#COWaterPlan: Pueblo County files comments


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County commissioners say the state should be a referee, rather than a sponsor, in future water projects and they want to emphasize local regulation.

“The county’s experience has been that federal and state regulations and enforcement alone have been inadequate to protect against local impacts of water projects,” the commissioners wrote in comments on the state water plan filed last week.

The deadline for comments was Thursday. Commissioners Liane “Buffie” McFadyen, Terry Hart and Sal Pace jointly signed the letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Water Conservation Board, who are working to finish the plan by December.

The commissioners want to make sure that the state water plan does not undermine the authority of the state’s counties and cities to regulate water projects under laws such as HB1034 and HB1041, both passed in 1974 to provide local regulation of statewide activities, including water projects.

Pueblo County has used the 1041 process most notably in obtaining mitigation for the Southern Delivery System, an $840 million project that is designed to bring water from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs.

SDS is scheduled to go online in 2016, and under the 2009 permit for the project, Colorado Springs has been required to spend an additional $75 million to fortify sewer lines, $50 million for Fountain Creek flood control, $15 million for roads, $4 million for wetlands restoration and $2.2 million for Fountain Creek channel dredging, among other conditions.

“To avoid confusion as to the local government’s authority to deny a permit for a specific project, we recommend that the following sentence be added: ‘A permit may be denied for a specific water project that does not meet the standards or criteria of the local regulations,’ ” the commissioners wrote.

The county also wants the state to remain neutral in water projects.

“Pueblo County does not believe that it is appropriate for the state of Colorado to endorse or become a sponsor of a water project in most cases,” they said.

The board also wants to include stormwater control in the state definition for watershed protection. Most of the efforts in the last three years in watershed health have focused on mitigating the damage from large wildfires, but Pueblo County said equal attention has to be given to the effects on water quality from increased stormwater caused by development, such as what has occurred on Fountain Creek.

Stormwater has been a key issue in regulation of SDS as well. A recent study for the county by Wright Water Engineers found that 370,000 tons of sediment are deposited each year between Colorado and Pueblo, decreasing the effectiveness of Fountain Creek levees.

Finally, the county wants water reuse to get more emphasis in the state water plan.

“The benefits to Pueblo County of promoting reuse are twofold,” commissioners said. “First, municipal reuse would reduce the need for dry-up of agricultural lands and transfers of agricultural water rights to municipal use. Second, reuse in El Paso County would reduce and control damaging flows in Fountain Creek through Pueblo County.”

#COleg Interim Water Resources Committee meeting recap: Storage needs cited #COWaterPlan

South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia
South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

Here’s a report from Marianne Goodland writing for The Colorado Statesman. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s [The need for more storage] a message the interim Water Resources Review Committee heard and acknowledged during the hearings, held Monday in Greeley and Tuesday in Aurora.

Representatives of the Denver South Platte River area basin roundtables hammered on that desire, as did members of the public who spoke to the committee.

The hearings solicited public input on the statewide water plan, now in its second draft. A final version is expected to be delivered to Gov. John Hickenlooper by Dec. 10…

Much of the water shortage anticipated in the next three decades is likely to occur in the South Platte region, said Joe Frank, chair of the South Platte roundtable. He told the committee his roundtable needs a better understanding of those numbers and how much of the 400,000 acre-feet applies to the gap.

Most of the South Platte gap will come from municipal and industrial needs, Frank said, and there’s also a gap for the agricultural sector, which dominates the eastern part of the state. Frank wound up on the hot seat with several West Slope lawmakers when he said his roundtable wants to preserve its “rights” to Colorado River water. It’s a sore subject for West Slope residents who fear the East Slope will seek more water from the Colorado River, which advocates claim is already over-appropriated. In response to several questions from state Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango and state Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, Frank said he didn’t believe taking more Colorado River water would dry up West Slope agriculture, and that he didn’t anticipate this would have to happen “tomorrow.”

But storage is the major need for the South Platte and Denver Metro area, Frank told the committee. The basin already has a 300,000 acre-foot shortage for agriculture, reflected by wells that have been shut down all over the area. Without new storage, half the farmland that relies on irrigation could dry up. More than half of the identified projects in the South Platte/Denver basin plan are for storage, he noted.

Coram also pointed out that 1 million acre-feet went out of state this spring to Nebraska, an amount that exceeded the legal contracts between Colorado and Nebraska. Everyone wants to keep that water, Frank replied, but they have no way to store it.

Storage needs to become a much higher priority in the statewide plan, said state Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, who isn’t on the committee but attended many of the hearings.

But storage has always been a controversial topic in Colorado. Several storage projects have been killed because of opposition from environmental groups, including the Two Forks Dam, proposed in the late 1980s for the South Platte near Deckers. Environmental groups also are fighting a storage project on the Cache La Poudre River near Fort Collins — the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP — which would put two reservoirs on the river.

“We need to get past the controversy,” Frank said.

#WISE: Water project the right mix — The Pueblo Chieftain

WISE Project map via Denver Water
WISE Project map via Denver Water

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A $6.4 million project to blend water in a 21.5-mile pipeline in the South Metro area won state approval this week.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $905,000 grant toward the project which connects Aurora’s $800 million Prairie Waters Project with a $120 million pipeline that serves 14 water providers who are members of the South Metro Water Authority.

The Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership, which includes Denver Water, Aurora and South Metro members, says the new connection paves the way for recovering up to 10,000 acre-feet (325.8 million gallons) of water annually. The project does this by providing Prairie Waters flows balance water quality from Denver Aquifer wells and other sources.

Prairie Waters captures sewered flows downstream and treats the water for reuse at a plant near Aurora reservoir. The East Cherry Creek Village pipeline can redistribute the water among other users.

At a July meeting of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, South Metro Executive Director Eric Hecox claimed it would relieve pressure on taking water from farms, including those in the Arkansas River basin.

Three conservancy districts which have agreements with Aurora — the Lower Arkansas, Upper Arkansas and Southeastern — were skeptical that Aurora might use the WISE arrangement to manipulate storage levels in order to trigger more withdrawals from the Arkansas River basin.

Aurora provided assurances that would not happen, gaining approval from the roundtable in August.

“What’s significant is that six other roundtables joined to fund this project,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the CWCB.

Roundtables have funds in basin accounts, and contributed $105,000 to the grant, of which the Arkansas Basin chipped in $10,000. A statewide fund provided the remaining $800,000.

Prairie Waters Project graphic via Aurora Water

CWCB hopes that its instream flow right on the Dolores River will keep fish species off the endangered list

From Western Resource Advocates (Rob Harris/Joan Clayburgh):

Yesterday afternoon the Colorado Water Conservation Board rendered a unanimous decision to seek a water right on the Dolores River to protect fish and wildlife, securing up to 900 cfs of water during spring peak flows, as well as essential winter base flows, on one reach in western Colorado’s Red Rock Country. This will help prevent three native fish in the Dolores River from becoming threatened or endangered species. The reach slated for the largest instream flow protection on the river to date is near the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway between Gateway and Uravan Colorado…

The Board heard testimony opposing this water right that asked for water for unspecified future urban or agricultural water demands. The Board determined these requests for withholding water from this instream flow water right were speculative and unfounded. Now the Board will approach the state water court to secure the water right and it appears at this time that it should be a straightforward process.

#COWaterPlan: The Mesa County Commissioners approve resolution directed at TMDs

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

[Scott McInnis] joined with commissioners Rose Pugliese and John Justman in approving a resolution of support for a provision of the proposed Colorado water plan calling for all affected counties to participate in proposals to send water to the Front Range.

The resolution was approved in time to meet a Thursday deadline to comment on the statewide plan, which is to be complete in December.

Several provisions in the resolution mirror others adopted by West Slope counties such as Routt, Ouray and Garfield, in calling for support of the framework for consideration of transmountain diversions.

Among those provisions is one warning that “it would be unrealistic to look for any significant new supplies of water for the East Slope from the Colorado River as a primary source. Any further depletion of water from the Colorado River increases the risk of a compact curtailment.”

Diversions of water in Colorado could be reduced or prohibited at the demand of downstream states should they not get their allotted water supplies from the river under a 1922 compact governing the operation of the river.

The East Slope, which diverts as much as 600,000 acre-feet of water per year from the West Slope, should share in any reduction of diversions, West Slope officials and water managers have said…

Steve Acquafresca, a former Mesa County commissioner and fruitgrower in Grand Junction, urged the commission to support the resolution saying the West Slope should take advantage of the willingness of the East Slope to agree to the provisions protecting the West Slope.

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

#COWaterPlan: Storage is on the minds of many in Weld County

LadyDragonflyCC -- Creative Commons, Flickr
LadyDragonflyCC — Creative Commons, Flickr

From The Greeley Tribune (Bridgett Weaver):

Legislators from across the state agreed the Colorado Water Plan is dependent on all parts of the state working together, but Weld County residents had a few concerns with the proposed plan.

Weld residents and representatives raised concerns of prior appropriation, which includes property and water rights, and of the need to add water storage to the South Platte Basin.

State senators and representatives who are part of the water resources review committee gathered Monday evening at Island Grove to discuss the state water plan and hear public comment on it.

“We are a state that needs to work together,” Rep. J. Paul Brown said.

Weld is in the South Platte Basin, which includes much of northern and eastern Colorado as well as the Denver metro area. The area is expected to grow by 2.5 million people by 2050, pushing water demand higher than supply.

Joe Frank, chairman of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, agreed with the need to work together, saying, “We need the Western Slope, (and) they need us. We’re all one state. The problem is here, but ultimately it is a statewide problem.”

But Frank also recognized the importance of the South Platte Basin in the water plan.

Frank outlined the South Platte Basin Implementation Plan, which included four overarching themes. The themes considered were a good Colorado plan needs a good South Platte plan; solutions must be pragmatic, balanced and consistent with Colorado law and property rights; the South Platte River Basin will continue its leadership role in efficient use and management of water; and a balanced program is needed to plan and preserve Colorado river basin options.

Many in Weld see a need to extend the state’s storage, while others think conservation is the answer to future water issues.

Frank said the South Platte Roundtable Basin strongly believes storage needs to be a high priority in the water plan.

“We really strongly advocate for the development of additional above-ground storage,” he said. “That’s one thing that we really highlight in every section.”

Additional storage was a hot topic.

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said he has been involved in the process of writing the water plan and it’s been extremely grueling but healthy.

“Although we have differences and we will continue to have differences, the process has been a very collaborative one,” Conway said.

He said at the first meeting he attended about the water plan, someone said something that has stuck with him since.

“The days of folks simply folding our arms and saying ‘no’ are over,” Conway quoted.

He said the goal now is to find a water plan to benefit everyone and to benefit future Coloradans.

“I’m here to encourage water storage,” Conway said.

He said thousands of acres of land have dried up over the years, and it’s been devastating to agriculture in Weld County and eastern Colorado.

But Conway is worried that conservation is not enough to rectify these situations.

“Conservation should be a big part of this,” he said, “but the bottom line is, folks, we can’t conserve ourselves out of this.

Conservation is a very important part of this, but water storage is too.”

Jim Hall, representing Northern Water and the South Platte and Metro Roundtable Basins, said development of a water plan is an incredible undertaking. He encouraged legislators to recognize the wisdom of locals.

“While the plan currently points out that there has been a lack of additional storage over the last few years,” it needs to address it more immediately.

“It needs to include more storage now,” Hall said.

A local resident, Peter Bridgeman, said he was at the meeting out of concern for the future of his grandchildren.

“Water conservation will not solve our impending water crisis,” he said. “Our demands are much larger than our supply.”

Most importantly, those in attendance agreed that everyone needs to work together for solutions to the ever-present problems of water.

“We all drink it, we all use it,” said Bruce Johnson, a resident with 12,000 acres of irrigated land in Weld. “We need to be thinking about that for our offspring and the people who are coming down the pipeline.”

Water 101 seminar is Sept. 25 in Bayfield — Pine River Times

Greg Hobbs at the 2015 Martz Summer Conference (of course there is a projected image of a map -- this one was the division of Colorado into water divisions by major basin, heeding the advice of John Wesley Powell)
Greg Hobbs at the 2015 Martz Summer Conference (of course there is a projected image of a map — this one was the division of Colorado into water divisions by major basin, heeding the advice of John Wesley Powell)

From the Pine River Times:

The 9th Annual Water 101 Seminar will be held Sept. 25 at the Pine River Library in Bayfield. Keynote speaker will be Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs.

Hobbs will speak on Colorado water history and law. Other speakers will include representatives from the Bureau of Reclamation, Corps of Engineers, Colorado Division of Water Resources, Pine River Irrigation District, Town of Bayfield, and La Plata/ Archuleta Water District.

The schedule also includes a presentation on the Colorado Water Plan (comments for which are due on Sept. 17) and the Southwest Basin Implementation Plan that will be part of the state plan. Water emgineer Steve Harris will speak on water banking.

The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Space is limited so register early! The general public registration fee is $35 before Sept. 16, or $40 after that date and at the door. The registration fee includes lunch, snack, and an information packet. The fee for professionals seeking CECs is $50 before Sept. 16 or $60 at the door.

The seminar qualifies for continuing education credits (CECs) for lawyers and realtors, training units for water utility operators, and teacher certificate renewal hours.

The seminar is sponsored by the La Plata-Archuleta Water District, Pine River Irrigation District, Town of Bayfield, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and the Water Information Program.

For more information or to register, contact the Water Information Program at 247-1302 or visit their website at http://www.waterinfo.org.