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.


HB14-1026: “In theory, it sounds good [flexible markets], but there are still not enough sideboards on it” — Jay Winner #COleg

April 19, 2014
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Local officials still are skeptical of pending legislation that would establish a flex marketing water right. The bill, HB1026, as introduced would have allowed agricultural water to be used anywhere, any time and for any purpose, apparently in contradiction of the state’s anti-speculation doctrine.

[...]

It breezed through the state House, but has been snagged for weeks in the Senate agriculture committee.

“In theory, it sounds good, but there are still not enough sideboards on it,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

Winner has been trying to get a provision added to the bill that would limit fallowing of farmland to three years in 10 — a staple of current law regarding temporary transfers. Backers of the bill have pushed for allowing transfers to occur five years in 10, with nearly unlimited dry-up of farm ground during that time.

The bill was supposed to be heard in the Senate ag committee Thursday, but was again delayed. Winner thinks it should be referred to the interim water resources committee to work out differences.

Meanwhile, the Pueblo Board of Water Works also is backing off from supporting the bill. Even though provisions were added that prevent moving water from the water district where it originally was used, farms might be permanently dried up, said Terry Book, executive director of the water board.

“Our question is does it do what it’s intended to do?” Book said. “We would support something that allows farmers to market water, but not this bill.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


Arkansas River Basin: St. Charles Mesa Water District board election May 6

April 19, 2014

“If we commit too much water, we lose our flexibility for operating during times of drought” — Alan Ward

April 17, 2014

cripplecreekrvtravel.com

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A gold mining company will lease some of Pueblo’s raw water for the next decade at a record price. The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday approved a 10-year lease of 400 acre-feet of water to the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co. in Teller County. The water will lease for $630.63 per acre-foot (an acre-foot is 325,851 gallons) initially, and will be adjusted annually by the same percentage as Pueblo water rates. That will mean more than $250,000 in revenue for the water board this year.

“The 400 acre-feet is a relatively small amount,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager. “If we commit too much water, we lose our flexibility for operating during times of drought.”

That amount also should not interfere with the water board’s other multiyear leases.

The price represents 1.5 times the price of the Comanche power plant lease, reflecting the water board’s policy of charging a 50 percent premium to customers outside city limits, Ward said.

Cripple Creek & Victor plans to use the water to augment its supplies and replace depletions to local waterways.

The water will be delivered to either the mouth of Fourmile Creek or Beaver Creek, or to the town of Victor’s account in Lake Pueblo. From there, it will be the gold mining company’s responsibility to exchange it upstream to operations located about 25 miles from the Arkansas River.

Revenue from the lease will be used to offset Pueblo water rates in the water board’s $34 million budget.

Metered water sales are expected to generate $23.3 million this year, while leases of water will contribute more than $8.2 million.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


The Lower Ark, Otero County, et.al., start the process to create a rural water authority for the county

April 17, 2014
Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The groundwork for a rural water authority in Otero County was put in place Wednesday. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District agreed to partner with Otero County commissioners to sign on three water providers to participate in the authority. The authority will give the water providers, which are small private companies, the ability to apply for government grants in order to bring their water systems into compliance with public health standards. It also will allow them to share operating expenses, deal with issues relating to the upcoming Arkansas Valley Conduit and to speak with one voice. Eventually, it could allow participants to hire staff members to deal with water issues.

“We have a lot of issues with compliance, because 14 out of 28 private water providers in the valley are out of compliance,” said Bill Hancock, conservation manager for the Lower Ark district.

Right now, only three of the districts have signed on, the Fayette, Vroman and Valley districts, all in Otero County. Combined, they serve fewer than 500 people. Other water companies are expected to sign on as the authority develops.

“We have the ability to expand in Otero County, as well as other counties in the valley. This is a good place to start,” said Otero County Commissioner Keith Goodwin.

One of the first projects of the authority will be to apply for a state loan to fund adding membrane filters to the systems, Hancock said. The filters are made by Innovative Water Technologies, a Rocky Ford company.

Otero County commissioners voted Monday to approve the authority, but appointed no board members. The Lower Ark appointed Wayne Snider and Jolean Rose, both of Fowler, to the authority.

“We’re at the point now where we have the vehicle, but we still need to add the engine, steering and wheels,” Snider said.

The Lower Ark board praised the agreement.

“Anyone who has been involved with rural water knows how important this is,” said Lynden Gill, chairman of the board.

“Not only is compliance important, but some of these systems are 40-50 years old and this provides a way to maintain them.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update #ColoradoRiver

April 16, 2014
Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We are getting ready to start importing water from the West Slope collection of the Fryingpan-Arkansas system to the East Slope. As long as minimum flows at both the Thomasville and Hunter Creek gages are met, we can begin diversions of additional water through the Boustead Tunnel.

Here are the minimum flows for the Fryingpan River at Thomasville:

Date Min Flow, (cfs)
Oct. 1 – Mar. 31 30
Apr. 1 – Apr. 30 100
May 1 – May 31 150
Jun. 1 – Jun. 30 200
Jul. 1 – Jul. 31 100
Aug. 1 – Aug 31 75
Sep 1 – Sep 30 65

Additionally, at Twin Lakes dam, we are curtailing releases to Lake Creek and the Arkansas River today and tomorrow. Today, we scaled back to about 100 cfs. Tomorrow, we will continue scaling back to 0 cfs while a regular review of the dam is conducted. Once the review is complete, we will bring releases back up.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.


Snowpack news: “It’s Mother Nature’s way of thinning” — Manny Colon

April 15, 2014

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A wet, heavy snow Sunday provided more relief from persistent drought in parts of the Arkansas River basin, but could cause some damage to blossoming fruit trees.

“It will take about four days to know for sure, but I’m sure there is some damage,” said Manny Colon, a Canon City fruit grower.

He explained that while some buds were open, the snow in the trees also could have an insulating effect, protecting the unopened buds. The length of time for freezing temperatures and humidity also are factors.

“It’s Mother Nature’s way of thinning,” he laughed. “All the moisture in the snow is wonderful and will help the trees, grass and hay.”

The heavy snow also could cause damage to young trees, but overall its impact should be positive for this parched portion of Colorado.

Pueblo, Fremont, Custer, Huerfano and Las Animas counties received the most moisture from a storm that started as rain, then quickly turned to snow as it hovered over the area all day Sunday. In places, it dropped about a foot of snow, although 6-8 inches was more common, according to readings from the Community Collaborative Rain Hail & Snow network.

Moisture content of 0.75 inches was recorded in Pueblo, while an inch was listed in the Rye area. One site in western Custer County listed 1.18 inches of moisture from the snow.

Moisture and snowfall was far less on the Eastern Plains and in the Rio Grande valley, where snow measured 1-3 inches, and moisture content was .02-0.25 inches.

Mountain areas fared better, with 5-7 inches of snow containing up to half an inch or more of water.

Snowpack in the mountains already has passed the median peak and continues to grow. The typical peak at higher elevations usually comes during the first week of May.

Basinwide, snowpack is at 108 percent of average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Upper Colorado River basin, which supplies supplemental water for the Arkansas River, is about 121 percent of average.

The Arkansas River this week is flowing 25 percent higher than last week, but still is below average for this time of year. About half of the water in the river above Lake Pueblo consists of releases by the Bureau of Reclamation to make room for transmountain imports. About one-third of the releases from Lake Pueblo consists of stored water being released for irrigation.

Pueblo’s year-to-date precipitation was 2.4 inches Monday, 17 percent above normal, according to the National Weather Service.


Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

April 14, 2014
Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors agreed to continue pursuing the district’s proposed Multi-use Project during the monthly board meeting Thursday in Salida. Director Greg Felt, Salida, provided an overview of the project, which has remained largely dormant for the past 2 years, and noted the widespread appeal of the project among diverse state agencies, local government entities and the conservation and recreation communities.

Benefits of the project would include:

• Preservation of agricultural irrigation.
• Two water storage reservoirs.
• Alluvial aquifer water storage.
• Conservation easements.
• Wildlife corridor protections.
• Protections for deer and elk populations.
• Drought water supply.
• New public access to the Arkansas River.
• New boating access to the river.
• Hydroelectric electricity generation.

Felt pointed out that these benefits align almost perfectly with Colorado water management objectives as identified by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, or SWSI (swahzee), 2010 report.

Major components of the project would include Chaffee County’s most senior water right, the Trout Creek Ditch; the Helena Ditch; Moltz Reservoir; a proposed gravel pit reservoir; and 6,000-12,000 acre-feet of proposed aquifer storage.

Felt said significant challenges facing the project include financing and working with five different property owners.

District Manager Terry Scanga said he sent a proposal to the Colorado Water Conservation Board concerning the project and the potential for financing through the CWCB and said he would follow up to get a meeting set.

District Engineer Ivan Walter said, “The project is there” from an engineering standpoint and in terms of SWSI objectives. “It would be a missed opportunity if the Upper Ark (district) didn’t do it.”

Director Jeff Ollinger, Buena Vista, has a background in finance and suggested using the CWCB finance application to prepare for the CWCB meeting. He also noted the potential for the district to leverage other assets as collateral to obtain sufficient financing for the project.

Ollinger also stressed the need to accurately assess the risks associated with the project, citing the potential for wildfire in the Trout Creek drainage and the potential for a hazardous material spill along U.S. 24/285 between Johnson Village and Trout Creek Pass.
Either of these events could significantly affect water quality and, therefore, the ability of the Multi-use Project to generate revenue to make loan payments.

Prior to the regular board meeting, directors met as the Enterprise Committee. Agenda items for the committee meeting included a financial report, an augmentation report, a reservoir and water storage report, and a precipitation and streamflow report.

In other business, Upper Ark directors:

Learned that Upper Colorado Basin snowpack conditions are similar to those in 2011 when the Frying Pan-Arkansas Project delivered 98,900 acre-feet of water to the Arkansas River and that the district has requested 1,000 acre-feet of project water for 2014.

Heard a legislative report from consultant Ken Baker, who said the Flex Water Market bill had been changed to prevent leased water from being diverted outside the basin of historic use for the water right in question.

Voted to drop Water Court case 95CW234, involving district efforts to extend augmentation services into the Texas Creek drainage.

Heard a presentation by U.S. Geological Survey Southwest Colorado Office Chief David Mau about the detrimental effects of wildfire runoff on water quality and how to mitigate those effects.

Learned the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District approved a stipulation in Water Court case 04CW95 and signed a storage agreement with the Upper Ark district.
Were reminded that four directors’ seats are up for reappointment, and candidates have until May 1 to submit an application.

Learned district staff members are developing a memorandum of understanding with the town of Buena Vista for the Cottonwood Creek Integrated Management Plan.

Agreed to have legal counsel draft comments regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection

Agency’s proposed rules pertaining to water resources.

More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Lake County: Water rates up starting with April invoice

April 12, 2014
Leadville

Leadville

From the Leadville Herald-Democrat (Marcia Martinek):

Parkville Water District customers were notified in their most-recent bills that water rates are increasing in April. The base rate will be $36 for 4,000 gallons, and then users who exceed that amount will be charged an additional amount per thousand gallons ranging from $4.50 up to $5.75. Previously customers were charged $33 for the first 3,000 gallons and then $4.60 for each additional 1,000 gallons. Greg Teter, Parkville general manager, said that the new rate structure is more in line with the way other water districts charge.

“We structured this (the rate structure) with bits and pieces from around the state,” Teter said. The rates that Parkville charges are “middle of the road” when compared with other rates throughout the state, he added.

The rate increase is necessary to keep up with expenses, he said. The district would like to put away something in a capital-reserve fund, but it’s hard to project what the expenses will be each year.

Parkville is looking at $500,000 in capital expenses this year as it deals with 130-year-old water lines and 120-year-old dams, Teter said.

The new rate structure was approved at the Dec. 13 meeting of the Parkville Board of Directors.

The notice that was included in recent water bills said that a similar rate structure for commercial service is also taking effect this month, and a table with the commercial rates is available at the business office, 2015 Poplar St., or at http://parkvillewater.org.

More infrastructure coverage here.


“We’ve got to start thinking about rivers as rivers” — Ken Neubecker #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

April 11, 2014
Blue River

Blue River

From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

The Blue and the Snake are in trouble. These two Summit County rivers are part of the Upper Colorado River Basin, which was named the second most endangered river in the country Wednesday by American Rivers, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit focused on river advocacy.

“If you want to have healthy rivers and a recreational economy and agriculture on the West Slope, there really is nothing left to take,” said Ken Neubecker, associate director of the organization’s Colorado River project…

The nonprofit’s biggest fear is a new diversion, Neubecker said, because taking a lot of water out of the Colorado anywhere would have serious repercussions.

American Rivers and other conservation organizations say the Colorado Water Conservation Board, charged with creating the state water plan, should make sure it prioritizes river restoration and protection, increases water efficiency and conservation in cities and towns, improves agricultural practices and avoids new transmountain diversions.

Rivers on the Western Slope are already drained and damaged, Neubecker said. He called it wrong to divert more water instead of focusing on alternative methods to meet the gap between water supply and demand.

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

Right now, he said, details on a new diversion project have been vague, but Front Range proposals have considered developing the Yampa, Flaming Gorge and Gunnison and taking more water out of the Blue, Eagle, Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers…

The Colorado River and its headwaters are home to some endangered fish species. They support wildlife, agriculture and multi-billion dollar tourism industries.

And they provide some or all of the drinking water for the resort areas of Breckenridge, Vail, Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Winter Park and Crested Butte and most of the urban Front Range.

To meet its customers’ water needs, Denver Water is focused on Gross Reservoir enlargements as well as conservation and forest health efforts, said CEO Jim Lochhead Thursday.

Colorado’s largest water provider has no current plans to construct a new transmountain diversion, he said, but the state as a whole should consider that option.

A new diversion is “probably inevitable at some point,” he said. “We want to do that in partnership with the West Slope.”

And after signing the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement last year, the utility has to.

The agreement does not allow future water development without the permission of all parties, including Western Slope representatives. Lochhead said, it “establishes a framework where we are really working together as partners instead of the old framework of East Slope versus West Slope.”

But the push is not coming from Denver Water.

“They’re really not the ones that are after a new diversion,” Neubecker said. “They got what they want.”

Pressure for more water from new or existing transmountain diversions comes mainly from north and south of Denver, the Arkansas and South Platte basins and especially Douglas County, he said. Those areas should look at conservation efforts more seriously, he said, and “pay attention to land use policies that basically encourage wasteful water use.”[...]

“We’ve got to start thinking about rivers as rivers” instead of engineering conduits for delivering water, Neubecker said, and “understand that we may think that growth should be infinite, but the resources like water that support the growth are not.”

From the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent (Mike McKibbin):

There is no more unclaimed water in the Colorado River Basin, so if the state’s population nearly doubles by 2050, as some have projected, the consequences for everyone along the river – including Rifle – could be dire. That was the message Louis Meyer, a civil engineer, president and CEO of SGM in Glenwood Springs, told City Council as he detailed the ongoing Colorado Water Plan process at an April 2 workshop…

Of the counties in the Colorado River basin, he noted, Garfield is projected to have the most growth, around 274 percent, or 119,900 people, by 2030.

“The Front Range is expected to have serious water shortages by 2020, unless they find more water,” he said. “They can’t take any more from agriculture on the Front Range, so they want a new supply from the Colorado River basin.”

“We have a target on our back,” Meyer continued. “But we have no more water to give.”

If every entity on the Front Range implemented some strict conservation measures, such as banning all new lawns and perhaps the removal of some existing lawns, Meyer said, the water gap could possibly be eliminated in coming years.

“But if we put that in the [water] plan, we need to do the same thing in our basin,” he added.

All storage water in Ruedi and Green Mountain reservoirs is allocated, along with nearly every other reservoir in the state, Meyer said.

Water quality issues are already becoming acute, Meyer said, because there is less water in the Colorado River.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Transmountain diversions: “I think the Twin Lakes company needs to be more open-minded” — Jay Winner #COWaterPlan

April 11, 2014
Twin Lakes collection system

Twin Lakes collection system

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Twin Lakes Reservoir & Canal Co. took umbrage at the way working drafts of an upcoming state water plan viewed its future. A report prepared by the Interbasin Compact Committee uses an example of a way to create new supply, suggesting that Twin Lakes could cut back its diversions from the other side of the Continental Divide in drought years to aid the Western Slope. Trouble is, Twin Lakes has no plans to do that, said Kevin Lusk, who is president of the Twins Lakes company as a representative of Colorado Springs Utilities, the majority shareholder in Twin Lakes.

“In our discussions, we’re trying to keep what we’ve got, and we have no intentions of increasing the use,” Lusk told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday.

Lusk asked for a retraction of the statement by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and from the basin roundtable chairs. The document was discussed in a March 17 conference call among roundtable chairs and alluded to in an Aspen Daily News story. Several roundtable members questioned how the statement landed in the document, since it was not discussed at a meeting.

“It was cited as an example in the process as we move forward,” said Betty Konarski, chairwoman of the roundtable.

Lusk said the distribution of the information is detrimental to Twin Lakes. While there have been past discussions along the same lines, the company has never committed to changing its operations to accommodate the Western Slope.

“Twin Lakes is not considering a reduction of diversions. We haven’t agreed to do it or not to do it,” added Alan Ward, water resources manager for the Pueblo Board of Water Works, the second largest Twin Lakes shareholder. “We wouldn’t have a reason to give any of it up unless there was some benefit to us. It’s gravity-flow and inexpensive water for us.”

But a minority Twin Lakes shareholder, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, said the company should be more open to actions that could have a statewide benefit. comments,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district. “I think the Twin Lakes company needs to be more open-minded. It’s looking at what’s good for Colorado Springs Utilities, not the whole state.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


“The roundtables have no authority…But let’s define what a good project looks like” — Gary Barber #COWaterPlan

April 10, 2014
Basin roundtable boundaries

Basin roundtable boundaries

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Preparing for a flood of meetings on the state water plan, Arkansas Basin Roundtable members are wondering what style of umbrella to bring.

“How will the plan be used?” asked Sandy White of the Huerfano County Conservancy District. “There are a lot of cranky people like me in Huerfano County who want to know.”

White elaborated, saying that it’s apparent that projects listed in the plan won’t be fast-tracked and those omitted won’t be black-listed. The plan also won’t alter water rights.

Betty Konarski, roundtable chairwoman, said it’s important to know which projects are being contemplated, even if the plan doesn’t say how or when they will be accomplished.

“One of our goals is following on,” she said. “Which of these can we turn into a project and initiate. Once we see them all, we can see how they can work together.”

Alan Hamel, the basin’s director on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said there is value in identifying needs in order to reinforce the importance of projects and coordinate permitting by state agencies.

Dave Taussig, of Lincoln County, asked how the state plan would interact with local planning efforts, which could override state edicts on growth and water development.

“The roundtables have no authority,” said Gary Barber, who stepped down as chairman of the roundtable in order to work as a consultant on the basin implementation plan. “But let’s define what a good project looks like.”

Barber spent most of Wednesday afternoon going over details of the plan, and reviewed the history of how the roundtable formed after the 2004 State Water Supply Initiative was crafted.

SWSI was updated in 2010, and from it, Gov. John Hickenlooper charged the roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop a state water plan.

Roundtable members are being asked to fan out into the countryside to gather input before an Arkansas Basin implementation plan — just one ingredient in the state’s recipe for its water future. Some meetings already have been held and comments are filtering back to the roundtable.

At least 15 meetings are planned throughout the basin. A complete list, as well as details about the water plans, can be found at the website, http://arkansasbasin.com.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is sponsoring a dozen meetings to gather input for their basin implementation plan #COWaterPlan

April 9, 2014
Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo
Chieftain
(Chris Woodka):

Ready to dive in? A dozen meetings have been scheduled to get input from communities on the Arkansas River basin’s portion of the state water plan. The meetings, sponsored by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, are in response to last month’s decision by the roundtable to reach out into the sprawling basin to gather input as the state moves toward developing a draft water plan by the end of the year under an order by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The meetings also address concerns by some state lawmakers that community outreach on water issues is lacking, despite nine years of roundtable meetings throughout Colorado.

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable has launched a website (http://arkansasbasin.com) that lists the meeting times and places, as well.

Included are the roundtable’s monthly meeting, 11:30 a.m. today at Colorado State University-Pueblo; and the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 22-24 in La Junta. Smaller community meetings will begin next week, with meetings in Trinidad and Walsenburg on April 16. Upcoming meetings will be in Gardner, April 25; La Veta, April 29; Springfield, April 29; Lamar, May 1; Salida, May 6; Hugo, May 7; Las Animas, May 20; Rocky Ford, May 27; and Fowler, May 27. Meetings also will be scheduled for Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Simla.

The website also includes more detailed information about the water plan through a link to the state water plan website at http://coloradowaterplan.com.

From The Pueblo Chieftain editoral staff:

When the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum convenes for its 20th annual gathering April 23-24 in La Junta, there should be just one topic at the top of its agenda — water for agriculture. Those attending this year’s forum will take time to discuss the Colorado Water Plan, which is currently being developed thanks to an executive order by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Arkansas River basin water users and officials will talk about a number of topics — including drought, irrigation rules and weed control — during the two-day gathering. But their discussion and eventual input into the water plan shouldn’t stray from agriculture and the need for consistent water supplies in Southern Colorado.

Agriculture is the backbone of the region’s economy. Without a reliable water supply that will ensure a sustainable future for farmers and ranchers in the Arkansas Valley, our most important industry and our overall economy will be in jeopardy.

Water interests in the Arkansas River basin need to send a clear and unified message through the Colorado Water Plan process that agriculture, more than growing cities, should be the state’s No. 1 priority when it comes to the allocation of water resources.

If we don’t stay together in that belief, growing communities to the north will continue to come shopping for water in Southern Colorado, leading to the loss of productive farms and ranches throughout the region.

There are effective tools available to hang on to Arkansas River water, including conservation easements with farmers and ranchers to tie water rights to specific land. A legislative measure to forbid the transfer of more water out of a basin of origin could be part of the debate as well.

Our water resources are valuable and finite. The new water plan needs to acknowledge that fact, and strengthen agriculture’s grip on its fair share of the available resources.

Meanwhile it’s full steam ahead with work on the Rio Grande Roundtable basin implementation plan according to this report from Charlie Spielman writing for the Valley Courier:

This is the sixth article in the Narrow the Gap water series addressing the Rio Grande Basin Water Plan. VALLEY In 2004, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) completed the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) Phase 1 Study. One of the key findings of the study was that while SWSI evaluated water needs and solutions through 2030, very few municipal and industrial (M&I) water providers have identified supplies beyond 2030.

Beyond 2030, growing demands may require more aggressive solutions. Since the SWSI Phase 1 Study was completed, Colorado’s legislature established the

“Water for the 21st Century Act.” This act established the Interbasin Compact Process that provides a permanent forum for broad-based water discussions in the state. It created two new structures : 1) the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC), and 2) the basin roundtables. There are nine basin roundtables each located in one of Colorado’s eight major river basins and the Denver metro area.

The CWCB determined that the forecast horizon for the water demand projections needed to be extended to the year 2050 to better represent the long-term water needs that the state will face. The West Slope basin roundtables suggested the 2050 timeframe for the demand projections so that potential growth rates on the West Slope could be better characterized. Infrastructure investments and commitment of water supplies also require a longer view into the future. In addition, several of the SWSI Identified Projects and Processes (IPPs) with Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) requirements have used a planning horizon of 2050. Finally, the 2050 timeframe matches the ongoing energy development study conducted by the Colorado and Yampa-White Basin Roundtables. (CWCB, M&I Water Projections.)

The Municipal and Industrial Rio Grande Basin Water Plan workgroup knows that unless action is taken, water shortages for San Luis Valley cities and towns will be inevitable. So the team set about laying out frame work for the Rio Grande Basin’s Municipal and Industrial uses. By working together the committee has uncovered some interesting facts:

  • The Division of Water Resources doesn’t characterize any wells as “industrial” but as commercial.
  • There is a healthy photovoltaic solar electric business established in the San Luis Valley, and future growth of this sector seems assured. As an added bonus, this generating capacity uses relatively little water.
  • Reasonable projections of future oil and gas drilling indicate that the industry’s future water use will probably not be extensive.
  • Opportunities for significant water requirements for hydro power plants appear limited at this time.
  • Total municipal and industrial water use in the Rio Grande Basin is likely to remain at less than 1-3 percent of the agricultural water use. A situation that is much different, when looking at other cities and towns in river basins across the state.
  • The several municipalities in the Rio Grande Basin that obtain their water from confined aquifer wells provide significant water to the surface system and to the unconfined aquifer in the form of treated waste water. Presently these towns receive no credit or benefit from their contribution. Moving forward these municipalities will need to secure their well water resources by obtaining water augmentation plans or by joining a sub-district . The implementation of new water rules and regulations will lay out a specific blueprint of how these communities can move forward. Further complicating the water outlook for San Luis Valley municipalities is the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) lowering of the maximum arsenic limits tolerances to 2 parts per billion . This action will greatly increase water treatment costs.

    Water is nearly as “invisible” as air. Unfortunately this creates a complacency that has led to failing infrastructure and severe water shortages in unexpected places like Atlanta, Georgia where, according to Charles Fishmen author of “The Big Thirst” , several million people have been added to the population in the past 20 years without increasing its water supply.

    The key for municipalities is to improve their outreach and education efforts about conservation and population. When simple conservation techniques are implemented, the water savings are quite remarkable. Lowering water demands as a result of water efficiency can assist providers in avoiding, downsizing, or postponing the construction and operation of water supply facilities and wastewater facilities as well as eliminating , reducing, or postponing water purchases. In addition to these water supply benefits , there are other societal, political, and environmental benefits.

    At present there appears to be no communities within the upper Rio Grande Basin at risk regarding the development of adequate water supplies and /or obtaining augmentation water. Planning and conservation, however , will allow them to move smoothly towards 2050. The Rio Grande Basin Roundtable would like input in the development of the Rio Grande Basin Water Plan. The most effective methods to become involved are: attend the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable monthly meetings the second Tuesday of each month at the SLV Water Conservancy office , 623 Fourth Street in Alamosa; submit comments directly online at http://www.riograndewaterplan. webs.com or attend any one of the five Basin Water Plan subcommittee meetings. The lead consultant is Tom Spezze (tom@dinatalewater.com).

    Charlie Spielman, represents municipal and industrial water users on the Rio Basin Roundtable and also serves as chair of the M&I subcommittee for the Rio Grande Basin Water Plan.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Two Rivers Water & Farming Company acquires additional farmland in Pueblo County

    April 8, 2014

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters


    Here’s the release from Two Rivers via The Wall Street Journal:

    Two Rivers Water & Farming Company (http://www.2riverswater.com) announced today that the Company has completed the acquisition of additional irrigated farmland in Pueblo County, Colorado. Two Rivers will add the new acquisition to irrigated farmland the Company currently owns and present a 250 acre fruit and vegetable farm unit for sale and lease back to investors at the Global AgInvesting Conference in New York City starting April 29, 2014.

    Two Rivers acquires irrigated farmland used for feed crop production and redevelops it into fruit and vegetable crop production. Once redevelopment is completed, the Company sells the farmland to institutional investors with a lease back from the investors to Two Rivers. Through these types of transactions, Two Rivers is able to expand revenues and earnings without having to issue additional common stock.

    Two Rivers expects to add 1,000 acres to its fruit and vegetable planting in 2015 through sale/lease-back type transactions. Two Rivers produce is grown and marketed through Dionisio Farms and Produce, a wholly owned subsidiary of Two Rivers, which has over 50 years experience growing and selling produce to national accounts in the United States.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    La Junta: Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 23-24 #COWaterPlan

    April 7, 2014

    Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

    Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A proposed state water plan, drought impacts, irrigation rules and weed control will be discussed at a regional forum in La Junta this month. The Arkansas River Basin Water Forum is planned April 23-24 at Otero Junior College. There also will be a community workshop from 6 to 9 p.m. April 22.

    This is the forum’s 20th year of bringing people from all parts of the Arkansas River basin together to discuss

    On the morning of April 23, James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will discuss the state’s water plan now being developed under an executive order by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

    That afternoon, participants in the forum will have the opportunity to give their input into the basin’s portion of the plan.

    The Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas award will be presented at the luncheon.

    On April 24, irrigation rules and the importance of agriculture to the Arkansas River basin will be in the spotlight.

    Conservation and heritage will be discussed at the luncheon, with invasive species the topic for the afternoon.

    For information, visit http://arbwf.org or call the CSU Extension Office, 545-2045, or Jean Van Pelt, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, 948-2400.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    “The dust storms we had here a week or so ago are just about as bad as I’ve ever seen” — Joe Rosengrants #COdrought

    April 6, 2014
    US Drought Monitor Colorado statewide map and stats April 1, 2014

    US Drought Monitor Colorado statewide map and stats April 1, 2014

    From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

    Topsoil blew into a dark cloud that swept across the flat landscape of southeast Colorado once again Monday afternoon. Footsteps leave dust in loose pockets and grit in the teeth of those who speak. The land pays a bigger price. After nearly four years of deep drought, wind-churned dust has become a slow-moving natural disaster. Comparisons to the Dust Bowl are no longer hyperbole — they’re accurate.

    “The dust storms we had here a week or so ago are just about as bad as I’ve ever seen,” Joe Rosengrants said. The 79-year-old farmer and rancher is part of a family that has worked the land in Baca County since 1910.

    His son Mike and others in the family here still tend thousands of acres of farm and ranchland and thousands of head of cattle. They also mind the skies for any glint of rain. “We can go a long way on just a little bit of rain down here,” Mike Rosengrants, 56, said as he delivered hay to cattle spread across 8 arid miles. “But we haven’t even been getting that.”

    The devastation of this drought comes in three forms: pastures that have dried up or are choked by drifts of sand; tumbleweeds that blow into tall hills against fences, homes and barns; and massive dust storms that steal topsoil and could make it harder to grow grain, wheat and sunflowers for years.

    The region hasn’t seen normal amounts of rain since the blizzards of 2007. Southeast Colorado averages 12 to 16 inches of rain annually, but many areas have gotten fewer than 8 inches each year since 2010, according to National Weather Service data.

    Since the latest drought officially set in late in the summer of 2010, the Arkansas Valley has been drier for a longer sustained period of time than during the Dust Bowl, said Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist at Colorado State University.

    “We have not seen consecutive years this dry,” he said.

    As goes the rain, so go the people. The county’s ties to cows and crops have inextricably linked its upswings and downturns to the weather.

    Between 1930 and 1940, the southwestern Great Plains, home to thousands of settlers, suffered a severe drought. Dry-land farming led to the systematic destruction of prairie grasses, and overgrazing destroyed large areas of grassland. Gradually, the land was laid bare, and environmental damage began to occur. Strong winds in the region were devastating. The overfarmed land began to blow away.

    From 1935 to 1938, Baca County accounted for some of the worst soil erosion of the Dust Bowl era. The railroad’s arrival here in 1926, along with homesteaders who spilled over from Oklahoma, swelled the county’s population to its peak of 10,570 residents in 1930. By 1940, after a decade of crop failures, the population had dwindled by almost 42 percent.

    Last year, the census showed 3,682 county residents, down 2.8 percent since 2010, while the rest of the state grew by 4.8 percent.

    Only a quarter of that population loss occurred between 2010 and 2012, and three-quarters of it took place just last year.

    Ward Williams, 65, is leasing out his 200 acres north of Springfield so cattle can chew off the stubble of his last grain-sorghum harvest in 2012. He had hoped to leave it to his children to farm, something he has done for more than 30 years.

    “It’s just too much of a cycle of booms and busts,” he said, his foot on the bumper of his old Ford pickup outside the Alco store in Springfield. “Kids that grow up here, if they have anywhere else to go, they aren’t staying here.

    “If it doesn’t get over soon, this (drought) might leave the land to the big corporate operations that can ride it out, and not for the people who grew up down here.”

    Drier than the Dust Bowl

    Most of Colorado has made it out of the deep drought. The regions hardest hit by September’s floods are now drought-free, although a swath of western Colorado is “abnormally dry,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    Southeast Colorado, however, shows only variations of bad news — severe, extreme and exceptional stages of drought, according to the drought analysis.

    And the hardest-hit areas are along the agriculturally vital Arkansas River.

    The decade-long Dust Bowl had periodic wet years. This drought in many areas of southeast Colorado has had an unyielding presence since 2010, Doesken said.

    “It’s really been back to back to back — and, now, it appears — to back years of drought,” he said. “Normally, they get just enough precipitation to grow something down there, but they haven’t had that in a full 3½ years now.”

    Crop data indicate that about 15 percent of the farmland in Baca County is irrigated, fed by high-country reservoirs. That leaves 85 percent of the naturally sandy soil turning to dust — “more blowable ground,” Doesken called it.

    Years to recover

    Displaced topsoil means it could take years for the land to bounce back.

    “They’re so far in the hole right now that even if they do get a few (rain) storms, … it’s not going to immediately solve the problems,” Doesken said.

    PHOTOS: Southeast Colorado drought conditions akin to Dust Bowl

    The cattle herd in this corner of the state has dwindled, but not entirely because of drought. Cattle prices and hay prices have been up since 2011, coaxing some to sell off parts of their herds. Big ranchers, like the Rosengrants family, had the luxury of moving cattle to rented fields elsewhere in Colorado or other states to take advantage of rain and grazing there, said Ron Carleton, the state’s deputy commissioner of agriculture.

    Because the worst of the drought has been in the last year and a half, the depths of the crop losses haven’t yet been plumbed, at least not on paper, he said, so the data isn’t yet reflecting the worst effects.

    Eugene Backhaus, the state resource conservationist, said the end might not be in sight when the rain eventually starts to fall.

    “If you consider recovery getting things back to what they were before, with the amount of degradation and the depth of the drought, my best guess is three to five years,” he said. “The grasses down there are so damaged. When you’ve lost all the seeds and the root system is destroyed, then there’s nothing to grow back. The only way you’re going to get grass back in there is to put it in mechanically.

    “And that takes time and money.”

    Taxpayers already have posted a big financial stake in southeast Colorado’s productivity.

    Baca County farmers and ranchers received $413 million in government aid between 1995 and 2012, including $85.9 million in crop-insurance subsidies and $50 million in disaster grants, according to the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that monitors such federal programs.

    Farmers in Baca County received government checks to seed grass on 269,249 acres of cropland to try to hold down the soil, according to the county’s U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

    Kevin Larson — a researcher at the Plainsman Research Center in Walsh, Colorado State University’s agricultural experiment station for southeastern Colorado — said the current drought isn’t a measure of the investment in such programs.

    “Just can’t grow anything if there’s not any precipitation on it,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

    The research center’s work these days focuses on making the best use of sparse precipitation, urging farmers to plant varieties that mature faster and use less water, or weighing the trade-offs of no-till farming, which keeps the ground covered but also makes weeds harder to fight.

    The Western Kansas Weather Modification Program — the seeding of clouds with silver iodide crystals — began just across the border from Colorado’s struggling counties in 1975.

    When the effort spread into southeast Colorado about a decade ago, with the aim of suppressing crop-destroying hail storms in southwest Kansas, leaders in southeast Colorado protested, afraid it would cause more hail on their crops instead, Larson said. The program in Colorado soon fizzled out.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board offers grants to water providers and local governments to help pay for cloud-seeding programs. In the parched southeast corner of the state, however, there have been no takers.

    But the solutions and practices that researchers have worked out, that government officials have promoted and that landowners have adopted since the Dust Bowl have kept this bad drought from turning into a catastrophe, Larson said.

    Hope and fear in drought

    Doesken said there’s reason for hope for this year, even if it depends on temperature fluctuations over the tropical Pacific Ocean.

    The El Niño weather pattern, if it takes shape, tends to mean rain for the Eastern Plains, he said.

    “But there’s no guarantee they’ll get more precipitation this spring,” he said.

    Wildfires also are a big concern. Some fields are parched to a stark white. The high winds would make a grass fire explode across thousands of uninterrupted acres primed to burn, said a group of local residents outside the Alco store in Springfield.

    The abundance of tumbleweeds — the thin, dry aftermath of a Russian thistle bloom late last summer — makes Jeff Turner, 52, of the Campo area worry even more.

    “If fire hits one of those, it might as well be soaked in gas,” Turner said. “Imagine that spinning ball of fire coming across your property at 30 miles per hour.”

    Others here say land-related hardship is a tradition, and they will wait on the rain.

    “It will start raining again,” said Prowers County resident Flauran Beckwith. “It has to.”

    The Rosengrants family is faring well because of diversity, said father and son. In addition to tending to cattle and crops, family members work in real estate, teach school and do hair.

    “During the Dust Bowl, people didn’t have as many opportunities,” said Joe Rosengrants.

    But the family’s foundation is, as it has been for more than a century, the land, said the patriarch.

    “You’re just attached to the soil, and you love it,” he said.

    His son says it another way.

    “There’s a cost to living out here.”


    Flood control solutions for Fountain Creek are far from settled

    April 6, 2014
    Fountain Creek Watershed

    Fountain Creek Watershed

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The type of storm that would creating the worst flooding on Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River east of Pueblo might just seem like another rainy day for much of the region. But the lessons of floods in 1965 and last September’s close call for Pueblo show that Fountain Creek can froth up in a hurry when rains hit El Paso County to the north. Putting a small dam here and there would not be the most effective way to stop the water.

    A recent U.S. Geological Survey study of dams on Fountain Creek shows that an 85-foot tall dam north of Pueblo would be the single-most effective way to mellow out flood waters and trap sediment. The drawbacks of the dam are that highways, railroad crossings and utilities might have to be relocated. There would also be the chore of removing sediment after large storms.

    Smaller detention ponds, with dams no higher than 10 feet, are touted by many as a better alternative. But as Colorado Springs and Pueblo already are discovering, smaller ponds also require high maintenance. Similar dams failed to hold stormwater in the South Platte during last September’s record rains. And the cost of flooding to utilities and roads was a major side effect of the 1965 flood.

    A different study of flooding was done by the USGS in 1974, nine years after the disastrous 1965 flood. Unlike the current study, it largely eluded the spotlight and has not been widely cited during the 40 years since it was written. It looked at floods in the Arkansas River basin in three states, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico and assessed the causes, effects and damage caused by heavy rains from June 13-20, 1965. The study chronicled $60 million of damage overall, with $40 million in Colorado. In today’s dollars, that would be about $300 million. Of that, 55 percent of the damage was to agriculture; 20 percent to roads and utilities; and 25 percent to cities and businesses, with about 85 percent of that amount in Pueblo.

    The study also looked at peak flows within the basin during the 1965 flood and compared them to other major floods, particularly the 1921 flood on the Arkansas River. The flows were considerably less in 1965 than in 1921, mainly because storms were centered over tributaries that fed into the Arkansas River below Pueblo, rather than in the watershed upstream from Pueblo.

    The study found a huge benefit to Lamar from John Martin Reservoir, which cut two-thirds of the peak flows raging from upstream. The Lamar area did not escape the wrath of the storm, however, because of large storm cells centered above Two Buttes and Holly. The Arkansas River stayed swollen for days after the rains.

    The heaviest rainfall in the 1965 storm came from Colorado Springs and the Holly-Two Buttes area, where 12-18 inches fell over a four-day period. Pueblo saw only a couple of inches during that time. The ground already was saturated from rains the previous two months throughout the region. Flows on Fountain Creek reached 47,000 cubic feet per second at their peak, while neighboring Chico Creek hit 52,000 cfs.

    The 2014 study by the USGS modeled a 100-year storm that would send about 37,000 cfs from Colorado Springs to Pueblo and then looked at hypothetical dams along the way.

    “A dam at any location could be modeled,” said David Mau, head of the Pueblo USGS office.

    The intensity of that storm would not be as great as the 1965 flood. In addition, Colorado Springs today has five times as many people and many more square miles of parking lots, roof tops and streets that shed water quickly and would make flooding that much worse for Pueblo.

    Levees were built on Fountain Creek to protect Pueblo, but sediment has reduced their effectiveness. Some structures meant to protect Pueblo were damaged by the relatively small flow last September.

    The attention in Colorado Springs is focused on the accelerated runoff from the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires. Structures are being built. Town meetings are preparing neighborhoods for flooding. A vote to create a regional stormwater fee is heading for the ballot in November.

    Colorado Springs also made a commitment to Pueblo County in its permit process that new development from the Southern Delivery System won’t worsen the condition of Fountain Creek.

    While the rains may hit Colorado Springs first and make flooding more intense because of the fires, the 1974 USGS study shows the bigger wallop would come to Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley.

    More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here.


    Cotter and the CPDHE are still trying to work out a de-commissioning agreement for the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site

    April 5, 2014
    Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

    Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    A broken pipe at Cotter Corp.’s dismantled mill in central Colorado spewed 20,000 gallons of uranium-laced waste — just as Cotter is negotiating with state and federal authorities to end one of the nation’s longest-running Superfund cleanups.

    Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials said last weekend’s spill stayed on Cotter property.

    In addition, uranium and molybdenum contamination, apparently from other sources on the Cotter property, has spiked at a monitoring well in adjacent Cañon City. A Feb. 20 report by Cotter’s consultant said groundwater uranium levels at the well in the Lincoln Park neighborhood “were the highest recorded for this location,” slightly exceeding the health standard of 30 parts per billion. State health data show uranium levels are consistently above health limits at other wells throughout the neighborhood but haven’t recently spiked.

    “This isn’t acceptable,” Fremont County Commissioner Tim Payne said of the spill – the fourth since 2010. “(CDPHE officials) told us it is staying on Cotter’s property. But 20,000 gallons? You have to worry about that getting into groundwater.”

    Environmental Protection Agency and CDPHE officials are negotiating an agreement with Cotter to guide cleanup, data-gathering, remediation and what to do with 15 million tons of radioactive uranium tailings. Options range from removal — Cotter estimates that cost at more than $895 million — or burial in existing or new impoundment ponds.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper intervened last year to hear residents’ concerns and try to speed final cleanup.

    Cotter vice president John Hamrick said the agreement will lay out timetables for the company to propose options with cost estimates.

    The spill happened when a coupler sleeve split on a 6-inch plastic pipe, part of a 30-year-old system that was pumping back toxic groundwater from a 300-foot barrier at the low end of Cotter’s 2,538-acre property, Hamrick said.

    Lab analysis provided by Cotter showed the spilled waste contained uranium about 94 times higher than the health standard, and molybdenum at 3,740 ppb, well above the 100-ppb standard for that metal, said Jennifer Opila, leader of the state’s radioactive materials unit.

    She said Cotter’s system for pumping back toxic groundwater is designed so that groundwater does not leave the site, preventing any risk to the public.

    In November, Cotter reported a spill of 4,000 to 9,000 gallons. That was five times more than the amount spilled in November 2012. Another spill happened in 2010.

    At the neighborhood in Cañon City, the spike in uranium contamination probably reflects slow migration of toxic material from Cold War-era unlined waste ponds finally reaching the front of an underground plume, Hamrick said.

    “It is a blip. It does not appear to be an upward trend. If it was, we would be looking at it,” Hamrick said. “We will be working with state and EPA experts to look at the whole groundwater monitoring and remediation system.”

    An EPA spokeswoman agreed the spike does not appear to be part of an upward trend, based on monitoring at other wells, but she said the agency does take any elevated uranium levels seriously.

    The Cotter mill, now owned by defense contractor General Atomics, opened in 1958, processing uranium for nuclear weapons and fuel. Cotter discharged liquid waste, including radioactive material and heavy metals, into 11 unlined ponds until 1978. The ponds were replaced in 1982 with two lined waste ponds. Well tests in Cañon City found contamination, and in 1984, federal authorities declared a Superfund environmental disaster.

    Colorado officials let Cotter keep operating until 2011, and mill workers periodically processed ore until 2006.

    A community group, Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, has been pressing for details and expressing concerns about the Cotter site. Energy Minerals Law Center attorney Travis Stills, representing residents, said the data show “the likely expansion of the uranium plume, following the path of a more mobile molybdenum plume” into Cañon City toward the Arkansas River.

    The residents deserve independent fact-gathering and a proper cleanup, Stills said.

    “There’s an official, decades-old indifference to groundwater protection and cleanup of groundwater contamination at the Cotter site — even though sustainable and clean groundwater for drinking, orchards, gardens and livestock remains important to present and future Lincoln Park residents,” he said. “This community is profoundly committed to reclaiming and protecting its groundwater.

    More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund coverage here.


    CFWE: “We want to have a larger presence in the Arkansas Valley” — Nicole Seltzer

    April 4, 2014
    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters Magazine

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters Magazine

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Colorado Foundation for Water Education wants to step up its efforts in the Arkansas River basin.

    “No matter who you are, if you understand water better in the Arkansas basin, it will benefit everyone,” said Scott Lorenz, who joined the foundation’s board this year.

    Lorenz lives near Rye and manages the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association, a wellaugmentation group. He and Nicole Seltzer, CFWE executive director, visited Thursday with The Pueblo Chieftain editorial board, along with other groups and individuals throughout the Arkansas Valley.

    “We’ve been notably absent from the Arkansas basin,” Seltzer said, explaining that the foundation formed statewide in 2002 as a response to severe drought that caught the state off-guard. “We want to have a larger presence in the Arkansas Valley.”

    The foundation can have mutual benefits.

    “We provide a lens for the wider state and resources for local water educators,” Seltzer said.

    Those resources include publications — Headwaters magazine and a series of Citizens Guides that look at water issues. CFWE also organizes workshops and tours, including one of the Arkansas River headwaters set for September.

    The group also sponsors a program for emerging water leaders, which is how Lorenz became involved with CWFE.

    Lorenz plans to use his time on the board to increase awareness of the importance of agriculture. There are young farmers who are optimistic about the future of farming, but to do that they also need to protect the availability of irrigation water.

    “Sometimes we make ourselves the target,” Lorenz said. “I think CWFE will focus on the facts. One of those is that we have to have water on the land to be viable.

    More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here and here.


    Colorado Springs: 100+ attend Camp Creek flood meeting #COflood

    April 3, 2014
    Camp Creek channel via City of Colorado Springs

    Camp Creek channel via City of Colorado Springs

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

    A crowd of more than 100 people echoed a mantra in unison that multiple Colorado Springs officials stressed at a flood preparedness meeting on Tuesday night.

    “Up, not out,” the said loudly after being prompted by police Lt. Dave Edmondson…

    City officials, including Emergency Manager Brett Waters and others talked about the 2013 floods that struck the city and El Paso County in July, August and September. Waters said his colleagues and the residents need to “take flood risk very seriously,” noting that flash floods coming out of the Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar are going to be an issue “for at least the next 10 years.”

    Tim Mitros, the city’s development review and stormwater manager, showed slide after slide of the dangers that lie in the Camp Creek drainage in the hills to the west of Colorado Springs. The pictures illustrated barren, burnout out slopes that have already, and could, send tons of dirt rocks and other debris into the channel along Garden of the Gods Park. and into the Pleasant Valley neighborhood.

    “We’ve got to keep the sediment up in the burn area,” Mitros said.

    Mitros said city crews will begin building a large sediment detention pond on the east end of Garden of the Gods Park in the next month. At that time, workers will also begin doing repairs to the channel in the middle of 31st Street near Pleasant Valley. They will be adding a “protective layer of concrete” to badly damaged parts of the creek between West Fontanero Street and Echo Lane.

    The work is the beginning stages of a $37 million project to rebuild the channel from Garden of the Gods Park to Colorado Avenue, Mitros said. The city already allotted $8.8 million to do work in Camp and Douglas creeks. MIiros said the final designs for the entire project will be unveiled at another Camp Creek watershed public meeting from 5 to 7:30 p.m. April 29 at Coronado High School.

    National Weather Service meteorologist Jennifer Stark also talked about the dangers of debris in the Camp Creek and Douglas Creek areas. She said storms in September that ravaged the Front Range from El Paso County north to the Wyoming border left tons and tons of debris sitting just above the city.

    “The next big rain event could bring that stuff down,” she said.

    More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here.


    Colorado Springs: The Waldo Canyon Fire restoration will cost $ millions and take at least 10 years

    April 3, 2014
    Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar

    Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The images of a glowing sky that filled the air with choking smoke won’t soon fade, but the damage to forested hillsides charred by the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 will be more troublesome for years. Colorado Springs had a taste of things to come during last September’s torrential rains, but it will take millions of dollars and at least a decade to recover the damaged landscape.

    “We built basins to collect sediment over a 10-year period, but they filled up during the flooding last September,” said Tim Mitros, Colorado Springs stormwater manager, during a media tour of projects Wednesday.

    So now the city is building a series of ponds that will trap floodwater, along with making other drainage improvements on North Douglas Creek, South Douglas Creek, Queens Canyon, Cheyenne Creek and Camp Creek on the west side of Colorado Springs. Altogether the projects will cost $8.8 million in additional stormwater funding from federal, state and city sources.

    The catch basins worked, but filled too quickly, Mitros explained during a tour of one on North Douglas Creek on the Flying W Ranch. The idea behind them was to allow new vegetation to sprout as they filled, but the storms left a bed of gravel that would just sheet off water in the next storm.

    Jason Moore, director of land management for the Flying W, explained how downed trees are criss-crossed along the creek bed to slow down minor flows.

    “They’re in a W shape, so we call them Flying W’s,” Moore joked.

    The ponds are being constructed with the cooperation of landowners, but must be cleaned by city crews after each storm dumps its load of sediment. Mitros said the city is fortunate because it is working with only two large landowners, the Navigators and Flying W, and both have been cooperative.

    “Without the ponds, the sediment will continue to fill the concrete channel below and put them in danger of being overtopped,” Mitros said.

    That will continue to be a big job. Colorado Springs still is hauling 6,000 cubic yards of sediment — 600 truckloads — that washed into Garden of the Gods Park after last summer’s storms. There would be some benefit to Pueblo, because anything done high up in the watershed helps to slow down the water reaching Fountain Creek, Mitros said. Primarily, however, the projects are being undertaken to protect the homes and businesses in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood that was decimated when the Waldo Canyon Fire burned 347 homes. Those homes are being rebuilt, but now face a different threat. They lie below valleys that are normally dry, but which become running rivers when it rains. Because the fire burned off much of the vegetation, any flood becomes about 10 times as powerful, said Leon Kot, restoration coordinator for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    Besides the new threat of runoff, Colorado Springs also is dealing with miles of concrete storm ditches, some more than 50 years old, that have fallen into disrepair. About 1,000 feet of 8-foot diameter pipeline buried near Eighth Street and Cheyenne Boulevard was overwhelmed by the September flooding and is being replaced in a $750,000 project.

    More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here.


    Colorado Springs Utilities has acquired most of the land access needed for the Southern Delivery System

    April 2, 2014
    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic/Reclamation

    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic/Reclamation

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    Outside of a handful of parcels tied up in eminent-domain court actions, the city has amassed the vast majority of land needed to complete the 66-inch-diameter line across Pueblo and El Paso counties. And as for those in court, Utilities has been granted possession; at issue is determination of their value.

    Which leaves only one other property acquisition needed for the pipeline itself, and a couple dozen others for related projects. Overall, the land-acquisition project is on schedule, if significantly over budget.

    “We are pleased to be nearly complete with acquiring the land needed for SDS,” says Utilities project manager John Fredell in a statement. “We have worked hard to be fair with property owners and appreciate their cooperation to advance this critical project for our community and partners.”[...]

    The city’s initial foray into acquiring property for the project, in 2003 and 2004, caused an uproar, and a tightening of city real estate acquisition procedures. Utilities, in some cases without Utilities Board approval, had made offers for homes near Jimmy Camp Creek, northeast of the city, for up to three times the homes’ assessed values, plus six-figure moving costs — in one case, $340,000. The city paid $6.1 million for 14 properties and then allowed the former owners to rent for $300 a month indefinitely.

    Within a few years, the city abandoned the Jimmy Camp area as a reservoir site due to archaeological values and other factors, and instead chose Upper Williams Creek near Bradley Road.

    In 2009 and 2010, Utilities tangled with Pueblo West residents and left some hard feelings in its wake. The buried pipeline, which traverses the back portions of residential lots, can’t be built upon, which residents say renders their yards unusable.

    Resident Dwain Maxwell, who’s forced Utilities into condemnation court, says he was paid $1,850 for land his appraisal said was worth $16,500. Meanwhile, he estimates Utilities has spent four times that amount on attorneys. “I feel like they’ve not been honest with us,” he says today.

    Gary Walker of Pueblo County is also still in condemnation court with the city, and declined to be interviewed for this story. But he notes in an email that he’s been recognized repeatedly for his stewardship of the land at his ranch, and was the first to sign up for the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret under federal rules. “How do you put a price on the destruction of something so important as our environment?” he asks.

    In 2012, Utilities went up against the Norris ranching family for a chunk of land for Upper Williams Creek Reservoir. After the Norrises moved to create their own reservoir, a deal was reached in which the city paid the family $7.5 million for 791 acres.

    But the biggest single acquisition was land next to the Norris property owned by the State Land Board. The city paid more than $11.8 million for 1,128 acres, the highest per-acre price paid for pipeline property…

    Utilities needs to acquire about 15 additional properties for the reservoir site, but the reservoir won’t be built until SDS’ second phase, from 2020 to 2025, as demand requires. The city also needs 11 more properties for a section of pipe for treated water, Rummel says.

    So far, the city has spent $34.6 million on land for SDS. That’s about 38 percent more than the $25 million estimate in 2009 for 274 parcels in Phase 1 and reservoir land. If costs for surveys, appraisals, real estate fees and closings are added, the cost is $45 million, or 22 percent more than the 2009 “all-in” estimate of $37 million.

    Water rates, meantime, haven’t increased as much as earlier predicted. Ratepayers saw 12 percent hikes in 2011 and 2012, and 10 percent increases in 2013 and 2014. A 5 percent hike is expected in 2015. Previously, 12 percent annual jumps were forecast from 2011 through 2017.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    10th District chief judge Deborah Eyler approves appointments to the Southeastern Water board #ColoradoRiver

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

    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Two new and three returning directors have been appointed to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board. The appointments were approved by Deborah Eyler, chief district judge in Pueblo, in conjunction with other chief judges throughout the nine-county area within the district. The new members will take their seats at April’s meeting. There are 15 directors who serve four-year terms on the board that oversees the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

    Pat Edelmann, retired head of the U.S. Geological Survey office in Pueblo, and Curtis Mitchell, head of Fountain Utilities, have joined the board.

    Returning directors are Bill Long of Las Animas, Ann Nichols of Manitou Springs, and Tom Goodwin of Canon City.

    Edelmann, 58, replaces Shawn Yoxey as a Pueblo County representative on the board. Pueblo has two other directors on the board, Vera Ortegon and David Simpson.

    Edelmann retired in 2011, and spent most of his career in the Pueblo USGS office studying the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek. He frequently presented USGS reports and studies to the Southeastern board during his career.

    Mitchell, 55, replaces Greg Johnson. Mitchell worked for Colorado Springs Utilities for 30 years before joining Fountain Utilities five years ago.

    “I was involved with the startup of the Fountain Valley Authority, so I have a lot of interest as a water professional in the startup of the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” Mitchell said.

    Building the conduit, which will serve 40 communities east of Pueblo, is the district’s top priority.

    Long, 59, a business owner and Bent County commissioner, is president of the board. He was appointed to the board in 2002.

    Nichols, 68, an economist and treasurer of the board, was appointed in 2006. Her father, Sid Nichols, was a charter member of the board.

    Goodwin, 61, a farmer and rancher, was first appointed in 2011. His father, Denzel Goodwin, was a longtime member of the board.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy coverage here.


    ‘We have to have detention ponds there, so it doesn’t wash out what we are doing in Pueblo’ — Eva Montoya

    April 1, 2014

    Photo via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Photo via The Pueblo Chieftain


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Three contracts totaling more than $600,000 were approved Friday by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board. The contracts are funded by state grants. They include two contracts for $502,000 for the Upper Fountain Creek and Cheyenne Creek restoration master plan, and another for $107,000 for the Frost Ranch restoration project. The three projects are among five projects the district is directly coordinating throughout the watershed. They also include a flood detention demonstration pond in Pueblo, located behind the North Side Walmart, and a project on Monument Creek.

    In addition, the district has cooperated in obtaining other grants for communities along Fountain Creek.

    Those efforts include a sediment collector in the city of Pueblo, which is being evaluated by the city, and a Great Outdoors Colorado grant that included funds for a wheel park, expanded park and beach area on the East Side just south of Eighth Street.

    During discussion of flood control alternatives on Fountain Creek, Pueblo Councilwoman Eva Montoya said projects to the north are needed to control Pueblo flows.

    “We have to have detention ponds there, so it doesn’t wash out what we are doing in Pueblo,” she said.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


    ‘Gold medals aren’t won by accident’ — Taylor Edrington/Andy Neinas

    March 31, 2014

    Browns Canyon -- John Fielder photo

    Browns Canyon — John Fielder photo


    From The Mountain Mail (Taylor Edrington/Andy Neinas):

    Gold medals aren’t won by accident. They’re earned with hard and often thankless work. The same is true for the Arkansas River’s Gold Medal trout waters. The 102-mile stretch from Leadville to Parkdale is easily Colorado’s longest Gold Medal water and likely one of North America’s top five in terms of contiguous miles. On average, it supports some of the state’s biggest trout and largest stock, at over 170 pounds per acre. It’s no wonder tens of thousands of anglers fish these waters every year.

    The Arkansas is also the most rafted river in the U.S. with more than 210,000 visitors enjoying the best family and adventure-class rafting in Colorado just last year. The commercial outfitters of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association, along with other summer activities, are the economic engine of the river communities that reside along its banks.

    From pristine Browns Canyon to the well-traveled Bighorn Sheep Canyon, the diverse environments of the Arkansas have thrived while supporting a variety of recreational, agricultural and municipal uses.

    The health of the riparian environment is a testament to decades of cooperative and deliberate stewardship efforts. It all starts with responsible management, particularly the Voluntary Flow Management Program. This collaboration of outfitters, agencies and water providers has been essential in preserving and enhancing recreation and the fishery.

    The Arkansas River Outfitters Association and Colorado Parks and Wildlife deserve a great deal of credit, as do folks like Jim Broderick at the Southeast Water Conservancy District, Roy Vaughn at the Bureau of Land Management and Alan Ward at the Pueblo Board of Water Works, to name a few. It would not have been possible without their support for vibrant and diverse resources.

    The efforts of Christo and Jeanne-Claude have also helped preserve and enhance the area. “Over the River” has been thoroughly evaluated to ensure it is installed and exhibited responsibly. The Fish and Wildlife Service was actively involved in this process and established many precautionary measures, as well as strict water quality and aquatic species requirements to protect these Gold Medal waters. Years before ground is broken, Christo has already paid to remove hundreds of graffiti-tagged railcars from the tracks in Bighorn Sheep Canyon and has funded a recently completed new wildlife corridor identified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as a bighorn sheep habitat enhancement. In addition, “Over the River” will bring significant international attention from those who may not normally appreciate all the Arkansas River has to offer.

    Just upstream, Browns Canyon highlights a completely different part of the river. The proposed National Monument and Wilderness Act speaks to the health of the river and exemplifies the unique environments that exist along the Upper Arkansas.
    At the end of the day, the Gold Medal is an important designation that reflects the health of the entire ecosystem. A healthy river doesn’t exist by itself; it takes a chorus of stewards dedicated to preserving this amazing and important river.

    The Arkansas will continue to support many varied uses, just as it has for many years.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    The Fountain Creek District is studying the potential effects of flood control dams

    March 29, 2014
    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A district formed to fix Fountain Creek wants to begin looking more closely at the feasibility of flood control alternatives meant to protect Pueblo.

    “This is a good start to beginning to understand the volume of water and the impact of dams, but we need to do an analysis to figure out cost options,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said.

    Hart is the county’s representative on the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which met Friday to receive the final report on a Fountain Creek dam study.

    A computer simulation by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at 13 scenarios by centering a 100-year storm over Colorado Springs and measuring the impact on reducing flood waters in Pueblo by constructing dams at various points in the watershed.

    “It did not look at property and water rights issues,” said David Mau, head of the Pueblo USGS office.

    The most promising alternatives, in terms of protecting Pueblo, were to build a series of small dams south of Colorado Springs, or one large dam near Pinon, just north of Pueblo.

    Hart asked Mau whether it would be possible to model a larger off-channel diversion near the Pueblo County line.

    “You could look at that using the model,” Mau confirmed.

    Mau said the alternatives presented in the study were those suggested by the district’s technical committee, and do not represent the only choices. The study focused on small dams because dams under 10 feet face less regulatory issues. An 85-foot-high dam 10 miles north of the confluence with the Arkansas River was modeled, but would not be the only alternative for a large dam, he said.

    Dams in other areas of the watershed might have more localized benefits, Mau added.

    “What’s important is the volume of water and where it is stored,” he said.

    The district will not have any money to begin construction until Colorado Springs pays the remainder of the $50 million it agreed to provide the district under its 1041 agreement with Pueblo County.

    It would need about $60,000 in grants to drill down to cost estimates on two or three of the alternatives, said Larry Small, executive director. A feasibility study would look at land acquisition, permits, construction issues and how long it would take, Small said.

    “We need to get going as quickly as we can,” said Richard Skorman, a board member from Colorado Springs.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit backers hope to make deal for excess capacity in the Pueblo Dam south outlet works soon

    March 27, 2014
    Pueblo Dam

    Pueblo Dam

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A plan is hatching to get pipe in the ground ahead of schedule for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. It would reduce the initial costs of the project and allow some negotiations to proceed even with a reduced amount of federal funding, said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, project sponsor.

    “We were under the impression that all the money had to be in place up front before negotiations began, but the Bureau of Reclamation decided that’s not the case,” Broderick said. “If those negotiations are successful, we’ve got pipe in the ground and the conduit can begin to move ahead.”

    That means Reclamation will be able to begin negotiations with the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs Utilities for use of the joint use pipeline that leads from the south outlet of Pueblo Dam to the Whitlock Treatment Plant.

    The Pueblo water board owns the pipeline and the treatment plant. Colorado Springs Utilities paid the water board $3.5 million to upsize the pipeline by one foot in diameter, planning to use it for the Southern Delivery System. Since that time, SDS has taken a different route to move water from Lake Pueblo through the north outlet on the dam, and would not need the additional capacity.

    The pipeline from the south outlet has a total capacity of 248 million gallons per day. Of that, 40 mgd is reserved to serve Comanche power plant and 140 mgd to serve Pueblo.

    By paying to upsize the pipeline, Colorado Springs reserved 68 mgd, but the conduit would only require 14 mgd, said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo water board.

    Reclamation also must negotiate with the Pueblo water board for locating a treatment plant at Whitlock to filter water used in the Arkansas Valley Conduit. By moving those discussions ahead, the federal cost will be reduced from $12 million to about $3 million in the coming year, but more funds would be required to begin actual design work, Broderick said.

    Meanwhile, Colorado lawmakers continue to fight for more federal funding.

    During a U.S. House committee hearing this week, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., told Reclamation officials the conduit is a high priority.

    “The members of the Colorado delegation are committed to the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation knows that this project offers an effective regional answer to meeting federally mandated Safe Drinking Act standards,” said Tipton.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    El Paso County stormwater task force presents fee proposal to the Colorado Springs City Council

    March 26, 2014
    Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    An El Paso County task force is moving a ballot issue this November to create a regional fee for stormwater control.

    “People recognize this is a problem for us, and to not address the problem as elected leaders is not acceptable,” said El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey.

    The task force has been meeting for nearly two years, and has moved to citizen control after elected leaders and paid government staff got the ball rolling.

    On Monday, the group presented a plan to Colorado Springs City Council that would assess a monthly fee of $8-$12 for most property owners to raise $50 million annually for the next 20-30 years. Council and county commissioners meet today to jointly discuss several issues, including the stormwater fee. The money would go toward addressing $700 million in stormwater projects in El Paso County, including about $250 million in high-priority projects.

    Getting the issue to the ballot will not be a simple task. The commissioners have to approve ballot language, and it’s not known what that will look like or who would challenge it.

    The first step will be for the citizens task force to obtain intergovernmental agreements from all of the incorporated cities and potentially special districts in El Paso County. Manitou Springs and a district in the northern part of the county already have stormwater fees, Hisey explained.

    “We don’t want anyone paying double taxes for the same service,” he said.

    The IGAs should be in place before the ballot issue is approved, so that the structure of the authority that will administer the funds can be determined. One of the issues brought up in earlier meetings by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach was retaining local control over the city’s share of the projects.

    Under last year’s changes in election laws, all of the pre-ballot work has to be done by the end of July, Hisey said.

    In 2009, Colorado Springs City Council voted to dissolve a stormwater enterprise that it created four years earlier, based on its interpretation of a city election.

    Officials from Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District were angered by the move because the stormwater enterprise was used as a condition to address Fountain Creek flooding issues for permit approval by Colorado Springs for its Southern Delivery System.

    “The hope of the Lower Ark district is that voters will pass it, and Colorado Springs will live up to its commitments under the Pueblo County 1041 permit,” said Jay Winner, Lower Ark general manager. “As a district, we are patiently waiting to see what happens.”

    More stormwater coverage here and here.


    HB14-1026: ‘…seems like a Trojan horse for a permanent buy-and-dry’ — Peter Nichols

    March 25, 2014
    Flood irrigation -- photo via the CSU Water Center

    Flood irrigation — photo via the CSU Water Center

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A flex marketing water right bill that passed the state House earlier this year would, in effect, overturn a state Supreme Court decision that prevented moving water out of the Fort Lyon Canal. That’s the opinion of Peter Nichols, water attorney for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, who has been working to change the bill, HB1026, to provide more assurances that agriculture would remain the primary use under the new type of water right.

    “The way the bill has been amended overturns the High Plains decision,” Nichols said, referring to a 2004 ruling by former water judge Dennis Maes that was upheld by the state Supreme Court.

    High Plains claimed multiple uses for unnamed end users in counties throughout Eastern Colorado in its attempt to move water out of the Fort Lyon Canal. Maes rejected the application under the state’s anti-speculation doctrine that requires an end user to be named in a water change case.

    “The way it’s written, if you had 1,000 acres, you could dry up 999 acres every year,” Nichols said. “That seems like a Trojan horse for a permanent buy-and-dry.”

    The district is working with key lawmakers to try to put better limits on the bill that would make it conform to current laws which limit the frequency of years when water could be put to alternative uses and the amount of land that can be dried up.

    The Lower Ark district promotes the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, but helped create it with the intent that water would be treated as another “crop” and not permanently removed from the land.

    Nichols also suggested that removing ag water too often from fields would create environmental consequences for wetlands and return flows to rivers.

    “For some reason, the environmental community has not paid attention to this bill,” Nichols said.

    More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


    The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance is hosting a business briefing about the #COWaterPlan on April 2

    March 24, 2014
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

    In Colorado, water is as precious as a rare diamond, though much easier to get your hands on – at least for now.

    The future may be another matter.

    Frequent droughts, an increasing population and greater demand for water have elected officials, conservationists and the business community worried about the future of Colorado’s water supply.

    The specter of future shortages prompted Gov. John Hickenlooper to issue an executive order last year to establish a statewide water plan, said Wayne Vanderschuere, general manager for water resources for Colorado Springs Utilities. The initiative involves people from various statewide water basins coming together to discuss how best to conserve, share, find, develop and expand the existing water supply, Vanderschuere said.

    Against this backdrop, business and conservation groups are holding statewide meetings to hear what corporate executives and small-business owners have to say on the importance of water to their ventures, and to get their ideas on conservation and other steps that could be added to the governor’s plan.

    “A reliable and sustainable water supply is critical for long-term economic viability,” said Joe Raso, president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, which is hosting an April 2 briefing for the business community on the governor’s water plan.

    It’s not just having enough water for existing businesses, Raso said. Even a perception that the city and state might be struggling to maintain its water supply could crush business growth, he said. Water usage is a primary cost of business for major industries and accounts for at least a portion of all small business costs. The cost to provide sufficient water in the future could increase utility prices beyond the average business owner’s ability to pay, Raso said. Those costs also encourage larger businesses to move or locate elsewhere, he said.

    “If you have a company that decides the state and Colorado Springs is too expensive for their processes, or if they are worried about the impact of their water usage on the community, then they will locate elsewhere,” he said.

    Less water flowing in

    Four things must happen with the state’s water supply to keep the commodity from becoming a burden to businesses, said Bryan Blakely, president of Accelerate Colorado, one of two organizations making the April 2 presentation in Colorado Springs.

    “We are looking for efficiency, predictability, reliability and cost control,” said Blakely, whose organization pairs state businesses and local governments to work with Congress on issues related to the state’s economic development.

    He said one of the primary ways the state could increase available water is construct additional systems that would capture and store more of the state’s snow and rain runoff. Capturing and storing more in years of abundant snow and rainfall would provide additional supplies in dry years, Blakely said.

    “There is a lot of water flowing out of the state of Colorado that we have the rights to,” he said, “but we don’t have anywhere to store it.”

    There is also a lot less water flowing into the state.

    From 2001 through 2010, the Colorado River flow averaged 16 percent below the 20th century average, according to Environmental Entrepreneurs, “a national community of business leaders who promote sound environmental policy that builds economic prosperity,” according to its website, e2.org.

    The group’s research, “Colorado Water Supply and Climate Change: A Business Perspective,” states that “from 1999 through 2005, Lake Powell, the Colorado River reservoir designed to ensure delivery of water to the lower basin, fell from 99 percent of capacity to 33 percent, a sharper decline than thought possible.”

    Cooperation is key

    Solving the state’s water problems will involve the implementation of several ideas. E2 has said the governor’s plan must include a goal of reducing per capita urban water use by 25 percent by 2025 and by 50 percent by 2050. It also wants the state to “require all water providers to adopt water rates that create incentives for water conservation” and expand water reuse programs.

    Vanderschuere said finding a solution will require cooperation between governments, organizations and people.

    And there will be challenges. Agricultural enterprises, including farms and ranches, account for about 86 percent of the state’s annual water usage annually. But Colorado law is written so that it’s unlikely the state or any municipality could reduce the amount of water used by agriculture, even in lean years.

    Still, Vanderschuere said those in agriculture have been the most willing to help when it comes to droughts.

    “At least once a week I get someone calling me trying to lease us their water rights,” he said. “And we have had leases from ag in the past and will do so in the future.”

    If that’s the case, why worry?

    “The problem is getting the water from the farms to the urban area,” Vanderschuere said.

    Pumping, transporting, treating and distributing water from farms sometimes can be too costly for the amount of water received. Vanderschuere believes the state could develop ways to capture Colorado’s remaining allotment off the Colorado River, which also supplies water to Arizona, California and Nevada. He said Colorado has “a very specific allocation under the law of the river,” but right now the state is not using its full legal portion.

    “What is important is recognizing on the statewide perspective that there is an increasing gap in the water supply and water demand,” he said, “and with the state population expected to double by 2050, that is not very far off in water time.”

    While the population growth could be good for business in terms of having more customers, any real or perceived water shortage could stymie future business growth. Hence, the series of roundtables in each of Colorado’s eight major water basins to work on the governor’s initiative.

    Vanderschuere said the statewide water meetings are important because it takes decades to create solutions to water problems. He used the term “water time” to describe the time it takes to plan, design, permit, construct and start the flow of water through a new project. For example, he said the Southern Delivery System will be completed in 2016, but the project was envisioned in the 1980s, planned in 1990s and permitted around 2010.

    Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

    DETAILS

    The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance is hosting Accelerate Colorado and the Colorado Competitive Council for a business briefing on Gov. Hickenlooper’s statewide water plan, “and to help finalize a new set of statewide business community water policy principles that address the business and economic development needs of Colorado,” according to the alliance’s website,

    WHEN: 8-9:30 a.m. April 2

    WHERE: Antlers Hilton, 4 S. Cascade Avenue

    COST: Free

    ETC: Register online at http://bit.ly/1dnvZi6. For more information, contact Shawn Dahlberg at 884-2832.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Flows in the Arkansas River above Lake Pueblo = 270 cfs, Reclamation realeasing water from Turquoise and Twin Lakes #ColoradoRiver

    March 23, 2014
    Pueblo dam spilling

    Pueblo dam spilling

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Flows in the Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam increased slightly with the end of winter water storage this week, but not significantly. The reason is that water continues to be released for the Pueblo flow management program and much of the winter water was stored in downstream reservoirs, including on the Colorado Canal, the Fort Lyon and in John Martin Reservoir.

    “The movement of the agricultural water is a side benefit to the Arkansas River flows through Pueblo,” said Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer.

    Winter water stored about 101,000 acrefeet this year, but only about 27,000 acre-feet were stored in Lake Pueblo. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.

    Flows in the Arkansas River at Avondale were about 320 cubic feet per second this week, about the same as during the two weeks preceding the end of the winter water program. One cubic foot of water is about the same volume as a basketball.

    Meanwhile, flows above Lake Pueblo in the Arkansas River have increased in recent weeks because the Bureau of Reclamation is making room in Turquoise and Twin Lakes for Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water. The March 1 forecast predicts about 73,000 acre-feet will be moved across the Continental Divide this year. But that can increase or decrease, depending on snowpack, said Roy Vaughan, Fry-Ark manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.

    Repairs have been completed on the Mt. Elbert hydropower plant, allowing for full operation of Fry-Ark systems.

    Releases from the upper reservoirs are adding about 270 cfs to the Arkansas River above Pueblo, which is running at twice the rate it was three weeks ago.

    John Martin Reservoir back in the day nearly full

    John Martin Reservoir back in the day nearly full

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Flows into John Martin Reservoir have not been reduced by the winter water storage program on the Arkansas River, according to an analysis by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. The issue is of concern because of questions raised by Kansas during court cases against Colorado over the Arkansas River Compact. John Martin Reservoir, completed in 1948, regulates flows between the two states under the compact.

    “We’ve never showed them evidence that they’ll buy into about the winter water program, but we keep trying,” division engineer Steve Witte told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday.

    The winter water storage program allows irrigation flows to be stored from Nov. 15 to March 15, and ended last week. This year, about 101,000 acre-feet were stored at various locations and will be divided among ditch companies east of Pueblo.

    The analysis looked at diversions by ditches in Colorado from 1950-1975 and from 1976-2013. Winter water began as a voluntary program in 1976 and was later formalized in a water court decree.

    “There hasn’t been any significant change as a result of winter water,” Witte said.

    Diversions above John Martin totaled 72 percent to 77 percent in the 1950-1975 period, and were about 75 percent in the 1976-2013 period. Past analysis of the water levels in John Martin showed little difference in pre-winter water and post-winter water years. But those types of studies don’t explain changes because of operational changes or drought. The new study also looked at potential differences in wet, dry and average years, but found none, Witte said.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Seeking adequate appropriations from the feds

    March 21, 2014
    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Sponsors are working to increase funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit in next year’s federal budget. The conduit recently received the green light to proceed from the Bureau of Reclamation, which released a record of decision on Feb. 27 for it, a master storage contract and an interconnect on Pueblo Dam. But the approval did not translate into funding when President Barack Obama released his budget one week later and included only $500,000 for the conduit.

    “We were disappointed in the dollars,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor of all three projects. He spoke at Thursday’s monthly board meeting.

    The conduit has $3.1 million in funding this year, which includes $2.1 million that was not spent in past years. To keep it on pace for construction sometime in the next decade would require at least $7 million to $10 million, Broderick said. Last year Reclamation internally shifted $44 million for projects, but it’s too soon to tell how much could be available this year.

    “There is a lot of activity, particularly because of the drought in California,” Broderick said. “We have to keep the pressure on.”

    To do that, officials will again travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby Department of Interior and Bureau of Reclamation officials as well as Congress. Last week, Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, and Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, Republicans, called for more funding to support the conduit.

    “We have to realize this is the president’s budget. Congress sees it a different way,” said lobbyist Ray Kogovsek, a former congressman. “I would say we can certainly get more than $500,000.”

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


    #COflood relief money headed to where it is needed?

    March 21, 2014
    Flooding St. Vrain River September, 2013 via Voice of America

    Flooding St. Vrain River September, 2013 via Voice of America

    From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

    So far, FEMA has obligated $3.4 million of flood money to rebuild Longmont. So far, Longmont has seen $143,000. Why? Because when you try to do that much with a handful of state officials, it only goes so far.

    “In September, before the flood, we had three finance people,” said Micki Trost, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “We staffed for our normal operations, our steady-state operations. We would not (normally) have the amount of requests coming through our finance office that we had following the flood.”

    That’s changing. Not only has the division ramped up to six finance people and borrowed another three from its grant department, but last week, the state contracted with Deloitte — one of the “Big Four” accounting and audit firms — to provide another six. On Thursday, Longmont emergency manager Dan Eamon had his first meeting with a Deloitte representative. Eamon said he hoped that things were looking up from here.

    “The biggest thing is that the state wasn’t ready for a $1 billion disaster,” he said. “It’s larger than we’ve ever experienced. … We’re all learning as we go.”

    Why is Denver involved at all? Because of the way reimbursement works through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It goes roughly like this:

    • Cities and counties submit estimates for work that they consider to be FEMA-eligible. This gets a quick sign-off from the state.

    • FEMA considers the request and decides how much to obligate. If an estimate is deemed to be eligible, FEMA can reimburse up to 75 percent of the project’s expense.

    • At that point, the city or county has to submit a different set of paperwork to the state on the actual costs as the work gets done. This is reimbursement money, not an up-front grant, so the state has to verify that the work was done, who did it, and several other details before the money can be released.

    So it’s FEMA’s dollars — but it’s the state who has to oversee and verify. And until recently, there just weren’t enough people to do that, Trost said.


    Southern Delivery System on track to be online in 2016

    March 20, 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):

    he Southern Delivery System is on course to begin operating in 2016.

    “It will be complete for testing purposes in 2015,” SDS Permit Manager Mark Pifher told the Lower Arkansas Conservancy District in an impromptu update Wednesday.

    SDS is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. When completed, it will serve Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West. Nearly all of the pipeline is in the ground, and construction has begun at three pumping stations, including one near Pueblo Dam, Pifher said. While all parts of SDS will be complete by next year, the system will require months of testing before it is put into use.

    “When it’s finished, the water won’t be delivered,” Pifher said. “It won’t be pushing water to customers until 2016.”

    The Lower Ark district has been in negotiations for years with Colorado Springs on the impacts of SDS, particularly increased flows on Fountain Creek. Pifher updated the Lower Ark board on the progress of stormwater meetings in Colorado Springs.

    A committee of El Paso County citizens is working toward putting a stormwater enterprise proposal on the November ballot. Fees would be about the same as under the former enterprise, which Colorado Springs City Council abolished in 2009, Pifher said.

    The Lower Ark board also got a review of the U.S. Geological Survey of dams on Fountain Creek from USGS Pueblo office chief David Mau. Noting the study was funded by Colorado Springs (under its 1041 agreement with Pueblo County), Pifher said an alternative for 10 side detention ponds south of Fountain held the most promise for reducing flood impacts on Pueblo. Pifher also downplayed the immediate impacts of SDS on Fountain Creek.

    “When we turn it on, it will carry 5 million-10 million gallons per day,” Pifher said.

    Over 50 years, that will increase flows up to 96 million gallons per day.

    “It will take some time to grow into demand on that system,” Pifher said.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Buena Vista: Colorado Parks and Wildlife grant serves redesign of Silver Bullet Rapid

    March 19, 2014
    Silver Bullet Rapid via the Chaffee County Times

    Silver Bullet Rapid via the Chaffee County Times

    From The Mountain Mail (Kim Marquis):

    If a redesign of the Silver Bullet rapid on the Arkansas River near Buena Vista works as planned, both boaters and fishermen could benefit. The rapid, known as the Dam, Boat Chute and Silver Bullet in boating circles, had previously been a Class IV rapid at certain water levels, which prevented some boaters and kayakers from making the run. The rapid is south of town and due east of the Buena Vista Correctional Center.

    Wilderness Aware owner Joe Greiner, a longtime commercial rafting outfitter, called the former rapid “spicy” for its steep drop and consistent waves downstream. The rapid caused some private boaters to skip the section, starting trips at Greiner’s river put-in at his property in Johnson Village, instead of using the Buena Vista River Park in town.

    The redesign completed in February changes the rapid into three smaller drops instead of one, possibly reducing its rating to Class II or Class III, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area Park Manager Rob White said.

    AHRA managed the $400,000 project, which was paid for by a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and contributions from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, the Arkansas River Outfitters Association and individual river outfitters.

    The new design adds a drop both upstream and downstream of the original rapid, making the overall experience more gradual, White said. Construction included a fish ladder built into the smaller drops so that trout can conceivably travel upstream to spawn. The former 8-foot drop was likely too high for fish to navigate, creating a barrier to their movement upstream.
    The rapid is located within a 102-mile stretch that was designated Gold Medal trout waters by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in January.

    The Silver Bullet is a 1970s-era dam built to divert water for agriculture. A boat chute allowing rafters passage was changed several times, and a portage added on the right side of the river to enhance the experience. The new project could help more boaters stay on the water, rather than choosing the portage.

    While the level of technical difficulty for boaters might drop due to the changes, the nature of the rest of the run from Buena Vista south to Johnson Village will remain the same. The section includes Beaver Falls, which grows to a Class III rapid at certain water levels, as well as significant drops created by the town’s river play park.

    “It’ll still be too scary for rank amateurs,” Greiner said of the river section. “There will be a certain segment choosing it that was not able to do the boat chute in the past, but that’s not going to be a large number of people.”

    River runners doing an afternoon run typically choose Fisherman’s Bridge or Ruby Mountain, both near Nathrop, to end their trips. Commercial trips and private boaters on an all-day excursion get off the river past Browns Canyon.

    Outfitters have traditionally run the section including the Silver Bullet, so Greiner said he did not anticipate changes in commercial use because of the redesigned rapid.

    The project included broader changes at the dam, also called the Helena diversion structure. Work that began in November included a replacement of the ditch’s concrete head gate, a larger concrete canal and a new bypass gate.

    Both White and Greiner cautioned boaters that the Silver Bullet’s new rating will be unknown until higher flows can be observed on the river this spring and summer…

    River Ratings

    These ratings are published by Colorado River Outfitters Association, in accordance with the International Scale of River Difficulty.

    Class I: Fast-moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight.

    Class II: Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels that are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers.

    Class III: Rapids with moderate, irregular waves that may be difficult to avoid. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties.

    Class IV: Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids or rest. Rapids may require “must” moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting may be necessary the first time down.

    Class V: Extremely long, obstructed or very violent rapids that expose a paddler to added risk. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is recommended but may be difficult.

    Class VI: These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only.

    More whitewater coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley: Employing sprinklers or drip irrigation on the rise

    March 19, 2014
    Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

    Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    An increasing number of farms are being included in group plans that replace water in the Arkansas River under rules adopted by the state in 2010. The so-called Rule 10 plans set out guidelines for replacement of water to account for on-farm improvements like sprinklers or drip irrigation that use surface water.

    “We expect to see more over time,” said Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer. “That’s the way farmers are wanting to go. It seems to be a more effective way of utilizing water.”

    The rules are set up to avoid depletions to the river through increased consumptive use, both for downstream users in Colorado and to satisfy Kansas under the Arkansas River Compact.

    This year, three Rule 10 plans covering 129 farms have been filed with the state, an increase from two plans covering 109 farms in 2013. The state Division of Water Resources has until May 1 to approve or deny the plans, based on verification of engineering.

    About 2,200 acre-feet (an acre-foot is 325,851 gallons) of water is needed to replace depletions based on calculations by engineers using state models. Those calculations could be changed this year as a study of leakage from storage ponds is completed.

    Two plans were filed by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. One covers 80 farms on the Fort Lyon Canal. The other covers 45 farms on other canals from Pueblo to Prowers County. A third plan was filed by the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association for four farms owned by GP Irrigated Farms LLC in Prowers County.

    The state is looking at well augmentation plans as well, under Rule 14 of the 1996 groundwater rules for the Arkansas Valley. The validity of those plans should be decided by the end of this month.

    Well plans include the three large groundwater associations (LAWMA, Colorado Water Protective and Development Association and Arkansas Groundwater Users Association) and some smaller plans for prisons, golf courses, cities and conservancy districts.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, et. al., will host a business briefing, April 2, on the #COWaterPlan

    March 18, 2014

    pikespeak

    From The Colorado Springs Business Journal (Marija B. Vader):

    The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, Accelerate Colorado and the Colorado Competitive Council will host a business briefing on the governor’s statewide water plan.

    The goal is to help finalize a new set of statewide business community water policy principles that address the business and economic development of Colorado.

    The briefing takes place from 8-9:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 2, at the Antlers Hilton, 4 S. Cascade Ave. The briefing is free, but pre-registration is required. Breakfast buffet is free.

    To register online, click on: http://web.coloradospringsbusinessalliance.com/events/Water-Policy-Briefing-to-the-Business-Community-1848/details. For information, call 884-2832.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 23-24 #COWaterPlan

    March 16, 2014

    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey


    From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Pam Denahy):

    The annual Forum will be held on April 23-24, 2014. The Forum will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014. We will be taking the Forum down the river this year to La Junta, home of the nearby Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.

    Additional activities to enjoy in the Otero County area can be found at the City of La Junta website: http://www.ci.la-junta.co.us and the Visit La Junta website: http://www.visitlajunta.net.

    Please check out the website for details on lodging and registration: http://www.arbwf.org. Early registration ($45) may be done online at our website or by mail-in. Exhibitors are also welcome at no additional cost.

    Given that the original purpose of the Forum was to encourage positive dialog about important Ark Basin issues, it is fitting that this year; the focus will be on Colorado’s Water Plan and the attendant Arkansas Basin Implementation Plan that will be of paramount importance in the coming year. The Forum will be hosting a panel with representatives from basins adjoining the Arkansas, along with James Eklund (director of the CWCB) and John Stulp (special adviser to the governor for Water Issues). The panelists will provide their basin specific perspectives on Colorado’s Water Plan. The program also includes two panels that will discuss the importance and the development of the Arkansas Basin Implementation Plan. Your feedback will be a very important component of the Basin Implementation Plan. This year the Forum has partnered with the Arkansas Basin Roundtable to provide an avenue for you to provide your input to the Basin Plan through an onsite clicker survey. You won’t want to miss this opportunity!

    On the Forum’s second day, additional panel discussions will be focused on the Value and Importance of Agriculture, Invasive Species, Arkansas Basin Weather Update, and Agricultural Water Use. Based on the success of our experience with the “Community Workshop” on water education, we will be repeating this event once again the evening before the main Forum, on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 from 6 to 9 p.m. This year’s chairman, Dr. Lorenz Sutherland, and the planning committee have done a fabulous job and it’s shaping up to be a great event.

    General questions may be directed to the Peaks & Plains CSU Extension Office at(719) 545-2045 or to Jean Van Pelt, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District at (719) 948-2400.

    What: Arkansas River Basin Water Forum

    Where: Otero Junior College Student Center

    When: April 23-24

    Cost: $45 preregistration

    Contact: CSU Extension Office, 545-2045 or Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, 948-2400.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Basin Roundtable recap: Area #COWaterPlan meetings on tap

    March 13, 2014
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday reviewed its progress toward creating its part of the upcoming state water plan, planning a series of meetings to make sure all voices are heard.

    The meetings will be staged in areas throughout the region in order to assure water needs that have not surfaced in the past nine years of meetings are included in the Arkansas Basin implementation plan.

    “As we prepared for these meetings? Are we going to get flak jackets?” Canon City farmer Manny Colon jokingly asked.

    “Maybe combat gear,” replied interim Chairwoman Betty Konarski, who wore a hard hat to her inaugural meeting as head of the roundtable.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Engineering and design requirements = $14 million to keep project on track

    March 12, 2014
    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado’s congressional delegation is calling on the administration and Congress to boost funding levels for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The administration’s budget numbers for the conduit, released late Monday, included just $500,000 for the conduit, which last month received final approval, a record of decision, from the Bureau of Reclamation. But about $14 million is needed to keep engineering and design for the project on track in order to break ground in 2016.

    The project sponsors, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, currently have secured about $3.1 million — which includes carryover funding — to begin work on the conduit.

    The $400 million conduit would include 227 miles of pipeline along a 130-mile route from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads. Along the way it would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities, many of them facing regulatory pressure to improve drinking water quality. The conduit was part of the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but never built because of expense. A renewed effort to build it began about 15 years ago, and culminated in late February when Reclamation issued a record of decision identifying the route of the pipeline through Pueblo and along the Arkansas River.

    The letters were sent to congressional leadership and the Department of Interior Tuesday, just hours after the budget figures were known, by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton, both Republicans. They said the budget for the conduit is insufficient for the second year in a row.

    “The budget numbers released for fiscal year 2014 and 2015 are troubling. At a time when planners are trying to scale up significantly and move forward toward the construction stage, the Administration budget figures have threatened to delay work on this critical priority,” the letter stated.

    The lawmakers called the Conduit a “top priority” and reminded the Administration and the Appropriations Committees that “the federal government has repeatedly promised to build this Conduit.”

    The budget numbers likely were prepared last year, before the conduit had a record of decision in place, so they could conceivably be improved, say some observers.

    The $14 million would complete design and engineering work, which includes connection to the south outlet of Pueblo Dam, initial filtering at the Pueblo Board of Water Works Whitlock Plant, routing the pipeline south of Pueblo by the Comanche power plant and construction that basically follows the north side of the Arkansas River to Lamar. There are numerous spurs and loops along the way that deliver water to communities in Pueblo, Crowley, Otero, Bent, Prowers and Kiowa counties.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill: New spill contained onsite

    March 11, 2014
    Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via The Denver Post

    Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via The Denver Post

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

    For the second time in five months, Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill officials have discovered a leak of contaminated water, but both spills reportedly were contained on-site. On Monday, Cotter personnel reported to Colorado Department of Public Health officials a release of greater than 500 gallons of water from the barrier system pump-back pipeline. The water spilled was contaminated groundwater recovered by the barrier system and being pumped back to the facility.

    The spill was discovered at 8 a.m. Monday and mill personnel were last on-site at approximately 4:30 p.m. Friday. The spill did not result in contaminated materials leaving the Cotter property. More information will be provided as the investigation continues, according to Deb Shaw, health department program assistant. A similar spill occurred in November when between 4,000 and 9,000 gallons of contaminated water seeped from the same pipeline.

    Contaminated water usually is pumped, along with groundwater, to an on-site evaporation pond to prevent further contamination in Lincoln Park, which has been a part of a Superfund cleanup site since 1988. The now-defunct mill is in the process of decommissioning and has not been used to process uranium since 2006.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

    More details have emerged in connection with a Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill leak of contaminated water which occurred over the weekend south of town. State health officials reported Tuesday that about 20,000 gallons of the contaminated water leaked from the pump-back system pipeline.

    “Analytical results show that the water contained 2,840 micrograms per liter of uranium and 3,740 micrograms per liter of molybdenum. For comparison, the groundwater standard in Colorado for uranium is 30 micrograms per liter and for molybdenum is 100 micrograms per liter,” said Deb Shaw, program assistant for the state health department.

    At those concentrations of contamination the spill is not reportable to the National Response Center because the quantity is below 10.3 million gallons, Shaw said.

    The contamination did not seep off of Cotter property.

    More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


    Farmers pull out of first Arkansas Valley Super Ditch project

    March 11, 2014
    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The first pilot program under a new state law that would allow temporary water transfers under the supervision of the Colorado Water Conservation Board has been scuttled. The planned lease of water to Fowler by the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch was pulled from the table last week after farmers who were leasing the water pulled out. It was the first plan introduced under last year’s HB1284, which allows the CWCB to monitor pilot programs that develop alternatives to buy-and-dry water transfers.

    “It’s disappointing that we weren’t able to put the program in place,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “We need to make sure Fowler survives. The first job of the Super Ditch is to keep small towns viable. This is really about the Arkansas Valley solving the Arkansas Valley’s problems.”

    Fowler uses wells to supply its water, but needs an outside supply to augment those wells, City Manager Dan Hyatt explained. The town has been under water restrictions.

    “It appears Fowler will be fine with water this year,” Hyatt said.

    Monday, the town council considered its options, which could include leasing water from the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The water board has not taken action on water leases this year.

    This is the second pilot program that has fallen through for the Super Ditch. In 2012, the group set up a pilot program with Fountain and Security, but could not pull all of the pieces together in time to execute the lease. Severe drought played a role in that program.

    Last year, Aurora made an offer to Super Ditch to lease water, but farmers rejected it because the asking price was too low.

    The Super Ditch and Lower Ark district supported HB1248 because of the technical backlash from other water users that surfaced under the existing rules for a substitute water supply plan.

    More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.


    Colorado continues long-term recovery efforts, marks six months since September floods #COflood

    March 10, 2014
    Colorado Boulevard crossing at Big Dry Creek below the Union Pacific Railroad during the September 2013 flood

    Colorado Boulevard crossing at Big Dry Creek below the Union Pacific Railroad during the September 2013 flood

    Here’s a release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office (Val Beck):

    Gov. John Hickenlooper today recognized the continued flood recovery and progress to rebuild from the September floods. The flooding started on Sept. 11, 2013, and impacted more than 24 counties and more than 2,000 square miles in Colorado. This Tuesday, March 11, marks six months since the flooding started.

    “From the moment the devastating floods hit Colorado, we have been fortunate to receive assistance from first responders, and from State and Federal agencies, who all have worked with remarkable dedication and efficiency,” Hickenlooper said. “Because of that kind of collaboration and commitment, we opened roads before our deadline and winter’s worst, and we began getting people back to their communities. We now face the spring runoff. There’s still much to be done. This recovery will be a long-term effort. But now six months in we have been reminded like never before that Coloradans are resilient. Coloradans don’t break. We remain united in rebuilding stronger and better than before. We remain focused and will continue to collaborate and listen to the impacted communities. We will help and continue to do all we can to secure funding for their recovery.”

    Since the flooding, the Governor has visited all 24 impacted counties. The Governor, his staff and Chief Recovery Officer Molly Urbina have worked with impacted communities to assess their greatest needs and have joined with the Congressional delegation to secure funding to help rebuild.

    “Since the flooding in September we have been working with our partners in Federal Agencies like HUD and FEMA, the state legislature, private resources and the Congressional Delegation to secure funding for long-term recovery,” said Molly Urbina, the state’s Chief Recovery Officer. “Coloradans have accomplished a great deal in this short term recovery, but now is when we rebuild for the future. The commitment to Colorado’s recovery is needed more than ever as we hit the 6 month anniversary of the flooding.”

    Here is an update of completed and ongoing long-term recovery efforts six months since the flooding began:

    The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) opened all 27 flood-impacted state roadways before the Dec. 1 deadline. All highways are in temporary condition and require permanent repairs. CDOT has begun the first long-term repairs on the US 36 emergency reconstruction project between Estes Park and Lyons, and also continues stabilization efforts on US 34 and SH 7. The stabilization efforts have resulted in some closures on the highways this Spring, but will help in an overall effort to maintain the temporary repairs through the Spring thaw until permanent repairs can be made. CDOT also made flood debris removal pick up available on the flooded state highways from November through March 7, which has resulted in the removal of over 115,000 pounds of flood debris. CDOT has $450 million allocated toward flood recovery funding with $55 million used to date.

    The Federal government continues to be a critical partner in on-going flood-recovery efforts. In preparation for Spring runoff, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced they will reimburse the state and local governments for eligible costs to reduce hazards in streams caused by the September floods that pose an immediate threat to lives and property. For impacted mountain communities, FEMA determined last week that some publicly owned roads that are not routinely maintained by the county are eligible for reimbursement. Working with the State, FEMA announced on Monday that Colorado will receive a Disaster Case Management Program (DCMP) in the amount of $2,667,963. DCMP is a time-limited process that involves a partnership between a disaster case manager and a survivor to develop and carry out a personal Disaster Recovery Plan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has obligated $62 million in Public Assistance funding to 538 projects in from 18 flood impacted counties. The agency funds 75 percent of eligible state and local projects for emergency measures, debris cleanup and repair of roads, bridges and other infrastructure. FEMA has approved $60.4 million in funding for Individual Assistance for rental assistance, basic home repairs and other critical needs of emergency assistance and has approved 16,542 individuals and families in 11 flood impacted counties, 28,368 have applied for Individual Assistance. The US Small Business Administration has loaned $98.8 million to date to 2,089 homeowners and 357 businesses. National Flood Insurance has made payments of $ $63.6M to more than 2,000 claims. The US Department of Labor awarded the State a National Emergency Grant (NEG) that provides $5.7 million to perform debris removal and clean up. The funds may also be used to provide humanitarian assistance for flood victims and subsidized jobs aimed at supporting the restoration of public infrastructure in FEMA-designated areas. The US Department of Agriculture’s, Farm Service Agency (FSA) provided $2.3 million through the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to cover rehabilitation to farm and ranch land, debris removal, and restoring permanent fencing and water-related structures to Colorado farms and ranches. The Town of Jamestown opened their Post Office in February and Drake will re-open their Post Office on Monday, March 10th.

    The U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced $62.8 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to assist in long-term recovery efforts. In December 2013, a statewide damage assessment was completed to determine those in most need specifically in housing, infrastructure and economic development. HUD requires that 50% of the eligible applicants for these funds be low to moderate income Coloradans and 80% of the funds must go to the three most impacted counties, Boulder, Larimer, and Weld Counties. In January a CDBG-DR Draft Action Plan was written based on the damage assessment and public input. The Draft Action Plan was made available at the end of January and early February for public comment and the public comment was incorporated into the final CDBG-DR Action Plan. Public comment was gathered through stakeholder meetings, public meetings and a public comment period on the website. The CDBG-DR Action Plan was submitted on February 21, 2014 to HUD which has 45 days to review and approve the Action Plan. Once approved the application process for the funds can begin. David Bowman, CDBG-DR Project Manager, will officially take on the role of CDBG-DR Project Manager on March 31st and manage the application and distribution process. An overview of proposed process to distribute the funds is available on the CDBG-DR Department of Local Affairs website: http://dola.colorado.gov/cdbg-dr.

    Molly Urbina became Chief Recovery Office in February 2014, she leads the Recovery Office in collaboration and comprehensive long-term planning with Federal, State and local partners to build back a more resilient Colorado after the floods. Since the legislative session has started the Recovery office has worked with the bi-partisan Legislative Flood Committee to introduce bills that focus on Cost Share Allocation, Disaster Assistance, Tax Credits for property destroyed in natural disasters, and streamlining emergency response in future disasters. There are 621 employees from CDOT, OEM and FEMA currently working closely to address the ongoing needs of all Coloradans impacted by the disaster. A total of $1.42 billion has been allocated to date and $822 million is currently being used today to recover from our September flood. The Recovery Office is coordinating a long-term stream recovery group to focus on stream recovery, resilency planning and implementation strategies across State and Federal experts for Colorado Streams impacted by the flooding.


    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Reclamation approves cross-connection for the North and South outlet works

    March 9, 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):

    Ever since it began storing water 40 years ago, the Pueblo Dam has been evolving as the needs of water users change. The next step will integrate the south outlet works with the newly constructed north outlet works on the face of the dam to provide more reliability to the urban populations that depend on Lake Pueblo as a source of water. The cross-connection is part of the package approved last week by the Bureau of Reclamation. Other pieces are the Arkansas Valley Conduit and a master contract for some members of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    “We get a better quality of water coming out of the reservoir. That cuts down on chemicals used for taste and odor issues,” said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

    The cross-connection will allow users of both outlets to continue using the dam when one outlet or the other is closed in an emergency or for planned maintenance.

    “When one goes down, you can pull from the other side and still get part of your water,” Book said.

    The dam was completed in 1974, but the south outlet — as the name implies, is on the south side of the Arkansas River — wasn’t used until 1983, when Pueblo West took its initial diversion of water. Two years later, the Fountain Valley Conduit, which serves Colorado Springs and four nearby water providers, began drawing from the south outlet. Pueblo hooked onto the south outlet in 2002, after gaining a license in 2000. The south outlet also supplies the Pueblo fish hatchery, operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    The north outlet — formerly the primary outlet for the Arkansas River — was completed last year as part of the Southern Delivery System, which will begin serving Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West in 2016.

    The Southeastern district, Colorado Springs and Pueblo water board are jointly developing a hydropower project at the north outlet works, which also continues to provide water to the Arkansas River.

    There also are three gates that can empty water into the basin below the dam when the north outlet is closed. The Bessemer Ditch also has a direct connection to Pueblo Dam.

    Before the interconnect is constructed, it would require a 40-year contract between Reclamation and those parties using the outlets.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Basin RT Gary Barber steps down as chair #COWaterPlan

    March 9, 2014
    Basin roundtable boundaries

    Basin roundtable boundaries

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Gary Barber, who has chaired the Arkansas Basin Roundtable since 2007, is stepping down in order to concentrate on finishing the group’s contribution to a state water plan.

    “I’ve always tried to do what’s best for the roundtable and for the basin,” Barber said.

    Barber has been working on the Arkansas Basin plan that will be part of the state water plan, which comes out in draft form later this year. As chairman, Barber prepared many of the documents that will be used in the plan, but he is now a paid consultant.

    “I needed to devote all of my time to the plan,” Barber said.

    Vice chairman Betty Karnoski, a Monument real estate broker, will act as chairman of the roundtable.

    Barber has been a central fixture in Arkansas Basin water issues for more than a decade.

    As an agent for the El Paso County Water Authority, he contributed to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s understanding of the Arkansas Valley’s municipal water gap in the 2004 Statewide Water Supply Initiative. He was a frequent critic of the Southern Delivery System, saying it did not have a wide enough regional focus, and an advocate for groundwater storage in El Paso County. Barber became a charter member of the roundtable in 2005, helping to organize the group from the beginning. He served as secretary until Alan Hamel stepped down as chairman in 2007.

    In 2008, while working for El Paso County water interests, he made offers to buy farms for their water on the Bessemer Ditch, triggering a successful counteroffer by the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

    In 2009, he helped to write state legislation that formed the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District after three years of meeting with the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force. Within a year, he was chosen as its first executive director.

    In 2011, he went to work for Two Rivers Water Co., which has bought Pueblo County farms, and tried to expand its scope to include municipal consulting in El Paso County.

    Last year, he joined WestWater Research, a Western U.S. water marketing firm, and secured a roundtable contract. He retained his position as chairman of the roundtable after an open discussion of whether the contract represented a conflict of interest.

    Despite, or maybe because of, his forays into valley water activities, Barber commanded respect from other roundtable members because of his ability to sort through differences.

    He nearly always ends discussions of complicated water issues with the statement: “We have consensus by the absence of dissension.”

    He often interjects humor into those conversations as well. For instance, referring to Aurora’s water buys in the Arkansas Valley, he once said: “Aurora is the brother-in-law you wish your sister had never married. But he does the dishes at Thanksgiving, so you learn to live with him.”

    More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.


    Colorado River Outfitters Association: Commercial rafting on the Arkansas River = $55 million

    March 8, 2014

    raftingarkriver

    From The Mountain Mail (Nick Jumey):

    Commercial rafting on the Arkansas River brought an economic impact of more than $55 million from 179,535 user days in 2013, according to an end-of-year report by Colorado River Outfitters Association.

    The association defines a “user day” as “a paying guest on a river for any part of a day.”

    To calculate economic impact, the association multiplies user days by “direct expenditures” and the “economic multiplier.”

    Direct expenditures are the total cash outlay for rafting, food, lodging, etc., spent in the local area by one river rafting customer in one day. The economic multiplier is the number of times a dollar is spent in the local area before being spent outside that area – 2.56 times, according to the Colorado Tourism Board.

    Overall, the report showed rivers in Colorado had an economic impact of more than $145 million in 2013, an increase of 13.5 percent from 2012’s $127 million. In addition, rafters spent nearly 50,000 more user days on Colorado rivers in 2013, including an increase of 10,000 user days on the Arkansas River alone.

    The Arkansas River accounted for 38.89 percent of the market share of river rafting impact in 2013, the largest share by a wide margin. The next closest rivers in terms of market shares were the Colorado River (23 percent combined) and Clear Creek River (13.2 percent), according to the report.

    Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) recently cited the association report as a reason to cosponsor S. 1794, also known as the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act of 2013.

    In a press release, Bennet cited the report’s findings, including the $55 million economic impact, and noted that the Arkansas River is particularly popular for whitewater rafters.

    The bill, introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), aims to protect the Browns Canyon region as “an invaluable economic and natural resource for Chaffee County and the state” and would preserve 22,000 acres along the Arkansas River as a national monument.

    “The rugged and unique beauty of Browns Canyon attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world who come to hike, camp, climb and raft,” Bennet said in a press release. “This generates millions of dollars of revenue for our local economies.
    “Designating Browns Canyon as a national monument will not only allow future generations to enjoy the whitewater rapids in the heart of the Rockies, but it will also ensure that the area remains an economic driver and job creator for the region.”
    Keith Baker, Buena Vista, executive director of Friends of Browns Canyon and a retired Navy commander, said he was pleased to hear Bennet’s decision to cosponsor the bill.

    “We’re pleased and honored to have Sen. Bennet on board with this important legislation, which not only protects one of Colorado’s world-class recreational destinations, but was built from the ground up by local people who do business, recreate and make their homes in this part of the state,” Baker said.

    More whitewater coverage here.


    ‘Farmers are as certain as farmers can be that this year will be better than the last’ — Chris Woodka #COdrought

    March 6, 2014

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Farmers are as certain as farmers can be that this year will be better than the last. All indications at a still early point in the growing season are pointing toward more favorable conditions than farmers have seen in the last three years.

    “It’s almost like we’ve been on an extended summer vacation,” mused Dale Mauch, a Lamar farmer and Fort Lyon Canal board member. “It would be so much fun to plant a corn crop again. You’ve got to stay optimistic in this business, if not just for your mental health.”

    The Arkansas Valley’s three largest irrigation well-owner groups have submitted plans to the state with varying degrees of optimism, after they were limited in 2013. Pumping levels depend on the availability of surface supplies for augmentation.

    The Lower Arkansas Water Management Association wants to pump its irrigation wells at 90 percent capacity, up from 10 percent last year. The group serves the eastern end of the valley.

    “Everyone is looking forward to planting a crop,” said Don Higbee, LAWMA manager.

    The Arkansas Groundwater Users Association, which augments wells on Fountain Creek and the area east of Pueblo, is a little more cautious. It plans an initial allocation of about 65 percent for farms, up from 30 percent last year. Municipal and domestic allocation will be 100 percent.

    “There’s a good chance of a second allocation if snowpack is 100 percent on May 1,” said AGUA manager Scott Lorenz.

    Colorado Water Protective and Development Association, which covers wells throughout the valley, is looking at something less than 65 percent, but better than 2013, when wells without an independent supply were shut down.

    “Our numbers are not so good, but better than last year,” said Ann Lopkoff, CWPDA manager. “The Division of Water Resources is going to be able to work with us on a plan this year, and there is more water available. It’s not going to be zero percent again.”

    If snowpack remains at high levels, ditches in the Arkansas Valley should see more normal years than the past three seasons, when flows dropped late in the year if they came at all. Commodity prices are down, and cattle herds have been thinned.

    Farmers also are dealing with soil moisture deficit that affects crops like grass and alfalfa. Ample irrigation water throughout the season improves the conditions for vegetable crops and corn…

    BETTER DAYS AHEAD?

    Some indicators that 2014 will be an improvement for farmers:

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that chances are good for an El Nino forming over the Pacific Ocean in late summer. Such systems usually mean warmer temperatures and increased rainfall for the Southern United States, including Southern Colorado.

    Snowpack was more than 125 percent in the Arkansas River headwaters, which feed the mainstem of the river.

    Winter water storage, which runs Nov. 15-March 15, was almost 92,000 acre-feet at the end of February, nearly double last year’s total and 90 percent of the 20-year average

    Additional water will be available from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, forecast at 40 percent above average as of March 1, and through leases by the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Master storage contract next activity for project

    March 5, 2014
    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit is years away, but other parts of last week’s federal record of decision to approve the project are expected to move more quickly. But not too quickly, as sponsors are watching to see how pieces fall in place. The record decision by the Bureau of Reclamation also cleared the way for a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo and an interconnection at Pueblo Dam between the north and south outlets.

    “Once you have signed the record of decision, those discussions can start,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor for all three projects. “But we don’t want to move too quickly.”

    The master contract is likely the first piece to move forward. It will allow communities within the Southeastern District to secure up to 30,000 acrefeet of storage through the year 2060. The storage is possible because Lake Pueblo seldom fills to capacity with water brought across the Continental Divide under the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. So-called excess capacity contracts allow water users to store other water in Lake Pueblo. The long-term contract would provide more certainty that the space will be reserved than one-year contracts as well as flexibility between wet and dry years.

    In recent years, 37 water districts and cities indicated they wanted to be a part of the contract — 25 also are conduit participants. The other 12 include water users in Fremont, Pueblo counties aren’t part of the conduit, but anticipate the need for storage. Among them, Pueblo West, Security and Fountain are seeking to partner in the contract, even though they already have contracts under Southern Delivery System.

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also wants storage for projects such as the Super Ditch.

    “We need to sit down with all of them and say, ‘All right, this is what we studied. Now how much are you going to need?’ ” Broderick said.

    Another reason for waiting to begin negotiations is to see how similar talks are progressing. In 2010, Broderick watched with interest as SDS participants, led by Colorado Springs, learned that Reclamation was changing its basis for the contract from cost of service to a market-based approach. Right now, Reclamation is negotiating a similar contract with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Broderick plans to sit in on those public meetings to see what he can learn.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    The Pueblo Board of Water Works plans to lease up to 5,500 acre-feet through the spot market

    March 4, 2014
    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works will lease as much as 5,500 acre-feet of raw water this year on the spot market. The leases primarily provide a source of supplemental irrigation water for well or surface irrigation in the Arkansas Valley, as well as boosting supplies for some industrial or domestic users.

    “I suspect there is enough demand out there for that amount of water,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for the water board.

    There were no spotmarket leases last year because of the drought.

    This year, snowpack levels already have reached the average peak, giving the water board confidence that it will have some extra water to make available.

    “We’ve built in three levels of conservative cushions so that this won’t leave us short of water for the next two years,” Ward said.

    The amount of water available could drop if the water board finds any takers for long-term leases under a new rate structure that will charge $630.63 per acre foot. Ward still expects at least 3,500 acre-feet to be available.

    While one-year leases have been increasing slightly over the past five years, hitting the $68-$150 per acre-foot range in 2012, the water board has been taking a hard look at its long-term (more than one year) water lease rates. The new rate is based on 1.5 times the rate for raw water charged to Comanche Power Plant a customer within city limits, Ward explained.

    The water board’s last long-term contract was in 2012 for a 15-year agreement with Ordway Feedyard for about $376 per acre-foot (the rate increases at the same rate as city water bills). Other long-term contracts now range from $200-$400.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Reclamation issues record of decision

    March 4, 2014
    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    It would make sense to include as few turns as possible in a mostly gravity-fed pipeline from Point A to Point B. But the realities of geography, land ownership and a complex network of large and small water districts make the Arkansas Valley Conduit a much more complicated proposition.

    The Bureau of Reclamation signed off on a record of decision last week that clears the way for the conduit to be built, once funding is approved by Congress. While the main trunk of the conduit will run 130 miles, spurs and loops will increase its total length to 227 miles under the concept approved by Reclamation.

    “The total includes everything, all the pipes to where the water providers have facilities to do final treatment and deliver the water,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the conduit.

    The pipe, all of which will be buried underground, will range in size from 36 inches to just 4 inches as it delivers water to 40 sites serving 50,000 people. An estimated 10,256 acre-feet of water will be delivered annually through the system to large users such as St. Charles Mesa, La Junta and Lamar, to smaller water companies that use only a fraction as much water.

    The most circuitous reach of the pipeline will be used in moving the water from Pueblo Dam to its first stop at St. Charles Mesa. It will first flow from the south outlet on the dam to the Pueblo Board of Water Works’ Whitlock Treatment Plant on the north side of the Arkansas River. From there, the pipeline will run south, again crossing the Arkansas River, through City Park to Thatcher Avenue. It will cross to the west side of Pueblo Boulevard somewhere along Elmwood Golf Course and then head to the prairies west of Pueblo along Red Creek Springs Road, then jog south, under the conceptual plan included in Reclamation’s study.

    “Any time you get out into rural land, it drops the cost and cuts down the time needed for construction,” Broderick said.

    The pipeline will swing east by the Comanche Power plant, then head north to the St. Charles treatment plant, and then north to Avondale and Boone (crossing the Arkansas River again). Spurs will take water to six districts in Crowley County and 24 districts in Otero County. Near the end of the line, the conduit will head about 25 miles north to Eads. While the total cost of the conduit is estimated to be about $400 million, the engineering phase is expected to be about $28 million.

    “A lot depends on which segments we are working on,” Broderick said.

    Getting a stream of federal funding to begin that process is a top priority for the Southeastern district.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 887 other followers

    %d bloggers like this: