@USBR Releases an Environmental Assessment on Repairs to the Paonia Dam Intake Structure

Paonia Reservoir

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Lesley McWhirter, Justyn Liff):

The Bureau of Reclamation has released a draft Finding of No Significant Impact and Environmental Assessment evaluating if Reclamation will provide partial funding to the North Fork Water Conservancy District to make repairs to the Paonia Dam intake structure and bulkhead, part of the Paonia Project located near Paonia, Colo.

Repairs will include dismantling the damaged upper concrete bulkhead of the intake structure and replacing the bulkhead with a modified aluminum trash rack and support members. Prior to repairing the intake structure, increased turbidity downstream of the dam will be noticeable due to normal reservoir operations and drawdown. Repairs on Paonia Dam will ensure continuation of normal dam operations and water delivery to downstream users.

The draft environmental assessment is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/progact/paonia/documents.html or a copy can be received by contacting Jenny Ward at 970-248-0651 or jward@usbr.gov. Reclamation will consider all comments received by September 20, 2016. Written comments can be submitted by email to jward@usbr.gov or mailed to: Ed Warner, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave., Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501.

To learn more about the Paonia Project, the upcoming repair work, or sedimentation issues in the reservoir, visit our website at: http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wca/progact/paonia/index.html. You can also be added to our email list for project updates by clicking the “Contact Us” link.

Uncompahgre Valley Water Forum Sept. 1 — The Montrose Press

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south
Uncompahgre River Valley looking south

From The Montrose Press:

John Stulp, special advisor to the Governor and director of the Inter Basin Compact Committee for the State of Colorado, will speak at the Uncompahgre Valley Water Forum Sept. 1.

The event will be held at the Montrose County Fairgrounds in Friendship Hall 6:30-9 p.m. Stulp’s presentation will be focused on what the State Water Plan says about agricultural water.

He will address the extent to which everyone is a recipient of the benefits that ag. water provides – not just the foods and fibers grown and raised that require water, but also important community amenities, like city parks, soccer fields and cemeteries which often depend on ag. water to keep grass growing and green.

Shavano Conservation District is hosting the Uncompahgre Valley Water Forum to create a medium for landowners to be aware of ideas and views on local and state agricultural water.

Other speakers at the Forum include Marc Catlin, who is the Water Development coordinator for Montrose County, sits on the Colorado River Water Conservation Board,and also on the Gunnison Basin Roundtable.

Dick Wolfe, state engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources; Steve Anderson, manager of the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association; and MaryLou Smith from the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, will also be on hand.

Those planning to attend should RSVP by Aug. 29 to either Bert at 970-249-8407, ext. 115, or by email to bertha.earle@co.nacdnet.net.

@USBR: The next Aspinall Unit operations meeting is Thursday #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Aspinall Unit dams
Aspinall Unit dams

From email from Reclamation (Eric Knight):

The next Aspinall Operations meeting will be held this Thursday, August 18th at the Elk Creek Visitor Center at Blue Mesa Reservoir. Start time is 1 PM.

#ColoradoRiver: Aspinall Unit operations update #COriver — 1,000 cfs in Black Canyon

Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn
Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn

From email from Reclamation (Eric Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be decreased from 2000 cfs to 1800 cfs on Wednesday, August 10th. July inflows to Blue Mesa Reservoir ended up being less than predicted and August inflow forecasts are also declining. The April-July runoff volume finished the season at 89% of average. The current content of Blue Mesa Reservoir is 757,000 acre-feet which is 91% full.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. Flows are expected to remain above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for August through December.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are around 1000 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 1000 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be at 1000 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 800 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

Agencies Help Producer Use Existing Water To Create Electricity — #Colorado Dept. of Agriculture

Micro-hydroelectric plant
Micro-hydroelectric plant

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Agriculture (James Amos):

The first joint project to help farmers use existing irrigation water to generate electricity has been completed in Colorado. And the Colorado Department of Agriculture is looking for more producers who want to try it.

The installation, near Hotchkiss, Colorado, is the first for the multi-agency Pressurized Irrigation Small Hydropower Partnership Project, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). During the next few years, the program is expected to create 30 on-farm hydropower projects in Colorado.

“This project helps farmers by putting their water to work, creating electricity that lowers their power bills,” said Don Brown, Commissioner of Agriculture. “We are very proud of this project and how it gives producers a way to cut their costs and use their resources efficiently.”

The Hotchkiss installation helps veterinarian and farmer Susan Raymond use water already flowing in her irrigation pipeline to generate electricity to offset that used by her veterinary practice and alfalfa operation. When the water is not being used to feed her three center-pivot sprinklers, it flows through the 8-kilowatt hydropower generator attached to the pipeline.

The $50,000 project was finished in early July with $32,800 in assistance from four funding programs, including the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s “Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency” (ACRE3) program, the NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Rural Development’s (RD) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), and the Delta Conservation District. The project also used local contractors.

The overall hydro program is funded and assisted by 14 agencies and groups, collectively contributing $3 million to the effort for project funding and technical assistance for Colorado agricultural producers.

A second Colorado project is under construction near Kersey, Colorado, to help a farmer there use the energy in his irrigation water to generate electricity. That will help offset the electrical bill for his farm. That project uses “low-head” hypropower technology because the available pressure in the surface-fed water is lower, as is the case with many agricultural water supplies.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is looking for more producers who want to participate. Sam Anderson, the department’s lead official for the hydro program, said the department will help producers apply to the funding programs. Applicants must be eligible to receive funding from the EQIP program. To start the application process, contact Anderson at sam.anderson@state.co.us.

The overall project has 14 partner agencies and groups:
USDA – Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)
Colorado Department of Agriculture ACRE 3 energy grant program
USDA – RD Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
Colorado State Conservation Board
Colorado Energy Office
The Nature Conservancy – Colorado
American Rivers
Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado Association of Conservation Districts
Colorado State University Extension
Colorado Small Hydro Association
Colorado Rural Electric Association
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Hydro Research Foundation

The latest “Water Matters” newsletter is hot off the presses from the #Colorado Water Trust

On July 7th, we closed our headgate that takes water from the Little Cimarron for irrigation. The water in the above photo will now bypass our headgate and return to the river. Photo via the Colorado Water Trust.
On July 7th, we closed our headgate that takes water from the Little Cimarron for irrigation. The water in the above photo will now bypass our headgate and return to the river. Photo via the Colorado Water Trust.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

The Little Cimarron and McKinley Ditch

Exciting news from the Gunnison Basin this month! A few weeks ago, the Water Trust implemented a unique project aimed at exploring the effectiveness of water conservation tools and voluntary measures to protect Colorado River Compact entitlements.

You may recall that in 2014, the Colorado Water Trust purchased a portion (5.8 cfs) of the McKinley Ditch to restore late summer flows to the Little Cimarron, while keeping agricultural land in production. Earlier this year, the Water Trust received approval from the Upper Colorado River Commission for a Pilot Program project for our water.

Under the project, McKinley Ditch water was used to irrigate approximately 195 acres of pasture grass from April through July 6th. We’re pleased to report that the pilot project was implemented as planned, and on July 7th, we ceased irrigation for the rest of the season. Water is now being returned to the river for the remainder of the irrigation season.

Water conserved by this pilot project will help improve habitat conditions, and ultimately will benefit both the Little Cimarron and Colorado Rivers. We are excited to be a part of this Pilot Program and are hopeful the study results will lead to a more secure future for Colorado’s rivers.

New seven-year water #conservation plan to be reviewed Tuesday by the Montrose City Council

View along Main Street in early Montrose (between 1905 and 1915). Shows a horse-drawn carriage, bicycles, and two men talking. Signs include: "The Humphries  Mercantile Co. Dry Goods, Clothing, Hats & Shoes" "Montrose National Bank" and C. J. Getz, Pharmacist, Druggist." via http://photoswest.org
View along Main Street in early Montrose (between 1905 and 1915). Shows a horse-drawn carriage, bicycles, and two men talking. Signs include: “The Humphries
Mercantile Co. Dry Goods, Clothing, Hats & Shoes” “Montrose National Bank” and C. J. Getz, Pharmacist, Druggist.” via http://photoswest.org

From The Montrose Daily Press:

Montrose City Council will consider the 182-page document at its regular meeting Tuesday evening.

Public comment will be accepted and following the hearing, a resolution to adopt the plan may be considered.

Drawing the plan began shortly after the Colorado Water Conservation Board determined each public entity distributing 2,000 acre-feet per year or more of water to encourage efficient use of water, according to city documents provided in Tuesday’s council agenda packet.

In the document, the city spells out how the plan will be implemented, monitored, reviewed and revised over the next seven years. It also estimates how much water will be conserved by implementing the plan.

“The goal of the City of Montrose Water Conservation Plan is to increase the efficient use of water throughout the city by identifying challenges and methods for overcoming each,” an executive summary of the plan says…

A complete copy of the plan is available at http://www.cityofmontrose.org/300/Water.