Roaring Fork Conservancy warns that Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project will include transmountain water

March 24, 2010

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Nestlé Waters North America announced last year that they had struck a deal for augmentation water from Aurora via Twin Lakes for the bottled water giant’s Chaffee County Project. Nestlé Waters’ plan is to truck 200 acre-feet or so out of basin to Denver for bottling. The Roaring Fork Conservancy is spreading the word in the valley, according to a report from Scott Condon writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

A plan by a subsidiary of Nestlé to bottle water near Buena Vista could have implications for the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers, the Roaring Fork Conservancy warned this week. It also signals that the beverage industry is on the prowl for high mountain spring sites in Colorado’s mountains — another potential threat to limited water supply of the Roaring Fork watershed, said Tim O’Keefe, education director for the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt-based nonprofit focused on water quality and quantity issues. “We’re trying to use what’s happening in [Buena Vista] to sound the alarm,” O’Keefe said…

Aurora diverts water from Grizzly Reservoir, about 10 miles east of Aspen. That water is piped via the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion Project to the east side of the Continental Divide, dumped into Lake Creek and stored in Twin Lakes Reservoir. Aurora also diverts water from the upper Fryingpan basin through the Busk-Ivanhoe Project to Turquoise Reservoir, which also feeds Twin Lakes. Numerous documents tied to the Nestlé plan indicate that Twin Lakes is among the sources Aurora can use to sell water to Nestlé to augment the Arkansas River, according to G. Moss Driscoll, an attorney who recently interned with the Roaring Fork Conservancy and helped with the position paper on bottled water. “There’s no doubt it will involve transbasin water,” Driscoll said.

[Aurora] intends to use water purchased from Lake County ranches and the Columbine Ditch to feed the Arkansas River directly and fulfill its augmentation contract. Water from Twin Lakes is listed as a possible source for augmentation, but is unlikely to be used, Baker said. Even if it is, very little comes from the upper Fryingpan and Roaring Fork drainages. The vast majority of Aurora’s water diverted from the mountains comes from Homestake Reservoir, another source that leads to Twin Lakes. In a strict accounting sense, some Roaring Fork water could be used to augment the Arkansas River, Baker said, but it would be a rare occasion and a small amount.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy counters that Nestlé’s bottling scheme is just another way, however small, that the Roaring Fork watershed is being tapped. “The two springs Nestlé is proposing to draw water from are fed directly by the Arkansas River, the flows of which are bolstered by transmountain diversions from the Roaring Fork Watershed,” the conservancy’s paper said. “On average each year, 37 percent of the runoff in the Upper Roaring Fork Subwatershed and 41 percent of the runoff in the Upper Fryingpan Subwatershed is diverted to the Arkansas River Basin.”

The conservancy is sponsoring the screening of a film called “Tapped” to educate people about the broader issues surrounding bottled water. The documentary is a “behind-the-scenes look into the unregulated and unseen world” of an industry that is trying to turn water into a commodity. It’s from the producers of “Who Killed the Electric Car” and “I.O.U.S.A.” The movie will be shown at 7 p.m. on March 31 at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen and at 7 p.m. on April 6 at the Church at Carbondale. Tickets are $9.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.


Aurora: City files for change of use for Busk-Ivanhoe rights, teams with Climax Molybdenum to change Columbine Ditch rights

January 9, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Aurora bought half of the Busk-Ivanhoe water system from the High Line Canal Co. in 1987, following the purchase of the other half from the ditch company by the Pueblo Board of Water Works in 1971. Aurora filed for a change of use decree in Division 2 Water Court in December. Identical applications have been filed in Division 1 (South Platte) and Division 5 (Colorado River) water courts. The project brings water from Ivanhoe Lake, located at 11,500 feet elevation on a tributary of the Fryingpan River west of Hagerman Pass, through a former railroad and highway tunnel to Busk Creek, which empties into Turquoise Lake near Leadville…

{Aurora] has imported more than 3,000 acre-feet per year from Busk-Ivanhoe for the past few years. The Pueblo water board manages the system, which includes two live-in caretakers at Ivanhoe Lake, but Pueblo and Aurora share the water equally. In its application, Aurora states it intends to use the water for all purposes in two basins, rather than its existing decree for agriculture in the Arkansas River basin. Aurora would continue some of those uses, but would also apply water to its delivery and reuse systems in the South Platte basin. Aurora takes the water through the Homestake Project, which it shares with Colorado Springs. In the application, Aurora lists its Box Creek Reservoir, located between Turquoise and Twin Lakes, as a potential storage place, even though it has not been built. It also lists several recharge pits or reservoirs in the South Platte River basin that have not been built.

Meanwhile here’s the lowdown on the Columbine Ditch, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Fremont Pass Ditch Co., owned by Aurora and Climax, filed an application for change of water rights in Division 2 Water Court in Pueblo last month. Identical applications were filed in Division 5 (Colorado River) and Division 1 (South Platte) water courts. The Pueblo water board sold the Columbine Ditch to the Fremont Pass Co. last year for $30.48 million, as part of its financing for the purchase of about 27 percent of the water rights on the Bessemer Ditch in Pueblo County.

The Columbine Ditch, located at 11,500-foot-elevation Fremont Pass 13 miles north of Leadville, is about two miles long and was built to serve irrigators in 1931. It diverts water from three small streams in the Eagle River watershed over the pass near Climax mining operations. The water board purchased the ditch in 1953 to meet long-term needs and changed the decree to municipal and other uses appropriate to its needs in 1993. The average yield of the ditch was about 1,700 acre-feet annually, but because of long-term limits that was expected to drop to 1,300 acre-feet per year. Aurora and Climax are seeking further uses, including snowmaking, wetlands creation and direct reuse among others. They also are asking the court to approve new places of use, including at the Climax Mine, a gravel pit reservoir near Leadville and in the Arkansas or South Platte basins as part of Aurora’s extensive water system.

More transmountain/transbasin diversion coverage here.


Raw water systems winter operations

December 22, 2009

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Here’s a look at winter operations for Pueblo’s raw water system, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“When we plow the roads out, those banks of snow start to melt and freeze again until they turn hard as rocks. The trucks can get pretty banged up, so those guys have to be careful,” said Bud O’Hara, water resources division manager for the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Avalanches, broken bulldozer blades and survival in a dozen feet of snow are all part of the job for those who maintain and clear the systems that bring the water over. “Every one is different,” O’Hara said.

The Twin Lakes system, where a caretaker lives year-round, is in a bowl of mountains where avalanches are common. Those who live with them say you can hear them coming. In the winter, the caretakers at Grizzly Lake, located in the high country of the Roaring Fork valley near Independence Pass, have to drive to Leadville through the Twin Lakes Tunnel for supplies because the drifts are too high to make the trip to Aspen. Their lifestyle is isolated in the remote valley.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


Transmountain diversions: Moving water from the rainy side of Colorado

December 21, 2009

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Here’s a look at some of the history behind transmountain diversions, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Be sure to click though and read the whole thing. Here are some excerpts from the article:

“I expect that these waters in the mountains, instead of being a menace to the people upon the plains, will be their source of strength and their source of wealth,” William Jennings Bryan told an international water conference in Pueblo in 1910. The problem then, as it is now, is that the water just wasn’t there.

A semi-arid region where the average annual rainfall is less than 20 inches was not readily recognized as an agricultural mecca. In most years as it does now, water came in a rush when snow melted in spring, during summer monsoons and in many years would stop late in the growing season, when many crops were ready for harvest. In the worst years, no water came at all. “Nature gave Colorado two valuable resources: an abundance of water and vast tracts of fertile and arable land,” said the late Harold Christy, a CF&I water engineer who helped form the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “She gave us these great assets but did not logically locate them practical use. She left the job of consolidation to the hand of man.” The solution was to move water from one side of the mountains to the other and store it for when it was needed. The state Legislature began looking at ways to do that as early as 1889. The 50-year span from 1920-70 would mark an era of projects designed to fulfill that vision in Eastern Colorado.

At first, moving water across mountains mostly involved digging ditches across mountain passes. The earliest effort still running is the Grand Ditch, completed in the 1890s, in what is now Rocky Mountain National Park. Many other ditches were dug by farmers looking for a way to make water available throughout the growing season. As the cities have grown, they have acquired many of those systems after irrigators found them expensive to maintain. Pueblo, for instance, acquired the Ewing, Wurtz and Columbine ditches in Lake County in the early 1950s to cope with water shortages at the time.

Engineers also were already toying with tunnels in the early 1900s. An early large tunnel project devoted solely to water was the Gunnison-Uncompahgre Tunnel completed in 1909, which was built by the Bureau of Reclamation to move water from one sub-basin of the Colorado River to another, and later transferred to a local district. Similarly, the Laramie-Poudre Tunnel, completed in 1911, brought water from the North Platte into the South Platte basin in Northern Colorado. Rail tunnels, like the Carlton Tunnel near Leadville that later became the diversion tunnel for the Busk-Ivanhoe system, or Denver’s Moffat Tunnel, were later used as ways to move water.

More transmountain/transbasin coverage here.


Moffat Collection System Project: Can the west and east slope find common ground?

December 20, 2009

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Drew Peternell, Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project has penned a call to negotiation and common sense in today’s Denver Post. Click through and read the whole thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Trout Unlimited, a sportsmen’s group committed to preserving Colorado’s rivers and fisheries, can accept a Moffat project if Denver agrees to responsible measures to protect western Colorado. That means, at a minimum, guaranteeing healthy year-round stream flows in the Fraser, Williams Fork and upper Colorado Rivers. That also means improving Denver’s track record on water conservation. Denver has implemented some meaningful conservation measures, but there is much more it can do — such as offering incentives for households to replace water-thirsty turf with drought-tolerant landscaping…

What’s at issue in the Moffat plan is our willingness on the Front Range to accept a modest tradeoff to preserve Colorado’s magnificent outdoor resources. With smart resource management, we have enough water to sustain both our home places and our wild places — we don’t need to choose between the two. If it respects diverse needs, Denver Water can find pragmatic water supply solutions that work for everyone, on both sides of the Divide.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.

Meanwhile here’s a look at transmountain diversions from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The diversions vary in size from the very small, like the Larkspur Ditch that brings Upper Gunnison River water to the Arkansas River basin, to the very large – the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Many were developed as primarily agricultural diversions that are turning into municipal projects. The C-BT Project, fed by the Alva B. Adams Tunnel, was four-fifths agricultural when it started more than 70 years ago. Today, about two-thirds of the project’s yield provides water for northern Colorado’s growing cities.

Here’s a look at the current state of planning for growth and consumption, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The ditches and tunnels that already cross the mountains have a long history of dispute. Water planners are starting to worry about what could happen if those systems fail. Those who live in the areas where the water is taken from on the West Slope want to make sure the water is used wisely on the Front Range. And the Front Range is looking to slake its thirst with even more pipelines from the West.

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

Drought readiness is one of the reasons that Denver Water wants to move more water to their northern system, hence the enlargement of Gross Reservoir by raising the dam 125 feet or so. Colorado River Basin firm yield is expected to keep dropping as it has in recents years as a result of climate change. Here’s a look at statewide planning for climate change from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

You may not think climate change is real. As for water planners, they believe.

Climate change already had become a staple of water discussions by October 2008, when Gov. Bill Ritter convened a special meeting on the topic. “At no time has our water been threatened so much by drought, climate change and population growth,” Ritter said at the time. “As we assess the impact of climate change, water absolutely has to be a part of the discussion.”

More climate change coverage here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works to mull financing alternatives for Bessemer Ditch shares

September 22, 2009

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The resolutions Tuesday will set the terms under which the bonds will be sold and authorize the issuance of the bonds. The resolution on terms also sets forth how other debt, present or future, would fit into the structure of the bonds. Bonds would be issued Oct. 22. The bonds would be sold during October, paralleling the time frame for the board to finalize its contracts with 67 shareholders for 5,339 shares on the Bessemer Ditch Ñ a little more than one-quarter of the total. “We did two of the contracts on the Bessemer Ditch, as pilots, to make sure everything was worked out,” said Alan Hamel, executive director. “We wanted to make sure our process was going to work, and there weren’t any problems.” The water board wants to complete all of the contracts by Oct. 30. Closing on the contracts will be coordinated to the flow of money used to buy the shares.

More PBOWW coverage here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works board meeting recap

August 19, 2009

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The PBOWW finished up the sale of the Columbine Ditch and approved a 3.2 percent rate hike this week. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The 3.2-percent rate hike will raise a little more than $1 million to pay debt service on $23 million in bonds, said Seth Clayton, finance division manager. “We will be coming back in November for another increase to cover our normal operations,” Clayton told the board. Clayton estimated the total increase for 2010 would be about 8 to 9 percent, with another 6 to 8 percent in 2011. That’s lower than initial projections of 10 percent each year…

“Nobody in the community is in favor of a rate increase,” President Nick Gradisar said. “But the people I talk to are in favor of what we are doing on the Bessemer.” The bonds would be issued Oct. 22…

The Columbine sale would close Sept. 21. Columbine Ditch is on Fremont Pass 13 miles north of Leadville and brings water to the Arkansas River from the Eagle River basin. Climax needs the water because it lost a water court claim to Denver Water and plans to expand in the future, said Bud O’Hara, water resources division manager. The agreement also would keep Aurora from objecting in the eventual change of use case for the Bessemer Ditch shares, and would also take the Pueblo water board out of the change of diversion case associated with the Columbine. The Columbine water already is available for all uses under the water board’s decree, so it will not require a change of use decree…

The water board is now looking at 67 contracts for a total of 5,339 shares at $10,150 each, with another 10.5 shares pending on the Bessemer Ditch, Hamel said. There are about 20,000 shares on the ditch. The water board plans to spend about $60 million, and will begin closing contracts in September using funds already in the water development fund and from lease revenue.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


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