Aspinall Unit Operation Coordination Meeting, April 24 #ColoradoRiver

April 23, 2014

Apr 2014 Agenda


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.


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.


Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 710 cfs in the Blue River below the dam #ColoradoRiver

April 13, 2014

greenmountainreservoir

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Currently, we are releasing about 710 cfs from the dam to the Lower Blue River. The reservoir is at a water level elevation of about 7890 feet–that’s roughly 60 feet below full, or roughly 38% of its total content.

You will see the reservoir water elevation continue to drop for about another month. The current snowpack above the Blue River Basin is around 140% of average for this time of year. I’ve been asked how this compares to snowpack numbers for the 2011 season on the Blue River. In 2011 in April we were closer to 150%. We continue to keep an eye on the snowpack conditions, fluctuating inflows, and the water level elevation and adjusting releases as necessary. It is likely the 710 cfs release rate will remain in place well into next week.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Seasonal fill for Horestooth and Carter underway #ColoradoRiver

April 13, 2014
Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We are in the process of filling both Horsetooth and Carter Lake. Currently, Horsetooth is roughly 80% full at an elevation of 5414 feet above sea level. This is its average water elevation high mark for the beginning of the summer season in a typical year. But, this is not a typical water year and Horsetooth’s water elevation is projected to continue going up.

Similarly, Carter Lake is 90% full at a water level elevation of about 5749 feet. Like Horsetooth, it is projected to continue filling. At this time, we are anticipating Carter will fill, hitting its highest water level elevation for the season by mid-May. Horsetooth will likely hit its highest water level elevation for the season by late June.


Northern Water board sets C-BT quota to 60% #ColoradoRiver

April 11, 2014
Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR

Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

Northern Water, which manages water stored throughout a massive system of linked reservoirs in Northern Colorado, set its annual water quota at 60 percent, despite customer requests to receive 70 percent of their full potential water allotment.

Since 1957, Northern Water has issued the water quotas, which dictate the amount of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects that will flow to cities, industrial complexes and farmers in Northern Colorado. The city of Fort Collins typically gets half of its water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, and has been particularly dependent on the system after High Park Fire debris polluted the Poudre River.

Fort Collins was among customers who lobbied Northern Water for a 70 percent quota on Wednesday, during a stakeholders meeting held to discuss this year’s quota. Despite those requests, Water Resources Manager Andy Pineda recommended that Northern Water’s board opt for a 60 percent quota.

A few factors went into Pineda’s recommendation, including Colorado’s above-average snowpack, high reservoir levels, and the general absence of drought in Northern Colorado. Spring runoff this year is expected to release an extra 100,000 acre feet of water down area streams and rivers, which should limit the region’s need for supplemental water from the Colorado-Big Thompson.

Pineda’s opinion was not shared by all. A few farmers asked the board for a 70-100 percent quota to help them plan for the growing season. Fort Collins wanted 70 percent to help offset troubles with Poudre River water quality. There is also a chance that Lake Granby reservoir will spill over this June, and a few stakeholders were concerned that water would be wasted with a reduced quota.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project 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.


The Spring 2014 Water Information Program newsletter is hot off the presses

March 31, 2014
US Drought Monitor March 25, 2014

US Drought Monitor March 25, 2014

Click here to read the newsletter.


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.


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.


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.


Aspinall Unit update: 350 cfs in the Black Canyon #ColoradoRiver

March 17, 2014
Fog-filled Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Fog-filled Black Canyon of the Gunnison

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Flows in the Gunnison River have dropped to ~350 cfs today to accommodate the sonar mapping exercise at the Crystal Dam stilling basin.

Maintenance and testing of both power generators at Blue Mesa Dam will also start today – this is scheduled to be finished within 10 days. During this time there will be no power generation at Blue Mesa Dam. In order to minimize the amount of bypass water at Blue Mesa Dam, releases at Crystal Dam will remain at 300 cfs until the Blue Mesa power plant is back online. Therefore flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will continue to be around 350 cfs until further notice.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


President’s $1 Billion Reclamation Budget for FY 2015 Underscores Water & Power as Economic Drivers in the West

March 17, 2014
A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam -- Photo USBR

A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam — Photo USBR

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan DuBray):

President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request released today identifies a total of $1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation, continuing the President’s commitment to be prudent with taxpayer dollars while setting consistent spending priorities for Reclamation. 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.

“This budget reflects not only the President’s vision of opportunity and growth but also his strong commitment to meet water delivery requirements in the West in the face of dry conditions and a changing climate,” said acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley. “With this request, we are reinforcing our commitment to promote efficient water deliveries and power generation, implement critical river and environmental restoration programs, continue our focus on water-related activities to support tribal nations, and stretch water supplies through recycling and conservation.”

The proposal for Reclamation’s Water and Related Resources account of $760.7 million includes $343.5 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 $417.2 million to fund operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation activities at Reclamation facilities, including dam safety initiatives.

The budget emphasizes Reclamation’s core mission to address the water needs 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, departmental and bureau priorities, including opportunities to enhance America’s Great Outdoors through ecosystem restoration, renewable energy, water conservation through the WaterSMART Program, to strengthen tribal nations, and engage the next generation of Americans in resource-related issues.

WaterSMART Program – The FY 2015 budget for Reclamation proposes $52.1 million for the WaterSMART Program (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) to assist communities in stretching water supplies and improving water management. WaterSMART components include: WaterSMART Grants funded at $19 million; the Basin Studies Program funded at $3.9 million; the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program funded at $21.5 million; the Water Conservation Field Service program funded at $4.5 million; the Cooperative Watershed Management program funded at $250,000; the new Drought Response program funded at $1.5 million; and the new Resilient Infrastructure program funded at $1.5 million.

Strengthening Tribal Nations – The FY 2015 Budget proposes $90 million for Indian Water Rights Settlements, in a new account of the same name 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 $81 million for the ongoing Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project (Title X of Public Law 111-11). The budget also includes $9 million to continue implementation of three settlements authorized in the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. These settlements will deliver clean water to the Taos Pueblo of New Mexico, the Pueblos of New Mexico named in the Aamodt case, and the Crow Tribe of Montana.

The budget request proposes to transition the Central Utah Project Completion Act Program into the Bureau of Reclamation as part of broader administration efforts to implement good government solutions, ensure consistent treatment of federal water projects, consolidate activities when possible and reduce duplication and overlap. The FY 2015 CUPCA budget is $7.3 million.

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. The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative includes $116 million for Reclamation river restoration projects. Highlights of Reclamation’s ecosystem restoration activities, many of which support Endangered Species Act recovery programs, include:

  • $118.6 million to operate, manage and improve California’s Central Valley Project. More than half of the funding provides for operation and maintenance of project facilities, including $16.4 million for the Replacements, Additions and Extraordinary Maintenance program – which is used for modernization, upgrade and refurbishment of facilities throughout the Central Valley. Within the CVP total, $11.9 million and an additional $2 million in the CVP Restoration Fund are for the Trinity River Restoration Program.
  • $28.3 million for the Lower Colorado River Operations Program, of which $16.2 million is for the Multi-Species Conservation Program to provide long-term ESA compliance for river operations.
  • $32 million for activities consistent with the settlement of Natural Resources Defense Council v. Rodgers as authorized by the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act to restore and maintain fish populations, and avoid adverse water impacts.
  • $22.7 million for ESA recovery implementation programs, including $15.1 million to implement the Platte River Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program and $5.1 million for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.
  • $18 million for the Klamath Project, which supports studies and initiatives to improve water supplies to meet the competing demands of agricultural, tribal, wildlife refuge and environmental needs along with facilities operations and maintenance activities.
  • $37 million for California Bay-Delta Restoration. The account focuses on the health of the Bay-Delta ecosystem and improving water management and supplies. The budget will support the coequal goals of environmental restoration and improved water supply reliability under the following program activities: $1.7 million for a Renewed Federal State Partnership, $8 million for Smarter Water Supply and Use, and $27.4 million for Habitat Restoration. These program activities are based on the Interim Federal Action Plan for the California Bay-Delta issued December 22, 2009.
  • $57 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund to continue funding a variety of activities to restore fish and wildlife habitat and populations within the CVP service area of California.
  • $22.7 million for the Middle Rio Grande Project, of which $7.9 million is targeted to support environmental activities developed through the Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program.
  • $17 million for the Columbia and Snake River Salmon Recovery Project for implementation of the biological opinions for the Federal Columbia River Power System.
  • Other Budget Highlights Include:

  • $34.1 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.
  • A total of $11 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.
  • $82.9 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 continue at a number of facilities. A major focus continues to be modifications at Folsom Dam in California.
  • $26.2 million for Reclamation’s ongoing site-security program that 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.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.


    Jennifer Gimbel named Reclamation Dep. Commissioner for External & Intergovernmental Affairs

    March 12, 2014

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan DuBray):

    Bureau of Reclamation acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley announced Jennifer Gimbel has been named Reclamation’s Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs. “An important component of carrying out Reclamation’s mission is working with its customers, stakeholders and the public,” said Acting Commissioner Pimley. “Jennifer’s experience working in the water community at the state, regional and federal level will be a valuable asset as we continue to work alongside our partners in the West to confront widening imbalances between water supply and demand.”

    As Deputy Commissioner, Gimbel will oversee Reclamation’s congressional, legislative and public affairs activities. She will also be the executive responsible for Reclamation’s national relationships with federal, state and local governments, as well as citizen organizations and other nongovernmental groups.

    Gimbel returns to Reclamation after serving as Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior where she focused on legislative and legal matters, concentrating on issues regarding the Rio Grande, Salton Sea, California Bay Delta, and the Clean Water Act.

    She came to Interior in 2013 after serving five years as Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board which is the water policy agency for the State of Colorado. As Director, she carried out policies and directives of a citizen board and the administration relating to the conservation, development and utilization of the state’s water resources. She represented Colorado in several interstate activities, including being the Governor’s representative on the Colorado River and as one of his appointees to the Western States Water Council.

    Gimbel previously worked at Reclamation from 2001 until 2008 on a variety of policy and program issues including serving as Chair of the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Working Group. Program areas included operation and maintenance, deferred maintenance, the Water Conservation Field Services Program, drought, hazardous waste, invasive species, water management and planning, and other issues.

    Gimbel’s career also includes experience with the Colorado Attorney General’s office and the Wyoming Attorney General office, where she advised and represented the Attorney General and other state officials regarding interstate water matters, water law and administrative law.

    She has a Bachelor of Science and Juris Doctorate from the University of Wyoming and a Master of Science from the University of Delaware.

    Congratulations Jennifer from all of us here at Coyote Gulch.


    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.


    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 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.


    Senator Udall introduces bill to raise the authorization cap on Reclamation’s WaterSMART program

    March 4, 2014

    scada
    From The Durango Herald (Katie Fiegenbaum):

    One federal program implemented through the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water management, has been providing water-sustainability grants to states, tribes, local governments and nongovernmental organizations since 2010. The WaterSMART program, which stands for Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow, provides grants as well as resources and expertise in 17 Western states.

    However, the program is authorized to spend only $200 million on the grants. Without raising the funding cap, the program will end in the near future.

    A bill introduced Feb. 12 to the Senate and co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., would raise the authorization ceiling for the water-conservation grants through 2023. Funds still would need to be requested through the normal budgetary process.

    “Population growth and widespread drought are forcing us to do more with less water. Now more than ever, it’s essential that we make every drop count,” Udall said in a statement last week. “These programs are helping our communities develop the technology we need to conserve water, save energy and cut costs.”

    The program has saved 734,000 acre-feet of water per year since 2010. One acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons of water and will supply slightly more than two single-family households for a year.

    Dean Marrone, WaterSMART program coordinator, says the program consistently has too little funding for the number of applications it receives. It provides 50-50 cost-share grants, meaning half the money for the project must be provided by the organization requesting funds, mainly to upgrade water infrastructure…

    Southwest Colorado has seen a fair amount of WaterSMART projects.

    In 2013, the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association received a $38,758 grant through the program for head-gate automation, remote monitoring and other upgrades.

    Steve Fletcher, manager of the association, applied for the grant to modernize its water system and make it more efficient using updated technology. Fletcher said he already has applied for another grant this year that would provide $850,000 for hydroelectricity projects.

    The Dolores Water Conservancy District received $118,351 through the program to line its leaking clay canals and restore total efficiency to the water delivery system in 2010. It also recently received a $25,000 cost-share grant to help update its strategic plan and guide its work for the next five to 10 years…

    The bill currently is in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, on which Udall serves. A hearing was held Thursday before the Water and Power Subcommittee, where Robert Quint, senior adviser for the Bureau of Reclamation, spoke about the importance of the project…

    Under the bill, the WaterSMART program also would be reauthorized to provide grants to state water resource agencies to continue to develop a National Water Census through the U.S. Geological Survey. This authority expired in 2013.

    The program also pays for studies of major rivers that provide information about future water availability and recommendations for the future. A Colorado River Basin study was completed at the end of 2012.

    The bill also makes sure the WaterSMART program will prioritize projects that prevent and combat drought.

    More infrastructure 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.


    Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Aaron Million still has his eye on the prize #ColoradoRiver

    March 2, 2014
    Conceptual route for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline -- Graphic via Earth Justice

    Conceptual route for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline — Graphic via Earth Justice

    From the Green River Star (David Martin):

    The Aaron Million water project continues on in the form of a request to the Bureau of the Interior. Million’s request, as published in the Federal Register Feb. 12, calls for a standby contract for the annual reservation of 165,000 care-feet of municipal and industrial water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir for a transbasin diversion project…

    Mayor Hank Castillon, who is a member of Communities Protecting the Green, said he isn’t sure what Million’s plans are with this latest move. Citing his previous denials from the Army Corp of Engineers and FERC, Castillon said the amount Million wants to use has dropped from the initial 250,000 acre feet of water his project would require. Castillon said he expects a battle to occur between the eastern and western sides of the continental divide. Castillon is aware Cheyenne and other cities in eastern Wyoming need water, along with locations in northern Colorado. The problem they need to address, according to Castillon, is the fact that the water isn’t available…

    The Sweetwater County Commissioners commented on Million’s proposal Tuesday, voicing their opposition to the idea. Commissioner Wally Johnson said the transfer of water to Colorado isn’t in Sweetwater County’s best interest, saying “it doesn’t matter if it’s Mr. Million or Mr. Disney” making the proposal. Commissioner John Kolb also voiced his opposition, saying opposition to the idea is unanimous between Gov. Matt Mead, the Wyoming County Commissioners Association and the commissioners themselves.

    “I’d like to see us not wasting our time on crazy, hare-brained schemes,” Kolb said. “(Transbasin water diversion) doesn’t work.”

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


    California plans to drop their total banked storage in Lake Mead this year #ColoradoRiver

    March 2, 2014
    Drought Affected Lake Mead via the Mountain Town News

    Drought Affected Lake Mead via the Mountain Town News

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

    California’s largest municipal water supply agency, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, took about 80,000 acre-feet from its water savings account in the lake last year. Now the agency is contemplating a withdrawal at least twice that size, enough to cause the surface of the massive reservoir to drop two feet and the shoreline to recede by as much as 60 feet.

    “Things are so bad in California, unless it starts raining like crazy we are probably going to take another 150,000 to 200,000 acre-feet this year,” said Bill Hasencamp, Metropolitan’s manager of Colorado River resources.

    The withdrawal is on top of the roughly 1 million acre-feet of water the agency already gets each year from California’s total annual allotment of 4.4 million acre-feet from the Colorado River…

    Metropolitan deposited the water, so Metropolitan has every right to withdraw it, said J.C. Davis, spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

    “The people making an issue of this only see the negative, because water is being taken out,” he said. “But if Met hadn’t banked it in the first place, that water wouldn’t be there.”

    Without the water stored in Lake Mead so far by California, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico, Davis said, the surface of the reservoir formed by Hoover Dam would be at least 10 feet lower than it is right now…

    Nevada, California and Arizona won the right to store unused Colorado River water in Lake Mead as part of an interstate agreement enacted in 2007.

    Mexico started banking water in the lake a few years later, after a major earthquake in April 2010 damaged canals and pipelines that country uses to divert water from the Colorado south of the border. A treaty amendment struck in 2012 expanded Mexico’s ability to store water in the reservoir.

    There are restrictions on how much of the banked water, officially known as Intentionally Created Surplus, can be taken out in a single year. California’s annual withdrawals are capped at 400,000 acre-feet, Nevada’s at 300,000 acre-feet. The bank cannot be tapped during a declared shortage on the river or if federal officials determine that a withdrawal would tip the river into shortage.

    All Intentionally Created Surplus accounts are subject to a 3 percent reduction each year — call it a bank fee — to account for evaporation.

    Since the program began, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has socked away some 540,000 acre-feet and used about 16,000 acre-feet, leaving it with the largest bank account right now. Metropolitan has stored more water than the authority, but Southern California has withdrawn more of its water…

    The surface of the lake has fallen more than 100 feet over the past 12 years amid persistent drought on the overtaxed Colorado River. If the lake level drops another 35 feet, it will trigger the first federal shortage declaration and force Arizona and Nevada to trim their use of river water. If the lake drops 60 feet, the authority will lose the use of one of two intake pipes that supply the Las Vegas Valley with nearly all of its water.

    Current projections by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation call for Lake Mead to shrink by 20 feet by the end of the year and 30 feet by April 2015, when it could hit a record low. For now, though, the lake is expected to hover just above the trigger point for a federal shortage at least through January 2016.

    In other words, just a few extra feet of water in Lake Mead could make a big difference.

    Even so, Davis said Southern Nevada officials have made no effort to dissuade their counterparts in California from making a withdrawal from the water bank.

    “It’s for a rainy day, or rather a non-rainy day,” he said. “If you want to create a banking system and you want people to participate in it, you can’t admonish them every time they make a withdrawal. That’s the whole point of a banking system: to give people the flexibility to take the water when they need it.”[...]

    Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January, and Met’s board of directors followed that last month by issuing a water supply alert to spur conservation ahead of possible mandatory water-use restrictions.

    Conditions have been so bad that Met won’t be allowed to take any water this year from the State Water Project that links Southern California to rivers and lakes some 500 miles to the north.

    “We are relying heavily on the Colorado River,” Hasencamp said.

    Met, as his agency is commonly known, supplies about half of the water used by 19 million Southern California residents. It serves 26 member utilities in six counties spanning an area that stretches from the Mexican border to Oxnard, north of Los Angeles, and from the coast to the Inland Empire.

    Agency spokesman Bob Muir said Met currently has about 2.4 million acre-feet of water stored in “various accounts,” enough to meet its demand for a little more than one year.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Reclamation issues record of decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit

    March 1, 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 U.S. senators hailed the federal record of decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit this week, calling it a major milestone to bringing clean drinking water to communities in Southern Colorado.

    The record of decision affirms the choice of the North Comanche route for the pipeline, as well as setting up a master contract for storage of nearly 30,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Pueblo. It also sets the path for a cross-connection at Pueblo Dam that eventually will link the north and south outlets.

    Construction of the conduit, which could cost up to $400 million, still requires funding from Congress. When completed, it will provide water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.

    “Colorado knows well that water is an extremely precious resource, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit will help ensure families in Southeastern Colorado have access to a safe and healthy water supply,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. “Today’s announcement couldn’t be more important to southeast Colorado, and it demonstrates the Interior Department’s commitment to getting this project done.”

    “This project, the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, will help strengthen Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout Southeastern Colorado,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. “Water is our most valuable resource in Colorado, and we need to make every drop count.”

    Bennet and Udall have led efforts to secure resources and move forward with the construction of the Conduit. In addition to advocating for quick approval of the EIS, the senators have written to the Department of Interior to provide adequate resources for construction of the Conduit in future federal budgets.

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado.

    Bennet and Udall worked together to enact legislation in 2009 authorizing the construction of the Conduit, and have pushed ever since for funding to keep the project on schedule. The legislation also allows revenues from federal contracts to be applied to the cost of building the Conduit.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    I am proud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation heeded my calls and quickly approved the Arkansas Valley Conduit — Senator Mark Udall

    February 28, 2014
    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

    Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Tyler Johnson):

    Bureau of Reclamation Great Plains Regional Director Michael Ryan has signed the Record of Decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long Term Excess Capacity Master Contract Final Environmental Impact Statement. The selected alternative is construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit using the Comanche North Alternative.

    “This project will help water providers throughout the Arkansas River Basin meet existing and future demands,” said Ryan. “While funding details remain to be coordinated, it is prudent this project move forward to be in a position to take advantage of federal, state or local funding opportunities when they arise.”

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit is a feature of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. It will provide treated water to communities in southeastern Colorado. When complete, the pipeline for the Arkansas Valley Conduit could be up to 227 miles long. The Comanche North Alternative includes three federal actions:

  • Construct and operate the Arkansas Valley Conduit and enter into a repayment contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
  • Enter into a conveyance contract with various water providers for use of a pipeline interconnect between Pueblo Dam’s south and north outlet works.
  • Enter into an excess capacity master contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.
  • “For the many small rural water providers the conduit will serve, this critical step in the process of building the project is greatly welcomed. Facing the water quality and waste water discharge compliance challenges has been daunting for this area, and the congressional approval in 2009 and now the Record of Decision from the Bureau of Reclamation provide real hope for an effective and efficient way to meet those challenges,” said Bill Long, President of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    A Record of Decision is a decision document; it concludes the environmental impact statement prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. It does not provide or allocate funding for the project. Reclamation published the final environmental impact statement in August, 2013.

    “The District is grateful for this decision, which is one more milestone in a half-century journey to a clean water supply for southeastern Colorado. As federally-mandated standards have changed, the need for the solution the preferred alternative provides is even greater. The promise to build this piece of the project was first made in 1962 by President Kennedy and was restated in 2012, right here in Pueblo, Colorado, by President Obama. Now let’s move forward to the next phases of design and construction,” said Jim Broderick, General Manager for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    For more information on the Record of Decision, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/avceis. To obtain a hard copy of the Record of Decision, contact Doug Epperly at (406) 247-7638 or depperly@usbr.gov.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Bureau of Reclamation approved the final construction plan for the Arkansas Valley Conduit Thursday.

    “It’s been a long haul,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the conduit. “This critical step in the process of building the project is greatly welcomed.”

    The record of decision for the project was signed by Michael Ryan, Reclamation’s regional director. The record of decision includes the environmental impact study for the conduit, but the next step will be to obtain funding from Congress to build the project.

    Long, a Bent County commissioner and Las Animas business owner, has been working to get the conduit built since he joined the Southeastern board in 2002. The conduit was included in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project legislation, but never built because of the expense.

    “In the last few months, it’s become clear that this will help, not only with drinking water, but at the other end with wastewater quality as well,” Long said.

    Reclamation Thursday approved a record of decision for the Comanche North route of the 227-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Lamar. The chosen route includes initial treatment at the Pueblo Board of Water Works’ Whitlock treatment plant and a pipeline that swings south of Pueblo near the Comanche power plant.

    The conduit will deliver fresh drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo. It is estimated to cost $400 million, which would be repaid partly through revenue from Fry-Ark contracts.

    Also included in the decision is a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo for the Southeastern district and a cross-connection between north and south outlets at Pueblo Dam.

    The storage contract will set aside space for conduit participants and other water users in the district.

    The Southeastern district is focused on funding the project. Political wrangling delayed the record of decision and federal belt-tightening limited appropriations to about $2 million this year, rather than the $15 million the district hoped for.

    “I think this is a really important step forward, and I’m very happy,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “We still have a lot of work to do in funding the project.”

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    The Bureau of Reclamation signed the Record of Decision today for a project that’s been in the planning stages since Pueblo Dam was built in the 1960s.

    Part of the Frying Pan-Arkansas project, the conduit has never been built due to lack of money.

    U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, Democrats of Colorado, issued a news release after the ROD was signed, which follows approval of an Environmental Impact Study last year.

    Here’s a release from Senator Udall’s office:

    U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet welcomed today’s signing of the Record of Decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which represents a major milestone for the project that will bring clean water to communities in southeastern Colorado. The decision comes after Bennet and Udall urged the Bureau of Reclamation to quickly approve the Conduit’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that was finalized last August.

    “I am proud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation heeded my calls and quickly approved the Arkansas Valley Conduit. This project, the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, will help strengthen Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout southeastern Colorado,” Udall said. “Water is our most valuable resource in Colorado, and we need to make every drop count. This project will ensure we continue to smartly develop our water resources.”

    “Colorado knows well that water is an extremely precious resource, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit will help ensure families in southeastern Colorado have access to a safe and healthy water supply,” Bennet said. “Today’s announcement couldn’t be more important to southeast Colorado, and it demonstrates the Interior Department’s commitment to getting this project done. With today’s announcement, we are one step closer to completing this historic conduit that will benefit many future generations of Coloradans.”

    Udall and Bennet have led efforts to secure resources and move forward with the construction of the Conduit. In addition to advocating for quick approval of the EIS, the senators have written to the Department of Interior to provide adequate resources for construction of the Conduit in future federal budgets.

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado. Bennet and Udall worked together to enact legislation in 2009 authorizing the construction of the Conduit, and have pushed ever since for funding to keep the project on schedule.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Reclamation Releases a Draft Environmental Assessment for Piping the Slack and Patterson Laterals

    February 21, 2014
    Rogers Mesa

    Rogers Mesa

    Here’s the release from Reclamation (Terry Stroh/Justyn Hock):

    Reclamation announced today that it has released a draft environmental assessment on piping Roger’s Mesa Water Distribution Association’s Slack and Patterson Laterals off the Fire Mountain Canal, located in Delta County, Colo. The project involves replacing approximately 9.4 miles of unlined earthen laterals with buried water pipeline. The purpose of the project is to improve the efficiency of water delivery to ditch users and reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.

    The draft environmental assessment is available our website or a copy can be received by contacting Reclamation.

    Reclamation will consider all comments received prior to preparing a final environmental assessment. Comments can be submitted to the email address above or to: Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81506. Comments are due by Friday, March 14, 2014.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Aspinall Unit update: 400 cfs through the Black Canyon

    February 19, 2014
    Black Canyon via the National Park Service

    Black Canyon via the National Park Service

    From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    Due to the increasing forecasts for spring runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are now set at 400 cfs.

    More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update: Project caught up in the federal Record of Decision slog

    January 21, 2014
    Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

    Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Plans for the Arkansas Valley Conduit continue to be in a holding pattern. Federal processes have slowed the completion of a record of decision for the conduit, a master storage contract and interconnection of outlets on Pueblo Dam.

    The conduit is a plan to bring clean drinking water to 40 communities and 50,000 people from St. Charles Mesa to Lamar.

    The master contract would allow conduit users and others to purchase long-term storage in Lake Pueblo, while the cross-connection would give water users redundancy of water supply sources.

    An environmental impact study was finalized in August, but changes in the Bureau of Reclamation leadership and a federal shutdown have delayed the ROD for five months, said Christine Arbogast, lobbyist for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the projects.

    “Five months seems like a long time, but it’s looking good,” Arbogast said.

    She said a decision could be made in a few weeks.

    The lack of the ROD for the projects means very little work is progressing.

    “Anything moving forward will be on hold until we get to the point where we have a ROD,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district.

    This year’s federal budget includes $1 million for the conduit, but larger appropriations are needed in future years to move the project ahead.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Secretary Jewell Presents 2013 Partners in Conservation Awards #ColoradoRiver

    January 16, 2014
    Jonathan Waterman paddling the ooze in the Colorado River Delta

    Jonathan Waterman paddling the ooze in the Colorado River Delta

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation. Here’s an excerpt:

    Minute 319 Bi-National Partnership
    For decades, environmental and water supply concerns over the Colorado River have been the subjects of controversy, dispute, and litigation along the U.S.-Mexico border. After years of intense negotiation, a historic partnership agreement, “Minute 319,” has been touted as one of the most innovative negotiated agreements between nations to include environmental river flows. Signed in November 2012, Minute 319 provides the authority and framework under the 1944 Water Treaty to implement actions under consideration by multiple administrations dating back to the late 1990s. This implementing agreement was only possible with the partnership of the Colorado River Basin states, water users and environmental organizations in both countries, and it provides a unique example of cooperation for other basins worldwide.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here/a> and here.


    Construction of the Hoover Dam, 1934 — @History_pics #ColoradoRiver

    January 11, 2014

    Conservation Colorado: Did you get our December water update in your inbox last weekend? Don’t miss it.

    December 26, 2013

    Drought news: The Bureau of Reclamation cuts Lake Trinidad storage users a break #COdrought

    December 21, 2013
    Trinidad Lake

    Trinidad Lake

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Bureau of Reclamation will extend the repayment contract for Trinidad Lake to 75 years because prolonged drought has reduced the anticipated use of storage in the reservoir. The reservoir, formed by the completion of Trinidad Dam in 1977, was built by the Corps of Engineers for flood control, but the project also includes recreation and wildlife values, as well as an irrigation contract between Reclamation and the Purgatoire River Water Conservancy District. The contract dates back to 1967 and the original debt was $6.46 million.

    The construction of Trinidad Dam was a matter of dispute when Kansas sued Colorado over violations of the Arkansas River Compact in 1985. The compact commission reviews operating principles at the lake every 10 years.

    “The contract repayment is tied to water supply, and we determined the contract could not be repaid over 70 years, so we extended it to 75 years,” Andrew Gilmore, Reclamation engineer, told the compact commission this week.

    He explained that several years of drought, including just a 17 percent of average snowpack in the Purgatoire River basin last year, have reduced payments by the district to a minimal level.

    Meanwhile there is a request by the city of Trinidad to store water from outside the Purgatoire River district boundaries in the lake. Jeris Danielson, manager of the district, supported using more capacity in Trinidad Lake, which has a capacity of 125,967 acre-feet, with 20,000 acre feet set aside for irrigation, municipal and industrial storage contracts. Flood control is 50,000, while a joint use pool is 39,000 acre-feet. However, the reservoir often does not contain much more than the permanent pool of about 16,000 acre-feet set aside for fish and wildlife. The current level is about 14,400 acre-feet.

    Danielson told the commission flooding has rarely occurred and more conservation storage could be used.

    “In the joint use pool there is 35,000 acre-feet of storage that goes unused each year,” Danielson said. “It’s an incredible resource that just sits there.”

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    #ColoradoRiver Water Users Association Annual Conference recap

    December 14, 2013
    Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands -- Graphic/USBR

    Colorado River Basin including out of basin demands — Graphic/USBR

    From 8NewsNow.com (Nathan Baca):

    The U.S. Interior Secretary told water agency chiefs in Las Vegas how happy she is to see them getting along…

    New Interior Secretary Sally Jewell spoke to the Colorado River Water Users Association at Caesars Palace Friday morning. The group is made of water agencies from most western states. She told the group she is happy to see that politics is not getting in the way of state governments talking about sharing dwindling water resources.

    Secretary Jewell says it’s because the talk about climate change reached a new level.

    “The debate about whether it is going on is over. The president’s climate action plan, which he released in June, was very helpful to all of us. He put a stake in the ground and he said, ‘this is how we’re going to go forward.’ He charged people like me with being part of the solution and prepare our landscapes. That is where we’re going. We’re moving on from the debate and into the solution,” Secretary Jewell said.

    The secretary said that even with an average year of rain and snow along the Colorado River, reservoir levels will keep going down. Lake Mead’s level is expected to go down between eight and 30 feet within months. That would trigger a state of emergency forcing all agencies to cut water use by 4 percent…

    A majority of the people managing major water facilities are nearing or even past retirement age. There is a fear of a talent drain, if the Interior Department doesn’t find qualified employees soon.

    Here’s a statement from McCrystie Adams and Earth Justice about Secretary Jewell’s speech at the conference:

    McCrystie Adams, staff attorney for the Rocky Mountain Office of Earthjustice, issued the following statement today regarding the future of the Colorado River:

    “A business-as-usual response to the current crisis, while potentially resolving disputes between those who take water out of the river, does nothing to ensure a better future and a living river.

    “A more sustainable future for the Colorado River will require a fundamentally different approach to river management and water supply. Smart water planning means more than carefully dividing up flows—it means valuing living, flowing rivers and the natural systems that depend upon them as much as municipal and agricultural water. It means embracing water conservation, recycling, and re-use. We urge the Secretary and all of those who depend on the Colorado River to ensure that the river is a keystone of our future and not a relic of our past.”

    The Colorado River is the foundation of natural systems—fish, wildlife and entire ecosystems—across a wide swath of the west. For a century, these important resources and the human communities that depend on them have taken a back seat to the drive to capture water for our growing cities. Now, with flows dropping and its natural rhythm disrupted, the river itself is endangered. This is painfully apparent through the struggle for survival of the river’s few remaining native fish.

    From Fronteras (Laurel Morales):

    The Colorado River Water Users Association met in Las Vegas this week to discuss how to deal with some of the lowest water levels on record. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell spoke to the group Friday.

    The theme of the Interior Secretary’s speech was constrained resources — a tight budget and the resource on everyone’s mind, water. Despite financial constraints, Jewell said her agency is committed to providing scientific research for innovative conservation and incentive grants.

    “Climate models and droughts of this magnitude and worse are going to be more common in the Southwest for decades to come,” Jewell said. “And yet I don’t think we’re ready to pack up, shut down Las Vegas, shut down our farms and start to import what we eat. We’ve got to work together.”

    She mentioned the collaborative effort to make a deal with Mexico known as Minute 319 and the tribal partners working on water solutions.

    While Jewell did not lay out specific conservation examples to deal with the impending water shortage, environmentalists are quick to point to water recycling and water banking.

    Jewell discussed another critical issue — a massive turnover of Bureau of Reclamation staff. More than 50 percent of department employees are eligible to retire in the next five years.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Upper Rio Grande Impact Assessment Reveals Potential Growing Gap in Water Supply and Demand

    December 13, 2013
    Rio Grande and Pecos River basins

    Rio Grande and Pecos River basins

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    Increasing temperatures and changes in the timing of snowmelt runoff could impact the amount of water available on the upper Rio Grande in the future. These are some of the results of the Upper Rio Grande Impact Assessment released by Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle.

    “This report uses the most current information and state of the art scientific methodology to project a range of future supply scenarios in the upper Rio Grande basin,” Castle said. “It is a great first step and a call to action for water managers and users in the basin and the partner federal agencies to move forward and develop adaptation to the challenges this study brings to light.”

    The study was conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It includes a detailed evaluation of the climate, hydrology and water operations of the upper Rio Grande basin of Colorado and New Mexico. Also included is an evaluation of the potential impacts associated with climate change on streamflow, water demand and water operations in the basin.

    Temperatures will increase four to six degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century, according to the climate modeling used in the study. Although the modeling projects that total annual average precipitation in the basin will not change considerably, we are likely to see a decreasing snowpack, an earlier and smaller spring snowmelt runoff and an increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of both droughts and floods.

    The models used for the study consistently project an overall decrease in water availability in the basin. Rio Grande supplies are projected to decrease by an average of one-third from current supplies. The water supply from the San Juan-Chama Project, which is imported to the Rio Grande, is projected to decrease by an average of one-quarter.

    All of these impacts would contribute to a larger gap between water supply and demand and lead to future water management challenges for the Bureau of Reclamation and other water managers within the upper Rio Grande basin.

    The URGIA is the first impact assessment to be completed by Reclamation as part of the Westwide Climate Risk Assessments through the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART Program. Impact assessments are reconnaissance-level investigations of the potential hydrologic impacts of climate change in the major river basins of the Western United States. Through WaterSMART, Reclamation is also able to conduct a more in-depth basin study in conjunction with state and local partners that would develop options and strategies to address supply and demand imbalances.

    The WaterSMART Program focuses on improving water conservation, sustainability and helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. It identifies strategies to ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water supply and demand.

    To read the report or learn more about WaterSMART please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/.

    More Rio Grande Basin coverage here and here.


    Funding Opportunity Available to Increase Water Conservation or Improve Water Supply Sustainability

    December 9, 2013
    Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

    Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    The Bureau of Reclamation is making funding available through its WaterSMART program to support new Water and Energy Efficiency Grant projects. Proposals are being sought from states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to partner with Reclamation on projects that increase water conservation or result in other improvements that address water supply sustainability in the West.

    The funding opportunity announcement is available at http://www.grants.gov using funding opportunity number R14AS00001.

    Applications may be submitted to one of two funding groups:

  • Funding Group I: Up to $300,000 will be available for smaller projects that may take up to two years to complete. It is expected that a majority of awards will be made in this funding group.
  • Funding Group II: Up to $1,000,000 will be available for larger, phased projects that will take up to three years to complete. No more than $500,000 in federal funds will be provided within a given fiscal year to complete each phase. This will provide an opportunity for larger, multiple-year projects to receive some funding in the first year without having to compete for funding in the second and third years.
  • Proposals must seek to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict. To view examples of previous successful applications, including projects with a wide-range of eligible activities, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/weeg.

    In 2013, Reclamation awarded more than $20 million for 44 Water and Energy Efficiency Grants. These projects were estimated to save about 100,000 acre-feet of water per year — enough water to serve a population of about 400,000 people.

    The WaterSMART Program focuses on improving water conservation, sustainability and helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. It identifies strategies to ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water demands.

    Proposals must be submitted as indicated on http://www.grants.gov by 4 p.m., Mountain Standard Time, Jan. 23, 2014. It is anticipated that awards will be made this spring.

    To learn more about WaterSMART please visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.


    Reclamation Selects Jacklynn Gould as Eastern-Colorado Area Manager

    December 7, 2013
    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    The Bureau of Reclamation’s Great Plains Region has selected Jacklynn Gould, a Colorado native, as the Eastern Colorado Area Manager in Loveland, Colo. Gould will assume her responsibilities as Area Manager on Dec. 15. She replaces Mike Collins, who is retiring after more than 42 years of federal service.

    “Gould is the right candidate for the job,” said Great Plains Regional Director Mike Ryan. “Her prior experience working at ECAO, along with her extensive background in management and water operations qualifies her to help mitigate water challenges of the future.”

    Gould is the first female Area Manager Colorado has hired. Prior to accepting the Area Manager position, she served as the Deputy Area Manager for the Eastern Colorado Area Office in Loveland. Gould’s career with Reclamation began in 1992 as a water resource planner in Reclamation’s Denver Office. She has also worked in the Albuquerque Area Office, and most recently in the Eastern Colorado Area Office.

    “I’m honored to be selected as the Eastern-Colorado Area Manager,” said Gould. “I look forward to the opportunities and challenges Colorado faces in managing and developing the water resources of tomorrow.”

    Eastern Colorado is home to two major Reclamation projects: the Colorado Big-Thompson and Fryingpan-Arkansas. Together, the projects provide water to over 1.5 million people.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.


    Colorado flood recovery updates #COflood

    December 6, 2013
    Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 -- photo via Northern Water

    Flood damage Big Thompson Canyon September 2013 — photo via Northern Water

    Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

    The Colorado flood recovery team continues to make progress in helping communities rebuild from the September floods. Here is an update of recovery efforts:

  • The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) contracted with a debris removal company to help residents in the Big Thompson Canyon dispose of certain materials removed from homes during flood cleanup efforts. The contractor is scheduled to remove debris during the weeks of Dec. 9 and Dec. 23. Residents in the area will be asked to place debris alongside the U.S. 34 right-of-way. For more information, residents can contact the CDOT flood information hotline at (720) 263-1589.
  • CDOT implemented flood mitigation measures for the Waldo Canyon fire burn scar along U.S. Highway 24 — including stabilizing slopes and creating sediment ponds. Boulder completed the “Left Hand Creek Flood Control Project” that included upgrading bridges and channel capacity to keep storm water in the channel and away from neighborhood homes.
  • The Boulder Creek Path, a heavily used commuting pathway will reopen this week, with only a small section from Pearl Parkway to Goose Creek Path, east of Foothills Parkway still closed.
  • With completion of major sewer line repairs, remaining areas in Estes Park have been removed from the “No-Flush Zone.”
  • Lyons elementary, middle school and senior high students are back in their schools this week. Some 700 students attended classes at the Main Street School in Longmont since the September flood.
  • Meanwhile, Reclamation has started moving water through the Adams Tunnel again. The pumps had been off since the flooding in September. Here’s a report from Leia Larsen writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Bureau of Reclamation stopped pumping in mid-September after heavy rains in Estes Park and the Front Range. Crews were working to repair damage and dredge sediment loads from reservoirs caused by the ensuing floods in the Estes Park area. As of Wednesday, Nov. 27, the Bureau began running around 60 cubic feet per second through the tunnel. Most years, it runs around 550 cfs by mid-December to refill Horsetooth and Carter reservoirs. According to public information officer Kara Lamb, the Bureau of Reclamation is still hoping to meet that schedule this season.

    Currently, Lake Granby is at about 72 percent full.

    “We’re probably going to see that tick down a little bit as we starting running more (water) through the tunnel,” Lamb said. “But right now, Lake Granby is staying pretty even since we’re not taking that much.”


    Text of the Colorado Basin Roundtable white paper for the IBCC and Colorado Water Plan

    December 3, 2013
    New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

    New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

    Here’s the text from the recently approved draft of the white paper:

    Introduction
    The Colorado River Basin is the “heart” of Colorado. The basin holds the headwaters of the Colorado River that form the mainstem of the river, some of the state’s most significant agriculture, the largest West Slope city and a large, expanding energy industry. The Colorado Basin is home to the most-visited national forest and much of Colorado’s recreation-based economy, including significant river-based recreation.

    Colorado’s population is projected by the State Demographer’s Office to nearly double by 2050, from the five million people we have today to nearly ten million. Most of the growth is expected to be along the Front Range urban corridor; however the fastest growth is expected to occur along the I-70 corridor within the Colorado Basin.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    ‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

    December 3, 2013
    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    “Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

    “We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

    The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

    “The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

    “There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

    Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

    On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

    Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

    The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

    And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

    “It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

    The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

    That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[...]

    The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

    “This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

    Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

    It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

    It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

    It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

    “Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

    Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

    More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    ‘Keeping the last wild river in the [#ColoradoRiver] Basin intact is important to a healthy environment’ — Susan Bruce

    December 2, 2013
    Yampa River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Yampa River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Here’s a post arguing to keep the Yampa River riparian system as a baseline for a healthy river from Susan Bruce writing for the Earth Island Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

    Governor John Hickenlooper’s directive to the Colorado Water Conservation Board earlier this year to create a Colorado Water Plan by 2015 has put the Yampa, which has the second largest watershed in the state, under the spotlight.

    Efforts to dam the Yampa go back to the proposed construction of Echo Park Dam, which Congress vetoed in 1952, bowing to a groundswell of public outcry led by David Brower, then with the Sierra Club. But in a compromise he later regretted, Brower supported the construction of two other dams: Glen Canyon on the Colorado River and Flaming Gorge on the Green River. The Green and Yampa rivers used to have similar flows and ecosystems. The construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam in 1962 modified the Green’s hydrograph, reducing sediment flow by half and tapering its seasonal fluctuations to a slower, more consistent flow, opening the way for invasive species like the tamarisk tree to crowd out native ones.

    More recently, in 2006, there was a proposal to build a reservoir near Maybell, CO, and pump water from the Yampa to a reservoir about 230 miles away for municipal and agricultural use on the Front Range. But the plan was scrapped due to environmental and cost concerns; the reservoir would have cost between $3 billion and $5 billion.

    The oil and gas industry is also eyeing the Yampa. Shell Oil had plans to pump about 8 percent of the Yampa’s high-water flow to fill a 1,000-acre reservoir, but it shelved the proposal in 2010, citing a slowdown of its oil-shale development program. Still, oil production in Colorado is at its highest level since 1957 and gas production at an all-time high. While industrial and municipal water needs are projected to increase with population growth, the largest water user, agriculture, will continue to divert the lion’s share of Colorado’s water, around 80 percent. All of which mean the pressure to suck up Yampa’s water is only going to grow.

    The most unique characteristic of the Yampa is its wild and unimpeded flow, in particular the extensive spring flooding that washes away sediment, giving the river its brownish hue. This “river dance” helps establish new streamside forests, wetlands, and sandy beaches, as well as shallows that support species like the endangered Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker. By late fall, the water barely covers the riverbed in some stretches…

    The rafting industry, which contributes more than $150 million to Colorado’s economy, has a strong voice when it comes to the Yampa’s future. Although damming the Yampa would provide a more consistent flow over a longer season, George Wendt – founder of OARS, the largest rafting company in the world – speaks for most outfitters when he says he would rather see the Yampa retain its natural state.

    Conservationists also argue that the Yampa’s full flow helps meet Colorado’s legal obligation to provide water to the seven states within the Colorado Basin and Mexico. Measures being considered to protect the Yampa include an instream flow appropriation by the Colorado Water Conservation Board that would reserve Yampa’s water for the natural function of rivers, and a Wild and Scenic River designation by Congress.

    Many proponents of keeping the Yampa wild point to its value as a baseline – an ecosystem naturally in balance. “If things go awry on dammed rivers, which they do, we have a control river, so to speak,” says Kent Vertrees of The Friends of the Yampa. “Keeping the last wild river in the Colorado Basin intact is important to a healthy environment and so future generations can experience in situ millions of years of history little changed by man.”

    More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.


    The Windy Gap Firming project moves closer to implementation #ColoradoRiver

    November 26, 2013
    Chimney Hollow Reservoir site -- Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post

    Chimney Hollow Reservoir site — Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post

    Here’s a guest column written by Jim Pokrandt that is running in the Sky-Hi Daily News:

    The Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP) intergovernmental agreement (IGA) is in final form but has not been totally wrapped up because two important preconditions have not been completed, General Counsel Peter Fleming reported to the Colorado River District Board of Directors at its October meeting.

    Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and the West Slope, the Windy Gap Firming Project IGA is a package of mitigation enhancements that would be part of the Windy Gap Firming Project once it is permitted for the Municipal Subdistrict of Northern Water by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    The preconditions for the River District’s execution of the agreement are that the United States (1) makes a satisfactory finding that the WGFP can be operated consistent with Senate Document 80 — meaning no impact to the United States’ obligations to the beneficiaries, including West Slope beneficiaries, of the Colorado Big Thompson (C‐BT) Project, and (2) adopts an enforceable provision recognizing that if the River District does not challenge the WGFP permitting decision, that it does not waive any legal rights regarding federal decisions involving the same or similar legal issues.

    Fleming anticipated that that these conditions will be satisfied in the context of Reclamation’s final record of decision on the WGFP, which is expected in the first part of 2014. In the meantime, Fleming said the River District has worked extensively with Grand County on matters related to the WGFP and the operation of the C-BT Project — including the Grand Lake Water Clarity Agreement and the upcoming initiation of the WGFP Carriage Contract negotiations.

    With respect to the Grand Lake clarity issues, Fleming reported there have been several meetings with Reclamation and Northern to help ensure that a workable solution can be reached to meet the Grand Lake water quality standard. An important goal in that regard has been to avoid a stalemate over a massively expensive “fix” that could require a separate congressional authorization and appropriation.

    With regard to the WGFP carriage contract negotiations, the River District has assisted Grand County in efforts to secure the best possible negotiating position in Reclamation’s negotiation process.

    Fleming said the River District believes Grand County’s specifically identified role in Senate Document 80 entitles the county (and its advisers) to a more involved position in the negotiations than Reclamation’s standard “sit and‐observe” role for members of the public in its contract negotiation process.

    Another goal is to ensure that the Windy Gap water that Grand County is entitled to use pursuant to the IGA can be stored in Granby Reservoir for no charge or at a very affordable rate.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


    Bureau of Reclamation: On this day in 1922, the Colorado River Compact was signed

    November 24, 2013

    More Colorado River Compact coverage here and here. More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    November 24, 2013
    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Water rights and cost issues still must be decided, but a study of the effectiveness of dams in Fountain Creek should be finalized in January. The study’s release was delayed a month because of a federal government shutdown, but the results have been reported for months.

    “There has been no study of costs and benefits,” David Mau, head of the Pueblo office of the U.S. Geological Survey told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The USGS did the study in conjunction with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. The local share of funds for the $500,000 study was provided through $300,000 paid by Colorado Springs Utilities as part of its Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions for the Southern Delivery System.

    The study looks at a 100-year storm centered over downtown Colorado Springs, and the effectiveness of dams or diversions at various locations along Fountain Creek. The most effective alternatives were a large dam on Fountain Creek or a series of detention ponds south of Colorado Springs. Mau said the number of ponds was not as important as the volume of water that could be stored.

    There were some snickers in the room when Mau pointed out that roads and railroad tracks would have to be moved to build a large dam approximately 10 miles from the confluence of Fountain Creek. But it was pointed out that a large flood also could relocate roads, railroad tracks and utility lines, as was the case in Northern Colorado in September. Pueblo County lost the Pinon Bridge in the 1999 flood.

    Mau said the amount of sediment trapped by a dam would amount to 2,500 truckloads, but said smaller ponds also would require extensive maintenance to remain effective.

    Board member Vera Ortegon asked Mau which alternative he would recommend.

    “We look at the science,” Mau said. “I could give you my personal opinion, but I won’t.”

    Meanwhile property owners continue to chip away at the Fryingpn-Arkansas Project debt. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Property owners in nine counties will continue to make a dent in the federal debt for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project next year. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency in charge of repaying the debt, will collect another $6.5 million in property taxes next year, most of which goes toward reducing the debt. The board reviewed the budget Thursday and is expected to pass it on Dec. 5. The district began paying off $129 million in federal loans in 1982 on a 50-year loan. The amount represents the region’s share of the $585 million cost to build the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project. About $36 million of the debt will remain at the end of the year, Executive Director Jim Broderick told the board Thursday.

    The district collects 0.944 mills in property taxes in parts of Bent, Chaffee, Crowley, El Paso, Fremont, Kiowa, Otero, Pueblo and Prowers counties. Of that, 0.9 mills goes toward federal repayment and the rest toward operating expenses.

    It also will collect $5.3 million in pass-through revenues from El Paso County to repay the federal government for building the Fountain Valley Conduit.

    The district also collects funds through sale of Fry-Ark water, fees and grants.

    The district’s operating budget is $2.24 million next year, with an additional $1.07 million in capital projects planned.

    The enterprise budget, paid mostly by user fees, totals $2.8 million, which includes $880,000 in capital projects.

    The district is responsible for paying the Bureau of Reclamation to operate and maintain the project. The district also allocates water to cities and farms, and provides legal protection of Fry­Ark water rights.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Jonathan Thompson: Drought, Glen Canyon Dam, climate change and God #ColoradoRiver

    November 23, 2013
    Glen Canyon High Flow Experiment November 2013 via Jonathan Thompson

    Glen Canyon High Flow Experiment November 2013 via Jonathan Thompson

    Here’s a report about Reclamation’s High Flow experiment to fix river ecology through the Grand Canyon from Jonathan Thompson writing for the High Country News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

    I can stand for hours on the vertigo-inducing bridge that spans the cold, green Colorado just downstream – a 1,000-foot long steel spiderweb suspended gracefully over a 700-foot deep void – simply trying to comprehend Glen Canyon Dam’s concrete enormity: 300 feet thick at its base, 1,500 feet long at the crest. More than that, though, is what it represents: Our effort to control what was once a muddy, wild, tumultuous river, to rein it in with a colossal concrete plug, holding back billions of gallons of water and flooding hundreds of miles of once-sublime canyons.

    Glen Canyon Dam’s power to bewilder – on both sensory and conceptual levels – was enhanced this past week as massive amounts of water were released from the dam to mimic natural floods and hopefully bolster the Grand Canyon ecology and beaches that were forever altered by the dam. Call it a simulated Niagara Falls or, better yet, a several-day-long opening of one of the biggest faucets in the world – gargantuan plumbing, if you will.

    I happened to be driving through Page as the big water was being released, so I parked in the dam’s visitor center parking lot, and as soon as I opened the car door I could not only hear, but could also feel the roar emanating from 800 feet below, down at the bottom of the dam, where four giant nozzles sprayed streams of white into the green water of the river, churning it all up into a violent froth. A few days earlier, about 7,000 cubic feet of water was being released from the dam each second, through the hydroelectric turbines. During the flood, that increased to 35,000 cfs, or some 13 million gallons per minute, blasting into the river via the turbines and the nozzles. It was a good time to be rafting the Grand Canyon…

    If the dam’s enormity is a symbol of our ability to control nature, then the bathtub ring is an equally potent symbol of how slippery our grasp really is. It shows us how fickle our climate can be, and how our hugest efforts can merely temporarily mitigate the impacts of that fickleness. And it shows us how our very efforts to dominate the planet have gone awry, causing our already unpredictable environment to get even more wild and uncontrollable. Even the massive dam, just one piece of the huge plumbing system that we have constructed up and down the Colorado River drainage, can’t completely fix the arid truth any more than water managers’ prayers for more rain and snow next year.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Ute Water Conservancy District: Water Rates and Tap Fees Approved for 2014

    November 23, 2013
    Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

    Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

    Here’s the release from the Ute Water Conservancy District (Joseph R. Burtard):

    Ute Water Conservancy District’s 14 Member Board of Directors voted unanimously to raise the District’s water rates and tap fees for 2014. Ute Water provides domestic water to over 80,000 people in Mesa County, making it the largest domestic water provider between Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah.

    The District completed a Raw Water Study in 2011 which identified future water needs based on the estimated population growth and multi-year drought protection in the Grand Valley. This study projected that by 2045, Ute Water will be serving a population of 197,000 consumers. In order to meet the projected demands of 80 gallons per capita per day, the District will need 21,400 acre-feet of additional water supply. The District’s Board has taken a proactive approach, based on the outcome of the study, to insure that appropriate infrastructure, technology and raw water supply will be in place to meet future domestic water demands in the Grand Valley.

    The District entered into a Financial Agreement, earlier this year, with the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation to purchase water stored in Ruedi Reservoir. This agreement initiated the largest single water purchase the District has made in its 57-year history. This Financial Agreement allowed Ute Water to purchase 12,000 acre-foot of water from Ruedi Reservoir for $1,297.90 an acre-foot. “The District will utilize this water as a reliable insurance policy for the Grand Valley. An investment that will allow the District to meet the future water needs of the Grand Valley while giving us a dependable source of water during drought conditions.” stated Joseph Burtard, spokesperson for Ute Water. Ruedi Reservoir is a 102,000 acre-feet reservoir which sits 15 miles above the town of Basalt, Colorado. Ruedi was constructed in 1968 as part of the Federal Reclamation’s “Fryingpan-Arkansas Project”.

    Ute Water utilizes a full-cost pricing approach when evaluating water rates each year. The District’s primary source of revenue is water sales. The revenue from water sales are expected to cover all operations, maintenance and the replacement cost of the existing infrastructure while preparing for the future demands and upgrades to the system. “Purchasing Ruedi water was a major capital investment for the District. As a result, our water rates and tap fees had to be evaluated and aligned with our operational costs and targeted reserves.” stated Burtard. The new water rate increases the $17.00 minimum, for the first 3,000 gallons of water, to a $19.00 minimum. The minimum water rate for all other tap sizes will also increase proportionally. Customers using over 3,000 gallons in a billing cycle will see a $.10 increase in each of the tiers. The new water rates will be for water delivered in December 2013 and billed after January 1, 2014. Effective January 1, 2014, the District’s tap fees will increase from $6,500 to $6,700.

    For additional information on Ute Water’s rate increase, please contact Joseph Burtard at Ute Water Conservancy District at (970) 242-7491 or visit the District’s website at http://www.utewater.og.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Duffy Hayes):

    For the second year in a row, Ute Water users will see an uptick in the amount they pay for the service. Ute Water’s board unanimously adopted an increase in the district’s water rates at a recent meeting, similar to a rise in rates last year. Both increases are being attributed to a recent $15.5 million purchase of more than 12,000 acre-feet of water from Ruedi Reservoir near Aspen.

    “We were trying to build up our reserves to purchase Ruedi (last year), and now that we have purchased it, we kind of need to replenish those reserves for capital projects,” said Joe Burtard, external affairs manager for the Ute Water Conservancy District. He further called the Ruedi purchase a “hidden gem” in terms of the cost of the purchase as compared with others in the industry.

    In practical terms, Ute Water customers who use less than 3,000 gallons a month will see their bill go from $17 to $19. For larger-scale users, $.10 will be added to the cost per tier of usage, officials said.

    Ute’s tiered system of billing for higher-use customers is in place for a reason, Burtard said.

    “That’s our way of enforcing conservation. We do have a fairly aggressive rate structure, but that’s because we live in a desert, and we don’t want people using treated water for outdoor use,” he said.

    The rate increase will happen for water delivered in December, appearing on users’ January billing statements. Also after the first of the year, tap fees will go up $200 to $6,700.

    In announcing the rate hike, Ute said that a 2011 study pegged the district’s future customer base at 197,000 customers by 2045, up significantly from the 80,000 people it serves today.

    The Ruedi water sale represented the largest single purchase made by the district over its entire 57-year history, according to a press release.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Bureau of Reclamation: Footage from our Glen Canyon Dam 2013 High Flow Experimental #ColoradoRiver

    November 16, 2013

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project is in much better shape than last year thanks to September rains

    November 8, 2013
    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    It’s still several months away, but Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District officials already know they’ll have a better water situation for next year’s growing season than they did this year. Northern Water’s Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which is the region’s largest water-supply project, took in far more water than normal during September and October, thanks to the abundance of moisture that fell on the region.

    The C-BT’s four West Slope reservoirs (there are 12 reservoirs all together, stretching from the West Slope to the Front Range foothills) took in about 31,000 acre-feet of water during those two months. That’s the second-best water intake for those four reservoirs (which make up about half of the C-BT’s total storage capacity) during September and October in the 56-year history of the project, according to Andy Pineda, the Water Resources Department manager at Northern Water, who spoke at Northern Water’s Fall Water Users Meeting on Wednesday. That recent abundance of moisture leaves the C-BT’s collective reservoir levels much better than they’ve been in recent months, and that’s good news for the region.

    C-BT water flows to more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land, and to about 860,000 people in portions of eight counties in north and northeast Colorado, according to Northern Water numbers. Since the C-BT Project went into use in 1957, the Northern Water board has set a quota every year in April to balance how much water in the system could be used by cities and farmers through the growing season and how much water needed to stay in storage for future years. In nearly all years, the board can set a quota of 100 percent — although it rarely does — and still have at least some water in storage for the following years. However, this past April, a quota of 87 percent would have depleted everything in the C-BT Project’s reservoirs. C-BT reservoir levels were historically low after stored water had been used heavily to get through the 2012 drought. Additionally, snowpack in the mountains was limited at the time. The only other year the board had been so limited in setting its April quota was in 2003 — following the historic drought year of 2002.

    But next April, the Northern Water board won’t face such a predicament. Pineda said Wednesday the Northern Water board right now could set a quota of 108 percent before depleting the system — and that’s before snow rolls into the mountains this winter and spring. That snow will eventually melt and dump even more water into the reservoirs.

    Each year, winter and spring snowpack plays the biggest role in determining how much water will be available for farmers and cities during the next growing season. The historic average for the C-BT quota has been just above 70 percent. A 70 percent quota means that for every acre-foot of water a C-BT shareholder owns, they’ll get 70 percent of an acre-foot to use throughout the year. An acre-foot is approximately 326,000 gallons of water.

    Last year, with supplies limited, the Northern Water board set its quota at a below-average 60 percent.


    Glen Canyon Dam: High Flow Experiment – November 11-16, 2013 #ColoradoRiver

    November 5, 2013

    Here’s the release from Reclamation (Katrina Grantz):

    On November 11-16, 2013, the Department of Interior will conduct a high flow experimental (HFE) release from Glen Canyon Dam in accordance with the High-Flow Protocol. Under this Protocol, high flow releases are linked to sediment input and other resource conditions below Glen Canyon Dam. This HFE will be the second conducted under the HFE Protocol.

    Beginning on the morning of November 11th, releases from Glen Canyon Dam will begin ramping up to full power plant capacity (approximately 22,200 cfs). At midday on November 11th, bypass tubes at Glen Canyon Dam will be opened and releases will continue to increase up to full power plant and bypass capacity (approximately 37,200 cfs) by the evening of November 11th. Releases will be maintained at peak release for 4 days (96 hours) and then begin ramping back down. Releases will return to normal operations in the afternoon of November 16th. The entire experiment, including ramping is expected to last 5 and a half days, with 4 day (96 hours) at peak release. November releases from Glen Canyon Dam prior to and after the HFE are expected to fluctuate between 5,000cfs and 8,000cfs. The elevation of Lake Powell is expected to decrease approximately 2 ½ feet during the 5 and a half day experiment. The annual release volume from Lake Powell remains 7.48 maf and will not change as a result of the HFE. For additional information about High Flow Experiments at Glen Canyon Dam, please check back for links to the soon-to-be-updated High Flow Experiment webpages.

    Related Information and graphics:
    * Glen Canyon Dam November 2013 HFE Release Hydrograph
    * 2013 HFE Downstream Flow Arrival Time Map
    * Lake Powell 2013 HFE Projected Elevation Graphs
    * Lake Mead Projected Elevation Graphs

    Current Status
    The unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell in September was 857 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (210% of average). The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in September was 600 kaf. The end of September elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3591.3 feet (108.7 feet from full pool) and 10.93 million acre-feet (maf) (45% of full capacity), respectively. Due to above average runoff from monsoonal activity in September, Lake Powell elevation increased by about 2 feet over an 11-day period in September. The reservoir elevation is now declining and will continue to decline through the fall and winter until spring runoff in 2014.

    To view the most current reservoir elevation, content, inflow and release, click on: Lake Powell Data.
    To view the most current reservoir elevation projections, click on: Lake Powell Elevation Projections.

    The water year 2013 unregulated inflow volume was 5.12 maf (47% of average), placing 2013 as the fourth driest on record since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. Water years 2002, 1977, and 2012 were drier, receiving 2.64 maf, 3.53 maf, and 4.91 maf, respectively. In terms of reservoir elevation and storage, Lake Powell reached its peak for water year 2013 on June 18th at 3,601.2 ft (98.8 feet from full pool) which is 35.7 feet lower than last year’s peak elevation of 3636.9 ft. The end of water year 2013 elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3591.3 feet (108.7 feet from full pool) and 10.93maf (45% of capacity), respectively. This is 3.0 maf less than 2012 end of water year storage which was 13.93 maf (57% of capacity).

    Releases for Water Year 2013 totaled 8.232 maf. Pursuant to the Interim Guidelines, Lake Powell operated under the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier in 2013. Throughout water year 2013, Reclamation adjusted operations of Glen Canyon Dam to release the appropriate annual volume during 2013 to achieve Upper Elevation Balancing Tier objectives as practicably as possible by September 30, 2012.

    Current Operations
    The operating tier for water year 2014 is the Mid-Elevation Release Tier with an annual release volume of 7.48 maf, as established in August 2013 and pursuant to the Interim Guidelines , Section 6.C.1. Reclamation will schedule operations at Glen Canyon Dam to achieve as practicably as possible a 7.48 maf annual release volume by September 30, 2014.
    Releases from Glen Canyon Dam in October are currently averaging approximately 8,000 cfs with daily fluctuations between approximately 5,000 cfs at nighttime and approximately 10,000 cfs during the daytime and consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997). The scheduled release volume for October 2013 is 480 kaf.

    The anticipated release volume for November is 500 kaf with fluctuations for power generation throughout the day consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997). However, the release volume may be adjusted in the event of a High Flow Experiment. Under the High-Flow Protocol, high flow releases are linked to sediment input and other resource conditions below Glen Canyon Dam. Preliminary analysis appears favorable for a high flow experimental release to occur during the period of November 11 – 19, 2013. During the High Flow Experiment, total releases from Glen Canyon Dam at full bypass may reach approximately 37,200 cfs. The total experiment, including ramping, could last up to about five and a half days. In the event of a high flow experiment, releases from Glen Canyon Dam prior to and after the high flow experiment are anticipated to fluctuate between 5,000cfs and 8,000cfs.

    In December, the release volume will likely be about 600 kaf, with fluctuations throughout the day for hydropower generation.

    In addition to daily scheduled fluctuations for power generation, the instantaneous releases from Glen Canyon Dam may also fluctuate to provide 40 MW of system regulation. These instantaneous release adjustments stabilize the electrical generation and transmission system and translate to a range of about 1,200 cfs above or below the hourly scheduled release rate. Under system normal conditions, fluctuations for regulation are typically short lived and generally balance out over the hour with minimal or no noticeable impacts on downstream river flow conditions.

    Releases from Glen Canyon Dam can also fluctuate beyond scheduled fluctuations for power generation when called upon as a partner that shares reserve requirements within the electrical generator community (i.e. balancing area). Reserves provide system reliability in the event of an unscheduled outage. Glen Canyon Dam typically maintains 43 MW of reserves (approximately 1,200 cfs). Reserve calls can be maintained for a maximum of 2 hours after which time the generation rate should be returned to the original schedule. If reserves from Glen Canyon Dam are called upon, releases from the dam can exceed scheduled levels and can have a noticeable impact on the river downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. Calls for reserves are fairly infrequent and typically are for much less than 43 MW.

    Inflow Forecasts and Model Projections
    The hydrologic forecast for water year 2014 for Lake Powell, issued by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume will be 9.65 maf (89% of average based on the period 1981-2010). The water year 2013 forecast increased by 1.24 maf since last month, primarily due to much higher than expected monsoonal precipitation and runoff in September. At this early point in the season, there is significant uncertainty regarding next year’s water supply. The forecast ranges from a minimum probable of 6.5 maf (60% of average) to a maximum probable of 17.5 maf (162% of average). There is a 10% chance that inflows could be higher than the maximum probable and a 10% chance they could be lower than the minimum probable.

    Based on the current forecast, the October 24-Month study projects Lake Powell elevation will peak near approximately 3,604 ft next summer and end the water year near 3,598 feet with approximately 11.6 maf in storage (48% capacity). Note that projections of elevation and storage have significant uncertainty at this point in the season, primarily due to uncertainty regarding next season’s snowpack and resulting inflow to Lake Powell. Under the minimum probable inflow scenario, the projected summer peak is 3,586 ft and end of water year storage is 9.3 maf (38% capacity). Under the maximum probable inflow scenario the projected summer peak is 3,661 ft and end of water year storage is 18.4 maf (76% capacity). There is a 10% chance that inflows will be higher, resulting in higher elevation and storage, and 10% chance that inflows will be lower, resulting in lower elevation and storage. The annual release volume from Lake Powell during water year 2014 is projected to be 7.48 maf under all inflow scenarios.

    Consistent with Section 6.C.1 of the Interim Guidelines, the Lake Powell operational tier for water year 2014 is the Mid-Elevation Release Tier with an annual release volume of 7.48 maf. This was determined in the August 2013 24-Month study tier determination run which projected that, with an 8.23 maf annual release pattern in water year 2014, the January 1, 2014, Lake Powell elevation would be below 3,575.0 feet and the Lake Mead elevation would be above 1,025.0 feet. This determination will be documented in the 2014 AOP, which is currently in the final stages of development.

    Upper Colorado River Basin Hydrology
    The Upper Colorado River Basin regularly experiences significant year to year hydrologic variability. During the 14-year period 2000 to 2013, however, the unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, which is a good measure of hydrologic conditions in the Colorado River Basin, was above average in only 3 out of the past 14 years. The period 2000-2014 is the lowest 14-year period since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, with an average unregulated inflow of 8.25 maf, or 76% of the 30-year average (1981-2010). (For comparison, the 1981-2010 average is 10.83maf.) The unregulated inflow during the 2000-2013 period has ranged from a low of 2.64 maf (24% of average) in water year 2002 to a high of 15.97 maf (147% of average) in water year 2011. One wet year can significantly increase total system reservoir storage, just as persistent dry years can draw down the system storage.

    At the beginning of water year 2014, total system storage in the Colorado River Basin was 29.9 maf (50% of 59.6 maf total system capacity). This is about 4 maf less than the total storage at the beginning of water year 2013 which began at 34.0 maf (57% of capacity). Since the beginning of water year 2000, total Colorado Basin storage has experienced year to year increases and decreases in response to wet and dry hydrology, ranging from a high of 94% of capacity at the beginning of 2000 to a low of 50% of capacity at the beginning of water year 2014. Based on current forecasts, the current projected end of water year 2014 total Colorado Basin reservoir storage is approximately 29.6 maf (50% of capacity).

    Updated: October 29, 2013
    Katrina Grantz

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Climate Change Literature Synthesis Third Edition Now Available

    November 4, 2013

    literaturesynthesisonclimatechangereclamationnovember2013cover

    Here’s the release from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    The third edition of the Literature Synthesis on Climate Change Implications for Water and Environmental Resources from the Bureau of Reclamation is now available. The report offers a summary of recent literature on the current and projected effects of climate change on hydrology and water resources.

    It is organized around the five Reclamation regions, which correspond roughly with the Columbia River basin, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River basin, the upper Colorado River basin, the lower Colorado River basin, and the Great Plains.

    This report contains information surveyed through 2012. It was assembled by Reclamation and was subjected to external review by staff from each of the five National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments centers located in the western United States.

    The information in this report is meant for use in a range of planning studies including environmental impact statements, biological assessments, and feasibility studies. The need for the report was first identified by the multi-agency Climate Change and Water Working Group in 2008. Previous versions were published in 2011 and 2009.

    Click here to read the report. Here’s the introduction:

    The Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) mission involves managing water and power systems in an economically efficient and environmentally sensitive manner. Mission requirements often involve conducting planning studies for the longer term, potentially involving proposed system changes (e.g., changes in criteria that would govern operations for the long term, changes in physical system aspects). For these longer-term studies, questions arise on how consideration of climate change might affect the assessment of benefits and costs for the various planning alternatives under evaluation. Such questions may lead to the analytical treatment of climate change implications for the study. However, such analysis would be predicated on a documented understanding that chosen analytical methods and usage of climate change information are consistent with the scientific understanding of climate change and the published scientific and assessment literature.

    This report aims to support longer-term planning processes by providing region- specific literature syntheses on what already has been studied regarding climate change implications for Reclamation operations and activities in the 17 Western States. These narratives are meant for potential use in planning documents (e.g., National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] environmental impact statements, biological assessments under Federal/State Endangered Species Act [ESA], general planning feasibility studies). It is envisioned that this report would be a living document, with literature review and synthesis narratives updated annually to reflect ongoing research developments.

    More Reclamation coverage here.


    New Methods Improve Quagga and Zebra Mussel Identification

    November 3, 2013
    Zebra and Quagga Mussels

    Zebra and Quagga Mussels

    Here’s the release from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    The earliest possible detection of quagga and zebra mussels has long been a goal of biologists seeking to discover their presence in water bodies. The Bureau of Reclamation’s Detection Laboratory has released two reports identifying a new sampling method to improve the accuracy of quagga and zebra mussel detection while still at the microscopic larval stage. The reports also outline the processes and procedures used to identify invasive mussels through DNA testing.

    “Improving the accuracy of testing provides Reclamation and its partners better information about the presence of quagga and zebra mussels in water bodies where our facilities are located,” laboratory manager Denise Hosler said. “These sampling procedures allow for the improved detection when the mussels are in their larval stage.”

    For early detection, Reclamation searches samples from reservoirs, lakes, canals and other water bodies for the microscopic larval form of quagga and zebra mussels. Because they are so small, multiple testing methods are used, including cross-polarized light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and PCR testing of the DNA of larvae in the water sample.

    “Early detection of mussel larvae does not mean that the water body will necessarily become infested,” Reclamation’s Director of Research and Development Curt Brown said. “Early detection provides a warning for managers that a water body is being exposed to mussels through some pathway, so they can consider additional means to prevent further introduction.”

    Reclamation’s Detection Laboratory is located in the Technical Service Center in Denver. It specializes in invasive mussels and also identifies species through taxonomic and genetic testing. It was awarded the Colorado Governor’s Award for High Impact Research in 2012 for its work advancing the early detection of invasive quagga and zebra mussels.

    To download the reports or learn more about Reclamation’s Invasive Mussel Program, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/mussels.

    Please remember to clean, drain and dry your watercraft when you are moving it between bodies of water.

    More invasive species coverage here and here.


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