Lower Ark nets 800 acre-feet this season from a recalculation of pond seepage

May 6, 2015
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):

A recalculation of the seepage rate of ponds used to feed irrigation sprinklers means farmers will have to repay less water than originally calculated this year under 2010 surface irrigation rules.

The savings amounts to about 800 acre-feet (260 million gallons) for Rule 10 plans operated by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, a 40 percent savings.

The Lower Ark’s 2-year study still is not complete because of technical glitches. The Colorado Division of Water Resources accepted results for only some of the more than 20 ponds studied, and the state has asked for additional study in some areas.

But the results altered the basic formula for the Irrigation System Analysis Model. An interim seepage calculation method has been adopted as a result.

“(The division) does believe that the limited amount of pond study data from ponds where inlet and outlet meters were verified to be accurate are more comprehensive than what was used to derive the original seepage method in ISAM,” the state’s report noted.

Under the previous ISAM formula, the state estimated losses from the more than 145 farms covered by Lower Ark’s Rule 10 plans would create about 1,947 acre-feet of deficits. Under the interim method, the deficits total 1,137 acre-feet.

The 2010 rules were written to cover farms that have installed sprinklers or drip irrigation systems fed by ponds as well as other improvements in order to prevent increased consumptive use and potential litigation with Kansas over the Arkansas River Compact. Similar rules, written in 1996, already cover wells in the Arkansas Valley.

More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Arkansas River Basin Water Forum recap

May 4, 2015
Colorado Drought Monitor April 28, 2015

Colorado Drought Monitor April 28, 2015

From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Candace Krebs):

Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist for Colorado, offered an optimistic weather update to a largely upbeat crowd during the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum recently held in Pueblo.

“Everyone seems to have a fairly good attitude at this point,” he said later from his office in Fort Collins.

“Right now the prospects tend to look favorable for southeast Colorado.”

Following a promising fall and winter, early spring conditions deteriorated over a wide area this year, as warm, dry conditions settled in, testing the wheat crop as it came out of dormancy and diminishing the crucial supply of mountain snow needed for runoff going into the growing season.

“The mountain snowpack was near normal all winter for the Arkansas basin and then in March and the first half of April it started to really dissipate and melt early,” Doesken recounted. “But the Arkansas was still better off than other parts of the Rockies and the West at 87 percent of average, which is near the normal range. The bump we got last week put it back in that 80 to 90 percent of average range, and we’ll likely get another bump before the spring snow is over.”

“Out on the plains, the prospect for irrigation is looking good, and the Pueblo Reservoir has a lot of water in it,” he added.

The South Platte is in even better shape than the Arkansas, but the Rio Grande and Colorado tributaries are much worse, suffering from snow shortages in the high country and the extreme drought plaguing the entire Southwest, he said.

As for the Eastern Plains, he described them as “distinctly better than they were a year or two ago, but there still has not been enough rain in most places to build deeper soil moisture.”

Southeastern Colorado is recuperating from its driest 42-month stretch ever recorded since recordkeeping began in the late 1800s, he pointed out. “The grasses have started to come back and not as much bare ground is showing, but it’s still a slow process,” he said.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit up for $2M boost — The Pueblo Chieftain

May 1, 2015

Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

An additional $2 million would be funneled to the Arkansas Valley Conduit under an amendment to the water and energy appropriation bill (HR2028).

The amendment, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., was approved by the House Thursday. It adds $2 million to the Bureau of Reclamation’s water resources account to advance and complete work on the conduit.

“As you know, water is the lifeblood of the Western United States and absolutely critical to the vitality of our communities and local economies,” Tipton told the House.

The move was supported by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.

“This project was authorized in 1962 to bring clean drinking water to 40 communities in Southeastern Colorado, many of which are in violation of clean water standards because of naturally occurring elements,” Buck said. “Why don’t we spend some money to benefit future generations instead of ourselves?”

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is lobbying Washington to put more funding in the $400 million Arkansas Valley Conduit, which would bring clean drinking water from Pueblo Dam to 50,000 people from the St. Charles Mesa to Lamar and Eads.

Only $500,000 was budgeted this year for conduit work.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


Southern Delivery System: Jury awards rancher $4.6M — The Pueblo Chieftain

April 28, 2015
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A Pueblo jury late Thursday awarded rancher Gary Walker a $4.6 million judgment against Colorado Springs Utilities for the Southern Delivery System pipeline crossing Walker Ranches in Northern Pueblo County.

Walker contends the amount is far short of what the pipeline has cost him. During the trial, he contended that the conditions of the SDS easement have jeopardized a $25 million conservation easement he was negotiating with the Nature Conservation for $1,680 an acre on 15,000 acres.

Walker said the conditions of the utility easement through his property allow for access that negates the value of the conservation easement, and that soils from offsite that were used as fill are contaminated with seeds from invasive species. Rain storms already have caused erosion on the pipeline scar and the damage could be greater in the future.

He also said he is fearful that Colorado Springs will take action against him if normal ranch activities interfere with the SDS permanent easement that is 100 feet wide across 5.5 miles of Walker Ranches.

The jury awarded Walker $4.665 million in damages in addition to the $82,900 actual value of the easement. The actual value was part of Judge Jill Mattoon’s instructions to the jury.

“We stung Colorado Springs, but it will do little to protect the next little guy or rare environmental landscape that gets in their way,” Walker said in a written statement provided to The Pueblo Chieftain. “My attorneys were amazed at CSU’s response against one rancher. It was like using a tank to kill a fly.”

The rancher charged that Colorado Springs drove up litigation costs intentionally. In December, Walker won a Pueblo District Court decision on costs of about $500,000 to that point, but the state Supreme Court pushed the decision back until the trial concluded. In that case, Walker said Colorado Springs had needlessly delayed trial.

“Colorado Springs punished us a great deal both financially and emotionally but I am glad we did it and I would do it again even though we lost a lot more than we gained,” Walker said. “Our financial loss is minor when compared to the loss of another open space and protected wildlife habitat area.”

Walker plans to raise the issue of how he was treated by Colorado Springs to Pueblo County commissioners, who issued a 1041 permit for SDS in 2009.

“My hope is that Pueblo County stands their ground and protects everyone by holding the city of Colorado Springs and their utility company to the terms of the 1041 contract they signed in 2009,” Walker said.

Walker also indicated that he is nervous about whether he will actually be able to collect the $4.6 million, since he expects Colorado Springs to appeal.

Colorado Springs has not indicated if it will ap- peal the judgment.

“We are disappointed in the outcome and will be exploring our options to protect the interests of those residents who are helping to fund the SDS project and will be impacted by this outcome,” said Janet Rummel, SDS spokeswoman for Colorado Springs Utilities. “We do not believe the result was supported by the evidence presented.”

She contended that Colorado Springs has worked to address Walker’s concerns and to offer fair compensation for the easements, along with paying $720,000 to relocate cattle during construction.

“We will continue to work with Mr. Walker and all easement holders on the SDS alignment to complete successful restoration and revegetation, as well as to responsibly maintain the condition of our easements,” Rummel said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.


Fountain Creek District meeting recap

April 28, 2015
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A debate over water quality on Fountain Creek in Pueblo County bubbled over into last week’s meeting of a district formed to improve Fountain Creek.

Pueblo Wastewater Director Gene Michael told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District that studies by the city show no clear link between increased development and increased amounts of selenium in the water supply.

He said information from some city studies was misinterpreted at a recent function of the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum and he wanted to clear the air for the Fountain Creek district.

“There’s no way to measure what the selenium was 100 years ago,” Michael said. He explained there simply was no technology to measure parts per billion at the time. “The levels in 1981, when it was first measured, were higher than today.”

Selenium is known to accumulate in the Pueblo area because of water flowing over the Pierre shale formations.

The arguments are crucial to a case Pueblo is trying to make with the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission that it should have a specific discharge variance. An April hearing on the issue was postponed.

Pueblo maintains that it removes some selenium from groundwater intercepted in its treatment plant under a temporary modification. The ambient concentration of selenium in Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River near Pueblo is more than three times the EPA’s numeric standard, 4.6 parts per billion, he said.

The discussion touched a political nerve with the Pueblo city and county representatives on the Fountain Creek board.

“This is an interesting discussion to have with the Water Quality Commission,” said County Commissioner Terry Hart. The commissioners have supported a numeric standard on Fountain Creek, largely because of dealings with Colorado Springs Utilities for increased releases related to the Southern Delivery System. “My feeling is that we study it, find out where it is coming from and take it out.”

“It’s important to discuss it,” said City Councilman Dennis Flores, who invited Michael to speak at Friday’s meeting. He noted that the Pueblo Area Council of Governments supported the city of Pueblo 9-2, with two county commissioners in opposition. “I feel strongly about this and think it’s important.”

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here.


City releases stormwater expenditure report — Colorado Springs Business Journal

April 26, 2015
Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal (Bryan Grossman):

According to a news release issued by the city, the stormwater program for the city of Colorado Springs has included substantial spending over the past 15 years on “new flood control and conveyance infrastructure, maintenance and repair of existing infrastructure, and water quality protection and compliance.” Expenditures for the city’s stormwater program, the release states, have come from the city’s general fund, bonds (Springs Community Improvement Program, or SCIP), grants (FEMA and others), and, for a period of time in the mid-2000s, stormwater program fees collected by the city’s stormwater enterprise, also called the “SWENT.”

“Substantial portions of the city’s stormwater infrastructure have also been constructed by the development community and as part of large transportation projects that have stormwater components,” the release states. “However, stormwater program expenditures historically did not appear in a single comprehensive financial report until now.”

This report highlights more than $240 million spent on stormwater program management and projects in Colorado Springs from 2004 through 2014.

— Colorado Springs General Fund; $40 million

— Stormwater Enterprise (SWENT); $53 million

— Federal/private grants; $13 million

— Colorado Springs Utilities; $36 million

— Private development/PPRTA; $88 million

— COS Airport; $13 million

TOTAL-$243 million

More stormwater coverage here.


Arkansas Basin Water Forum Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas Award winner, Lorenz Sutherland

April 26, 2015
Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A retired federal researcher whose expertise in agriculture, natural resources and water management has helped landowners up and down the Arkansas River was honored Wednesday.

The Arkansas River Basin Water Forum presented the Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas Award to Lorenz Sutherland, who spent 30 years with the Colorado State University Research and Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He retired in 2013.

“This is a humbling experience,” Sutherland said.

He talked about working with the late Bob Appel, who worked for the Southeast Colorado Resource Conservation and Development Council. Appel, along with Sutherland and others, set up the annual Arkansas River basin forums 21 years ago.

Sutherland is still on the board of directors for the forum and still active in research. Last week, he presented a report on salinity studies in the Lower Arkansas River basin to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservation District board.

His earlier work included irrigated crop research, focusing on conservation in the Ogallala Aquifer; wind erosion prediction models; field drainage mapping; and soil management techniques related to crops. He helped establish and maintain the Colorado Agricultural Meteorological Network, which links weather stations in the Lower and Upper Arkansas Valley.

Besides his work along the Arkansas River, Sutherland also contributed to projects involving mountain meadow rehabilitation in Custer County and coal bed methane water quality in Huerfano County. He provided technical assistance to the Arkansas River Watershed Plan, State Engineer’s office and to Farm Bill Programs.


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