‘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.


High Park Fire: The NRCS, et. al., have started restoration efforts above Horsetooth Reservoir

July 29, 2012

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From the Longmont Times-Call (Pamela Dickman):

All told Thursday and Friday, the team planted 1,120 pounds of grass seed across 40 acres and covered it with 105 bales of agricultural straw and wood chips — a layered approach to protecting the nearby glistening waters from the ash and debris of the High Park Fire…

The ash and debris have already blackened much of the Poudre River, so Fort Collins, Greeley and the Tri-Districts (North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland and East Larimer County water districts) have instead been pulling water for their customers from Horsetooth Reservoir. The waters of Horsetooth remain clean, but the threat of fire pollution is real. When rains fall, the now barren Soldier Canyon could mirror a slip-and-slide, sending debris from the fire right into Horsetooth Reservoir — and the water supplies for Fort Collins, Greeley and the Tri-Districts.

From The Denver Post (Erin Udall):

By dropping a mix of seed and straw mulch on the area, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) officials hope to trigger plant growth and create a filter that will keep debris, erosion and sediment runoff from getting into the reservoir…

“Think of the Poudre (River) as the hose, and Horsetooth (Reservoir) as the bucket,” [NRCS district conservationist Todd Boldt] said, explaining that the river provides drinking water for more than 300,000 people in the area. “They rely on the hose, but when they can’t, they turn to the bucket. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain Horsetooth.”

Here’s the release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Todd Boldt):

Helicopters are hovering near Horsetooth Reservoir for a responsive, cooperative project to protect the reservoir’s water quality in the wake of the High Park Fire.

Helicopters are dropping an erosion control seed mix and straw mulching materials on about 40 acres that suffered the most soil burn severity within the 400-acre burn area in the Soldier Creek drainage, which sits in Lory State Park on the west side of Horsetooth Reservoir.

The helicopters, from contractor Western States Reclamation, will apply a seed mix of native species. The seeds are large, with the expectation that they will break through the fire-caused debris and establish roots without requiring much moisture. Helicopters will also drop straw mulch, then a layer of wood straw on top, to retain moisture, shelter the seed from the wind and provide soil erosion protection.

Experts expect the project to trigger plant growth in the Solider Creek area, creating a filter to prevent debris, erosion and sedimentation runoff into Horsetooth Reservoir, a key water source for area cities.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing much of the technical and financial support for this $91,320 project, which is part of its Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Other sponsors are Northern Water, the cities of Greeley and Fort Collins, and the Tri-Districts (the North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland, and East Larimer County water districts).

The helicopters, which are staged within Lory State Park, first took off Thursday morning and will likely finish Saturday.

More restoration coverage here and here.


Supporters of the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) rally in Fort Lupton

July 25, 2012

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From KUNC (Kirk Siegler):

“This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue, this is a Colorado issue,” said Fort Lupton Mayor Tom Holton. The rally under the blistering sun took place at the Fort Lupton Historic site – an adobe replica of a fur-trading post along the South Platte River between Denver and Greeley…

Saving farms is one of the main arguments put forth by cities and districts like Left Hand backing the estimated $400 million NISP project. The idea being that if these cities and districts had their own water supplies, they wouldn’t have to buy up all the farmers’ water…

“There is no water left in our rivers and that’s what we have to come to grips with and find a new path forward,” [Gary Wockner] says…

Backers of NISP say other proposals floated by environmentalists such as water leasing from farms still won’t meet the region’s long-term needs.

From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

The Army Corps delivered its latest assessment in a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who wanted to know when the impact statement would be completed. That’s a sign that Hickenlooper and the cities and towns that would benefit from NISP want the project done…

Northern Water is a chief proponent of NISP, which calls for the Cache La Poudre to be diverted during high-flow periods to fill two proposed reservoirs, Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and Galenton Reservoir east of Ault. The latest cost of the project is at $490 million. At least 15 northern Colorado water providers also back NISP, believing it will sustain them during times of drought…

However, a comprehensive review of NISP was expected to attract a similar review by the Corps, [Brian Werner] said. “We’ve never been held to a hard and fast deadline,” he said. “What I am hearing from the 15 communities and the governor, is ‘Hey, let’s get this thing done.’ “

From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

“The current drought throughout Northern Colorado has brought home a stark reality – we need more water storage and soon,” Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway has said. “Without it our children and grandchildren’s future will be at risk.”[...]

Meanwhile, Weld County farmers have struggled to maintain their crops during the drought. Crop insurance claims are up, people in the industry say, despite overflowing groundwater wells that remain shut off to Weld farmers.

The project “would provide the water storage we need to support Northern Colorado’s growing communities and provide protection to economies and families when the weather turns dry,” Rep. Cory Gardner said in a statement.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ashley Keesis-Wood):

During the July 16 work session, the [Windsor] town board spent some time refreshing itself on a topic that hasn’t gotten a lot of traction in the last couple of years: the status of the Northern Integrated Supply Project…

Windsor has been a player in Northern Water since its formation and is currently a 8.25 percent shareholder in the project…

The project will cost an estimated $500 million, and that cost will be borne by participants in the project, in proportion to the amount of water they’re requesting from NISP. Windsor’s share of water is 3,300 acre-feet, which comes to about $40 million. There are, Brouwer said, multiple ways to fund the project, including special bond financing, loans or upfront payment…

In short, [Carl Brouwer] said he hopes the project will be producing water by 2018. “Glade would be built and completed by then, and we’d be completely finished with all construction by 2022 or 2023,” Brouwer said. “We can postpone a phase or two as needed, depending on the financial capacity of the partners involved.”

Thus far, Windsor has contributed about $933,000 to the project. Once the project is online, Windsor and other participants will enter into allotment contracts where the shares of water become tangible assets that can be bought and sold within the boundaries of the Northern Water district…

The 3,300 acre-feet that Windsor is in for in NISP is enough water to basically double Windsor’s water allotment from the Colorado Big Thompson Project and its other water sources, allowing the town’s population to essentially double, as well.

Board member Don Thompson asked whether there were negative implications from buying town water from other sources. “We’re paying other entities to treat the water we already own,” said Dennis Wagner, engineering director. “We’re not buying water from other entities.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP): The Corps of Engineers delays supplemental draft EIS until the fall of 2013

July 24, 2012

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Here’s a release from Save The Pourdre/Poudre Waterkeeper (Gary Wockner):

On Friday, July 20, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed Save The Poudre that the next draft of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) and its Glade Reservoir would not be released to the public for at least another year — “Fall of 2013.” The information came in a letter from the Corps that was written to Governor Hickenlooper. The letter cites “concerns regarding cumulative impacts to the Cache la Poudre River.” The letter goes on to say, “The size of the proposals, types of analysis, and the amount of interest they have generated has resulted in substantial reviews.”

“This is great news for the Poudre River,” said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Poudre. “This river-destroying scheme has now been delayed for 5 years with no end in sight.”

Save the Poudre has been relentlessly bird-dogging NISP. Over the last 18 months, Save the Poudre has sent the Corp 17 letters, reports, and documents demonstrating the need for more analysis in the NISP EIS, some of that specifically regarding cumulative impacts of NISP with other proposed projects in the basin.

While the next draft of the EIS may be released in the Fall of 2013, NISP has a vast array of hurdles to jump after that. For example:
1. The next draft of the EIS (called the “Supplement Draft” EIS) allows for another public comment period.
2. After that public comment period, the Corps must again consider those comments and re-analyze any significant concerns.
3. After that analysis, the Corps will release a “Final” EIS, which also allows for yet another public comment period and re-analysis of significant concerns.
4. Then NISP must apply for and receive several additional state and federal permits, which may have significant analysis involved, including from the State of Colorado Water Quality Control Division and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
5. Assuming all of those hurdles can be jumped, the Corps will then issue a “Record of Decision” (ROD).
6. After the ROD is released, then anyone can formally challenge the project in court, which could take years to resolve.

As one example of a similar process, the Animas-La Plata dam/reservoir project in southwest Colorado was recently completed after 40 years of permitting and court challenges. As another example, the “Two Forks” dam and reservoir proposal west of Denver on the South Platte River was never completed because it was denied by another federal agency because the project would have irrevocably harmed the river as opposed to alternatives such as increasing water conservation in the Denver metro area.

At a recent public meeting (as reported in Windsor Now), the spokesperson for NISP said he expected NISP to be completed in the year 2022, 10 years from now.

“Ten years is extreme optimism,” responded Gary Wockner. “Our mission is to protect and restore the Poudre River and NISP violates our mission. NISP participants need to invest in alternatives now — such as the “Healthy Rivers Alternative” which focuses on water conservation and efficiency — rather than throwing away more ratepayers’ money on NISP.”

More coverage from Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Werner said a recent decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to delay issuing its environmental impact statement for at least another year — sometime in fall 2013 — is not a sign the project is in trouble.
“We are at the mercy of the process, we’ve never been tied to a deadline,” Werner said The Army Corps delivered its latest assessment in a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who wanted to know when the impact statement would be completed. That’s a sign that Hickenlooper and the cities and towns that would benefit from NISP want the project done…

…a comprehensive review of NISP was expected to attract a similar review by the Corps, Werner said. “We’ve never been held to a hard and fast deadline,” he said. “What I am hearing from the 15 communities and the governor, is ‘Hey, let’s get this thing done.’ “

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Runoff from wildfire areas causes increased water treatment concerns, ‘blackwater rafting?’ #CODrought

July 15, 2012

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From The Denver Post (Yesenia Robles):

“Fortunately we weren’t using Poudre water anyway when the fires started, so our customers haven’t noticed any differences,” [Donna Brosemer] said. “Our main concern is we want to keep as much as we can out of that water because we can’t continue to use the Horsetooth water indefinitely.”

While the ashy Poudre water can’t be used for drinking right now, some of it is being used by farmers, Brosemer said. “It can ultimately become a problem for them too because if there’s too much ash it can clog up their systems,” Brosemer said. “But they don’t have the same complications we do with the drinking water system.”

From The Denver Post (Electa Draper):

A black sludge now coats many river shores once sparkling with white, tan or pink sands. A canyon once heavily scented by pines smells like a smoky campfire. Many miles of this 126-mile-long river now evoke its namesake, the gunpowder buried by French trappers along its banks in the 1820s.

People now enjoy “blackwater rafting,” observed homeowner Mike Smith, whose deck juts over the Poudre.

More water treatment coverage here.


Colorado Water 2012: Greeley and Union Colony ditch history

June 28, 2012

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Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Water 2012 series written by Jon Monson. Here’s an excerpt:

The Union Colonists had big plans for irrigation ditches. Ditch No. 1 was going to come from the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, roughly where the Larimer and Weld Canal is now, and irrigate almost 40,000 acres. Another 40,000 acres were to be irrigated by the No.2, which eventually became the New Cache Irrigation Company.

They started smaller though, building the No.3 first to irrigate about 3,500 acres. The No.3 was closest to town, actually forming the southern edge of the colony. Located uphill from the Poudre, the ditch could irrigate the parks and gardens of the townspeople as it passed by to irrigate farms east and west of the city.

Back then people were fascinated by the power of water to make the dry prairie bloom with shade and green vegetables. Everyone had a garden. Even the kids diverted water from their parents laterals to play farmer.

The grownup farmers worked hard those first few years, learning how to manage water and how to run a mutual ditch company. Things went well until the summer of 1874 when the Poudre River suddenly dried up. Curious, someone got on their horse and rode up stream to see what was the matter. Turns out the new little town of Camp Collins had thrown a diversion across the Poudre and was taking the entire river to irrigate their farms.

Back in the Union Colony the cry went up, “To your tents boys! Rifles and cartridges!” Remember this was less than ten years after the Civil War. Cooler heads prevailed and the two groups met in Windsor to discuss (argue?) the matter. That summer they decided to allocate the water to who ever needed it most. Now that must have been one tough job. Two years later, when the Colorado Constitution was written, Article XVI Section 6 enshrined the prior appropriation doctrine, “The right to divert the unappropriated waters of any natural stream to beneficial uses shall never be denied.”

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.


Larimer County, et. al., score $5 million from Great Outdoors Colorado

June 19, 2012

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Larimer County and its partner cities of Fort Collins, Greeley, Windsor and Timnath will receive $5,098,150 for the Poudre River Corridor and Regional Trail Initiative, according to a press release from Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Program manager for Larimer County.

The grant will move the partners closer to completing their decades-long goal of “a regional swath of open spaces and connected trails along the river corridor,” the release said.

The money will fund the purchase of almost 1,000 acres of land along the Poudre and the construction of a trail overpass over Interstate 25 near Harmony Road in Timnath.

With the completion of the lottery-funded work, less than five miles of trail construction will remain in the 45-mile corridor from Bellvue northwest of Fort Collins to Island Grove Regional Park in Greeley, according to the release.

Here’s a list of GOCo grants for Southern Colorado from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Seven Southern Colorado projects were awarded $1.6 million by the Great Outdoors Colorado board Tuesday. A total of $37.3 million went to 42 projects throughout Colorado this grant cycle. Money comes from state lottery proceeds.

Mendenhall Ranch open space, Nature Conservancy, Otero County, $310,500.

Pritchett basketball court, Baca County, $28,215.

McClave Park improvements, Bent County, $161,377.

Conejos River Ranch open space, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust, Conejos County, $420,000.

Los Caminos Farm open space, Colorado Open Lands, Costilla County, $420,500.

Lookout Mountain Park land acquisition, Del Norte, Rio Grande County, $132,350.

Ski-Hi Park Pavilion, Rio Grande County, $179,990…

A package of four projects along Fountain Creek won $2.52 million in state funds Tuesday. The Great Outdoors Colorado board awarded the money as part of its highly competitive River Corridor Initiative. Eight projects were awarded $24 million this year under the initiative. Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Fountain and El Paso County applied jointly for the funds, in a show of regional cooperation. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District joined as well, because the projects also are included in various Fountain Creek improvement plans the district supports.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


Drought/runoff/snowpack news: Streamflow in the Cache la Poudre River is dismal

May 30, 2012

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the water year 2012 hydrograph for the Cache la Poudre River at the mouth of Poudre Canyon from the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Streamflow in the Poudre River, which cuts through north Greeley and goes on to serve as the largest tributary stream to the South Platte River, is particularly dismal. According to numbers provided by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, peak stream flow in the Poudre River came earlier and was lower this year than any other year on record — dating back to 1957. Peak streamflows in the South Platte River are not at all-time lows this year — that happened in 1954. But, according to Colorado Water Resources Division 1 Engineer Dave Nettles, the river’s peak flow this month was about three times less than it was in 2002 — the year of a historic drought that changed the way many producers and municipalities manage water…

Mike Hungenberg, a Weld County carrot grower who serves as the board president for the New Cache La Poudre Irrigation and Reservoir Company, said his ditch company this year can serve only half of its shareholders at a time — sending water to one half of its district some days and cutting off supplies to the other half, and then switching. “We’ve never had to do that,” Hungenberg said. “Not even in 2002.”[...]

Snowfall was lacking in the mountains for most of the winter — with snowpack numbers at or near record lows in much of the state — and this year’s abnormally warm temperatures caused what little snowpack there was to melt well ahead of schedule. With peak flows in the Poudre River coming on May 5 this year, that water passed by many farmers before their crops were even planted. To add to it all, rainfall has been minimal — precipitation in the Greeley area this year is less than half of the historic average.


Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP): Storage is key to future growth

May 27, 2012

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Bob Juhl/Joseph A. Wilson/Carolyn Cutler):

Erie and Lafayette and the Left Hand Water District, which serves Eastern Boulder County, have spent the past decade studying the best methods to ensure our ability to access enough water to meet our future dry year needs. Together with 12 regional water providers, we determined that NISP is our best option from more than 200 options studied. NISP is not only the most environmentally sensitive project, but also the best solution from an economic standpoint.

Some believe the region will be fine without NISP. We wholeheartedly disagree. In fact, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement states clearly that if NISP is not built, one of the consequences will be the elimination of 100 square miles of irrigated farmland in Northern Colorado because communities will have to purchase necessary water supplies from farmers. One of NISP’s goals is to keep water on farms to ensure their continued operation.

Northern Colorado will continue to grow regardless of whether NISP is built or not. Colorado needs to keep available water supplies in the state for its citizens. From 2009 to 2011 Colorado saw more than 1.4 million acre feet of water leave the state to Nebraska over and above what is required. That’s enough water to supply the entire Front Range of Colorado with water for a year…

Please go to gladereservoir.org for more information about NISP and an upcoming support rally scheduled for July 24.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Project spearheaded by Colorado State University aims to collect water quality data for the Cache la Poudre River

May 13, 2012

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

a first-of-its-kind Colorado State University project will try to gain a better understanding of the Poudre River and how climate change and industrial, agricultural, energy and urban development within its watershed affect its waters.

The Poudre begins in pristine wilderness, but flows through a variety of developed landscapes on its 126-mile run to the South Platte River. Scientists want to find out exactly how those uses of land above the river’s banks affect its water quality and flow.

When it’s complete, the project, called the Water Innovation Network, will place 60 water quality and water flow monitoring stations along the river from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to the Poudre’s confluence with the South Platte River east of Greeley. The stations will send real-time data to CSU, where scientists can measure the water flow, pollutants and other information as rain storms and development near the river’s banks affect its waters.

It will take researchers about five years to put most of the stations in place, and up to eight stations are expected to be installed by the end of the year, said project lead Mazdak Arabi, CSU assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

“We want to know precisely what the condition of our water is because we drink that water, we use it in industrial processes, we use it to irrigate our crops,” said John Stokes, Fort Collins Natural Areas and Poudre River Sustainability Director. “The more we know about the qualities of that water, the better-equipped we’re going to be to steward that water, to take care of it, to improve the quality of that water and to use it wisely.”

More Cache la Poudre River coverage here and here.


Cache la Poudre River: Will the Arapahoe snowfly end up on the endangered species list?

May 11, 2012

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that the snowfly is worthy of protection under the Endangered Species Act, but the agency’s other priorities preclude it from doing so immediately.

Instead of being listed as an endangered species right away, the species will be added to the list of possible species to be added to a queue of species waiting to be considered for endangered status, something that will be reviewed each year.

The snowfly was first discovered in 1986 in Young Gulch in Roosevelt National Forest, one of only two places on earth the snowfly is thought to exist. The other is Elkhorn Creek, about five miles from Young Gulch.

Scientists consider the snowfly an “indicator” species, the health of which is a sign of the overall health of the Poudre Canyon ecosystem…

[Colorado State University entomology professor Boris C. Kondratieff] said if the species is listed, the entire Young Gulch and Elkhorn Creek watersheds would have to be protected, but how that would be done would require more study.

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice:

The species was first discovered in 1986 in Young Gulch, a small tributary of the Cache la Poudre River in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

It is a small, dark‑colored insect with both a body length and wing length of about 0.2 inches. In 1988, it was identified as a new species. It was also found in a second tributary, Elkhorn Creek, approximately five miles from Young Gulch.

No other populations have been found in searches of nearby tributaries, and numerous visits to Young Gulch since the species’ discovery in 1986 have failed to locate additional specimens. Thus, the Service believes the species is extirpated from Young Gulch and currently only occurs in Elkhorn Creek.

The status review identified threats to the species including the potential present and future threat of habitat modification caused by climate change; the lack of adequate regulatory mechanisms to protect the species from impacts due to climate change; and its small population size (only one known population with few individuals documented).

More Arapahoe snowfly coverage here.


Colorado TU Gives Conservation Award to Grand County

May 9, 2012

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Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Colorado Trout Unlimited today announced that Grand County government – led by County Commissioners Gary Bumgarner, James Newberry, and Nancy Stuart – is the recipient of TU’s 2012 Trout Conservation Award for its work protecting the Upper Colorado River watershed in the face of Front Range water diversions and other threats.

The award is presented each year to recognize outstanding achievements in conserving Colorado rivers and trout habitat.

“I have never seen a local government place the level of attention, resources, and overall emphasis on river conservation as has been the case with Grand County over the past five years,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “Commissioners Bumgarner, Newberry and Stuart, and County Manager Lurline Curran, have worked tirelessly to preserve healthy river flows along with the wildlife, local communities, and quality of life that depend on them. They have been true champions for the Colorado headwaters.”

“As a resident of Grand County for 40 years, and as a father who wants his children and their children to experience the same natural wonders that I’ve enjoyed here over the years, I am deeply appreciative of the unified effort from our commissioners and staff in their fight to save our rivers and lakes,” said Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of TU. “I am proud of my county for having courageous leaders like these, who are an example to all of the Davids that are facing Goliaths.”

Nickum called Grand County “a longstanding and valued partner” with Trout Unlimited in working to protect and restore the Upper Colorado River watershed. He noted that Grand County officials have invested more than $3 million into assessing and addressing the needs of its rivers, and spent thousands of hours negotiating with Front Range water users and advocating to federal permitting agencies for better protections for the Upper Colorado River watershed.

Among other accomplishments in the past year, Grand County (along with other west slope governments and Denver Water) unveiled a historic “cooperative agreement” that includes many important benefits for the Colorado River and its tributaries, including millions of dollars for river restoration and environmental enhancement; 1,000 acre-feet of water to help with low flows in the Fraser River watershed; guarantees that the vital Shoshone call continues to operate in the future to keep water in the Colorado River year-round; and an agreement that any future transbasin projects will only be pursued with the consent of the West Slope. The agreement is also important in establishing a stakeholder partnership called “Learning by Doing” to provide ongoing monitoring of river health to ensure adequate protection measures.

Grand County has also worked with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to use Windy Gap pumping capabilities to re-manage some “excess” water for the benefit of flows in the Colorado River and has filed for a Recreational In Channel Diversion to help support a new in-river water right on the Colorado mainstem.

Moreover, Grand County leaders are negotiating with Northern for enhanced funding for river restoration projects—including a needed bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir to improve Colorado River habitat—and additional water for use in Grand County to boost flows and river health. Grand County is also promoting an agreement to release water for endangered fish in the downstream Colorado River out of Granby Reservoir – thereby benefiting the Colorado through miles of key trout habitat – instead of releases solely from Ruedi Reservoir, as has been done in the past.

For all the progress in recent years, the health of the Upper Colorado River ecosystem will continue to decline unless further protections are put in place to address looming impacts from two new Front Range diversion projects, Denver’s Moffat Tunnel expansion and Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project. Nickum noted that EPA recently issued recommendations that supported Grand County and TU’s case for stronger mitigation on the Windy Gap Firming Project.

“Grand County officials understand that the Colorado headwaters are the lifeblood of their communities and of our state’s tourism economy and outdoor quality of life,” said Nickum. “They have set an example for our public leaders of what strong river stewardship looks like.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


The National Park Service has released their draft EIS for mitigation of the 2003 Grand Ditch breach

March 25, 2012

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Here’s the release from Rocky Mountain National Park (Kyle Patterson):

The Grand Ditch Breach Restoration Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) has been released by the National Park Service (NPS). A public workshop will be held on Wednesday, April 11, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the Larimer County Courthouse/Commissioner’s Office at 200 W. Oak St., in Fort Collins and on Thursday, April 12, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Grand Lake Fire Protection District at 201 W. Portal Road in Grand Lake. The public is encouraged to attend one of the meetings. The workshop format will be informal. A presentation will be followed by a question and answer period. Park staff will be on hand to discuss the DEIS and answer questions. Exhibits will be on display to describe the project and the environmental analysis. Attendees will have the opportunity to offer written or verbal comments.

The purpose of this project is to restore the natural hydrological processes, ecological services, and wilderness character of the area in the Upper Kawuneeche Valley impacted by the 2003 Grand Ditch breach. Implicit in this purpose is that the ecosystems restored are naturally dynamic and self-sustaining. The Upper Kawuneeche Valley area of impact contains more sediment, debris, and subsequent injuries from the 2003 breach than it would under natural conditions. The breach has resulted in highly unnatural conditions within the project area as a large amount of excess sediment has been deposited into the system and remains in an unstable, erodible state. The estimated 47,600 cubic-yard debris flow from the 2003 breach resulted in channel morphologic changes, deposition of a large debris fan, increased sedimentation along the Colorado River, altered aesthetics of a wilderness area, and tree mortality and scarring. These impacts have degraded the aquatic, riparian, and upland ecosystems, in addition to the wetland communities that support a unique array of species in comparison to other habitat types in the park.

The Grand Ditch Breach Restoration DEIS analyzes five alternatives to guide restoration of the area within Rocky Mountain National Park impacted by the 2003 Grand Ditch breach.

Alternative A, the alternative of no action / continue current management, would continue current management of the impacted area, following existing management policies and NPS guidance. This alternative serves as a basis of comparison for evaluating the action alternatives.

Alternative B, minimal restoration, would emphasize a smaller scale of management activity, compared with the other action alternatives, to restore portions of the impacted area. This alternative would focus actions on areas that are unstable and present a high potential of continued degradation of existing ecosystem resources and services. Management activities would be conducted using hand tools to reduce impact on wilderness character. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under one of two stabilization options.

Alternative C, high restoration, would involve more intensive management actions over large portions of the impacted area. This alternative would focus actions on unstable areas that present a high to moderate potential of continued degradation of existing ecosystem resources and services. Restoration methods would be used to stabilize banks, slopes, and disturbed areas, and to lessen the availability of breach debris and sediments to the system over a larger portion of the project area. This alternative would involve the use of heavy equipment and possibly reusing excavated debris for restoration and stabilization actions both within and between zones. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under one of two stabilization options.

Alternative D is the preferred alternative. This alternative would emphasize the removal of large debris deposits in the alluvial fan area and in the Lulu City wetland. Actions would be conducted to stabilize limited areas of unstable slopes and banks throughout the upper portions of the restoration area. Hydrology through the Lulu City wetland would be restored in the historical central channel through removal of large deposits of debris, relying on the historical channel to transport river flow. Small-scale motorized equipment would be employed for stabilization and revegetation activities, while larger equipment would be employed for excavation of large debris deposits and reconfiguration of the Colorado River through the Lulu City wetland. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under the preferred option, option 1.

Alternative E, maximum restoration, would involve extensive management activity and use of motorized equipment over large portions of the impacted area to restore the project area to reflect both pre-breach and desired historical conditions. Extensive recontouring and stabilization of 2003 debris deposits along banks and slopes would be conducted to approximate pre-breach contours and to reduce transport of sediments over a larger portion of the impacted area. Extensive changes would be made to both the existing and historical Colorado River channels to route the river to its historical alignment through the center of the Lulu City wetland. To facilitate movement of heavy mechanized equipment and excavated debris from the wetland to upland disposal areas, a temporary haul road would be constructed. This alternative would include stabilization of the road-cut hillside immediately below the Grand Ditch under one of two stabilization options.

The potential environmental consequences of the actions are evaluated for each alternative. Short-term, adverse impacts on natural soundscape, wilderness, water resources, wetlands, visitor use and experience, and wildlife that range up to major would result from restoration activities and the use of mechanized equipment. Up to long-term, major benefits would accrue for all impact topics under alternatives C, D, and E as a result of a high level of restoration of ecological reference conditions within a 100-year period.

A copy of the DEIS is available for public review online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/romo Printed copies may be obtained from Rocky Mountain National Park, 1000 US Highway 36, Estes Park, Colorado 80517-8397, 970-586-1206. The DEIS will also be available at the Boulder Public Library in Boulder, the Estes Valley Library in Estes Park, the Juniper Library in Grand Lake, and at the Poudre River Public Library in Fort Collins.

The National Park Service will accept comments until May 25, 2012. If you wish to comment on the Grand Ditch Breach Restoration DEIS, you may submit your comments by any one of several methods. You may mail comments to: Superintendent, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO 80517-8397. You may also comment via the Internet at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/romo…you may hand deliver comments to: Rocky Mountain National Park Headquarters, 1000 US Highway 36, Estes Park or to the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Rocky Mountain National Park, 16018 Highway 34, Grand Lake.

Please be aware that names and addresses of respondents may be released if requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Individual respondents may request that their home address be withheld from the record, which will be honored to the extent allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which a respondent’s identity may be withheld from the record, as allowable by law. If you wish to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comment. All submissions from organizations, or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses are available for public inspection in their entirety. Anonymous comments may be included in the public record. However, the NPS is not legally required to consider or respond to anonymous comments.

More coverage from Pamela Dickman writing for the Loveland Reporter Herald. From the article:

The park lays out five possibilities of how to repair the landscape, including two that use heavy equipment for higher levels of restoration, one that uses hand tools only for minimal restoration and one in which no additional work would be completed. The preferred option, however, focuses stabilization by removing debris from the alluvial fan and in the LuLu City wetlands, using larger equipment for some of the work and small-scale equipment for the rest, according to the national park.

Crews also would stabilize limited areas of the slopes and banks, restore the historical channel in the Lulu City wetland and remove large debris deposits using traditional river flow.

The work also would include stabilization of the road cut hillside immediately below the ditch.

More coverage from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

The Grand Ditch diverts water that would naturally flow into the Colorado River beneath the Never Summer Mountains and sends the water over the Continental Divide to the Poudre River to be used by Front Range farmers downstream. Fort Collins-based Water Storage and Supply Co., which operates the ditch, was sued by the federal government to claim compensation for the breach, and a settlement was reached in 2008. Since then, park officials have been working with Colorado State University to learn more about the ecology of the damaged area, and in 2010, they came up with five possible restoration scenarios…

The plan the NPS prefers doesn’t call for the highest level of restoration, and isn’t the “environmentally preferable” option, according to the analysis. The maximum level of restoration would involve extensive use of motorized equipment over a large area, according to the analysis. Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson called the plan park officials want to go with a “strategic alternative” that would reduce the project’s impact to wilderness yet achieve a nearly ideal level of restoration for the area.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


Fort Lupton council ponies up the $75,000 annual payment for the Northern Integrated Supply Project

February 29, 2012

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From the Fort Lupton Press (Gene Sears):

Voting in the affirmative, Fort Lupton City Councilors approved the seventh in a series of payments for the Northern Integrated Supply Project Feb. 13. For 2012, the prorated portion for the city comes to $75,000, the amount necessary to retain a stake in the water supply project.

The overall 2012 price tag for NISP among all participants is $1.5 million for some 40,000 acre-feet, 3.000 of which is earmarked for the city upon completion. That amount is in addition to $10.8 million already spent by all participants on the project since inception, the majority of which centers around permitting preparations and cost.

Plagued by opposition from environmental groups such as Save The Poudre, final permitting and construction has repeatedly been pushed back until 2025 and possibly farther in the event of lawsuits, likely as the project gains ground.

While there are no guarantees that NISP will ever move past the planning stages, if the city dropped its payment schedule, any monies invested in the project thus far would be forfeited. For Fort Lupton, that total before the upcoming payment is approximately $825,000

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Brian Werner: ‘Tell me when the next big drought comes, and you’re going to see people screaming about storage’

February 1, 2012

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

“Tell me when the next big drought comes, and you’re going to see people screaming about storage,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Berthoud. “Their willingness (to consider building new reservoirs) ebbs and flows based on when your last drought was.”

The uncertainty about the mountain snowpack, which fluctuates every year, is the primary argument for building new reservoirs in the West, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. “The amazing thing is, it comes down to three or four big storms every year, whether they get them, or they bypass us,” he said…

One of five major proposed water storage projects in Larimer County that are in various stages of planning, [Northern Integrated Supply Project] calls for storing about 170,000 acre-feet of Poudre River water in the proposed Glade Reservoir north of Ted’s Place. A final decision could come sometime in 2013 or 2014…

The other four proposed projects include expansions to Fort Collins’ Halligan Reservoir and Greeley’s Seaman Reservoir, the Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Carter Lake and the more uncertain Cactus Hill Reservoir proposed for a site on the Weld County line between Wellington and Nunn. If those projects are built, Waskom said, it’s hard to conceive of other such large projects being built in Northern Colorado regardless of the need because there are few other places to build them, at least in Larimer County. “Unless we can get Aaron Million’s project or a West Slope diversion built, we don’t have any more water left,” he said…

“All the easy projects have been built,” [Waskom] said. “Now we’re dealing with the hard projects. What comes after the projects, that’s the question, right? Where’s the water and reservoir sites, and where’s the political will to build projects?”

More infrastructure coverage here.


Fort Collins plans rehab of Michigan Ditch facilities

December 28, 2011

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From the City of Fort Collins (Brain Janonis) via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

During the winter 2011, record snowfall accumulated in the region. While the snowfall created plentiful water supplies for the northern Front Range, the snow’s depth and weight resulted in structural damage to reaches of the 6-mile Michigan Ditch. Two projects were planned on the ditch this summer, but heavy snow accumulation delayed the start of construction. Snow melted slowly this spring and the condition of the pipe was difficult to evaluate until mid-summer.

Once our city staff, engineers and consultants completed their evaluation, crews moved quickly to stabilize the damaged structure before late summer snow began to fall again.

Several phases of repair and stabilization will be required to prevent or minimize future damage and protect the Michigan Ditch. More work will be completed in the next few years, and city water customers will benefit from the use of this asset for decades to come.

More Cache la Poudre River coverage here and here.


The Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority scores 4,400 acre-feet of ag water from United Water and Sanitation, next up water court for a change of use

December 16, 2011

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown) via Windsor Now!:

Arapahoes’s purchases, negotiated over the past couple of years and finalized in September, still leave a couple of major questions yet to be answered. The county must win approval from water courts to use the water for municipal purposes and it must figure out a way to get the water from here to there. According to documents, Steve Witter, water resources manager for the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority, said during a presentation at an authority board meeting in September that 43 percent of the 4,400 acre-feet of water purchased by United Water and Sanitation District — on behalf of the authority — came from the Poudre River, while the other 57 percent came from the South Platte River. In an interview Monday, Witter noted that this marks the first time Arapahoe County — the third-most populous county in the state with nearly 600,000 people and whose municipalities include suburbs of Denver — has purchased water rights from farmers in northern Colorado. Witter said all of the agricultural water rights purchased on behalf of the water authority came from the Poudre and South Platte rivers. The transactions were made between United and individual shareholders of irrigation, ditch and reservoir companies — including 12 companies in Weld County, according to documents obtained by The Tribune…

Front Range municipalities, because of their rapid growth, have been buying agricultural water rights from farmers to secure the future water needs for decades. But because of the ongoing “buy and dry” trend, the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative, compiled by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, estimates that 500,000 to 700,000 acres of irrigated farmland could be dried up by 2050 — a year by which Colorado farmers will also be expected to help feed a state population that will have doubled to about 10 million people, according to some estimates.

More Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority coverage here and here.


Windy Gap Firming: Recently released final EIS acknowledges potential declines in streamflow in the Upper Colorado River basin

December 7, 2011

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Even more worrisome to conservation advocates are the projected declines in summer flows. Below Windy Gap Reservoir, July flows could drip by as much as 20 percent, according to the Bureau’s study, which also acknowledged that extensive mitigation measures will be needed to protect West Slope aquatic ecoystems…

But the proposed mitigation falls short of what’s needed to protect the Upper Colorado, according to Trout Unlimited, a cold-water fisheries conservation group.

Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

A new federal report on the environmental impacts of a plan to expand the Windy Gap water diversion project in Colorado falls short of recommending what’s needed to protect the fragile Upper Colorado River, according to Trout Unlimited.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement, released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Nov. 30, outlines the anticipated effects of the proposed project and recommends needed mitigation.

“This new document is an improvement over the previous version in that it acknowledges the Windy Gap project will worsen conditions in the Upper Colorado River and Grand Lake unless measures are taken,” said Drew Peternell, executive director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. However, the mitigation proposed by the bureau falls far short of what is needed and critical problems continue to be ignored. We urge the Bureau to require additional protective measures to preserve this irreplaceable natural resource.”

“Trout Unlimited’s concerns with the Environmental Impact Statement are echoed by the Upper Colorado River Alliance, a nonprofit group that is also seeking to require more mitigation to protect the river,” said Boulder attorney Steven J. Bushong, a representative of the Alliance.

The report comes out as Trout Unlimited is launching a petition campaign to protect the Upper Colorado River and its tributary, the Fraser River, and the mountain communities, businesses, people and wildlife that depend on them. The petition campaign, based online at DefendTheColorado.org, is being spearheaded by Trout Unlimited to engage advocates for the iconic but threatened rivers. The website allows advocates to sign on to a petition that will be delivered to decision makers before the bureau makes a final decision on the Windy Gap project. That decision is expected in early January.

“The good news is that the Bureau of Reclamation’s Environmental Impact Statement says additional mitigation measures may be added before the agency makes a final decision. That highlights the importance of taking action to stand up for the river now,” Peternell said.

Already 60 percent of the Upper Colorado is diverted to supply Front Range water users. The Windy Gap proposal, along with a separate Moffat Tunnel water project, could divert as much as 80 percent of the Upper Colorado’s natural flows. According to Trout Unlimited, steps must be taken to protect the rivers including:

· Managing the water supply to keep the rivers cool, clear and healthy.
· Funding to deepen river channels and create streamside shade.
· Monitoring of the rivers’ health and a commitment to take action if needed to protect them.
· Bypassing the Windy Gap dam to reconnect Colorado River and restore river quality.

“The Final Environmental Impact Statement continues to ignore existing problems that will be made much worse by the Windy Gap project,” said Sinjin Eberle, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “A study released by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife earlier this year shows that entire populations of native fish and the insects they feed on have all but disappeared from the Colorado River below the Windy Gap Reservoir. The state study blames the reservoir and the lack of spring flows that clean sediments from the stream beds and warns that expansion of the Windy Gap project poses additional threats to the health of the river and the aquatic life in it.” See http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/op/wqcc/Hearings/Rulemaking/93/Responsive/93rphsTUexG.pdf

The Windy Gap project also impacts the health of Grand Lake. “Grand Lake – once a pristine lake of dramatic clarity and scenic beauty – has become cloudy, weedy and silty because of diversion water pumped into the lake from Shadow Mountain reservoir,” said John Stahl of the Greater Grand Lake Shoreline Association. “Nothing in the FEIS mitigation plan is helpful in addressing the existing problems–at best it maintains the status quo while more likely creating even bigger problems.”

The Environmental Impact Statement indicates that the Bureau of Reclamation will monitor to ensure that mitigation is adequate and will impose additional measures if necessary. “That’s helpful but needs to be more clearly articulated. Another critical addition is the construction of a bypass around the Windy Gap dam,” Eberle added.

The DefendTheColorado.org campaign highlights the people who depend on the rivers.

“The Colorado and Fraser rivers aren’t just bodies of water, they are the lifeblood for wildlife, local communities and the state’s recreation economy,” Eberle said. “But many Coloradans are unaware that these rivers are on the brink of collapse because of diversions. DefendTheColorado.org’s purpose is twofold – to raise awareness about the threats facing the Colorado and Fraser and to give people a way to stand up for our rivers.”

Eberle added, “We can’t afford to let these rivers literally go down the drain.”

A new feature of the website called “Voices of the Fraser” profiles local Fraser Valley residents and visitors who speak eloquently about their connection to the Fraser River and the need to preserve healthy flows. Among the individuals profiled are Olympic skier Liz McIntyre, logger Hoppe Southway and landscape artist Karen Vance.

“It would be a shame to see any of these tributaries dry up just for the sake of developing the Front Range,” said Southway in his profile. “It’s the water my children and grandchildren are going to want to see someday, and I hope it’s protected for future generations.”

Visitors to the site also have added their voices about why the river is important to them.

“I have fished and hiked the Fraser and Upper Colorado river regions for over 30 years and am deeply saddened by the degradation of these great watersheds,” a Golden, Colo., resident wrote.

A Bonita Springs, Florida, resident wrote: “I LOVE fishing that stretch of water and find such a simple peace of being in that area. Please don’t mess with such a special place.”

“As a visitor and fisherman to Colorado on a regular basis, my tourist dollars help the local communities,” noted a resident of Blue Springs, Missouri.

More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.


Reflections on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — W.D. Farr

November 28, 2011

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Here’s a video with W.D. Farr explaining the origins of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Thanks to Greeley Water for posting the video.

Next year is the 75th anniversary of the 1937 act that established the water conservancy districts and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Farr explains that Congressman Taylor would not support the project unless Green Mountain Reservoir — for west slope supplies — was built first.

“The biggest cloud of dust I ever saw came out of that tunnel [Adams Tunnel],” Farr says, “I never saw men so happy in my life.”

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Noble joins Anadarko with exploration plans in the Wattenberg Field, they plan to pony up $1 to $1.5 billion

November 26, 2011

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From The Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Noble plans to invest $8 billion over the next five years in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, an area that includes northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, said Ted Brown, Noble’s Denver-based senior vice president in charge of its northern region operations, which includes Colorado.

In the Wattenberg area of the play, “it will be $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year,” Brown said in an interview Wednesday…

Noble said it think its can get 1.3 billion barrels of oil from its 840,000 net acres of mineral rights in the Wattenberg. The company said its wells in the area are currently producing oil and natural gas equivalent to 67,000 barrels of oil per day, and expects production to double by 2016.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


The Larimer County Agricultural Advisory Board unanimously supports findings on the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP)

November 13, 2011

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From a release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):

The Agricultural Advisory Board to the Larimer Board of County Commissioners has reported that the Northern Integrated Supply Project will not dry up farms in Northern Colorado as represented in the Save the Poudre’s “Farm Facts” report. The AAB’s general conclusion was that NISP will help slow down the rapid and accelerated dry up of farms throughout Northern Colorado.

In an October 26 memo to the Board of County Commissioners (see link to memo in Reporter-Herald story), the AAB said, “It’s better for agriculture for future municipal and domestic water supplies to come from the combination of conserved water and from new stored supplies (such as NISP) derived from available undeveloped water rather than from additional agricultural dry-up. Population growth will occur with or without NISP. Water conservation alone will not provide adequate future water supplies.”

The County Commissioners thanked the AAB for their input and study of NISP and it’s agricultural related impacts. As reported in the Loveland Reporter-Herald, Commissioner Steve Johnson said to the three board members who attended the elected board’s meeting, “You guys are the ones that are experts. You are the ones dealing with this every day. It’s not just debate. It’s your livelihood.”[...]

The AAB memo disputes the Save the Poudre claim that free river opportunities will be greatly diminished if NISP is built. “Currently, this undeveloped water is leaving Colorado without being beneficially used within the state … water for NISP will not be diverted unless and until all water rights senior to NISP have been fully satisfied,” the AAB report said. The report added “Glade will not curtail in any way the rights or the abilities of ditch companies to fully utilize their senior ditch water rights…”

Save the Poudre’s “Farm Facts” were also disputed by Alamosa rancher and Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft last April. In a press release Shawcroft said, “Save the Poudre does not speak for Colorado agriculture, an industry forthright and vocal in its support for NISP. Colorado farmers and ranchers support the NISP project. If we support the development of a water project, you can bet it will help keep irrigated farmers on the land.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


The Agricultural Advisory Board to the Larimer County Commissioners reports that the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) will not stimulate increased growth in N. Colorado

October 27, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

A memo by the Larimer County Agricultural Advisory Board states NISP would not necessarily accelerate the selling and subdivision of farms to meet the water needs of growing cities as predicted in a study released earlier this year by Save the Poudre, which opposes the project. “The need for NISP is the result of growth, which has occurred or will occur, rather than NISP being a cause of that growth,” Val Manning, chair of the advisory board told the county commissioners Tuesday…

The board also found construction of Glade Reservoir north of Ted’s Place would not take significant agricultural land out of production because the property already is owned by Northern Water, which has proposed building NISP. There’s no evidence the project would increase salinity levels in Weld County fields and reduce crop productivity as stated in Save the Poudre’s report, “The Farm Facts about NISP,” the board stated…

The board’s analysis questioned Save the Poudre’s contention that the amount of “free water” available for diversion during years of high flow would be eliminated by NISP because water rights for the project are junior to other claims on the river’s water. [Board member George Wallace] told the commissioners some downstream farmers have become accustomed to using “free” water for production during years of high flow and they would be affected by reduced availability.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


The Agricultural Advisory Board to the Larimer County Commissioners reports that the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) will not dry up agriculture

October 26, 2011

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From the Loveland Reporter Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The Agricultural Advisory Board, made up of several working farmers, released a report to the commissioners Tuesday saying the Northern Integrated Supply Project reservoirs would not dry up farmland and would not harm productive crops with increased salinity. The report was in response to an April release from Save the Poudre, the environmental advocacy group leading opposition to the proposed reservoirs…

The region will need additional water supply for growth with or without the reservoir projects. NISPwill meet those needs and take pressure off farmers’ water, according to the report.

There is no evidence that shows salinity will increase on farmland despite the fact that eastern Colorado farmers will be receiving effluent water. The dirtier water will be diluted enough that farmland should not be affected.

The water to initially fill, and to maintain the reservoirs, would be extra water above that already claimed from the Poudre River and would not come out of allocations to farmers. The water would be, in essence, extra water during wet years that would flow out of state if not captured.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


The water needs picture for developing the Niobrara shale is unclear at this time

October 9, 2011

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Here’s an in-depth report about the current state of oil and gas exploration and production in Larimer and Weld counties, from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

“One thing that’s really concerning me and a lot of people, there are so many pending (oil and gas drilling) permits and approved permits in Weld County and Larimer County, are they reserving future water for fracking purposes, and where are the sources coming from?” said Shane Davis, chairman of the Poudre Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club, which held a public forum on the issue in September. “It’s a very serious question that needs to be addressed.”[...]

“In terms of how it affects the state’s water planning, it still is fairly unclear,” said Eric Hecox, section chief of the Water Supply Planning Section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Although we have a good handle on how much water it takes per well to frack the wells, we have very little information ultimately on how many wells there will be. Making quantitative projections on how much water will be needed is difficult at this time.”[...]

There is great national and international interest in the Niobrara in Colorado, [Tisha Shuler, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association] said, but the wells that have been drilled so far have produced mixed results partly because of the Niobrara’s complicated geology…

Most of the wells in Weld County are conventional oil wells, which are drilled vertically and require between 250,000 and 1 million gallons of water each per frack job, Shuler said…

Wells tapping the Niobrara shale are horizontal wells. The well bore is drilled vertically thousands of feet beneath the ground until it hits the Niobrara shale, then it angles horizontally into the shale, parallel with the ground. For decades, tapping the Niobrara oil deposit was difficult for drillers to reach because technology that hadn’t advanced enough to make it economically feasible…

Each of those horizontal wells requires somewhere between 1 million and 5 million gallons of water to bore into the Niobrara, according to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission data…

Shuler cautioned, however, that the oil industry’s water consumption figures sound staggering, but other water consumption by agriculture and cities is much greater. Less than 1 percent of the state’s available water is consumed by the energy industry each year, she said…

The city of Greeley sells about 250 million gallons of water to the oil and gas industry each year, earning the city $1 million in sales to the industry so far this year, said Greeley Water and Sewer Director Jon Monson…

Water regulators in Colorado say the overall impact of the oil and gas industry on the state’s water supply is negligible and shouldn’t have any significant impact on water availability in the future. “In the overall scheme of things, from the water standpoint, it’s a very small fraction,” Hecox said of the industry’s water consumption.

Meanwhile, here’s a blog post from Amy Mall running on the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Switchboard weblog. She has a list of health experts that are warning about the potential health hazards for those living near natural gas production facilities.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


‘What the Frack?’ event recap: More than 100 people attend event last Saturday in Fort Collins

September 27, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

More than 100 people attended former EPA environmental engineer Weston Wilson’s Sierra Club-sponsored presentation about the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Saturday at the Fort Collins Brewery…

Wilson, in a 2004 letter to Congress, said the conclusions of an EPA report about fracking were not supported by the evidence. The report claimed that injecting toxic material into the ground during a fracking job presented no risk to the environment. Wilson recently retired from the EPA…

“There’s really no place along the Front Range that’s unsuitable for drilling the Niobrara,” Wilson said. All those wells are going to be fracked, and that could be an issue with water quality and supplies, he said…

About 2 percent of fracked oil wells fail, possibly releasing contaminants into underground water supplies, he said. The challenge for regulators has been that nobody really knows much about those failures because those affected by them are legally bound to keep quiet, he said. “The industry buys out those they contaminate,” he said. “Well, we don’t learn anything from that. When they buy out the person with a nondisclosure agreement, there’s no public information.”

Wilson said he is advocating for making fracking cleaner, adding that fears about the impacts of fracking have encouraged several European countries to ban the practice in addition to New York City banning fracking within its watershed.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


Wastewater: The Windsor Town Board approves borrowing $3.2 million loan for new headworks and lift station

September 22, 2011

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From the Windsor Beacon (Ashley Keesis-Wood):

Upgrades to the plant, combined with a new headworks and lift station, are the next big project on tap for the Town of Windsor. The Windsor Town B approved an ordinance on Sept. 12 allowing the town to take out a $3.2 million loan from Colorado Water and Power Authority at a low interest rate to pay for the project. “This loan would address the needs out at the Great Western Industrial Park and the projected population growth,” Windsor Town Attorney Ian McCargar said…

“With this loan, we will not have to raise our existing sewer rates,” Windsor Finance Director Dean Moyer said.

More wastewater coverage here.


‘Future Horizons for Irrigated Agriculture’ tour recap: Greeley and other Weld County Communities are gearing up for population growth

September 21, 2011

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Here’s an in-depth look at efforts by northern Colorado cities to water the expected growth in population from The Greeley Tribune. Click through and read the whole article and check out the photo gallery. Here’s an excerpt:

Water storage for the future is viewed as so vital to the northern Front Range that the 15 participating municipalities and water districts of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, have spent about $10 million during the past seven years just to plan and analyze the endeavor. But there is no guarantee that NISP — a project that includes the construction of two new reservoirs in northern Colorado — will ever take shape. The federal government continues to analyze the Environmental Impact Statement…

Jon Monson, director of the city of Greeley’s Water and Sewer Department, said the city’s current supply will meet the needs of the community for only 25 more years, maybe less. In preparation, Greeley officials want to expand the Milton Seaman Reservoir, one of six high-mountain reservoirs from which the city draws its water. The reservoir holds about 5,000 acre-feet of water, and the proposed project calls for it to be expanded more than 10-fold to 53,000 acre-feet. The expansion would allow Greeley to pull 7,800 acre-feet of water off the reservoir annually, up from the 750 acre-feet it can pull now. Greeley uses about 45,000 acre-feet of water per year; demand is expected to grow to about 65,000 acre-feet by 2050. After initiating efforts in 2004, the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project is expected by 2013, and a final EIS is expected by 2015. Afterward, construction would take two years and filling the reservoir could take another five to 10 years…

Another water storage effort is The Windy Gap Firming Project. The 25-year-old Windy Gap Project near Granby diverts water from the Colorado River to the Front Range via the Colorado-Big Thompson Project on a space-available basis. According to Monson, during wet years when water is available for Windy Gap diversions, Lake Granby is often full with little or no space for the water. During dry years, the water right can be too junior to come into priority, so no water is available to pump. Greeley is allotted 4,400 acre-feet of water annually from the Windy Gap Project, but that supply hasn’t always been available. The Windy Gap Firming Project was proposed to ensure reliable future deliveries. Nine other municipalities, including Evans, participates in the project, along with the Central Weld County Water District and two other districts. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is expected to publish the final Environmental Impact Statement for the Windy Gap Firming Project in November.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.


Milton-Seaman Reservoir outlet works undergoing rehab

September 14, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Plans for lowering the water level of the reservoir to provide access to the gates that control flows to the North Fork call for slowly “ramping up” releases to keep too much sediment from getting into the water too fast and discoloring the river…

Seaman Reservoir was built in the 1940s and serves as drought protection for the city of Greeley’s water supply. Releases from the bottom of the reservoir are controlled by five heavy gates near the base of the dam. An inspection of the gates in 2008 found that the hydraulic controls known as actuators on two of the five gates had failed. A project to replace the 65-year-old hydraulic and mechanical systems controlling the gates has begun and is expected to last until April. The actuators currently are near the base of the dam and can only be accessed by divers unless the reservoir is completely drained. Part of the $1.6 million maintenance project will include moving the mechanical systems higher so they are more easily accessible. When full, the reservoir near the dam is 77 feet deep. The water level has been drawn down to 50 feet and is expected to come down another 12 to 11 feet…

Greeley officials have a solid mitigation plan for the project, said Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist for the Platte River Basin with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. Lowering the reservoir level is likely to cause a fish kill when the reservoir freezes this winter, he said, and some dead fish may end up in the river. The project includes $3,000 for the division to restock the reservoir with rainbow trout, he said.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.


Work begins on Clark Reservoir enlargement

August 4, 2011

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From the North Forty News (Cherry Sokoloski):

The project is part of Phase I of the Boxelder Basin Regional Stormwater Authority project, designed to reduce flooding along Boxelder Creek. Three ponds, each several acres in size, will be built. When they are finished, likely early this month, dredging of Clark Reservoir will begin. The dredge pump will pump water-laden sediment into the ponds, where sediment will separate from the water and settle to the bottom. The water will then be pumped into the Inlet Canal and returned to Clark Reservoir. Dredging is scheduled to be completed by late November, according to authority manager Rex Burns.

More stormwater coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Granby is releasing about 420 cfs

August 3, 2011

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Just a quick note to update you all on our facilities across the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. I’ve also updated our webpages. Once on our main page, be sure to check out the menu on the left hand side to see information on our other facilities.

Meanwhile, Granby is releasing about 420 cfs.

Willow Creek is releasing about 77 cfs.

Olympus Dam on Lake Estes is releasing about 125 cfs.

All reservoirs are basically full, with the exception of Lake Estes, Pinewood and Flatiron. These three fluctuate often due to hydro-power generation. Pinewood and Flatiron, in particular, might drop significantly over the course of one day, then rise back up again.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District tour attracts nearly 100 taxpayers, city officials, water district employees and students

August 2, 2011

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From the Carbon Valley Miner and Farmer (Gene Sears):

Nearly 100 participants attended the tour, a mix of taxpayers, city officials, water district employees and students, split between two buses hired by the district for the trip. Starting at NCWCD headquarters in Berthoud, the tour headed northeast up Big Thompson Canyon, through Estes Park and onto Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, headwaters for much of the district’s supply…

Built at a cost of $162 million, the project began full water deliveries in 1957. As it stands now, the Colorado-Big Thompson system consists of 12 reservoirs, 35 miles of tunnels, 95 miles of canals and 700 miles of power transmission lines. Spanning 150 miles east to west and 65 miles north to south, C-BT provides water to almost 700, 000 irrigated acres and more than 750,000 people in the South Platte River Basin.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Greeley: Annual water and sewer facilities tour August 25

August 2, 2011

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From Greeley Water via The Greeley Tribune:

The city of Greeley is offering residents the chance to tour the city’s water and sewer facilities with the city’s Water and Sewer Board. The tour is set for 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 25. Residents interested in attending are asked to reserve seating by Aug. 19 to (970) 350-9812. The purpose of this annual tour is to visit water and sewer facilities to learn about new and developing projects, according to a city news release.

More Greeley coverage here.


Poudre River: CSU professor is urging the Fort Collins to take part in a proposal to create a network of real-time water-monitoring instruments along the river

August 1, 2011

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Porter):

Mazdak Arabi, associate professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is proposing the city take part in a pilot project to reduce water utility costs by having a better picture of what’s coming downstream.

“The goal is to understand the hydraulics regime of the water so utilities can adjust their operations on a daily basis so they don’t treat more than they need to,” Arabi said.

It’s a prospect that’s appealing to Kevin Gertig, the city’s water resources manager.

“We want to put some of these instruments in the field and monitor conditions all the way to the river’s headwaters up to Cameron (Pass),” he said. “We could have almost real-time data and monitor subtle changes never before realized in the watershed.”

Arabi notes that the Poudre River, with its relatively nearby headwaters above Fort Collins, is a good laboratory for studying river flows and pinpointing sources of mostly naturally occurring pollutants, such as phosphorous and nitrogen.

Gertig said the city now does “grab sample” testing of the river with field technicians collecting samples. But a system of monitoring equipment along the river to continuously sample the water quality would be a much more sophisticated approach, he noted…

Gertig said wastewater treatment is one of the city’s highest energy consumers – about 70 percent of the city’s electricity needs – and lowering energy use and reducing the city’s carbon footprint is a city priority…

Arabi said the pilot project is part of the Water Innovation Network, a partnership he’s developing with CSU, local government and the water cluster. WIN’s goal is to create a “truly integrated collaboration” that would seek to “advance the development, demonstration and commercialization of clean water technologies,” he said.

More wastewater coverage here.


Fort Collins reports demand down sharply due to ample rainfall

July 27, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Sarah Jane Kyle):

In May and June alone, Fort Collins received 7.28 inches of rain, 2.72 inches more than the 30-year average for Fort Collins, according to precipitation records by the Colorado Climate Center. The average for January to June is 8.58 inches. Colorado Climate Center research associate Noah Newman said July’s rain totals already have exceeded the 30-year average of 1.57 inches for the entire month of July; from July 1 to 15, Fort Collins received 1.8 inches of precipitation…

Due to increased rainfall and other factors, Fort Collins has seen only 70 percent of the projected water usage for the month of July, city of Fort Collins water resources manager Dennis Bode. “We’ve just had a number of rain events in early July that we typically don’t have,” Bode said. “That has certainly reduced our water use. We’ve seen that trend since irrigation season started. Bode said Fort Collins residents have been more frugal with their water use for most of the year, using only 85 percent of projected water usage since Jan. 1.

More conservation coverage here.


Cool photo of the week so far: Long Draw Reservoir spilling in 2010

July 12, 2011

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We love a good reservoir spilling photo here at Coyote Gulch. Here’s a picture of Long Draw Reservoir spilling in 2010. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a larger view.


Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) update: Supplemental environmental impact statement delayed until 2012

May 24, 2011

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From email from Save the Poudre (Gary Wockner):

Chandler Peter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed that the permitting processes for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) and other proposed dams and reservoirs on the Poudre River (Halligan and Seaman) have been delayed yet again, now for the third time. The initial release for the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) for NISP was supposed to be in June of 2010, and was initially delayed until the summer of 2011, and then delayed again until the latter part of 2011, and has now been delayed “into 2012″ with “no refined ETA for the SDEIS” according to an email from Mr. Peter to Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper today. Additionally, the first draft of the EIS for the new Halligan (Fort Collins) and Seaman (Greeley) dams and reservoirs on the North Fork of the Poudre was slated for the summer of 2011, but then was delayed for a half year after the release of the NISP SDEIS, which will now put them into 2012 or 2013.

More NISP coverage here and here.


Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) rally for proponents draws 300 people

May 23, 2011

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

Fort Morgan, which is one of 15 municipalities and water districts that have helped fund the project thus far, was represented at the rally by Councilmen Jim Powers and Brent Nation. Also there from Fort Morgan were Water Advisory Board member Bill Baker, Water Resources Director Gary Dreessen, Water Treatment Plant Superintendent John Turner, Quality Water District General Manager Mark Kokes and city resident Don Ostwald, as well as Morgan County resident Brad Wind…

Northern Water Conservancy District General Manager Eric Wilkinson kicked things off with some good news for the project, telling the crowd that the latest round of environmental studies “are finding that the impacts of NISP are much less” than previously thought…

“If we are going to (grow the northeast Colorado economy), the only way to sustain it long term is to build water storage,” [Congressman Cory Gardner] said. “That is why NISP is especially important.” The congressman, who spoke at previous rallies for the project when he was in the state legislature, passionately talked about the water that would be stored there helping agricultural communities to thrive while also providing the lifeblood of growing centers. “Construction of NISP will mark when we no longer rely on the past, but create our future,” he told the crowd, adding that the state`s business future depends on “a better water future.”[...]

Agland CEO Mitch Anderson took a darker approach, warning people, “If we don`t do things like this, we need to be prepared to send people around the world to fight the unrest caused by food shortages.”

More NISP coverage here and here.


Northern Integrated Supply Project: Supporters of the project rally in Loveland

May 20, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Northern Water holds a rally for NISP once each year to keep the support for the project high among business leaders, local governments and the agricultural community…

As the list of NISP supporters continues to grow, political momentum has reached a tipping point, Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said. “We started to achieve critical mass two years ago,” he said, adding that most people in Weld County are tired of seeing farmland dried up so water can go to Thornton and other growing suburban cities and towns…

“This is a shovel-ready project,” U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner said. “We could actually start creating jobs today.” Gardner said NISP will create many jobs and spark millions of dollars of investments in the local economy. “Our state’s businesses depend on a brighter water future,” he said. “Our state’s agricultural economy faces the threat of the buy up and dry up of 60,000 acres of some of the most productive agricultural land in this nation. Our economy, our businesses are linked to water.”[...]

Save the Poudre Director Gary Wockner said after the rally that the group has published an alternative to NISP that proposes to provide water for growing cities while protecting the Poudre River. “It has two main components,” Wockner said. “One is a very strong focus on water conservation and the second is a new partnership with farmers that focuses on rotational fallowing and water-sharing programs.”

More coverage from Tom Hacker writing for the Loveland Reporter-Herald. From the article:

The rally organized by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District promoted the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a controversial water storage project. Backers say it is needed to shore up a regional water supply that demand will outstrip in the next decade, and that failure to build it would doom agriculture. Critics say it would threaten the free-flowing Cache la Poudre River, degrading water quality and harming wildlife habitat. But the water-storage faithful ruled on Thursday at “Water, Jobs and the Economy,” a business rally to boost support for NISP…

Featured speaker Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said that by 2020, water demand in the region will require another project the size of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, the region’s largest, which began delivering water in the late 1950s. “It’s time we stop talking and start working,” Gardner said. “Let’s get it done.”[...]

On hand were the future owners of NISP — 15 municipalities and water districts that have stakes of varying sizes in the project.

Their upfront costs already have been substantial, with more than $10 million spent on studies since the project was proposed, most of them required to satisfy state and federal regulatory agencies that have criticized the project, Wilkinson said…

While many of the rally participants urged united — and bipartisan — support for the project, some noted that most elected officials who favor the project are Republicans, and most who oppose it are Democrats. “One of the worst things that could happen would be for this project to be about R’s, D’s and other labels,” said Eric Doering, mayor of NISP participant Frederick.

More coverage from Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

“We don’t get a thank-you card from Kansas or Nebraska when our water leaves the state,” said state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. The project calls for the Cache La Poudre River to be diverted during high-flow periods to fill two reservoirs, Glade northwest of Fort Collins and Galeton east of Ault. The project is estimated to cost about $490 million. NISP is backed by 15 water suppliers and 14 chambers of commerce. They say NISP is needed to bridge an advancing water-supply gap of between 190,000 and 630,000 acre-feet statewide by 2050…

Several major farm organizations also support NISP. They contend that without NISP, more than 60,000 acres of Colorado farmland could dry up because cities will likely buy up agricultural water rights…

NISP is still being studied by the Army Corps of Engineers, which might issue a supplemental draft environmental-impact study by the end of the year.

More coverage from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

[U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner] was one of more than a dozen speakers who addressed the crowd, estimated at about 300 attendees. He said Colorado jobs, its economy and future depends on the state’s ability to “store and deliver clean, affordable water.” He cited the vision of such water pioneers as W.D. Farr of Greeley and Wayne Aspinall, who represented Colorado’s 4th District in the U.S. House from 1947-73. “They captured the usefulness of our natural resources beyond imagination,” he said, noting the present generation is benefiting from their vision. He said the present generation must do the same for future generations, and he quoted Colorado poet laureate Thomas Hornsby Ferril who described Colorado as “a land written in water.”[...]

The Weld commissioners closed the meeting with a chant of “Conserve water, build NISP.”

Severance Mayor Don Brookshire was joined at the meeting by his 3-year-old daughter, Savannah. “This is why we are here today. Savannah is what this is all about,” Commissioner Sean Conway said.

More coverage from NorthernColorado5.com. From the article:

More than 200 supporters rallied today for the development of the Northern Integrated Supply Project which would store water in both the Glade and Galeton reservoirs. Participants and business leaders say that this project is critical to the future of the region.

More coverage from the Northern Colorado Business Report:

“It’s incumbent on each one of us here to get out and make NISP a reality,” said Eric Doering, mayor of Frederick, one of 15 cities, towns and water-related entities that have signed up to receive water from the project. NISP includes Glade Reservoir in Larimer County and Galeton Reservoir in Weld County. “It’s going to benefit all of our communities to grow jobs and maintain our ag resources for our farmlands,” Doering said.

More coverage from Catherine Tsai writing for The Associated Press. From the article:

A selection of mayors, state lawmakers and U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., told supporters at The Ranch in Loveland that the project would help the region’s economy and shield farmers’ irrigation supplies as demand for drinking water grows, especially during droughts.

The event had been billed as a barbecue, but it was raining, chilly and gray outside. “People in the water community look outside and say this is beautiful weather,” said Eric Wilkinson general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

The city of Fort Collins is among those that have expressed concerns with the project over the years, and the group Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper contends it would drain too much of the river. It proposes an alternative that relies heavily on water conservation and a proposal to pay farmers to fallow land on a rotating basis when needed and lease their water to cities.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Northern Integrated Supply Project: The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry backs Northern Water’s proposed project

May 16, 2011

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Here’s the release from Northern Water (Brian Werner):

The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI), the state chamber of commerce, today announced its endorsement of the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) as an essential project for the economy of the Northern Front Range. CACI President Chuck Berry said that the CACI Executive Committee agreed to support the building of NISP at its April meeting.

“An adequate, reliable supply of water is essential for economic development and quality of life of residents of Northern Colorado,” Berry said, adding that NISP will be a major economic development opportunity for Northern Colorado and will result in more than $450 million in construction projects.

NISP will provide 40,000 acre feet of water annually to 15 municipalities and water districts representing more than 200,000 residents in Northern Colorado.

The CACI endorsement comes as NISP business supporters, chamber of commerce members and public officials gather May 19 to show their support for the project. The Water, Jobs and the Economy rally will be from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Larimer County Fairgrounds and Events Complex at The Ranch in Loveland.

CACI joins Club 20, the Western Slope’s leading business advocacy organization in endorsing NISP. Club 20 endorsed NISP in September 2010. More than 15 area and statewide business organizations have now endorsed NISP as critical for the Northern Colorado economy, including the following:

Berthoud Area Chamber of Commerce
Carbon Valley Chamber of Commerce
Club 20
Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry
Evans Chamber of Commerce
Fort Collins Board of Realtors
Fort Lupton Chamber of Commerce
Greeley Chamber of Commerce
Lafayette Chamber of Commerce

Longmont Chamber of Commerce
Mead Area Chamber of Commerce
Progressive 15
United Power
Upstate Colorado
Weld Community Development Group
Weld County Builders Association
Windsor Chamber of Commerce

CACI was created in the mid-1960s when Colorado’s business leaders merged the Colorado Chamber of Commerce with the Colorado Manufacturing Association. About 435 companies, local chambers of commerce, trade associations and local economic development organizations belong to CACI. CACI’s mission is to champion a healthy business environment. To achieve this mission, CACI has key four objectives: (1) maintain and improve the cost of doing business; (2) advocate a pro-business state government; (3) increase the quantity of educated, skilled workers; and (4) strengthen Colorado’s critical infrastructure (roads, water, telecommunications and energy).

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Rafters gearing up for what could be an ‘epic’ rafting season

May 16, 2011

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From the Aspen Daily News (Dorothy M. Atkins):

The cold temperatures and large amounts of precipitation that have been plaguing Aspenites through the off-season have assured many rafters that the Roaring Fork River will have plenty of snowpack to pull from to maintain river flow well into the summer…

The Fork is fueled by snowmelt from snowpack located up Independence Pass. The gauging station located on Independence Pass is reporting 21.6 inches, — 159 percent of average snowpack — according to the Roaring Fork Conservancy…

This year with more snowpack and colder temperatures, the hope is that the Fork will remain navigable through August…

“I hate to say I have any expectations, because who knows what will happen,” said raft guide Casey Vandenbroek. “I would be so stoked to be on Slaughterhouse until mid August, and I feel like we have enough snow if we just get a nice steady melt.”

A nice steady melt is what everyone is hoping for this year.

From The Greeley Tribune (Dan England):

This season, boaters expect water levels may even surpass that 1983 record of just under 6,000 cubic feet per second. Those are water levels that bring elation from experienced boaters, concern from law enforcement and rescue personnel and a mix of the two from rafting companies…

The only thing for certain is the water should be higher than it’s been in years, and it will probably be a few weeks before boaters really see it. Even if it does warm up in a hurry, said Bell, a kayaker and atmospheric scientist, it takes a while to start the melt with such a deep snowpack, which could mean a peak later in June.

More whitewater coverage here.


The Colorado Farm Bureau counters the claim from ‘Save the Poudre’ that the Northern Integrated Supply Project will harm agriculture

April 28, 2011

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Here’s a release from the Colorado Farm Bureau:

Statement by Don Shawcroft, President, Colorado Farm Bureau, Regarding Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeepers ‘Farm Facts’ Report

Alamosa rancher and Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft had strong words for Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeepers upon reading their ‘report’ on the impact of NISP on northern Colorado agriculture.

“The so-called report is nothing but propaganda, spread by Save the Poudre in a vain attempt to derail the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). Save the Poudre does not speak for Colorado agriculture, an industry forthright and vocal in its support for NISP. Their attempts to divide the ag industry are tiresome. They speak only for themselves and their attempts to stall a project supported by large majorities of northern Colorado citizens.

The NISP project is a crucial step in reducing the pressure from development on irrigated agriculture in Northern Colorado. Opponents of NISP would have us do nothing in the face of increasing water needs along the northern Front Range. Whether the Save the Poudre crowd likes it or not, more people are moving into the region served by the NISP participants. The project is a proactive, environmentally sound step to manage the growth along the Front Range and it will insure that irrigated farmers along the South Platte Basin will have access to their water for years to come.

Colorado farmers and ranchers support the NISP project. Unlike the Poudre Waterkeepers, food producers in Colorado have been managing our states water resources for hundreds of years. If we support the development of a water project, you can bet it will help keep irrigated farmers on the land. The public knows this. Lawmakers know this. So does Gary Wockner and the rest of the Waterkeepers. They just won’t tell you that.”

More coverage from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

“There’s nothing new in the filing. We can tear each one of their claims apart. Where’s the science come from?” Brian Werner said Monday. He’s the spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which filed a detailed EIS report with the Corps more than five years ago. The Corps, in 2008, asked for additional comment, and Werner said it is hoped the final EIS will be released later this year or early next.

In its filing, the Fort Collins group said if NISP is built, it would harm about 123,000 acres of agricultural land, or about one-sixth of all the irrigated land in northern Colorado. In addition, the group claims the project would accelerate the buy-up of farms for subdivision development, would accelerate salinization of productive croplands, would end most “free river” diversion opportunities and impact existing water users, and would submerge and divide productive agricultural land. It also says the initial filling of the two reservoirs and ongoing diversions into the two would likely come from northern Colorado and Western Slope farm water.

“There has not been, to our knowledge, one farm organization that has come out in opposition to the project. In fact, most of them are in favor of it. This latest filing is nothing but garbage. It’s not based in reality. We can easily refute anything they have said,” Werner said.

[ed. I'll be on radio AM 1310 in Greeley Thursday afternoon discussing surface water and Colorado's water supply gap sometime after 3:00 p.m.]

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Northern Integrated Supply Project: A Save the Poudre report submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the project will have a deleterious effect on irrigated farmland in the basin

April 25, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

Save The Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper — a loud critic of the dam proposal — is asking the Army Corps to review the report as it considers a go-ahead permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, also known as NISP…

The report, “Farm Facts About NISP,” claims the project would cause a host of problems for about 123,000 acres of Colorado farm land. It would speed up the buy up and subdivision of irrigated farms in northern Colorado, accelerate salinization of productive crop lands, end most “free river” diversion opportunities and impact many existing water users and submerge and divide productive agriculture land, the report says. Also, the report says, the initial fill of 100,000-acre feet and the ongoing diversions into Glade and Galeton Reservoir are likely to come from agriculture water from northern Colorado and the Western Slope…

NISP is backed by 14 northern Colorado water providers, who see the project as the best way to preserve water for Colorado farmland, Werner said. “Why else would the Farm Bureau and various ditch companies, support NISP?” Werner asked. “We’re pretty confident this project can stand on its own.”

More coverage from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

In its filing, the Fort Collins group said that if NISP is built, it would harm about 123,000 acres of agricultural land, or about one-sixth of all the irrigated land in northern Colorado. In addition, the group claims the project would accelerate the buy-up of farms for subdivision development; would accelerate salinization of productive crop lands; would end most “free river” diversion opportunities and impact existing water users; would submerge and divide productive agricultural land; and that the initial filling of the two reservoirs and on-going diversions into the two would likely come from northern Colorado and Western Slope farm water.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


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