Saving the Fraser River — Grand Water #ColoradoRiver

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Lance Maggart):

Drive around Grand County for a little while and you’ll notice our profusion of bumper stickers with slogans admonishing you to “Save the Fraser River”.

For many folks in the valley their bumper stickers are a sign of solidarity but for others such statements are more than mere words, they represents a visceral call to action. The issues and obstacles that confront the Fraser River are deeply rooted and solutions can be difficult to agree on, let alone implement. The Fraser River and its tributaries experience what is called an altered flow regime, meaning the natural stream flows of the river have been altered. According to Kirk Klancke, President of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited located in Grand County, currently around 60 percent of the native flows of the Fraser River are diverted out of the valley.

“One of the problems is the stream bed is native but the flows are not,” Klancke said. “Over half are diverted out of the Fraser valley. When you have diminished flows like that the stream loses its velocity. The river needs enough velocity to flush sediment out of the rocks on the bottom.That is where the macroinvertebrate life is.”

Macroinvertebrate life, or bugs, live within the voids in the rocks on the bottom of the river, Klancke said. As the river loses its velocity the flows are not able to flush the sediment out from the rocks and the amount of bug habitat is diminished, which has a corresponding effect on the amount of bug life on the river. The amount of bug life on the river has a direct correlation to the amount of fish within the river.

The reduced native stream flows also have a strong impact on the temperature levels within the streams and rivers. “When you have diminished flows the stream becomes wide and shallow and it heats up in ways it never did before,” said Klancke. “Seventy degrees is the limit trout can withstand. We are seeing temps in some places higher than that.”

In an effort to address both of these issues several western slope interests along with eastern slope diverters such as Denver Water have partnered together to form a group called Learning by Doing. Learning by Doing is a cooperative group that seeks to address the environmental impact concerns of Grand County organizations while still providing sustained diversion of water to the Front Range. The group has been developing project ideas and in the fall of 2016 they expect to begin a large rechanneling project on the Fraser River called the Fraser Flats Habitat Project.

Project organizers are planning to rechannel approximately half a mile of the Fraser River on the Fraser Flats, just outside of the Town of Fraser. The works is being done on a section of the river owned by Devil’s Thumb Ranch. So far around $100,000 have been raised to fund the project with roughly half of those funds coming from Denver Water and the other half coming from Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Trout Unlimited also has a $5,000 grant they will apply to the project, allowing for an additional 135 feet of rechanneling.

“The idea of rechanneling is to match the stream bed to the stream flows,” said Klancke. “We create a channel within a channel.”

In the simplest terms the rechanneling work is accomplished by physically digging a deeper channel within the center of the existing streambed where water can recede to at low flow times. The new channel provides a deeper and narrower pathway for the stream to follow, increasing the velocity of water while also decreasing temperatures. The work must be performed carefully so as not to damage the natural streambed either. The native streambed remains essential for allowing larger flows of water during spring runoff. Along with digging a new channel within the Fraser River workers will also move and adjust rocks to create a healthy ratio of riffles to pools within the river.

The collaborative project is the first from the Learning by Doing group and represents a very exciting step forward for people like Klancke who spoke highly of Denver Water and that organizations willingness to engage in the process and work to further the proposed actions. Denver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead echoed his views.

“The most exciting aspect to this project is that all the parties to Learning by Doing are beginning work before it is technically required under the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement,” Lochhead stated. “This is due in large part to the partnerships and relationships that have developed over the past few years, and the value we place on the environmental resources in Grand County. We don’t want to lose momentum, and the fact that Devil’s Thumb Ranch, Trout Unlimited and others in the county have stepped up to move this effort forward is a great indication of our common commitment. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to enhance the health of the aquatic environment in Grand County.”

Learning by Doing plans to put the rechanneling project out for bidding in mid Jan. and hope to have a contractor chosen by the end of Feb. Work on the project is expected to begin in the fall of 2016.

Denver Water selects new director of Planning

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

Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, has been selected as the new director of Planning for Denver Water.

King will oversee Denver Water’s long-range planning for treated and raw water supply systems, demand and supply management, water rights, environmental compliance, watershed management, and climate change preparations. He will be a member of the executive team, reporting to the chief executive officer and the Denver Board of Water Commissioners.

“We are very excited that Mike has accepted the position of director of Planning for Denver Water,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO. “Colorado remains a highly desirable place to live. Growth and the uncertainties of climate change will continue to challenge not only Denver Water but also the entire state. Mike’s knowledge of water, his statewide leadership on environmental issues and his proven strategic skills are a perfect combination for this position.”

As director of Planning, King will be responsible for helping guide Denver Water’s integrated resource planning (IRP) process. The IRP uses scenario analysis to inform Denver Water’s long-range capital replacement and expansion programs, including water collection, storage, treatment, distribution and recycling. The IRP further incorporates Denver Water’s commitment to conservation and water-use efficiency.

His responsibilities also will include ensuring Denver Water continues to operate in an environmentally sustainable manner. He will be responsible for policy and regulatory issues, including developing watershed management plans and addressing endangered species issues.

“I am very excited to join Denver Water at this time in the organization’s history,” said King. “Denver Water is a leader in resource management and is recognized as one of the most progressive water utilities in the nation. Denver Water’s mission to be a responsible steward of our natural resources aligns with my experience and skills, and perhaps most importantly with my core values. I will bring to Denver Water the same energy and commitment to public service that I have for the past 23 years to the State of Colorado.”

Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS
Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

Denver Water to host Gross Reservoir Expansion Project Public Availability Sessions — Wed and Thu

From Denver Water via Twitter and Boulder County:

Denver Water is hosting two Public Availability Sessions this week to encourage residents in the area of Gross Reservoir to come and meet with Denver Water staff to address questions about DW’s Gross Reservoir Expansion Project.

PUBLIC AVAILABILITY SESSION
Wednesday, Oct. 7, Noon – 8 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 10. 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location: Coal Creek Canyon Community Center
31528 CO-72, Golden, CO 80403

While not sponsored by Boulder County, the county has offered to spread the word about the meetings as a way for county residents to come have their questions and concerns addressed by Denver Water staff. As one Denver Water official has stated, “We’re very hopeful that this availability session format allows us to talk more directly with individuals about their concerns.”

Fraser: Dwight Eisenhower’s summer playground — Sky-Hi Daily News

Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day
Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Kristi Martens, Steve Sumrall and Ashley Trotter):

At the Taste of History Champagne Brunch and Social, the Grand County Historical Association will offer guided tours of President Eisenhower’s summer playground at Byers Peak Ranch.

Join us on Saturday, Sept. 12 ,for the Taste of History Champagne Brunch fundraiser, and purchase tickets ($40 – $50) online at http://www.grandcountyhistory.org.

According to Charles Clayton, President Dwight Eisenhower is probably Fraser’s — if not Grand County’s — most famous visitor. From 1948 to 1955, and possibly as early as 1938, Eisenhower visited the Fraser Valley many times. During the early years of his presidency, from 1953-55, Eisenhower visited 26 days. He always stayed at one of the cabins on the 3,800 acre Byers Peak Ranch along St. Louis Creek, owned by his friends, Aksel Nielsen and Carl Norgren.

For decades prior to his presidency (1953-1961), Eisenhower was quite familiar with Colorado. Then an up and coming military man, Ike married Mamie Doud in 1916 at her family home at 750 Lafayette Street in Denver, now a National Historic Register site. Ike was 25 and Mamie aged 19 then. Denver became their home base while on active military duty throughout the world.

Research by Fraser historian Steve Sumrall shows that it was through Mamie’s father, John Doud, that “Ike” became acquainted with the Fraser Valley. Mr. Doud’s bookkeeper and financial advisor was young Aksel Nielsen. At the Doud home, Aksel met Ike probably circa 1925. Their friendship grew as they shared a passion for the great outdoors and fishing. Aksel introduced Ike to the Rocky Mountains as early as 1938, a trip which may have brought the future president to Byers Peak Ranch and Fraser’s famed fishing creeks.

At the time, Aksel Nielsen, along with business partner Carl Norgren, began purchasing land in the Fraser Valley. They had a deep appreciation for Byers Peak Ranch for Boys, founded and operated by Jessie Arnold from 1932 to 1939. Their children attended the summer camp that for a few weeks each year even allowed girls. Norgren’s daughter, Gene, the future Mrs. Walter Koelbel, was a camp counselor. Arnold built the many log cabins that still exist on the property.

When the camp went into default, Norgren and Nielsen stepped in and purchased the 160 acre Byers Peak Ranch in 1939. As part of the business and philanthropy corps of Denver, Nielsen and Norgren were involved with the National Western Stock Show and the gentlemanly occupation of cattle ranching. They purchased lands surrounding the Byers Peak Ranch for Boys, including Frank Carlsen’s property that had once belonged to the Gaskill’s.

By the mid-1950s, the two investors owned over 3,800 acres including a 3-mile stretch of St. Louis Creek — prime trout fishing waters. Their goal was to turn the land from a youth summer camp into a working cattle ranch, with a little fishing on the side. They urged their friend Eisenhower to visit their new ranch.

Growing up the third of seven brothers in Abilene, Kansas, Dwight Eisenhower loved to fish and hunt. Aksel realized that fishing at St. Louis Creek would be the salve that his buddy Ike craved as World War II loomed in the distance. Certainly after the war, when Eisenhower returned a true hero, Byers Peak Ranch offered the private escape for one of the leaders of the Free World.

Correspondence about visits to Byers Peak Ranch shows that in June 1943, Aksel addressed then Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower: “I have gone up to the ranch, cleaned out the cabin and have everything ready for you … you can go up there and hide and nobody need know where you are … you may do a little fishing.”

Writing from the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers Europe on April 3, 1952, and prior to his election as president, Ike wrote to Aksel, “In spite of the rush of events and some of the complicated possibilities, I do hope that you and I may be able to pick up a few rainbow at Saint Louis Creek.” (These letters and others are on display at Cozens Ranch Museum, Grand County Historical Association, in Fraser.)

A few months later, upon receiving the Republican nomination for president in Chicago, Eisenhower picked the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver as his campaign headquarters. He was then off to Byers Peak Ranch to get to know his young running mate, Richard Nixon, plan their campaign strategy, and to fish and cook.

In his autobiography, Mandate for Change, 1963, Dwight Eisenhower explained, “In the Fraser area, which I started to visit just after World War II, Aksel and I like to stay for several days at a time. The gatherings were always a small group of men, and I … always the cook … In simpler pre-presidential years, this meant cooking at the most, for three or four. But once I started traveling with Secret Service men, signal detachments, and staff assistants, our simple fishing expeditions became as elaborate as troop movements.”

In August 1954, President Eisenhower invited former President Herbert Hoover to Byers Peak Ranch for a working vacation. Ike wrote to Hoover, “as to fishing: My own choice is to go over the Berthoud Pass to Fraser. The altitude of my friend’s little ranch there is under nine thousand feet. There is a small stream on which we catch ten and twelve inchers, and of course there is always the chance for the occasional big fellow of something on the order of sixteen or seventeen inches. I assure you that you don’t need to be especially terrified at the prospect of living on my cooking for a couple of days. My culinary reputation is pretty good … It is a grand place to loaf and we will have absolutely no one with us except my great friend who owns the place … I cannot tell you how delighted I am at the prospect of the two of us having a period together in such a quiet retreat,” wrote Eisenhower.

Unfortunately, Eisenhower’s last trip to Byers Peak Ranch was a year later, in September 1955. Aksel built a new cabin for Ike, now an older president at age 65. Wrote Aksel,“We moved into the new house up at Fraser … I will tell you that is has a beautiful Youngstown kitchen in which you can practice your culinary arts. It has a nice dining section off the living room where you can feed your guests. It has a beautiful living room overlooking the Continental Divide and Byers Peak. … It has St. Louis creek where it always was but we have built a pond just off the corral … “

Replied Ike, “I can’t wait until we get into the new house at Fraser. I suppose I shall be expected to produce something superlative on that beautiful new kitchen of yours.” Ike and his team visited the new cabin twice, and for the last time on Sept. 23, 1955 when they headed east, back to Denver over Berthoud Pass.

The next day, on Sept. 24, Eisenhower’s life-changing heart attack occurred after a day of golf in Denver. It permanently ended Ike’s retreats to Byers Peak Ranch. Due to Fraser’s high altitude, doctors insisted that Eisenhower’s summer playground move East for the remainder of his presidency, and life.

Today, a visit to Byers Peak Ranch, down a private dirt road, reveals a mix of refurbished structures along with many historic, log cabins. The “modern” 1955 modular house, with Ike’s fancy kitchen, is next door to the Gail Delaney property. Ike and Aksel’s first log cabins are further up the road, with one labeled, “Ike’s Cabin.”

Join us at the Taste of History Champagne Brunch and Social on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., to experience the glory of Byers Peak Ranch and with guided tours of the Eisenhower Cabins. For tickets, go to http://www.grandcountyhistory.org.

Granby: “State of the River” meeting recap #ColoradoRiver

Historical Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs
Historical Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Hank Shell):

During the meeting, officials from the Upper Colorado River Basin’s biggest water interests including Northern Water, Denver Water and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spoke about some of the basin’s biggest issues, including the state of runoff and snowpack in the region and the movement at Ritschard Dam on Wolford Mountain Reservoir.

Though snowpack seemed to falter during what proved to be a rather dry March, it’s been building steadily over the last three to four weeks, explained Don Meyer with the Colorado River District.

The variations in snowpack have pushed the basin into “uncharted territory,” he said.

“I think the message here is think 2010 in terms of snowpack,” Meyer said.

Though he added that snowpack is not analogous to runoff, Meyer said 2015 “will likely eclipse 2010 in terms of stream flow.”

Victor Lee with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation echoed Meyer, adding that recent cold temperatures across the region have allowed snowpack to persist.

Though snowpack is currently below average, it could linger past the point at which the average snowpack tends to drop…

If the current snowpack does translate into high runoff in Grand County, there may not be anywhere to put it, Lee said.

Front Range reservoirs are full, and storage in Lake Granby is the highest it’s ever been for this time of year, according to Lee’s presentation…

Though it could be a good runoff year for Grand County, Meyer said that snow-water equivalent above Lake Powell is still well below average, making it a dry year for the Upper Colorado River Basin overall.

RITSCHARD DAM

Officials aren’t sure when the settling and movement at Ritschard Dam will stop, but it poses no threat to safety, said John Currier with the Colorado River District.

“We really are absolutely confident that we don’t have an imminent safety problem with this dam,” Currier said…

ENDANGERED FISH

The Bureau of Reclamation will increase flows from the Granby Dam to 1,500 CFS around May 29 and maintain those flows until around June 8, Lee said.

The releases will be part of an endangered fish recovery program and will be coordinated with releases from other basin reservoirs to enhance peak flows in the Grand Valley where the plan is focused.

Wolford Mountain Reservoir will also participate in the coordinated releases, Meyer said.

The program hopes to re-establish bonytail chub, Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and humpback chub populations to a 15-mile stretch of the Colorado River above Grand Junction.

WINDY GAP FIRMING

After receiving its Record of Decision last year, the Windy Gap Firming Project’s next major hurdle is acquiring a Section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir, said Don Carlson with Northern Water.

The permit regulates dredged or fill material into water as part of the Clean Water Act.

Northern Water hopes to acquire the permit this year, with construction possibly beginning in 2016 or 2017, Carlson said.

The project seeks to firm up the Windy Gap water right with a new Front Range reservoir. The project currently stores water in Lake Granby.

Because it’s a junior water right, yield for the project is little to nothing in dry years.

Northern Water also hopes to establish a free-flowing channel of the Colorado River beside the Windy Gap Reservoir as part of the Windy Gap Reservoir Bypass Project.

The new channel would allow for fish migration and improve aquatic habitat along the Colorado River.

That project still needs $6 million of its projected $10 million cost.

MOFFAT TUNNEL FLOWS

Moffat Tunnel flows are hovering around 15 CFS as Denver Water is getting high yield from its Boulder Creek water right, said Bob Steger with Denver Water.

The increased yield from that junior water right means flows through Moffat Tunnel will remain low through early summer, Steger said.

“The point is we’ll be taking a lot less water than we normally do,” he said.

Denver Water expects its flows through the tunnel to increase in late summer as its yield from Boulder Creek drops, Steger said.

Williams Fork Reservoir, which is used to fulfill Denver Water’s obligations on the Western Slope, is expected to fill in three to four weeks, Steger said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Union Pacific plans treatment plant for discharge mitigation at the West Portal of the Moffat Tunnel #ColoradoRiver

westportalmoffattunnel

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Hank Shell):

The Union Pacific Railroad announced on June 19 that it plans to construct a water treatment facility that will remove fine particulates and metals discharged in flows from the west portal.

As part of its discharge permit, Union Pacific must meet preset effluent limitations by April 30, 2017. The new treatment plant will help Union Pacific reach compliance with those limitations.

“It’s a victory,” said Mike Wageck, president of the East Grand Water Quality Board. “It’s definitely a victory for the river, if they’re going to be removing that coal dust that’s getting in there and removing those metals.”

The way the tunnel is bored, ground water flows from seepages inside the tunnel, picking up coal dust left by passing trains and heavy metals leached from the railroad ballast and exposed rock.

“This isn’t much different than a mineral mine,” said Kirk Klancke, East Grand Water Quality Board member. “If you just put a hole in the ground and have water leeching out, it’s going to carry the heavy metals you’ve exposed that have been buried for millennia.”

The way the Moffat Tunnel is pitched, water flows from both portals of the tunnel. To the east, water flows through a sedimentation pond before it’s discharged into South Boulder Creek. But to the west, water flows untreated into the Fraser. In 2013, average daily flows from the west portal were 171 gallons per minute, according to an implementation schedule sent from Union Pacific to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The sediment in this discharge increases turbidity, or cloudiness, in the Fraser River…

Slag, a by-product of metal processing found in railroad ballast, leeches copper, lead, mercury and arsenic, among other elements, into the discharge and ultimately the river, according to the implementation schedule.

“Basically, from 2007 to today, we’ve been reviewing various ways we could treat the water coming out, primarily the water when it comes out of the tunnel,” said Mark Davis, a spokesman for Union Pacific.

Union Pacific examined a number of options for reaching compliance with effluent levels in the discharge, including diverting the water to publicly-owned treatment works in Winter Park, though the town ultimately decided that it would not benefit from receiving the water, pretreated or not…

Davis said he wasn’t sure when construction on the facility would begin or how much it would cost, though the state requires that Union Pacific have something in place by its compliance date of April 30, 2017.

More Fraser River watershed coverage here.

Moffat Firming Project support absent at Boulder BOCC hearing — Sky-Hi Daily News #ColoradoRiver

Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS
Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Hank Shell):

“There were numerous data issues raised that might be worth flagging,” said Elise Jones, Boulder County commissioner. “Everything from the use of median versus average in the statistics to whether or not the cost estimates are accurate. There were numerous other examples but that seemed to be a theme.”[…]

At the beginning of the meeting, Boulder County Commissioners’ staff voiced concerns about the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The 12,000-page Final Environmental Impact Statement is meant to reveal possible environmental impacts of the project.

“There wasn’t a robust discussion of the need and purpose of the project,” said Michelle Krezek, the commissioners’ staff deputy. “Specifically, there wasn’t any analysis of water conservation measures that could be taken or other smaller projects that could be undertaken instead of this large project. So it was hard to determine whether this was the right alternative.”

Other concerns included the absence of the Environmental Protection Agency from the process and the effect that expansion of the reservoir would have on Boulder County infrastructure.

Though most of the discussion focused on the project’s impacts in Boulder County, Grand County arose multiple times during the discussion, from both Grand and Boulder county residents. Boulder County commissioners said that they would take into account testimony about the effects of the project on the Western Slope.

“We would want to draw the Corps’ attention to those substantive comments even though they were outside Boulder County,” Jones said.

More than 20 people spoke during the hearing, but only one speaker, Denver Water Planning Director David Little, was in favor of the project, though he did not present an argument to counter previous assertions.

“The passion that the people in the audience have shown and some of the information that they’ve brought forward is important for you to consider in augmenting your comments to the corps,” said Little.

The Boulder County Commissioners will now submit their new comments to the Army Corps of Engineers.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.