Click here to go to the website. Here’s an excerpt:
The Grand County Learning By Doing Cooperative Effort (LBD) is a unique partnership of East and West Slope water stakeholders in Colorado.
LBD emerged from the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, a five-year negotiation that became effective in 2013 and will be fully implemented with the successful construction of the Moffat Collection System and Windy Gap Firming Project. The agreement establishes a long-term partnership between Denver Water and Colorado’s West Slope, including several water utilities, nonprofit organizations and government agencies.
A Governance Committee oversees the LBD activities, with one voting member from each of these organizations:
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Colorado River District
Middle Park Water Conservancy District
Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District
A Technical Committee, made up of representatives from the Governance organizations, as well as government agencies, regional water utilities and other partners, advises on LBD efforts and activities.
LOVELAND – Mike King, the new director of planning for Denver Water, said at a recent meeting that beyond additional transmountain diversions through the Moffatt Tunnel into an expanded Gross Reservoir near Boulder, Denver Water doesn’t have other Western Slope projects on its radar.
King served as executive director of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources from 2010 until January of this year, when he took the planning director job with Denver Water.
After speaking to a luncheon crowd of close to 200 at the Northern Water Conservancy District’s spring water users meeting in Loveland on April 13, King was asked from the audience “How much more water does Denver Water need from the Western Slope?”
“I think if we get Gross Reservoir approved, the answer is for the foreseeable future, you know, we need to do that first,” King said.
King is a native of Montrose, son of a water attorney, and has a journalism degree from CU Boulder, a law degree from the University of Denver, a master’s in public administration from CU Denver and 23 years of state government experience.
“And I can tell you that the reality is, whether it is from a permitting perspective or a regulatory perspective, the West Slope is going to be a very difficult place,” King continued. “If there is water available, it is going to be a last resort. And I so think that the answer is, that won’t be on our radar.”
Denver Water is seeking federal approval to raise the dam that forms Gross Reservoir, in the mountains west of Boulder, by 131 feet. That would store an additional 77,000 acre-feet of water and bring the reservoir capacity to 118,811 acre-feet. Ruedi Reservoir, by comparison, holds 102,373 acre-feet.
The $360 million project would provide 18,000 acre-feet of firm yield to Denver Water’s system and result in an additional 15,000 acre-feet of water being diverted from the West Slope each year. On average, Denver Water’s 1.3 million customers use about 125,000 acre-feet of West Slope water each year.
The water to fill an expanded Gross Reservoir would mainly come from tributaries of the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers, via the Moffat Tunnel, near Winter Park.
Beyond the Gross Reservoir project, King explained that any future Denver Water projects on the West Slope would need to fit within the confines of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, signed by Denver Water and 17 West Slope entities in 2013.
The CRCA, says that “if there is more water, it only comes after the West Slope says they agree with it and it makes sense,” King said. “That sets the bar so incredibly high and gives them the ultimate ability to say, ‘This is good for the West Slope.’
“And so I just don’t think Denver Water is going to be looking to the West Slope,” King continued. “I think anybody who manages natural resources, and water in particular, will never say ‘never’ to anything, but I think it is certainly not on our radar.”
Not on Denver Water’s radar, perhaps, but it is worth noting that Denver Water is the only major Front Range water provider to have signed the cooperative agreement with the West Slope.
When asked what he thought of King’s remarks about West Slope water, Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the Colorado River District said he thought the comments reflect “the concept that if Denver takes more water from the West Slope it could undermine the security/reliability of what they already take.”
Kuhn’s comment relates to the possibility that if Denver Water diverts too much water from the Western Slope, it could help trigger a compact call from the lower basin states, which could pinch Denver’s transmountain supply of water.
Editor’s note: Above is a recording of Mike King, the director of planning for Denver Water, speaking after lunch in front of about 200 people at Northern Water’s spring water users meeting, a public meeting held at The Ranch event center in Loveland on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. The recording, made by Aspen Journalism, begins shortly after King had begun his remarks. It is 26:34 in length. At 8:20, King discusses the development of the Colorado Water Plan. At 22:40, King answers a question about the governor’s endorsement of the Windy Gap project and another phrased as “How much more water does Denver Water need from the Western Slope?”)
A buoyant crowd
Earlier in the meeting engineers from Northern Water — which supplies water to cities and farms from Broomfield to Fort Collins — told the mix of water providers and water users from northeastern Colorado that they could expect an average spring runoff this year, both from the South Platte and the Colorado Rivers.
They were also told that Northern Water was making progress on its two biggest projects: the Windy Gap Firming Project, which includes construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir near Berthoud; and NISP, the Northern Integrated Supply Project.
NISP includes two new reservoirs, Glade and Galeton, to be filled with East Slope water from the Cache La Poudre River, which runs through Fort Collins and into the South Platte River.
Just before lunch, John Stulp, the special policy advisor on water to Gov. John Hickenlooper, read a surprise letter from the governor endorsing the Windy Gap project, which would divert an additional 9,000 acre-feet of water each year, on average, from the upper Colorado River and send it through a tunnel toward Chimney Hollow.
Windy Gap is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which diverts on average 260,000 acre-feet a year from the Western Slope.
The Windy Gap project does include environmental mitigation measures for the sake of the Colorado River, and has approval from the required state agencies and Grand County, but it still needs a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A political risk
After lunch, King shared some insights from his old job as head of the state’s department of natural resources.
“I think it’s important that you understand what the development of the state water plan looked like from the governor’s perspective and the state’s perspective,” King told his audience.
As head of DNR, King had oversight over the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which was specifically tasked by the governor in late 2013 to produce the state’s first-ever water plan, and to do so in just two years.
King said that he, Stulp and the governor knew that a water plan in Colorado could be “the place where political careers went to die.”
“So the thing we had to make sure that came out of this, knowing that we weren’t going to solve the state’s water issues in two years, was that we had to do this in a manner that politically, this was viewed as a big win, and that future governors and future elected officials would say, ‘We need to do this again and we need to continue this discussion,’” King said.
“Not because the governor needed a political win,” King added, “but because to have the next stage of the water plan, to have the discussion in five years, you can’t have an albatross around this, and I think we were able to do that, and so we’re very proud of that.
“If we had a political mushroom cloud, no one would have ever touched the Colorado Water Plan again,” King continued. “That meant we aimed a little bit lower than maybe we would have liked, and I’ve gotten this at Denver Water, talking about lost opportunities in the Colorado Water Plan. Maybe we did aim just a little bit lower than we should have.”
King said the state was not able to “reconcile the inherent conflicts” in the various basin implementation plans, or BIPs, that were put together by regional basin roundtables as part of the water planning process.
And he acknowledged that the plan has been criticized for not including a specific list of water projects supported by the state, and for reading more like a statement of problems and values than a working plan.
“One of things that has been driven home to me time and time again in the two months that I’ve been at Denver Water is that planning is not something you do every five or six years,” King said. “Planning is a continuous process.”
King also said that there were some “tremendous successes” in the water plan, including the basin implantation plans, or BIPs, even though they sometimes conflicted.
“We got BIPs from every single basin,” King said. “The basins turned over their cards and said ‘This is what we need.’ So now we have a major step forward.”
Other plan elements
King said other successes in the Colorado Water Plan include the stated goal of conserving 400,000 acre-feet of water by 2050 and a nod to changing land use planning in Colorado.
King said tying land use to water availability “was something we never discussed in Colorado because it infringed on local control and it was just kind of a boogieman in the room.”
But he pointed out that “the vast majority of the basin implementation plans said, expressly, ‘We need to have this discussion’ and ‘We need to start tying land use to water availability,’” King said. “That’s a good thing. That’s a major step forward.”
When it comes to land use and Denver Water, King said driving down the per capita use remained a high priority and that if Denver proper grows, it is going to grow up through taller buildings, not by sprawling outward.
King also said Denver Water was working to manage, and plan for, the already apparent effects of climate change, especially as spring runoff is now coming earlier than it used to.
“We know that the flows are coming earlier, we know that the runoff is coming earlier,” King said, noting that reality is causing Denver Water to plan for different scenarios and ask questions about storage and late summer deliveries of water.
“For us, the most immediate thing is, is that we know it’s getting warmer,” King said. “In the last 20 years we’ve seen that, the way the [run offs] are coming earlier. We know we’ve had catastrophic events that are incredibly difficult for us to manage. And so we’re trying to work through that.”
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Daily News and Coyote Gulch are collaborating on coverage of rivers and water. The Daily News published this story on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
A financial consulting firm has recommended that the Town of Fraser keep its current water fee structure.
Ehler’s Inc. conducted a study on the town’s water fees to determine what rate structure would best suit the town’s goals of promoting attainable housing, providing affordable water to year round residents and maintaining a consistent source of income.
Paul Wisor with Ehler’s, speaking at the Fraser Board of Trustees’ March 16 meeting, said his firm had examined at two possible alternatives to the town’s current structure, which comprises of a quarterly base fee of $153 and an additional $1.50 per every 1,000 gallons used.
Because 92 percent of revenue from the current structure comes from the base fee, it’s more stable for the town and predictable for residents, Wisor said.
A major milestone in implementing the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement was reached last week when the water court signed a decree to secure and preserve environmental water flows in the Fraser, Williams Fork and Colorado rivers.
The decree protects releases of 2,000 acre-feet of water made available from Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System and Williams Fork Reservoir to preserve and improve the aquatic environment in the Fraser and Colorado rivers all the way through Grand County — a continuous stream reach of 73 miles — and beyond.
“This is truly a unique transbasin collaborative and milestone that provides the additional environmental flows on the Fraser River as contemplated by the CRCA,” said Grand County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Jane Tollett.
Once the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is complete, Denver Water will be able to provide more water for county streams by delivering water to the Fraser River Basin at diversion points along its system, and by releasing water from Williams Fork Reservoir to the Colorado River.
The decree also provides for the delivery of 375 acre-feet to a number of Grand County water users for municipal and snowmaking purposes. If the water is not needed for those purposes, it can be added to the water being provided for environmental benefit.
The decree represents the most recent success in meeting the agreements outlined in the CRCA.
“In only a few short years since the CRCA went into effect, we’re already seeing that through collaboration, we can help improve the health of the Fraser and Colorado rivers,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/manager. “This decree is another step in ensuring that we are prepared to fully implement the CRCA conditions as they become effective.”
In 2014, Denver Water made a payment of $1.95 million to Grand County for two water supply projects. The Jim Creek Bypass and Pipeline, which Winter Park Water and Sanitation District is already designing, will help protect water quality at its water treatment plant in low-flow periods, and provide system flexibility. And, the Fraser River Pump Station, Pipeline and Discovery Park Pond project, pays for much-needed improvements that will help stabilize the business of Winter Park Resort and other businesses in the upper Fraser Valley.
“The CWCB is extremely pleased to be able to work with Grand County and Denver Water to implement this important agreement,” said James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “This is a great example of how effective the state’s Instream Flow Program can be in the context of multipurpose projects.”
The CRCA ushers in a new era of cooperation between Denver Water, West Slope entities and conservation groups to create a spirit of cooperation instead of litigation over water resources through “Learning By Doing,” a monitoring and adaptive management program with the goal of maintaining, and where possible, improving the health of Colorado River headwater streams in Grand County.
“Thanks to the Learning by Doing framework, we’re finding ways to maintain healthy flows for fish and wildlife in the Upper Colorado,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited. “We’re learning — by doing — that collaboration and cooperation can help ensure the health of our rivers while meeting other diverse needs, like municipal water. These flows will make a real difference for the river and for Grand County’s important recreation economy.”
Partner contact info:
Grand County: Ed Moyer, email@example.com, 970-725-3102
Denver Water: Travis Thompson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-628-6700
Colorado Water Conservation Board: Linda Bassi, Linda.email@example.com, 303-866-3441 ext. 3204
Trout Unlimited: Mely Whiting, MWhiting@tu.org, 720-375-3961
A state water judge has signed off on a deal between Denver Water and Grand County to leave 651 million gallons of water a year that otherwise would be diverted in headwaters of the Colorado River.
That water would be left each year for the purpose of improving stream health — habitat for fish and other wildlife — once Denver completes its Moffat Project to divert more water under the Continental Divide to the heavily populated Front Range.
Denver Water officials said the water, at least 2,000-acre feet, is enough to sustain 5,000 metro households each year.
State water judge James Boyd signed the decree last week.
The deal was done under the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, finalized in 2013 between Denver and western slope communities, to try to balance growing urban demands with environmental needs.
Colorado’s Water Conservation Board would protect the water left in streams and use it to preserve natural conditions.
Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead said the deal shows Denver is prepared to fully implement the agreement.
Grand County authorities could not be reached for comment.
Under the agreement, Denver Water must conserve and recycle water and transfer up to 45,000 acre-feet a year in treated wastewater to suburbs on the condition that the suburbs agree not to pursue their own diversion projects and pay a surcharge. Western Slope communities, not including Grand County, would drop opposition to Denver’s Moffat Project.
Denver Water is seeking approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the state of Colorado to expand Gross Reservoir, which is southwest of Boulder. The 77,000 acre-foot expansion would help forestall shortages in Denver Water’s water system and offer flood and drought protection, according to Denver Water.
Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water
Workers pose for a photo in the Moffat Water Tunnel in this 1930 photo.
West portal Moffat Water Tunnel
South Boulder Creek near the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel via Jason Lee Davis
Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera
Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Schofield):
Trout Unlimited has awarded Denver Water, the Denver metro area’s largest water utility, its 2016 River Stewardship Award, recognizing the utility’s leadership in urban water conservation and its collaborative efforts with Trout Unlimited and other stakeholders to promote river health in the Upper Colorado River and South Platte basins. TU presented the award at its annual River Stewardship Gala http://coloradotu.org/2016/02/2016-river-stewardship-gala/ Thursday evening at Mile High Station in Denver.
“We’re recognizing the fact that, 25 years after the divisive Two Forks Dam battle, Denver has engaged former adversaries as partners in a shared 21st Century effort for river stewardship,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “That’s a remarkable and encouraging sign of progress in protecting the rivers that help sustain Colorado’s wildlife, communities and recreation economy.”
Denver Water provides water supply to approximately 25 percent of Colorado’s population with less than 2 percent of all the water used in the state and has been a leader in advancing water conservation, with customers reducing water use by more than 20 percent over the past 10 years, despite a 10 percent increase in population.
Denver has also established new collaborative relationships with the West Slope and with conservation groups, including TU, to help improve river conditions in the Colorado River headwaters through “Learning By Doing https://denverwaterblog.org/2016/01/27/ending-a-rocky-mountain-family-feud/,” a monitoring and adaptive management program with the goal of maintaining, and where possible, improving the health of Colorado River headwater streams in Grand County http://coloradotu.org/2014/07/moffat-agreement-whats-in-it-for-the-river/. Under LBD, Denver has agreed to promote flexibility in their operations to deliver flows when and where they are most needed to minimize river impacts, as well as invest in restoration projects to help improve stream habitat and water quality.
The LBD partnerships follow similar collaborative efforts in the South Platte River through the South Platte Protection Plan, which emerged as a locally developed alternative to Wild and Scenic designations being considered for segments on the South Platte River upstream of Denver. For nearly 12 years, the Plan has promoted collaboration among water suppliers, local governments, recreationists and conservationists – including flow management, an endowment to support investment in
river-related values, and partnerships for water quality and watershed health. Development of the Plan also inspired the creation of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, a group that has helped direct millions of dollars into watershed restoration efforts including post-Hayman fire recovery projects.
“In the years since the Two Forks veto, Denver Water has truly changed its culture,” said Nickum. “Rather than looking at conservationists and the West Slope as enemies to be defeated, they have engaged those parties as allies in conserving the watersheds we all share. Colorado TU is pleased to recognize Denver Water for its leadership in promoting partnerships that not only supply water to Denver citizens, but also promote stewardship of Colorado’s rivers as well.”
“Part of what makes Colorado an amazing state are our great cities, variety of recreational opportunities and beautiful natural environment. Denver Water is committed to continuing to collaboratively work together with partners from all sectors to keep our rivers healthy,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/manager. “We’re honored to receive the 2016 River Stewardship Award from Trout Unlimited and look forward to continuing our work with them in the future.”
The Upper Colorado River system and the Fraser/Williams Fork rivers
provide important aquatic habitat and serve as a critical municipal,
agricultural, recreational and industrial water supply for the state as
a whole. A substantial percentage of the native flows of the Colorado,
Fraser and Williams Fork rivers is currently diverted for Front Range
water supply projects, and as a result, the health of the rivers has
declined over the years. Two projects will divert additional native
flows from these rivers across the Continental Divide to meet growing
municipal needs of the Front Range: the Windy Gap Firming Project and
the Moffat Collection System Project. Although these two projects
triggered conflicts between West Slope and East Slope entities, years of
negotiation produced the 2012 Colorado River Cooperative Agreement
(CRCA), which establishes a long‐term partnership between Denver Water
and the West Slope. The CRCA is a framework for numerous actions to
benefit water supply, water quality, recreation, and the environment on
both sides of the Continental Divide. The LBD Cooperative Effort emerged
from the CRCA.
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.
Eisenhower fishing “little boy falls” in 1955 in Maine.
Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS
West portal Moffat Water Tunnel
Macro Invertebrates via Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge Water Quality Research
Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey
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.”