CWCB: Huerfano County Water Conservancy District receives $250,000 grant approval for Cucharas Basin storage study

Cucharas River
Cucharas River

From the Huefano World Journal (Bill Knowles):

On September 23, the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District received approval from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for a grant totaling $250,000 to conduct a study of the storage needs for the Cucharas Basin. The current study is just one of 13 storage projects that are within the basin and are on the Arkansas Basin Improvement Project’s master needs list. Such projects are necessitated by the aged nature of existing storage infrastructure, 83 percent of which were built before the end of World War II. About 71 percent of all storage capacity has been lost due to abandonment or restriction. Funding for the grant has come from the basin and state-wide accounts, as well as from the Huerfano County Water Conservancy Board, the Huerfano County Board of County Commissioners, the Cucharas Water and Sanitation District Board, and the towns of La Veta, and Walsenburg. The water district has also applied for a second grant for gauging and administration modeling improvements along the Cucharas and Huerfano rivers. The purpose of the grant is to develop reliable infrastructure and technical data thatcan be used to provide help to arrive at difficult water administration decisions. The data can also be used to convey the reasons for decisions to water users impacted by those decisions in a clear, fact based manner. The district has not heard if the application has been approved. The two items in the gauging grant that will cost most are the stream gauge evaluation involving an inventory, assessment, and designing of gauge sites, and the construction of new gauges and improvements to gauges currently in use. Other costs include ground water monitoring, the development of administrative models, and project management. Following an executive session, the board approved signing a lease agreement with Sheep Mountain Ranch for an easement to possibly build an extra storage pond. The district’s attorney is still looking at the agreement at the time of the writing of this report. The Huerfano County Water Conservancy District adjourned after the executive session.

Colorado Springs: Mayor Suthers’ budget calls out stormwater needs

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From (Alyssa Chin):

Mayor Suthers released his proposed 2016 budget Monday. The big focus will be on storm water. A problem that’s plagued Colorado Springs for years.

“Several years ago, we had a storm water enterprise,” Suthers said. “With the demise of that, defunding of the storm water enterprise, for the most part we’ve been spending minimal amounts [of money] over the last several years in terms of storm water.”

The city is setting aside $16 million, with an additional $3 million from Springs Utilities for a total of $19 million.

That plan had some tax payers wondering why isn’t that money going toward the roads.

“There were times I felt like I was going to get pulled over for swerving so much even though it was just because of the pot holes,” Mackenzie Tennison said.

The mayor said through all their surveys, roads were the top priority for voters so he expects them to pass the proposed tax increase of 0.62 percent in November. That will give the city the money it needs to fix our roads.

“I don’t agree with, you know, us getting taxed more,” Leafner Tan said. “I’m pretty sure there’s enough money there, and I’m pretty sure there’s also money going somewhere we don’t need to spend money on.”

“You cannot do storm water and roads,” Suthers said. “Storm water is within reach because it’s a relatively less amount of money.”

Suthers added, that unlike previous years, he’s been working with city council on this budget and that nothing about it should surprise them.

There will be a meeting at City Hall on October 20 from 5-7:30 p.m.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

The $268.1 million general fund budget is up $9.4 million, or 3.6 percent, but Suthers said that when adjusted for inflation, the city today spends $86 a year less on each resident than it did in 2000…

Suthers’ priority remains the city’s infamously atrocious roads, most of which need overlays or complete reconstruction. But the mayor is banking on passage of a Nov. 3 ballot issue to provide $50 million a year for five years through a 0.62 percent sales tax increase.

The other overriding need is stormwater projects to ameliorate Fountain Creek flooding effects on downstream Pueblo. Past city stormwater funds have been eliminated, and a federal lawsuit has been threatened by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

If the issue isn’t addressed, it also could threaten the 1041 permit Colorado Springs Utilities got for its $829 million Southern Delivery System, soon to pump water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Fountain and Security.

So Suthers is squeezing $16 million out of the budget, which would be augmented by $3 million from Utilities, for stormwater projects…

In order to make ends meet, staffing requests, raises and capital projects were left unfunded, Suthers said.

Click here to read the Mayor’s news release and letter to City Council — via Pam Zubeck and the Colorado Springs Independent.

Fountain Creek: Kansas is keeping a watchful eye on potential dams

Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District
Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Kansas has concerns that the effects of a large dam on Fountain Creek are not adequately modeled in a study of flood control and water rights that is nearing completion.

But comments from Kevin Salter of the Kansas Division of Water Resources indicate the modeling done by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District is “reasonable” when it comes to side-detention ponds.

Kansas is an important player because its 1985 federal lawsuit over the Arkansas River Compact raised storage issues along with wells. The Supreme Court ruled in Colorado’s favor on the storage questions, but new dams would be untested waters.

“The methodology in this draft report appears reasonable to protect water rights below the confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River for the scenario involving side-detention facilities,” Salter said.

“As for the scenario to construct a multipurpose reservoir on Fountain Creek; Kansas is concerned.”

In an email to a committee looking at engineer Duane Helton’s draft report, Salter said more study is needed to look at the full impact of a 52,700 acre-foot reservoir that would include a 25,700 acre-foot pool for recreation and water supply and 27,000 acre-feet for temporary flood storage.

“Should the actual implementation of detained flood flows on Fountain Creek impact compact conservation storage Kansas would fully expect that those flows be restored,” Salter said.

Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek district, said a more complete evaluation would be made of water rights if a large reservoir is pursued.

“The district will complete a full evaluation of alternatives and a feasibility study of the preferred alternative in the future before any decision is made on flood control facilities, to include multipurpose facilities,” Small said in an email reply.

Helton’s study shows there would be little impacts on water rights if flood control structures allowed a flow of 10,000 cubic feet per second to flow through Pueblo during large floods. Water would be released as quickly as possible following the peak flow.

The study discounted extremely high flows, such as the 1999 or 1965 floods, saying there would be little damage to water rights because the high volume would fill John Martin Reservoir, creating a free river.

Division Engineer Steve Witte said Kansas concerns must be treated carefully, so a new round of litigation isn’t triggered.

Witte would like the 2015 flooding to be studied. Flows on Fountain Creek exceeded the 10,000 cfs mark on three occasions during six weeks of elevated flows. John Martin Reservoir did not fill, so it would be an ideal opportunity to explore how flood storage could be administered, he said.

“I think we need to be careful in any scenario to make sure there isn’t some material depletion,” Witte said.

After the 1999 flood, when Kansas and Colorado were in litigation over the Arkansas River Compact, Kansas raised questions about how such large flows should be divided. Those issues have not been resolved, Witte said.

Another downstream party, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association which owns half of the Amity Canal in Prowers County, said more study is needed to determine the damage if water is detained at lower flows and how water would be allocated after a flood.

The committee looking at the report, which includes some downstream farmers, Kansas, Colorado Springs Utilities, Tri-State and others, will meet again at 10 a.m. Oct. 14 at the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District offices.

Fountain Creek District board meeting update: Trail system from Colorado Springs to Pueblo?

Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District
Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Sure, Fountain Creek is going to flood from time to time.

But one landowner says that’s inevitable, and a district formed to improve the creek should be looking at using conservation easements to build a trail system from Pueblo to Colorado Springs.

“You could create an easement to connect the two cities,” said Jerry Martin, a Pueblo West Metropolitan District board member who owns property on Fountain Creek about 5 miles north of Pueblo. “It doesn’t solve flooding, but it helps mitigate the damage.”

Martin spoke at Friday’s meeting of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board.

Martin’s idea is for the district to secure easements, either through donations such as he is willing to do or by purchasing them. Martin, who chose to live in Pueblo West after working in Colorado Springs, said state funding is more likely if Pueblo and Colorado Springs can pull together for a common goal.

“My whole point is that we have a sow’s ear, but you can make a silk purse,” Martin said.

The district was receptive, and in fact already on the case.

Already, the district has secured Great Outdoors Colorado funding for trails in both El Paso and Pueblo counties, as well as recreational activities such as the wheel park on Pueblo’s East Side, slated to open in November.

Executive Director Larry Small noted that recreation has always been a purpose of the district, and is included in the strategic plan and corridor master plan.
Board member Richard Skorman added that the district is working to include the Fountain Creek trail as part of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s recently announced $100 million critical connections program for hike and bike trails.

“The designation would help,” Skorman said.

The idea of connecting Pueblo to the Front Range Trail via Fountain Creek goes back to then-Sen. Ken Salazar’s “Crown Jewel” vision in 2006. Skorman was a staffer for Salazar at the time.

“What can I do?” Martin asked. “I know it’s not a new idea, but one that I hope gets to the top of the list.”

“We’ve always felt we’ve been a stepchild,” Skorman said. “Colorado Springs and Pueblo need to push together. If we could get that (critical connection) designation, it could go a long way. We’re on a roll here if we can get this to work.”

CWCB board meeting recap: Horse Creek flume gets state funding

Fort Lyon Canal
Fort Lyon Canal

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Fort Lyon Canal Co. will rebuild its aging Horse Creek Flume this winter in a $2.2 million project designed to save both cropland and wildlife habitat.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $1.69 million loan and $500,000 grant at its meeting in Montrose this week. The grant was from the Water Supply Reserve Account endorsed by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

The 400-foot long, 10foot diameter steel pipe flume crosses Horse Creek about 8 miles west of Las Animas and was originally designed to carry 1,800 cubic feet per second when it was built in 1938. The flume has been repaired many times, but is at the end of its useful life. Its loss would affect farm revenues of $50 million and 14,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

Work on the project is scheduled to begin in November and be completed by March.

The CWCB also approved several other loans and grants that affect the Arkansas River basin:

A $533,000 project will replace the Evans Bypass Flume, a 450-foot long, 6-by-5foot structure with an underground pipeline at Evans Reservoir near Leadville. The Parkville Water District got a $180,000 loan and $300,000 grant from CWCB.

Lamar Water received a $100,000 loan and $161,000 grant toward a $400,000 project to repurpose two wells to provide non-potable water to irrigate public parks and fields. The wells previously were part of the city’s drinking water system until 2012, when they were taken out of service over water quality issues.

The Box Springs Canal and Reservoir Co., near Ordway, received a $200,000 grant toward a $300,000 project to replace several traditional wells with horizontal wells to restore production under water rights already claimed.

The Huerfano County Water Conservancy District won approval for a $220,000 grant toward a $250,000 project to assess the viability of storage in about 70 small dams in the Cucharas River basin.

The CWCB approved a $98,000 grant for the Arkansas Basin Roundtable to hire a coordinator to put the basin implementation plan into action. The plan identifies 300 projects — many of which meet multiple needs — that have been identified in the past 10 years.

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

The Pueblo Board of Water Works is looking at options to enlarge Clear Creek Reservoir

Clear Creek Reservoir
Clear Creek Reservoir

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

One of the most popular sayings surrounding the upcoming state water plan has been “one size does not fit all.”

Pueblo Water is taking that to heart in its own planning for the future of Clear Creek Reservoir, located in northern Chaffee County.

“Clear Creek is an important part of our future,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for Pueblo Water. “We’re looking to see if there’s a sweet spot so we can look at enlargement that is most costeffective.”

The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday approved a $97,600 contract with GEI Consultants to look at various sizes for enlargement of the reservoir.

The reservoir now holds 11,500 acre-feet (3.7 billion gallons). GEI did a study in 2001 on what it would cost to enlarge the reservoir to 30,000 acre-feet.

But those numbers are out of date by now, and there may be some intermediate sizes that are less costly and more practical.

The biggest factor is land acquisition. U.S. Forest Service and some private land lies behind the reservoir and would be inundated as reservoir levels rise. If the storage were increased to less than 30,000 acrefeet, not as much land would be needed, Ward explained.

While the dam is not unsafe, Pueblo Water is studying seepage issues and the effectiveness of corrective measures that have been performed. The risk assessment by Black & Veatch will be complete in October.

The study also will look at improving the outlet works in order to maintain large releases when necessary.

Pueblo Water purchased Clear Creek Reservoir and Ewing Ditch from the Otero Canal Co. in 1954, and uses it to store primarily transmountain water by exchange. There is an in-basin water storage right that occasionally comes into priority during wet conditions, such as this spring.