— Don Frick (@donfrick07) December 7, 2013
Water Court cancels @fortcollinsgov 2007 Halligan Reservoir expansion conditional water right — no diligence filingDecember 7, 2013
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.
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.”
Cache la Poudre River: The Colorado Water Trust is spearheading a diversion dam removal and restoration projectOctober 4, 2013
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.
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.
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.”
Restoration projects targeting riparian health and recreational opportunities planned for the Poudre RiverJuly 14, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
New Belgium Brewery’s $100,000 donation to Fort Collins helps to secure water rights in the Coy DitchMay 23, 2013
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.
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 comeApril 28, 2013
Poudre Canyon faces mudslides, rockfalls from spring runoff noconow.co/11LqpCi
— Coloradoan (@coloradoan) April 27, 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 PoudreApril 19, 2013
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.
Permitting water projects: ‘…maybe we’re having the federal government check too many boxes’ — Randy RayApril 8, 2013
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.”
Greeley: Water utility officials worry about #soldiercanyon fire burn scar affecting Horsetooth Reservoir #codroughtMarch 16, 2013
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.”
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.
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.”
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
Salazar was referring to a projected 600,000 acre-foot water shortage that is expected to hit Colorado by the
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.
The Fort Collins Coloradoan is following the trail of EPA exemptions for disposal wells, including oil and gas operations wasteDecember 29, 2012
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.
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.
U.S. Representative Gardner plans to introduce legislation to speed up the permitting process for NISPDecember 15, 2012
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.