The Aspinall Unit operations meeting minutes are hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

February 25, 2015

Aspinall Unit dams

Aspinall Unit dams


Click here to read the minutes from the recent Aspinall Unit Operations meeting.


Pueblo Reservoir winter operations update

February 23, 2015
Pueblo dam releases

Pueblo dam releases

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Water users are playing the annual guessing game of how much water will be in Lake Pueblo when it comes time to ensure enough space is left for flood protection.

While there could be a slight chance for a spill, the Bureau of Reclamation is working with other water interests to reduce the odds.

“The long-term forecast for this spring is for cooler temps and increased precipitation,” said Roy Vaughan, Reclamation’s local manager for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

Right now the reservoir holds about 247,000 acre-feet, and at the current pace of filling would be at 267,000 acre-feet by April 15 — about 10,000 acre-feet above the limit for flood control.

Of the total, nearly 49,000 acre-feet is in “if-and-when,” or excess capacity, accounts subject to spill if there is too much water in Lake Pueblo. Fry-Ark Project water would be the last to spill.

However, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is again seeking a waiver to hold a little more water until May 1, the deadline for releasing about 14,500 acre-feet of holdover water.

At the same time, flows below Pueblo Dam are increasing to balance the winter water program, Division Engineer Steve Witte said.

“That’s not good news for the work that’s going on along the levee,” Witte said.

Some winter water also is stored in John Martin Reservoir, which is very low, or in reservoirs owned by ditch companies. Winter water storage ends March 15 and is running close to the 20-year average for the first time in years.


Arkansas Valley Conduit update: Only $500,000 so far in federal budget, Southeastern Water was hoping for $5.5 million this year

February 20, 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):

Funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit has flatlined in the federal budget. Striking a somber tone, Executive Director Jim Broderick broke the news Thursday to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The district sought $5.5 million for the conduit in fiscal year 2016, but so far only $500,000 is included in a constricted federal budget.

“It’s hard to pinpoint the reason for flatlining,” Broderick said. “But I think this is a short-term problem. … The issue isn’t that we’re dead in the water, we’re just going slow.”

He speculated that the federal Office of Management and Budget frowned on the project because it has not yet begun moving dirt and a general policy that water-quality projects should involve the Environmental Protection Agency.

The conduit progress has been overseen by the Bureau of Reclamation, which shifted funds this year to boost conduit funding to about $3 million. However, there may not be much money available.

Reclamation had a $96 million budget for projects nationwide this year, but allocated $50 million to deal with California drought issues and $30 million to settle claims with American Indian tribes.

District officials are continuing with attempts to encourage reprogramming federal money for the project. In the interim, the district will work closely with state officials to find money and analyze the workflow toward building the conduit.

On a positive note, Broderick said the conduit could move up in the federal pipeline by 2019.

The $400 million conduit would reach 132 miles from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads, and would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities. It was first authorized by Congress as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in 1962.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


USBR: Additional FY 2015 Funding of $96.9 Million Available

February 9, 2015


From the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López today released the spending plan for $96.9 million provided to Reclamation in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015. The funds will go toward Western drought response and rural water projects, among other important activities.
“Reclamation and its partners are confronting a growing gap between supply and demand in river basins throughout the West,” López said. “The funding released today will help us meet immediate needs and support long-term infrastructure and environmental needs of key water projects.”

The funding is divided among six areas:

  • Western drought response ($50 million),
  • rural water projects ($31 million),
  • water conservation and delivery ($8 million),
  • fish passage and fish screens ($4 million),
  • facility operation, maintenance and rehabilitation ($2.9 million),
  • environmental restoration and compliance ($1 million).

Extreme and prolonged drought has gripped major river basins across the West. In many areas, mountain snowpack is far below average for this time of year. The $50 million provided for Western drought response will address seven projects:

  • Central Valley Project, which includes funding for the Delta Division, Friant Division, Shasta Division and water and power operations, California ($19.9 million);
  • WaterSMART Grants, Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program, and Drought Response and Comprehensive Drought Planning ($14 million);
  • Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Response Action Plan, California, Arizona and Nevada ($8.6 million);
    Native American Programs ($4 million);
  • Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, Washington ($2 million);
  • Lewiston Orchards Project, Idaho ($1 million);
  • Carlsbad Project, New Mexico ($500,000).

Reclamation based its Western drought funding on a thorough review at national, regional and program levels, to ensure a balanced approach. In some cases the funding allows Reclamation to accelerate selected projects to meet high-priority needs sooner than it would in absence of the new funding. In other cases it allows Reclamation to respond immediately to many of the West’s most critical drought-related needs.

Reclamation is also advancing the completion of its authorized rural water projects with the goal of delivering potable water to tribal and non-tribal residents within the rural water project areas. A total of $31 million will go toward five projects:

  • Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program – Garrison Diversion Unit, North Dakota ($10.3 million);
  • Rocky Boy’s/North Central Montana Rural Water System, Montana ($6.8 million);
  • Fort Peck Reservation/Dry Prairie Rural Water System, Montana ($6.6 million);
  • Lewis and Clark Rural Water System, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota ($6.6 million);
  • Eastern New Mexico Water Supply, New Mexico ($700,000).

The remaining $15.9 million will go toward nine projects:

  • fish screen and restoration projects in the Central Valley Project, California ($2.5 million);
  • Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project at Cle Elum Dam, Washington ($1.5 million);
  • agricultural water use efficiency projects within the Central Valley Project, California ($5 million);
  • Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program on the Platte River, Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming ($2 million);
  • water conservation projects on Rogue River Basin Project, Oregon ($1 million);
  • water leasing for supplemental water on the Middle Rio Grande ($1 million);
  • rehabilitation work at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery and Keswick Dam Powerplant in the Central Valley Project, California ($1.3 million);
  • renovation of the Olmsted Powerplant, Utah ($1 million);
  • repairs on the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Project, ($650,000).

Visit http://www.usbr.gov/budget/ to view a summary of all the projects in this spending plan.


Climate change will increase irrigation requirements and evaporation in the #ColoradoRiver Basin

February 7, 2015

Lake Mead water levels via NOAA

Lake Mead water levels via NOAA


From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean):

The Colorado River faces a dual threat from climate change as rising temperatures increase the demand for irrigation water and accelerate evaporation at the river’s two largest reservoirs.

So says a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which predicts an 8 percent increase in irrigation demand on the lower half of the Colorado River Basin and a 10 percent increase in evaporation from Lake Mead by 2080.

The upper half of the basin, above Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, is expected to see demand for agricultural water jump by almost 23 percent, while Lake Powell loses 7 percent more water to evaporation than it did during the last half of the 20th century.

The estimates are based on a projected temperature increase of about 5 degrees across the region.

In a statement announcing the report Friday, Reclamation Commissioner Estevan Lopez said the findings will help regulators and stakeholders address the challenges that lie ahead.

“Understanding how climate change will impact crop irrigation demand and reservoir evaporation provides vital information for the development of alternatives and solutions to meet those challenges and support the nation’s economy,” Lopez said.

Agriculture accounts for roughly 80 percent of all the water diverted from the Colorado River, so even a small increase in demand can have a significant impact on the system.

The new report is the latest in a series of region-wide risk assessments looking at the impacts of climate change on water resources in the West.

A previous bureau study predicted a 9 percent decline in the Colorado’s flow by 2050 as a result of climate change…

In all, the Bureau of Reclamation’s new report looks at 12 reservoirs on seven river systems west of the Mississippi. Its outlook is also bleak for the Truckee and Carson Rivers, which supply water to farms and communities in northwestern Nevada, Reno among them.

According to the report, rising temperatures will drive up agricultural demand on the Truckee and the Carson by more than 14 percent over the next 65 years, while evaporation will increase by 14 percent at Lake Tahoe and by 7 percent at Lahontan Reservoir.

The bureau’s projections of future irrigation demand do not account for changing crop patterns or efficiency improvements at farms.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


USBR: Study Reveals Climate Change Impacts on Irrigation Demand and Reservoir Evaporation in the West

February 6, 2015

Hockey Stick based on Mann & Jones 2003

Hockey Stick based on Mann & Jones 2003


Click here for the release:

Reflecting current climate projections for the western United States, a new report issued by the Bureau of Reclamation reveals a projected shift in demand for crop irrigation across eight major river basins. The study evaluated irrigation water requirements for the second half of the 20th century and, as compared to projected demand for the second half of the 21st century, found that net irrigation water requirements in the West may be six percent higher. Another area of study revealed in the report – based on a projected temperature increase of approximately 5 degrees Fahrenheit in the region – estimates that annual evaporation at most of the 12 reservoirs modeled by the study could increase 2 to 6 inches by 2080.

The report on irrigation demand and reservoir evaporation projections is the latest in a series of West-Wide Climate Risk Assessments – analyses of overall impacts from climate change on water resources in the West through the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART Program.

In announcing the report, Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López said the study was an important piece of information about climate change imposing stresses on water resources and will ultimately help inform water planners and stakeholders in confronting future climate-related supply and demand challenges.

“Reclamation and its partners are engaged in critical work to confront a future with increasing disparity between water supply and demand in basins throughout the West,” Commissioner López said. “Understanding how climate change will impact crop irrigation demand and reservoir evaporation provides vital information for the development of alternatives and solutions to meet those challenges and support the nation’s economy.”

Projected future irrigation demands are only estimates and provide a starting point for further analyses and discussions with customers and stakeholders. The results do not account for changing crop patterns and other socioeconomic considerations that are best addressed with stakeholder input within a basin study or other process.

Using climate projections for temperature and precipitation, scientists considered projected irrigation demand in eight major river basins: Colorado, Rio Grande, Sacramento-San Joaquin, Truckee, Columbia, Missouri and Klamath. The water evaporation model was applied to 12 reservoirs in many of those major Reclamation river basins: Lake Powell, Lake Mead, American Falls Reservoir, Lake Roosevelt, Upper Klamath Lake, Canyon Ferry Reservoir, Boysen Reservoir, Elephant Butte Reservoir, Lake Shasta, Millerton Lake, Lake Tahoe and Lahontan Reservoir. This table provides one set of projections of irrigation demand by basin and potential changes in evaporation for the twelve reservoirs when compared to actual figures from 1950 to 1999:

evaportationinwestunderclimatechangeusbr

Scientists utilized climate change data to project alterations in precipitation and temperature and to assess evaporation for 12 reservoirs within those river basins, when considering observed and projected climate change impacts. Precipitation projections are highly variable and basin dependent, and they can vary significantly within individual basins as well.

“Through these studies, Reclamation is highlighting climate change impacts and encouraging a collaborative dialogue on the effective management of our water and power resources,” López said. “Facing the challenge in meeting future irrigation demands is one way we are working to underscore our commitment to a strong agricultural economy and national food security.”

Reclamation’s West-Wide Climate Risk Assessment is part of the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART Program, which focuses on improving water conservation and sustainability, while helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. The report may be found at http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/wcra.


President Obama’s proposed budget includes $1.1 billion to fund Reclamation water projects

February 3, 2015

President Obama at Hoover Dam

President Obama at Hoover Dam


Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation:

President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request released today identifies a total of $1.1 billion for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, continuing the President’s commitment to be prudent with taxpayer dollars while setting consistent spending priorities for Reclamation. The budget would provide robust investments in the safety, reliability and efficiency of America’s water infrastructure and in conservation, reuse and applied science to address the nation’s water supply challenges, especially in the West.
As the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier and second-largest producer of hydroelectric power, Reclamation’s projects and programs are critical to driving and maintaining economic growth in the western States.

“President Obama’s budget for Reclamation reflects a strong commitment to our ongoing mission of effectively managing water and power in the West,” Commissioner Estevan López said. “Reclamation and its partners provide water and clean hydropower for communities across 17 states. With the resources provided in this budget blueprint, we can continue to be an engine of progress across multiple sectors of the western U.S. economy.”

The proposal for Reclamation’s Water and Related Resources account of $805.2 million includes $367.4 million for resource management and development activities. This funding provides for planning, construction, water conservation activities, management of Reclamation lands—including recreation— and actions to address the impacts of Reclamation projects on fish and wildlife. The request also emphasizes reliable water delivery and power generation by requesting $437.7 million to fund operation, maintenance and rehabilitation activities at Reclamation facilities, including dam safety.

The budget emphasizes Reclamation’s core mission to address the water demands of a growing population in an environmentally responsible and cost-efficient manner; and to assist states, tribes and local entities in solving water resource issues. It also emphasizes the operation and maintenance of Reclamation facilities in a safe, efficient, economic and reliable manner—ensuring systems and safety measures are in place to protect the public and Reclamation facilities.

Reclamation’s funding request addresses Administration, Interior, and Reclamation priorities. The budget supports water rights settlements to ensure sufficient resources to address the requirements of legislation passed by Congress to settle litigation. The request includes increases for specific Indian water rights settlements that support the goal of strengthening tribal nations.

The FY 2016 budget proposal also balances needs for climate variability adaptation, water conservation, improving infrastructure, sound science to support critical decision making and ecosystem restoration.

Reclamation’s challenges – The extreme and prolonged drought facing the West affects major U.S. river basins in virtually every western state. The effects of the current drought on California water, its agricultural economy and its communities are topics of nationwide concern and extensive media coverage. The Colorado River Basin—crucial for seven states and several Tribes, in addition to two countries—is also enduring historic drought. About 33 million people rely on the Colorado River for some, if not all, of their municipal needs.

Reclamation’s dams, water conveyances and power generating facilities are critical components of the Nation’s infrastructure. Protecting and extending the lives of these structures are among the many significant challenges facing Reclamation over the next several years and beyond. They present major hurdles to achieving progress on water supply confidence, sustainability and resiliency. Reclamation’s water and power projects and activities throughout the western United States are a foundation for essential and safe water supplies, provide renewable hydropower energy and sustain ecosystems that support fish and wildlife, recreation and rural economies. Climate variability and competing demands are increasingly affecting already-strained systems. The Bureau of Reclamation’s FY 2016 budget addresses these challenges and reflects a very deliberate approach to accommodating mission priorities.

WaterSMART Program – The President’s proposed budget for Reclamation calls for $58.1 million for the WaterSMART Program – Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow — to assist communities in optimizing the use of water supplies by improving water management. The WaterSMART Program components include: WaterSMART Grants funded at $23.4 million; the Basin Studies Program, $5.2 million; the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program, $20.0 million; the Water Conservation Field Service program, $4.2 million; the Cooperative Watershed Management program, $250,000; the Drought Response program $2.5 million; and the Resilient Infrastructure program, $2.5 million.

Strengthening tribal nations – To meet trust and treaty obligations, Reclamation’s budget request makes Indian water rights settlements among the highest priorities. The FY 2016 budget proposes $112.5 million for a new account entitled Indian Water Rights Settlements to ensure continuity in the construction of four of the authorized projects and to highlight and enhance transparency in handling these funds. The budget includes $89.7 million for the ongoing Navajo-Gallop Water Supply Project (Title X of Public Law 11-11) as well as $22.8 million to continue implementation of three settlements authorized in the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. These settlements will deliver clean water to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, the Taos Pueblo of New Mexico, the Pueblos of Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonsi & Tesuque in New Mexico named in the Aamodt case and the Crow Tribe of Montana.

Specifics of the budget request include:

America’s Great Outdoors Initiative – Reclamation has a responsibility to focus on the protection and restoration of the aquatic and riparian environments affected by its operations. Highlights of Reclamation’s ecosystem restoration activities, many of which support Endangered Species Act (ESA) recovery programs, include:

$16.7 million is for the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program to provide long-term Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance for river operations.

$24.4 million for ESA recovery implementation programs, including $17.5 million to implement the Platte River Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program and $4.4 million for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Programs. $6.8 million of the $18.0 million Klamath Project supports wildlife refuge and environmental needs, the remainder supports studies and initiatives to improve water supplies to meet the competing demands of agricultural and tribal and facilities operations and maintenance activities.

$37.0 million for the California Bay-Delta Restoration, equal to the FY 2015 budget. The account focuses on the health of the Bay-Delta ecosystem and improving water management and supplies. The budget will support the co-equal goals of environmental restoration and improved water supply reliability, under the following program activities: $1.7 million for a Renewed Federal State Partnership, $7.2 million for Smarter Water Supply and Use, and $28.1 million for Habitat Restoration. These program activities are based on the Interim Federal Action Plan for the California Bay-Delta issued December 22, 2009.

$49.5 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund to continue funding a variety of activities to restore fish and wildlife habitat and populations in the CVP service area of California.

Within California’s Central Valley Project (CVP), $11.9 million and an additional $1.5 million in the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund are for the Trinity River Restoration program.

$9.5 million, as part of the Middle Rio Grande Project budget, targeted to support environmental activities developed through an Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program.

$18.0 million for the Columbia and Snake River Salmon Recovery Project for implementation of the biological opinions for the Federal Columbia River Power System.

Other project highlights –

$123.0 million to operate, manage, and improve CVP. More than one-half of that amount provides for operation and maintenance of project facilities, including $20.3 million for the Replacements, Additions, and Extraordinary Maintenance program which provides for modernization, upgrade, and refurbishment of facilities throughout the Central Valley. The remainder supports studies and initiatives to improve water supplies and environmental needs.

$36.5 million for rural water projects to undertake the design and construction of five projects and operation and maintenance of tribal features for two projects intended to deliver potable water supplies to specific rural communities and tribes located primarily in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.

$12.8 million for the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, which will continue funding grants to implement conservation measures and monitor the effects of those measures on the river diversions. Funding is also included to continue construction on fish passage facilities at Cle Elum dam.

$88.1 million for the Dam Safety Program to continue dam safety risk management and risk reduction activities throughout Reclamation’s inventory of dams. Corrective actions are planned to start or will continue at a number of facilities. A focus continues to be modifications at Folsom Dam (California).

$26.2 million for site security to continue Reclamation’s ongoing site-security program, which includes physical security upgrades at key facilities, guards and patrols, anti-terrorism program activities and security risk assessments.

The Bureau of Reclamation, throughout the 17 western states, is committed to helping meet the many water challenges of the West. A driving force behind bureau initiatives is resolution of water issues that will benefit future generations and providing leadership on the path to sustainable water supplies.


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