Gulch roads remain closed.

Falling trees are a safety concern, both in burned and unburned areas that were hit by the pine beetle. Rolling and falling rocks can also become a hazard in the burned areas. Flash floods in the burn area are a great concern now, and those visiting the canyon should check the weather for potential rains that can trigger flooding.

Crews are already doing preliminary work on the Young Gulch, and volunteers should help complete some rehabilitation during designated days this summer, Cloudman said. Additional road and trail work will also take place.

If you do visit the canyon, you could see helicopters flying overhead. They are mulching approximately 4,700 acres of forest service land with agricultural straw to protect the soil from erosion, the water supply from runoff and the area from flash flooding. Larimer County hopes to use the $9 million expected from Emergency Watershed Protection funds to mulch about 4,000 more acres of private land, said Suzanne Bassinger, fire recovery manager, but that mulching, along with other projects, will have to wait until the money arrives. She hopes to start the work by mid-June.

Bassinger said she’s the only fire recovery manager in the state and, because of that, she’s still learning on the job. She’s frustrated by the lack of resources, both in manpower and money, to get the work going. “It’s surprising how hard it’s been to get the recovery moving forward,” she said. “We all had jobs and responsibilities in the city and county and this came on top of it all. It’s a large amount of work that needs to be done.”

Much of her work will help private landowners. About half of the burn was on forest service land and half was on private property. A lot of the immediate work includes the mulching and other projects to help with flood protection. Even then, the runoff means cities that draw water from the Poudre, including Greeley, will struggle with water quality for the next five years, Bassinger said.

That’s why the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed will start work in June after the initial effort by non-profits and volunteer organizations who care about the river to monitor and coordinate recovery efforts. The mix of public and private land means “an alphabet soup” of agencies and private entities will be involved in restoration, and the coalition will help make sense of it all. “What if we did $30,000 worth of restoration, only to have a month later someone come along and rip up 300 yards of roadway?” asked Dick Jefferies, president of the Rocky Mountain Flycasters. “We hope to look at the big picture and coordinate all the efforts.”

The efforts also meant putting aside personal agendas. As an angler, fire can bring more nutrients into the river, and that can bring more bugs and, therefore, not only healthier fish but more of them. “But this has to do with 300,000 or 400,000 and their drinking water,” Jefferies said. “I have a biased perspective, but anyone who opens a tap to take a drink of water should probably be concerned about this.”

If sediment continues to run into the river, Greeley may have to stop using it again, as it did last summer, or clean it, which will be much more expensive, Jefferies said. There’s some speculation that it will cost a utility a million more dollars per year to treat it. But the restoration, such as mulching, could help with that, he said.

The Coalition plans to host several volunteer days to help control flooding and erosion. When the group was called the High Park Restoration Committee, it hosted 14 events with 785 volunteers to treat 185 acres of land.

It will take years for the Poudre Canyon to look the way it was before the fires. Bassinger visited the famous Hayman fire, which burned 138,000 acres 35 miles northwest of Colorado Springs 11 years ago, and the land still looks charred. The burned land up the Poudre looks the same, and it will for a decade, at least. But there’s hope, too. There were many areas licked, not consumed, by the flames. “With all the snow, it’s now green all over those areas,” she said. “It looks like Ireland.”

More Cache la Poudre River coverage here and here.


New Belgium Brewery’s $100,000 donation to Fort Collins helps to secure water rights in the Coy Ditch

May 23, 2013

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From the City of Fort Collins via the North Forty News:

Using a $100,000 contribution from New Belgium Brewery, the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department recently acquired a 40 percent interest in the Coy Ditch, a move that will benefit habitats along the Cache la Poudre River Corridor.

The City’s recent acquisition consists of water that formerly irrigated the Link-N-Greens golf course where Woodward Governor’s new corporate headquarters are to be located. The Natural Areas Department plans to use the acquired water to enhance environmental values in and near the Poudre River. New Belgium Brewery contributed $100,000 towards the $700,000 purchase price.

“For New Belgium, this is a great way to invest in a healthy river and riparian corridor right where we live and work,” said New Belgium Director of Sustainability Jenn Vervier. “Much of our philanthropic efforts go toward supporting healthy watersheds, but it is especially meaningful when we can work on something this close to home.”

The water rights acquisition brings the city’s total interest in the Coy Ditch to 50 percent. The remaining 50 percent is owned by a municipal water provider.

Natural Areas Department Director John Stokes said, “This purchase will help the City pursue a minimum instream flow on the Poudre River and also to augment ponds and wetlands. Both of these objectives are critical to river health. In addition to these benefits, the water rights open up the possibility for modifications to Coy Ditch diversion dam (just east of College Avenue) to improve habitat connectivity, recreation and stormwater management. The City wishes to extend its sincere appreciated to New Belgium for its farsighted and generous donation.”

Citizens are invited to an open house to learn more about over 25 projects in the Poudre River Corridor on June 26, 4-7 p.m. at the Lincoln Center, Canyon West Room, 417 West Magnolia Street.

Topics include construction, trail closures, drought & fire, habitat restoration, flood mitigation and planning. Give input and enjoy kids’ activities and a cash bar. An overview of the projects and trail closures can be found at fcgov.com/riverprojects/

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Eventually, the rights could translate to higher flows in the Poudre that would boost recreation and habitat along the river, said John Stokes, director of natural areas. “It’s not a huge water right, but it is significant,” Stokes said. “My hope is to put a little bit more water in the river and establish an in-stream flow program.”

The ditch, which dates to 1865, has the No. 13 priority on the river. Its decree is for 31.5 cubic feet per second. For reference, the Poudre River’s flow on Wednesday was roughly 600 cfs.

Fort Collins owns 50 percent of the water; the East Larimer County water district owns the rest.

More Cache la Poudre River Watershed coverage here and here.


Wildland Restoration Volunteers High Park Post-Fire Restoration, May 23

May 18, 2013

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From Wildland Restoration Volunteers:

WRV is working with our partners to address the long-term restoration needs caused by the High Park Fire. Our goals are to protect downstream water quality, prevent erosion, and stabilize slopes. To achieve this, we distribute native grass seeds, lay out mulch and install erosion control structures We believe this will help rivers, roads, water infrastructure, and communities.

For this project, we will be finishing the installation of wattles on a hill slope to stabilize the slope. We would love to have your help!

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


The High Park Fire burn scar will likely be a pain in the water supply in the Poudre for years to come

April 28, 2013

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Trevor Hughes):

Last fall, mudslides and rockfalls repeatedly blocked Colorado Highway 14 west of Fort Collins in the weeks following the High Park Fire. The spring runoff is poised to cause even more trouble in the coming weeks and years…

The most recent problem in the canyon came April 21, when several rocks the size of recliners tumbled off a steep embankment and onto the road, blocking the eastbound lane. CDOT workers on Friday did some emergency work to reduce potential rockslides.

And next month, state and federal workers will begin a series of projects aimed at keeping traffic moving on the road and keeping the water clean for drinking. Two major efforts launch next month: The first will improve culverts along the highway and reduce the amount of debris that can slide down hillsides. The second involves spreading straw on thousands of burned acres to help stabilize hillsides and aid in revegetation.

Wildfires burn off grasses, bushes and trees that help stabilize the ground, which is especially important on steep, rocky hillsides of the kind that flank the Poudre Canyon. Without roots, branches and fronds, water, rocks and ash can cascade down the hillsides, covering the flat road below before dumping into the Poudre River.

The river, an internationally known fly-fishing destination, ran black several times last fall as rains carried ash into it. That sludge is still visible in many areas, and its presence worries water managers.

The Poudre River is an important source of drinking water for many Northern Colorado cities, including Fort Collins and Greeley. The High Park Fire forced Fort Collins to change how it treats Poudre River water, something that helped drive a 4 percent water rate increase that took effect earlier this year. Runoff from the burn area has also caused spikes in iron and manganese in the river, and because of those and other pollutants — and treatment for increased algae in the river water — there’s a risk the taste and smell of the city’s tap water could change, affecting the city’s numerous breweries.

To help protect the supply’s quality and taste, Fort Collins has been using water from Horsetooth Reservoir to dilute or outright replace Poudre River water during periods of ashy runoff.

“We will continue to have the uncertainty of the Poudre River water,” said Laurie D’Audney, a city water conservation specialist. “We just don’t know how much of it we’ll be able to treat.”

The federal government, recognizing the impact that the fire’s lingering effects have on the water, earlier this month allocated nearly $20 million to Colorado to repair watersheds and perform flood mitigation work in the Waldo Canyon and High Park fire burn areas.

That work will help stabilize hillsides, to reduce the amount of water and debris running downhill. And CDOT’s culvert replacements aim to ensure the water that does flow down crosses beneath Colorado 14, rather than pooling atop it.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


Northern Water plan in conjunction with NISP could restore streamflow in a section of the Cache la Poudre

April 19, 2013

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Northern is discussing raising flows in the stretch that runs from the mouth of Poudre Canyon to an area near Gateway Park. The river normally runs at a trickle in that section, but Northern Water says it could increase flows 30 to 40 cubic feet per second from June to September. That would amount to10,000 to 20,000 acre feet running through the five-mile section…

Northern Water is exploring the possibility as part of its $490 million Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP)…

As part of the reservoir project, Northern Water has proposed that the irrigation company leave the water in the stream through the five-mile stretch and allow Northern to divert it farther down and pump it back up to the proposed Glade Reservoir, where it would be stored for the irrigation company’s use.

Under this scenario, Northern Water would receive credit from the Corps of Engineers for adding water to the river as it draws from the river during spring runoff to fill Glade.

However, the irrigation company believes it would lose out on credit from the Corps of Engineers if Northern Water moved the diversion downstream. It wants credit for its Halligan-Seaman Water Management Project, which involves expanding Fort Collins’ Halligan Reservoir and Greeley’s Milton Seaman Reservoir.

Northern Water and North Poudre Irrigation Co. value those credits because they give the water companies standing to remove water from other places of the river at various times for storage in reservoirs.

“We’re not going to give up potential mitigation credits on our project,” said Steve Smith, operations manager for the irrigation company. “They actually would be in competition with ours.”

Both the irrigation company and Northern Water said they intend to keep negotiating to see if mutually acceptable terms can be reached.

More Cache la Poudre River Watershed coverage here and here.


Permitting water projects: ‘…maybe we’re having the federal government check too many boxes’ — Randy Ray

April 8, 2013

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

New water-supply projects could come to fruition much faster if a Colorado congressman has his way in Washington. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is piecing together a bill aimed at speeding up the federal permitting process for new water endeavors, if they are endorsed by the governor of that state.

Many regional water projects have been in the federal permitting stages for years, with participants having spent millions of dollars along the way, and they still have no guarantee the projects will be built.

Brian Werner — a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is overseeing efforts to build the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP — said the project has been in its federal permitting phase since 2004, with the 15 participating cities and water districts having already spent about $12 million. He suspects the process will go on for yet another year. Gardner said it’s taking “way too long.”

The details of his bill aren’t finalized, but Gardner said it could call for federal agencies to say “yay” or “nay” on a proposed water project within six to nine months after a governor puts his support behind it.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has yet to endorse NISP, which would supply its partners with 40,000 acre feet of new water supplies annually, if ever built.

Opponents say water-storage projects like NISP could interfere with river flows and impact wildlife, fisheries, forests and recreational use.

Gardner and others say that — with future water shortages expected for a number of regions — new water-supply projects must get a “yay” or “nay” quicker, so those projects can get built or participants can go back to the drawing board. Agriculture, the biggest user of water, will suffer the most if these lulls continue, Gardner added.

Participants of large-scale, water-supply projects must work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and others to make sure all needed wildlife-, habitat- and environmental-protection measures are taken before dirt is moved. “No doubt; mitigation efforts need to be taken,” said Randy Ray, executive director with the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley. “But maybe we’re having the federal government check too many boxes.

“I’d like to see the federal government have more faith in the state, the local water districts and the engineers who are working on these projects.”

Without new water-supply projects in the region, farmers and some water experts worry that growing cities will continue buying up farmland and agricultural water rights in the future to meet their growing needs.

The Colorado-Big Thompson Project, the largest water project in northern Colorado, has seen its water go from 85 percent owned by agricultural users, to now 34 percent owned by agricultural users. Many farmers have sold rights in times when farming wasn’t profitable. Farmers who need water today now depend on leasing it from the cities who own it. But in dry times, like this year, cities say they don’t have enough water in storage to lease to agriculture.

If Colorado had NISP-like projects in place already, Werner and others say, the above-average snowpacks of recent years would have filled those reservoirs, local cities and farmers would have more water in storage now and they would be in much better shape to endure the ongoing drought. Instead, during 2009, 2010 and 2011, a total of about 1.4 million acre-feet of water above what’s legally required flowed from Colorado into Nebraska, according to Werner. “Even if we could have captured just some of that in new reservoirs, how much better off would we be right now?” Werner asked.

Colorado’s ag industry has a $40 billion impact on the state, the second-largest contributor to Colorado’s economy, behind oil and gas.

But according to the 2010 Statewide Water Initiative Study, the South Platte River basin in northeast Colorado could lose as much as 190,000 acres of irrigated farmland by 2050 due to water shortages. Farmers and water experts agree that conservation and water-sharing projects could help Colorado meet its growing water needs, but they say new water-storage projects will also be needed.

Ray didn’t want to comment specifically on Gardner’s bill, but he stressed the need to speed up the federal permitting process for new water projects. He explained that the Central Water and others have been discussing the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project since the 1980s, but are still working with the federal government to get all permitting in order. “It needs to change,” he said “Because we’re not getting anywhere.

“And we really need to get somewhere.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Greeley: Water utility officials worry about #soldiercanyon fire burn scar affecting Horsetooth Reservoir #codrought

March 16, 2013

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From The Greeley Tribune:

In a scene reminiscent of last summer, acrid smoke hung in the air in Greeley on Friday night as an 800-acre wildfire, driven by erratic winds, threatened more than 50 homes in northern Colorado and prompted hundreds of evacuation orders.

Like this past summer, the fire got the attention of Greeley water officials.

“We are quite concerned. The fire on the Poudre last year blackened quite a bit of our Poudre supply,” said Jon Monson, Greeley Water and Sewer Department director. “The Lory State Park drains into Horsetooth. Now, Horsetooth Reservoir is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and that is a second supply, so if both of those supplies are compromised then we’d be focused more on the Greeley and Loveland system for our supple coming out of the Big Thompson. This could be a fairly significant problem for us.”

The fire began Friday west of Fort Collins and was burning west of Horsetooth Reservoir, near the scene of a large wildfire last summer that burned 259 homes and killed one person.

Firefighters saved two homes and a state park visitors center from flames, authorities said. They said no homes had been destroyed.

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Department said 860 phone lines got automated calls ordering evacuations Friday, but some addresses have multiple lines and other numbers were cellphones, so the exact number of homes in the evacuation area was not known.

Some people believed to be hiking in Lory State Park were unaccounted for, but sheriff’s spokesman Nick Christensen said they were not believed to be in imminent danger. Park rangers were looking for them.

Some evacuations ordered earlier Friday were lifted.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and authorities had no estimate of when it would be contained.

“The winds are playing a major factor right now,” said Patrick Love, a spokesman for the Poudre Valley Fire Authority. “We’ve had variable and erratic winds all day long.”

The wind initially pushed the fire north, prompting authorities to evacuate neighborhoods on the northwest side of the reservoir.

But the winds suddenly shifted to the south, and deputies and state troopers quickly barricaded another neighborhood on the southwest side of the reservoir that hadn’t been officially evacuated.

“It’s pretty ridiculous to shut things down and not let anyone know,” said Mark Martina, a mortgage broker who was heading home to get his dog when he reached the new roadblock not far from his house.

When authorities began allowing some residents back in for brief visits to retrieve valuables, Martina said he planned to stay as long as necessary to collect birth certificates, guns and other important items.

“I’m not a complete idiot. I’m going to leave if it’s coming close,” he said.

Chicago resident Terry Jones and his family were in a vacation house they own when they saw smoke billowing toward them, and then officers pounded on their door and told them to leave.

Late Friday afternoon, as the sun turned hillsides pink and smoke obscured the reservoir, Jones was asked if he’d rather be back home in Chicago.

“No,” he said. “Not even with the fire.”

The fire came as much of the state dealt with drought conditions after a relatively dry winter. The snowpack in the mountains was low, leaving farmers wondering how many crops to plant and raising the possibility of lawn-watering restrictions along the Front Range.

Monson said the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District spent more than $100,000 last year trying to stabilize the soil from the High Park fire that goes into Horsetooth. Brian Warner, spokesman for the district said officials are monitoring the fire.

“We don’t have anybody up there right now. There’s not a lot we can do. We’re trying to stay out of the way, but obviously we’re paying attention to it because it’s right above our water supply.”


Cache la Poudre River: Less CBT irrigation water due to High Park Fire pollution #codrought

March 8, 2013

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley): via the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

The scorching of Colorado forests by super-intense wildfires is worsening the water woes for Eldon Ackerman and other Larimer County farmers, jeopardizing thousands of irrigated acres that normally produce millions of dollars in crops. The problem: soot, sediment and debris washing from burned forests have made the Cache la Poudre River less reliable as Fort Collins’ main water supply for urban households. Particles clog treatment facilities. So, city officials say, they must heavily tap their secondary supply — water piped under mountains from the Western Slope. That water typically has been leased to farmers.

Fort Collins officials recently notified 80 farmers not to expect any leased water this spring. And suddenly, Ackerman — instead of ordering seeds and fertilizer — is talking with insurers and preparing to lay off hired hands…

In the big picture, this intensifying water crunch reflects a shifting balance of power between cities and the agriculture that traditionally has anchored life along Colorado’s northern Front Range. Drought and the oil-and-gas industry’s appetite for drilling water already have weakened farmers’ position. Cities in recent years have purchased interests in irrigation-ditch companies. Farmers have sold their water rights, taking advantage of high prices. Financial stress and low commodity prices forced some to sell. Others simply sought profit. The result is that city interests increasingly dominate decision-making. “Now, cities are getting very conservative because of the drought, compounded with the wildfire,” said Reagan Waskom, director of Colorado State University’s Water Center…

“We’ve got this twofold issue of drought complicated by fire, and the issue of more fires. What that will do to our water yields is very unknown,” said John Stulp, a Colorado agriculture leader serving as a special water adviser to Gov. John Hickenlooper.

More water pollution coverage here.


10 Weld county students win awards in ‘Caring for our watersheds’ competition

March 5, 2013

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

The ambition of local youth will soon result in new drinking-water stations at school to reduce the amount of plastic bottles used, new composting programs and the implementation of many other strategies aimed at efficiency and reducing waste.

Ten Weld County teams from five schools placed in the top 10 or earned honorable-mention recognition in the recent Caring for Our Watersheds contest.

Now, the high-placing local students will use money from the competition’s sponsor — Canada-based Agrium, Inc., an international agricultural-products supplier with offices in Loveland — to watch their ideas come to fruition in their schools.

In recent months, 55 total teams from schools across northern Colorado examined the local Poudre and Big Thompson watersheds, identified problems, developed strategies to address them and then created presentations, which were judged at a recent awards banquet at the University of Northern Colorado.

All top-10 finishers walked away from the banquet with $300 to $1,000 cash prizes, and a matching cash prize went to the teachers who sponsored those students in the contest.

Additionally, Agrium will pay up to $1,000 for each of the top-10 and honorable-mention projects to be implemented at the students’ schools.

This is the fourth year that local schools have participated in the Caring for Our Watersheds competition.

There are now 12 different contests across North America, South America and Australia.

First place went to a team from Resurrection Christian School in Loveland, but it was Greeley Central High School that came away with the most prize money.

Greeley Central had five teams finish in the top 10, while another team from the school earned an honorable-mention nod.

Ivonne Morales of Greeley Central placed the highest among all Weld County students, taking second place with her project, Easy Peasy H2O, which looks to reduce the amount of bottled water consumed in schools.

With the dollars from Agrium, she’ll help bring water-refilling stations to Greeley Central, encouraging students to refill reusable bottles instead of buying plastic-bottled water from vending machines.

The water-refilling stations would replace water fountains, alleviating the sanitary concerns some students have, Morales added.

Morales — president of the school’s Green Cats organization, and the Colorado representative for the Alliance for Climate Education who took part in a 35,000-person march in Washington, D.C., this month — has learned through her research that 1,250 plastic water bottles are thrown away every second in the U.S.

Also, it takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce the amount of plastic used for bottled water in our country, and that doesn’t even factor in the amount of oil needed to transport the bottled water to the consumer, she noted.

Additionally, she said, there are concerns and a lack of understanding regarding the chemicals used in the plastic, like Bisphenol A.

Because her project placed high enough to earn money to be implemented, and because of the impact her project could have, Morales said her time dedicated to the competition was well worth it.

“It means a lot to me,” said Morales, who also works as a part-time custodian at her school to help support herself and also to save money for a trip to Costa Rica this summer, where she’ll learn about the country’s highly regarded sustainability programs.

Greeley Central High School science teacher Liz Mock-Murphy, who’s made the competition part of her curriculum in certain classes, and Ray Tscillard, director of the Poudre Learning Center in Greeley that organizes the competition locally, said they are amazed each year by all of the students’ effort and dedication to the contest.

“This competition is truly empowering … allowing these students to really make a difference,” Mock-Murphy said, noting that some of Greeley’s schools today have low-flow toilets, biodegradable sporks in the cafeterias and single-stream recycling programs as a result of projects executed through the Caring for Our Watersheds competition. “It’s been an amazing thing for our students.”

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


The Greeley Tribune editorial staff comes out in favor of NISP

February 11, 2013

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From The Greeley Tribune via the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):

We agree with Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar when he said last week that a combination of conservation and new water storage are needed to solve an impending catastrophe for farmers and
ranchers.

Salazar was referring to a projected 600,000 acre-foot water shortage that is expected to hit Colorado by the
year 2050.

Speaking at last week’s Colorado Farm Show, Salazar said municipal users, including those of us who apply a
vast amount of water to our Kentucky bluegrass, must get smarter about water consumption. He also said
farmers and ranchers must take better advantage of technology to do a better job of conserving water. And he
said, too, that water-storage projects (can you say Northern Integrated Supply Project?) must be part of the
state’s 50-year water plan.

We agree on all three accounts.

Salazar’s message hits home with extra impact this winter. Statewide snowpack is sitting at 67 percent of
average, and many of the state’s reservoirs already range from near empty to two-thirds full. Unless the final
three months of the winter provide bountiful snow, Colorado could very well be facing the reality of a water
shortage starting this summer.

Salazar pointed out that Coloradans consume about 120 gallons of water every day. Australians, by
comparison, use 36 gallons per day. That stark difference points out that more can, and must, be done to
conserve the water we use on an everyday basis. Those who grow crops certainly must be participants in that,
and we know from previous coverage that some Weld County farmers already are converting to drip irrigation
systems, which save a considerable amount of water compared to the conventional flood irrigation. Residential
water users must do a better job of embracing xeriscaping and reducing other household water consumption,
and we know that Greeley has been among the state’s leaders in securing significant water savings over the
past few years.

But we must do more.

And that includes building more water storage. The NISP project in northern Colorado is one of the most
responsible, common-sense water storage projects this state has seen in decades. It has to win the approval
of federal regulatory agencies, but we would expect that to happen within a few years and hopefully
construction can start soon thereafter.

Salazar said “massive cooperation” must occur for the state to meet its future water needs. We would agree,
and if we don’t, we’re likely to encounter a massive water problem.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


The Fort Collins Coloradoan is following the trail of EPA exemptions for disposal wells, including oil and gas operations waste

December 29, 2012

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Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Click through for the great graphic and the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Over the past 13 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has exempted only the oil and gas industry from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to allow the disposal of waste brine and hydrocarbon-containing fluids into drinking water aquifers deep underground.

The injections are occurring east of Fort Collins in northern Weld County, including one directly beneath an animal sanctuary, a Coloradoan investigation shows.

The law requires applicants for the exemptions to prove that aquifers can’t be used for drinking because the water is so deep underground that it’s too expensive or too impractical to ever be tapped.

But Colorado water experts say you can never say never.

State water planners say it’s possible — but extremely expensive — to reach that drinking water today, but they warn that they can’t discount the possibility the water will become scarce and valuable enough here that Colorado may one day need to look for it deep underground.

A ProPublica investigation showed that the EPA has not kept track of how many aquifer exemptions have been issued nationwide, and records the agency provided ProPublica showed that many were issued in conflict with the EPA’s requirement to protect water that could be used for drinking. ProPublica found that about 1,100 aquifer exemptions have been approved by the EPA’s Underground Injection Control Program in its Rocky Mountain regional office in Denver.

The Coloradoan requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act copies of all approval notices for aquifer exemptions the EPA has granted since Jan. 1, 2000, for an area including Denver, Weld, Adams, Boulder and Larimer counties.

The EPA released six aquifer exemption notices for that area.

In most cases, the EPA granted companies permission to pollute drinking water aquifers saying that they are not “reasonably expected” to be used for drinking water because they are too deep and too expensive to tap, making such an operation “technically impractical.”[...]

“I think most people consider it highly unlikely that it would ever be possible to lift that water that far economically” because the energy required to pump water 10,000 feet to the surface is too costly, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University.

Today, one of the only resources valuable enough to pump from such depths is oil.

Think of it this way: The energy industry extracts oil from 7,000 feet or so beneath the surface, but each barrel is currently worth about $91. A barrel of water might be worth 80 cents, Waskom said, making the effort economically impractical.

More water pollution coverage here.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


Western Resource Advocates releases a new report — ‘A Better Future for the Poudre River’

December 15, 2012

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Here’s the link to the webpage where you can download the report. From the executive summary:

A Better Future for the Poudre River Alternative is a solution for meeting future water demands in northeastern Colorado. This report outlines a better approach than the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), a proposal by Northern Water that would cause significant harm to the Poudre River. A Better Future provides a strategy for meeting the water needs of 15 towns and water districts while also preserving the Poudre River and the communities and businesses that depend on a healthy river.

Planning for and meeting the water needs of NISP participant communities is critical, as is ensuring the health of the Poudre River and the numerous benefits it provides. Through the recommendations outlined in the Better Future report, Northern Water and NISP participants can chart an innovative path forward that differs from the traditional approach of building large reservoirs. The Better Future for the Poudre River Alternative (“Better Future Alternative” or “Better Future”) relies on a combination of supplies from conservation, reuse, water transferred as a result of growth onto irrigated agricultural lands, and voluntary agreements with agriculture. We encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate elements of the Better Future Alternative into its No Action Alternative when completing the NISP Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which is anticipated sometime in 2013. Western Resource Advocates (WRA) offers the following key recommendations that Northern Water, NISP participants, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should consider carefully in planning for the region’s future water needs:

  • Meet projected demands with balanced strategies that are the least environmentally damaging, in contrast to large traditional reservoir and pipeline projects.
  • Use reliable and up-to-date population data and projections
    from the State Demography Office.
  • Implement more aggressive water conservation strategies. Conservation is often the cheapest, fastest, and smartest way to meet new demands; NISP participants have significant opportunities to boost their existing water conservation efforts.
  • Integrate conservation savings—passive and active—into water supply planning.
  • When calculating future water supply projections, include all existing supplies, supplies from growth onto irrigated lands, as well as NISP participants’ water dedication requirements.
  • Maximize the role of water reuse in meeting future needs. Include NISP participants’ existing and planned reuse—as well as additional Better Future reuse supplies—in any analysis.
  • Include increased cooperation between agriculture and local communities in the form of voluntary water sharing agreements that benefit both NISP participants and the agricultural community—without permanently drying up irrigated acres. Alternatives to “buy and dry” transfers present excellent opportunities for meeting future municipal demands.
  • More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


    U.S. Representative Gardner plans to introduce legislation to speed up the permitting process for NISP

    December 15, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    n light of a federal study showing shortages in the Colorado River system, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., plans to introduce legislation that would promote increased water storage. Gardner hopes to work with the Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers to gain approval of water projects already on the drawing board.

    This week, he released a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo Ellen Darcy, which explains the critical need for storage during times of drought, such as Colorado is experiencing.

    “The Colorado River Basin Study highlights that demand will outpace supply in the near future, making it imperative we start construction on new water storage infrastructure immediately,” Gardner said. “There are many projects far along in planning and permitting stages, including projects like the Northern Integrated Supply Project in Colorado, that are simply waiting for approval.”

    State water planners have embraced storage as a way of equalizing river flows between high and low years. The Colorado River basin historically has seen wide variability in rainfall, and climate projections show this will continue. The issue is important to the Front Range of Colorado, including Pueblo, because much of the water that supports the state’s cities is brought over from the Western Slope.

    A study released this week by the Bureau of Reclamation predicts a shortfall of 3.4 million acre-feet annually by 2060 in the Colorado River basin, which covers parts of seven Western states.

    More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


    ‘Holding back water would happen regardless of the amount of snowpack’ — Donnie Dustin #CODrought

    December 9, 2012

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    The problem: soot, sediment and debris washing from burned forests have made the Cache la Poudre River less reliable as Fort Collins’ main water supply for urban households. Particles clog treatment facilities. So, city officials say, they must heavily tap their secondary supply — water piped under mountains from the Western Slope. That water typically has been leased to farmers…

    In the big picture, this intensifying water crunch reflects a shifting balance of power between cities and the agriculture that traditionally has anchored life along Colorado’s northern Front Range. Drought and the oil-and-gas industry’s appetite for drilling water already have weakened farmers’ position. Cities in recent years have purchased interests in irrigation-ditch companies. Farmers have sold their water rights, taking advantage of high prices. Financial stress and low commodity prices forced some to sell. Others simply sought profit. The result is that city interests increasingly dominate decision-making…

    “We’ve got this twofold issue of drought complicated by fire, and the issue of more fires. What that will do to our water yields is very unknown,” said John Stulp, a Colorado agriculture leader serving as a special water adviser to Gov. John Hickenlooper…

    For farmers, the trouble is hitting five months after the High Park fire, just as they prepare to make business decisions for the coming year. Given the uncertainties of sediment polluting the Poudre, Fort Collins “is extremely unlikely to make any water rentals” next year, city water-resources manager Donnie Dustin told farmers in a Nov. 14 e-mail. Holding back water would happen “regardless of the amount of snowpack,” Dustin wrote. “The ability to consistently treat Poudre River water is likely to be an ongoing concern for the next few years.”

    Cities cannot be blamed for holding back water they now control, said Rocky Mountain Farmers Union president Kent Peppler. “Their first priority has to be domestic use, and if they think runoff from the fire is going to pollute their supplies, they have to do this,” he said. But agriculture “isn’t going to get any easier if these fires continue…

    “We’ve been under stress this whole decade,” said Grant Family Farms owner Lewis Grant, 89, who serves on advisory boards for Larimer County and Fort Collins and is involved in efforts to preserve farms amid spreading subdivisions. “It’s almost hopeless for younger farmers. Land is so expensive. Water is so expensive.”

    On the sprawling farm northwest of Wellington, Grant produces eggs that end up in Whole Foods Markets. The farm’s produce — including squash, lettuce, spinach, cauliflower, kale and cabbage — is sold by King Soopers and other markets. Water rented from Fort Collins irrigates about 25 percent of his crops, he said. One solution may be for Fort Collins to install extra sediment-control tanks to enable consistent use of the Poudre. “That would seem reasonable to me,” Grant said.

    City officials say they’re considering costs. Such facilities likely would force higher water bills for city dwellers and higher prices for farmers and energy companies that vie for city water.

    More Cache La Poudre watershed coverage here.


    Poudre River: The High Park Fire has caused Fort Collins’ treatment costs to escalate by $1 million

    November 24, 2012

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

    After the summer’s fires incinerated large swathes of the Poudre River watershed, tons of ash and debris washed into the river during rainstorms, wreaking havoc with one of Fort Collins’ main sources of drinking water.

    Standing on a layer of ash caked on the pebbly shore of the Poudre River, Lisa Voytko, city water production manager, said the High Park Fire could cost Fort Collins Utilities $1 million a year for the next two years just to keep the additional sediment out of the city’s tap water.

    The city has a major water diversion operation in Poudre Canyon, the source of about half of the city’s water in most years.

    At the Fort Collins-Loveland, North Weld County and East Larimer County water districts’ water intake and diversion dam a few miles upstream of Gateway Natural Area, it’s not hard to understand why the fire might cost the city so much.

    A massive layer of ash and debris several feet thick has accumulated behind the dam since the fire. Once it reaches the river, the sediment becomes suspended in the water and ends up in the city’s water intake at Gateway Natural Area…

    It’s unknown both how much water will be flowing down the Poudre next spring and, as the drought continues, how much water the city will be allowed to take from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, or C-BT, and Horsetooth Reservoir, Fort Collins water resources engineer Donnie Dustin told City Council on Tuesday.

    The city, he said, is looking for ways to increase the amount of C-BT water it has access to, and that means the city may decide not to rent water to farmers, reducing Fort Collins Utilities’ revenue by $700,000 in 2013.

    “Restrictions are likely to be implemented early in the spring as a precaution,” he said, adding that farmers that rely on Fort Collins for water are going to hurt next year.

    “These conditions could persist for a few years,” he said.

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Steven Meyers):

    Like a farmer devoted to his crops, Robert Breckenridge is hoping and praying for precipitation. The owner of A1 Wildwater in Fort Collins for the past 31 years, Breckenridge prays for heavy snow to fall in the high country through April. Because, like the ski industry, rafting is a fickle business…

    Combine a low snowpack year, a severe drought, and the worst fire Northern Colorado has ever seen, and you wind up with a disaster recipe for the Fort Collins rafting business.

    More Poudre River Watershed coverage here.


    ‘The Poudre Runs Through It’ report is hot off the press

    November 19, 2012

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    From email from the Colorado Water Institute (Reagan Waskom/Mary Lou Smith):

    Thanks again for participating last year in our successful look at the Poudre River and Northern Colorado’s water future. At the end of the series we promised to send you the final report from the public deliberation sessions that closed out the series. Well, here it is!

    [Click here] to read the report, written by Martin Carcasson and Leah Sprain, CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation, who facilitated the public deliberation sessions.

    More than 350 of you participated in The Poudre Runs Through It: Northern Colorado’s Water Future. Some attended all the sessions, including the educational programs and the public deliberation events.

    At the close of the series we asked those in attendance to evaluate the series. Overwhelmingly, you rated it “very helpful” and said it provided unbiased coverage of the issues. Though last year’s participants have different opinions about topics such as water storage, conservation, agricultural water use, and growth, virtually all expressed interest in the health of the Poudre River.

    Almost everyone said the series was a good start but that the community needs more information about our water challenges. We heard you, and we are today launching a central website as one way to meet this need—bringing together the myriad resources and activities related to the Poudre River.

    Click this link to access the website: www.cwi.colostate.edu/thepoudrerunsthroughit/index.html Take a look, and then let us know what you would like for us to add to it. With your help we can keep it a dynamic resource for years to come.

    And that’s not all. We have followed up the 2011 series with a Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group that will be meeting monthly through May, 2013. This work group is made up of 25 community leaders in agricultural, municipal, environmental, industrial, business, development, and recreational sectors. We are learning together about all aspects of the river and strategizing ways we can work together to “make the Poudre River the world’s best example of a ‘working river’—one that provides economic and social benefits by respecting private property rights—that’s also a healthy river.”

    We envision convening a public session on the banks of the Poudre early in June where we will relate what the Study/Action Work Group accomplished and discuss their recommendations for moving forward. This will be the community’s opportunity to learn more about the Poudre and how we promote cooperation and leverage resources to respect and improve our crown jewel.

    Stay tuned to the website for progress of the Study/Action Work Group and to find out about the June “roll out” on the banks of the Poudre! And share this email and the website link with others, please.

    More Cache la Poudre Watershed coverage here.


    ‘It costs 10 times more to clean out a reservoir than to build a new one’ — Jon Monson

    November 8, 2012

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

    Experts from around the region painted an uncertain picture of the area’s water future Wednesday morning at Northern Water’s fall water user’s meeting in Greeley.

    As ash and silt continue their relentless descent into the Poudre River during even tiny rainstorms, Fort Collins will have to spend much more money on water filtration and purification in the coming years and potentially treat drinking water with additional chemicals to ensure the muck stays away from your faucet, Fort Collins water production manager Lisa Voytko said. The silt washing into Seaman Reservoir from the Hewlett and High Park wildfire burn areas could be costly to Greeley, said Jon Monson, the city’s water and sewer director…

    Voytko said she’s worried about spiking levels of total organic carbon in Poudre River water every time it rains. That’s because the carbon has to be removed with chlorine, a process that creates potentially toxic byproducts in drinking water that have to be removed at great expense. Polymers have to be used to remove the turbidity from the drinking water, and it’s expensive to dispose of the byproducts of that process, she said…

    The summer’s wildfires have clogged Fort Collins’ water intake structures on the Poudre River with sediment and debris, reducing their intake capacity. The sediment washing off the burn areas is so extreme that the city had to flush out its intake structures four times in September. Normally, the city flushes them once a year. Then there’s a concern all the silt and muck in the Poudre River and Seaman Reservoir could cause major algae blooms, further degrading the water quality and treatment expense, Voytko said.

    More water pollution coverage here.


    Windsor: The town board approves a third water rate tier

    October 13, 2012

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    From the Windsor Beacon (Ashley Keesis-Wood):

    The town’s current water system for single-system residential users features a base fee of $14.81 a month, with a $3.30 charge per 1,000 gallons a month until the users reach the first-tier threshold of 15,700 gallons a month. The second tier’s charge is $4.93 a month per 1,000 gallons. The new tier rate structure would increase the first-tier usage, raising it to 16,000 gallons a month before the second tier would begin. The new tier, at 2011 prices, would begin at 22,501 gallons a month at a cost of $7.35 per 1,000 gallons. The new rate will go into effect Jan. 15…

    When developers build homes, they are required to pledge a certain amount of water from the Colorado Big Thompson, or CBT, project to account for the households’ use of water. The highest tier, the 22,501 gallons, equates to full usage of the allotted CBT water for each household. “This will still promote and encourage conservation,” said Mayor John Vazquez.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Windsor: A look at the town’s water resources

    September 26, 2012

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    From the Windsor Beacon (Carrie Knight):

    Water is a confusing topic in the West. Windsor is not exempt from the historical idiosyncrasies of water law upon which Colorado was founded. Sitting at the heart of Colorado Water Law is Article 16 of the state Constitution, better known as “Prior Appropriation.” “Prior Appropriation” essentially states first in use, first in right. Many people are surprised when they find out that in addition to a set number of water “shares” the town holds in Windsor Lake, the town purchases its water from three additional providers, including the North Weld County Water District, city of Greeley and Fort Collins-Loveland Water District. Each of these districts holds prior appropriation to water sources from which the town directly benefits.

    The “shares” or allotments of water in Windsor Lake are owned by the Kern Reservoir and Ditch Co., of which the town owns majority shares. The Kern Reservoir and Ditch Co., formerly the Lake Supply Ditch Co., has a long history in Windsor. As early as 1903, the Lake Supply and Ditch Co., had secured “first in right” of Windsor Lake. Today, it is used solely for recreational purposes and as a nonpotable irrigation reservoir. Windsor entered into its agreement with the city of Greeley for mountain water drawn from the Poudre River near Bellvue in 1908. Other early Windsor residents benefited from private wells drilled on their property. Some of these private wells still exist today.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


    New growth sprouting from root systems in the High Park burn area as summer winds down

    September 9, 2012

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    This rapid emergence of new life — less than two months after the flames — hints at the potential for future aspen forests that state and federal experts say could be more diverse, healthy and resilient. “That sprouting would not be happening without the fire,” Lebeda said.

    The ecological benefits of wildfires are a bright side of the burning that ravaged more than 116,000 acres of forest this year and destroyed more than 600 homes along Colorado’s Front Range. Six people died in this year’s wildfires. It’s largely a matter of letting in light where forests previously were unnaturally dense. Wildfires also release nutrients to the soil.

    More restoration coverage here and here.


    Fort Collins: The city is waiting until later this month to start blending Poudre river flows into it’s water supply

    September 9, 2012

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

    The city of Fort Collins is planning to mix Poudre River water into the city water supply later this month, most likely after a rush of silty water moves downstream and out of Poudre Canyon.

    Fort Collins gets its drinking water from both the Poudre River and Horsetooth Reservoir, the water for which is pumped beneath Rocky Mountain National Park from the Colorado River.

    Ash, silt and debris washing off the Hewlett and High Park fire burn areas prompted the city to stop taking water from the Poudre River in early June, and no Poudre water has been used since then because of poor water quality.

    More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


    Governor Hickenlooper requests speedier reviews for Moffat Collection System and NISP

    August 15, 2012

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    A letter to Obama seeks help spurring decisions on Denver Water’s diversion of 18,000 acre-feet of Colorado River Basin water from the west side of the Continental Divide to an expanded Gross Reservoir west of Boulder. A separate letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asks that the Northern Integrated Supply Project — which would siphon the Cache la Poudre River into new reservoirs storing 215,000 acre-feet of water — be given a high priority.

    Colorado faces “a significant gap in our supplies to provide water for future growth — a gap that cannot be met by conservation and efficiencies alone,” Hickenlooper began in a June 5 letter sent to the White House and copied to cabinet secretaries and agency chiefs. “We urge you to exercise your authority to coordinate your agencies and bring an expeditious conclusion to the federal permitting processes for this essential project, in order that we can have certainty moving forward as a state,” he wrote.

    Click here to read the letter to President Obama. Click here to read the Governor’s letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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


    Cache la Poudre River: Drought and wildfire have big impact on the rafting season #CODrought

    August 14, 2012

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    From NPR (Kirk Siegler):

    The rafting and guiding company Rocky Mountain Adventures is based two hours north of Colorado Springs. Owner Ryan Barwick had to suspend rafting trips on the nearby Poudre River during the peak season in June, when the High Park Fire blackened more than 135 square miles in the region.

    “A lot of us do live paycheck to paycheck,” Barwick says. “And you know, when you’re shut down for three weeks, you’re a small business — we don’t have that cushion to fall back on.”

    Even before the fire, Barwick says it was hard enough to sell whitewater trips, given the ongoing drought. But it’s even harder now, he says, with the river a trickle of black sediment running off the canyons above.

    “We’ve had rock slides, we’ve had mudslides, we’ve had black water — I mean, you name it, we’ve encountered it this year,” he says. “It’s pretty much every headwind that you fear at the beginning of each season, compiled all into one season.”

    From the Vail Business Journal (Bob Berwyn):

    Colorado’s drought delivered a costly punch to July’s bottom line, according to the monthly Goss Report released on Tuesday. July’s overall index for the state slumped nine points from June. The drop from 58.6 to 49.6 puts Colorado’s Business Conditions Index (the same as the overall index) slightly below the 50-point growth neutral. Components of Colorado’s index for July were new orders at 51.0, production or sales at 53.5, delivery lead time at 43.3, inventories at 55.4, and employment at 59.0.


    Drought news: Drought helps proponents of the NISP make their point about storage

    August 7, 2012

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    Here’s an in-depth look at the current state of the Northern Integrated Supply Project from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    …the 2012 drought has brought an often breathless sense of urgency to the debate over the need for the big alternative to damming up Poudre Canyon – a massive dam building project called NISP that would siphon water from the Poudre River and turn a valley on U.S. Highway 287 north of Fort Collins into Glade Reservoir – a lake bigger than Horsetooth Reservoir.

    The drought proves that Northern Colorado still needs to find “buckets” in which to store water during wet years so the region can have a water savings account for years like this one, said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, NISP’s mastermind and chief advocate…

    “The current drought throughout Northern Colorado has brought home a stark reality — we need more water storage and soon! Without it, our children’s and grandchildren’s future will be at risk,” Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway wrote in the Windsor Beacon on July 17. He warned that a Colorado without NISP would be a Colorado with 100 fewer square miles of irrigated farmland in Weld and Larimer counties. It would be an economic and environmental disaster, he said…

    “You can conserve only so much,” [State Sen. Mary Hodge of Brighton] said. “When you conserve as much as humanly possible you don’t leave yourself room for a year (like) you have now.” The bottom line, she said, is that the Front Range isn’t going to stop growing, and all those new Windsorites, Erieans, and Frederickers must have access to more water.

    Perhaps to illustrate the political peril surrounding NISP, Gov. John Hickenlooper‘s administration has no official position on the project except to say that it encourages water projects to have “multiple benefits.” NISP has those benefits, and the state hopes that the Army Corps has prioritized its review of the project, Hickenlooper wrote in a May letter to the Army Corps. “The governor has not endorsed NISP,” Hickenlooper’s special water policy advisor John Stulp said Thursday, adding, “There’s no question about when we have a drought that we start looking at what our options might be to help minimize the impacts of future drought.”[...]

    As the river’s spring flows would be heavily reduced, more than 2,700 acres of native plant communities would be lost, the Army Corps concluded in its draft environmental review. The city of Fort Collins worries water quality in Horsetooth Reservoir could be degraded by a pipeline sending Glade water into Horsetooth Reservoir, possibly costing the city millions in capital costs to ensure the quality of its drinking water is maintained depending on how much water is transferred between reservoirs. And, in addition to harm city natural areas along the Poudre could suffer if the river is diminished, the city could have to spend in excess of $125 million to upgrade its water treatment facilities to protect the river…

    …the era of big dam proposals on the Poudre River evaporated decades ago after Congress protected a long stretch of the river as wild and scenic in 1986, effectively canceling the Cache la Poudre Project, a proposal to build a chain of reservoirs throughout Poudre Canyon. A later plan to build a dam lower in the canyon was also scuttled…

    …even Poudre River advocates are divided on NISP and Glade. “NISP is the natural outgrowth (of the fact that) we didn’t build a dam on the main stem at Grey Mountain,” said Bill Sears, president of Friends of the Poudre, who said the primary concern in the 1980s was to ensure that the values of a free-flowing river in Poudre Canyon trumped the value in storing water there. But now that the canyon is protected, “the need for water storage doesn’t go away,” he said. “So, where are you going to put it? “To their credit, Northern has scoured the area thoroughly,” he said. “I think they make their case for Glade, but until the Corps of Engineers makes their final ruling, I’m hesitant to make a hard and fast stand.”

    From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

    Tuesday’s forecast high of 92 degrees could be as cool as it gets in the city for a week, according to the National Weather Service office in Denver. The drought-parched Eastern Plains have a slight of rain, but “precipitation amounts will generally be light,” forecasters said Monday. Western Colorado could see slightly cooler temperatures this week, with highs in the low 80s in Steamboat Springs and Durango, and in the 70s in Aspen, according to the weather service.

    All of Colorado remains in a severe, extreme or exceptional drought, according to the federal government’s U.S. Drought Monitor. After the hottest July on record in Denver, when temperatures were 4.7 degrees hotter than usual, August so far is 2.7 degrees above average.

    More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


    Save the Poudre/Poudre Waterkeeper plans ‘Restore the Corridor’ effort to improve river ecological health through Fort Collins

    July 30, 2012

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    It plans to do that through a campaign called “Restore the Corridor” and dogged activism when reviewing development proposals, working to restore wildlife habitat and promoting recreational opportunities, said executive director Gary Wockner.

    The group doesn’t expect to be the only “voice” for the river when it comes to determining what happens around it, said Mark Easter, Save the Poudre board of directors chairman. But somebody has to speak out when it comes to guarding the river’s health, he said, adding many community groups have an interest in what happens along the Poudre…

    But critics worry the nonprofit will use its political muscle to sink all development projects along the river. Save the Poudre last month filed two appeals of projects that were approved through Fort Collins’ planning process…

    “(Wockner) is saying ‘no’ to everything, across the board,” [Gino Campana, owner of Bellisimo Inc.] said. “I believe there is not a solution we can engineer to satisfy Save the Poudre.” Conceptual plans for the project call for restoring riparian forest along sections of the property closest to the river. It’s the type of work city officials and Save the Poudre say they support, Campana said.

    “We should be on the same side of the table,” he said. “He wants to be on the other side.”

    Wockner declined to comment on Campana’s project until its development plans are formally submitted. The only item being contested at the moment is the density issue and its potential impact on wildlife, he said…

    The Save the Poudre Coalition formed about six years ago to battle the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, and Glade Reservoir. Glade would be built north of Ted’s Place and draw water from the Poudre…

    Save the Poudre has a right to express its opinion and take action on any topic, [Jim Reidhead, a longtime local businessman and community activist] said. It is skilled at following legal processes such as appeals in making its case. But it appears to be determined to obstruct any type of development or water-storage project on the river, especially if it might promote growth.

    More Cache la Poudre watershed coverage here.


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