Rio Grande Forest water right is working — Rio Grande Roundtable

April 16, 2015
Early winter along the Rio Grande on the Gilmore Ranch via the Rio Grande Initiative

Early winter along the Rio Grande on the Gilmore Ranch via the Rio Grande Initiative

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

If it ain’t broke ” don’t let the government fix it.

That’s the gist of San Luis Valley residents’ message yesterday to representatives from the U.S. Forest Service and their consultant who are gathering input to revise the Rio Grande National Forest’s plan.

In fact, members of the Rio Grande Roundtable who represent varying water interests throughout the Valley went so far as to make a motion to write a letter to the Forest Service urging it not to change the Forest’s plan regarding federal reserve water rights. The vote was unanimous with one abstention from Charlie Spielman.

“There’s no need to change it,” said Travis Smith, who sits on state and local water boards and manages the SLV Irrigation District. “It is a huge success story not only for the federal agency but for the water users in the San Luis Valley. Don’t change it. I think we have demonstrated over the last 30 years it is a very workable situation.”

Rio Grande National Forest Deputy Supervisor Adam Mendonca said he was not aware of any other National Forest that had anything like this. He said in 1977 the process began to develop a federal reserve water right that would provide in-stream flow for such purposes as fish and other wildlife habitat. The water right decree was filed in 2000 and is specific solely to the National Forest. The decree requires minimum flows in many riparian areas. Mendonca said the flows are so minimal they do not impact other uses and in fact provide benefits to those uses.

“I have yet to have anyone tell me the decree we have today is bad,” he said. “We don’t have monitoring data that would indicate it is not working.”

He said many people were unaware the federal government had a water right in the forest, which is probably a good thing because they have not seen any detrimental effects resulting from it.

“If you hadn’t noticed a real impact, I would say it’s working,” he said. Unlike the process in other basins in the state, the water right in this basin was accomplished without litigation thanks to the forest supervisor at the time, Jim Webb and then-Division Engineer Steve Vandiver, Smith said. He added that the decree that is in place provides a certainty for water rights for the Forest Service in addition to providing certainty for the water users.

“I would strongly support that it needs no change,” Smith said.

Rio Grande Roundtable Chairman Mike Gibson agreed.

“My understanding is it was a monumental accomplishment for the Forest Service and local water users ,” Gibson said, “something that was not accomplished in any other basin.”

He added, “It worked. We have demonstrated it works.”

Mendonca explained that the Forest Service is currently working under a plan approved in 1996, and the parts of that plan that no one wants to change will just roll over into the new plan. The Forest is not starting over with a new plan but is revising the 1996 plan, he added.

“We will use the 1996 plan until we have a new one filed ,” he said.

He said the revision plan is a four-year process, with this being the first year of that process. This year, which ends this summer, is a time of assessment when the Forest Service and its consultant Peak Facilitation Group are gathering input from residents throughout the area on what they believe should be kept and what should be revised in the current plan. The Forest Service has held numerous public meetings already, many of which focus on specific parts of the plan such as timber use, water and livestock grazing.

The Forest Service also wants input on what people believe should be changed under the standards and guidelines specified in the plan, particularly since the Forest’s budget has decreased drastically in recent years so it is more difficult to meet the “have to” requirements as opposed to “it would be good to” guidelines.

Mendonca said the budget for the Rio Grande National Forest has decreased from $14 million to $8.5 million over the last eight years. When the budget declines that significantly , he added, “something doesn’t get done.”

That is why it is important for the forest plan’s standards and guidelines to be “sustainable and attainable,” Mendonca said. The Forest Service will prioritize what it focuses its resources on according to those mandates and guidelines.

The next two public meetings regarding the Forest Service plan revision are scheduled Monday and Tuesday , April 27 and 28, with the first on April 27 from 5-7 :30 p.m. at the Alamosa County Commissioners Building, 8900-A Independence Way, Alamosa, specifically related to vegetation, timber and fire issues, and the second on April 28 from 5-7 :30 p.m. at the Saguache County Road and Bridge, 305 3rd Street, Saguache, with a focus on current issues and foreseeable trends concerning water and soil management.

For more information, visit the RGNF plan revision website at http:// riograndeplanning or contact Mike Blakeman at the Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 852-5941.

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable finishes up their basin implementation plan #COWaterPlan

April 15, 2015
Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Water plans don’t always pan out.

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable last week wrapped up a basin implementation plan that was two years in the making. The aims of the plan are to preserve agriculture in the Arkansas Valley while filling the needs of a growing population, primarily in El Paso County.

It’s part of a state water plan ordered up by Gov. John Hickenlooper as a way to accommodate a growing population without diminishing the state’s agricultural and environmental needs for water.

The roundtable hammered out differences between geographic areas and types of water use among its members, with the common theme of protecting what we have.

But a century ago, the vision was vastly different. It was a dream of turning the valley into an agricultural mecca on an industrial scale. The water plan of that era was spelled out in 1910, when Pueblo hosted the 18th National Irrigation Congress.

Pueblo was Colorado’s second largest city at the time and the industrial and rail hub for the region. Agriculture was seen as the wave of the future. The optimism at the Irrigation Congress appeared to be an irresistible force at the time and the seeds for grand plans were being planted at the time. A souvenir program from the 1910 convention in Pueblo was recently discovered in the estate of Bill Mattoon, a longtime Pueblo water attorney.

The expansion of irrigated agriculture was seen as a national duty, much the same as California Gov. Jerry Brown recognized its importance in context with the current drought.

“There is no movement more important with reference to the food supply of this nation than the progress of irrigation of the arid and semi-arid lands of our Western, now desert, plains,” President William H. Taft wrote in the program.

The U.S. Reclamation Service outlined plans for two dozen major water projects — dams, ditches and tunnels that would redirect rivers — in all Western states. Those included the Gunnison-Uncompahgre tunnel near Montrose, completed in 1909. The agency, forerunner of the Bureau of Reclamation, had just been formed in 1902.

Congress had just passed a $20 million program to begin building those projects.

Kansas and Colorado apparently were taking a break in 1910 from their century-plus battle over the Arkansas River. In the souvenir program, R.H. Faxon, editor of the Evening Telegram in Garden City, Kan., pushed the phrase “Valley of Content” for the Arkansas Valley shared by the two states. The Arkansas Valley Commercial Association, presided over by Faxon, included officers from Rocky Ford and Canon City as well.

Crowley County, which would be decimated by water raids in the 1970s and ’80s, was not even a county at the time — that would come in 1911. But the Desert Land Reservoir and Canal Co. was a scheme to open up 200,000 acres of land to the east for irrigation.

It would use stored flood waters from Lake Meredith, which was then part of Otero County, which was targeted as a 400,000 acre-foot reservoir — roughly 10 times its present-day capacity. The ambitious plan would also tie in Horse Creek and Adobe Reservoirs, which are part of Fort Lyon storage.

“There is no other situation on the river where it is possible to build a ditch large enough to divert the entire volume of your average flood,” the famed engineer James D. Schuyler of Los Angeles proclaimed.

Kansas, once it got over the Valley of Content, would have more to say about that in the future. Supreme Court battles with Kansas that would culminate with a 2009 final judgment have limited Colorado’s ability to divert the waters of the Arkansas River.

The program of the 1910 National Irrigation Congress reported 262,000 acres under irrigation in the state, and dreamed of placing 2.5 million acres under irrigation after more than 100 new irrigation projects were completed.

That part came true. The 2012 Census of Agriculture listed 2.5 million acres under irrigation in the state, which by the way is a decline of about 300,000 acres from 2007.

Pueblo was seen as a distribution center for the fruits of the land, which included large-scale orchards along the lines of those that already had seen success in places like Montrose and Grand Junction. Pueblo County’s own crops included cantaloupes, celery, alfalfa and corn.

But the crop that would become so important to the valley was sugar beets, already a valuable commodity for the Arkansas Valley. There were 16 sugar beet mills in the state at the time, with seven in the Arkansas Valley.

An unsigned article, “When We Shall Produce Our Own Sugar,” explained how the United States raised only one-fourth of the 3.6 million tons of sugar it consumed each year. Colorado and California were the leading producers.

We can’t get enough of the stuff. In recent years, Americans consumed about 10 million tons of sugar annually, with about three-fifths of that produced domestically.

Sugar beets are still grown and processed near Greeley. But things did not turn out so sweet for the Arkansas Valley, which lost all of its sugar beet mills — and the acreage and water that came with them — by the 1980s.

Above all, the 1910 Irrigation Congress promoted the idea of the small family farm.

“Are you looking for an ideal home in a land of sunshine?” one tempting advertisement for land near Delta asked.

“Farmers beginning to see the light,” blared an ad for the Pueblo-Rocky Ford Land Co.

“We have some splendid propositions for colonization,” an ad for San Luis Valley farms offered.

Article after article in the 148-page publication touted methodical paths the enterprising farmers of the day could use to develop their land.

Colorado in 1910 was wide open for agricultural development, and that seemed to be the water plan of the era: to develop and use as much as possible to grow crops.

A century on, that vision is fading, but still defended as a value by the water planners of the present. One of the planks added by the roundtable to its basin implementation plan last week included a preference for using the water in the Arkansas River basin at home and not allowing it to leak away to other basins.

Arkansas Basin Roundtable: Land use planning should be tied to water availability in future development #COWaterPlan

April 9, 2015


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Land use planning should be tied to water availability in future development, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable decided Wednesday.

That was one of three additions to the basin implementation plan the roundtable is completing as part of the state water plan, ordered in 2013 by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The meeting was held at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

The roundtable also added planks to support full development of Colorado’s entitlement under the Colorado River Compact and a watered-down preference for marketing water within the basin, rather than to the Denver area.

The roundtable unanimously agreed that land use planners must consider water resources when new development is proposed, a tough issue that has frequently arisen during the past two years of consideration of the state water plan.

“One of the ways we will better encourage water conservation is to work with local communities on land-use planning,” said Reed Dils, a retired outfitter and former member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“We need to recognize how complicated it will be to achieve that end,” said Brett Gracely, water resources manager for Colorado Springs Utilities, who noted his own community’s attempts to integrate future water supplies and development. He did not oppose the addition to the plan, however.

The roundtable was not as cohesive on the issue of keeping water in the basin.

Dave Taussig, a water lawyer from Lincoln County, said he understood why water rights owners want to sell to water providers in the Denver area, in order to maximize value. But that would strip water from farms in the Arkansas River basin, harming the landscape and economy.

“Because it is so overap­propriated, water has to go to fill the gap in our basin before it’s sold to another basin,” Taussig said.

Most on the roundtable agreed with him.

“We have to make it attractive to leave water in the valley,” said Reeves Brown, a Beulah rancher and member of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

But others disagreed, saying the Arkansas River basin already imports water from the Colorado River, and that mechanisms to manipulate prices to keep water in the basin would drive up the prices artificially.

“I don’t know where you’re going to get the money to keep this valley green,” said John Schweizer, president of both the Catlin Canal and Arkansas Valley Super Ditch. “It sounds like a good idea, but I don’t think it will work.”

The final wording expressed only a “preference” for marketing water only within the Arkansas basin, and pledged the roundtable’s support to develop ways to make it more attractive to leave water in the basin.

Dan Henrichs, superintendent for the High Line Canal, opposed any steps to use water banks or other methods that might run afoul of Colorado water law’s prior appropriation system. He agreed to write a minority opinion.

The roundtable also adopted a simple statement that supports the state in achieving full development under the Colorado River Compact. Henrichs, Dils and SeEtta Moss, of the Arkansas Valley Audubon Society, opposed the option. Henrichs again argued for abiding by the prior appropriation doctrine, while Dils and Moss wanted to continue a collaborative approach with other roundtables.

On another Colorado River issue, the roundtable agreed to remain neutral on how existing transmountain diversions might be affected if future diversions from the Colorado River such as the Flaming Gorge pipeline are developed.

Is The Public Engaged When It Comes To Colorado’s Water Plan? — KUNC #COWaterPlan

April 7, 2015
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From KUNC (Maeve Conran):

…despite an extensive education and outreach campaign, just how involved is the general public in planning Colorado’s water future?

Kate McIntire, the women in charge of public engagement and outreach for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said they’ve mostly relied on volunteers in a process that goes back 10 years when the Public Education, Participation and Outreach group was established. Later, McIntire said, they engaged the nine basin roundtables to help.

“This is really a grassroots process and so we never intended to or didn’t have millions of dollars to throw into reaching everyone across the state in terms of a more traditional advertising campaign,” said McIntire. “Spreading the word grass roots isn’t something that happens overnight.”

The Water Board received more than 15,000 comments directly and through the nine basin roundtables when creating the draft plan. That’s not enough for state Senator Ellen Roberts, a Republican from Durango. She still thinks there’s a lack of awareness amongst the general public.

“I think that’s the challenge that we saw here at the legislature,” said Roberts. “The Governor and the executive branch of the Colorado government has done a lot of outreach but it’s a topic that most people… all they really care about is when they get up in the morning does water come out of the shower, can they make their cup of coffee or cup of tea?”

In 2014 the senator co-sponsored a successful bill that called for more involvement by the legislature in water planning. That led to a series of public meetings in all the major river basins of Colorado.

“What we were trying to do with Senate Bill 14-115 [.pdf] last year was to go out to the more general public, the kind of people who show up at our town hall meetings, who maybe have no idea about Colorado water law or how complicated it is,” Roberts said. “They’re not following like the people on the basin roundtables.”

Theresa Connelly, a water advocate with Conservation Colorado, is heartened by what she sees as a growing awareness in water issues in the state, even if there’s a lack of awareness about an actual water plan.

“Folks may not know as much that there’s an actual state water plan going on, but folks are very aware of water issues that we’re facing,” she said.

But Connolly, like Senator Roberts, said the public outreach effort needs to be more inclusive. She cites the fact that many of the meetings were in the middle of the workday, which made it difficult for some to attend. People may not have time to attend a meeting, but maybe they’ve sent an email or a postcard, and those voices should also be heard.

“I think sometimes those small actions are disregarded as a form letter or something that isn’t truly meaningful and I think that that’s absolutely not true,” Connelly said.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board has received over 2000 comments in the first few months since the draft was submitted and adds all input received through May 1 will be considered in the second draft, said the board’s McIntire. She points out that the CWCB is responding to all comments received and those responses are available for public review.

“And all those responses are cataloged and available for review by anyone on our website.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable will wrap up its Basin Implementation Plan next week #COWaterPlan

April 2, 2015
Basin roundtable boundaries

Basin roundtable boundaries

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

For many Arkansas Basin Roundtable members, it seemed they were speaking Greek when they started meeting in 2005. But next week, the group finally will wrap up its portion of the state water plan.

The roundtable will fine-tune the draft basin implementation plan Wednesday. A public comment meeting to review the plan will be from 10:30 a.m. to noon, followed by the roundtable meeting at 12:30 p.m.

“It’s really come a long way, and a lot of work has gone into it,” said Jim Broderick, roundtable chairman. “The review is set up so that in the future, it’s an active plan that can be used.”

A draft for review is posted on the roundtable’s website (arkansasbasin. com). The draft plan is the culmination of the roundtable’s past decade of work.

The plan starts out with a quote by Frank Milenski, an Otero County farmer and writer who fought for agricultural water rights during his long tenure on the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and through the Catlin Canal: “When you first start out, understanding water is like trying to understand Greek. After a while it starts getting to where it kinda registers; then if you stick with it, it becomes fascinating. Water is the most valuable thing there is on Earth.”

To illustrate the point, the document is complex and weighty, especially for those who have not been along for the whole ride. Fascinating would not be the first adjective most would choose to describe it, but the value of water to future growth is apparent on nearly every page.

The full basin implementation plan is 773 pages long, including appendices. It has three major purposes:

  • To organize Arkansas River basin issues under the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s state water plan, being drafted under Gov. John Hickenlooper’s 2013 executive order.
  • To highlight future challenges faced by basin water users.
  • To describe the need and action plans for current and future water projects.
  • The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is one of nine in the state formed in 2005 to address the municipal water gap in Colorado, first identified in the Statewide Water Supply Initiative. The state’s goal was to fill a projected gap in water supplies with the least damage to agriculture, recreation and wildlife habitat.

    The roundtable’s earliest meetings often were dominated by position statements from water interests throughout the basin, but soon shifted toward obtaining state water supply reserve account grants for projects up and down the Arkansas River. Presentations over the years also increased the group’s knowledge of short- and long-term water projects.

    The group also has worked to insert the need for future agricultural water supply and for more storage into state planning.

    For the past two years, the group has been focused on gaining consensus about the water plan. Last year, it hosted 17 public meetings to solicit input on its basin implementation plan.

    More IBCC — basin roundtable coverage here.

    Durango: 33rd Southwestern Water Conservation District’s (SWWCD) Annual Water Seminar, Friday, April 3

    April 1, 2015


    From the Pagosa Springs Sun (Renita Freeman):

    Water experts will speak at the 33rd Southwestern Water Conservation District’s (SWWCD) Annual Water Seminar at the Doubletree Hotel in Durango on Friday, April 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

    This year’s theme is “New Solutions to Old Problems.” A broad range of topics on the agenda will be addressed during the meeting including the Colorado River basin contingency planning efforts, the future of agriculture in Colorado, the state water plan and the incorporation of water conservation in land use planning.

    The meeting’s agenda, as listed in a news release from SWWCD, has registration and breakfast scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Welcoming remarks and introductions will be made by John Porter, SWWCD board president, and Bruce Whitehead, executive director.

    The morning’s presentations will feature Jim Havey with Havey Productions presenting a documentary on the Great Divide. Moderator Steve Harris will present Exploring Water Conservation Strategies. Assisting in this presentation will be state Sen. Ellen Roberts, Drew Beckwith with Western Resource Advocates, Dominique Gomez with Water Smart Software and Mark Marlowe from the Town of Castle Rock.

    Whitehead will speak on the Colorado River Planning Convergence; he will be assisted by Greg Walch from the Southern Nevada Water Authority and Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) members Ted Kowalski and Eric Kuhn.

    The afternoon’s agenda will begin with recognition of the water leaders followed by the film “Resilient: Soil, Water and the New Stewards of the American West” presented by Kate Greenberg from the National Young Farmers Coalition. Greenberg will also present Agriculture’s Future in the Colorado River Basin. Assisting with this presentation will be Ken Nowak from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Pat O’Toole, a local producer from the Family Farm Alliance.

    “The State Water Plan: Meeting Local Water Needs” will be presented by John Stulp from the Interbasin Compact Committee. Assisting Stulp will be CWCB board member Rebecca Mitchell. Carrie Lile, Ann Oliver and Mike Preston from the Southwest Basin Roundtable will also take part in the presentation.

    The press release stated advance registration is $35 or $40 at the door. Online registration is available by going to Mail-in registration forms are also available on the website. The Doubletree Hotel is located at 501 Camino del Rio. Registration will begin 8 a.m. on April 3.

    More education coverage here.

    Securing the flows tied to the Shoshone hydropower plant is a clear priority for the roundtable — Aspen Journalism #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

    March 30, 2015
    Basin roundtable boundaries

    Basin roundtable boundaries

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Aspen Times:

    Maintain the big flows on the Colorado River tied to the Shoshone hydro plant.

    Upgrade the roller dam on the Colorado east of Grand Junction.

    And figure out how much water the rivers and streams in the region need to stay healthy.

    Those are the top three basinwide priorities of the Colorado River basin roundtable, a water-supply planning group working under the auspices of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    The roundtable is finalizing a “basin implementation plan” for the Colorado River Basin, which stretches across the state from Grand County to Grand Junction.

    Other projects in the plan include enlarging Hunter and Monument reservoirs on Grand Mesa, building a new reservoir on lower Homestake Creek near Camp Hale and constructing Kendig Reservoir on West Divide Creek south of Silt.

    The roundtable’s plan and project list are due to the state by April 17, as are plans from seven other basin roundtables. The basin plans will inform the Colorado Water Plan, which is to be presented to the governor in December.

    A draft plan submitted by the roundtable in the summer listed more than 400 potential projects, plans and processes. State officials asked the roundtable to prioritize its list.

    Roundtable members presented their top projects at a March 23 meeting. It was the group’s last meeting before the April 17 deadline.

    “Being listed is not a ticket to reality,” said Jim Pokrandt, the chairman of the roundtable and the communications director for the Colorado River District. “There will be other ideas, projects and processes not yet known to us that might be better, more feasible candidates.”


    Securing the flows tied to the Shoshone hydropower plant is a clear priority for the roundtable.

    The plant, just east of Glenwood Springs, has senior rights from 1902 and can demand that 1,200 cubic feet per second of water be sent downriver to produce hydropower.

    The facility is owned by Xcel Energy, which firmly said a year ago that the facility was not for sale to either Western Slope nor Front Range entities. Nonetheless, the Colorado River District is working to maintain the flows created by the plant, either by buying it outright or making other arrangements with Xcel.

    Downriver, the Grand Valley Diversion Dam in DeBeque Canyon near Cameo provides water to the four entities that make up the senior Cameo call. The 100-year-old riverwide structure directs 1,332 cfs of irrigation water into the 55-mile-long Highline Canal.

    Both the dam and the upper portion of the canal are in need of “extensive upgrading and rehabilitation,” according to a project sheet distributed by the roundtable.

    “The Shoshone Call and the Cameo Call are the two main calling rights on the Colorado River, and the whole regime of the river has developed over the years based on these two calls being in place,” said Mark Hermundstad, an attorney from Grand Junction who represents Mesa County on the roundtable. “Both of those calls draw down clean high-mountain water to the middle and the lower reaches of the river, and we think it is important to maintain those flows down the river.”

    A third roundtable priority is the development of a basinwide stream-management plan to “help resource managers better understand and manage streamflows” for both ecological and recreational reasons.


    Among the sub-basin projects put forward are the enlargement of both Hunter and Monument reservoirs in the Plateau Creek drainage on Grand Mesa, about 20 miles southeast of Collbran.

    The Ute Water Conservancy District, which provides water to the Grand Junction area, is proposing to enlarge Hunter Reservoir from 100 acre-feet to 1,340 acre-feet, at a cost of $5 million to $7 million.

    The existing 11-foot-tall dam would grow to 37 feet, the reservoir’s surface area would expand from 19 to 80 acres, and it would inundate 32 acres of wetlands, according to a 2007 study by the U.S. Forest Service.

    Monument Reservoir No. 1, on Monument Creek south of Vega Reservoir, would be expanded from 573 to 5,255 acre-feet. A new dam would be 69 feet tall and would flood 145 acres. The cost estimate is $20 million, according to Steve Ryken, assistant general manager of Ute Water, who sits on the roundtable.

    Another significant sub-basin project is the Eagle River MOU, a 1998 agreement to develop 33,000 acre-feet of new water storage. Of that, 20,000 acre-feet would eventually flow east to Aurora and Colorado Springs, and 10,000 acre-feet would be for use in the Eagle River watershed.

    Project components being actively studied include the expansion of Eagle Park Reservoir from 3,300 acre-feet to 8,000 acre-feet or more and the construction of a new reservoir on lower Homestake Creek, near Whitney Creek, that would hold 3,500 to 10,000 acre-feet of water.

    “Currently, the project sponsors are continuing investigations to evaluate the ‘Whitney Creek’ alternative, consisting of a surface diversion from the Eagle River to the area of Camp Hale with a dual-purpose storage reservoir/pumping forebay on Homestake Creek to store West Slope yield, and regulate and feed East Slope yield up to Homestake Reservoir,” states a May 2014 draft of the basin plan.

    Also on the list is the building of 257-acre Kendig Reservoir on West Divide Creek, 15 miles south of Silt.


    Two priority projects, or processes, were identified in the Roaring Fork River watershed, according to Mark Fuller, the executive director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority and a legislative appointee to the Colorado roundtable.

    One priority is an ongoing process led by the Roaring Fork Conservancy to find ways to leave more water in the lower Crystal River, which is heavily diverted for agriculture.

    The second priority project is the completion of the 210 action items identified in the 2012 Roaring Fork Watershed Plan, which does not include significant new water-storage projects.

    “It’s not like we’re really suggesting that we do 210 projects. We’re suggesting we carry out the watershed plan, including the nine priority projects already identified in the plan,” Fuller said.

    Fuller said he did not expect that supporting the city of Aspen’s conditional water rights for large dams on upper Castle and Maroon creeks would be added as a third project for the Roaring Fork sub-basin, as Mike McDill, the deputy utilities manager for the city of Aspen, has lobbied for.


    In the Middle Colorado region, between Dotsero and DeBeque Canyon, the priorities are, in addition to building Kendig Reservoir, investigating the sources of selenium in Mamm and Rifle creeks, studying the feasibility of a regional water authority to serve Silt Mesa and surveying the region’s irrigation assets.

    In the State Bridge region, between Kremmling and Dotsero, the priorities are to designate Deep Creek as a “wild and scenic” river and to inventory irrigation systems around Eby, Brush and Gypsum creeks.

    In the Grand County region, the priorities are to repair and restore 10 miles of the Colorado River near Kremmling, update the existing $1 million Grand County stream-management plan and expand a water-district reservoir near Fraser by 80 acre-feet.

    In Eagle County, in addition to the Eagle River MOU projects, the priorities include restoring 270 acres of wetlands at Camp Hale to be used for future wetland mitigation credits and five water-quality projects, including one on Gore Creek as it flows through Vail.

    In Summit County, the top priorities are to enlarge by 500 acre-feet the Old Dillon Reservoir, a small reservoir next to Dillon Reservoir, restore a 3,000-foot-long stretch of the Blue River in Breckenridge and modify Dillon Reservoir to let warmer water be released back into the Blue.

    The third key project in the Grand Valley region, after enlarging Hunter and Monument reservoirs, is the repairing of the Southside Canal owned by the Collbran Water Conservancy District.

    The canal was built in the 1950s and has at least two siphon pipes that need replacing. It can normally carry 240 cfs of water and winds 33 miles from Vega Reservoir to Mesa Creek.

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on coverage of Colorado rivers and water. More at

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


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