Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities has spent $26.6 M on land-related expenses

April 19, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs has spent $26.6 million to acquire land for its $984 million Southern Delivery System. Most of the money was spent in El Paso County, although properties in Pueblo West and on Walker Ranches were purchased either permanently or for temporary easements.

Pipeline easements totaled $961,681 for 388 acres in Pueblo County, compared with $2.5 million for 486 acres in El Paso County.

Another $1 million was paid to buy homes in Pueblo West.

The big money was paid for other features of the project in El Paso County, a total of about $22 million.

“It would be misleading to simply do the math on the values above and conclude that more was paid for land in El Paso County than Pueblo County,” said Janet Rummel, spokesman for Colorado Springs Utilities, in an e-mail responding to a request from The Pueblo Chieftain.

Permanent easement prices ranged from 50-90 percent of fee value, while temporary easements are valued at 10 percent per year, varying from one to four years.

“The fee value of land depends primarily on location, but also is subject to size, shape, development entitlement and improvements, if any,” Rummel explained.

“Within the raw water pipeline alignments for SDS, fee values for easements and facilities ranged from $1,389 per acre to almost $20,000 per acre,” Rummel said. “Pueblo West properties were generally valued in the range between $10,900 to $13,000 per acre.”

At the high end of that scale were 6 homes on about 10 acres in Pueblo West purchased for $1.044 million.

But even below that scale were 103 acres, two-thirds in permanent easements, on Walker Ranches, which could be purchased for $82,900, or about $804 per acre. Utilities also paid Walker $600,000 to relocate cattle during construction, as required by Pueblo County’s 1041 permit.

Gary Walker will contest the amount of the easement payment in court this November, one of four cases still in dispute.

Walker also has raised complaints, most recently during a county public hearing, about erosion along the pipeline route. The bulk of the money, however, has gone for the treatment plant, pump station and reservoir sites in El Paso County.

Utilities paid $259,519 for 43 acres for the Bradley Pump Station; $2.4 million for 124 acres at the treatment plant and $19.3 million for a future reservoir site on Upper Williams Creek.

At the reservoir site, T-Cross Ranches, owned by the Norris family, received $9,500 per acre for 791 acres ($7.5 million), while the state land board received $10,500 per acre for 1,128 acres ($11.8 million).

SDS is a pipeline project that will deliver up to 96 million gallons of water daily from Lake Pueblo to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West.

The figures do not include money Utilities paid to purchase homes in Jimmy Camp Creek at a reservoir site that later was abandoned.


Managing Lake Powell’s power pool, will it benefit from the current snowpack? #ColoradoRiver

April 5, 2014
Glen Canyon Dam -- Photo / Brad Udall

Glen Canyon Dam — Photo / Brad Udall

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Federal officials fretted for a year that they might have to take action as the water level in Lake Powell fell perilously close to the point that Glen Canyon Dam couldn’t generate electricity. Those fears were staved off, but not eliminated, after a meeting on Friday that involved top officials from the Interior Department and Bureau of Reclamation, according to Colorado officials who attended the meeting.

“They’ve been concerned since last year” when federal officials began modeling flows into Lake Powell and concluded that two dry years similar to 2012 and 2013 could threaten the intakes into the electricity-generating turbines, said Upper Colorado River Basin Commissioner John McClow on Wednesday.

“They’re nervous now,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, “Six months ago, they were more nervous.”

Snowpack of 110 percent of average or more so far this year in the Colorado mountains has alleviated much of the immediate concern, McClow said.

“We’ve gotten a reprieve this year, but we’re still working” on plans that would forestall any need for federal involvement in river management beyond the bureau’s existing role, McClow said.

What expanded federal involvement might mean is unclear, but Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, who represents the county on the Colorado River Water Conservation District board, said it’s extensive.

The issue isn’t whether the upper Colorado River is delivering enough water to meet the requirements of a 1922 compact among the seven basin states, but whether the water level in Powell is high enough to allow electricity generation.

“They’re talking about taking over management of the river if the power intakes (in Lake Powell) start sucking air,” Acquafresca said. “They’re not going to let that happen. You can’t start to develop a vortex in the reservoir.”

That vastly overstates the authority of the Bureau of Reclamation, said Larry Walkoviak, director for the bureau’s upper Colorado region.

“Each state has its own set of laws and we have to comport with those states’ water laws,” Walkoviak said. As the federal manager of the bureau’s dams and other facilities upstream from Glen Canyon, “I don’t have the authority to do something like that.”

The secretary of the Interior is the water master for the river below Glen Canyon, he noted, but not above.

Even at 39 percent full, the level of Lake Powell remains about 85 feet above the penstocks that feed the turbines in Glen Canyon Dam, so it seems that for the coming summer and probably more, the issue of electricity generation is likely moot, Walkoviak said.

Walkoviak was present at the meeting on Friday in Washington, D.C., that included Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior; Anne Castle, assistant secretary for water and science; McClow; Kuhn; and James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Eklund, Kuhn and McClow all stressed the significance of Colorado officials having contingency plans for low water levels in Powell at the ready when they met with the federal officials.

A three-party, state-developed contingency plan allayed much of the federal fear, McClow said.

“The bureau has given us every indication that it intends to work with us,” Eklund said

That plan calls for releasing more water than would otherwise be the case from the Aspinall Unit of dams on the Gunnison River, as well as Navajo Lake and Flaming Gorge; voluntary, compensated release of water rights by some users; and continued work to augment existing supplies.

The plan includes provisions for endangered species and for recreation and other uses, McClow said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


The Shoshone hydroelectric plant and its 1,250 cfs, 1902 water right is not for sale according to Xcel #ColoradoRiver

March 26, 2014
Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb

Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

“Shoshone is not for sale,” Eggleston told the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, which met Monday in Glenwood Springs, nine miles downstream from the Shoshone plant. “Don’t plan to sell it. Nothing in the future about selling it.”

That may be good news to those on the West Slope who fear a Front Range utility will buy the plant, shut it down, and extinguish the plant’s senior water rights — resulting in less water in the lower Colorado River.

But it also means the plant’s fate is left in the portfolio of Xcel Energy, a regional utility based in Minneapolis that operates 25 other hydro plants, serves 3.4 million electricity customers in eight states, and sees $10.1 billion a year in revenue.

Eggleston’s comments to the members of the Colorado roundtable were in response to an article in The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction on March 17 about the prospect of the plant being bought by West Slope interests.

The Sentinel story quoted Louis Meyer of SGM Engineering, a consultant developing the Colorado roundtable’s “basin implement plan,” that buying the plant would be “one of the seminal things going forward in our plan.”

The article included several references to the plant not being for sale, and stated there was “no indication for now that the Shoshone Generation Station is even for sale.”

But an Xcel spokesman quoted in the story, Mark Stutz, said he couldn’t comment on whether the plant was for sale, or not.

That left the prospect lingering.

And Eggleston told the roundtable meeting he wanted to clarify any “mis-information.”

“Again, Xcel is not interested in selling,” Eggleston said. “They would not consider any first-right-of-refusals, or anything else that’s not within the interests of Xcel at this time.”

Eggleston said the article in the Sentinel caught the attention of Ben Fowke, the company’s chairman, president and CEO.

“It would be a good idea to do that every two or three years so that the executive management is reminded how important Shoshone is, and that Xcel Energy is making a commitment to everybody on the Western Slope to protect those water rights and operate that plant,” Eggleston said.

The real value of the Shoshone plant to the West Slope is its senior water rights from 1902, which keep up to 1,250 cubic feet per second of water flowing down the Colorado River.

“The whole reason the West Slope, lead by the River District, would be interested in gaining the plant is because we want that water right held intact,” said Jim Pokrandt, a communications and education specialist with the Colorado River District…

Denver Water has long chafed at the restrictions imposed by Shoshone’s water rights, but Travis Thompson, media coordinator for the utility, said via email that “Denver Water has not made an offer to purchase the Shoshone plant over the last few decades, and there are no standing offers.”

Denver Water also drove the framing and adoption of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA), signed in 2012 by a list of regional entities.

“Under the CRCA, if Xcel decides to sell the Shoshone assets, they agree to do so in an open bidding arrangement,” Thompson, said.

He added that if the West Slope wanted to buy the plant, Denver Water also agreed it would support the idea and “assist the West Slope in acquiring Shoshone assets.”

But fear of Front Range water interests is still discernable in the Colorado River basin.

On Monday, Chuck Ogilby, a member of the Colorado roundtable, read a passage from the group’s vision statement: “The Shoshone call shall be preserved and protected for the benefit of the West Slope. This is non-negotiable.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


HB14-1030 passes third reading in Senate, March 19, on to Gov. Hickenlooper #COleg

March 24, 2014

microhydroelectricplant

From HydroWorld.com (Michael Harris):

The legislation — officially HB14-1030 — streamlines state environmental review for small hydroelectric projects without weakening or changing any underlying state environmental requirements, according to the Colorado Small Hydro Association (COSHA).

Instead, the bill directs the Colorado Energy Office to facilitate project review by state agencies in a timely manner commensurate with federal agency timelines, making it possible for an applicant to simultaneously clear both federal and state reviews as quickly as 60 days for “non-controversial” projects.

The bill also streamlines the electrical inspection process by citing National Electrical Code (NEC) standards that electricians should be guided by when installing small hydro. According to COSHA, electrical inspectors will now determine if a project meets NEC standards for safety, quality and code compliance.

HB14-1030 mirrors legislation passed at the federal level in August 2013, which included the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act and the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act.

“Last summer federal permitting requirements for small hydro were streamlined thanks to Colorado legislators in Congress,” said COSHA President Kurt Johnson. “Now thanks to leadership from Colorado legislators in Denver, similar streamlining legislation has been approved in Colorado. Congratulations and thanks to the sponsors of HB14-1030 for their leadership on this reform legislation which will serve as a model for other states nationwide.”

HB14-1030 came out of an October meeting of Colorado’s Water Resources Review Committee hearing led by Sen. Gail Schwartz…

“It has been a pleasure working with the Colorado Small Hydro Association on this legislation for rural Colorado,” Schwartz said. “HB14-1030 cuts red tape for small hydro development, helping to accelerate development of new small hydro installations and job creation.

“It’s a great example of Colorado common sense.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation here.


Many eyes are on the Shoshone 1902, 1,250 cfs water right #ColoradoRiver

March 18, 2014
Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb

Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Western Slope interests are beginning to speak with one voice about their interest in purchasing a historic Glenwood Canyon hydroelectric plant viewed by many as more valuable for its water rights than for its electricity. But there’s no indication for now that the Shoshone Generation Station is even for sale. And a purchase presumptively would involve a high price tag due to the considerable and highly senior water rights, meaning that a funding mechanism would need to be identified, not to mention a buying party.

“I’m sure if the plant was for sale something like that would be put together,” said Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood Springs.

Controlling river

The 15-megawatt plant, owned by Xcel Energy, is tiny by hydroelectric facility standards. But its 1905 water right of 1,250 cubic feet per second wields a lot of power in the water world, ensuring the flow of that much water down the Colorado River at least as far as the Glenwood Springs area. If the right didn’t exist, it could open the door to further diversions of water to junior rights holders wanting it for municipal purposes on the Front Range.

“Shoshone’s really the controlling right on the river,” Pokrandt said.

The Shoshone flows are so important to Western Slope governments, irrigation districts and other entities that part of a recently finalized, wide-ranging agreement dozens of them struck with Denver Water formalizes a protocol for generally continuing flows required by the plant during plant outages. The deal also seeks to mimic those flows even if the plant no longer is operational. Under the deal, Denver Water also would support possible purchase of the plant by a Western Slope entity.

Meanwhile, a Colorado River Basin roundtable group currently is helping draw up a basin-wide plan to submit for consideration as part of development of a state water plan. Louis Meyer, a Glenwood Springs engineer who is doing public outreach around the basin as the group prepares its recommendations, said he’s hearing a unanimous consensus in support of buying the plant.

“I believe that will be one of the seminal things going forward in our plan,” he said.

Revenue stream

He said one of the things driving the concern is that while there may be a deal with Denver Water, other Front Range entities aren’t bound by it. Pokrandt, who chairs the roundtable group, said the fear is that an entity would buy the plant just to close it down and retire its water rights, enabling it to divert more water with junior rights.

He said it’s good to see the concept of buying the plant take root, but added, “it would be a very expensive proposition.”

Meyer agreed, but said that if the cost is spread among numerous counties, “it’s not very much at all.”

Pokrandt said the river district would be the logical entity to take the lead in a purchase.

“But we certainly couldn’t do it on the revenues that we have for our current operations. A revenue stream would have to be figured out,” he said.

“… The financial package would definitely have to be a West Slopewide discussion.”

He said there’s an increasing recognition on the Western Slope of the Shoshone rights’ value in keeping water in the river for environmental and recreational purposes, and ensuring its availability for municipal consumption, Grand Valley irrigation and other purposes downstream of the plant.

Electricity demand

The water rights are designated for electricity generation, which would mean the buyer would have to continue operating the old plant to keep the rights. Pokrandt said that wouldn’t be easy for the river district, but it already does things such as operate reservoirs.

But he was quick to point out about the Shoshone plant, “It’s not for sale, though.”

Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said he can’t comment on whether the plant is for sale, due to general company policy about not speaking on acquisitions or sales of assets “unless there is some cause for doing it.”

He said people “shouldn’t read too much into that one way or the other.”

Even with its small size, the plant is a component for meeting electricity demand in the area, he said.

“It’s obviously a relatively modest facility but it still provides a big benefit to the company in supporting the grid in what’s obviously a more geographically challenging part of our service territory,” he said.

Xcel investment

Building transmission and generation is harder in the mountains, and Shoshone “remains a very important piece from the grid support standpoint,” he said.

Xcel spent $12 million repairing the plant after a penstock ruptured in 2007, putting it out of service.

“We will continue to operate that facility based on that investment,” he said.

Pokrandt said that in probably the best of all worlds, Xcel would continue to own and operate the plant.

He added, “I think Xcel also understands the politics of the situation and the preferred status quo of operating the plant under the current conditions.”

Stutz said the company understands the significance of the plant to entities in the region, and tries to be a good neighbor.

“We’ve always tried to work with any agreements made with other entities in terms of where that water goes,” he said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Aspen: Both sides in the city’s hydropower abandonment case have engaged experts to determine streamflow needs

March 4, 2014
Pelton wheel

Pelton wheel

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via the Aspen Daily News:

A collaborative committee, formed by opposing parties in a lawsuit claiming the city of Aspen has abandoned its rights to divert water from Castle and Maroon creeks for a proposed hydro plant, is making slow progress toward its goals.

When the settlement effort was announced last year after a “stay” was filed in the case, there were hopes that a stream ecologist could be agreed upon and hired early this year to study the proposed hydro plant and the streams and make recommendations about “stream health goals.”

Steve Wickes, a local facilitator guiding the committee and working for both parties in the case, said the committee’s goals were narrowly defined: Can the two sides, with the help of a mutually trusted expert, agree on how much water can be taken out of the creeks?

But before a “request for proposals” can be written to attract a third-party stream ecologist, the committee has agreed that two experts who are working for either side should first review the list of prior studies done on the two rivers to determine where there are information gaps…

To help review the existing studies and draft the request for proposal, the city has hired Bill Miller, the president of Miller Ecological Consultants of Fort Collins, who has been working for the city on river issues since 2009.

And the plaintiffs have hired Richard Hauer, a professor of limnology (freshwater science) at the University of Montana and the director of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems. Hauer appeared at an event in Aspen in 2012 to discuss the importance of keeping water flowing naturally through a river’s ecosystem…

On the committee from the city are Steve Barwick, Aspen’s city manager, Jim True, the city attorney, and David Hornbacher, the head of the city’s utilities and environmental initiatives.

Representing the plaintiffs on the committee are Paul Noto, a water attorney with Patrick, Miller, Kropf and Noto of Aspen, and Maureen Hirsch, a plaintiff in the suit who lives along Castle Creek.

The other plaintiffs include Richard Butera, Bruce Carlson, Christopher Goldsbury, Jr. and four LLCs controlled by Bill Koch. All of the plaintiffs own land and water rights along either Castle or Maroon creeks.

Wickes said the members of the committee have agreed with his suggestion that they not discuss their ongoing work with the media, and instead refer questions to him.

The claim of abandonment against the city was filed in 2011 water court, in case number 11CW130, “Richard T. Butera et al v. the city of Aspen.”

The case was poised to go to trial on Oct. 28, 2013 and both sides filed trial briefs on Oct. 14.

On Oct. 18, however, the parties filed a stay request with the court so they could “cooperate in engaging a qualified independent, neutral, stream ecology expert.”

The ecologist is to study the rivers and the proposed plant and then “determine a bypass amount of water, to be left in the stream by Aspen.”

The opposing parties are then supposed to “use their best efforts to define the stream health goals to be achieved by said amount of water.”

That could mean, as one example, that a flow regime is agreed upon, with varying levels of water being left in the rivers below the city’s diversions at different times of year, depending in part on the natural amount of water in the rivers during any given year.

Such a protocol exists today on Snowmass Creek as it relates to diverting water for snowmaking at the Snowmass Ski Area.

The city is currently proposing to divert up to 27 cubic feet per second of water from Maroon Creek and 25 cfs of water from Castle Creek for the proposed hydro plant, on top of the water it currently diverts from both streams for municipal uses and the existing Maroon Creek hydro plant.

The city also has a policy to keep at least 13.3 cfs in Castle Creek and 14 cfs in Maroon Creek below its diversion dams in order to help protect the rivers’ ecosystems…

The plaintiffs in the suit against the city have told the court they are concerned that if the city diverts more water for hydropower, it could hurt their ability to use their junior water rights on Castle or Maroon creeks. They also claim the city intended to abandon its hydro rights connected to an old hydro plant on Castle Creek, which the city concedes it has not used since 1961.

But the city has denied it ever intended to abandon its water rights and has challenged the plaintiffs’ standing to bring the suit.

Whether the September court dates are needed likely depends on whether the two sides can agree to hire a third-party stream consultant, and then agree to follow their recommendations.

If so, Wickes thinks such an exercise could influence how rivers and streams around the West are managed.

“I’m actually hopeful that when the study is completed, not only will it inform future conversations about the hydroelectric plant, it will inform a wide number of decisions about stream ecology, how we treat our streams, and how things are interconnected,” Wickes said.

More hydroelectric coverage here.


Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Aaron Million still has his eye on the prize #ColoradoRiver

March 2, 2014
Conceptual route for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline -- Graphic via Earth Justice

Conceptual route for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline — Graphic via Earth Justice

From the Green River Star (David Martin):

The Aaron Million water project continues on in the form of a request to the Bureau of the Interior. Million’s request, as published in the Federal Register Feb. 12, calls for a standby contract for the annual reservation of 165,000 care-feet of municipal and industrial water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir for a transbasin diversion project…

Mayor Hank Castillon, who is a member of Communities Protecting the Green, said he isn’t sure what Million’s plans are with this latest move. Citing his previous denials from the Army Corp of Engineers and FERC, Castillon said the amount Million wants to use has dropped from the initial 250,000 acre feet of water his project would require. Castillon said he expects a battle to occur between the eastern and western sides of the continental divide. Castillon is aware Cheyenne and other cities in eastern Wyoming need water, along with locations in northern Colorado. The problem they need to address, according to Castillon, is the fact that the water isn’t available…

The Sweetwater County Commissioners commented on Million’s proposal Tuesday, voicing their opposition to the idea. Commissioner Wally Johnson said the transfer of water to Colorado isn’t in Sweetwater County’s best interest, saying “it doesn’t matter if it’s Mr. Million or Mr. Disney” making the proposal. Commissioner John Kolb also voiced his opposition, saying opposition to the idea is unanimous between Gov. Matt Mead, the Wyoming County Commissioners Association and the commissioners themselves.

“I’d like to see us not wasting our time on crazy, hare-brained schemes,” Kolb said. “(Transbasin water diversion) doesn’t work.”

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


The Tri-County Water Conservation District is bringing on two hydroelectric generation stations at Ridgway Dam

February 24, 2014
Ridgway Dam via the USBR

Ridgway Dam via the USBR

From The Watch (Samantha Wright):

Over the past year and a half, two hydropower generators have sprung up at the foot of the dam: a smaller, 800kV generator that should run efficiently on the low, 30-60 cubic-feet-per-second flows in winter, and a larger, 7.2 megawatt generator to run on summertime release levels.

Next week, on Feb. 24 or 25, the smaller of these two units will be turned on and start producing a steady stream of green electricity, said Mike Berry of Tri-County Water Conservation District, the entity that manages the Ridgway dam and is building the power-generating facility at its base.

The big generator should be ready for testing by April or so, Berry said. When the project goes fully online later this spring or early summer, it will have a total plant capacity of 8 Megawatts – enough renewable power to run 2,250 homes and take the equivalent, in greenhouse gases, of 4,400 cars off the road.

Both units will operate during high reservoir releases in the summer, and only the smaller unit will operate during lower wintertime releases.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the wholesale electric supplier for San Miguel Power Association and the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, has built two short transmission lines at the hydropower plant. One will connect to the existing 115kV line running alongside the highway, and another will connect with the generating station.

Power generation will have to be carefully calibrated in order to maintain historic release patterns at the dam – one of the requirements of the Bureau of Reclamation’s final Environmental Assessment of the project – while maintaining healthy lake levels and maximizing power production.

In times of drought, the water rights of downstream irrigators, industries and municipalities will trump power generation…

Power generated at the hydro plant will be sold to two entities: Tri-State, and the City of Aspen. Tri-County WCD first started discussing a partnership with the City of Aspen in 2002. Eventually, this partnership evolved into a Power Purchase Agreement, or PPA.

In an agreement inked in 2010, Aspen agreed to purchase the wintertime output from the hydropower project, from Oct. 1 through May 31, for 20 years, to help further its goal of powering the city with purely renewable energy. Tri-State has agreed to purchase, for 10 years, the higher summertime output.

If projections hold up, about 10,000 MWh worth of energy will be “transferred” to the City of Aspen through the PPA annually (although it is doubtful that any of the actual electrons flowing into the grid from the new hydropower plant will travel that far). This amount is not set in concrete – Berry emphasized that there will be annual fluctuations in the amount of power that is delivered to Aspen, depending on a number of factors including whether it is a wet or a dry year, the timing of the spring runoff, and the demands of downstream water rights holders.

Tri-County WCD has secured $15 million in financing for the project – including a $13 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and a $2 million loan from Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority – and has sunk an additional $3 million of its own money into the project…

As the new hydropower plant at Ridgway Reservoir prepares to go online, legislation has been introduced at the state capitol to help streamline development of smaller hydropower projects throughout Colorado.

Last week, the Colorado House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HB14-1030 by a vote of 62-3. The bipartisan legislation complements the recent streamlining of federal permitting requirements for small hydro through the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act.

HB14-1030 was introduced in the House by Reps. Mitsch, Bush and Coram. Senator sponsorship includes Senators Schwartz and Roberts as well as Hodge.

In essence, the bill “makes it possible to simultaneously complete federal and state review at the same time,” said Kurt Johnson, the president of the Colorado Small Hydro Association. It also seeks to streamline the electrical inspection process for small hydro, using precedents set in the small wind industry decades ago.

The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee will hold a hearing on the pending legislation on Feb. 27.

More hydroelectric coverage here. More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


HB14-1030 passes House 63-2 #COleg

February 23, 2014
Barker Meadows Dam Construction

Barker Meadows Dam Construction

From The Denver Post (Hugh Johnson):

House Bill 14-1030 mitigates the complexities of the permitting process for hydroelectric facilities that produce 10 megawatts of energy or less. Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, believe their bill will create more jobs in rural communities.

Mitsch Bush said she knows a rancher living in Meeker who lowered his utility bill $10,000 a year by using hydroelectric systems.

“It creates jobs, it increases renewables and it enables rural households to lower their electric bill,” Mitsch Bush said of the measure.

Mitsch Bush believes the bill will make it easier for rural communities to harness the power of hydroelectric facilities by cutting some of the red tape that hinders their creation. She also said in a news release that the bill came about as a result of an inclusive stakeholder process between utilities, small hydroelectric producers, electric contractors and conservation groups.

House Bill 1030, which passed 63-2, now goes to the Senate.

More 2014 Colorado Legislation coverage here.


5.8 MW hydroelectric generation station under design for the North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam

January 19, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A small hydroelectric generation project at Pueblo Dam is moving into a preliminary design phase. The proposal would create a 5.8 megawatt hydroelectric generator at the recently completed North Outlet Works, which was constructed as part of the Southern Delivery System. It would generate about 21 million kilowatt-hours annually, said Kevin Meador, an engineer with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District at the board’s meeting Thursday.

“We started this process in February 2012, and we have to finish the application by August,” Meador said. “We’ve got the pedal to the metal and we’re pushing to get these tasks done.”

The Southeastern district has partnered with Colorado Springs Utilities and the Pueblo Board of Water Works in an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation to build the hydro plant.

Power likely would be sold to Black Hills Energy and then to other users. Details are being negotiated.

Right now, the district is working through planning, permitting and technical issues, Meador said.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


Funding Opportunity Available to Increase Water Conservation or Improve Water Supply Sustainability

December 9, 2013
Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation is making funding available through its WaterSMART program to support new Water and Energy Efficiency Grant projects. Proposals are being sought from states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to partner with Reclamation on projects that increase water conservation or result in other improvements that address water supply sustainability in the West.

The funding opportunity announcement is available at http://www.grants.gov using funding opportunity number R14AS00001.

Applications may be submitted to one of two funding groups:

  • Funding Group I: Up to $300,000 will be available for smaller projects that may take up to two years to complete. It is expected that a majority of awards will be made in this funding group.
  • Funding Group II: Up to $1,000,000 will be available for larger, phased projects that will take up to three years to complete. No more than $500,000 in federal funds will be provided within a given fiscal year to complete each phase. This will provide an opportunity for larger, multiple-year projects to receive some funding in the first year without having to compete for funding in the second and third years.
  • Proposals must seek to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict. To view examples of previous successful applications, including projects with a wide-range of eligible activities, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/weeg.

    In 2013, Reclamation awarded more than $20 million for 44 Water and Energy Efficiency Grants. These projects were estimated to save about 100,000 acre-feet of water per year — enough water to serve a population of about 400,000 people.

    The WaterSMART Program focuses on improving water conservation, sustainability and helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. It identifies strategies to ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water demands.

    Proposals must be submitted as indicated on http://www.grants.gov by 4 p.m., Mountain Standard Time, Jan. 23, 2014. It is anticipated that awards will be made this spring.

    To learn more about WaterSMART please visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.


    Allen Best: The risk is that water may not be there some years. Or a lot of years. #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

    December 8, 2013
    Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

    Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

    Here’s a guest column about the possible effects of low flow into Lake Powell, written by Allen Best that is running in The Denver Post:

    Skimpy-clothed people splashing amid the red sandstone canyons of Utah define our images of Lake Powell. But six months ago, engineers and water officials from the seven states of the Colorado River Basin quietly met in Santa Fe to consider a more serious possibility: Continued drought could leave too little water in the reservoir for the eight giant turbines in Glen Canyon Dam to produce electricity.

    The turbines can produce great amounts of electricity, 1,320 megawatts at full throttle, or roughly twice as much as the Cherokee power plants north of downtown Denver. In practice, the volume runs half that. Most rural electrical cooperatives in the Rocky Mountains states buy power from Glen Canyon through their wholesale supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, as does Xcel Energy.

    The average $150 million in revenues from this power generation are a federal cash cow. The money paid for construction of Glen Canyon and other dams authorized by Congress in 1958, but also funds salinity control such as in the Paradox Valley west of Telluride and the endangered fish recovery program, including the 15-mile segment of the Colorado River from Palisade into Grand Junction.

    What if the Colorado River Basin has another bum year for snow? Inflows into Lake Powell during the last two years were 25 percent and then 47 percent as compared to the rolling 30-year average. If the years 2001-2003 were about as bad, here’s the difference: in 1999, Lake Powell was full. In recent years, despite a few big snow years, the reservoir has often displayed big “bathtub rings.” Right now, it’s 43 percent of capacity. Drought has been our more steady companion of the 21st century. This extended drought, in duration and depth, surpasses any since gauges were installed in the Colorado River Basin in 1906. However, extensive study of tree rings in the basin suggest worse and even longer drought sequences have occurred in the Southwest, especially 900 years ago. Whether this drought will also continue is anybody’s guess, but Colorado and other states decided it best to plan in case it does. On Thursday, at a meeting in Golden, officials for the first time shared some of their pending strategies.

    John McClow of Gunnison, who is Colorado’s representative on the Upper Basin Compact Commission, said if snow lags again this winter, reservoirs on two tributary rivers — Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green and Navajo on the San Juan — can be tapped to allow the Glen Canyon generators to produce electricity. The trio of reservoirs near Gunnison — Blue Mesa, Curecanti and Morrow Point — are already too low to be of much value, he said. Other federal reservoirs — Ruedi near Basalt, Green Mountain near Kremmling, and Granby — are not part of the same system.

    If the drought deepens, other small-gain strategies can be deployed: stepped-up cloud seeding and more aggressive efforts to remove water-gobbling salt cedar, i.e., tamarisk, an invasive species, from river banks. Still other strategies being weighed include idling of agriculture land —even crimping of some transmountain diversions, which normally divert 450,000 to 600,000 acre-feet of water each year in Colorado from the Colorado River Basin to the Front Range and eastern plains. But whatever strategies are adopted, McClow stressed, Colorado alone wouldn’t bear the burden.

    Why not just forego the electricity? That remains an option, but it would invite the federal government to become a decision-maker in water matters. Almost fiercely, the states prefer to chart their own course.

    This newest twist at Lake Powell is different from a curtailment under the 1922 Colorado River Water Compact. Colorado and other upper-basin states are in no imminent danger of failing to deliver the water specified for delivery at Lee’s Ferry, at the head of the Grand Canyon, as required by the compact, said McClow, nor is that likely to occur at any time soon. For that matter, the prospect of a Lake Powell “dead pool”- too little water to generate power – isn’t high probability next summer. Computer modeling suggets a 5 to 7 percent chance.

    Yet this sharpening razor’s edge at between water supply and demand may be instructive. At one level it represents the intersection of water and energy. In California, one-fifth of all energy is devoted to moving around water. In Colorado, it’s lower. But everywhere, particularly the West, water is dependent on energy, and producing energy is dependent on water.

    More immediately, this reminds us of risk. Some people think that Colorado’s growing urban areas need to develop the state’s remaining raw water supplies from the Colorado River Basin. The risk is that water may not be there some years. Or a lot of years. We just don’t know.

    Allen Best of Arvada publishes Mountain Town News (http://http://mountaintownnews.net/).

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Many eyes are on the 1,250 cfs Shoshone right #ColoradoRiver

    December 7, 2013
    Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb

    Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb

    From KUNC (Maeve Conran):

    There’s popular launch site for rafters a few miles east of Glenwood Springs. It’s right beneath Interstate 70, and is in front of an old tan brick building, set back into the canyon wall. Chances are, highway drivers might not even see this place. But it’s the reason the rafting is so good here all the time.

    The Shoshone Hydro Plant, built to harness Colorado River water and turn it into 15 megawatts of electricity has two nine-foot tall turbines, which were manufactured and installed in 1906 and are still humming along today. It’s the linchpin of the river, according to Jim Pokrandt, Education and Outreach Specialist with the Colorado River District.

    “Not because of producing electricity,” said Pokrandt. “But because it takes water to produce that electricity, and that water is supplied via a 1902 water right for 1250 CFS. That’s the biggest, oldest water right on the river.”

    1250 CFS, or cubic feet per second, is a lot of water. It’s labeled “non-consumptive use,” which means the water is not taken out of the river to grow food or flush toilets. It flows onto the turbines and right back out—sustaining an important part of the local economy: rafting, kayaking and fishing.

    Maintaining that primary water right is critical to keeping flow levels adequate for the turbines, and to help create rapids.

    Pokrandt says Shoshone also helps towns that draw water from the river, because the high flows the plant requires helps keep the water cleaner.

    “Silt, Rifle, Parachute and Clifton are all taking drinking water out of the Colorado River,” said Pokrandt. “The greater the flow, the less intensive you have to treat the water.”

    Agriculture in the Grand Valley also benefits from Shoshone’s water right.

    Mel Rettig is a vegetable and fruit farmer in Palisade, about 80 miles southwest of the Shoshone plant. Rettig says the higher flows due to Shoshone help keep salinity levels low…

    Some West Slope water irrigators who depend on Shoshone would love to buy the plant and its water right to protect the interests of the Grand Valley. A 15-megawatt output is small by today’s standards — modern power plants produce hundreds of megawatts. But Xcel continues to invest millions in maintenance at the plant and the utility says they have no plans to sell Shoshone or its water rights…

    “This little, old, two turbine, 15-megawatt 1905 vintage power plant in Glenwood Canyon,” said Pokrandt. “It doesn’t look like much but it’s a big dog on the river.”

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Shoshone

    November 27, 2013

    Coyote Gulch:

    More Shoshone plant coverage here.

    Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

    Interstate 70 through Colorado

    This small hydroplant, tucked away behind I-70 in Glenwood Canyon can be hard to spot– many drive right past without knowing its there– but, thanks to its water right, Shoshone has a big impact. Listen to our latest show in the radio series Connecting to Drops to hear about the critical role Xcel Energy’s Shoshone plays on the upper Colorado.

    From the article, Phoning for Flows, in the Summer 2011 issue of Headwaters magazine.

    The single most important water right in understanding management of the Colorado River, however, is far from the oldest. It belongs to the Shoshone hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Canyon. Driving through the canyon since the completion of Interstate 70, it’s easy to miss the pumpkin pie-colored buildings now located below road grade. Water people don’t. They understand the influence of the water rights there, which affect the distribution of water both east to Denver and west…

    View original 201 more words


    First Small Hydro Project in Colorado Moves Forward Thanks to Regulatory Efficiency Act

    November 23, 2013
    Mayflower Mill

    Mayflower Mill

    Here’s the release from US Senator Michael Bennet’s office:

    Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today announced that the Silverton-based San Juan County Historical Society’s small hydro project would be allowed to move forward without undergoing the burdensome and expensive federal permitting process thanks to the Hydropower Regulator Efficiency Act. The bill, which Bennet cosponsored, cuts red tape for noncontroversial hydro projects that are less than 5 megawatts.

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission officially announced last night that the project would not be subject to the federal permitting process, thanks to the bill, which passed Congress unanimously in August. As a result, the 11-kilowatt Silverton project will be the first small hydro project in the state, and one of the first in the nation to take advantage of this streamlined system.

    “The Hydropower industry has tremendous potential to stimulate economic growth and job creation in Colorado,” Bennet said. “This common-sense bipartisan bill removes unnecessary regulations to help small projects like this one get up and running in communities across the state. We should continue to look for ways to cut through red tape and promote these types of clean, cost-effective energy sources.”

    “The Feds had previously said that our project needed to apply for a hydropower license, but requiring a federal license for a tiny, non-controversial hydro project on an existing pipeline didn’t make sense,” Beverly Rich, Chair of the San Juan County Historical Society, said. The Historical Society operates the Mayflower Mill site where the new hydropower project is being built. “We’re grateful to Senator Bennet for helping us cut through this red tape.”

    In addition to Silverton, projects in Telluride and Orchard City are working to take advantage of this reform under the new law.

    The Hydropower Improvement Act was a companion bill to H.R. 267, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, sponsored by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Cathy McMorris-Rogers (R-WA).

    Background Info on the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act:

    Prior to the new law, the costly federal permitting requirements had been a barrier to entry for small hydropower developments. In many cases, the cost of federal permitting exceeded the cost of the hydro equipment.

    The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act solves this problem by creating a “regulatory off-ramp” from permitting requirements for small, non-controversial hydro projects on existing conduits, such as pipelines and canals. It doesn’t change any underlying federal or state environmental statute, it simply streamlines the federal approval process.

    The Colorado Small Hydro Association estimates that 100 MW of new hydro development in the state could mean 500 new jobs in various fields including developers, engineers, plumbers, carpenters, and others.

    For more details on the Silverton hydro project, feel free to call Beverly Rich, Chair of the San Juan County Historical Society, at 970-387-5488.

    More San Juan Historical Society coverage here. More H.R. 267 coverage here. More hydroelectric coverage here.


    Big Thompson River: Twilight for the Idylwilde Dam #COflood

    October 9, 2013
    Idylwilde Dam via Loveland Water and Power

    Idylwilde Dam via Loveland Water and Power

    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jessica Maher):

    In a resolution added to Tuesday’s special meeting of the Loveland City Council, councilors voted unanimously to authorize negotiations with Kiewit Corp., the contractor selected by the Colorado Department of Transportation for the U.S. 34 reconstruction project.

    The agreement will include demolishing and disposing of the Idylwilde Dam. The silt, sand, cobbles and boulders now located behind the dam would go to Kiewit for much-needed project material.

    Loveland Water and Power Director Steve Adams said he worked last week with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Forest Service to fast track approvals needed to move forward with negotiations.

    “We felt like this is an opportunity that presents itself to us and we wanted to take advantage of it,” Adams said. “We feel like the dam has been compromised — it was compromised in its reconstruction by a quarter of it not being anchored to bedrock — and this was even more evidence to us that the dam should be removed for safety purposes and also to help the reconstruction effort.”[...]

    The Idylwilde Dam went online in 1925 and was at that time the power plant for the city. It generates about 900 kW, which is now a fraction of what Loveland Water and Power now produces, and the facility was used in recent years to help reduce the city’s costs when the Platte River Power Authority hit its peak demand.

    The dam area represents about 100,000 cubic yards that contractor could use to help reconstruct the highway, according to Adams, who said the city has been in contact with Kiewit Corp officials.

    From the Longmont Times-Call (Tony Kindelspire):

    Longmont homeowners will see an increase in their average monthly utility bills of about 12 1/2 percent starting Dec. 1, according to votes passed Tuesday night by the Longmont City Council. Primarily because of stormwater and parks and greenway maintenance fee increases, Longmont residents’ utility fees will soon be $153 a month, up from $136 a month. The Longmont City Council voted unanimously to increase stormwater fees to $13.60 a month, which is nearly double what was proposed by the city’s public works and natural resources department. That increase — ironically — included flood control measures on stretches of the St. Vrain River.

    Dale Rademacher, director of public works and natural resources, said the preliminary cost estimate of total damage to the river is about $80 million.

    Barbara McGrane, the business manager for the public works department, told council that the city originally had planned $470,000 in capital projects for 2014. Post-flood, that figure is now about $3.6 million, she said. Federal Emergency Management Agency funds will reimburse the city for a portion of the needed repairs, but how much remains to be seen, McGrane said.

    “We don’t really know yet what FEMA is going to want us to do with the river, but the riverbed repairs — big dollars,” McGrane said.

    From The Denver Post (Electa Draper):

    Garbage day after the Colorado floods is turning apocalyptic. The potential volume of flood debris is mind-blowing, given preliminary estimates of more than 1,800 homes destroyed and more than 16,000 damaged and full of soggy ruins.

    State regulators are working on waivers for safety and environmental standards at landfills so they can handle the toxic mounds of refuse heaped in city drop-off sites and piled in debris fields along creeks and rivers.

    Earlier this week, traffic leading to dumps, including two in Erie, was so heavy that haulers pulled out of long lines in frustration with wait times.

    “It’s been wild,” said Dan Gudgel, division manager for Waste Connections, which runs the Erie landfills. “We’ve had a tremendous amount of rain here — 15 to 20 inches — and we drive on soil. We struggled Monday, but now we’re going full-bore.”

    Heaps of ruined possessions are an immediate threat to public health, but they also are constant reminders of the disaster and are among the biggest obstacles to economic recovery and a restored sense of well-being, FEMA spokesman Jerry DeFelice said.

    “At the forefront of recovery is debris removal,” DeFelice said.

    FEMA reformed policies for helping communities with the high cost of cleanup after Hurricane Sandy, now offering reimbursement along a sliding scale for speedy removal — in excess of 75 percent of eligible costs.

    “The idea is to give communities incentives to plan for disaster cleanup,” DeFelice said.

    The Colorado counties so far eligible for this type of FEMA assistance are those hardest hit — Adams, Boulder, Larimer and Weld — among 17 flooded counties. The volume of refuse the cleanup will generate is impossible to estimate, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials said.

    Waste Connections — which operates the adjacent Denver Regional and Front Range landfills in Erie — has sent out several hundred 30- to 40-cubic-yard roll-off trash containers to storm- wrecked communities. A half dozen other companies have placed hundreds more containers.

    The huge debris-filled bins are due back soon, perhaps at the end of this week, Gudgel said.

    “The order of magnitude here is unreal. I couldn’t begin to guess at an amount,” Gudgel said. “I worked back east, with debris from tornadoes and ice storms, but this is unbelievable.”

    It’s also impossible to determine the health risks of muck-coated possessions, including some contamination by raw sewage and now mold.

    Hard-hit homeowners vouch that the yuck factor is off the charts.

    “There are a lot of people who are going to be involved with this (cleanup),” said Roger Doka, CDPHE’s solid-waste permitting unit leader. “We are meeting with our water quality, hazardous waste and air pollution divisions and with local governments.”

    Flood-damaged furnishings and other possessions on private property are the responsibility of the property owner, said Colorado Office of Emergency Management spokeswoman Micki Trost.

    But with whole houses collapsed into waterways, propane tanks hissing down fast-moving creeks and unidentifiable objects bobbing along or deposited along stream banks, local governments aren’t sure when they’ll get on top of this mountain of debris.

    Larimer County hasn’t had a break in disaster-generated debris since the 2012 High Park fire, county

    Mark Taylor helps neighbors unload flood-damaged belongings Wednesday at a dump in Boulder, where residents started to clean up from last week’s massive flooding. (RJ Sangosti, T he Denver Post)
    recovery manager Suzanne Bassinger said. Residents there were given three years from the date of the fire’s containment, June 30, 2012, to remove charred materials from their properties. Fire debris has been washing down creeks for months in post-fire flooding previous to last week’s catastrophic flooding in northeastern Colorado.
    “We’ve never really had any let-up,” Bassinger said.

    In Boulder County, emergency managers are still focused on evacuating people and using resources to carve routes to stranded communities.

    “You are asking ‘the recovery question.’ We’re still trying to get our hands around that,” Boulder Office of Emergency Management spokesman Ben Pennymon said.

    Managers from different departments are beginning to form a team to coordinate cleanup, he said.

    But Boulder residents already are dumping around the clock into containers at 21 collection sites — even burying and surrounding them with trash. Crews are working around the clock to haul full containers away but are struggling to keep up.

    The state health department is working to develop waivers that will allow landfills to accept some amounts of typically prohibited materials, such as asbestos-contaminated construction debris, Doka said.

    “Every landfill has the right of refusal for materials,” Doka said. “But they all are positioning themselves to accept flood debris. I’ve contacted all of the landfills in the area to ask about air space — or how much room they have. They all say they have adequate space.”

    Yet it could turn out that some landfill operators will have to excavate additional cells, he said.

    Gudgel said the Erie landfills have room — including a new $2.5 million cell (a large hole for waste lined with clay and plastic and graded so fluids drain out). Work began on it earlier this summer and could be completed in a few weeks.

    The Erie landfills have a remaining life expectancy of 40 years, he said, and he doesn’t think the flooding will significantly diminish that.

    “We’ve got room,” Gudgel said.


    Colorado River Basin: Water shortages on the horizon? #ColoradoRiver

    October 7, 2013
    Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

    Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

    From MSN.com (Bob Berwyn):

    “The bottom line is, the [2007 shortage sharing agreements] were major progress — people could agree on reservoir levels where things are out of the normal, and we’ve hit that,” [Eric] Kuhn told MSN News. With the overall climate picture shading toward drier conditions, water managers need to be very cautious in planning for the next few years and beyond, he added.

    In a July 1 memo that outlines what the looming shortages could mean for the region, Kuhn wrote that several more dry years would lead to even greater cuts in water deliveries to the arid Southwest. He said there also would be huge impacts to hydropower generation at the Hoover Dam, on the border of Arizona and Nevada.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Reclamation Awards $27.5 Million Contract to Rebuild Four Glen Canyon Generators #ColoradoRiver

    October 2, 2013
    A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam -- Photo USBR

    A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam — Photo USBR

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclmation (Lisa Iams):

    The Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $27.5 million contract to Alstom of Littleton, Colo., to rebuild four of the eight hydroelectric power generation units at Glen Canyon Dam that have reached the end of their service life.

    “For nearly 50 years, Glen Canyon Powerplant has generated renewable, hydroelectric power to help meet the electrical needs in the West,” said Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor. “The units being rebuilt under this contract have been in service for nearly 30 of those years. Replacing the generation units on schedule ensures continued reliability and optimal efficiency of the powerplant for the next 30-35 years as Reclamation supports the nation’s all-of-the-above energy strategy.”

    The four units to be replaced will have improved generator components – known as ‘stators’ – made from solid copper bars, increasing reliability and extending the life of the units by up to 10 years. Once the work is completed, all eight of the powerplant’s generators will have been rebuilt.

    Work is scheduled to begin in the summer and continue through December 2016 with the process to rebuild each generator taking approximately seven months to complete. Only one generator will be rebuilt at a time which equates to 173 megawatt reduction in the total power plant capacity while each unit is off-line.

    All power plant maintenance and replacement activities are scheduled in full coordination with the Western Area Power Administration which markets the power sold to municipalities, rural electric cooperatives, Native American tribes, and government agencies in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nebraska, and Nevada.

    Glen Canyon Powerplant has a total capacity of 1,320 megawatts and annually produces approximately five billion kilowatt-hours of power to help sustain the electrical needs of about 5.8 million customers.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.


    New federal hydroelectric permitting laws would have helped Ouray with their project

    September 7, 2013

    ouray

    Here’s a report from Allen Best writing for The Mountain Town News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

    [Ouray] Mayor Bob Risch wishes that the two new federal laws signed by President Barack Obama in August had been adopted before he set out to get his project approved.

    Those two new laws simplify the federal government’s process for small hydroelectric projects involving pre-existing infrastructure. Promoters say the laws will make it easier to harness the power of flowing water in existing irrigation canals, small dams, and even municipal water lines. Neither of the new laws will result in new dams or diversions. They apply only to existing infrastructure and to installations of 5 megawatts or less.

    The previous process was cumbersome. “It was unbelievable,” says Risch, of requirements for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permit. “They sent you a list of all the steps you have to go through. For example, it included a list of 55 organizations to which we had to send letters, informing them that we were going to start this process and invite comment from them.”

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    Secretary Jewell Lauds Enactment of Bipartisan Energy Legislation to Encourage Development of Small Hydropower, Support Rural Jobs

    August 12, 2013

    microhydroelectricplant.jpg

    Here’s the release from the US Department of the Interior:

    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued the following statement following President Obama’s signature of two bills that are expected to create rural jobs and encourage the development of small hydropower projects, including within existing Bureau of Reclamation conduits, waterways and canals. The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act and the Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act were signed into law today.

    “I applaud the bipartisan efforts that will support the President’s Climate Action Plan and our all-of-the-above energy strategy to boost domestic energy production, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and begin to slow the effects of climate change,” Secretary Jewell said. “By streamlining the permitting of small hydropower on existing Bureau of Reclamation facilities, these laws will help expedite the development of renewable and affordable energy in the West and support the creation of rural jobs. There is more work to be done, but these efforts will help the Department of the Interior as we work to permit enough renewables on public lands to power more than 6 million homes.”

    The Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act provides greater certainty for the generation of clean, renewable hydroelectric power at those Reclamation sites through the regulatory process and administrative streamlining.

    “The enactment of this legislation underscores our efforts to develop renewable energy on canal and conduit sites managed by Reclamation across the west,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor. “This unlocks the door to developing new sources of energy at hundreds of our facilities across the West while creating new jobs at the same time.”

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    Tipton’s Hydropower and Jobs Act Signed into Law

    August 10, 2013

    microhydroelectricplant.jpg

    From US Representative Scott Tipton’s office:

    Rep. Scott Tipton’s (CO-03) effort to increase the production of clean, renewable hydropower and create jobs is now public law. The President signed Tipton’s Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act (H.R. 678) into law today, which will create rural jobs by expanding the production of clean renewable hydropower, including jobs in Colorado. The bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support earlier this year and the Senate this month with unanimous consent.

    “This new law provides a tremendous opportunity for clean, renewable energy production in Colorado and across the nation. It will create jobs right here at home, and provide a supply of reliable and affordable power, lowering energy costs,” said Tipton. “I’m honored that I was able to lead the charge for this commonsense effort that received broad and bipartisan support at the local, state and national levels. Hydropower is the cheapest and cleanest source of electricity available through modern technology, and a key component of the all-of-the-above energy platform that I continue to strongly support. With the signing of the Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act into law, we have made headway in the effort to establish American energy independence and put people back to work.”

    By eliminating duplicative environmental analysis on existing manmade Bureau of Reclamation conduits (pipes, ditches, and canals) that have received a full review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the law streamlines the regulatory process and reduces administrative costs for the installation of small hydropower development projects within those conduits. In doing so, the law encourages increased small hydropower development, which will create new rural jobs in Colorado, add clean, affordable electricity to the grid to power homes and communities, modernize infrastructure, and supply the federal government with additional revenues.

    The Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act was endorsed by the Family Farm Alliance, the National Water Resources Association, the Colorado River District, and the American Public Power Association, among others.

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reported that H.R. 678 has no cost to taxpayers, and returns revenues to the treasury. The Interior Department has identified at least 28 Bureau of Reclamation canal sites in Colorado, and 373 nationwide, that could be developed for hydropower purposes.

    Sens. John Barrasso (WY), Jim Risch (ID), Mike Enzi (WY), and Mike Crapo (ID), carried the companion bill in the Senate.

    From KJCT8.com (Gina Esposito):

    These two bills will aid companies across Colorado who are looking to get involved with the renewable energy.

    Spokesperson for Senator Mark Udall, Mike Saccone said, “The benefit of both of these bills is it will make it easier for hydropower projects in Colorado and throughout the country, move forward.”

    Representative Scott Tipton said, “This is going to put the power in our local water district. To be able to make that determination and make it now cost effective for them to be able to take advantage of hydro electric power.”

    David Priske, Engineer for the Ute Water Conservancy District said, “The district is considering a 180-kilowatt hydropower generator at our existing water treatment plant to help offset our electrical demands.”

    Priske said since hydropower could produce more energy than the district needs, excess would be sold to Xcel Energy. “So if we can come to some agreement with Xcel, we are ready to move forward with the project,” said.

    From The Denver Post (Allison Sherry):

    President Barack Obama signed into law Friday two hydropower bills supported by Republican Rep. Scott Tipton and Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette that streamlines the regulatory process and makes it easier to develop the clean energy…

    DeGette’s legislation is broader and directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study streamlining the permitting process for all small hydropower and conduit projects.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    Senate Passes Tipton’s Bipartisan Hydropower Legislation

    August 3, 2013

    microhydroelectricplant.jpg

    Here’s the release from US Representative Scott Tipton’s office:

    Rep. Scott Tipton’s (CO-03) Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act (H.R. 678) is heading to the President’s desk for a signature after passing the Senate today. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) provided bipartisan support for the legislation as a co-sponsor of the Senate companion (S. 306) carried by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). The bill, which would create rural jobs by expanding the production of clean renewable hydropower, passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support earlier this year.

    “This is a victory for all of the communities in Colorado and throughout the U.S. that will benefit from this clean, affordable source of energy and the jobs hydropower production will create. I want to thank my colleagues over in the Senate for joining us in taking action to encourage responsible energy development and putting into place an important piece of an all-of-the-above domestic energy plan,” Tipton said. “By streamlining the regulatory process and providing the opportunity for expedited hydropower production in canals and conduits that have already undergone environmental analysis, we will free up the potential to generate enough power for a million homes in Colorado alone, and create new jobs in the process. I encourage the President to swiftly sign this responsible energy and jobs legislation into law.”

    “Just as water makes the West as we know it possible, hydropower plays an important role in supplying our country with clean, renewable energy. I am proud the Senate stood with me and passed these important, bipartisan bills that will unleash the potential of hydropower on waterways across Colorado and throughout the country,” Udall said. “We still have work to do to achieve true energy self-reliance, but these bills help move the ball down the field.”

    By eliminating duplicative environmental analysis on existing manmade Bureau of Reclamation conduits (pipes, ditches, and canals) that have received a full review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), H.R. 678 streamlines the regulatory process and reduces administrative costs for the installation of small hydropower development projects within those conduits. In doing so, the bill encourages increased small hydropower development, which will create new rural jobs in Colorado, add clean, affordable electricity to the grid to power homes and communities, modernize infrastructure, and supply the federal government with additional revenues.

    The Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act has been endorsed by the Family Farm Alliance, the National Water Resources Association, the Colorado River District, and the American Public Power Association, among others.

    “This bill facilitates low cost, clean, renewable hydropower installations in canals and conduits across the arid west,” said Chris Treese of the Colorado River District. “Colorado River District applauds Congressman Tipton for his leadership and determination on this milestone legislation.”

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reported that H.R. 678 has no cost to taxpayers, and returns revenues to the treasury. The Interior Department has identified at least 28 Bureau of Reclamation canal sites in Colorado, and 373 nationwide, that could be developed for hydropower purposes.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    Two measures aimed at encouraging the use of pipes and ditches to generate electricity are awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature.

    One of the measures, H.R. 678 by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., would ease the process for such projects on conduits administered by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The Interior Department has identified at least 28 Bureau of Reclamation canal sites in Colorado, and another 373 across the country that potentially could be developed to generate hydroelectricity.

    A similar measure allowing development of hydropower systems on projects administered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., also won Senate approval on Thursday.

    “By streamlining the regulatory process and providing the opportunity for expedited hydropower production in canals and conduits that have already undergone environmental analysis, we will free up the potential to generate enough power for 1 million homes in Colorado alone, and create new jobs in the process,” Tipton said in a statement.

    Both measures are being supported by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

    The measures present a “significant opportunity” to organizations to boost revenues by generating electricity, said Chris Treese, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which supported the measures.</blockquoteL

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    US Rep. Scott Tipton is pushing small scale hydroelectric generation

    June 18, 2013

    microhydroelectricplant.jpg

    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., for the past couple years has pushed for a bill that would allow hydropower development on irrigation ditches in Colorado and across the West.

    Joshua Green — press secretary for Tipton, whose 3rd Congressional District covers nearly all of southern and western Colorado — took time out of his schedule recently to discuss Tipton’s “Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act” and how the bill is moving along in Washington.

    Below are portions of those conversations:

    Q — First of all, what exactly is this bill aiming to do?

    A — This would lift restrictions on hydropower development for irrigation districts, specifically on Bureau of Reclamation conduits, so they could use that water to generate electricity. The bill eliminates duplicative environmental analysis on these existing pipes, ditches, canals, etc., that have already received a full review under the National Environmental Policy Act. This bill asks that small-scale hydropower projects, five megawatts or less, can be put in place without having to go through further federal processes. The bill streamlines the federal regulatory process, and it reduces administrative costs for these ditch managers to install small hydropower projects.

    Q — This is the second year Tipton has introduced the bill aimed at hydropower development on irrigation ditches. Why is this bill so important to him?

    A — Costs are increasing to repair these aging water-supply systems, and making them more energy-efficient would save the ditch managers money. The electricity from these projects could also be sold to bring in money and help cover their expenses. The bill would also add clean electricity to the grid to power homes and communities. And this is a rural job creator; we would need people to build and then maintain these hydropower projects.

    Q — What is the driving force behind this bill? Is hydropower development on irrigation canals something that Tipton’s constituents have been talking about for a while?

    A — There’s absolutely an interest in Colorado and throughout the West. The Interior Department has identified at least 28 Bureau of Reclamation canal sites in Colorado, and 373 nationwide, that could be developed for hydropower purposes. These are small hydropower projects we’re talking about, and would cost relatively little to construct. However, with the way things are now, the federal permitting costs add up to be more than the construction itself, and that’s deterring people from going forward with these hydropower projects

    Q — How are the discussions in Washington coming along?

    A — Things are going very, very well. The bill passed the House 416-7 in April. Obviously we have the support and have had it for a long time. Rep. Tipton’s hydropower bill had passed the House last year, but we ran out of time to push it all the way through before the session was over. A companion bill from the Senate recently passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, so things are going well over there, as well. Now, we’re just waiting to get all of this pushed through and see this become law.

    Q — I read recently where there’s a similar hydropower bill in the House being pushed by Rep. Steve Daines of Montana. How are the two bills different?

    A — Our bill amends the Reclamation Project Act of 1939, which authorized the vast majority of projects on Reclamation facilities. The Water Conservation and Utilization Act of 1939, on the other hand, authorized 11 Bureau of Reclamation facilities. Unlike the Reclamation Project Act of 1939, which our bill amends, a statute under the WCUA allows for only the federal government to develop hydropower on these 11 facilities. Daines’ bill seeks to address that statute in the WCUA and remove those hurdles, so private hydropower development in those facilities can move forward.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    S. 306 (small hydro) passes out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

    May 10, 2013

    microhydroelectricplant.jpg

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    A measure that would allow for quicker construction of hydropower projects on canals, pipes and other U.S. Bureau of Reclamation conduits on Wednesday passed its first test in the Senate.

    U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who plans to sign on as a cosponsor of the measure, S. 306, voted for it in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which approved the bill. The next step for the measure is a vote on the Senate floor.

    The measure by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., already passed the House, 265-154, last month and Udall supported it Wednesday as S. 306 passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

    The measure would eliminate unnecessary and duplicative administrative and regulatory costs, Udall said in a statement, noting that “hydro-electric power has an important role to play in helping the United States achieve true energy self-reliance.”

    The measure is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John Barasso, R-Wyo.

    Once the measure becomes law, the water flowing through small Bureau of Reclamation-operated conduits could generate enough electricity to power 1 million homes, Tipton said in a statement.

    Udall is a cosponsor of a separate measure sponsored by U.S. Rep Diana DeGette, D-Colo., that would ease construction of small hydropower projects on conduits operated under the auspices of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    Telluride’s water system upgrades $500,000 over budget this year

    April 29, 2013

    telluride.jpg

    From The Watch (Samantha Wright):

    Council had originally budgeted $6.5 million for the 2013 portion of the ambitious project, which aims to provide a state-of-the-art water distribution and treatment system to ensure a reliable, high-quality water supply for the Town of Telluride. This number, however, did not incorporate the so-called Falls Crest Diversion outlined in the Comprehensive Settlement Agreement which the town and Idarado entered into late last year. The agreement brought a 20-year legal battle over water rights between the two entities to an end.

    The elaborately engineered Falls Crest Diversion brings one source of water from Bridal Veil Basin via pipeline across the cliff face directly below Bridal Veil Power Station to tie into the tailrace (where another source of water comes out of the turbine). The water then flows into a collection system vertically down toward Black Bear Road, eventually reaching the Pandora Water Treatment Plant currently under construction. The CSA calls for Idarado to contribute about a quarter of the cost for the Falls Creek Diversion – roughly $125,000 – with the Town of Telluride picking up the rest of the tab.

    Also not included in original cost projections for 2013 were the “zero-discharge” processes that are an essential part of this project as it has been negotiated in the CSA. Initially, Telluride Public Works Director Paul Ruud explained, the design for the water treatment plant included a discharge component that would release some untreated water into Marshall Creek. The CSA’s zero-discharge requirement scuttled that plan. “There won’t be anything coming out of the plant except clean water,” Ruud explained. “This did add considerably to the expense of the plant.”

    Beyond the cost overruns for construction in the current year, council also discussed the fact that the overall construction cost for the project (including the small hydro component) is estimated to come in at around $15 million – significantly more than the $10 million bond approved by Telluride voters to pay for the project in 2005. This money, mobilized in 2010, has gone toward improvement of complicated diversion and conveyance infrastructure over the past two years that is intended to get the water from Bridal Veil Basin to the site of the new Pandora water treatment plant. Last fall, the Telluride Town Council approved an additional $2 million transfer of Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) funds from the Capital Improvement Fund to the Water Fund to cover additional costs for the project through 2013…

    Despite of the Pandora Water System Project’s hefty and ever-mounting price tag, council generally agreed in the end that it was a price worth paying. “I am thankful that past council members made the decision to get us started,” said Councilor Ann Brady. “Imagine if we were just starting this project, with the climate change we are facing now. Thank goodness the people before us took the step (of securing the $10 million bond). Even though it was skimpy, at least it got us started.”

    Clifton echoed Brady’s sentiment, adding, “This will bring the town well into the future in terms of our domestic water supply.”

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    U.S. Representative Scott Tipton’s hydroelectric bill passes the House, Senate companion bill hearing April 23

    April 11, 2013

    Here’s the release from Representative Tipton’s office:

    Today, the House passed with bipartisan support Rep. Scott Tipton’s (CO-03) legislation to create rural jobs by expanding the production of clean renewable hydropower. The bill passed the House 416-7 this year, a significant increase in bipartisan support from the 2012 vote of 265-154.

    By eliminating duplicative environmental analysis on existing man-made Bureau of Reclamation conduits (pipes, ditches, and canals) that have received a full review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), H.R. 678 streamlines the regulatory process and reduces administrative costs for the installation of small hydropower development projects within those conduits. In doing so, the bill encourages increased small hydropower development, which will create new rural jobs in Colorado, add clean, affordable electricity to the grid to power homes and communities, modernize infrastructure, and supply the federal government with additional revenues…

    “H.R. 678 is a commonsense piece of legislation to foster clean renewable energy development, create jobs in rural America, and do so without taxpayer cost while returning revenues to the Treasury, and by all measures, should be considered low-hanging fruit for congressional action,” Tipton said. “There has been a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle about the need to pursue an all-of-the-above domestic energy strategy, and hydropower, as the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source, should be at the forefront of any comprehensive national energy policy.”

    “Every day, water flows thousands of miles through canals, pipes, and ditches across the country, and every day we miss valuable opportunities to utilize this resource’s full potential,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) an original co-sponsor of H.R. 678. “The greatest barrier to unleashing the next generation of hydropower is not technological; it is regulatory. For that reason, Congressman Tipton and I have been working to remove the obstacles the keep us from expanding one of the most reliable tools in our energy toolbox. ”

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reported that H.R. 678 has no cost to taxpayers, and returns revenues to the treasury. The Interior Department has identified at least 28 Bureau of Reclamation canal sites in Colorado, and 373 nationwide, that could be developed for hydropower purposes.

    Tipton amended H.R. 678 on the House floor to address concerns expressed by some of his Democrat colleagues, and at the request of the broad range of irrigation districts, water conservation and conservancy districts, and public utilities most directly impacted by the bill. This amendment removes the NEPA waiver in the bill and instead codifies the application of the Bureau of Reclamation’s categorical exclusion process under the National Environmental Policy Act for small hydropower projects covered by the bill.

    This alternative provision would still ensure the streamlining of the approval process for clean renewable energy and help provide certainty for investors and job creators, while providing flexibility to the Bureau to adjust to changing circumstances moving forward.

    “By advancing these projects under the Bureau’s categorical exclusion process, we ensure that all of the elements in that process are retained, including agency discretion for examining extraordinary circumstances. In addition, the amendment specifically mentions codifying the categorical exclusion process for small conduit hydropower,” said Tipton.

    This approach is supported by Trout Unlimited in its March 19, 2013 letter, which states that “Congress could direct BOR to create a categorical exclusion for small conduit hydropower.” That’s exactly what this amendment does.

    “The use of a categorical exclusion for small conduit hydropower development can mean the difference between private investment in a public good with a multitude of benefits, and unreasonable financial costs and lengthy delays that lead to untapped potential, Tipton said. “My hope is that this amendment, which is broadly supported by the diverse range of groups invested in the bill who are committed to ensuring continued environmental protection, will assuage any reservations about this effort to promote clean renewable energy and allow us to move forward united in our support.”

    The Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act has been endorsed by the Family Farm Alliance, the National Water Resources Association, and the American Public Power Association, among others.

    Sens. John Barrasso (WY), Jim Risch (ID), Mike Enzi (WY) and Mike Crapo (ID), have introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S. 306,), which will receive a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on April 23, 2013.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    A measure that would allow irrigation districts and other organizations to generate electricity from ditches and small pipes passed the U.S. House on Wednesday. The measure by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., passed 416 to 7 with all members of the Colorado delegation voting in favor of the measure.

    A companion measure sponsored by Sens. John Barasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, both of Idaho, all Republicans, is awaiting action in the Senate.

    A previous version of the bill passed the House last year, 265-154, but no Senate vote was taken last year.

    H.R. 678 would encourage increased development of small hydropower projects, create new jobs in rural areas of Colorado, boost the amount of electricity to the grid to power homes and communities, modernize infrastructure and supply the federal government with additional revenues, Tipton said in a statement.

    The measure passed the full House after Tipton carried an amendment that included small-conduit hydropower projects on pipes and ditches built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as those that could be approved as categorical exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act.

    Similar legislation for projects under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission already has passed the House and also is before the Senate.

    The bill “should be considered low-hanging fruit for congressional action,” Tipton said. “There has been a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle about the need to pursue an all-of-the-above domestic energy strategy, and hydropower, as the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source, should be at the forefront of any comprehensive national energy policy.”

    Each megawatt of new hydropower generates 5.3 new jobs, according to estimates by the National Hydropower Association. That could mean as many as 1,000 new jobs in Colorado for developers, engineers, attorneys, financiers, concrete workers, plumbers, carpenters, welders and electricians, said Kurt Johnson, president of the Colorado Small Hydro Association.

    From The Denver Post (Allison Sherry):

    Rep. Scott Tipton’s twice-attempted bill to bring hydropower development to rural areas across the country got almost unanimous support in the full House Wednesday.

    In a 416-7 vote, the House approved the measure that will allow small hydropower development projects within existing man-made Bureau of Reclamation conduits — pipelines, ditches and canals. The proposal eliminates duplicative environmental analysis and streamlines the regulatory process to make that development easier…

    All seven members of Colorado’s House delegation voted for Tipon’s measure Wednesday.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and 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.”


    Reclamation Releases a Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact on Ridgway Dam Hydropower Interconnection Facilities

    March 28, 2013

    ridgwayreservoir

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Steve McCall/Justyn Hock):

    Reclamation announced today that it released a final Supplemental Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact on Ridgway Dam Hydropower Interconnection Facilities. The supplemental EA and FONSI augments the 2012 Ridgway Hydropower EA and FONSI and addresses additional details and information on the interconnection and transmission facilities.

    Reclamation will issue a license agreement to Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association for construction of interconnection facilities to interconnect Tri-County Water Conservancy District Hydropower facilities to the existing 115-kV transmission line that runs along U.S. Highway 550. In addition, a memorandum of agreement will be signed with Tri-County to relocate dry storage facilities and utilities operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as part of Ridgway State Park.

    Tri-County is currently constructing the hydropower facilities at Ridgway Dam on the Uncompahgre River in Ouray County, Colo. and operates and maintains Ridgway Dam.

    The final EA and FONSI are available on our website under the “environmental documents” heading [or] by contacting Steve McCall with Reclamation in Grand Junction at (970) 248-0638.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    U.S. Representative Diana DeGette’s hydropower bill is still on track

    March 24, 2013

    microhydroelectricplant

    From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

    …turning flowing water into small hydropower projects is not easy. Even a tiny ranch project requires almost the same paperwork for a federal permit as the Hoover Dam. A bill exempting small projects from the voluminous federal filings — co-sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver — passed the U.S. House of Representatives 422-0 in February. Last year, a similar bill, also co-sponsored by DeGette, passed the House unanimously but died in the Senate. But this time may be different.

    On March 13, companion legislation to the new hydro bill was introduced in a Senate committee with Democratic and Republican sponsors. “We are always talking about streamlining government,” DeGette said. “This is streamlining government.”

    The legislation would exempt projects of up to 5 megawatts from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requirements. Getting rid of the FERC permit could open several hundred sites in Colorado with a combined capacity of 1,400 megawatts — equal to two power plants, according to the commission.

    Small municipal and private hydro plants generate about 662 megawatts of electricity in Colorado, according to a Colorado State University study. There are 200 megawatts of small projects that are likely to be developed, said Kurt Johnson, president of the Colorado Small Hydropower Association…

    FERC permitting can run from $10,000 to $30,000, which can be more than the cost of many projects, said Johnson.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    House Panel Advances Tipton Rural Jobs Bill (H.R. 678)

    March 20, 2013

    peltonwheel

    Here’s a release from U.S. Representative Scott Tipton’s office:

    Today, the House Natural Resources Committee advanced with bipartisan support Rep. Scott Tipton’s (CO-03) legislation that would create rural jobs by expanding the production of clean renewable hydropower. The Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act (H.R. 678) could receive a vote in the House as early as the next week the House is in session.

    Sen. John Barrasso (WY) has introduced a Senate companion to Tipton’s bill this session.

    “At a time when our country needs to focus on domestic energy production and job creation, hydropower can play a critical role in providing clean renewable energy while expanding job opportunities in rural America,” Tipton said. “I’m confident that this commonsense clean energy and jobs bill will receive a vote in the House soon and optimistic that it will head to the Senate with the momentum needed to propel it into law.”

    The legislation, which received a Senate Water and Power Subcommittee hearing last year before time ran out in the session to pass it, will have a direct impact on the 3rd District where there is significant potential to expand hydropower development on existing Bureau of Reclamation canals and conduits that have already undergone environmental analysis.

    H.R. 678 would accomplish this by streamlining red tape and reducing administrative costs for the installation of small canal and pipeline hydropower development projects. Increased small hydropower installation will create local jobs, add clean, affordable electricity to the grid to power homes and communities, modernize infrastructure, and supply the federal government with additional revenues.

    “This bipartisan legislation reduces unnecessary and duplicative costs to encourage hydropower development. These existing man-made facilities have already gone through environmental review, so there’s simply no need for another costly review. While the Bureau of Reclamation has recently attempted to address this by establishing its own categorical exclusion from NEPA, it has yet to implement this new policy and, as with all agency directives, is subject to later change by this administration or future administrations,” Tipton said. “I’m open to working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to address their concerns with the NEPA provision, but the bottom line is that we must arrive at a statutory framework that streamlines the project approval process and reduces costs. H.R. 678 substantially reduces administrative planning costs and protects water users by specifically reaffirming hydropower development as secondary to water supply and delivery purposes.”

    View Tipton’s full statement here.

    Earlier this month, Chris Treese of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, told the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power that Reclamation projects in his water district would benefit from Tipton’s legislation.

    “I know of several districts that have considered hydropower investment, but never seriously, as they are discouraged by the regulatory uncertainty and costs currently represented by the existing permitting process,” Treese said. “We support H.R. 678 and believe it will reduce costs and foster more conduit hydropower at federal facilities and empower irrigation districts involved in the operation and maintenance of these Reclamation canals to develop and benefit from this clean energy source. We further believe it will clarify issues of federal authority on these projects that will improve and streamline the decision-making processes.”

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    Colorado-Big Thompson Project operations update: Flatiron power plant testing next week

    March 20, 2013

    coloradobigthompsonprojecteastslopesystemncwcd

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    We have a little more maintenance to do on the power arm of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project starting top of next week. While we’re doing some testing at the Flatiron Power Plant, we will drop Pinewood down as we move water out and also suspend pumping to Carter Lake. Residents around and visitors to Pinewood Reservoir should notice the reservoir elevation going down the end of this week. By Sunday or Monday, March 24 or 25, the reservoir could get down to an elevation of 6562 feet, perhaps just a little lower. However, that is not low enough to impact local water provision to the community around Pinewood. The pump to Carter Lake will go off during that same time frame, returning to service by Thursday, March 28. The reservoir has come up quite a bit over the past several weeks. It is currently around 75% full.

    While these operations are underway, water will continue being delivered to Horsetooth Reservoir. Water to Horsetooth will drop Flatiron Reservoir down between Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Flatiron fluctuates daily, but visitors to that reservoir might notice a lower water line than typical for this time of year.

    Pinewood Reservoir is expected to start rising again on Tuesday, March 26 and should be back to a typical water elevation for this time of year by Thursday, March 28. Flatiron should start going up again by Friday and be back to a more typical water elevation by the last weekend of March.

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Downstream demands on the Colorado River have been fluctuating quite a bit the last two days. Yesterday we dropped down from 145 cfs to 120 cfs. Today, March 19, we dropped again from 120 to 100 cfs. This might help us store a little water behind Green Mountain Dam. The reason for these changes is that the Shoshone Power Plant has a relaxed call on the river and part of the Green Mountain water right is in effect.

    More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


    ‘Two bills on hydropower could help Colorado’ — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    March 19, 2013

    microhydroelectricplant

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    It’s a tale of two ditches — one administered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the other by the Bureau of Reclamation.

    Legislation approved by the U.S. House would lift barriers to generating electricity using the water that passes through canals operated under commission regulation.

    Similar legislation for canals built under the auspices of the Bureau of Reclamation is awaiting a vote in the House. An identical measure was passed during the previous House session.

    Critics last session criticized the Bureau of Reclamation bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., because it would waive environmental studies for the small projects. Projects associated with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission already enjoy that exemption, but the bill affecting those projects would strip away more red tape.

    The measure affecting FERC projects, HR 267, introduced by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and cosponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., also passed the House last year.

    Tipton twice supported both measures. DeGette voted against Tipton’s Bureau of Reclamation bill in the last session.

    A spokesman for DeGette didn’t respond to a request for comment.

    Neither bill was taken up by the Senate last time around, but both have Senate sponsors this year.

    This year’s Bureau of Reclamation bill, HR 678, would exempt small hydroelectricity projects from review under the National Environmental Policy Act. The costs of complying with the environmental policy act typically dwarf the actual costs of installing small turbines into canals, ditches or other conduits in which enough water runs to spin a turbine, Tipton said. “The only thing standing in the way of realizing the incredible potential of this readily available renewable energy source is the existing federal regulatory framework, which stifles development and entrepreneurship,” Tipton said when he introduced the measure this year.

    HR 678 would clear the way for development at 373 possible sites in 13 western states, Tipton said, citing a Bureau of Reclamation site inventory conducted in 2012. Three of those sites have been proposed for development of small hydropower, Tipton’s office said, noting that “many potential developers view federal law and regulations as the primary obstacles to developing these and other Reclamation sites.” Colorado has 27 sites in which small projects could be installed on existing conduits, generating more than 27,000 kilowatts, Tipton’s office said.

    An average house uses about 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year.

    “Colorado currently has hundreds of hydro-related jobs, a number which has the potential to grow rapidly if the pending hydro reform legislation can become law,” the Colorado Small Hydro Association said in a statement of support for the FERC bill. The National Hydropower Association estimates each new megawatt could result in 5.3 jobs created.

    As many as 60,000 megawatts of hydroelectric capacity could be built by 2025, the Colorado Small Hydro Association said, noting that the Energy Department said there is more than 12,000 megawatts that might be developed at 54,000 existing dams around the nation.

    The McMorris Rogers-DeGette bill would allow projects, which already enjoy a categorical exclusion from the National Environmental Policy Act, as large as 10 megawatts and establish a 45-day public-notice process. If no objections are expressed, the project would no longer be subject to commission permitting requirements.

    The FERC measure is sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, as S545 and the Bureau of Reclamation measure by Sen. John Barasso, R-Wyo., is S306. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., signed on a cosponsor of the Murkowski bill and his office said he is considering the Reclamation measure.

    A House committee vote on the Bureau of Reclamation measure is expected soon, Tipton’s office said.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    Ridgway Reservoir: Tri-State hopes to start on the hydropower generation facilities in June

    March 10, 2013

    ridgwaydamusbr.jpg

    From The Watch (Peter Shelton):

    On the heels of a new Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment released Feb. 25 by the Bureau of Reclamation, Mike Berry came before the Ouray Board of County Commissioners Tuesday with an update. Berry is general manager of Tri-County Water Conservancy District, which manages the dam and is building the power-generating facility at the base of the dam. Power wholesaler Tri-State Generation and Transmission will receive its permit to begin construction of the interconnection station and transmission lines when BuRec’s final EA is approved. Berry reported that Tri-State hopes to begin construction in June and finish the substation by November or December of this year.

    “We hope to have the small generator up and running for this next winter,” Berry told the board. “It should be ready for Aspen’s PPA [Power Purchase Agreement].” The City of Aspen has contracted to purchase the wintertime output from the dam over 20 years. Tri-State, the wholesale electric supplier for San Miguel Power Association and the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, has agreed to purchase, for 10 years, the higher summertime output.

    “Aspen probably won’t see any of those actual electrons,” Berry said. “They will most likely go to [the City of] Delta, which shares the same wholesaler, an outfit with the acronym MEAN out of Nebraska.”

    Tri-County WCD is installing two generators, a smaller 800kV one that should run efficiently on the low, 30-60 cubic-feet-per-second flows in winter, and a bigger 7.2 megawatt one to run on summertime release levels. Together, they will provide enough juice to run 2,000 homes and take the equivalent, in greenhouse gases, of more than 4,000 cars off the road. The big generator should be ready for testing by April 2014, Berry said.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    Colorado River Basin: Recent study by the Bureau of Reclamation highlights future supply problems #coriver

    March 4, 2013

    coloradoriverbasin2012doiviatheaspentimes.jpg

    Here’s a guest column running in The Denver Post, written by Allen Best, that gives an overview of the current state of the Colorado River. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Tow icebergs from Alaska? Pilfer from a tributary of the Yellowstone River in Wyoming? Or, even sneak water from the Snake, boring a 6-mile tunnel from a reservoir near Jackson Hole to the Green River? While it’s sure to make Idaho’s spud farmers cranky, it would help Tucson, Los Angeles and that parched paradigm of calculated risk, Las Vegas.

    Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and everybody else with a megaphone has carefully branded these ideas as improbable or worse. Only slightly more credible is the idea of a pipeline from the Mississippi River. It could originate near Memphis, traverse 1,040 miles and, if reaching Castle Rock, rise 6,000 feet in elevation. Pumping would require a steady 800 megawatts of electricity, or a little more than what the Comanche 3 power plant in Pueblo produces.

    In theory, this 600,000-acre feet of muddy Mississippi would replace diversions from the Colorado River headwaters between Grand Lake and Aspen. Those diversions range between 450,000 and 600,000 acre-feet annually. That would leave the creeks and rivers to the whims of gravity and geography, at least until arriving at Las Vegas and other places with growing thirst.
    Cheap water? Not exactly: It would cost $2,400 per acre-foot for this Memphis-flavored sludge, assuming the idea isn’t grounded by protests from barge and riverboat operators. (Sometimes they, too, say they need more water.)

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Reclamation Releases Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment on Ridgway Dam Hydropower Interconnection Facilities

    February 27, 2013

    ridgwayreservoir.jpg

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Steve McCall/Justyn Hock):

    Reclamation announced today that it released a draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment on Ridgway Dam Hydropower Interconnection Facilities. The draft EA supplements the 2012 Ridgway Hydropower Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact and addresses additional details and information on the interconnection and transmission facilities.

    The proposed action in the EA is to issue a license agreement and rights-of-way to Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association for construction of interconnection facilities to interconnect Tri-County Water Conservancy District hydropower facilities to the existing 115-kV transmission line that runs along U.S. Highway 550. In addition, a memorandum of agreement will be signed with Tri-County to relocate dry storage facilities and utilities operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as part of Ridgway State Park.

    Tri-County is currently constructing the hydropower facilities at Ridgway Dam on the Uncompahgre River in Ouray County, Colo. and operates and maintains Ridgway Dam.

    The draft supplemental environmental assessment is available on our website or a copy can be received by contacting Steve McCall with Reclamation in Grand Junction at (970) 248-0638 or smccall@usbr.gov.

    Reclamation will consider all comments received prior to preparing a final environmental assessment. Comments can be submitted to the email address above or to: Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 2764 Compass Drive, Suite 106, Grand Junction, CO 81506. Comments are due by Friday, March 15, 2013.

    More Uncompahgre River Watershed coverage here.


    H.R. 267: Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 passes the U.S. House unanimously

    February 16, 2013

    peltonwheel.jpg

    From The Telluride Daily Planet (Colin McRann):

    The bill is called the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act. With its unanimous passage in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, small hydro projects are one step closer to shedding some federal regulations. U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) reintroduced the bill to the House in January.

    One of its major supporters is the Colorado Small Hydro Association. Johnson, who is president of the association, has been pushing for the bill’s passage for years because he says current hydropower regulations are unfit to address small hydro projects. “I hope that the Senate acts with the same enthusiasm that the House acted on,” Johnson said. “[If the bill passes] it will lead to development of new small hydro installations and job creation in rural Colorado.”[...]

    If the new bill is passed into law, the regulatory process could be streamlined for certain small hydro projects. The bill, as written, provides periods of public comment and directs the Federal Energy Regulator Commission (FERC) to examine the feasibility of a two-year licensing process for certain low-impact hydropower projects. Some of the low-impact projects could include the conversion of existing non-powered dams into power-generating ones.

    Historically, western Colorado has been home to a number of small hydroelectric projects, including the Bridal Veil hydroelectric power station above Telluride, the Ames Power Plant and the Ouray Hydroelectric Power Plant. However, new developments with small hydropower projects have not been common in recent years.

    The bill states that a significant amount of new hydroelectric generation could come from maximizing existing infrastructure, particularly non-powered dams. It states that only about 3 percent of the nation’s 80,000 dams currently generate hydropower…

    To see the full text of H.R. 267, go to govtrack.us.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    The CWCB plans to roll Flaming Gorge Pipeline analysis in with other IBCC reviews for transmountain diversions #coriver

    February 4, 2013

    flaminggorgepipelineearthjustice.jpg

    Here’s an article from last week that deals with the demise of the Flaming Gorge Task Force. It ran in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and was written by Gary Harmon.

    From The River Blog (Jessie Thomas-Blate):

    Last year, American Rivers listed the Green River as #2 on our annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®, due to the potential impact of this pipeline on the river, the recreation economy, and the water supply for the lower Colorado River Basin…

    Recently, a coalition of 700 business owners called Protect the Flows commissioned a poll that found 84% of West Slope residents and 52% of metro Denver-area residents oppose building additional water pipelines across the mountains. In fact, 76% of Colorado residents think that the solution lies in using water in smarter and more efficient ways, with less waste…

    The Green River is a paddler’s paradise. In May 2012, Steve Markle with O.A.R.S. told us why paddlers love the Green River so much. Then in August, Matt Rice, our Director of Colorado Conservation, told us about his trip fishing the Green, and the big trout, beautiful scenery, and solitude he found there. Finally, Scott Willoughby with the Denver Post gives a description of the river that makes you jealous if you don’t have easy access to this trout oasis (even if you aren’t an avid fisherman!).

    It is no wonder so many people care about preserving adequate water flows in the Green River. It not only provides essential water and cash flow for West Slope towns, but also a great adventure for the citizens of Colorado and beyond.

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


    H.R. 267 — Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 passes the House Energy and Commerce Committee

    February 3, 2013

    peltonwheel.jpg

    From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):

    The bill is called The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, and it is getting close to being put to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill was reintroduced to the House on Jan. 15, and then put to committee review. By Jan. 22, the House Energy and Commerce Committee granted approval for the bill, which means it’s on track to be considered by the House. Last year the House unanimously passed a bill with identical wording, but it failed to pass the Senate.

    U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) co-sponsored the bill, and one of its major supporters is the Colorado Small Hydro Association.

    “We’re expecting it to move through the House fairly quickly,” said Ophir’s Kurt Johnson, who is president of the Colorado Small Hydro Association. “There haven’t been any substance disagreements with the bill. The question is, what’s the broader context? But if it gets through the House it would then get referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.”

    Johnson said he hopes the bill is able to make it through the House as quickly as it did last year due to its noncontroversial nature. He said ideally, the bill would be before the Senate by this spring or early summer.

    Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said in a press release that he wants senators to take notice of actions in the House and quickly pass the small hydro bill, along with four other bills his committee approved.

    “There could be a number of things that could happen in the Senate,” Johnson said. “It could go through different hearings and end up in some broader energy package, but it’s hard to say — it’s still too soon.”

    The bill’s main focus is to simplify the permitting of small hydroelectric power projects, mainly those generating fewer than than 5-megawatts of electricity. The bill states that only about 3 percent of the nation’s 80,000 dams currently generate hydropower. With Colorado’s many small streams and rivers, the Small Hydro Association estimates that around 200-megawatts of new, potential hydroelectric development is possible in the state.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    CWCB halts funding for phase two of Flaming Gorge Task Force

    January 31, 2013

    greenwithenvytrailerscreenshottroutunlimited.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A decision by the Colorado Water Conservation Board not to fund the second phase of a Flaming Gorge pipeline task force does not affect either project that wants to bring water into the state. The CWCB Tuesday turned down a $100,000 extension of the committee, saying its efforts duplicate the role of the Interbasin Compact Committee. Alan Hamel, of the Arkansas River basin, was the only member of the CWCB who voted in favor of continuing to fund the task force.

    “I was surprised,” said Gary Barber, chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, and a member of the task force. “The state still needs to proceed with water planning, but did not approve our approach for moving forward.”

    The task force was formed to identify questions that would face any statewide water project, and from the start said it would not endorse or eliminate either of two proposals to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline.

    “This decision sends a clear message that the IBCC needs to step up and do something about new water supply,” said Jay Winner, one of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable’s IBCC representatives.

    Environmental groups this week tried to depict the decision as a defeat for Aaron Million’s proposal to build a 500­ mile pipeline from the Green River to Colorado’s Front Range. However, Million claimed last week that the neutral decision by the task force was a win for him. He is working on engineering needed to resume federal consideration of the project.

    The Colorado-­Wyoming Coalition also is pursuing its version of a Flaming Gorge pipeline, but is still waiting on Bureau of Reclamation studies to determine if it will move forward, said Eric Hecox of the South Metro Water Supply District.

    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

    The developer of the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline denied Wednesday that the state’s decision to end funding for a group looking at the project would set it back…

    Tuesday’s decision to halt funding represented a “critical wound” to the project, Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates said in a statement. Environmentalists oppose the project because they contend it would diminish Green River flows…

    Jennifer Gimbel, director of the water board, said the environmentalists’ comments were “misleading.”

    The decision “doesn’t reflect the board’s position on the pipeline,” she said. “It doesn’t endorse it; it she said. “It doesn’t endorse it; it doesn’t deny it.”[...]

    The task force was formed to study issues surrounding the project, not to decide whether the project should move forward. After completing a report on the pipeline, the task force requested $100,000 to study “new supply projects in general” at Tuesday’s water board meeting, Gimbel said.

    However, the Interbasin Compact Committee already is studying potential water supply projects, she said…

    Aaron Million, principal of Wyco Power and Water Inc., called environmentalists’ characterization of the decision “grossly inaccurate.” The company has proposed building the pipeline to bring water from Wyoming to the Front Range, including Fort Collins.

    “One of the reasons I think the environmental community’s been so vocal is that this project has a lot of merit to it,” said Million, who contends the project would add to Poudre River volume.

    From The Salt Lake Tribune (Brett Prettyman):

    Charlie Card, northeastern Utah coordinator for Trout Unlimited, says the news from Colorado is good, but he has heard similar news before and knows not to let his guard down when it comes to water in the West.

    “Million said about a year ago that in two years he would be ready to submit another proposal and there is another group out of Parker, Colorado, that has asked the Bureau of Reclamation specifically to give them the actual number of acre-feet of water that is available,” Card said. “The report from Colorado is nice, but the threat is far from over.”

    Numerous recreational and financial impacts from proposed pipelines pumping water out of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which sits on the Utah/Wyoming border, or the Green River above it have been revealed by Trout Unlimited and other concerned groups.

    Among them:

    • Wide fluctuations of water levels at Flaming Gorge would create ideal conditions for noxious weeds along the shore, affecting waterfowl, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, sage grouse and other species. Open shorelines may become inaccessible for recreation.

    • Diminished flows on the Green River below the dam will affect species of concern like the northern river otter, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, osprey, Lewis’ woodpecker, southern willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo.

    • A reduction of flows into the reservoir will inhibit recommended flow levels out of the dam. The recommendations were agreed upon by multiple agencies to benefit endangered fish (razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub and bonytail) in the Green River.

    • The main sport fish of Flaming Gorge — kokanee salmon, lake trout and smallmouth bass — are already facing a number of challenges in a delicately balanced ecosystem that has been rocked by the recent appearance of illegally introduced burbot. Lower and fluctuating water levels will only add to the challenges.

    • Access to the lake via existing boat ramps would likely not be possible if water as proposed in the Million project were removed from the reservoir. That impacts all businesses that rely on the reservoir including those on the shores of Flaming Gorge and including other towns and cities like Dutch John, Manila, Green River, Wyo., and Rock Springs.

    Similar facts are presented on the ourdamwater.org/ website of Sportsmen for the Green.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    The state’s most powerful water organization will spend no more money to study ways of piping water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, a move heralded by environmental organizations but one that might not squelch the idea. The Colorado Water Conservation Board turned away a request that it continue to fund a study of how to pursue large water projects, such as a proposed pipeline to the Front Range from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming.

    The board’s decision was greeted as a victory by Protect the Flows, an organization of recreation, agricultural and other interests that depend on the Colorado River. “This decision tells Coloradans that (Gov. John Hickenlooper) and the water board know how much we value our superb recreation opportunities and the huge economy in Colorado generated by outdoor enthusiasts and tourism,” Protect the Flows spokeswoman Molly Mugglestone said.

    Water board members noted that such projects would be more appropriately studied by the Interbasin Compact Committee, a 27-member committee established to address statewide water issues.

    The proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline has been rejected on several levels and by federal agencies. It was criticized by government agencies, including Mesa County and Grand Junction, which cited unanswered questions about the effects of the project.

    The Interbasin Compact Committee “has a new water-supply committee and this seems to belong to them,” said Chris Treese, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “I think that’s an important dialogue to have and it’s one we’ve been involved with all along.”

    The water board’s decision amounted to an endorsement of the need for conservation over development, Protect the Flows said.

    Abandoning talk of water-development projects is a non-starter, Club 20 Executive Director Bonnie Petersen said. “Given the drought situation,” Petersen said, “at some level it would seem we would have to talk about storage.”

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    CWCB: ‘Zombie Pipeline’ Takes Critical Wound in Vote — Jason Bane

    January 30, 2013

    cottermillcontaminationconcerndenverpost10232011.jpg

    From email from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) today voted overwhelmingly to end funding for the ‘Flaming Gorge Task Force,’ which had been considering future large-scale water diversion projects such as the ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline.’ The decision is in line with public opinion; a recent Colorado water poll found that four-in-five Colorado voters favor focusing on water conservation efforts rather than water diversions.

    In response to today’s decision, Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager at Western Resource Advocates, issued the following statement:

    “The Flaming Gorge Pipeline has been called the ‘zombie pipeline’ from years of lumbering around trying to latch onto anything that might keep it alive. Today’s CWCB vote sends a strong message that it’s time to move on to other water demand solutions. No amount of discussion is going to make the pipeline less expensive or more realistic, and we applaud the CWCB for recognizing the need to move forward.”

    The ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline’ (FGP) is a proposal to pump 81 million gallons of water a year across more than five hundred (500) miles from the Green River in Wyoming to the Front Range of Colorado—all at a projected cost of $9 billion dollars (according to CWCB calculations). Western Resource Advocates has consistently opposed the idea as unreasonable and unnecessary.

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

    The task force funding drew criticism from conservation groups, who said the money would be better spent studying realistic conservation and reuse options for water. By some state estimates, the pipeline could have cost as much as $9 billion. The CWCB denied a request for $100,000 of state water money for continued study…

    We applaud Governor Hickenlooper and the Colorado Water Conservation Board for their decision to turn down spending additional money to examine new water diversions as a solution to meet Colorado’s water challenges, said Protect Our Flows director Molly Mugglestone. “It’s the right decision for what Coloradans want as reflected overwhelmingly in a recent bipartisan poll commissioned by Protect the Flows.

    The poll showed that more than 80 percent of Colorado voters would tell state officials to spend their time and resources focusing on conservation efforts, rather than water diversions; a majority of voters across political and geographic lines oppose building additional pipelines; and almost all express strong regard for Colorado rivers and a desire to protect them.

    [Aaron Million] has said the pipeline could actually help protect flows in over-used sections of the Colorado, especially in years like this, with abundant moisture in Wyoming, but well below average snowpack in Colorado.

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


    Aspinall Unit operations meeting recap: Forecasted April-July inflow to Blue Mesa is 370,000 acre-feet #coriver

    January 28, 2013

    aspinallunitdescription.jpg

    From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

    Participation: This meeting was held at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose. Attendees are noted on the distribution list located at the end of these notes. Handouts and presentations are available for review at:

    http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/water/rsvrs/mtgs/amcurrnt.html

    Purpose of Meeting: The purpose of operation meetings which are held in January, April, and August is to gather input for determining upcoming operations of the Aspinall Unit (Blue Mesa, Morrow Point, and Crystal Reservoirs). This input is used in Reclamation’s development of specific operations for the Aspinall Unit and for the overall 24-month study (www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/studies/index.html) for operation of Reclamation projects in the Upper Colorado River Basin, which includes plans for Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge, and Navajo Units, as well as the Aspinall Unit. Operation of the Aspinall Unit considers forecasted inflows to the reservoirs, hydropower and flood control needs, existing water rights, minimum instream flows, target elevations for reservoirs; flow needs and flow recommendations for endangered fish and other resources; recreation; and other factors. In addition, the meetings are used to coordinate activities and exchange information among agencies, water users, and other interested parties concerning the Gunnison River.

    Handouts provided included data on 2012 operations; inflows to the reservoirs for 2012; and projected most probable, minimum, and maximum inflow forecasts for 2013; and potential operations for 2013.

    The Fish and Wildlife Service flow recommendations for endangered fish were completed in 2003 and a final Aspinall Operations EIS and Record of Decision have been completed. Therefore operations to meet the flow recommendations have begun. In addition, the water right for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has been quantified and adjudicated. These operation meetings are used to discuss proposals for long-term operation plans to address these and related resource management issues.

    Operations:

    General: Blue Mesa Reservoir capacities are described in meetings as follows: The reservoir holds 940,700 acre-feet (af). Active capacity is 748,400 af; inactive capacity is 81,100af; and dead storage is 111,200. Live capacity is the active plus inactive, which totals 829,500af. Discussions during operation meetings use live capacity.

    Gunnison Basin Reservoirs: In 2012, Paonia and Silver Jack were the only Reclamation reservoirs to fill because of the limited runoff; and similar conditions are predicted to occur in 2013. Presently Taylor Park is 53% full; Ridgway 66%; Paonia 7%; and Silver Jack 19%. Inflow forecasts for 2013 are 63% of average to Ridgway; 60-65% to Taylor Park and 65% in the North Fork basin.

    2012 Operations: The actual April through July inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir was 206,000 af, the third lowest since 1937. The years 1977 and 2002 were lower. The April-July runoff at the Whitewater gage near Grand Junction was only 18 percent of average. Maximum content of Blue Mesa in 2012 was 543,000 af in April. Based on the May 1, 2012 inflow forecast to Blue Mesa, the Black Canyon National Park water right called for a 1-day peak of 814 cfs, which was met by an 845 cfs peak at the end of June. Flow Recommendations for endangered fish called for a 900 cfs peak in 2012 at Whitewater and this corresponded to the 900 cfs baseflow target for June and July which was met.

    Black Canyon flows from August-September, 2012 were in the 600 cfs range and lowered to 320 cfs in October and remained there for the rest of the calendar year.

    Flows at Whitewater Gage held up well through the fall eventually dropping to around 750 cfs in late December.

    2013 Operations: Precipitation in the Gunnison Basin in October and November, 2012 was well below 50% of normal; December precipitation was near normal.

    As of January 23rd, snowpack in the Gunnison Basin is only 62 % of the long-term average. (We would need 138% of average for the next 5 months to reach an average year). The inflow forecast to Blue Mesa is now 55% of the long-term average.

    Blue Mesa content is now 327,000 af and has gained only 2,000 af through the winter.

    As of January 15th, the forecasted April-July inflow to Blue Mesa is 370,000 af which is considered a Dry Year category and would be expected to be exceeded in 92 % of years.

    If this inflow forecast holds true, it would represent the 5th lowest inflow since Blue Mesa was constructed (1977, 1981, 2002, and 2012 were lower).

    Black Canyon National Park peak flow will be based on May 1 forecast; if the present forecast is maintained the peak would be 1016 cfs. However, a drought provision in the water right (based on the previous dry year and low Blue Mesa content) reduces this peak to 768 cfs.

    Flow Recommendations call for a 900 cfs peak at Whitewater in a Dry Year based on the present forecasted inflow. This again, is equal to the baseflow target of 900 cfs for June and July.

    Under most probable conditions, Blue Mesa is expected to reach 7476 feet in elevation (480,000 af content) which is 43 feet short of filling.

    Average monthly Black Canyon flows during January through April are expected to be around 300 cfs and then increase to 500-650 cfs in the spring and summer.

    It should be noted that snowpack conditions can change significantly after January and projected operations should be considered preliminary at this time.

    Weather Forecasts: The National Weather Service projected some precipitation in the short-term but below average in the 8-14 day period. Last fall El Nino conditions were projected but did not materialize. Conditions are now near neutral and historically such conditions have resulted in a wide range of precipitation conditions; however, below average precipitation for the remainder of the winter is possible.

    Above average temperature conditions are projected for the basin for the remainder of the winter (however, valley inversions may make you think otherwise).

    Drought conditions in the Gunnison Basin are expected to persist.

    Special Flow Requests: None.

    Reports:

    State Engineer: In 2012 the Uncompahgre River was under call upstream from the M&D Canal beginning May 2. The Gunnison River gage at Gunnison reached record low flows. The North Fork basin and Grand Mesa water conditions were very low and carryover in private reservoirs is very low.

    CRWCD: Discussing possible drought response with some of the large senior water right holders. State of the Gunnison River meetings will be held again this year: June 3 in Montrose and May 13 at Colorado Mesa University.

    Upper Gunnison District: Lake San Cristobal work has been completed which increases available storage by 950 af.

    National Park Service: Despite projected low reservoir levels, should still be good recreation opportunities at Blue Mesa.

    Trout Unlimited: Relief Ditch Diversion restoration work is 35% complete and should be done by end of March. Will provide safer boat passage and improved diversion operations.

    Delta County: Because of 2012 and 2013 dry conditions, very concerned with fire conditions this year. Noted that Larimer County was under Red Flag condition today.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife: Dan Kowalski has accepted a research position with CPW and his replacement has been selected.

    Power Office: Normal maintenance of Aspinall dams and powerplants underway. No special projects.

    UVWUA: South Canal hydropower project is under construction and some power may be produced this summer. Fish deterrent at the Gunnison Tunnel entrance has been completed and will be operated in 2013.

    Western: Generation limited to 6 hours per day at Morrow Point and Blue Mesa. Crystal is generating using the 300 cfs release. Anticipates purchasing lots of energy this year due to dry conditions; prices are not too high this year. Had a high flow event at Glen Canyon; the high releases will be compensated with lower releases. Requested that National Park and endangered fish peaks be coordinated into one peak operation.

    FWS: In January, the FWS proposed the Gunnison Sage Grouse as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Comments on Federal Register notice are due March 12. Holding public meetings.

    Tri-County: Ridgway is 15,000 af lower than January average. Releasing 30 cfs to preserve storage and will remain at 30 cfs until Uncompahgre Project needs water. Hydropower project is under construction and may produce some power by end of year.

    BLM: 2012 was fairly slow year in the Gunnison Gorge…low flows make rafting very technical. Noted increase in fishing and recreation downstream from the North Fork confluence.

    USGS: Gunnison River at Gunnison will now record water temperature.

    Snow and Avalanche Center: One dust event last November 9th. Snowpack very low on study sites.

    Next Meeting: April 25th at Reclamation’s Office in Grand Junction.

    More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


    Southern Delivery System update: 30 miles of pipe in the ground in 2012

    January 25, 2013

    southerndeliverysystemconstructioncelebration08192011.jpg

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    Here’s an update on SDS’s progress in 2012:

  • Nearly 30 miles of pipeline installed to date — more than half the total pipeline for Phase 1;
  • Nearly all pipeline installed in Pueblo County — with only approximately 0.3 miles remaining;
  • Completion and successful testing of the new Pueblo Dam connection; • Began construction of the first phase of power supply infrastructure for the future Bradley Pump Station in El Paso County;
  • Achieved significant milestone of 500,000 hours worked with no “lost-time” safety incidents;
  • Completed 100 percent design on the water treatment plant and worked closely with contractor to competitively bid construction work packages to achieve best possible price;
  • Advanced design on the raw water pump stations to 90 percent and restructured procurement approach to maximize competition for construction and deliver best value;
  • Acquired all the land needed for construction in Pueblo County with transactions finalized on more than 204 parcels of the nearly 300 total required project-wide;
  • Negotiated cooperative agreement with Mountain View Electric Association allowing Colorado Springs Utilities to provide power service to the Williams Creek Pump Station at lower rates and retaining full long-term operational and financial control of this critical asset; and
  • Hosted multiple, regional business outreach events to encourage local contractor participation — to date, a total of nearly 170 Colorado businesses have performed work on SDS.
    Staff continues to execute a rigorous program management plan to drive for efficiencies and reduce costs in the planning and implementation of the project. The project is currently forecasting completion about $68 million below budget. Greater certainty about the final project cost will be achieved with the execution of construction contracts for the water treatment plant and raw water pump stations, anticipated by early 2013.
  • More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge Task Force: ‘I guess neutral is a big win for us’ — Aaron Million

    January 25, 2013

    flaminggorgepipelinemillion.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    More state discussions are needed on how to develop Colorado’s share of Colorado River water, a task force that met for more than a year on the Flaming Gorge water project reported Wednesday. The task force did not recommend either building or denying the Flaming Gorge pipeline idea, and wasn’t expected to. Instead, it worked to create a framework that would bring competing interests to the table to evaluate any project proposing development of a new supply from the Colorado River. Its conclusions will be submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which funded the task force. “I guess neutral is a big win for us,” said Aaron Million, who was one of two sponsors of a Flaming Gorge pipeline who met with the task force last year.

    More engineering work is being completed so that the Flaming Gorge project can be resubmitted to a federal agency for environmental evaluation. Million said it would be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which rejected an application last year, saying more information was needed. If FERC does not accept the new proposal, either the Army Corps of Engineers or Bureau of Land Management would be approached.

    The task force recommended the CWCB and Interbasin Compact Committee, an umbrella organization that represents the interests of basin roundtables and the state, develop a way to evaluate if a project meets certain criteria. The top priorities are developing Colorado’s share of the water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact and protecting the state from a call on the river that could diminish Colorado’s water supply.

    The group recommended forming a committee that would continue to discuss issues relating to water and is asking the CWCB for up to $100,000 for phase 2 of the study. The first phase was funded at $72,000 in September 2011, over the objections of environmental groups who tried to kill any consideration of a Flaming Gorge plan.

    More coverage from the Associated Press via the Laramie Boomerang. Here’s an excerpt:

    In a report to be presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Basin Roundtable Exploration Committee said questions that should be addressed include not only financing and how Colorado can maximize its entitlements to Colorado River water without overdeveloping the river, but also alternatives to new water supply projects.

    The committee said state leaders and each of the basin roundtables in Colorado should participate in the conversation, which it called a “key threshold step” needed to move beyond the status quo in developing significant new water supply solutions. The roundtables represent each major river basin in the state, plus the Denver area.

    The report, released Wednesday, described an urgent need for action, citing the gap between the demand for water on the populated Front Range and the supply.

    “The municipal gap on the Front Range is immediate, the dry-up of agriculture is real and certain, and the environmental and economic concerns are serious and numerous,” the report said.

    The report also listed several characteristics of “good” water supply projects. For instance, they should have funding and minimize the need for new infrastructure, and they shouldn’t reduce supplies to existing water users, the report said.

    Colorado’s river basin roundtables agreed to form the committee after entrepreneur Aaron Million announced a $3 billion pipeline proposal to carry Flaming Gorge Reservoir water to Colorado, and a separate coalition of water providers said it was exploring its own plan. The committee didn’t set out to endorse any proposal but wanted to answer questions about cost, feasibility, water rights and legalities, along with the environmental, socioeconomics, agricultural and recreational impacts of any Flaming Gorge project, among other issues.

    Million has yet to gain permits for his project. He said Thursday his team is doing more engineering work after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year dismissed his permit application over a lack of specifics.

    More coverage from the Wyoming Business Journal (MJ Clark):

    The committee is aware of protests by environmentalists and issues raised by their own constituency.

    “Rather than focusing on a Flaming Gorge project, the committee is exploring what the attributes would be of any successful new transmountain diversion,” the group wrote. “And foremost to that discussion is dealing with the uncertainties of water availability under the Colorado River Compact.”

    Noting that the staff could not reach an agreement of whether or not to endorse the project, the group concluded that, “At this point, we don’t see the benefit of having the Flaming Gorge Committee continue … unless the board directs otherwise, this will be the direction staff takes.”

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    Flaming Gorge Task Force’s phase one report is hot off the press

    January 24, 2013

    flaminggorgepipelineearthjustice.jpg

    Click here to view the report and appendices A through F. Click here for appendices G through I. Thanks to Heather Bergman for sending them along in email. Here’s an excerpt from the report:

    Recommendations

    In the course of its work, the Committee has come to more fully understand and appreciate the gravity and risks of the status quo and the need to develop new supply1 solutions that balance the current and future consumptive and nonconsumptive needs of both slopes and all basins. The municipal gap on the Front Range is immediate, the dry-up of agriculture is real and certain, and the environmental and economic concerns are serious and numerous. In the process of becoming informed about and discussing the benefits and costs of a specific new supply project focused around Flaming Gorge, the Committee has identified a key threshold step that must happen in order to move beyond the status quo in developing any significant new supply solution: an immediate and focused conversation with each roundtable and state leaders at the table must begin, aimed at developing an agreement or agreements around how water supply needs around the state can be met. Our conclusion and consensus is that the conversation needs to be transparent and inclusive in order to arrive at consensus agreements that can lead to meaningful statewide-level water supply solutions. The immediate need for this robust, focused, transparent, and balanced conversation is at the heart of each of our recommendations.

    The Committee has developed a consensus flow chart that identifies threshold steps and a process framework for moving forward with major new supply allocation from the Colorado River. The flow chart and the process it outlines suggests a pathway to achieving statewide consensus for a new supply project, based on roundtables defining the scope of a project, the IBCC and CWCB providing insight and approval, and project proponents or participants designing a project based on statewide consensus about the criteria of what characteristics and components are needed to be included into the design, implementation, and operation of a water project for that project to be considered a “good” project for Colorado. The flow chart is based on several assumptions:

  • The goal is to minimize the risk of a Compact call.
  • An M&I gap exists and needs to be filled. Some of the water needed to fill that gap may come from the Colorado River. That portion of the gap that is not satisfied by identified projects or processes, conservation, or new supply will likely come from the change of agricultural water to municipal and industrial use.
  • The current legal framework will apply.
  • All roundtables are affected by a new supply project.
  • This process would be voluntary. An inability to complete the process (all STOP signs in the complete framework) means that proponents revert to “business-as-usual” for building a new project.
  • More coverage from KUGR News:

    A task force studying issues related to proposals to divert water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado says state leaders first need to agree on how Colorado’s water needs can be met. In a report to be presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Basin Roundtable Exploration Committee says questions that should be addressed include how Colorado can maximize its entitlements to Colorado River water without overdeveloping the river and who would finance a new water supply project. It also lists characteristics of “good” water supply projects, which it says shouldn’t reduce supplies to existing water users, for one. The report, released Wednesday, says there is an immediate gap between the Front Range demand for water and the supply and mentions “risks of the status quo.”

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    U.S. Representative Diana DeGette co-sponsors H.R. 267 — Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013

    January 23, 2013

    microhydroelectricplant.jpg

    Click here to read about the bill on GovTrack.us

    From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):

    The legislation comes in the form of a bill called the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act. It was reintroduced to the U.S. House of Representatives Jan. 15 by lawmakers from Colorado and Washington state. Though an identical bill was shot down in the Senate late last year, it did pass the House in July by a unanimous vote. The bill’s main focus is to clear much of the red tape associated with permitting small hydroelectric power projects, mainly those generating less than 5-megawatts of electricity.

    Both U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) co-sponsored the bill, and one of its major supporters is the Colorado Small Hydro Association. Ophir’s Kurt Johnson is president of the association, and in the past he has promoted the benefits of small hydroelectric projects…

    Regulations currently in place require most hydroelectric projects to go through an application process and review with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The FERC process can be lengthy and expensive, which can create a burden to small projects.

    If the new bill is passed into law, the regulatory process could be streamlined for certain small hydro projects. The bill, as written, provides periods of public comment and directs FERC to examine the feasibility of a two-year licensing process for certain low-impact hydropower projects. Some of the low-impact projects could include the conversion of existing non-powered dams into power-generating ones.

    According to the association, the current permitting process has been a barrier to small projects for decades. As a result the association claims much of Colorado’s, and the country’s hydroelectric resources are under utilized.

    Historically, western Colorado has had a number of small hydroelectric projects, including the Bridal Veil hydroelectric power station above Telluride. Bridal Veil along with the Ouray Hydroelectric Power Plant in Ouray are two of the oldest AC power plants in the country…

    The bill states a significant amount of new hydroelectric generation could come from maximizing existing infrastructure, particularly non-powered dams. It states that only about 3 percent of the nation’s 80,000 dams currently generate hydropower.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    Wild and Scenic designation for the Crystal River?

    January 6, 2013

    crystalriverrivervalleybrentgardnersmith2011.jpg

    Here’s an in-depth report from Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith). Click through for all the detail and some great photos, as well. Here’s an excerpt:

    Wild and Scenic status, which ultimately requires an act of Congress to obtain, prevents a federal agency from approving, or funding, a new dam or reservoir on a Wild and Scenic-designated river.

    And that’s one big reason why Pitkin County, the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA) and American Rivers are exploring Wild and Scenic status for the Crystal — because it would likely block a potential dam and reservoir from being built at Placita, an old coal town between Marble and Redstone…

    The West Divide Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River District are fighting to retain conditional water rights that could allow for a dam across the Crystal and a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir.

    The river district says such a reservoir could put more water in the often parched lower Crystal River in the fall and could also provide hydropower.

    But the county, CVEPA and American Rivers are actively opposing the renewal of the conditional water rights tied to the dam and a 21-day trial in district water court is scheduled for August.

    In the meantime those groups, plus the Conservancy, are testing local sentiment about seeking Wild and Scenic designation.

    “We want to disseminate as much information as possible to the public about the Wild and Scenic program, and then ask the folks in the Crystal River Valley if they think it is a good idea to pursue,” said Pitkin County Attorney John Ely, who leads most of the county’s water-related initiatives.

    To that end, the groups held two public meetings in mid-November, one in Redstone attended by 57 people and one in Carbondale with 35 people there…

    What the Wild and Scenic Act does do is let the river run — by preventing federal agencies from permitting or funding “any dam, water conduit, reservoir, powerhouse, transmission line or other project,” according to its language.

    It would prevent, for example, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from issuing a permit for a hydropower project on the river or along its banks.

    “Some rivers need to be left alone,” said David Moryc, senior director of river protection at American Rivers, describing the underlying intent of the law, according to a summary of the meeting prepared by the Roaring Fork Conservancy…

    When asked about that via email, Ely of Pitkin County said he thought Colorado had only one designated river because of the “lack of information as to the benefits and restrictions of the designation, and the time and dedication it takes to get it through Congress.”

    Another reason may be that once a river is designated Wild and Scenic, the federal government becomes a stakeholder on the river and has a chance to review potential changes to it, such as any new water rights. Some may feel that Colorado water law is complicated enough already…

    “I think the Crystal has the potential to be a nice clean straightforward effort because there are no out-of-basin uses yet,” Ely wrote. “If there is interest in going forward, we’re happy to be the laboring oar and do that work.”

    More Crystal River Watershed coverage here and here.


    Orchard City: Lots of snags for proposed hydroelectric generation station at the water treatment plant

    January 6, 2013

    orchardcitysangresdotcom.jpg

    From the Delta County Independent:

    The town board conducted a public hearing on Dec. 12 to discuss the project. The hearing is part of the public process mandated by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, for obtaining necessary federal approvals.

    The town wants to install a 22 kilowatt generating turbine at the water treatment plant that hopefully would save up to $10,000 in propane costs for heat that the town has spent in previous years.

    The cost of propane has recently come down, reducing the cost of heating the treatment plant. That has negated some savings originally calculated in the project and extended even further the estimated payback period for the hydro installation.

    A regulatory snag has also crept into plans. The 22 kilowatt generator the town plans to install will actually generate more electricity than the treatment plant needs. But a regulation prohibits the town from getting credit for the excess electricity generated.

    If the town isn’t able to get credit for its excess produced electricity through credits on other meters it owns, then the project may collapse because the payback could disappear altogether.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


    Silverthorne: The next meeting of the Flaming Gorge Task Force is January 3 #CORiver

    December 29, 2012

    silverthornecitydata.jpg

    Here’s the agenda via email from Heather Bergman.

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    Green Mountain Dam update: 190 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

    December 20, 2012

    greenmountainreservoir.jpg

    Update: From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Today, we adjusted releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River again.

    The reason for the change was three-fold: increases in downstream contractor demand, increase in inflow, and increases in the amount required to compensate for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project diversions upstream on the Colorado River out of Granby Reservoir.

    As a result, this afternoon we bumped releases up by 40 cfs. Flows in the Lower Blue are now around 190 cfs.

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Just a quick message to let you know that the Shoshone Power Plant came back on-line today [December 19]. As a result, we bumped up our releases to about 150 cfs today around noon.

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.


    Silverthorne: Next meeting of the Flaming Gorge Task Force December 18 #CORiver

    December 18, 2012

    flaminggorgepipelineearthjustice.jpg

    Here’s the agenda.

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 888 other followers

    %d bloggers like this: