The Ouray County Water Users Association hopes to score $50,000 in grant dough for engineering #ColoradoRiver


From the Ouray County Plain Dealer (Sheridan Block):

Making an effort to be prepared for the state’s uncertain water future, Ouray County water users are taking necessary measures to protect their supply.

In a joint discussion on the state of local waters last month, local water user groups left with a general consensus of pursuing a water engineering analysis, which would analyze data for the Upper Uncompahgre Basin and ultimately provide options for solutions to future water needs.

The analysis is estimated to cost about $50,000, and last week county attorney and representative on the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, Marti Whitmore, submitted a grant application for a joint project to the Roundtable.

“In talking with other people in the region, including people in the Colorado River District, everyone is supportive of such a widely supported and cooperative effort among many water users in Ouray County,” Whitmore told the Plaindealer. “This cooperative effort will benefit everybody. It’s a positive step in a positive direction and I’ve gotten a lot of favorable feedback.”

According to the grant application, the county (which for the project will also include the City of Ouray, Town of Ridgway, Ouray County Water Users Association and various Log Hill water user entities) is requesting $25,000 from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable and $25,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

More Uncompaghre River watershed coverage here.

Beautiful photo of a snowy Uncompahgre river — Colorado River Watch #ColoradoRiver

USDA Selects First Projects for New, Innovative RCPP Program

RCPP Proposals map via the USDA
RCPP Proposals map via the USDA

Here’s the release from the United States Department of Agriculture (Petra Barnes). (Click through for the data):

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that 100 high-impact projects across all 50 states, including Colorado will receive more than $370 million as part of the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

RCPP’s historic focus on public-private partnership enables private companies, local communities and other non-government partners a way to invest in efforts to keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation, and other industries.

This year’s projects in Colorado will accomplish a wide diversity of agricultural and natural resource goals from facilitating the conversion of flood irrigation systems to more resource-efficient pressurized irrigation systems with integrated hydropower to significantly increasing water use efficiency by coordinating expanded efforts and by integrating off-farm irrigation conveyance system and on-farm water application efficiency improvements.

“Partners are seeing the value of conservation and investing in their future,” Vilsack said. “These partnerships are forging a new path for getting conservation on the ground and are providing opportunities for communities to have a voice and ownership in protecting and improving our natural resources. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program ushers in a new era of conservation, and we’re excited about the down-the-road benefits from this new Farm Bill program.”

This year’s projects will engage hundreds of partners with wide-ranging interests, including communities, conservation districts, agribusiness, non-government organizations, for- and non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies and Tribal governments. In addition to USDA funds, partners’ will contribute an estimated $400 million, more than doubling USDA’s investment.

“RCPP puts our partners in the driver’s seat,” said Elise Boeke, Acting USDA’S Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist in Colorado. “Projects are led locally, and demonstrate the value of strong public-private partnerships that deliver solutions to tough natural resource challenges.”

More than 600 pre-proposals were submitted for RCPP in 2014. Of those, more than 200 were invited to submit full proposals. “With so many strong project proposals, the project selection process was extremely competitive. RCPP is a 5-year $1.2 billion USDA commitment; projects not selected in this first year may be eligible in subsequent years,” Boeke said.

For more information on all RCPP projects please visit

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit or local USDA service center.

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south
Uncompahgre River Valley looking south

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Nearly $10 million in federal funding will go to boost water efficiency in the Gunnison Basin and boost the generation of electricity from irrigation systems.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District will administer $8 million to be used with regional conservation partnership programs, which were established in the 2014 Farm Bill, to use water more efficiently and reduce the amount of salts and selenium carried in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

The grant “will really help our agricultural producers implement new conservation practices that not only produce more ‘crop per drop’ of water, but significantly reduces their environmental footprint,” said Dave Kanzer, senior water resources engineer for the River District.

The agency will coordinate efforts to boost water efficiency by coordinating canals, ditches and pipes that deliver water to farms with improvements in the way water is delivered to crops, frequently by eliminating flood irrigation in favor of sprinkler and other irrigation systems.

The River District will use the money from the Agriculture Department to match funding from the Interior Department, as well as state, local and River District funds, to pay for the projects, Kanzer said.

“This grant is a big win-win for agricultural, economic and environmental sustainability,” Kanzer said.

The program will focus on the Bostwick Park, North Fork and Crawford water conservancy districts, as well as the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, for the projects, Kanzer said.

Micro-hydroelectric plant
Micro-hydroelectric plant

The Colorado Department of Agriculture will coordinate a $1.8 million grant to support development of hydropower generation from agricultural canals and ditches.

Congress previously approved legislation easing the development of small hydropower projects by U.S, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.

Tipton and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., each served on their houses’ respective agriculture committees, which crafted the Farm Bill.

“These projects will help Colorado and other states across the West better manage our water resources in the face of increased demand and persistent drought conditions,” Bennet said in a statement.

More conservation coverage here. More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here

The November 2014 Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership newsletter is hot off the presses

Uncompahgre River watershed
Uncompahgre River watershed

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

UWP completes first mine remediation project at Michael Breen Mine

The unpredictable early fall weather made UWP’s first mine remediation project at the high elevation Michael Breen Mine on Engineer Pass road very uncertain. But, we crossed our fingers for a glorious fall and forged ahead. First, Jack Pftersh of Alpine Archaelogical Consultants, LLC in Montrose completed site recordation and assessment of a historic ore load-out structure, just as the first snow blanketed the high country at the end of September. An expedited review of his report by the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) gave us the green light to proceed with stabilization of the load-out. Meanwhile, Jeff Litteral of Colorado’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) finalized agreements and plans to construct a diversion ditch for a draining adit, install a culvert and stabilize the structure. The remediation work began in early October. The weather turned warm and dry and all major tasks were completed by Halloween.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here.

Muddy Mine Waters Spill into Sneffels Creek in Ouray County

Reclamation Releases the Final Environmental Assessment for Two Salinity Control Projects

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south
Uncompahgre River Valley looking south

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

Reclamation announced today that it has released a final environmental assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for two proposed salinity control projects. The documents assessed and addressed the potential effects of the Bostwick Park Water Conservancy District’s Siphon Lateral Salinity Control Project in Montrose County, Colorado and the Forked Tongue/Holman Ditch Company’s Salinity Control Project located in Delta County, Colorado.

The Bostwick Park Project will pipe 1.76 miles of existing earthen ditch and will result in an annual reduction of 413 tons of salt contributions to the Colorado River. The Forked Tongue/Holman Ditch Project will pipe 1.89 miles of existing earthen ditch and will result in an annual reduction of 412 tons of salt contributions to the Colorado River. The purpose of both projects is to improve the efficiency of water delivery to canal users and reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.

Wringing juice from irrigation canals — Mountain Town News

South Canal hydroelectric site
South Canal hydroelectric site

From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

In 1909, President William Howard Taft arrived in Montrose on a train to dedicate one of the federal government’s first reclamation projects. With aid of federal funds, a 5.8-mile tunnel was bored from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River to divert water onto the fertile fields of the Uncompahgre Valley.

Even when the portly president (he weighed 340 pounds and once overflowed a bathtub), there was talk in Montrose about harnessing the power of fast-moving water to produce electricity. Emerging from the Bureau of Reclamation’s tunnel from April through October, the time of irrigation, the water churns with great power as it tumbles toward the 80,000 acres of irrigation around the towns of Montrose and Delta.

At long last, electrical production began last year. The first small hydroelectric plant began generation in June 2013 and the second two months later. Both were developed by Delta-Montrose Electrical Association. Together, the two units can produce 7.5 megawatts of electricity.

Two more are now being built, both by a private company called Shavano Falls Hydro. They are expected to be completed in spring of 2015 and produce a maximum 7.6 megawatts.

The four units altogether will produce 15.1 megawatts.

Delta-Montrose will sell the power to co-op members, while Shavano will sell the power to Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. Among others, MEAN sells energy to the municipalities of Delta and Aspen.

Jim Heneghan, renewable electricity engineer for Delta-Montrose, says the return on investment is 11 years. However, a better way of calculating the investment may be that it produces electricity for 3 cents per kilowatt hour more cheaply than the power delivered by wholesale supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

Both these figures are without a rate increase in the wholesale price. Coal-fired electricity has been rising rapidly in cost, however. The water will be essentially free and the turbines should last at least 50 years before they need to be retooled.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.