Glenwood Springs: How should Colorado prioritize economic benefits in the COWaterPlan?

September 13, 2014
Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia

Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

The importance of green lawns to maintain quality of life and urban home values was heard alongside that of maintaining river flows for the Western Slope’s recreation-based economy in comments to the Colorado Water Conservation Board Thursday.

“Back yards are our recreational amenity,” Mark Pifher of the Front Range Water Council said during testimony before the CWCB on the draft Colorado Water Plan in Glenwood Springs as part of a two-day meeting that continues today at the Hotel Colorado.

Pifher also took to task Winter Park real estate broker Dennis Saffell, who cited statistics from Grand County that suggest riverfront properties sell for 134 percent more than other types of residential property, and even properties with a view of a river are 24 percent more valuable.

“It’s really important to keep our rivers viable economically, not just for the recreational aspects but for the entire economy that supports our communities,” Saffell said. “Rivers create a lifestyle, attract tourists and attract the people that live here.”

But aggressive conservation measures aimed at limiting outdoor water use in Front Range cities can have the effect of lowering real estate values in those areas, countered Pifher, who pointed out that outdoor irrigation makes up only 4 percent of consumptive water use in the state, according to statistics referenced in the draft water plan.

Joe Stibrich, representing the city of Aurora Water Department, suggested that, just as anglers and whitewater enthusiasts expect the state’s water plan to preserve the recreation experience in the mountains, urban dwellers have a right to expect a “reasonable residential experience.”

That includes reasonably irrigated lawns, public parks and sports fields, and golf courses, he said.

Statewide conservation measures also need to be considered on equal footing with viable alternatives to meet Front Range water needs, including new supply development through future trans-mountain diversions, he said…

“Water utilities do recognize the importance of healthy rivers and ecosystems,” Stibrich said. “But it’s equally important to maintain an urban environment with healthy landscapes.”

The debate pointed up the difficult task before the CWCB to deliver on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s directive to present a statewide water plan by December that addresses the often divergent views between the Western Slope interests and those of Front Range communities.

The first-ever statewide water plan is intended to address a significant gap in the amount of water needed to meet growth projections, especially on the Front Range, and what’s now available through both in-basin and trans-basin diversions.

But a key goal is also to protect healthy river flows on the Western Slope, including in the Colorado River Basin where members of the basin roundtable have recommended a strong emphasis on conservation in the water plan, along with opposition to any new trans-mountain diversions.

At some point, “the line has to be drawn … enough is enough” when it comes to Front Range water diversions, said fishing guide Jack Bombardier, owner of Confluence Casting in Gypsum in his testimony before the water board.

Bombardier was part of a coalition of river recreation business owners and enthusiasts, along with conservation groups, who spoke during the Thursday session. The coalition cited a study that shows river-based recreation in Colorado generates $9 billion a year and is responsible for 80,000 jobs.

“We all have skin in the game,” Bombardier said. “But we’re approaching a crossroads. The whole western [Colorado] ecosystem and economy hinges on healthy rivers.”

Water Conservation Board member Patricia Wells, representing the city and county of Denver, said one of the state’s recreational amenities that is reliant on water is missing from the equation in reference to those statistics — golf courses.

She requested that golf be mentioned in the section of the water plan that addresses recreational and environmental projects.

Wells also challenged speaker Annie Henderson, representing the Upper Colorado Private Boaters Association in Glenwood Springs, when she made reference to “wasteful and irresponsible water use” in relation to the need for better conservation measures to help protect the Western Slope’s quality of life.

“Quality of life exists in urban areas too,” Wells said. “Different people use water in ways that are valuable to them.”

Here’s some video from KREXTV.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Glenwood Springs: #COWaterPlan update planned for afternoon session at today’s CWCB board meeting

September 11, 2014

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

River recreation business owners and enthusiasts are expected to be out in force today as the Colorado Water Conservation Board meets in Glenwood Springs at the Hotel Colorado.

The afternoon session will include conversation about the upcoming draft statewide water plan, which is due out later this year at the direction of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The water plan is the main agenda item from 1-5 p.m. Starting at 3:45 p.m., the board will hear an update on public input received to date from the state’s nine river basins, including from the Colorado River Basin Roundtable. The meeting is open to the public and will include a time for comments.

Meanwhile, boaters, rafters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts are gathering in conjunction with the meeting to highlight the economic value of Colorado’s rivers, and to try to ensure river flows are protected from new large trans-mountain water diversions.

The Colorado and other western basin roundtables are urging against including any new Front Range diversion projects in the water plan.

A coalition of business and conservation groups said in a Wednesday press release that they will emphasize the economic importance of Colorado’s river-based economy, which they say is greater than $9 billion annually and supports more than 80,000 jobs in the state…

Geoff Olson, co-owner and operator of Blue Sky Adventures in Glenwood Springs, said in the release that commercial river rafting alone in Colorado last year was worth about $150 million.

“We want the governor and the state water board to make smart, long-term decisions to protect our rivers and our livelihoods, and this huge part of Colorado’s economy,” said Olson, who employs 35 people during the height of the summer whitewater season…

“Colorado’s cities can easily conserve more water, and that will preserve flows for the river-based recreation that is so important to so many Coloradans,” said Annie Henderson, co-founder of the Upper Colorado Private Boaters Association, an American Whitewater affiliate.

Whitewater businesses have also emphasized the need to secure recreational in-stream flows, which is also included in the draft Colorado River Basin Implementation Plan.

The CWCB will continue its meetings Friday, and this morning is scheduled to meet with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, also at the Hotel Colorado.

Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows

Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows

Here’s the release from Protect the flows (Belinda Griswold):

Businesses in Colorado, including boaters, rafters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts, will be in Glenwood Springs tomorrow to highlight the economic value of Colorado’s rivers and to ensure river flows are protected from new large trans-mountain water diversions. The river supporters will share their experiences with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), which is holding a public board meeting Thursday and Friday at The Hotel Colorado.

At the executive order of Gov. John Hickenlooper, the CWCB is currently preparing the first-ever statewide water plan, which will determine how water is managed across Colorado now and for decades to come. Western Slope businesses – retailers, recreational outfitters and other outdoor-related companies – will emphasize the vast economic importance of Colorado’s river-based economy, which is greater than $9 billion annually and supports more than 80,000 jobs in the state. Water diversions, which are being debated during the CWCB board meeting, would significantly jeopardize this river economy.

“The economic impact of commercial river rafting in Colorado last year was about $150 million, and the Colorado River-based recreation industry as a whole added $9 billion to our state’s economy. For Blue Sky Adventures, we employ 35 people, all of whom depend on healthy rivers,” said Geoff Olson, co-owner and operator of Blue Sky Adventures in Glenwood Springs. “We want the governor and the state water board to make smart, long term decisions to protect our rivers and our livelihoods, and this huge part of Colorado’s economy.”

To protect Colorado’s $9 billion river economy, Colorado’s recreation-based leaders are encouraging the CWCB to ensure smart water management is included in the plan. In lieu of large, new trans-mountain diversions, these business want the CWCB to keep river flows at healthy levels by setting a statewide water conservation goal for the state’s cities and towns, something most other Western states have but Colorado is lacking.

“Colorado’s cities can easily conserve more water, and that will preserve flows for the river-based recreation that is so important to so many Coloradans,” said Annie Henderson, co-founder of the Upper Colorado Private Boaters Association, an American Whitewater affiliate. “If it’s going to be a Colorado water plan, it has to reflect Colorado values.”

Another way the CWCB can ensure ample water and support Colorado’s $9 billion river economy supply is by integrating the best recommendations for recreational flow, such as that proposed by the Colorado River Basin Implementation Plan, which called for a goal to protect water for recreational boating purposes.

“Our state’s recreation economy depends on healthy stream flows today,” said Nathan Fey, director of Colorado River Stewardship Program for American Whitewater. “These flows support existing businesses, jobs and local economies that rely on active outdoor recreation and tourism. Trans-mountain diversions are being proposed as a way to meet a future need – an unknown and speculative demand. The conversation about water supply at the state and local levels must be about the trade-offs between our needs today, and what our needs might be in the future.”

Adding to the direct economic boost rivers provide, Coloradans cherish their natural landscape including the rivers that provide opportunities for boating, rafting and fishing. Surveys of Colorado voters show that outdoor recreation is among the top values for residents. In addition, Front Range businesses report that outdoor recreation opportunities are key for attracting and retaining talented employees.

The supporters of healthy rivers plan to hold a press conference at Blue Sky Adventures’ offices (319 6th St, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601, at the Hotel Colorado) starting at approximately 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11. In addition, several supporters are scheduled to speak later in the day at the CWCB board meeting including:

Speakers at the event will include representatives from outdoor recreation businesses, Protect the Flows, American Whitewater, and many more.

To learn more about Colorado’s statewide water plan, please visit http://wwww.waterforcolorado.org.

doloresriveraspens

From the Northwest Council of Governments:

Leaves are starting to change and work on the Water Plan is gearing up around the State. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) will be visiting the Colorado Basin this week, holding their board meeting in Glenwood Springs on Sept. 11-12. Part of their discussion will be a review of many draft sections of the Water Plan, released to the public by way of their board meeting agenda. We are anxious to jump into a review of those draft sections—we are encouraged and impressed with the amount of data the CWCB staff have already sifted through to complete these draft sections! We will keep you posted as well learn more.

Meanwhile, QQ has been reviewing the Basin Implementation Plans submitting from Basins around the State over the past month. As one might expect, many Basins agree with some foundational QQ Principles for the Water Plan, while others conflict with some of our primary points. We’ll keep working on a summary document that can help guide those who don’t have time to read the 1000s of pages of information!

Over the next several months, the CWCB will wrap up the first complete draft of Colorado’s Water Plan! This fall marks a crucial time for public input on the draft sections released already, as once this draft is completed the Plan will move to revisions in the Governor’s office and away from the hands of the CWCB. As always, you can provide comment at http://www.coloradowaterplan.org.

More CWCB coverage here.


9News series about #COwater and the #COWaterPlan — Mary Rodriguez

September 10, 2014


9News.com reporter Mary Rodriguez has embarked on a series about the Colorado Water Plan and water issues in Colorado. The first installment deals with Cheesman Dam and Reservoir. Here’s an excerpt:

It is something most of us take for granted: running water. Colorado is now beginning to grapple with how to keep the tap flowing, both now and in the future. As the state develops a water plan, set to be released in December, we are beginning a series of stories revolving around that precious resource…

Cheesman Reservoir and Dam

Nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, it’s a place of stillness and a quiet refuge. Yet, it’s also a place capable of wielding immense power.

Cheesman Reservoir is a major source of water for communities up and down the Front Range. It holds 25 billion gallons of water. That’s enough water to cover Sports Authority Field with a foot of water more than 79,000 times. All of it is held in place by the Cheesman Dam, which was built nearly 110 years ago.

“It was tremendous foresight that this reservoir has been pretty much unchanged in all that time,” documentary filmmaker Jim Havey of Havey Productions said.

The reservoir is just one of the places Havey is beginning to capture as part of an upcoming documentary called “The Great Divide.” The subject? Water.

“We looked at water, initially, as a great way to tell the story of Colorado,” he said.

Colorado’s water system is a complex combination of reservoirs, rivers and dams. As the state’s population has grown, though, there has been a greater need to come up with a water plan that can evolve with time.

“Really, it is all connected,” said Travis Thompson, spokesperson for Denver Water, which bought the Cheesman Reservoir nearly 100 years ago.

Denver Water– along with water municipalities and agencies across Colorado– is now working on a long-term plan for Colorado’s water. It includes, among other things, figuring out the best way to manage the state’s water as it flows between different river basins and whether or not to create more reservoirs.

“We’re not planning just for today, we’re planning for tomorrow– 25 years, 50 years down the road,” Thompson said. “And we have many challenges that we’re looking into, just like our forefathers had.”

Those challenges include how to provide enough water for people and industries in Colorado, as well as people in 18 other states– and even two states in Mexico– which also get their water from rivers that begin in Colorado.

“What the water plan is going to mean, I don’t think anybody knows yet,” Havey said.

Yet, it’s a plan that has a lot riding on it below the surface. The first draft of the state’s water plan is due in December and is expected to be presented to the state legislature next year. For more information about the water documentary, “The Great Divide,” go to http://bit.ly/1qDftUO.

More Denver Water coverage here. More South Platte River Basin coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations meeting Thursday, Septmember 4

September 2, 2014

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The next Aspinall Unit Operations Meeting will be held at the Elk Creek Visitor Center at Blue Mesa Reservoir this Thursday, September 4th at 1 PM. Handouts will be available on the website prior to the meeting.


Water storage ‘absolutely’ part of #COWaterPlan — Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

September 1, 2014

unionpark
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Western Slope water storage is “absolutely” a part of the Colorado water plan that is to be complete in just over a year, said the head of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. James Eklund, however, declined to offer specifics about any discussions.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., this week told the editorial board of The Daily Sentinel that he and Gov. John Hickenlooper have discussed the possibility of high-elevation water storage to benefit the Western Slope. He was unable to offer specifics, but said the conversation began in late August at the Colorado Water Congress.

Eklund, who is in charge of drawing together the suggestions of water roundtables from the state’s basins to draft the statewide plan, said it recognizes the need for storage.

“Colorado’s water challenges require that we consider options that include both conservation and storage,” Eklund said in an email. “Conservation and storage go hand-in-hand in addressing our water-supply gap.”

The state water plan also contemplates the idea of a transmountain diversion, but no specific proposal has been made.

Hickenlooper’s office didn’t respond directly to inquiries about conversations with Tipton.

A Western Slope storage project, however, is “an intriguing idea,” said Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy district, noting that the idea has long been recognized as a need. Club 20, however, has no information about such a project, she said.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District, likewise, had no information about any such project, though spokesman Chris Treese said several projects are being pursued.

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement with Denver Water, agreements affecting the Eagle River, rebuilding the old Dillon Reservoir and a variety of other projects are continuing.

Collectively, “There are 65,000 to 75,000 acre-feet on the table right now,” Treese said.

Chatter about transmountain diversions could prove to be of ultimate benefit to a Western Slope project, Treese said.

“We built Wolford Mountain (Reservoir) in the shadow of Two Forks,” Treese said, referring to a now-defunct proposal to divert Western Slope water to the South Platte River drainage to be stored behind Two Forks Dam.

Wolford Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling includes compensatory storage for the Western Slope as well as storage for the Front Range.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: “We can’t dry up the creeks” — Kara Lamb #ColoradoRiver

September 1, 2014
Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project diverted about 80,200 acre-feet of water under the Continental Divide to the Front Range this year, according to Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the system.

That is about 67 percent higher than the average diversion of 48,000 acre-feet over the 52-year lifetime of the system, she said. More water was diverted this year because of a higher-than-average snowpack and lots of rain starting in mid-July, according to Lamb.

Nevertheless, river and stream water levels have dropped to the point where diversions must be stopped to maintain minimum stream flows.

“This week and next week, we are shutting down the diversion system,” she said Friday. “We can’t dry up the creeks.”

Ruedi Reservoir is about 93 percent full right now. That’s slightly above average, according to the Reclamation Bureau’s records. The amount of water currently being released from Ruedi Dam is 267 cubic feet per second, about average for Sept. 1.

Water is still being diverted from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River east of Aspen. The Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System has diverted an estimated 59,400 acre-feet thus far this water year, which started in October 2013, according to water data on the Colorado Division of Water Resources website. Kevin Lusk, a water-supply engineer with Colorado Springs Utilities helped The Aspen Times interpret the data on the state’s website.

The average annual diversion over the past 79 years has been 42,000 acre-feet. This year’s diversion is already 17,400 acre-feet above average, or 41 percent higher.

The diversion system operated by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. taps a 45-square-mile area at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River. The system diverts water from the Roaring Fork River near Lost Man Campground. In addition, it diverts some of the water in Lost Man Creek, Lincoln Creek, Brooklyn Creek, Tabor Creek, New York Creek and Grizzly Creek, according to a description on the website of Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt-based nonprofit that monitors water quantity and quality issues.

The conservancy’s weekly watershed river report, released each Thursday, showed that Twin Lakes Tunnel was diverting water at a rate of 80 cubic feet per second on Aug. 28 from the Roaring Fork River headwaters. Meanwhile, the river was flowing at only 49 cfs in Aspen that same day.

The Roaring Fork River is dammed near Lost Man Campground. The river below the dam runs at a trickle. It’s replenished to some degree by various creeks before it reaches Aspen.

Without the diversion, the Roaring Fork River flow would be 129 cubic feet per second in Aspen, or about 2.5 times what it is running now. Superior water rights allow the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. to divert an amount greater than the river flow.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.


Aug. 27, CBT Project was at its highest level in history for that date — Sky-Hi Daily News #ColoradoRiver

August 29, 2014
Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Hank Shell):

On Aug. 27, the Colorado-Big Thompson Project was at its highest level in history for that date, said Brian Werner with Northern Water. Lake Granby was at its second highest level for Aug. 27, only beaten by Aug. 27, 1984.

“I tell people ‘you cant give away water this year,’” Werner said.

Looking at rainfall in Grand County, this year’s precipitation is somewhat deceiving. Precipitation is still below that for a normal year to date for Grand County, according to Accessweather Inc. Historically, the county has had around 7.78 inches of precipitation by this time in a normal year, though this year it has only seen about 5.58 inches.

So what’s keeping Lake Granby so full? For the answer, one needs to look across the Continental Divide.

Lake Granby, as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, is actually a reservoir for Front Range water users. Water is pumped through Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake, where it flows through the Alva B. Adams Tunnel to Estes Park.

This year, an unusually wet summer on the east side of the Divide has kept Front Range reservoirs full, leaving little recourse for water in Lake Granby. Couple that with increased snowpack on the West Slope and a clarity study that has kept flows through Alva B. Adams tunnel minimal, and what’s left is a swollen lake Granby, said Kara Lamb with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“We’ve run the East Slope of the Colorado Big Thomson Project largely on East Slope water most of the year,” Lamb said.

Lamb said she wasn’t sure, but she didn’t believe the Alva B. Adams Tunnel had been run at its full capacity of 550 cubic feet per second at all this year.

Gasner said the last year he could remember Lake Granby being at a comparable level at this time was 2011, but Lamb confirmed that there’s more water in the reservoir this year.

“Even though we were spilling in 2011 at this time, the volume of water is actually higher in this year than it was in 2011,” Lamb said.

Because of the way the spill gates at Lake Granby are situated, the lake can spill even at lower water levels.

Strong monsoon season

Earlier this summer, weather forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder believed a strong El Niño was in the works, meaning a wetter summer and drier winter for the Grand County area.

Surface water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that are sustained above average, commonly referred to as an El Niño event, can have strong effects on weather patterns in Colorado.

Though climate models have changed and a strong El Niño is less certain, climate forecasters still saw an above average monsoon season across the Front Range, said Todd Dankers, a forecaster with NOAA in Boulder.

“We’ve had one of these better monsoon type seasons here for the summer,” Danker said. “We’ve been picking up good amounts of rain, and you can’t really pin that on El Niño.”

Dankers said surface temperatures in the Pacific haven’t been following through the model of a strong El Niño that climate models predicted at the beginning of the summer.

Rather, they’ve been dropping toward normal in recent months.

“We were thinking this pattern we’re in now, it’s been able to tap into a little bit of Hurricane Maria,” Dankers said. “That is contributing some moisture to the showers that we’re going to see.”

Some of the monsoon moisture coming into Colorado has also come from the subtropical Pacific, he said.

“It’s kind of the best monsoon pattern that we’ve seen in the last few years,” he said.

Winter outlook

Though forecasters have been able to pin recent moisture to events in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific, looking farther out, the view becomes much less clear.

A strong El Niño is still possible, Dankers said, which could mean a drier winter in the mountains.

Though right now, the outlook for the mountains is “unsettled,” with the possibility of drier weather moving into the Front Range.

“These long-term ridges and troughs shift every six or eight weeks,” Dankers said. “In the next week or two, we may see a big shift to a drier, warmer pattern that could persist for another five or six weeks.”

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,014 other followers

%d bloggers like this: