Recently executed agreement designed to increase river health in the Upper #ColoradoRiver and Fraser River

March 26, 2014
Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day

Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day

From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Grand County is that part of the snow-rich Western Slope most proximate to the farms and cities of the Front Range. It juts like a thumb eastward, the most easterly point of the Pacific drainage in North America.

As such, it became a target, early and often, of transmountain diversions. The first major diversion across the Continental Divide was completed in 1890 and the last, located at Windy Gap, where the Fraser River flows into the Colorado, in 1985. Several others, more audacious in scale, came between.

Taken together, these great engineering achievements annually draw 60 percent or more of the native flows of this headwater region eastward, over and through the Continental Divide. The water delivered to cities between Denver and Fort Collins have made them among the most vibrant in the country, and the water that flows to farms as far east as Julesberg, hundreds of miles away, among the nation’s most productive.

But this achievement has had a hidden cost that became more apparent in recent years. Combined with the frequent drought since 2000, the depletions have left the Colorado River shallow and warm as it flows through Middle Park. It is, according to environmental advocates, a river on the edge of ecological collapse, unable to support sculpin, trout, and other fish…

Now come new efforts, the most recent announced earlier this month, to bring the Colorado River and its tributaries back from this brink.

Called the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, the agreement between Denver Water, Grand County, and Trout Unlimited proposes to govern Denver’s incremental diversions through the Continental Divide known as the Moffat firming project. However, according to the architects of the deal, it should also serve as a model in the ongoing dialogue as Colorado’s growing metropolitan areas look to squeeze out the final drops of the state’s entitlements to the Colorado River, as defined by the Colorado River compact of 1922 and other compacts.

“It is a demonstration of a new way of doing business that should be a model as Colorado talks about meeting its water gaps (between demands and supplies),” says Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water…

David Taussig, a native of Grand County and now the county’s water attorney, working from the 16th Street firm of White & Jankowski in downtown Denver, also sees the agreement as a model. “Nobody knows what (the agreements) will look like, but there are ways to develop things that benefit the Western Slope,” he says.

There are skeptics, unable to explain this strange alchemy in which a river can in any way benefit from having less water, as the agreement insists can be the case.

Among those withholding enthusiasm is Matt Rice, the Colorado coordinator for American Rivers. He points out that the agreement covers just 4 of the 32 creeks and streams trapped by Denver Water in the Fraser Valley and the adjoining Williams Fork. Too, like too many other similar programs, the data collection begins after permits are awarded, not before, which he thinks is backward.

In short, while Denver is careful to talk about “enhancements,” he thinks it falls short of addressing full, cumulative impacts.

Cumulative impacts are likely to be a focal point of federal permitting. While the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to have a voice, the vital 404 permit must come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The parties to the new agreement have asked that their agreement be incorporated into the permit…

Under terms of this agreement, however, Denver Water is required to spend $10 million in direct costs in Grand County.

A major concern on the Fraser River is higher temperatures caused by more shallow flows, harmful or even deadly to fish. The money would go to such things as temperature-monitoring stations, to track how warm the Fraser is getting in summer months.

In places, creeks and the Fraser River will be rechanneled. A river with 75 percent of its flows diminished over a year’s cycle has less need for width. Instead, it needs a narrower course, to allow more depth and hence the colder water needed for aquatic life. Such work was already started several years ago on a segment near the Safeway store in Fraser.

A far greater financial cost to Denver specified by the agreement is the agency’s commitment to forfeit up to 2,500 acre-feet annually of the city’s added 18,700 acre-foot take…

A final environmental impact statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected in late April. The federal agency can also impose conditions of its own making. They would be included in a record-of-decision, which is expected to be issued in late 2015.

A permit from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is also needed. Boulder County insists it also has say-so over enlargement of Gross Reservoir, an assertion contested by Denver Water.

In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must award a permit for revised hydroelectric generation at Gross.

At earliest, expansion of Gross could start in 2018 and be ready to capture spring runoff in 2022…

Mely Whiting, an attorney for Trout Unlimited, says the new deal builds on both the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Windy Gap settlements. They mesh together and, downstream from Windy Gap, should have great benefit.

The weakness is that in the Fraser Valley, there is little existing baseline data. “We don’t have a very good grasp on either what we have lost or what we may lose in the future,” she says. “We know there have been declines, but don’t have nearly as much information (as below Windy Gap). So the effort will be to develop a strong baseline and get a strong understanding of what is going on up there.”

At the end of the day it is a compromise, and Whiting admits that not all environmentalists are thrilled.

“On my side of the equation, when I talk to people in the conservation community, some people want language that nails Denver to the ground, so that they have no wiggle room. They want things very predictable,” she says.

“This Learning by Doing agreement is not extremely predictable,” she added. “We have some basic parameters. There are three ways we are going to measure, to monitor to make sure the values of the streams aren’t going down.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Breakthrough water agreement benefits cities and rivers

March 11, 2014

Originally posted on Mile High Water Talk:

Water management is never easy. And in Colorado, where the resource is scarce, everyone’s interest is valuable, and needs are often widely divergent.

Last year, Denver Water and Trout Unlimited came together to pen a guest editorial for The Denver Post, Together, we can meet Colorado River challenges, acknowledging the fact that there are differences over how to best use water to meet our diverse needs. But, more important, the editorial highlighted the fact that smart water planning and cooperation are the only way to meet the future water needs of all interests along the Colorado River.

Less than a year later, Denver Water and Trout Unlimited have come together again, this time with Grand County, to reveal an agreement that balances municipal needs and environmental health. And, just like the recently finalized Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this partnership demonstrates the benefits of working together to protect our…

View original 790 more words


Sides agree to innovative Fraser River deal to help slake Denver Water thirst — Colorado Independent #ColoradoRiver

March 6, 2014

eisenhowerfishing

From the Colorado Independent (Bob Berwyn):

Ranchers, anglers and big-city water bosses raised a white flag in Colorado’s long-running water wars this week by setting aside bullying and threats of lawsuits and permit appeals. Instead, Grand County and Trout Unlimited have agreed to let Denver Water siphon another 18,000 acre feet from the headwaters of the Colorado River — but only under a strict checklist of requirements designed to ensure the Fraser River recovers from decades of depletion.

The deal announced Tuesday could make the Fraser the most-watched river in Colorado – and maybe in the West. It sets out an innovative, science-based plan that seeks to balance increasing urban needs for water with an imperative to restore crucial habitat for river trout…

Denver Water – Colorado’s biggest and thirstiest water provider — currently diverts more than half the Fraser River’s flow to keep toilets flushing, dishwashers running and sprinklers spouting along the Front Range. The dispute started in 2003 when the utility applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the permit it needs to divert more water from the river — as much as three-quarters of its average annual flow — to keep up with growth in the Denver metro area…

This week’s pact seeks to honor Denver Water’s longstanding river rights while ensuring the Fraser will be protected no matter how much more water is diverted for urban use. The restoration plan will use real-time data to track critical temperature increases in key streams caused either by Denver Water’s seasonal diversions or the long-term effects of climate change. When temperatures spike, additional flows will be released to cool the water when needed. In good water years, the deal will give Denver up to 18,000 acre feet of additional water, which will mostly be tapped during the peak spring runoff season. The timing of the diversions is a key part of the utility’s promise to improve the Fraser.

“We’re not going to be diverting water all the time. We won’t divert water in critically dry years, and we’ll only divert water during spring runoff. At other times of year, we’ll put water back into the river and improve conditions,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water’s CEO and manager.

The agreement also will require shifts in the timing of the water harvest. High flows are needed in the spring to help flush sediments that gunk up habitat for trout and aquatic bugs…

The Army Corps of Engineers’ final environmental study is due in late April, with a formal decision on the proposed diversion project expected in early 2015.

This week’s pact minimizes the likelihood of a permit appeal or a time-consuming lawsuit by conservationists. That’s important for Denver Water, which is eager to dig its shovels into the ground as soon as possible. Some of the extremely dry years in the early 2000s — especially 2002 — already have put the water giant’s delivery system to the test.

The deal also gives Grand County some assurances that the Fraser will remain a vibrant part of its outdoor recreation economy. Anglers from throughout the state and country visit Grand County to wet their lines in a river that was favored by President Dwight Eisenhower.

The additional water will help Denver Water balance its supplies. Currently, the utility gets about 80 percent of its water through the southern portion of its collection system, from the Blue River in Summit County via the Roberts Tunnel and a chain of reservoirs along the South Platte River. Lochhead says increased diversions from the Fraser River will make urban water supplies less vulnerable to extreme events such as forest fires, which are expected more frequently because of drought and climate change. The ability to pump more water out of the Fraser when needed would give Denver a much-needed back-up plan in case of another massive blaze like the 2002 Hayman Fire in a key watershed…

West Slope water managers acknowledge Denver Water’s legal rights. But they question whether any new trans-divide diversions are needed, claiming that Front Range communities could easily meet existing and future needs with more efficient use of the water the utility already is diverting over the Continental Divide. Under any plan, they say, drawing more water from any Colorado River tributary will have ripple effects felt far downstream, from endangered Colorado River fish near Grand Junction to lettuce growers in the salty deserts near the Mexican border.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


Trout Unlimited, Denver Water, Grand County reach agreement on river protections for Moffat Project #ColoradoRiver

March 5, 2014
Gross Dam

Gross Dam

From email from EarthJustice (McCrystie Adams):

As Denver Water’s proposed Moffat Collection System Project has undergone initial federal permitting review, numerous stakeholders on both sides of the Continental Divide have raised serious concerns about the scheme to bring more water from the Fraser River to the Front Range. Today, two entities announced an agreement with Denver Water that will lead to what is being termed a Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan.

McCrystie Adams, attorney in the Rocky Mountain Office of Earthjustice issued the following statement today:

“We look forward to thoroughly reviewing this private agreement to determine whether it fully addresses the impacts of the potentially river-killing Moffat expansion proposal. Any plan to mitigate additional diversions from this already heavily-stressed river system—or repair past damage—must be independently enforceable and fully funded before a decision to approve the project is made.

“The Fraser and the other streams targeted by this project are the headwaters of one of America’s great river systems, the Colorado, and are of importance far beyond Grand County. We and our conservation partners are committed to keeping these waters flowing. The Moffat permitting process is not complete, and we will continue to evaluate all alternatives to protect the long-term health and preservation of these streams.”

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Three major stakeholders involved in a project to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County, as part of Denver Water’s proposed $250 million Moffat Collection System Project, have reached an agreement to protect the Fraser River and its trout population if the project is ultimately approved. Denver Water, Trout Unlimited and Grand County were party to the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, which was struck on Tuesday. The three parties have submitted it to state and federal agencies reviewing the project…

The Moffat project is designed to shore up Denver Water’s supply system on the north side of metro Denver, an area that came dangerously close to running out of water during the drought of 2002-2003. Denver Water first proposed enlarging Gross Reservoir, so it can hold more water from the Western Slope including the Fraser River, in 2003.

At the center of the agreement is a program to monitor the health of the stream — including water temperature, aquatic life and plant health, according to the announcement. If problems emerge, Denver Water would provide water, money and other resources to improve the condition of the river, according to the agreement.

“This plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO and manager of Denver Water…

The management team will include representatives from the three parties to the agreement as well as from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency, the Colorado River District and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District.

“This package of protections and enhancements, if adopted in the final permit, gives us the best opportunity to keep the Fraser River and its outstanding trout fishery healthy far into the future,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited…

Lurline Curran, Grand County’s manager, said the county reached out to Denver Water and Trout Unlimited to try to get past previous disagreements about the impact of the Moffat Project.

“To all parties’ credit, this effort has succeeded,” Curran said.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project is expected by the end of April, and a final permitting decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in early 2015.

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

As long as I’ve been old enough to hold a fishing rod, maybe longer, I’ve heard there’s no substitute for experience. I suppose that’s why the new Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan announced Tuesday for the Fraser River’s Moffat Collection System Project seems to make so much sense at first glance.

The centerpiece of the package of river protections designed to keep the fragile Fraser River and its fish and wildlife populations healthy in the face of Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project is a concept stakeholders refer to as “learning by doing.” In the working world, it might be considered on-the-job training, only with the enterprising twist of entering into uncharted waters, so to speak.

The notion behind learning by doing is managing the ecological impacts of diverting a significant slice of the Fraser to Front Range water users on a cooperative basis as problems arise. Should the project permit be issued, a management team that includes Denver Water, Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado River District and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District will enact a monitoring program to assess stream health based on specific parameters such as stream temperature, aquatic life and riparian vegetation health.

Rather than focusing efforts on finger pointing when the Fraser’s health suffers from water depletion, the plan is to focus available resources on addressing the actual issue at hand. That means water, money and other resources committed by Denver Water through project mitigation, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and other agreements will be deployed to prevent declines and improve conditions as they are identified. Ideally, what’s learned from the experience will help keep the same problems from recurring again and again.

“Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said in a statement released Tuesday. “Since the beginning of our planning for the Moffat Project, we set out to do the right thing for the environment, and we believe coming together with Trout Unlimited and Grand County on the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan demonstrates a monumental step in making the river better. It’s satisfying that after more than 10 years of study and discussion, Trout Unlimited and Grand County have stayed at the table with us in good faith.”

Calling the agreement “a victory for the river,” Trout Unlimited said the plan closes discussions over the proposed Moffat project designed to improve the reliability of Denver Water’s system by capturing remaining water rights in the upper Colorado basin. Denver Water, Grand County and TU have submitted the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan to federal and state agencies charged with permitting the Moffat Project and have requested that it be made part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit.

“This package of protections and enhancements, if adopted in the final permit, gives us the best opportunity to keep the Fraser River and its outstanding trout fishery healthy far into the future,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project is expected by the end of April, and a final permitting decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in early 2015.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


Trout Unlimited, Denver Water, Grand County reach agreement on river protections for Moffat Project #ColoradoRiver

March 4, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Here’s the release via Denver Water, Grand County, and Colorado Trout Unlimited (Stacy Chesney/Lurline Curran/Mely Whiting):

Denver Water, Trout Unlimited and Grand County today announced agreement on a package of river protections designed to keep the Fraser River and its trout populations healthy.

The Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan brings to a close several years of discussions over the proposed Moffat Collection System Project and its potential impacts on the Fraser River. All sides hailed the stakeholder agreement as a breakthrough that balances municipal needs and environmental health.

Trout Unlimited called the agreement “a victory for the river.”

“This package of protections and enhancements, if adopted in the final permit, gives us the best opportunity to keep the Fraser River and its outstanding trout fishery healthy far into the future,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited. “This pragmatic agreement underscores the value of a collaborative approach to water planning — one that recognizes the value of healthy rivers. It shows that, working together, we can meet our water needs while protecting our fisheries and outdoor quality of life.”

“In an effort to move past a disagreement on impacts from the Moffat Project, Grand County reached out to Denver Water and Trout Unlimited to propose additional environmental mitigations,” said Lurline Curran, Grand County manager. “To all parties’ credit, this effort has succeeded.”

“The Fraser is a river beloved by generations of anglers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts — it’s the lifeblood of our community,” said Kirk Klancke, president of TU’s Colorado River Headwaters chapter in Fraser and a longtime advocate for the river. “As an angler and Fraser Valley resident, I’m gratified that this agreement keeps our home waters healthy and flowing.”

The package includes environmental enhancements and protections to ensure the Fraser River will be better off with the Moffat Project than without it, said Denver Water. The Moffat Project will improve the reliability of Denver Water’s system, which serves 1.3 million people in the Denver-metro area.

The centerpiece of the agreement is Learning by Doing, a monitoring and adaptive management program overseen by a management team that includes Denver Water, Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado River District and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District. Upon the project permit being issued, the management team will implement an extensive monitoring program to assess stream health based on specific parameters including stream temperature, aquatic life and riparian vegetation health. Water, financial and other resources committed by Denver Water through project mitigation, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and other agreements will be deployed to prevent declines and improve conditions where needed.

Learning by Doing is a unique and groundbreaking effort to manage an aquatic environment on a permanent, cooperative basis. Notably, the program will not seek a culprit for changes in the condition of the stream, but will provide a mechanism to identify issues of concern and focus available resources to address those issues. Mitigation measures to prevent impacts of the Moffat Project on stream temperature and aquatic habitat will also be implemented through Learning by Doing.

“Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, this plan represents a new, collaborative way of doing business together when dealing with complex water issues,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “Since the beginning of our planning for the Moffat Project, we set out to do the right thing for the environment, and we believe coming together with Trout Unlimited and Grand County on the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan demonstrates a monumental step in making the river better. It’s satisfying that after more than 10 years of study and discussion, Trout Unlimited and Grand County have stayed at the table with us in good faith.”

Denver Water, Grand County and Trout Unlimited have submitted the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan to federal and state agencies charged with permitting the Moffat Project and have requested that it be made part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project is expected by the end of April, and a final permitting decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected in early 2015.

For more information about the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, see the full agreement here.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


Glenwood Springs proposed RICD application is drawing the attention of other #ColoradoRiver users

February 17, 2014
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

From the Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The West Divide Water Conservancy District of Rifle filed a “statement of opposition” with District Court, Water Division No. 5 on Jan. 27.

West Divide said it is “the owner of vested water rights that may be injured by the granting of this application” to Glenwood Springs.

Other such filings are expected from Denver Water, the Colorado River District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

A “statement of opposition” is typically formulaic and opaque. The filer’s true intent can be hard to discern. It may be genuine opposition, curiosity, or an easy way to monitor a case.

In most cases, parties eventually agree to limits on the proposed water right, which are ultimately reflected in a decree from the water court.

“It’s a long process,” attorney Mark Hamilton of Holland and Hart in Aspen told the Glenwood Springs City Council on Dec. 19. “It can be a slow process. There’s a lot of opportunities for issues to be raised and resolved.”

On Dec. 31, Glenwood Springs applied to secure a steady flow of water in its proposed whitewater parks. It is seeking a base flow of 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs), from April 1 to Sept. 30. It is also claiming the right to 2,500 cfs of water for 46 days between April 30 and July 23.

And it wants the right to 4,000 cfs of water for five days of big-water boating during peak flows between May 11 and July 6.

The rights would be dependent upon rock structures being anchored in the river to create play waves at No Name, Horseshoe Bend and on the stretch of river between the Grand Avenue Bridge and Two Rivers Park, just below downtown Glenwood.

Given the size of the water rights being requested, and because they are on the heavily managed Colorado River, Glenwood’s application is likely to draw interest…

Glenwood’s “non-consumptive” rights would be legally tied to the eventual building of six rock structures in the river, creating two play waves in each of the three parks.

The water would stay in the river, but would run over boulders secured in the riverbed to form waves at high, medium and low flows…

The whitewater park at No Name, about two miles upriver from downtown Glenwood, would use the existing parking lot and restrooms at the CDOT rest stop on Interstate 70. The structures would be just upriver of the rest stop and Glenwood Canyon Resort.

Horseshoe Bend is about a mile above Glenwood, where the existing bike path crosses over the highway and runs by a picnic shelter on BLM land, in a narrow and deep part of Glenwood Canyon.

The third park would be on a wide stretch of river below the Grand Avenue Bridge, but above the confluence of the Colorado and the Roaring Fork rivers, where a pedestrian bridge crosses the Colorado at Two Rivers Park.

The three new parks would be upriver of the existing “Glenwood Wave” in the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park, in West Glenwood…

The River District board voted in January to file a statement in the case, citing protection of its water rights and interstate water agreements.

It also wants to maintain the recently approved Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which speaks to managing the upper Colorado River…

A January memo from Peter Fleming, the general counsel of the River District, said Denver Water “might assert that the claimed flow rates do not follow the strict language of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.”

As such, Fleming said, Denver Water “likely will oppose” Glenwood’s application.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


USACE: Moffat Collection System final EIS to be released on April 25 #ColoradoRiver

February 11, 2014
Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Here’s the release from the US Army Corps of Engineers:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, has announced April 25, 2014 for the release of its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project. At this time the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the Final EIS, which will in turn be considered prior to final decision-making by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Final EIS and public comments, will serve as a basis for the Corps’ decision on whether to issue or deny a Section 404 Permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County, Colo. The Corps is charged with the responsibility of impartially reviewing Denver Water’s proposal in light of environmental and other Federal laws.

A year ago, the Corps had tentatively predicted that the Final EIS would be released in February 2014, however, due to further agency coordination, and a request from Denver Water to work with stakeholders to further refine a mitigation plan to present in the EIS, the schedule was extended.

Background:

Through the Moffat Collection System Project, Denver Water proposes to meet its water supply obligations and provide a more reliable supply infrastructure, while advancing its environmental stewardship. The project intends to enlarge the existing 41,811-acre foot Gross Reservoir to 113,811 AF, which equates to an expanded water surface area from 418 acres to 842 acres. Using existing collection infrastructure, water from the Fraser River, Williams Fork River, Blue River and South Platte River would be diverted and delivered to Denver’s existing water treatment system during average and wet years.

In June 2012, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the president use his authority to coordinate federal agencies to work together more effectively and expeditiously to release a Final EIS. Cooperating agencies involved in the EIS include the Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Division, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Grand County.

To remain up-to-date on the progress of the final report, please visit our Web site at: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/RegulatoryProgram/Colorado/EISMoffat.aspx

Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


Colorado Basin Roundtable advises the Front Range to look elsewhere for new supplies #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

December 9, 2013
Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Colorado can’t have less water running west down the Colorado River, a coalition of water agencies and organizations said in a missive that urged state officials contemplating a state water plan to look elsewhere.

“The West Slope of Colorado, indeed no part of Colorado, can be sacrificed for Front Range growth,” the Colorado River Basin Roundtable said.

It would be “unrealistic to look for significant new supplies of water for the East Slope from the Colorado River as a primary source,” the roundtable said, noting that any new depletions of water from the Colorado River boost the risk that downstream states will demand water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

The roundtable’s position paper was presented to the Interbasin Compact Committee last week in Golden. The committee will play a role in the drafting of a state water plan. There, said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Colorado River Basin position was largely understood.

Most of the state’s transmountain diversions siphon water away from the Colorado and into Front Range waterworks.

“Somebody has already given at the office,” Kuhn said. “They’ve given and given.”

Kuhn is a governor’s appointee to the Interbasin Compact Committee.

Gov. John Hickenlooper charged the Colorado River Water Conservation Board with delivering a draft plan by December 2014 and a final plan by December 2015. One element of the plan is finding a new supply of water and the roundtable said the term “new supply” amounts to a euphemism for another transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system. Any new transmountain diversion must be a last option “after all means of significant conservation, reuse, land use and agricultural transfers based on substantial improvements in efficient water use are exhausted,” the roundtable said.

Several Colorado River water agencies and Denver Water have signed onto a cooperative agreement that includes additional development of Colorado River water for the Front Range.

Those projects should be completed before any new diversions are contemplated, Kuhn said.

The Colorado River basin already supplies between 450,000 and 600,000 acre feet of water to the East Slope for growing cities, farms and industries. Under the compact, the Upper Colorado River Basin is required to deliver 7.5 million acre feet of water to the lower basin. That amount is figured on a 10-year rolling average.

State officials, including Colorado Water Conservation Board director James Eklund, have urged statewide participation in drafting the plan. A plan emanating from Denver would be “anathema” to the rest of the state, Eklund said at the Upper Colorado River Basin Water Conference at Colorado Mesa University last month.

Whatever comes out of the state plan, it should “protect and not threaten the economic, environmental and social well-being of the West Slope,” the roundtable said.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


‘Denver-West Slope water agreement finally final’ — Glenwood Springs Post Independent #ColoradoRiver

December 4, 2013
Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Denver can take a little more water from the Colorado River’s headwaters to increase the reliability of its system, but won’t develop any new transmountain diversions without West Slope agreement and will help repair damage from past diversions.

Those are some of the key provisions in the Colorado Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and 42 West Slope water providers and local governments from the Grand Valley to Grand County.

The Colorado Cooperative Agreement covers a whole suite of issues related to Denver’s diversion of water from the Fraser and Blue River drainages, tributaries to the Colorado River. In October, with little fanfare, this historic agreement received its final signatures and was fully executed. It took five years of mediation and nearly two years of ironing out the details with state and federal agencies, against a backdrop of decades of litigation, to get to this point.

According to material from the Colorado River District’s latest quarterly meeting, the agreement, “is the direct result of Denver Water’s desire to expand its Moffat Tunnel transmountain water supply from the Fraser River in Grand County and to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County.” This project is expected to divert, on average, approximately 18,000 acre feet/year of water beyond the average of 58,000 acre feet/year it already diverts, which amounts to about 60% of the natural flow in the Fraser River at Winter Park.

Under the agreement, the West Slope parties agreed not to oppose the increased Moffat Collection System diversions, and Denver Water agreed not to expand its service area and not to develop new water projects on the West Slope without the agreement of the resident counties and the Colorado River District. The agreement also includes dozens of other provisions designed to limit water demands in Denver and address water quality and flow conditions in the Colorado River and its tributaries. Here’s a sampling:

Denver will contribute both water releases and several million dollars for a “learning by doing” project to improve aquatic habitat in Grand County. The project will be managed by representatives from Denver Water, Grand County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited and other water users.

Denver will not exercise its rights to reduce bypass flows from Dillon Reservoir and its collection system in Grand County during droughts unless it has banned residential lawn watering in its service area.

Diversions and reservoirs operated by both Denver Water and West Slope parties will be operated as if the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon were calling for its (very senior) water right, even at times when the plant is down. This is important for recreational and environmental flows in the river, as well as for junior water users downstream from plant.

Denver Water will pay $1.5 million for water supply, water quality or water infrastructure projects benefiting the Grand Valley, and $500,000 to offset additional costs for water treatment in Garfield County when the Shoshone call is relaxed due to drought conditions.

A similar agreement is under development between West Slope entities and Northern Water, which currently diverts about 220,000 acre feet/year of water from the Upper Colorado River to the Front Range through the Colorado Big Thompson Project. Like the Colorado Cooperative Agreement, the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement trades West Slope non-opposition to increased transmountain diversions for mitigations to address the impacts of both past and future stream depletions.

Both the Colorado Cooperative Agreement and the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement have been hailed as models of cooperation. Meanwhile, East Slope – West Slope tensions continue to mount over how the Colorado Water Plan, currently under development, should address the possibility of additional diversions of water from the West Slope to meet growing urban demands on the Front Range. These agreements demonstrate that such tensions can be overcome, but also that it could take more time than allowed by the 2015 deadline Gov. Hickenlooper has set for completion of the Colorado Water Plan.

Full details on the Colorado Cooperative Agreement can be found on the River District’s website, under “features” at http://www.crwcd.org/. More information on the Colorado Water Plan can be found at http://coloradowaterplan.com/.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Text of the Colorado Basin Roundtable white paper for the IBCC and Colorado Water Plan

December 3, 2013
New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

Here’s the text from the recently approved draft of the white paper:

Introduction
The Colorado River Basin is the “heart” of Colorado. The basin holds the headwaters of the Colorado River that form the mainstem of the river, some of the state’s most significant agriculture, the largest West Slope city and a large, expanding energy industry. The Colorado Basin is home to the most-visited national forest and much of Colorado’s recreation-based economy, including significant river-based recreation.

Colorado’s population is projected by the State Demographer’s Office to nearly double by 2050, from the five million people we have today to nearly ten million. Most of the growth is expected to be along the Front Range urban corridor; however the fastest growth is expected to occur along the I-70 corridor within the Colorado Basin.

Read the rest of this entry »


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

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

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The #ColoradoRiver Cooperative Agreement is now fully executed

November 21, 2013
Colorado River Cooperative Agreement Map

Colorado River Cooperative Agreement Map via the Colorado River District

From the Colorado River District:

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA) is now fully executed with final approval coming from irrigators and water suppliers in the Grand Valley, General Counsel Peter Fleming reported to the Colorado River District Board of Directors.

The CRCA creates a long-term partnership between Denver Water and 42 entities on the West Slope. The agreement is a framework for numerous actions by the parties to benefit water supply, water quality, recreation and the environment on both sides of the Continental Divide.

It is the direct result of Denver Water’s desire to expand its Moffat Tunnel transmountain water supply from the Fraser River in Grand County and to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. While that project is still being permitted, the CRCA represents an enhancement of beneficial actions beyond mitigation yet to be spelled out in the record of decision.

Negotiations on the CRCA concluded in early 2011 and the engaged parties began their approvals. The Grand Valley entities, however, waited until they were satisfied that federal and state reviews of Green Mountain Reservoir and Shoshone Hydro Plant aspects in the agreement were finished and the agreement could be implemented as envisioned.

The CRCA also means the West Slope will not oppose permitting of the Moffat Project. [ed. emphasis mine]

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA) begins a long-term partnership between Denver Water and the West Slope. The agreement is a framework for numerous actions by the parties to benefit water supply, water quality, recreation, and the environment on both sides of the Continental Divide.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Denver Water’s system is at 96% of capacity after the very wet September

October 24, 2013
Denver Water Collection System via Denver Water

Denver Water Collection System via Denver Water

From the Summit Daily News (Joe Moylan):

On Tuesday, Jim Lochhead, CEO and manager of Denver Water, met with the Summit Board of County Commissioners during a workshop in Frisco. Lochhead provided the commissioners with an update on Denver Water’s service system following September’s historic flooding on the Front Range.

Although Lochhead said the system worked “perfectly” in the sense that service to customers was not interrupted and no dams were breached during the flood, Denver Water sustained $15 million to $20 million in damage to roads, exposed conduits and one of its gravel pits located near the South Platte River.

Despite the damage, and Denver Water’s commitment to assist its partner communities in recovering from flood damage, Lochhead said there is a silver lining to take away from the event. According to the most recent reports, Denver Water’s reserves, which consist of 15 fully or partially owned reservoirs across more than 4,000 square miles of watershed in eight counties, is at 96 percent capacity.

Update: Stacy Chesney sent a correction via email:

The story states: “Gross Reservoir near Boulder, for example, increased in capacity by 26 acre-feet as a result of the flooding, Lochhead said.” As a result of the storms, Gross Reservoir gained 7,600 acre-feet of water and went up in elevation by 19.6 feet. This equates to an increase in storage of about 26 percent.

Gross Reservoir near Boulder, for example, increased in capacity by 26 acre-feet as a result of the flooding, Lochhead said. Gross Reservoir’s capacity is 41,811 acre-feet, according to Denver Water’s website.

Lake Dillon, Denver Water’s largest reservoir at 257,304 acre-feet, also is reporting some of its highest seasonal levels in history, Lochhead said.

But the increased water capacity presents a handful of short-term challenges, Lochhead said, including spring water management should the High Country receive dense snowpack this winter. All of its water comes from mountain snowmelt, according to the Denver Water website.

More important, however, is the fact that the recent increase in capacity does little to ease future water shortage concerns as Denver, the Front Range and the rest of Colorado continue to grow in population…

Lochhead’s idea is fairly simple — encourage upward, rather than outward growth along the Front Range and the challenges surrounding water conservation will begin to remedy themselves.

For example, a single-family home with a garden in Denver uses the same amount of water as a four-unit building constructed on a similar-sized lot, he said. However, much of the growth on the Front Range is sprawling away from urban centers; meeting growing water needs is only exacerbated by the current trend of purchasing or building single-family homes on quarter-acre lots.

It’s a type of growth that is unsustainable not only in terms of water use, Lochhead said, but also in terms of providing services, such as transportation and energy delivery, because property tax revenue cannot meet the needs that come with a sprawling population.

More Denver Water coverage here.


Colorado River Basin: Denver Water, et. al., are operating under the Shoshone Outage Protocol

April 4, 2013

shoshoneglenwoodcanyon.jpg

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

Two back-to-back, drought-plagued winters in Western Colorado have triggered an agreement to “relax” a senior water rights call on the Colorado River at the Shoshone Hydro Plant to allow water providers to store more water this spring, a move that benefits Denver Water and the West Slope.

The Shoshone Hydro Plant is owned by Xcel Energy and is located in Glenwood Canyon. Its senior 1902 water right of 1,250 cubic feet a second (cfs), when called, is administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights upstream that include Denver Water’s Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir.

The agreement “relaxes” the call to 704 cfs when river flows are low, or takes a Shoshone call totally off the river when flows are rising, which is the current situation. This practice gives the upstream juniors water rights holders the ability to store water once the spring runoff begins in earnest. Currently, the Colorado River is flowing through Glenwood Canyon at about 825 cfs. (The long-term historical average for this date is about 1,150 cfs.)

Two tripping points activate the agreement: when Denver Water forecasts its July 1 reservoir storage to be 80 percent of full or less, and when the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center predicts spring runoff flows at Kremmling in Grand County will be less than or equal to 85 percent of average. Currently, the reservoir forecast is 74 percent full on July 1 and the Kremmling forecast is 60 percent of average.

Denver Water has already enacted its Stage 2 Drought Restrictions to limit outdoor water use and enact other conservation measures.

The winter of 2012 was the fourth worst on record in the Colorado River Basin and 2013 has been tracking just as poorly. The only improvement between the two winters occurred in March 2013 as storms continued to build snowpack. By this time in 2012, runoff was already under way.
The relaxation period is between March 14 and May 20, in deference to boating season on the river and irrigation needs in the basin.

As for the water that Denver Water gains by the relaxation, 15 percent of the net gain is saved for Xcel Energy power plant uses in the Denver Metro Area and 10 percent is delivered to West Slope entities yet to be determined by agreement between Denver Water and the Colorado River District.

“This is a statewide drought, and we all need to work together to manage water resources for the health and safety of our residents, our economic vitality and the environment,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Shoshone Outage Protocol are great examples of the partnership between Denver Water and the West Slope to do just that. Last year, even though the CRCA was not yet in effect, Denver Water released water to the river even though the Shoshone Power Plant was not operating and the call was not on. This year, under the Denver Water-Xcel Energy agreement, the Shoshone call will be relaxed.”

“Relaxing the Shoshone water right in this limited way benefits the West Slope as well,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn. “It might make the difference between having a full supply at Green Mountain Reservoir and not having a full supply. In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later.”


USACE: Moffat Project Final EIS to move toward completion

March 4, 2013

grossdamandreservoirenlargement.jpg

Here’s the release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Margaret Oldham):

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, has announced a tentative date for the release of its Final Environmental Impact Statement for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project. With federal and state agency and the applicant, Denver Water’s concurrence, the Corps anticipates that the projected Final EIS will be released in February 2014. At that time, the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the Final EIS, which will in turn be considered prior to final decision-making by the Corps.

The Final EIS and public comments will serve as a basis for the Corps’ decision on whether to issue or deny a Section 404 Permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County, Colo. The Corps’ regulatory program is authorized by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to regulate certain waterways-related activities. As the lead regulatory agency for the Moffat Project EIS, the Corps is charged with the responsibility of impartially reviewing Denver Water’s proposal to ensure compliance with environmental and other federal laws.

“We are confident that our latest schedule gives us a path forward toward an expeditious conclusion to the federal permit evaluation process,” said Omaha District Commander Col. Joel R. Cross. “Everyone involved with the project is committed to working together to fulfill the requirements of a Final EIS, which will bring us closer to making a final decision on Denver Water’s project.”

Background:

The state of Colorado is proactively seeking solutions for meeting its future water needs while ensuring the health of its rivers and streams. Through the Moffat Collection System Project, Denver Water proposes to meet its water supply obligations and provide a more reliable supply infrastructure, while advancing its environmental stewardship. The project intends to enlarge the existing 41,811-acre foot Gross Reservoir to 113,811 AF, which equates to an expanded water surface area from 418 acres to 818 acres. Using existing collection infrastructure, water from the Fraser River, Williams Fork River, Blue River and South Platte River would be diverted and delivered to Denver’s existing water treatment system during average and wet years.

In June 2012, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the president use his authority to coordinate federal agencies to bring an expeditious conclusion to the federal permitting process for the project. The Corps, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Division, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Grand County have worked together to meet Federal requirements for the Final EIS while satisfying state and local concerns.

To remain up-to-date on the progress of the final report, please visit our Web site at: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/RegulatoryProgram/Colorado/EISMoffat.aspx

Or, email us at: cenwo-web-regulatory-co@usace.army.milto be added to our email distribution list.

Here’s a statement from Jim Lockhead (Denver Water) about the Corps release:

“We are pleased to see the state and federal agencies come together to commit to a sound timeline for the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project next February.

We’re in the second year of a severe drought. If the Moffat Project were in place today, we would have been able to store more water during the high flow runoff two years ago that we could now use. In a dry year like this one, we would not be diverting additional water under this project.

Moreover, under the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, we would actually be giving water back to the environment in this dry year.

As a result, Denver Water’s Moffat Project would be a win-win for this state: it would make possible our ability to benefit the environment in dry years like this one, and it would bring additional water for our metro area, which we desperately need in this drought.”

Here’s a statement from Colorado Trout Unlimited (David Nickum):

“We’re pleased that the Army Corps of Engineers is taking more time to evaluate the impacts of the Moffat expansion project on the Fraser River, a great trout river cherished by generations of Coloradans and crucial to the economy of Grand County.

The draft EIS was badly flawed, in that it failed to adequately address project impacts on the river. It’s more important to do this permit right than to do it fast. We urge the Corps to take these additional months to correct those deficiencies and ensure that the Fraser receives adequate protection.

Denver Water’s 2011 Cooperative Agreement with West Slope water users was a great step forward in addressing current impacts on the Fraser caused by diversions -but as TU, Grand County officials and others noted at the time, the agreement did not address the future impacts of the Moffat expansion on the Fraser. That’s why it’s critical that the EIS thoroughly documents the expected project impacts so that appropriate protections can be designed.

From day one, we’ve pointed to several protections that need to be included with this project: preventing elevated stream temperatures, providing adequate flushing flows, and using monitoring and adaptive management to deal with future uncertainty about the project’s impacts and the river’s health.

Without these additional protections, the Fraser River could be diverted to death. Denver residents and Denver Water customers want healthy rivers-and they’re looking to Denver Water and federal agencies to protect this magnificent resource.”

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

“We had projected a date of January 2013 … It was not intended to be a firm date, but it got presented as a firm date,” said Tim Carey, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulatory office.

“I would not say this is a delay … We’re really trying to make certain that we have adequately studied and addressed the impacts,” Carey said, adding that the new release date is also tentative at this point.

Once the final environmental impact statement is released, there will be another opportunity for public comment before the Corps decides whether, and under what conditions, to permit a Section 404 Permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir, in Boulder County.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


Fraser River: Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project is focus of short film from Trout Unlimited #coriver

February 3, 2013

From The Denver Post Spot Blog (Lynn Bartels):

“It’s a lighthearted effort to highlight a serious problem: diversions are killing the Fraser River,” David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said in a news release.

“Trout and other aquatic life need cold, clean water to survive,” said Nickum. “But at present, Denver Water is sucking many tributaries to the Fraser completely dry through its Moffat Tunnel Collection System. We’re in danger of destroying a priceless state resource and major recreation area for Front Range residents. Coloradans need to tell Denver Water: don’t kill the river.”[...]

“Denver residents care about our mountain resources — as customers, we’re asking Denver Water to be a good steward of these resources,” said Becky Long of Conservation Colorado…

“Denver Water understands the importance of a healthy river,” said spokeswoman Stacy Chesney. “We understand that water supply projects do have impacts, but not only will we offset those impacts through required mitigation, but also we will go above and beyond to make the river better.”

Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (David Nickum):

Denver Water already sucks 60% of the annual flows from the Fraser River, and they now want to take more: another 15%. Sign the Defend the Colorado petition today and tell Denver that before they take more water, they need to protect the Fraser River. Tell Denver Water: Don’t Suck the Fraser River Dry!

If you see a lost-looking trout walking the streets of downtown Denver in coming weeks, don’t be alarmed. He’s just looking for some water. Any water.

He urgently needs your help.

We recently filmed this trout’s sad dilemma. Left high and dry in the Fraser Valley, where Denver Water is sucking the life out of the Fraser River and its tributaries, our refugee trout hitchhiked to Denver to try to find out who moved his water and where he can get a few drops.

Check out the short video– it’s a lighthearted effort to highlight a serious problem: Denver Water is diverting the Fraser River to death…

You might not know that much of Denver’s water comes from across the Continental Divide, in Grand County, where the Moffat pipeline each year drains 60 percent of the Fraser River’s annual flows, leaving dozens of tributaries sucked completely dry. Denver Water’s proposed expansion of that pipeline would take another 15 percent of flows, leaving an already damaged river on life support.

It’s not just trout and wildlife at risk—our mountain towns and state tourism economy are also threatened. If you love to fish, ski, raft, hike, camp or otherwise recreate in the mountains, this hits you where you live.

We simply can’t keep sucking the lifeblood out of the Fraser and expect it to remain a living river.

If Denver Water is to move forward with the Moffat expansion, they must take steps to ensure it is done in a way that won’t destroy the Fraser River. For months, a coalition of conservation organizations, landowners, and recreation businesses have been calling on Denver Water to take a few responsible, cost-effective steps to protect the Fraser:

  • ensure healthy “flushing” flows in the river to clean out silt and algae.
  • avoid taking water during high water temperatures, when trout and aquatic life are vulnerable.
  • monitor the river’s health and take action as needed to prevent further declines.
  • We’ve presented these concerns to Denver Water, but so far they’ve been unwilling to work with us to adopt this common-sense package of protections.

    This is where you come in. Denver Water will listen to their customers. We need Denver-area residents—and anyone who cares about Colorado’s rivers and wild places—to tell Denver Water that you want them to “finish the job” of protecting the Fraser River.

    Please—go right now to the Defend the Colorado webpage to sign a petition asking Denver Water board members to protect the Fraser. We know they will respond to public pressure—but that means you need to take a few minutes and sign the petition. It will make a difference for the Fraser River and for our homeless trout, but only if you act now.

    Denver Water won’t act if they think Coloradans don’t know enough or care enough to demand a higher level of river stewardship.

    So do something good for our rivers today. Sign the petition and tell Denver Water: don’t suck—protect the Fraser River.

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.


    Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: Slow, steady progress seen #coriver

    January 12, 2013

    coloradorivercooperativeagreementmap.jpg

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Negotiations to finalize a sweeping in-state water agreement for the Colorado River Basin continue to drag on, but holdout Western Slope entities have conditionally approved it pending resolution of outstanding issues.

    The proposed deal was announced in April 2011 and involves Denver Water and more than 30 Western Slope entities. In September, Peter Fleming, general counsel for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, based in Glenwood Springs, expressed hope that it would be finalized by the end of October. But final approval continues to await the conclusion of negotiations on two major issues ­­­— the senior water right for Xcel Energy’s Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon and future administration of Green Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling.

    Conditional approvals to the overall deal have been given by the river district and all Grand Valley entities involved with the it.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Boulder County won’t yet sign IGA with Denver Water for Moffat Collection System Project

    January 9, 2013

    grossdamandreservoirenlargement.jpg

    From the Boulder Daily Camera (Amy Bounds) via the Longmont Times-Call:

    The Boulder County commissioners on Monday night declined to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Denver Water, withholding their approval for a planned expansion of Gross Reservoir.

    About 40 residents and environmentalists, in a public hearing that lasted three-and-a-half hours, urged the county commissioners not to sign the agreement, citing concerns that ranged from noise to traffic safety to Denver Water’s need to conserve instead of expand…

    The intergovernmental agreement would have established a pool of at least $500,000 to compensate area residents and another $2 million the county could use to limit urban sprawl or pay out to residents. Another $4 million would have gone toward the preservation of land around Gross Reservoir. Another $500,000 would have been contributed to use for forest treatments on private property, $1 million to assist the Coal Creek Canyon Parks and Recreation District with its master plan goals and $250,000 for recreation projects recommended by the Preserve Unique Magnolia Association. Other conditions included requiring dust mitigation on gravel roads and improvements to Colo. 72 and affected county roads.

    But, public speakers said, the limits were too vague and the amount of money that would be contributed much too low. “Don’t take the minuscule bribe that Denver Water is proposing,” said Coal Creek Canyon resident Anita Wilks. “No amount of mitigation will be enough.”[...]

    County staff members, who recommended approval of the intergovernmental agreement, have said a 1041 permit denial likely would result in a legal fight. County open space attorney Conrad Lattes previously said that Denver Water has contended that Boulder County’s 1041 powers would be pre-empted by a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permit that Denver Water is seeking. Although the county has not conceded that issue, he said the agreement would give the county more flexibility than the 1041 process and would avoid extensive litigation.

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


    Grand County and Northern Water are in negotiations for a 1041 permit for the Windy Gap Firming Project #CORiver

    November 4, 2012

    windygapreservoirnorthernwater.jpg

    Here’s an analysis of last week’s meeting from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Working through a list of 32 conditions for the permit, representatives from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District sat before commissioners in the boardroom of the Grand County Administration Building on Tuesday, along with Grand County’s water counsel, and hashed out wording of each of the conditions in search of agreements among stakeholders…

    Aside from disagreements about three different monitoring plans mentioned in conditions of the permit, at least one other condition remains a sticking point — a condition involving the clarity of Grand Lake. The county has proposed a condition stating the permit for the Windy Gap Firming Project will not go into effect until a federal plan, on course to include a National Environmental Policy Act process, is in place — charting the way toward a solution of the Grand Lake clarity problem. Grand County Commissioner Gary Bumgarner put pressure on Northern representatives during Tuesday’s hearing about needed “assurances” that a solution will be realized for Colorado’s largest natural water body. Bumgarner advocated for language “that holds feet to the fire.”

    But Northern representatives objected to the project’s 1041 permit being conditional upon a long federal process concerning Grand Lake’s clarity problem. Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said it was a matter of “authority and responsibility.” The municipal subdistrict seeking to firm up rights to Windy Gap water “doesn’t have the authority to control the other entities involved in the clarity issue,” he said. “It puts them in a position of being responsible without the authority to do something.”[...]

    Concerning another condition on the Windy Gap bypass, the county proposes the “bypass/bythrough study shall commence on or before issuance of this 2012 permit” and if the study deems it, construction of the bypass “shall proceed” with cooperation on financing it among the parties. A 2011 Colorado Parks and Wildlife report by Barry Nehring concluded that the Colorado River below Windy Gap has suffered due to the reservoir, and that creating a bypass would be a solution…

    no party knows yet how much a bypass around the reservoir might cost or where the money would come from. The Subdistrict has agreed to provide $250,000 toward research of a bypass, which is expected to reduce high temperature events caused by the dam, reduce sedimentation deposition, restore river connectivity, and reduce the impacts of whirling disease. About $3 million in funds — $2 million by Northern and possibly $1 million by Denver Water if negotiations are successful — would be available to construct the bypass and the construction would take place immediately after the study finds that the bypass would be beneficial to the river. There is the possibility another $2 million could be found from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


    Conservation groups raise issues with fast-tracking the Moffat Collection System Project

    October 28, 2012

    grossdam.jpg

    Here’s the text of a letter from the Colorado Environmental Coalition, et. al., to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers:

    We write to express our serious concerns with the permitting process for the Moffat Collection System Expansion Project proposed by Denver Water. Governor Hickenlooper has submitted a letter calling for the permitting process to be expedited, and our understanding is that finalizing the Environmental Impact Statement has been put on a fast track for completion. While we certainly support the agencies in working promptly and efficiently on this project – indeed on any of their permitting work – the desire for speedy completion should not come at the expense of completing the studies and analyses needed to accurately assess and disclose impacts, and to honestly determine the “Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative” pursuant to the Clean Water Act.

    The Governor’s letter touts the benefits of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and west slope interests as an important factor in moving Moffat permits forward. We agree that the Cooperative Agreement takes many important steps in addressing the current challenges facing the Upper Colorado River watershed. What it does not do is address the impacts of the new Moffat Collection System Expansion Project. Any suggestion that the Cooperative Agreement has somehow reduced or eliminated concerns about the Moffat Collection System Expansion Project or the need to rigorously evaluate its impacts and design mitigation is simply wrong. Our constituencies are not satisfied with Moffat Collection System Expansion Project moving forward without significant further environmental disclosure and mitigation requirements.

    Our organizations remain gravely concerned with the potential impacts on the Fraser and Williams Fork watersheds and the Upper Colorado River due to the depletions proposed under the Moffat Collection System Expansion Project. Specific concerns which have been raised previously in the public process surrounding this project include:

    Temperature. Already sections of Ranch Creek, the Fraser River, and the Upper Colorado exceed water quality standards for temperature and are listed on the Colorado 303(d) list of impaired waters. Further flow depletions during the summer months, as proposed under the Moffat Collection System Expansion, cannot help but extend and worsen these problems absent operational restrictions (such as curtailment of diversions during periods of elevated temperature) or strong mitigation (channel reconfiguration, riparian restoration). The Draft EIS can, at best, be said to have given short shrift to this issue – particularly since it is a water quality issue where the affected environment is already experiencing water quality standard violations.

    Sedimentation. This issue was similarly given a dismissive treatment in the Draft EIS. However, as evidenced by a sediment transport study completed by Dr Brian Bledsoe (previously submitted to you and shared with us by Trout Unlimited) – and as is obvious to all of us who have spent time in the Fraser River and seen the evidence of excessive sediment building up with our own eyes – sedimentation is a significant issue and one that will be worsened by the loss of flushing flows under the Moffat Collection System Expansion. As with temperature, operating requirements (such as mandatory flushing flows) or mitigation measures (such as channel reconfiguration to promote sediment transport at a lower flow) are needed.

    Impacts to Recreation and Tourism. The river-based recreation and tourism economy of Grand County and the Colorado River basin are highly dependent on predictable and sufficient streamflows to attract visitors to the area seeking world-class rafting, kayaking, and float-fishing opportunities. In the Upper Colorado River, commercial rafting alone contributes nearly $10 Million dollars in economic benefit, and is enjoyed by over 32,000 visitors a year. Our concern is that not enough analysis has been made of how the Moffat Collection System Expansion will reduce streamflows that support this important industry. The impacts from additional depletions out of the Fraser and Colorado River Systems on existing river-based recreation have not been adequately disclosed, nor have the project proponents made available to the public the models of how future streamflow conditions are likely to change – attributable to the Moffat Collection system solely. Changes in streamflow, and the potential loss of a sustainable recreation economy in Colorado is very concerning to us, and we feel deserves a more substantive review.

    Adaptive management. Even if the Corps and EPA were able to complete thorough impact studies that gave adequate guidance to disclose impacts and design mitigation for temperature and sedimentation – a premise that we fear may in itself be flawed given the rush to move forward a Final EIS – there will still be major uncertainty about the impacts associated with Moffat Collection System Expansion. Simply put, there is a real risk that diversions at the level proposed for the Fraser – with a cumulative total of 75% of water being removed from the environment – may cause unanticipated adverse effects. Scientists call these “nonlinear” responses, points where passing a certain threshold can lead to dramatically increased impacts.

    Front Range Impacts. In addition we remain seriously concerned about impacts that would occur on the Front Range, namely in Boulder County where Gross Reservoir and dam would be dramatically increased in size. These impacts—and the concerns of County property owners— have not be adequately addressed yet either.

    In light of these unpredictable impacts, coupled with the apparent desire to quickly complete analysis of even more predictable impacts, we urge you to include strong monitoring and adaptive management requirements in any permit for Moffat Collection System Expansion. These should include monitoring of the physical, chemical and biologic conditions of the streams affected by the project and require implementation of measures to prevent degradation of aquatic and riparian ecosystems, to be paid for by the project beneficiary—Denver Water. Monitoring must be broad and thorough enough to determine changes in fish, aquatic invertebrate, and plant populations, as well as assessing water quality, and particularly water temperature as indicators of degradation.

    While these efforts should be coordinated with the “Learning by Doing” effort from the Cooperative Agreement, they must be a specific and separate requirement of the permit. Learning by Doing – like the rest of the Cooperative Agreement – was not designed to address the impacts of the new Moffat Collection System Expansion, indeed by its own terms it does not address mitigation. It is the job of the Corps and EPA to ensure mitigation as a condition of any approved permit, and a robust adaptive management plan should be required. Given the inherent difficulty of predicting impacts at such high levels of diversion from a river, and in light of the Governor’s stated desire to expedite permitting for Moffat Collection System Expansion, a program by which river health continues to be monitored and Denver Water remains responsible for mitigating the actual effects of their project – not just those that can be accurately predicted in the current EIS process – offers the best opportunity for moving the project forward while ensuring that water quality and ecosystem health can be protected for the future.

    In short “fast tracking” this process will only undercut the good work that has been done to date. Any assurances you have heard that “everyone” is on board with the Moffat Collection System Expansion proceeding without the required review and mitigation are simply not true. Our organizations and the more than 180,000 members we represent remain deeply concerned about what the Moffat Collection System Expansion will mean for the health of the Fraser, Williams Fork and Upper Colorado watersheds. We support the permitting process moving forward only if it includes thorough assessment and mitigation to address temperature and sedimentation concerns, and a robust monitoring and adaptive management requirement.

    As Colorado moves forward in planning for our water supply future we must ensure that we “do it right”. This is both an enormous opportunity as well as an incredible responsibility. Let’s work together to ensure that the river, our communities and our state are not short-changed in an effort to move quickly.

    The letter was signed by: Becky Long, Colorado Environmental Coalition; Bart Miller, Western Resource Advocates; Steve Glazer, Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club; Nathan Fey, American Whitewater.

    Update: A thousand pardons. I left three signatures off in the list above: Gary Wockner, Clean Water Action; Jen Bock, High Country Citizens Alliance; Matt Rice, American Rivers.

    Thanks to Coyote Gulch reader Doug Pflugh for the heads up.

    More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit Daily Voice. Here’s an excerpt:

    “We’re worried that that we’re going to hit fast forward and miss some things,” said Becky Long, water caucus coordinator with the Colorado Environmental Coalition, explaining why several groups recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, reiterating their concerns about water temperatures and sediment loading in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

    The fast-tracking was requested by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper back in June. In a June 5 letter to President Barack Obama, Hickenlooper touted a far-reaching water agreement as “removing” West Slope opposition to the Moffat project, and urged the Corps to release a final Environmental Impact Statement by the end of 2012, followed by a formal decision in early 2013.

    The letter illustrates the governor’s fundamental misunderstanding of the NEPA process, which requires agencies to take a “hard look” at impacts and alternatives. It shows that, despite claims to the contrary, the Colorado water establishment is still focused on the folly of more water development and storage as the primary answer to the state’s drought woes. It also shows that state leaders still don’t understand that Colorado could easily — and much less expensively — use basic conservation measures to save as much or more water than would be stored by the Moffat project.

    And while it’s true that institutional West Slope water users agreed to not oppose the Moffat Project — a devil’s bargain to some — the environmental community still has serious concerns about the increased diversions.

    On top of all that, Long said rumors have circulated that the conservation community is OK with the Moffat project and the mitigation measures that have been proposed during the early phases of the review process. The letter to EPA regional director Jim Martin and Corps of Engineers regional commander Joel Cross was sent partially to refute those rumors.

    More Moffat Collection System coverage here and here.


    ‘Water Wranglers’ is George Sibley’s new book about the Colorado River District #coriver

    October 10, 2012

    georgesibleyfromgardsibleyorg.jpg

    waterwranglersgeorgesibley2012.jpg

    Here’s the link to the web page where you can order a copy. Here’s the pitch:

    Water Wranglers
    The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District:
    A Story About the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West

    The Colorado River is one of America’s wildest rivers in terms of terrain and natural attributes, but is actually modest in terms of water quantity – the Mississippi surpasses the Colorado’s annual flow in a matter of days. Yet the Colorado provides some or all of the domestic water for some 35 million Southwesterners, most of whom live outside of the river’s natural course in rapidly growing desert cities. It fully or partially irrigates four-million acres of desert land that produces much of America’s winter fruits and vegetables. It also provides hundreds of thousands of people with recreational opportunities. To put a relatively small river like the Colorado to work, however, has resulted in both miracles and messes: highly controlled use and distribution systems with multiplying problems and conflicts to work out, historically and into the future.

    Water Wranglers is the story of the Colorado River District’s first seventy-five years, using imagination, political shrewdness, legal facility, and appeals to moral rightness beyond legal correctness to find balance among the various entities competing for the use of the river’s water. It is ultimately the story of a minority seeking equity, justice, and respect under democratic majority rule – and willing to give quite a lot to retain what it needs.

    The Colorado River District was created in 1937 with a dual mission: to protect the interests of the state of Colorado in the river’s basin and to defend local water interests in Western Colorado – a region that produces 70 percent of the river’s total water but only contains 10 percent of the state’s population.

    To order the book, visit the Wolverine Publishing website at http://wolverinepublishing.com/water-wranglers. It can also be found at the online bookseller Amazon.

    More Colorado River District coverage here.


    Colorado River Cooperative Agreement implementation at hand

    September 13, 2012

    coloradorivercooperativeagreementmap.jpg

    Here’s a short report from the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

    Colorado’s largest water utility and more than 30 western slope providers are expected to begin implementing an agreement balancing the Denver-area’s demand for water with the needs of mountain communities as early as next month. According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel a project spokesman said Tuesday a few more signatures are needed.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Patty Limerick’s ‘A Ditch in Time: The City, the West, and Water’ book signing Wednesday on the CU campus

    September 4, 2012

    aditchintimepattylimerick.jpg

    Limerick is a terrific speaker and writer so I’ve been looking forward to her book about Denver Water for a while now. Here’s the book description from the Tattered Cover website.

    “The history of water development…offers a particularly fine post for observing the astonishing and implausible workings of historical change and, in response, for cultivating an appropriate level of humility and modesty in our anticipations of our own unknowable future.”

    Tracing the origins and growth of the Denver Water Department, this study of water and its unique role and history in the West, as well as in the nation, raises questions about the complex relationship among cities, suburbs, and rural areas, allowing us to consider this precious resource and its past, present, and future with both optimism and realism.

    Patricia Nelson Limerick is the faculty director and board chair of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, where she is also a professor of history and environmental studies. She currently serves as the vice president for the teaching division of the American Historical Association. Her most widely read book, “The Legacy of Conquest,” is in its twenty-fifth year of publication.

    Here’s a review of the book from Jane Earle writing for Your Colorado Water Blog. Here’s an excerpt:

    The line [for a history of Denver Water] went back in the budget and, backed by Chips Barry, then Manager of Denver Water, it was passed by the Board. This time, the proposal was to ask Patricia Limerick, Colorado’s McArther prize winning historian, to write the history. And that was my idea. This time, it was [Charlie Jordan] who was incredulous. After all, Professor Limerick was not always kind to the white builders in her history of the West, “The Legacy of Conquest.” But that was why I wanted her: No one could accuse Denver Water of commissioning a coffee table book about the glories of its past if Patricia Limerick was the author. Chips was beguiled by the idea. The rest is history, as they say. This time, literally.

    Professor Limerick doesn’t call her book a history of Denver Water. She subtitles it, “The City, the West, and Water.” It’s well named. She has set the story of some of the major events in the development of Denver’s water system in their proper geographic and historic context. The contributions of the people who built the water system and their legacy are stories that needed to be told. They were men of vision who could imagine a great city on the treeless plain next to the (mostly dry) South Platte River.

    Here’s an interview with Ms. Limerick from the Colorado Water 2012 website.

    More Denver Water coverage here and here.


    Northern Integrated Supply Project: Supplemental Draft EIS due Fall 2013

    August 22, 2012

    gladereservoirsitenorthernwater.jpg

    Here’s an excerpt from a recent Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District eNews email:

    Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May requesting an expeditious conclusion to the National Environmental Policy Act study being conducted by the Army Corps for the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

    In a response to the governor, Corps of Engineers Colonel Robert Ruch, responded that his agency anticipates the Supplemental Draft EIS for NISP will be released to the public in the Fall of 2013. “The size of the proposals, types of analyses, and the amount of interest they have generated has resulted in substantial reviews,” Colonel Ruch wrote. “Please be assured that I have made the review of all ongoing water supply actions in the Omaha District’s purview a high priority for my Regulatory staff.”

    This was positive news on many fronts. First, is that a definite date for the release of the SDEIS has been given. The SDEIS process began in February 2009. Second, having Gov. Hickenlooper weigh in on the project is enormous. While not an endorsement, his insistence that the studies be brought to conclusion and his affirmation that wise water development, including projects like NISP, are a necessity in Colorado, was welcome indeed.

    The Governor also referenced the ongoing drought in Colorado and the pressing need for water for NISP water providers. He also committed the State to moving through their approval process in a timely manner.

    Governor Hickenlooper also wrote a letter to President Obama where he addressed Denver Water’s Moffat Enlargement Project and its ongoing permitting process.

    In the letter he states, “Colorado is at a critical juncture in forging a more secure future for the development and management of water supplies critical to both our economy and the natural environment that makes our state so great.” Governor Hickenlooper added, “Therefore, 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.”

    More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here


    Windy Gap Firming Project: ‘No bypass or increased flushing flows, no permit’ — Kirk Klancke

    August 9, 2012

    windygapmoffatfirmingboulderviewpoint.jpg

    From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Tulley):

    The hearing gave all of the interested parties a chance to voice their opinions and concerns about the project before it was submitted to the Grand County Commissioners for approval or denial.

    Enhancements and mitigations to the Colorado River, Grand Lake, and Willow Creek are part of the proposed agreement and include a bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir, larger flushing flows for the Upper Colorado River, and a list of other possible mitigation measures.

    Planned mitigation measures

    The existing diversions at Windy Gap take 60 percent of native flows out of the Upper Colorado and the proposed expansion to the project would take another estimated 15-20 percent of flows, according to Trout Unlimited.

    “Under present plans, expanding Windy Gap would make a bad situation worse because it would increase periods of low flows and significantly reduce runoff, which is critical to clean the river of excess silt and sediment contributed by Windy Gap Reservoir,” said Amelia Whiting, counsel for TU’s Colorado Water Project.

    Mitigations and enhancements meant to address the impacts are proposed in the agreement for the Colorado River, Grand Lake, and Willow Creek.

    “We are not opposed to this project, we just want to see the right mitigations take place,” said Kirk Klancke, president of the Headwaters of the Colorado chapter of Trout Unlimited. “No bypass or increased flushing flows, no permit.”

    The enhancements that are proposed were the main topic of discussion during the meeting as interested parties made arguments for specific mitigation’s and enhancements.

    Each party agreed that the river would be better off with the proposed mitigations and enhancements than it would be without them. However, the parties differed about which mitigations should take priority.

    Some of the parties who voiced their opinions about the proposed mitigation’s and enhancements include the Upper Colorado River Alliance, Trout Unlimited, Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Town of Grand Lake, and members of the public.

    Some of the main enhancements that are proposed are the construction of a bypass around or through Windy Gap Reservoir and increased flushing flows to the Colorado, which would help to restore the habitat of the gold-medal fishing waters below the Windy Gap Dam.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


    Fraser River: ‘Eisenhower Reach’ dedicated July 14

    July 19, 2012

    eisenhowerfishing.jpg

    From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Tulley):

    President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, who vacationed and fished in the Fraser Valley, will receive recognition across the state and this will help to preserve the history of the valley, [Fraser Mayor Peggy Smith] said.

    Thanks were given by the speakers at the event to the sponsors of the state resolution which created the Eisenhower Reach, state Rep. Randy Baumgardner and state Sen. Jeanne Nicholson. The resolution passed through both the Senate and House of Representatives without a single nay vote, according to Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited…

    The dedication was lighthearted and fun, but the elephant in the room seemed to be the Moffat Firming Project. Denver Water’s Moffat Firming Project has been in the works since 2003, and the approval process is nearing completion, according to Klancke…

    Trout Unlimited is not totally opposed to supplying more water to the Denver area; however, they are asking for certain mitigation efforts to be undertaken if the Moffat Project is approved…

    The proposed mitigations Trout Unlimited wants to see as part of the deal include:

    • Management of water supply to ensure adequate flows with seasonal flushing to clear out sediment and to keep the temperature of the river cool;

    • Funding to deepen the river channels and add streamside plants for shade;

    • Intensive monitoring of the river and aquatic life in order to prevent and respond to negative changes in trout and other aquatic species;

    • And a bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir to help restore the Colorado River’s flow and overall health below the Windy Gap Dam (to offset reduced flows from Windy Gap diversions).

    More Fraser River coverage here and here.


    Glenwood Springs: Council approves the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

    June 9, 2012

    coloradorivercooperativeagreementmap.jpg

    From The Aspen Times (John Stroud):

    Glenwood Springs City Council voted 5-1 at its Thursday meeting to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. The vote came more than a month after the proposal was first presented for council’s consideration.

    “It’s unheard of that so many entities are willing to talk about what works for everyone,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said, in favor of signing onto the agreement.

    Added Mayor Matt Steckler, “It’s not perfect, but this is something we have been working on for over a year. I don’t see what not signing it is going to do.”

    Councilman Dave Sturges dissented, saying he supports the efforts to reach an agreement on the use of Colorado River water. But he felt the agreement fell short in some areas and that the public had not had an adequate opportunity to weigh in.[ed. True, the agreement was hammered out under Non-Disclosure agreements amongst the parties.] “We’re not under the gun to act on this,” Sturges said. “There are still some questions, and I think the public ought to assist us in how we view those questions.”

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    The Denver Post editorial board weighs in on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

    May 20, 2012

    coloradorivergranby.jpg

    From The Denver Post:

    One of the linchpins is that Denver Water, which serves more than 1.3 million customers on the Front Range, gets approval for the expansion of Gross Reservoir near Boulder. The utility needs the project so it may ensure adequate water for customers on the northern edge of its service area…

    The agreement calls for Western Slope parties to not oppose — and in some cases support — the Moffat Collection System project, which includes the reservoir expansion.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Hot Sulphur Springs: Denver Water along with Grand and Summit counties to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement today

    May 15, 2012

    coloradorivergranby.jpg

    From the Associated Press via The Aspen Times:

    Denver Water and the leaders of Grand and Summit counties are set to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement at noon Tuesday in Hot Sulphur Springs. Denver Water and nearly three dozen Western Slope water users announced the proposal last year. Eagle County and its water districts became the first to sign in February. The endorsement of the cities of Rifle and Glenwood Springs and some irrigation districts is still pending.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Colorado TU Gives Conservation Award to Grand County

    May 9, 2012

    grandlake.jpg

    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.


    Don’t suck the Colorado River dry billboard part of grassroots campaign to protect the Upper Colorado River

    March 16, 2012

    dontsuckthecoloradoriverdry.jpg

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

    A coalition of river advocates has unveiled a billboard on I-70 that highlights the threat to the upper Colorado River from massive water diversions to the Front Range—diversions that are sucking the life out of the upper Colorado and degrading irreplaceable mountain areas where many Coloradans love to fish, hunt, and recreate.

    The billboard is part of a larger grassroots campaign that is rallying Coloradans to help protect this popular western slope recreation destination.

    The billboard, in the foothills of Golden near the 470 exit, shows a state flag image being drained of water and warns, “Don’t Suck the Upper Colorado River Dry.” The message will reach an estimated 180,000 people each day who travel this major east-west corridor.

    “Coloradans need to know that the health of the upper Colorado and Fraser rivers is jeopardized by these water diversions,” said Sinjin Eberle, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We’re asking our state leaders to step up and finish the job of protecting these special places.”

    For years, large-scale water diversions to Denver and the Front Range have severely depleted and at times nearly sucked dry entire stretches of the upper Colorado River and its tributaries, including the Fraser River. The low flows and higher temperatures have caused dramatic declines in fish and other benchmarks of aquatic health. Low flows have also contributed to the spread of smothering silt and choking algae.

    River advocates warn that the proposed expansions of the Moffat Tunnel and Windy Gap diversion projects could push the upper Colorado ecosystem to the brink of collapse unless environmental mitigation plans for the projects contain stronger flow protections for the rivers. Those proposals are currently in the final stages of permitting and under review by federal regulators.

    The billboard is aimed at the tens of thousands of Front Range residents who travel up I-70 each week to hike, ski, fish, raft and play on the West Slope. Outdoor recreation is a $10 billion a year business in the state, supporting 107,000 jobs and generating nearly $500 million in state tax revenues. Many towns in the Fraser and upper Colorado River valleys depend heavily on outdoor tourism for their economic health.

    “It’s important that Front Range residents understand the seriousness of these diversion impacts and show their support for healthy rivers,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “We can meet our water needs while preserving our rivers, but that will only happen with stronger protections for the Upper Colorado.”

    Gov. Hickenlooper and other state leaders have a responsibility to protect these rivers and the state recreation economy that depends on them, said Peternell.
    A 2011 state study that showed stronger measures were needed to keep the upper Colorado system healthy. Moreover, in a recent letter citing that study, the EPA called for a “more robust monitoring and mitigation plan” for the Windy Gap proposal.

    The groups are calling on state and federal officials to support stronger protection measures for the upper Colorado, including higher spring flushing flows and a monitoring plan for the river.

    “We’re asking Gov. Hickenlooper to speak up for the Colorado River,” said Peternell. “He has an opportunity to be a hero for the river.”

    In response to the campaign, thousands of Coloradans have raised their voices for river protection. The Defend the Colorado website features a “Voices of the River” gallery profiling Fraser Valley residents and visitors who speak eloquently about their concern for the river. Moreover, thousands of Coloradans and more than 400 businesses have signed petitions asking state leaders to protect the rivers and state tourism.

    “These are special places,” said Jon Kahn, owner of Confluence Kayaks in Denver. “Many Coloradans live here because of our state’s magnificent rivers and recreation opportunities. That quality of life is at risk unless our leaders act.”

    To learn more about diversion impacts on the river and how you can raise your voice to help, go to www.defendthecolorado.org

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

    From all the feel-good language about a global solution and Front Range-West Slope collaboration, you’d never know that there’s a bitter war being waged over what’s left of the Colorado River. A coalition of river advocates hopes to cast a spotlight on the fight with a new billboard going up along I-70, where mountain-bound travelers will see the bold message, “Don’t Suck the Upper Colorado River Dry.”[...]

    At issue is a pair of planned new diversions, based on existing water rights, by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District that would further deplete the Colorado River’s native flows.

    Northern’s Windy Gap firming project would divert water through the Colorado-Big Thompson system to a proposed new reservoir on the northern Front Range, southwest of Loveland.

    Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project would produce 18,000 acre-feet of new supply by expanding Gross Reservoir, near Boulder.

    Both projects are under review, and Colorado has developed mitigation plans that address at least some of the potential impacts. The state’s water establishment claims the mitigation plans will not only protect the Colorado River from new impacts, but actually improve existing conditions. Environmental advocates are skeptical, and are asking for additional specific mitigation and monitoring, and recently got some backing from the EPA, which pointed out weaknesses in the proposed mitigation plans…

    River advocates warn that the proposed expansions of the Moffat Tunnel and Windy Gap diversion projects could push the upper Colorado ecosystem to the brink of collapse unless environmental mitigation plans for the projects contain stronger flow protections for the rivers. Those proposals are currently in the final stages of permitting and under review by federal regulators.

    More Colorado River basin coverage here.


    Eagle River area water providers and Eagle County are the first groups to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

    February 22, 2012

    eaglecountyentitiesatcorivercoopagreementsigning.jpg

    From the Associated Press via CBS4Denver.com:

    Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Co. met Tuesday to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement…

    “With this Colorado River Cooperative Agreement I really think it completes the paper trail if you will; it completes a package where Denver is no longer a threat, Denver is now a partner,” Eric Kuhn with the Colorado River District said…

    The Eagle County water users are the first parties in the state to ratify the deal.

    Update: I’m now linking to a corrected story from the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz). Thanks to Diane Johnson from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District for the heads up. Click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right for a photo of those present at the signing (photo credit Diane Johnson).

    More coverage from Derek Franz writing for the Eagle Valley Enterprise. Click through for the photo from the signing. Here’s an excerpt:

    Eagle County representatives became the first large group of 40 entities to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement at Tuesday’s regular commissioner meeting. The agreement addresses numerous water issues from the Continental Divide to the Utah border…

    The agreement was mostly completed by April 2011, when Gov. John Hickenlooper announced, “This cooperative effort represents a new way of doing business when it comes to water. It shows that water solutions must be crafted from a statewide perspective. We hope and expect that this process will ripple across Colorado to other areas of water conflict.” Almost a year later, with some final details in place, the document still needed to be signed. Eagle County decided to get the ball rolling…

    “Porzak said the Eagle River has never had any significant transmountain diversions when compared to Grand and Summit counties. Nearly 300,000 acre feet of water are diverted from Grand County and more than 100,000 from Summit County, he said. According to the Denver Water website, one acre-foot of water serves about 2 1/2 families of four for one year. The Eagle River only has about 20,000 acre feet diverted and it’s now likely to stay that way…

    “Now Denver would need consent from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company to expand its diversion from the Eagle River watershed,” Porzak said. In exchange, Eagle County will not oppose a future interconnect between Clinton Reservoir and Eagle Park Reservoir. Other details about the plan and how it pertains to other entities can be found at the websites of Denver Water and the Colorado River District (see info box).

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Tuesday: Two Eagle River area utilities and Eagle county will be the first entities to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

    February 18, 2012

    coloradorivercooperativeagreementmap.jpg

    Here’s the release from Eagle County (Diane Johnson/Kris Friel):

    Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company will gather at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Eagle County Building to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. Five years in the making, the agreement between Denver Water and 41 Western Slope water providers, local governments and ski resort operators ensures statewide cooperation on Colorado River water issues and is the broadest in scope of its kind in state history.

    The signing in Eagle will be the first to take place in the state as the agreement makes its way from the Colorado River headwaters to the Utah state line. The draft document is available on the Colorado River District website at www.crwcd.org/page_336.

    Focused on cooperation, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement brings traditional water foes together as partners for responsible water development benefiting both Denver Water and the Western Slope. According to its authors, it prevents future transmountain diversions from the Eagle River Basin, achieves better environmental health in the Colorado River Basin, promotes high-quality recreational use, and improves economics for many cities, counties and businesses impacted by the river.

    The Eagle County entities were instrumental in both initiating and completing the complicated negotiations that ultimately created the agreement. “The cooperative effort represents a new way of doing business when it comes to water,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper during the April 28, 2011 announcement of the agreement. “It shows that water solutions must be crafted from a statewide perspective. We hope and expect that this process will ripple across Colorado to other areas of water conflict.”

    In addition to its benefits for Denver Water and the Western Slope, the agreement will trigger a major water-sharing and conservation arrangement between Denver Water and Aurora Water and water providers in the South Denver Metro Area.

    The agreement focuses on enhancing the environmental river health in much of the Colorado River Basin and its tributaries upstream of Grand Junction, and supporting many Western Slope communities and water providers to improve the quality and quantity of water through new municipal water projects and river management initiatives.

    Locally, benefits to the Eagle River Basin include provisions that preclude Denver Water and any entity served by Denver from developing any future water projects in the Eagle River Basin without the approval of the Eagle County entities. Additionally, a Shoshone outage protocol will ensure sufficient flows in the Colorado River through Eagle County during times when the Shoshone Power Plant may not be operational.

    Supporters agree that the historic agreement will lead to better management and protection of the Colorado River and its tributaries for years to come. Representatives of the Eagle County entities will be on hand to discuss the agreement in more detail at Tuesday’s meeting. The event will be broadcast live on ecotv18 as well as streamed live and archived for future viewing at http://www.ecotv18.com.

    From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

    Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Co. are scheduled to meet Tuesday to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement…

    The Eagle County entities are among parties that announced the agreement last year with Denver Water, but the parties still have to ratify it. The Eagle County entities would be the first to do so.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Chris Treese (Colorado River District): ‘We’re very concerned about any large project of any kind for Eastern or Western Colorado’

    February 4, 2012

    uppercoloradoriverbasinstatesultimatum09011925denverpost.jpg

    Mr. Treese was speaking at the Southern Colorado Water Forum this week. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    “We’re very concerned about any large project of any kind for Eastern or Western Colorado,” Chris Treese, external affairs manager for the Colorado River Conservation District, told the Southern Colorado Water Forum earlier this week…

    Colorado’s weather has been, and will continue to be, unpredictable, however. Water availability is dependent on snowpack, and some climate projections claim there will be less snow in the mountains in the next century. But while warmer temperatures appear to be certain, the jury’s still out on the effect on precipitation levels. “It could be more or it could be less,” Treese said. “One thing is certain: The growing season will be longer, driving up demand.”

    At one point, Treese portrayed the Colorado River district as a David facing two Goliaths: demand from Colorado’s Front Range for more water and demand from downstream states in the Colorado River Compact…

    If one hiked along the western side of the Continental Divide in North-Central Colorado, only three streams that are not part of a diversion project would be crossed, Treese said…

    Last year, several counties and water districts announced the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement with Denver Water that set out certain payments and water deliveries that will allow Denver to divert and store more water in Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County. Such cooperative deals make sense and show that the Western Slope does not deserve its “Not One Drop” reputation, Treese said.

    More Colorado River basin coverage here.


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

    February 1, 2012

    nisp2

    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.


    ‘Rally for the Rivers’ asks EPA to protect the Upper Colorado River from diversions

    January 30, 2012

    coloradoriverbasincgs.jpg

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

    More than 100 river advocates holding signs and chanting slogans gathered in front of the Environmental Protection Agency building in downtown Denver Thursday to ask federal regulators to protect the Upper Colorado River system from proposed water diversions to the Front Range.

    “This is a moment of truth for the state,” said Sinjin Eberle, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited, which helped organize the gathering of Denver residents, kayakers, anglers, outdoor recreationists and other river supporters. “We have to do something to save our state’s namesake river from dying.”

    Scores of signs at the event underscored that theme, including “Don’t Suck the Upper Colorado River Dry,” “Protect Our Flows,” and “EPA: Be a Hero.”

    The rally is part of an ongoing 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 Denver rally, say organizers, was meant to show EPA and other federal decision-makers that Denver residents care about the state’s outdoor quality of life and the health of rivers.

    The Defend the Colorado coalition is asking EPA–which Eberle called a “partner” on river protection–to take additional steps to ensure the health of the river in the face of two proposed water diversions.

    Already 60 percent of the Upper Colorado is diverted to supply Front Range water users. The Windy Gap Firming Project proposal, along with a separate Moffat Tunnel water project, could divert as much as 80 percent of the Upper Colorado’s natural flows. The current proposed Windy Gap protections from the Bureau of Reclamation fall short of what’s needed to address mounting problems, such as low flows, rising temperatures, spreading algae and smothering sediment.

    As Eberle told the lunchtime crowd, a state study released earlier this year shows that entire populations of native fish and the insects they feed on have virtually disappeared from the Colorado River below the Windy Gap Reservoir due to past diversions.

    “Is this what we want to see happen to our rivers?” Eberle asked.

    “NO!” the crowd responded.

    Field and Stream magazine editor-at-large Kirk Deeter, a Colorado resident, said he was lucky enough to travel the world in his job but always looks forward to coming home to his home state and home waters. He called the Upper Colorado a ”special place” that deserves protection.

    Also speaking was Jon Kahn, owner of Confluence Kayaks in Denver, who stressed the economic impact of water-based recreation, which he noted contributes “hundreds of millions of dollars” annually to the state’s economy. “I am just one of hundreds of business owners whose livelihoods depend on healthy flows in our rivers,” he said.

    According to the Defend the Colorado coalition, additional steps must be taken to protect the rivers, including:

    · Managing the water supply to keep the rivers cool, clear and healthy.
    · Ensuring healthy flushing flows to prevent river habitat from filling in with silt.
    · 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 health of the Colorado and Fraser rivers is critical to local communities and the state’s recreation economy,” Eberle said. “But many Coloradans don’t realize that these rivers are having the life sucked out of them. At some point, they cease to become functioning rivers—and we lose a huge part of what makes our state a great place to live. Our state and federal leaders need to finish the job of protecting these incredible places.”

    The group is planning additional rallies and events this spring to highlight the plight of the rivers and demand action from state and federal decision-makers.

    The Defend the Colorado coalition includes Colorado Trout Unlimited and a range of stakeholders, including conservation and wildlife groups, landowners, and outdoor recreationists. More than 400 western slope businesses have signed a petition asking state leaders to protect the Upper Colorado.

    For more information, go to www.DefendTheColorado.org

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

    Colorado conservation activists last week gathered outside EPA headquarters in Denver, asking federal regulators to protect the Upper Colorado River system from proposed water diversions to the Front Range.

    More Colorado River basin coverage here.


    Colorado River Basin: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system?

    December 25, 2011

    coloradoriverbasin.jpg

    Here’s a guest commentary written by Eric Kuhn, David Modeer and Fred Krupp running in The Denver Post. The trio are issuing a call to arms of sort, asking for input for the Colorado River Basin Study. Here’s an excerpt:

    Management of the Colorado River is a complex balancing act between the diverse interests of United States and Mexico, tribes, the seven basin states, individual water users, stakeholders, and communities. The challenges posed by new growth and climate change may dwarf anything we faced in the past. Instead of staring into the abyss, the water users, agencies, and stakeholder groups that make managing the Colorado River responsibly their business are working together, using the best science available to define the problem, and looking for solutions.

    We’re calling our inquiry the Colorado River Basin Study, and we want your help. As Colorado River management professionals, we have a lot of knowledge and ideas, but we know that we don’t have them all. We want ideas from the public, from you, but we need your input by February 1. You can submit your suggestions by completing the online form at: http://on.doi.gov/uvhkUi.

    The big question we need to answer is: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system? We don’t believe there’s a single silver bullet that will resolve all of our challenges. We want to continue to explore the benefits and costs of every possibility, from conservation to desalination to importing water from other regions.

    The West was built on innovation and hard work, and that spirit is still strong. Our landscapes and communities are unparalleled in their beauty, resilience, and character. The economic well-being of our rural and urban communities in the Colorado River basin is inextricably linked to Colorado River and its environmental health.

    That’s why we are asking for the public’s input to help us craft a study showing a path forward that supplies our communities with the water they need to thrive and protects the health of the Colorado River-and the ecosystems and economies it supports.

    More Colorado River basin coverage here.


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

    December 7, 2011

    windygapmoffatfirmingboulderviewpoint.jpg

    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.


    DefendTheColorado.org website launches to build awareness of upper Colorado River basin streamflow issues

    November 6, 2011

    denverwatercollectionsystemmap.jpg

    Say hello to DefendTheColorado.org, a new website designed to connect interested people and raise awareness of the issues around transbasin diversions from the Upper Colorado River here in Colorado. Here’s a report from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

    For the Trout Unlimted Project, [Editorial Photographer and Videographer Ted Wood of Story Group, Boulder] brought in Boulder colleagues Beth Wald, a photojournalist who of late has been covering environmental and cultural stories in Afghanistan, and Mark Conlin, a seasoned underwater photographer.

    “We launched the project as a way to get more visibility of the stream-flow issues on the Fraser and Upper Colorado,” said Trout Unlimited’s Randy Schoefield. “What we’re trying to portray is the community’s deep connection to the river.”

    The Story Group plans to add more portraits to the website in coming days and weeks. Eventually, Trout Unlimited hopes to host public events that display the portraits as well as work by other photographers, granting a full sense of the river’s significance in Grand County and the consequences of further transbasin diversions.

    Click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right for a map of Denver Water’s collection system. More Colorado River basin coverage here.


    Implementing the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement hangs on resolving how to operate the Shoshone right and Green Mountain Reservoir

    September 20, 2011

    shoshoneglenwoodcanyon.jpg

    From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

    According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (http://bit.ly/pblJYV ), western Colorado water providers want an agreement on the operation of the Shoshone power generating station in Glenwood Canyon and another on the operations of Green Mountain Reservoir.

    Six months ago, officials from the Western Slope and Denver announced they had a general agreement that would resolve most of the issues, but none of the backers have signed an agreement.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


    Boulder: The Environmental Group and the Greater Gross Dam Citizens Coalition are hosting an informational Rally and ‘Afternoon on the River’ today to protest the Moffat Collection System Project

    September 12, 2011

    grossdamandreservoirenlargement.jpg

    Here’s the release from The Environmental Group and the Greater Gross Dam Citizens Coalition:

    The World’s Largest Kayak Drum Circle, Citizen Rally and Public Meeting before the Boulder County Commissioners to Stop The Expansion of Gross Dam, Monday, September 12, 2011, 2:30-7:30pm.

    The Environmental Group and the Greater Gross Dam Citizens Coalition are hosting an informational Rally and “Afternoon on the River” on the Boulder County Courthouse lawn. Join us for the World’s Largest Kayak Drum Circle where boaters and River Lovers alike are invited to participate. Bring Boats, bailing buckets, musical instruments or whatever else you want to bang on. We can Save Our Rivers, but we have to make some noise! Bring your boat, and bang it like a bongo! Wear Blue and dress for the River.

    The Rally and Kayak Drum Circle begin at 2:30. The Public meeting with the Boulder County Commissioners begins at 4:30 pm.

    The Boulder County Commissioners are determining their stance on the expansion of Gross Dam and after a barrage of citizen letters, have invited citizens to share their thoughts. Gross Dam is located wholly within Boulder County, but will take water from the Fraser and Colorado Rivers, pump it through the Continental Divide, and feed it to urban sprawl and golf courses along the front range. Specifically, much of the water from the Gross Dam expansion will be fed to the new Candelas Development along the HWY 93 corridor in between Boulder and Golden, and just south of Rocky Flats. Join us to Save Boulder County & Stop Gross Dam!

    The Fraser River has already been declared an endangered River by national nonprofit American Rivers and because of too much diversion, the Colorado River no longer reaches its Delta at the Sea of Cortez. The expansion of Gross Dam means even more water will be taken out of these rivers pushing them definitively to the brink.

    Colorado is a Local Rule State, which means land use decisions and planning are made at the local level. Our State Legislators tell us they have no authority at this time to create a statewide water allocation strategy or to stop water diversions and dam projects, even when river ecosystems are on the brink of collapse. That’s why it is so essential that we ask Boulder County to utilize its 1041 Local Rule Powers (just like Eagle County did) to stop this dam – because no one else can or will!

    These events are centered around the public asking the Boulder County Commissioners to use their 1041 local rule powers to Stop Gross Dam, to save our Rivers and natural ecosystems, to save Boulder and to save our mountain communities. We are also asking Boulder County to use its 1041 or other powers to Stop Gross Dam in order to create a statewide discussion about our water use and allocation policies and strategies to protect river ecosystems, recreational activities and river-related economies. Until now, developers and water extractors have controlled water policy in the state. That’s about to change!

    There are two pieces to the day’s events. First, The Environmental Group and the Greater Gross Dam Citizens Coalition will host a Rally, The World’s Largest Kayak Drum Circle and Workshop on the Courthouse Lawn at 1325 Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado. This will include:

    - Live Music and the World’s Largest Kayak Drum Circle. Bring your boat – and bang it like a bongo! Citizens are invited to bring their boats, inner tubes, paddles, bailing buckets and other musical instruments. Wear blue and dress for an afternoon of music on the River on the Boulder County Courthouse lawn. We can save our Rivers, but we gotta make some noise!
    - Information about the issues of Gross Dam, what Boulder County can do to stop it, and water use issues in Colorado will be provided.
    - Workshop and talking points to assist citizens in writing their public statement for the evening’s Public Meeting with the Boulder County Commissioners.
    Billboard Slogan Contest.
    - Kid friendly events including art stations to create pictures about rivers.
    - Bring signs, slogans and river gear. Families welcome!
    - Boats can be dropped off from 12:00 noon on.
    - This is a 100% peaceful event.

    Second, citizens are invited to attend a Public Meeting hosted by the Boulder County Commissioners to discuss the issue of the expansion of Gross Dam and what the County can do about it. The County will give a presentation on the Gross Dam project and then open the floor to citizen comments. Each citizen can speak for up to 3 minutes. It is recommended that citizens arrive early to sign up for a speaking slot. Sign up begins at 3:30pm. The Public Meeting begins promptly at 4:30pm at 1325 Pearl St., 3rd Floor, Boulder, CO.

    This deal is far from done, and now is the time for citizens to join together with our elected officials and together save our Rivers and our Communities. Be part of this important conversation to determine the fate of our State and to Preserve Colorado. The Rally and Kayak Drum Circle will begin at 2:30pm on Monday, September 12, 2011, at 1325 Pearl St., Boulder, Colorado on the Courthouse Lawn. The Public Meeting before the Boulder County Commissioners begins at 4:30pm at the Boulder County Courthouse located at 1325 Pearl St., 3rd Floor, Boulder, Colorado.

    Visit www.StopGrossDam.com for full schedule and additional details.

    More coverage from Laura Snider writing for the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

    …some opponents of the Gross Reservoir expansion are asking the Boulder County commissioners to consider using their own 1041 powers to fight Denver Water, which says that nearly tripling the size of the reservoir is necessary to quench the thirst of its growing number of customers and to provide more stability in its supply system. Denver Water would like to pull more water from the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers through the Moffat Tunnel to fill the newly expanded reservoir. “We’re trying to say to Boulder County, ‘You have the power to stop this project, and you should use it to protect people in the mountain communities and, on a bigger scale, to protect the Colorado River Basin,’” said Liz Brown Morgan, a resident of Coal Creek Canyon who has worked to connect neighborhood groups and local environmental groups into the Greater Gross Dam Citizens Coalition.

    Letters of concern about the reservoir expansion — many of which are from people who live near the reservoir and who would be directly affected by the construction on the dam — have begun to fill up the Boulder County commissioners’ inboxes. In response, the commissioners are holding a meeting at 4:30 p.m. Monday. “The intent on Monday night is really for us to hear more about the concerns that residents are bringing forward and to make sure that we have as much information as we can on the potential impacts,” said Commissioner Will Toor…

    Boulder County’s 1041 rules are designed, among other things, to protect the beauty of the landscape and to conserve soil, water and forest resources. But even if the county decides to use its 1041 powers in the case of Gross Reservoir, the commissioners must grant a development permit to Denver Water if the agency is able to show that it can meet the criteria laid out in the county’s land use code. “We wouldn’t just be deciding if we liked the project,” Toor said. “We would be looking at the impacts and requiring a set of conditions to mitigate those impacts.”

    For its part, Denver Water disputes the county’s authority to regulate the Gross Reservoir construction. “Gross Reservoir is governed under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” said Joe Sloan, of Denver Water’s community relations department. “Any permitting that we go through at Gross related to recreation of dam height or the perimeter is under FERC control. It’s our opinion that the federal governance by the FERC would cover all the issues.” But even though Denver Water does not agree that the county can use its 1041 powers, the agency said it’s still willing to work with the county to mitigate construction impacts through an intergovernmental agreement. “We’re working on IGAs on the West Slope with the folks in Summit and Eagle and Grand counties on flows,” Sloan said. “We’re hoping to use that model that we’ve already used on the West Slope with Boulder County.”

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


    Denver: Mayor Hancock reappoints Tom Gougeon and Penfield Tate to the Denver Water Board

    August 23, 2011

    firstwaterovercheesman.jpg

    From The Denver Post (Jeremy Meyer):

    “These two men have been committed to the sustainability of our City, while keeping the best interest of our residents and statewide partners at the forefront of their work,” Hancock said. “I believe they have earned the trust of the people and will continue to provide stable leadership during a critical time in Denver Water’s history.”[...]

    Gougeon has been a commissioner since August 2004 and was reappointed in 2005. He is president of the Gates Family Foundation and a principal in Continuum Partners LLC, a Colorado-based development company known for mixed use and transit oriented “green” building projects. He also served as chief executive officer of the Stapleton Redevelopment Foundation, assistant to the mayor of Denver, executive director of a charitable foundation and was a research associate at the Denver Research Institute in community planning and natural resource economics.

    Tate, once a candidate for mayor in 2003, has been a water commissioner since October 2005. He also is a former state legislator and a shareholder in the Public Finance Group at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig. He has served on the boards for the Colorado Bar Association, State of Colorado Banking Board, Cerebral Palsy of Colorado, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Five Points Community Center and Metropolitan State College of Denver Foundation.

    More Denver Water coverage here.


    Denver Water’s Chips Barry to be memorialized August 12

    August 9, 2011

    barry.jpg

    From email from Denver Water (Lori Peck):

    Montclair Pump Station will be renamed the Hamlet J. “Chips” Barry III Pump Station

    WHAT: Denver Water Board members, employees, local officials, Montclair neighborhood residents and the family of Chips Barry will honor Denver Water’s former manager at a ceremony to rename the Montclair Pump Station. This event will include tribute speeches and an unveiling of the new sign. Montclair Pump Station is in the Barry family neighborhood and is part of the recycled water system put into service during Barry’s tenure as manager of Denver Water.

    WHEN: Friday, Aug.12, 8 a.m.

    WHERE: Montclair Pump Station; 1100 Quebec St.; Denver, CO 80230

    NOTE: Due to space constraints, this event is limited to invitees and members of the news media.

    HISTORY: Chips Barry was the manager of Denver Water for 19 years. He had planned to retire last summer, but was killed in an accident May 2, 2010. During his tenure at Denver Water, the utility implemented a conservation program that is nationally and internationally recognized as a model of success, built a recycled water distribution system, invested millions of dollars in improvements at its treatment facilities, monitored recovery from several devastating wildfires in Denver Water’s watershed and led the work to recover from one of the worst droughts in the city’s history.

    More Denver Water coverage here.


    Moffat Collection System Project: Coal Creek Canyon town hall attended mostly by opposers to Denver Water’s plans

    July 28, 2011

    grossreservoir.jpg

    From the Boulder Daily Camera (Mitchell Byars):

    The meeting was held by state Sen. Jeanne Nicholson and Rep. Claire Levy, who also expressed their opposition to the project. “I’ve made no secret that I don’t think we should have this project,” Levy said. “We can’t keep sucking water out of a river and killing it.”[...]

    Residents brought up the noise that would accompany the construction and were concerned about the number of trucks that would be making their way up the winding Colo. 72. Denver Water estimated that construction would put 2.2 more trucks on the road per hour for a 10-hour work day. But residents said that increase in heavy, slow-moving trucks would damage and congest the roads, creating dangerous situations. Denver Water said a rail system would cost about $20 million and would be too costly to put in for the project. Travis Bray, project manager for the project, said studies showed the increase in truck traffic would not pose any significant delay or safety issue, but residents disputed the accuracy of those studies.

    “I can’t imagine the road is safe with these trucks,” said Susan Simone, who works in Boulder and commutes on Colo. 72. “We don’t need a study to see that; we’re not stupid. My own car got totaled on that road.”

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.


    Windy Gap Firming Project/Moffat Collection System Project update: Denver and Northern plan to fully mitigate project impacts

    July 10, 2011

    A picture named windygapmoffatfirmingboulderviewpoint.jpg

    From the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

    The developers of the two water projects, Denver Water and Northern Water, say they plan to not only offset any future environmental problems created by their new projects in the upper Colorado River basin, but to also work together to voluntarily “enhance” the existing habitat in the area. “By fully mitigating our impacts, we keep (the basin) the same,” said Denver Water’s Travis Bray. “Through enhancement and through our cooperative efforts we’re making it better.”

    But [Kirk Klancke], who works as a water manager in Grand County, and some Colorado environmental groups contend that more aggressive mitigation and rehabilitation plans are needed to save what’s left of the Colorado River. “Both of these (water utilities) wrote an environmental statement that said there would be no impacts,” said Klancke, who also serves as the president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “But the third-grade class at Fraser Elementary can tell you what happens when you take 80 percent of a river.”[...]

    Because Windy Gap’s water rights are relatively junior, the project only can divert water during wet years. But in wet years, Lake Granby — a critical storage reservoir for the Colorado-Big Thompson system — is often full, leaving no room for the Windy Gap water to travel to the Front Range. This makes the water supplied by Windy Gap to its original participants extremely unreliable…

    If approved, the firming project calls for building a new reservoir west of Carter Lake in Larimer County. The Chimney Hollow Reservoir would be able to store 90,000 acre-feet of water, giving the Windy Gap water that can be drawn in wet years a place to go…

    In Boulder County, Denver Water plans to offset the impacts of flooding hundreds of acres of land to expand Gross Reservoir by replanting woody riparian vegetation and by buying credits from buying credits from an approved “wetlands mitigation bank” to offset the two acres of wetland that will be inundated…

    But what both water providers are most proud of is their cooperatively created “enhancement plan,” which they say will go beyond mitigating the impacts of the new project and actually improve the current conditions in the upper Colorado River basin. The idea is to restore the section of the Colorado River that lies downstream of both the Windy Gap and Moffat projects where the populations of giant stoneflies and sculpins, both of which are food for trout, have declined over the years. Together, Denver Water and Northern Water have agreed to spend $4.5 million on the restoration effort and put another $1.5 million into a reserve fund that can be used to tweak elements of the restoration project that aren’t working as designed. “This is not what we think is required by the state. We are not required to go back and make changes based on the impacts of past projects,” said Dana Strongin, spokeswoman for Northern Water. “This is a benefit — it’s something extra. We don’t have to do this, but we wanted to…

    Mely Whiting, senior attorney with Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project, said the plans don’t adequately address stream temperature problems and flushing flows. When the mountain snowpack begins to melt in the late spring and early summer, the influx of water “flushes” the rivers, scraping sediment off the streambed and, in some years, overflowing the banks and recharging adjacent wetlands. Because both of the new projects plan to draw water during the periods of high runoff, Whiting said the rivers are being robbed of the critical flush. When flows stay low throughout the summer, the sediment builds up on the bottom of the rivers and destroys the habitat used by aquatic insects. The low flows also increase the danger that stream temperatures will climb higher earlier in the summer…

    The solution proposed by Trout Unlimited is to essentially reconstruct the habitat of the Fraser and the upper Colorado River to create narrower channels that would allow the remaining water to run deeper, faster and cooler…

    Trout Unlimited commissioned a study to see how much it would cost to do the work that it believes needs to be done on the Fraser and upper Colorado rivers. According to the study, $3 million to $5 million more needs to be budgeted in the mitigation plan to adequately rehabilitate the Fraser and about $5 million more is needed for the upper Colorado River. Western Resource Advocates then analyzed how much an additional $5 million each from Denver Water and Northern Water would cost their customers. The result is that Denver Water customers would have to pay an additional $0.53 a year for 30 years and Northern Water customers would have to pay an additional $1.60 a year for 30 years. “Is protecting a river worth a dollar a year?” Beckwith asked. “It’s not a lot of money. People lose that much money in the couch.”

    But Denver Water’s Travis Bray said it’s not fair to expect his utility and Northern Water to shoulder the entire burden of rebuilding the upper Colorado River basin, which has been degraded over the decades due to multiple projects. “In a perfect world, Denver Water and Northern Water would have unlimited funding and we could just make the whole Fraser River a gold medal (trout) river,” he said…

    The final environmental impact statements for both projects are expected to be released late this year or next year. When each statement is released, the public will have the opportunity to give public comment before a final decision is made about whether to give the projects final approval.

    More coverage from Laura Snider writing for the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

    If a Denver Water plan to nearly triple the size of Gross Reservoir gets the final OK, hundreds of acres of shoreline, tributaries, wetlands and vegetated slopes in southwest Boulder County would be underwater. The construction necessary to raise the dam more than 100 feet also would require trucks laden with sand to make 44 round trips up to the reservoir each day during peak construction from sand quarries near Longmont. Denver Water estimates that it will take five years to complete the project. These impacts have raised concerns with the Boulder County commissioners as well as reservoir neighbors…

    Earlier this year, Denver Water also released its proposal for how the utility plans to mitigate fish and wildlife impacts for the project. The plan, which was approved in June by the Colorado Wildlife Commission, calls for mitigating the loss of about two acres of wetlands by buying credits from an approved “wetlands mitigation bank.” Denver Water also plans to replant native woody riparian vegetation along the edge of the newly enlarged reservoir to replace the four acres of riparian habitat that would be flooded if the expansion goes forward. Since the reservoir is largely fed from water traveling through the Moffat Tunnel from the Western Slope and emptying into South Boulder Creek, Denver Water would also monitor the effects of a greater volume of water on stream bank stability. The Boulder County commissioners have said that they do not believe Denver Water’s mitigation plan adequately addresses the impacts of the reservoir expansion.

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

    More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.


    Colorado River basin: Mitigating further declines to the riparian and stream environment from transmountain diversions in the upper river watersheds

    July 5, 2011

    A picture named eisenhowerfishing.jpg

    A while back Trout Unlimited signaled pretty strongly that the Moffat Collection System Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project were in for a fight, even as Denver Water and Northern Water were making efforts to appease west slope concerns with increased diversions from the upper Colorado and Fraser rivers. Despite the historic agreement between Denver Water and west slope water wonks and the recently announced Colorado Division of Wildlife approval for mitigation there may be a long battle ahead for the two Front Range providers to move more water through the Adams and Moffat tunnels.

    Here’s a guest commentary about new proposed diversions from Drew Peternell running in The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

    Earlier this month, Denver Water and the Northern District presented to the Colorado Wildlife Commission plans to mitigate the impacts of their projects. While the plans do include some meaningful provisions, they do not go far enough.

    First, under the proposed mitigation, Denver can divert from the Fraser River even when diversions violate stream temperature standards designed to prevent fish mortality.

    Second, the increased diversions could eliminate the spring high-water flows necessary to flush stream channels of sediment, which is choking many stretches of the river to death.

    Third, the mitigation plans do not include a bypass of Windy Gap Reservoir, a measure that would reduce rainbow trout whirling disease and significantly improve conditions in the Colorado River downstream of the reservoir.

    And fourth, while the mitigation plans include some funding for habitat projects to adapt the streams to the new, lower flow reality, the dollar figures fall short of what is needed by nearly $10 million, according to estimates by independent restoration contractors.

    Yes, protecting the health of the upper Colorado River basin from the impacts of the proposed water diversions requires money. And $10 million may sound like a lot. But for Denver Water customers, it would be less than $1 a year per household, according to an analysis by Western Resource Advocates.

    Denver Water and the Northern District won’t have to pay a nickel for the water they propose to take from the upper Colorado River basin, and they refuse to pony up the money needed to offset the impacts of their diversions, arguing that their customers won’t tolerate the rate increase.

    Is saving our state’s namesake river worth a buck a year to you?

    More Colorado River basin coverage here.


    Trout Unlimited: Upper Colorado River Mitigation Package ‘Not Enough’

    June 12, 2011

    A picture named cutthroat.jpg

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

    Trout Unlimited today expressed disappointment in a June 9 Colorado Wildlife Commission decision to approve without changes mitigation plans offered by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District for two new water diversion projects, saying the plans fall short of what’s needed to protect the fish and wildlife resources of the upper Colorado River basin.

    “We appreciate the hard work the commission and its staff have put into reviewing the proposed Moffat Tunnel and Windy Gap expansion projects,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “While the mitigation package the commission approved yesterday is an improvement over the plans Denver and Northern offered originally, it is not enough to protect the rivers and streams of the upper Colorado River basin from the impacts of the new projects.”

    For decades, large-scale water diversions to the Front Range have severely depleted and damaged the upper Colorado River and its major tributaries, including the Fraser River. Already, transbasin water diversion projects, including Denver Water’s Moffat Tunnel pipeline and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap project, take about 60 percent of the native flows of the upper Colorado River basin. The proposed expansions of the Moffat Tunnel and Windy Gap projects would take an additional 15 percent of flows and further stress an ecosystem that is on the tipping point of survival.

    Trout Unlimited vowed to seek additional mitigation conditions in the next phases of project permitting and urged Denver Water and Northern to do more to offset the impacts of the proposed projects on the Colorado River and its tributaries.

    At the Wildlife Commission meeting in Grand Junction Thursday, several wildlife commissioners expressed concerns that the final mitigation plans submitted by Denver Water and Northern were inadequate, but the commission voted unanimously to approve the plans anyway, without changes.

    “We’re disappointed that commissioners apparently believed they didn’t have the statutory authority to recommend additional protections,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for TU’s Colorado Water Project. “We don’t believe that’s an accurate reading of the statute.”

    Last week, TU, West Slope landowners and other stakeholder groups urged the Wildlife Commission to include several provisions in the final mitigation package to ensure the health of the rivers:

    - Reconnecting the Colorado River by creating a “bypass” around Windy Gap Reservoir.
    - A halt to diversions when water temperatures are on the verge of state “impaired” standards – water warm enough to kill trout.
    - Adequate spring flushing flows to keep the rivers healthy and sustain riparian areas that are critical to wildlife.
    - An ongoing plan to monitor stream conditions and identify needed habitat restoration projects.
    - An endowment fund to pay for those restoration projects as an “insurance policy” for river health.

    TU leaders stressed that these were reasonable requests. “We weren’t asking for perfection,” said Whiting. “We were simply asking for adequate mitigation, an ‘insurance policy’ that provides the minimal level of protection needed to keep the rivers and streams of the upper Colorado basin healthy into the future. Yesterday’s decision puts these irreplaceable resources at risk.”

    The Fraser River was a big loser in the decision, said TU. Under the plan approved by the commission, Denver Water can divert through the Moffat Tunnel even when those diversions violate stream temperature standards designed to prevent lethal effects on fish. And the project could take so much water that flushing flows critical to clean the stream of harmful sediment would no longer be available. The mitigation plans had several other deficiencies, including:

    - Funding for stream projects to protect the Colorado River fell significantly short—between $3 and $5 million short, according to TU’s calculations, based on estimates by independent restoration contractors.
    - Funding for a potential bypass of Windy Gap Reservoir, which could significantly improve downstream Colorado River conditions, was not included in the package.
    - Northern’s plan allows chronic stream temperature problems and provides insufficient flushing flows in the Upper Colorado River.

    TU thanked the commissioners for their efforts and acknowledged the complex, difficult nature of these mitigation decisions. But the sportsmen’s group said that the overriding goal of ensuring the future of the river’s wildlife habitat and fisheries was not achieved.

    “The bottom line is that under this mitigation package, the health of the upper Colorado River and its tributaries will continue to decline,” said Peternell.

    To learn more about diversion impacts on the river and watch TU’s short video “Tapped Out,” go to www.defendthecolorado.org

    More coverage from Scott Willoughby writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

    Several wildlife commissioners echoed the sentiment that the final mitigation plans submitted by Denver Water and Northern were not ideal, but the commission voted unanimously to approve the plans anyway. The projects’ Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plans now move to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which has 60 days to affirm or modify the state’s position. Gov. John Hickenlooper will also have 60 days to affirm or further modify it before it’s submitted to federal permitting agencies…

    Prompted by a coalition of stakeholders led by Trout Unlimited, both water utilities made concessions to plans previously submitted. Among the additional measures are improved safeguards for maintaining cool water temperatures and minimum flow protections, creation of contingency funds for unanticipated impacts and enhanced funding for river restoration plans. The restoration plans were not required by the permitting process but were offered by Denver and Northern to help address impacts from past water development. The agreements hinge on final federal approval of the water projects.

    The additional measures are a step in the right direction, watchdogs say, but don’t go far enough. Trout Unlimited vowed to seek additional mitigation conditions in the next phases of project permitting and urged Denver Water and Northern to do more to offset the impacts of the proposed projects on the Colorado River and its tributaries…

    Most significant among the stakeholders’ requests is a “reconnection” of the Colorado River by creating a yet-to-be- designed bypass around the 445-acre-foot Windy Gap collection pond that the group has pinpointed as a major problem area near the confluence of the Fraser and Colorado rivers. Most agree that the proposal has merit, although further study is required. “We feel that the reconstruction of the channel downstream is just as important,” DOW aquatic biologist Ken Kehmeier told the commission. “We feel that we can’t determine the necessity for a bypass until a study is done.”

    More coverage from Janice Kurbjin writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

    Trout Unlimited representatives say the plans fall short of what’s needed to protect the fish and wildlife resources of the Upper Colorado River Basin. They vowed in early June to fight the projects on several fronts, including at the federal permitting level, if the plan didn’t include strong protections for the Upper Colorado River. They are now focused on other permitting levels. “We want more,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project.

    Groups such as the Fraser River Basin Landowners and the Upper Colorado River Alliance are on board with the fight…

    According to the Division of Wildlife, restoration plans aren’t required by the permitting process but were offered voluntarily by the utilities. A DOW statement said the commission’s authority is limited to mitigating impacts from the proposed projects and restoring the river to a past condition is beyond the scope of commission authority…

    Trout Unlimited and other West Slope landowners and stakeholders asked the wildlife commission earlier this month to include several provisions, they called it an “insurance policy,” to protect the health of the rivers. What’s been offered isn’t enough, they say. Despite flow and temperature monitoring proposed by Denver Water, Trout Unlimited claimed the utility is still allowed to divert through the Moffat Tunnel even when those diversions violate stream temperature standards designed to prevent lethal effects on fish. The diversions could also negatively affect flushing flows that clean the stream of sediment, they said. Both utilities agreed to a $600,000 “mitigation insurance policy” that falls between $3 and $5 million short, Trout Unlimited representatives said. In particular, there’s no funding for a Windy Gap Reservoir bypass, meant to improve downstream Colorado River conditions, nor was an endowment fund established to pay for future restoration projects that would be planned and monitored.

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


    Moffat Collection System Project and Windy Gap Firming Project: The Colorado Division of Wildlife commissioners approve both mitigation plans

    June 11, 2011

    A picture named fraservalleycollection.jpg

    From The Denver Post (Mitchell Byars):

    Now the plan must clear the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to release its final environmental impact study later this year. If the Army Corps gives the project the green light, construction on the expansion of Gross Reservoir in southwest Boulder County could start as early as 2015. The project is expected to take four years. The wildlife commission voted unanimously to accept Denver Water’s environmental mitigation plan. “We take this unanimous vote as an endorsement of our cooperative approach with local stakeholders,” said Denver Water’s planning director Dave Little. “Now we want to move aggressively towards implementing these measures.”[...]

    In the mitigation plan, Denver Water agreed to stop diverting water from July 15 through the end of August if temperatures in the river reached levels that could possibly threaten local fish populations. The utility also pledged money to enhance stream habitats in cooperation with local counties and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Make the river better, that’s sort of our mantra,” Little said. “We’ve addressed all of the impacts in the scientific study the Army Corps of Engineers did, which was an exhaustive effort. But we know the Corps did not capture the impacts that some others have brought up and that’s why we went above and beyond in our mitigation plan.”

    More coverage from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

    In a series of unanimous votes, the commissioners approved mitigation plans for Denver’s Moffat Collection System project and Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project and also authorized the Colorado Division of Wildlife to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Denver and Northern to help manage a significant restoration project for the upper Colorado River…

    The votes came after Denver and Northern described to Commissioners several new or modified plan elements, which include enhanced temperature and flow protections, creation of contingency funds for unanticipated impacts and enhanced funding for river restoration plans. The restoration plans were not required by the permitting process but were offered voluntarily by Denver and Northern to help address impacts from past water development. The agreements hinge on the water providers obtaining final federal approval for their projects…

    Prior to the vote, Wildlife Commission chairman Tim Glenn summarized concerns expressed by several commissioners regarding the complex package of plans and the potential that development of the projects may have unintended consequences for the Upper Colorado, Fraser and Williams Fork rivers. “Is it perfect?” Glenn asked “No. But staff has evaluated it inside and out and I’m confident that it’s better than where we are.” The Commission’s recommendation will now be transmitted to the federal permitting agency for each project…

    To further address impacts from its Moffat Collection System project, Denver has agreed to new elements including increased safeguards for maintaining cool water temperatures and minimum flows in the Fraser during high summer and additional funds for aquatic habitat improvements in that river. Denver also agreed to reserve $600,000 for a “mitigation insurance policy” to address any new impacts identified by the Final Environmental Impact Statement being developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This is in addition to Denver’s previous proposal to fund a Colorado River cutthroat restoration project and other aquatic habitat restoration work on the Fraser. On the Colorado River, Denver would maintain two water temperature gauges and agree to release water in August if high temperatures threatened fish…

    East of the Divide, Denver would allow Boulder and Lafayette to store water in the enlarged Gross Reservoir for release during winter months, replace wetlands inundated by the larger reservoir and monitor stream channel stability.

    In its final proposal, Northern agreed to increase minimum peak flows during drought conditions to maintain fish spawning habitat, to further restrict or curtail pumping during extreme conditions to protect cool water temperatures and to reserve $600,000 for a “mitigation insurance policy” to address any new impacts identified by the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Windy Gap being developed by the Bureau of Reclamation. Northern’s proposal included mitigating impacts on the Upper Colorado River system by managing their pumping to maintain water levels in Lake Granby and keep water temperatures cool, looking for ways to improve flushing flows in the Upper Colorado River below Windy Gap Reservoir and contributing to water quality projects that reduce nutrient loading in Lake Granby, Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir.

    East of the Divide, Northern proposed to replace lost wetlands and improve enhance wildlife habitat near the new Chimney Hollow reservoir…

    In their final plans, Denver and Northern agreed to add $1 million in funding to the Upper Colorado River Habitat Project to $4.5 million and increase money set aside to address future contingencies or operating and maintenance costs on that project to $1.5 million. Denver and Northern also pledged to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the DOW to manage the habitat project, and urged that the DOW be given a more direct role in developing and managing stream restoration projects contemplated under the Learn By Doing adaptive management process created by Denver’s global settlement with Grand County and other stakeholders…

    Senior Northeast Region aquatic biologist Ken Kehmeier said Division staff believes that in total, the agreements, including those made with mountain communities, would not only address impacts from the new projects but also help repair impacts to the Colorado and Fraser rivers caused by previous projects.

    More coverage from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

    Commissioners were generally still worried about the “unintended consequences for the Upper Colorado, Fraser and Williams Fork rivers” but felt the revised mitigation plans – including greater temperature and flow protections for aquatic life, more funding for river restoration and a contingency fund for unanticipated impacts – were a lot better than previous plans. “It has always been Denver Water’s goal to go beyond mitigating the project impacts to make the river better than it is today,” Denver Water’s director of planning Dave Little said: “We look forward to working with stakeholders on mitigation for the project and the significant enhancement plan also accepted by the Commission that will improve aquatic habitat in the Upper Colorado River Basin.”

    The fish and wildlife mitigation plans still must be approved by federal regulators. Also on Thursday, Denver Water provided a statement on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report that includes one scenario in which water levels in the Colorado River decrease by 10 to 20 percent by the middle of this century as a result of global climate change.

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


    Moffat Collection System Project and Windy Gap Firming Project: The Colorado Division of Wildlife commissioners approve both mitigation plans

    June 10, 2011

    A picture named eisenhowerfishing.jpg

    Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife:

    The Colorado Wildlife Commission Thursday endorsed Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plans submitted by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to mitigate impacts that would be caused by two proposed transmountain water development projects.

    In a series of unanimous votes, Commissioners approved mitigation plans for Denver’s Moffat Collection System project and Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project and also authorized the Division of Wildlife to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Denver and Northern to help manage a significant restoration project for the upper Colorado River. Three members of the Colorado State Parks Board joined the Commission at the workshop, which was held at the Doubletree Inn on Horizon Drive.

    The votes came after Denver and Northern described to Commissioners several new or modified plan elements, which include enhanced temperature and flow protections, creation of contingency funds for unanticipated impacts and enhanced funding for river restoration plans. The restoration plans were not required by the permitting process but were offered voluntarily by Denver and Northern to help address impacts from past water development. The agreements hinge on the water providers obtaining final federal approval for their projects.

    Prior to the vote, Wildlife Commission chairman Tim Glenn summarized concerns expressed by several commissioners regarding the complex package of plans and the potential that development of the projects may have unintended consequences for the upper Colorado, Fraser and Williams Fork rivers.

    “Is it perfect?” Glenn asked “No. But staff has evaluated it inside and out and I’m confident that it’s better than where we are.”

    The Commission’s recommendation will now be transmitted to the federal permitting agency for each project. Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System project would firm up the yield from Denver’s existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by enlarging Boulder’s Gross Reservoir and diverting additional water from the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue rivers. Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project proposes to firm up the yield from its existing water rights in the Upper Colorado River by diverting additional water to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Loveland.

    Since last fall, Denver and Northern have been in discussions with Division of Wildlife staff to address concerns voiced by the public and by Wildlife Commissioners. The two utilities have simultaneously been negotiating a complimentary set of agreements with a diverse group of stakeholders, including affected local governments like Grand County.

    To further address impacts from its Moffat Collection System project, Denver has agreed to new elements including increased safeguards for maintaining cool water temperatures and minimum flows in the Fraser during high summer and additional funds for aquatic habitat improvements in that river. Denver also agreed to reserve $600,000 for a “mitigation insurance policy” to address any new impacts identified by the Final Environmental Impact Statement being developed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

    This is in addition to Denver’s previous proposal to fund a Colorado River cutthroat restoration project and other aquatic habitat restoration work on the Fraser. On the Colorado River, Denver would maintain two water temperature gauges and agree to release water in August if high temperatures threatened fish. East of the Divide, Denver would allow Boulder and Lafayette to store water in the enlarged Gross Reservoir for release during winter months, replace wetlands inundated by the larger reservoir and monitor stream channel stability.

    In its final proposal, Northern agreed to increase minimum peak flows during drought conditions to maintain fish spawning habitat, to further restrict or curtail pumping during extreme conditions to protect cool water temperatures and to reserve $600,000 for a “mitigation insurance policy” to address any new impacts identified by the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Windy Gap being developed by the Bureau of Reclamation.

    Northern’s proposal included mitigating impacts on the Upper Colorado River system by managing their pumping to maintain water levels in Lake Granby and keep water temperatures cool, looking for ways to improve flushing flows in the Upper Colorado River below Windy Gap Reservoir and contributing to water quality projects that reduce nutrient loading in Lake Granby, Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir. East of the Divide, Northern proposed to replace lost wetlands and improve enhance wildlife habitat near the new Chimney Hollow reservoir.

    Under state statute, the Wildlife Commission’s authority was limited to mitigating impacts from proposed projects. Restoring the river to a past condition was beyond the scope of Commission authority. However, Denver and Northern voluntarily proposed to help enhance conditions for fish and wildlife resources on both sides of the Continental Divide.

    The enhancement plans would support the Upper Colorado River Habitat Project, a collaborative plan designed to re-establish a functional channel system and improve habitat for trout and other important aquatic species on a roughly 14-mile stretch of river between Windy Gap Reservoir and the Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Area.

    In their final plans, Denver and Northern agreed to add $1 million in funding to the Upper Colorado River Habitat Project to $4.5 million and increase money set aside to address future contingencies or operating and maintenance costs on that project to $1.5 million. Denver and Northern also pledged to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the DOW to manage the habitat project, and urged that the DOW be given a more direct role in developing and managing stream restoration projects contemplated under the Learn By Doing adaptive management process created by Denver’s global settlement with Grand County and other stakeholders.

    That global settlement, announced recently by Denver Water, would address longstanding concerns about the health of the Colorado River. The settlement includes funding for aquatic habitat and for an adaptive management process designed to help maintain river health.

    Northern is also working on similar agreement with communities on the Upper Colorado River.

    Senior Northeast Region aquatic biologist Ken Kehmeier said Division staff believes that in total, the agreements, including those made with mountain communities, would not only address impacts from the new projects but also help repair impacts to the Colorado and Fraser rivers caused by previous projects.

    Commissioner David Brougham credited the Division, Denver and Northern for negotiating agreements which went beyond the Commission’s limited jurisdiction under the statute.

    “I think in looking at this the Division has gone beyond and done more than that statute gives us the power to do,” Brougham said. “Denver and Northern could have said no, but they didn’t and I think that’s telling.”

    Additional information regarding the Wildlife Commission’s review, including links to the mitigation and enhancement plans being offered by Denver Water and Northern, can be found on the Division’s web site at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/Water/MoffatWindyGapMitigationProjects/.

    During the morning session, North Park District Wildlife Manager Josh Dilley was presented with the 2010 Shikar-Safari Club International Officer of the Year Award. Dilley, who for the past three years has had responsibility for two wildlife management districts in the high mountain basin, was presented with the award by Bob Boswell of Shikar Safari Club International.

    Dilley, who was surrounded by his family, said he was honored by the award. “I don’t have to go to work every morning, I get to go to work every morning,” Dilley told the Commissioners. “Wildlife officers in Colorado have a passion like no other. I work with my heroes every day.”

    Grand Junction’s Lynn Ensley, who founded the nonprofit Pathways for Fishing, was recognized for his outstanding service in recruiting young anglers in Colorado. “I can’t say enough about Lynn’s continued dedication, his passion and his enthusiasm,” said Northwest Regional Manager Ron Velarde. “Since 1995, Lynn has introduced almost 15,000 kids to the sport of fishing.”

    Ensley expressed to the Commissioners his appreciation for the Division’s support over the years, adding that he is looking to develop a new program to recruit young deer hunters.

    Commissioners also received an update on draft black bear management plans for the northern Front Range, the Sangre de Cristos, the Uncompahgre and the Bears’ Ears area of northwestern Colorado, as well as an update on the impending July 1 merger of the Division of Wildlife with Colorado State Parks.

    In other action, the Commission adopted final regulations removing bag and possession limits at Bonny Reservoir State Park and allow the use of trotlines and jugs. This action permanently implements an emergency regulation passed by the Commission at its last meeting in May 2011. Bonny Reservoir is scheduled to be drained in the fall of 2011, and this change is intended to allow the public to use all game fish prior to the draining of the reservoir.

    The Wildlife Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. The complete agenda for the June Wildlife Commission meeting can be found on the Wildlife Commission web page at:

    http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeCommission/Archives/2011/June92011.htm.

    The Colorado Wildlife Commission is an 11-member board appointed by the governor. The Wildlife Commission sets Division of Wildlife regulations and policies for hunting, fishing, watchable wildlife, nongame, threatened and endangered species. The Commission also oversees Division of Wildlife land purchases and property regulations.

    More coverage from Wayne Harrison writing for TheDenverChannel.com. From the article:

    Plans for minimizing the effects on wildlife include ways to maintain cool water temperatures and minimum water flows, restoring fish habitat and increasing flows during drought to maintain fish spawning areas. Denver Water planning director Dave Little says the goal is to improve the rivers.

    More coverage from the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

    Members of the Colorado Wildlife Commission voted unanimously Thursday to accept a plan by Denver Water to mitigate the impacts of a proposed expansion to Gross Reservoir in southwest Boulder County. The mitigation plan addresses impacts in Boulder County as well as impacts to the headwaters of the Colorado River, where more water will be drawn to fill the enlarged Gross Reservoir.

    More coverage from the Longmont Times-Call. From the article:

    The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which has its headquarters in Berthoud, provides water for agricultural, municipal, domestic and industrial uses in portionis of Boulder, Larimer, Weld, Broomfield, Morgan, Logan, Washington and Sedgwick counties. According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Northern has agreed: to increase minimum peak flows during droughts to maintain fish spawning habitat; to further restrict or curtail pumping during extreme conditions to protect cool water temperatures, and to reserve a $600,000 “mitigation insurance policy” to address any new impacts identified in a final Windy Gap environmental impact statement being developed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


    Vote Slated on Water Mitigation Plans

    June 4, 2011

    A picture named fraservalleycollection.jpg

    Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife (Theo Stein):

    The Colorado Wildlife Commission plans to vote on the adequacy of plans to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife resources from two proposed transmountain water development projects during its meeting in Grand Junction.

    The vote will complete the Commission’s 60-day review of the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plans submitted by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District at the Commission’s April meeting in Meeker.

    The Moffat Collection System Project proposes to firm up the yield from Denver Water’s existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by diverting additional water from the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue rivers to an enlarged Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. The Windy Gap Firming Project would firm up Northern’s yield from existing water rights in the Upper Colorado River by diverting additional water to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Loveland. The mitigation plan review by the Wildlife Commission is part of each project’s federal permitting process.

    Last month, Ken Kehmeier, a senior aquatic biologist with the Division, presented staff’s analysis of the plans during the Commission’s May meeting in Salida. Following Kehmeier’s analysis, Commissioners questioned whether additional protections might be needed to guard against high water temperatures and whether flushing flows contemplated by the plans would be enough to maintain channel health. They also asked for more consideration of mitigation and enhancement funding, and for a clarification of the role that the Division would play in developing and managing restoration projects.

    As part of its mitigation package for the Fraser River and upper Williams Fork River, Denver has proposed to fund a Colorado River cutthroat restoration project and fund other aquatic habitat restoration work. On the Colorado River, Denver and Northern Water would monitor water temperatures and agree to release water in August if high temperatures threatened fish. East of the Divide, Denver would replace wetlands inundated by the enlarged Gross Reservoir and monitor stream channel stability in South Boulder Creek. Denver would also allow Boulder and Lafayette to store water in Gross Reservoir to boost minimum flows in the Boulder Creek drainage during winter.

    Northern, for its part, has offered [to] manage their diversions to maintain water levels in Lake Granby and keep water temperatures cool in the Upper Colorado River below Windy Gap Reservoir. Northern also said it would contribute to water-quality projects designed to reduce nutrient loading in Grand Lake, Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Reservoir. On the other side of the Divide, Northern would replace wetlands submerged by the new Chimney Hollow Reservoir and enhance nearby wildlife habitat.

    Denver and Northern are also voluntarily proposing enhancement plans to improve conditions for fish and wildlife on a roughly 14-mile stretch of river between Windy Gap Reservoir and the Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Area. The enhancement plans are not required by the Commission’s review process.

    Once the Wildlife Commission adopts its final recommendation, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will have 60 days to affirm or modify the state’s position. Governor John Hickenlooper will also have 60 days to affirm or further modify it before it’s submitted to federal permitting agencies.

    Recently, Denver Water announced it had reached a complex legal settlement with Grand County and 33 other groups regarding longstanding concerns about the health of the Colorado River. The settlement includes funding for aquatic habitat and for an adaptive management process designed to help maintain river health.

    Additional information regarding the Wildlife Commission’s review, including links to the mitigation and enhancement plans being offered by Denver Water and Northern, can be found on the Division’s web site at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/Water/MoffatWindyGapMitigationProjects/.

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 889 other followers

    %d bloggers like this: