High Line Canal Conservancy Launches New Public Planning Initiative to Re-imagine the 71-Mile Trail Corridor

Highline Canal Denver
Highline Canal Denver

Here’s the release from the High Line Canal Conservancy (Suzanna Jones):

The High Line Canal Conservancy, which is dedicated to preserving the recreational and environmental future of the High Line Canal, today announced the launch of the High Line Canal public planning initiative. The public planning initiative is part of a large-scale planning program to ensure the well-loved Canal trail reaches its potential as an economic, environmental, recreational and social asset along all of its 71 miles. The goal of the public outreach and visioning phase, called “Adventure on the Canal: Charting our course for the next century,” is to develop a shared vision for the Canal that will guide the future planning process.

“Today begins a region-wide conversation led by the High Line Canal Conservancy to rehabilitate this beloved corridor into a legacy greenway that unifies and celebrates the distinct communities it intersects,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “This project joins a statewide effort to get people outdoors and connect with the beauty of Colorado.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper will help kick off the public planning initiative at the High Line Canal and Triple Creek Trail connection ribbon cutting and bike ride in Aurora on Tuesday, May 31 at 12:10 p.m. Following the press conference, the Governor will begin a bike ride along the Canal with local children from Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), assisted by Bicycle Colorado, and continue with a small select group of riders for a portion of the trail. The Governor will have an opportunity to see some of the challenges presenting the Canal currently.

“The High Line Canal Conservancy is thrilled to work with the Governor and other leaders throughout the region to preserve and transform this outmoded water delivery corridor into a legacy greenway that unifies and celebrates the distinct communities along the High Line Canal,” said Harriet Crittenden LaMair, Executive Director of the High Line Canal Conservancy. “We’re thrilled to have Governor Hickenlooper’s help launching the public outreach phase of this project, asking the public to consider how they view the long-term purpose of the Canal.”

Following the kickoff event, the Conservancy will launch its summer outreach “Adventure on the High Line Canal,” which will include a series of community open houses, events and other engaging activities in various locations across the region. These gatherings will be interactive, fun opportunities where participants can share the reasons they love the Canal and help write a new chapter for the Canal’s future.

Each series of community open houses includes 3 identical gatherings in various locations along the Canal’s reach and represents an important chapter in the mission to chart the High Line Canal’s course for the next century. Together, the four series follow the arc of a typical story. Chapter One – “Our Journey Begins” will kick off the week of June 6 at Aurora Central Library, the Lowry Town Center and Goodson Recreation Center. At these introductory open house events, we’ll take a journey together along all 71 miles of the Canal, from the foothills to the plains, and you’ll be able to share your ideas and feedback every step of the way.

Chapter Two – “A Fork in the Road” will be held the week of July 18 at Expo Recreation Center, Eloise May Library and Eisenhower Recreation Center. This set of community open houses will be the second chapter of the story, bringing residents together to focus on the Canal’s future opportunities and challenges. We’ll explore how each of these ideas could impact the Canal’s narrative in the years to come and ask for your feedback.

Chapter 3 – “Our Story” will be held the week of September 5 at locations to be set in the future. This third chapter will focus on presenting the initial vision reached by residents, the draft shared vision for the Canal, asking the public to share their feedback and input on the shared vision for the Canal.

Chapter 4 – “Looking Ahead” will be held the week of October 16 at locations to be set in the future. This fourth set of open houses represents the final chapter, the draft action plan, determined by feedback from the public. It will be focused on implementation and next steps, and will continue to rely on feedback from the public about the final preferred vision for the Canal.

In addition, online surveys will be available in June and July, providing additional opportunities for input. Visit highlinecanal.org.

Anyone can participate throughout the launch and subsequent events on social media by following @COHighLineCanal and using the hashtag #71Miles.

Here’s how to stay updated on High Line Canal project updates:

The High Line Canal newsletter.

High Line Canal’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

Participate in public meetings: http://highlinecanal.org/community

Take online surveys, which will be active throughout the summer by visiting http://highlinecanal.org/surveys

Help us spread the word: Please invite your friends and neighbors to participate too!

ABOUT THE HIGH LINE CANAL CONSERVANCY

The High Line Canal Conservancy was formed in 2014 by a passionate coalition of private citizens to provide leadership and harness the region’s commitment to protecting the future of the High Line Canal. With support from each jurisdiction and in partnership with Denver Water, the Conservancy is connecting stakeholders in support of comprehensive planning to ensure that the Canal is protected and enhanced for future generations. For more information, please visit http://www.highlinecanal.org.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #COriver

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through May 22, 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through May 22, 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

Higher water release will benefit silvery minnow — The Albuquerque Journal

Rio Grande Silvery Minnow via Wikipedia
Rio Grande Silvery Minnow via Wikipedia

From The Albuquerque Journal (Ollie Reed Jr.)

Spring runoff pumped up by water released from El Vado Reservoir today [May 25, 2016] will push flows on the Rio Chama and Rio Grande up to as much as 4,000 cubic feet per second, the swiftest rate in recent memory, in a multiagency effort to benefit the environment and boost silvery minnow spawning.

“Today will be our high-flow day,” said Carolyn Donnelly, water operations supervisor for the Albuquerque office of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. “We are going up to 4,000 cfs out of El Vado for the first time since I don’t know when.”

In 2014, the spring peak flow was only 1,500 cfs, and last year, the best flow year since 2010, the rate at Albuquerque’s Central Avenue bridge was measured at just under 3,000 cfs.

Donnelly said this week’s fast-moving water on the Rio Chama between El Vado, 80 miles northwest of Santa Fe, and Abiquiu Dam, 60 miles northwest of Santa Fe, will break up channel vegetation that is harmful to the ecology.

“When the channel is static, native species, small invertebrates such as snails, for example, don’t do well,” she said.

The one-two punch of spring runoff and released storage water will provide the robust flow that cues the spawning of the endangered silvery minnow, found in the Rio Grande from Cochiti Dam, 50 miles north of Albuquerque, to Elephant Butte Reservoir, five miles north of Truth or Consequences.

Donnelly said the release from Cochiti Dam will be about 3,300 cfs for about two weeks. That rate will benefit the entire ecosystem as well as the minnow.

“The timing of the release is important to the minnow,” Donnelly said. “Conditions are looking really good. We had more snow in April in the Rio Chama watershed and also up in Colorado on the Rio Grande. We are going to start seeing high water from Colorado real soon. And since it’s late May, the water is warmer and the fish (minnow) like that.”

Agencies collaborating with Reclamation in the project are the Office of the State Engineer and the Interstate Stream Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the Rio Chama Watershed Partnership and the Rio Grande Compact Commission, which represent the compact states of New Mexico, Texas and Colorado.

A resolution approved in March by the [Rio Grande] Compact Commission made this week’s high-flow push possible by allowing the storage of about 40,000 acre-feet of water in El Vado between May 2 and May 20.

Rio Grande and Pecos River basins
Rio Grande and Pecos River basins

#ColoradoRiver: Lake Mead Drops But Hoover Dam Powers On — Circle of Blue

Lake Mead turbines photo via <a href="http://corbittsnationalparks.com/sites/lakemead/lakemead.html">CorbittsNationalParks.co&lt;,/a&gt;</a>
Lake Mead turbines photo via CorbittsNationalParks.co<,/a>

From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):

Six years ago, at the end of the summer of 2010, federal Bureau of Reclamation officials worried that Hoover Dam, the biggest hydropower enterprise in the Southwest, might soon go dark. Water levels in Lake Mead, the dam’s energy source, were falling, and Hoover was moving “into uncharted territory,” the facility manager told Circle of Blue.

Today, the story has a twist. Lake Mead is 10 feet lower, a new record set on May 18 that is re-broken every day now. Yet though water levels continue to decline, Hoover’s hydropower is in a much better spot. Thanks to investment in efficient equipment, managers are confident that they can still wring electricity from the Colorado River even as the surface elevation of Lake Mead drops below 1,050 feet, the uncharted territory that was assumed to be Hoover’s operating limit.

“As far as power goes, we can still operate below 1,050 feet,” Rose Davis, Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman, told Circle of Blue. Dam operators are revising the lower limit to 950 feet, a boundary that will be confirmed in October once the fifth and final more-efficient turbine is installed, Davis said.

The investments in wide-head turbines, stainless steel wicket gates, and digital controls are emblematic of the types of practices that are necessary for the drying Colorado River Basin. In order to maximize scarce water, authorities must do more with less. Water managers in the lower basin states of Arizona, California, and Nevada, keen to avoid a disastrous downward spiral for Lake Mead that would threaten supplies for tens of millions of people, are spending more than $US 11 million on farm-efficiency and other projects that will conserve water and bank the savings in Lake Mead. Dam managers and power customers are adopting the same ethic for power generation.

Spending to Save Water and Boost Power
Electricity from Hoover is some of the cheapest in the country, at 1.83 cents per kilowatt-hour. Constructions costs for the dam were paid off years ago and the energy source, the water, comes from Mother Nature free of charge.

Customers in Arizona, California, and Nevada, the destination for Hoover’s output, would like to keep the cheap power flowing. That is why they spent $US 14.9 million since 2011 on the turbines and wicket gates.

The problem with Mead’s low water level for power generation is physics. Pressure differences in the water coming into the generators produce air bubbles on the turbine blades. As the water flows across the blades, the bubbles collapse and burst, which causes vibrations that can damage the generating unit. If the vibrations worsen, the unit must be shut down.

Wide-head turbines are designed to avoid these “rough zones” and operate smoothly at low reservoir levels. Four of Hoover’s 17 turbines have been fitted with wide-head models, and a fifth will be installed by October.

The wicket gates, on the other hand, allow for more precise control of water flowing through the turbines. They also reduce water leakage so that every drop that passes through Hoover can generate as much power as possible. Digital controls, which allow for more precise positioning of the wicket gates, have been installed at Hoover as well as at Davis and Parker dams, downstream on the Colorado.

“Any efficiency in hydropower means more power for our customers,” Kara Lamb told Circle of Blue. Lamb is the spokeswoman for the Western Area Power Administration, which markets Hoover’s power.

Though Hoover will not shut down any time soon, low water levels still reduce its output.

Generating capacity — the maximum amount of power that the dam is capable of producing — is down 30 percent from when Mead was full. For every foot that Mead drops, generating capacity decreases by five to six megawatts. Money is power, the old saying goes. So is water.

#NPRH2O: NPR’s “Michel Martin Going There” tackles “The Future of Water”

NPR panel discussion of The Future of Water at CSU May 24, 2016. L to R: Patty Limerick, Roger Frugua, Melissa Mays, Paolo Bacigalupi, Kathleen Curry, and host Michel Martin.
NPR panel discussion of The Future of Water at CSU May 24, 2016. L to R: Patty Limerick, Roger Frugua, Melissa Mays, Paolo Bacigalupi, Kathleen Curry, and host Michel Martin.

What a hoot at Colorado State University last night. NPR and KUNC collaborated to host a national conversation about The Future of Water.

The panel included, Patty Limerick (Colorado State Historian), Kathleen Curry (Former state legislator from Gunnison County), author Paolo Bacigalupi (The Water Knife), Melissa Mays (Resident from Flint, Michigan), and Roger Fragua (Spiritual leader form the Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico).

Ms. Martin asked pointed questions and kept the discussion on track. She had done her homework about the Colorado River Basin and water issues in general.

The event turned into a national Twitter fest using hashtag #NPRH2O. Click here to view all the Tweets. (If you don’t have a Twitter account you can still view them. After you click the link, click the “Live” button at the top of the page. Scroll down to the bottom and read upward since Tweets are posted in reverse chronological order.)

Reading the Tweets will give you an understanding of the conversation. I observed entries from coast to coast. It was a great example of social media enabling folks to interact with each other.

Colorado water law and prior appropriation are under scrutiny nowadays. Kathleen Curry risked the enmity of some by asserting that, “I don’t have a lot of sympathy for newcomers. This [Colorado water law] is how it works here.”

She understands that senior water rights mean a lot to food production and that Colorado has the most active water market in the US. She also cautioned that forcing efficiency on the ag sector would lead to higher prices at the grocery store. She touched on the need for wise use of changed ag water rights by the urban areas. She also mentioned the 800 pound gorilla of water management — land use and growth management.

Curry also said, “I’m not overly optimistic that things will change. Water follows money,” and, “We’re taking a fixed amount of water and reallocating it here in the West.”

Patty Limerick always finds a way to get at the heart of issues. She warned, “Whenever you get a simple position it means you haven’t thought enough.”

She also mentioned rhetorically, “Maybe conventional agriculture wasn’t the best idea for the West.”

Paolo Bacigalupi was more direct, saying, “We’ve done magical things because of our engineering prowess but populations exist where they should never have been.”

Ms. Limerick expanded on that theme when Melissa Mays asserted that Flint’s problem was a national problem. Patty defended water providers in general countering Mays claim with, “I’m a friend of many water managers. I know that there are dedicated people that are in our camp. We need them.”

“In the US we like to address our natural world in terms of commodities,” said Bacigalupi, “The value of water is infinite since we will pay almost any amount to survive.”

He summed up the importance of the evening saying, “We need to become more comfortable with abstract thinking and wonky subjects like water quality.”

Click through to the Tweet stream cited above. I guarantee that it is safe for work and of course I believe that learning and talking about water issues is the most important thing you can do.

Farmers express concerns about a Fountain Creek dam — La Junta Tribune-Democrat

Report: Remediation Scenarios for Attenuating Peak Flows and Reducing Sediment Transport in Fountain Creek, Colorado, 2013
Report: Remediation Scenarios for Attenuating Peak Flows and Reducing Sediment Transport in Fountain Creek, Colorado, 2013

From the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District (Norman Kincaide) via The La Junta Tribune-Democrat:

At a work session held Wednesday, May 18, 2016, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District (LAVWCD) board members listened to farmers’ concerns about the possibility of a dam to be built on Fountain Creek. All board members were in attendance except Melissa Esquibel. First on the agenda was Cindy Lair, Colorado Department of Agriculture. Lair reported on salinity and nutrient pollution in the Arkansas River, stating that agricultural users are not big polluters compared to municipalities. Regardless of historically high levels of salinity in the Arkansas it is likely that the salinity issue will have to be addressed in the future. This means that agricultural users will have to address the issue along with municipalities. How and by what means salinity in the Arkansas will be remediated remains to be seen but funding for remediation may come from NRCS or the Colorado Water Quality Control Department. Regardless of the means and funding, Kansas wants to see Colorado users moving in the right direction by 2022.

Following Lair’s report, Alan Frantz of Rocky Ford, gave a short slide presentation: Fountain Creek vs. Individual Water Rights. Slides showed graphs and data on Fountain Creek that from 1921 to 1965 (44 years) that there were 21 flows with less than 10,000 cfs and 10 flows higher with 13 years of data missing. From 1966 to 2014 (48 years) there were 36 flows less than 10,000 cfs and 7 flows higher with 5 years of data missing. This data came from the Fountain Creek Flood Control Study of Oct. 14, 2015. Frantz raised the question of: Is there really a problem? Speaking for ditch directors and shareholders of all the ditches, county commissioners, Ark Valley Ditch Association, well associations and others, they think there is not a problem with Fountain Creek and wanted some questions answered.

These groups want an independent engineering study to evaluate possible consequences of any type of structure on Fountain Creek, (whether it be a dam or holding ponds), an in depth assessment of historical precipitation versus stream flow and assess the validity of Duane Helton’s Fountain River study. Furthermore, a professional analysis and discussion on long term effects of structures on the whole river system was also desired. What was needed from LAVWCD was expertise and technical assistance.

Agricultural users want to form a committee consisting of 5 to 7 individuals, including farmers and ditch directors, a county commissioner or two, with Jack Gobel, District Engineer for LAVWCD, for technical support and funding from LAVWCD for completion of the study. Frantz asked if there are any valid reasons this study should not be pursued.

Farmers are concerned about the amount of press given to a Fountain Creek dam. A Pueblo Chieftain article published Tuesday, May 17, 2016, the opinions of two researchers, Del Nimmo and Scott Hermann, indicated that a dam on Fountain Creek would decrease erosion. Without mentioning the consequences to peak flow users and prior appropriations to agricultural users, Nimmo said: “A large dam could provide better understanding of what’s happening in the watershed, and be a good recreational benefit to the entire watershed of Fountain Creek.” The main reason for supporting a dam on Fountain Creek is to reduce erosion, which is the primary cause for selenium making its way into the water. Scott Hermann said: “A large dam on Fountain Creek would give us the flood control we need, but also provide recreational opportunities that are primary, with a pool of water as well as tailwater. So we have a fishery and fishing benefits from such a structure.”

Boulder County offers water tour of Left Hand Ditch system — the Longmont Times-Call

Above, left: This hand drawn map is one of the original documents of Coffin V Left Hand Ditch, at the Colorado State Archives. A few original documents from the Coffin V Left Hand case can be seen at the Colorado State Archives, filed under case #885, #1103 and #1203.  Above, right: The headgate of the Left Hand Ditch on the South St. Vrain, where the famous confrontation took place.
Above, left: This hand drawn map is one of the original documents of Coffin V Left Hand Ditch, at the Colorado State Archives. A few original documents from the Coffin V Left Hand case can be seen at the Colorado State Archives, filed under case #885, #1103 and #1203. Above, right: The headgate of the Left Hand Ditch on the South St. Vrain, where the famous confrontation took place.

From the Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar):

People can register to participate in a June 11 Boulder County Parks and Open Space water tour that’s to highlight the 150th anniversary of the Left Hand Ditch Company.

The 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. tour will begin at the Plaza Convention Center, 1850 Industrial Circle, Longmont, and start with presentations on water law, the orientation of the overall Left Hand basin and the history of the Left Hand Ditch.

Tour buses will then visit stops at sites in the Left Hand Ditch system before returning to the Plaza Center. The water tour, which will include a light breakfast and lunch, will cost $20 per participant.

For more information and to register online, visit http://www.bouldercounty.org/os/events/pages/agtours.aspx?utm_source=redirect&utm_medium=redirect&utm_campaign=POSRedirect or contact Vanessa McCracken at vmccracken@bouldercounty.org or 303-678-6181.

The 2016 Water Tour is supported by Boulder County Parks and Open Space, Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks, the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District and Left Hand Water District.