Silverthorne: Developer donates 1.833 cfs diversion right to the town

Silverthorne via City-Data.com.
Silverthorne via City-Data.com.

From the Summit Daily News (Elise Reuter):

Local developer Gary Miller donated a total of 1.833 cubic-feet-per-second (cfs) in water rights to the town, the rough equivalent of 13.71 gallons per second, or 1,185,000 gallons per day.

Sawmill Gulch is diverted from Willow Creek, within the Eagles Nest Wilderness, Linfield said. The diversion, appropriated in 1918, was originally intended for irrigation.

“I’ve owned this water for a long time,” Miller said. “I think the town of Silverthorne has done such a great job. I thought, ‘I’ve got the water; they’ve got a lot of people moving into the town.’ I thought the best thing for me to do was to give it to them.”

[…]

Though the town has not assessed the value of the water rights, the fact that they are dated before the Colorado River Compact adds inherent value. An agreement formed in 1922 among seven U.S. states in the Colorado River Basin, the Colorado River Compact allocates water rights between the states.

“Water with earlier dates is not subject to that compact and the rules related to water use within the Colorado River Basin, including the Blue River Basin,” Linfield said.

Since the water remains untapped, the town would put in the necessary infrastructure once an appropriate use is determined.

“The town of Silverthorne has millions of dollars invested in our water rights portfolio and we work diligently to manage and maintain those rights,” Linfield said. “While we feel our water portfolio is strong, we are always looking for ways to improve and protect this valuable resource.”

#ColoradoRiver: Gov. Hickenlooper endorses Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — @DenverWater #COriver

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has officially endorsed Denver Water’s proposed Gross Reservoir Expansion Project as a model for achieving a balanced approach to environmental protection and water supply development through an inclusive and collaborative public process.

The endorsement follows the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s issuance of a Section 401 Water Quality Certification on June 23, 2016, which ensures compliance with state water quality standards. The certification confirms that Denver Water’s commitment to extensive mitigation and enhancement measures for the project will result in a net environmental benefit.

“The state’s responsibility is to ensure we do the right thing for Colorado’s future, and this project is vital infrastructure for our economy and the environment,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “The partnerships and collaboration between Denver Water, the West Slope and conservation organizations associated with this project are just what the Colorado Water Plan is all about.”

The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — also known as the Moffat Collection System Project — will strengthen Denver Water’s system against drought and climate change by nearly tripling the capacity of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County.

“Colorado is a growing and dynamic state,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. “Denver Water has the critical responsibility to sustain over 25 percent of the state’s population and the majority of our economy for decades to come.”

Since 2003, Denver Water has been involved in federal, state and local permitting processes to evaluate the proposed project and develop ways to not only mitigate identified impacts, but also to enhance the aquatic environment and the economy of Colorado. The 401 certification — one of the major regulatory requirements — recognizes and builds upon other existing Denver Water agreements such as the landmark Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, Learning by Doing cooperative effort and the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan.

“The Denver metropolitan area is tied to the economic and environmental health of the rest of the state, and Denver Water is committed to undertake this project in a way that enhances Colorado’s values,” said Lochhead.

Denver Water expects to secure all of the major permits for the project by the end of 2017. The estimated cost of the project is about $380 million, which includes design, management, permitting, mitigation and construction.

Visit http://grossreservoir.org to read more about the project and http://denverwaterblog.org for videos with voices from a few of the many project supporters including, Gov. Hickenlooper, Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Here’s a post from Brent Gardner-Smith (Aspen Journalism) dealing with the subject but with a West Slope angle.

#ColoradoRiver: Green Mountain Reservoir operations update #COriver

Green Mountain Dam via USBR.
Green Mountain Dam via USBR.

From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Green Mountain Reservoir is planned to reach maximum fill on July 5. On June 29, Green Mountain Reservoir had 1.4 ft of remaining capacity. Releases to the Blue River are forecasted to stay between 800 and 900 cfs. The current weather forecast has extensive precipitation in the region. If Green Mountain Reservoir was to fill early due to the precipitation, releases from Green Mountain could change rapidly. Once full Green Mountain Reservoir will need to pass all inflow to maintain a safe water surface elevation.

You can check the reservoir elevation at http://www.usbr.gov/gp-bin/arcweb_gmtr.pl.

Researchers following water flow out of toxic Breckenridge mine — The Summit Daily News

Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort
Breckenridge circa 1913 via Breckenridge Resort

From The Summit Daily News:

The team is injecting fluorescent, non-toxic, green dye into water that flows into the collapsed mine shaft on Illinois Gulch Road above Breckenridge. They’re then observing and sampling the water downstream to see how much of the water filters through the mine and emerges on the other side. The hill has been mined all the way through and is rife with tailings and collapsed mine shafts. Contaminated water — a toxic tangerine from heavy iron — trickles out of the mine openings and along the ground, staining the dirt and rocks in its path.

“Basically, the study is to figure out how the water is draining from the mine sites,” said Katherine Jenkins of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A group of partner agencies is managing this several dayslong water tracer study at the Puzzle Willard Mine. The Illinois Gulch Tracer Study — led by Colorado Department of Natural Resources Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety and assisted by the Colorado Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service — is being conducted to trace the path of water flowing in creeks down Boreas Pass through the mine and out three adits, or openings.

At each of the adits downstream, there is an automated sampler that tests for traces of the dye every few hours. After the injection of the dye into the mine site on Monday morning, the team will spend the next 7-10 days testing the water on the other side of the mine for traces of the dye, to see whether the contaminated water was making its way into the surface water in the Illinois Gulch drainage.

Peter Stevenson, of the EPA, explained that the mine runoff presents no danger to the drinking water of Breckenridge residents. He said the water sources for the town are located in other drainages, and everyone who lives up near Illinois Gulch Road uses Breckenridge water. However, a small amount of this water could make its way to Lake Dillon. The stream that runs through the mine is the headwaters of Iron Springs, which feeds into Blue River and then the lake.

At this point in the process, the investigation is intended to establish a baseline of the water quality at the site and then use the data to determine what further steps must be taken.

“After we figure out where the water goes, then we’re going to come together with all of our partners and try to figure out what the next step is,” said Jean Wyatt of the EPA. “We’ve done fish studies, we’ve done macro-invertebrate studies and we’re still compiling all that data,”

When the amount of water that is actually running through the mine is found, the group can assess the situation and determine whether steps need to be taken and, if so, what the best method is for preventing the water from reaching the metals in the mine.

“We have a lot of sampling data from over the years. We need to compile it and review it and look at it. This is a piece of a multi-year assessment,” said Stevenson.

The research team is leaving all its options for mitigation open until this assessment is complete, but they do have an expectation of what may happen to the mine tailings in the area that are not sitting in the drainage water.

“Ultimately, I would expect this to get shaped and capped somewhere nearby,” said Stevenson

Video: State of the River | May 4, 2016 | Silverthorne Pavilion

#ColoradoRiver: “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth, there are only crew members” — Troy Wineland

Colorado River Basin, USBR May 2015
Colorado River Basin, USBR May 2015

From The Summit Daily News (Kevin Fixler):

The major water bodies around Summit County and throughout most of the state are in strong shape after a slightly above-average winter season. However, the region is far from out of the woods on the matter of water in the West.

That was the thrust of speakers at Summit’s 23rd annual State of the River meeting on Wednesday evening, May 4 at the Silverthorne Pavilion — the first of six such meetings along the Colorado River Basin. With the Western Slope encompassing an average of 28 percent of the state’s water and spanning 15 counties, including Summit, this meeting of water wonks often sets the tone on consumption strategy and planning for rest of the year.

“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth,” Troy Wineland, Summit County’s water commissioner, told the congested room, “there are only crewmembers. We’re all in this together.”

Wineland stressed that despite snowpack totals currently at about 115 percent of average above Dillon Reservoir — and with peak flows still to come around the first or second week of June once meltoff takes hold — circumstances are not as favorable. Other states in the country that also primarily rely on the Colorado River remain at near-critical shortages.

“While things are nice and rosy and wet and looking great here in the county,” he said, “you look throughout the entire Colorado river basin … not quite as rosy. The Lower Basin states right now are facing some very serious problems with access to water and need.”

[…]

WATER WAYS

Both Wineland and Denver Water’s Bob Steger were sure to discuss the present levels at Lake Powell during their respective presentations. Each noted how vital the resource is to every state along the Colorado Basin, even though water has already passed by many of them to arrive to Powell.

Aside from Powell functioning as the chief water supply for drinking, crop irrigation and recreation for 30-to-40 million residents in the region, the Glen Canyon Dam there also provides hydroelectric power. Besides contractual obligations of an annual average of 7.5 million acre-feet at Powell through that basin compact, of course, when water there gets below necessary levels, that has an impact back up to the Upper Basin states with increased electrical bills…

“(Lake Powell) is our bank account against accounts payable to the Lower Basin states,” re-iterated Wineland. “We’re probably within 20 feet of the critical threshold, at which point, Arizona and Nevada are going to have to make some hard decisions and really cut back on their water use.”

CHAMPIONING CONSERVATION

Despite the challenges even in what seems a healthy water year locally, all hope is not lost. The overall tenor of the meeting was mostly positive, with emphasis on how collaborative efforts across Colorado, as well as through such multi-state interdependence and agreements, proper attention on this limited resource is increasing.

Steger, Denver Water’s manager of raw water supply, brought encouraging news that the water from snowpack averages just a couple days ago are not only well above both the 20-year average on Dillon Reservoir (14.6 inches), but also ahead of 2015 (16.5 inches) as well. Current measures are 19.5 inches from this winter’s snowfalls.

On top of that, snowpacks on the South Platte River are also above normal for this time of year. That means Denver Water can most likely avoid pulling much water from Dillon Reservoir through one of its primary transmountain water diversion, Roberts Tunnel, this season for the South Platte and Denver’s consumption needs.

In fact, if that happens, that will continue a beneficial trend where 2014 and 2015 were actually the two lowest years within a 50-plus-year span for how much water has had to be removed from Dillon Reservoir through Roberts for the Platte and North Fork rivers.

“I attribute that partly to Mother Nature,” explained Steger to the audience, “because we’ve had good water supplies on the South Platte, but also our customers are doing a better and better job every year I think of conserving water. When our Eastern Slope supplies are good, that means we don’t have to take as much water from the Western Slope to the other side of the divide. That indirectly helps Lake Powell.”

Wineland also discussed how momentous the unveiling of Colorado’s statewide water plan — years in the making — in November is for the general conservation movement. To boot, regional endeavors like the recent $32,000 Colorado Water Conservation Board grant awarded to the Frisco-based High Country Conservation Center (HC3) for development and execution of a countywide water efficiency program are additional steps in the right direction. His parting words were of encouragement and optimism for the Colorado River Basin’s future.

“I just want to bring it back to the bigger picture,” he said. “We have leaders who are putting forth all this legislation and these cooperative efforts. But what we’re lacking are champions, and those champions, really, are you and I — everyone in this room. We need to take this legislation and work to the next level and implement these changes.”

#ColoradoRiver District — State of the River: Summit County, May 4 #COriver

Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey
Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

From the Colorado River Water Conservation District:

TIME: (Wednesday) 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm

LOCATION: Silverthorne Pavilion, 400 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, CO

ORGANIZER: Blue River Watershed Group & Colorado River District 970-945-8522