Repair projects dating from 2013 flood still in progress — The Canyon Courier

Evergreen Colorado Flooding September 2013 via Business Insider
Evergreen Colorado Flooding September 2013 via Business Insider

From the Canyon Courier (Sandy Barnes):

Concrete barriers along the eroded creek bank in downtown Evergreen are still in place nearly two years after the 2013 flood that caused the damage.

Evergreen businessman Jeff Bradley, manager of the property, said he has obtained a permit from Jefferson County for the project, and has plans to restore the bank. Bradley said he also needs a permit from the federal government, although the project does not involve funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A few miles down Highway 74 at Lair O’ the Bear Park, a bridge restoration project dating from the 2013 flood is scheduled for this fall…

Another major bridge project is in the works at Evergreen Lake Park, which is owned by Denver Mountain Parks. The aging bridge that provides the only vehicle access to the park is scheduled for replacement next year. The Evergreen Park and Recreation District and the Evergreen Metropolitan District are each contributing $40,000 for the project, which is estimated to cost $790,000. The park district has added an additional $40,000 from Jeffco grant funding it received to assist with the bridge replacement cost.

The 2013 flood contributed to the deterioration of the bridge at the Lake Park, EPRD board member Peter Lindquist noted.

Telluride: Workers installing pipe around Blue Lake

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls

From The Watch (Stephen Elliott):

For years, Idarado, which owns much of the land and water rights in the upper basins around Blue Lake, and the town of Telluride have argued — occasionally in a courtroom — over water. Now, the two entities are working together to achieve the mutual benefit the pipeline project will bring.

“This project is necessary because it’s a historic pipeline that existed many, many years ago, installed by miners. Since it’s very old, and it’s in very extreme conditions in terms of climate and geology, it has sprung a lot of leaks,” Telluride Environmental and Engineering Division Manager Karen Guglielmone said. “Over the last several years, we’ve been in a bit of a drought and [the amount of water stored in Blue Lake] has dropped by many feet. It has become quite obvious that additional water from the next drainage is important to maintaining that water storage.”[…]

The new pipeline connects Lewis Lake and Blue Lake. Lewis Lake is at a slightly higher elevation than Blue Lake, which means gravity can facilitate the transfer of water from the higher lake to the lower. The water then is transported to the Bridal Veil Falls power station and eventually to the Pandora water treatment plant.

The vast majority of the new pipe, made of high-density polypropylene, is being installed on the flatter stretches between the two lakes by EarthTech West out of Norwood. The work to install the flatter, simpler sections of pipe has been moving relatively quickly in comparison to the highly technical — and laborious — work required in order to install the 160-foot section of pipe on the cliff.

That’s the job of Access in Motion, the rope access experts, a company based in Telluride and led by owner/contractor Juju Jullien. The crew, a half-dozen (depending on the day) expert welders and machine specialists used to dangling off the sides of cliffs and buildings, work six, 10-hour days while living at the camp, with two days off in between.

“You have to drive for almost an hour, and the road is very dangerous. Driving it after 10 hours of work on a daily basis is not something you want everyone to do, so the camp made sense,” Jullien said. “You can have the best technicians, but they also have to be mountain people, and people that can get along. Six 10-hour days at that altitude with heavy equipment… it’s fun and we love it, but it’s not a job that you start by running, because that job will outrun you.”

That sentiment, combined with the highly technical work involved with securing the steel pipe to the cliff, means it’s hard for Jullien to estimate when they might be done, though a natural deadline would be the first snowfall, which is fast approaching at 12,000 feet. Guglielmone said initial estimates were that the project would take between six and 10 weeks and would be completed by mid-September. Jullien’s team was not able to visit the site for the first time until July 13 due to late spring snow and rain.

To secure the pipe to the cliff, Jullien’s team will drill nine one-inch stainless rods 15 inches into the rock, seal them and then weld them to the pipe. Each anchor will be stress-tested at 8,000 pounds for five minutes before the pipe can be secured.

“It’s all custom work, hard to predict, and all on ropes,” Jullien said. “Each support for the pipe, they’re all different because the rock is not a concrete wall. You cannot have one design that you multiply. It’s a slow process.”

More important than the speed necessary to install the pipe before the winter snows arrive is safety, Jullien said.

“There’s a notion of distance and isolation up here,” he said. “A little accident up here is serious. If you’re in town, you’re next to the medical center. That’s easy.”

“As far as natural hazards like lightning, rain, snow, and cold [go], even the sun is a hazard at 12,000 feet,” Jullien continued.

To manage safety concerns at the site, the Access in Motion and EarthTech West teams have a joint safety meeting each morning. Additionally, Jullien said, his team’s experience working in the oil and gas industry, where safety regulations are incredibly thorough, means they are taking even more safety precautions than prescribed by their own industry regulations.

“It’s a very industrial approach to safety,” Jullien said.

“You can’t have any failure. That’s what we’ve learned on the big fields.”

Because the project is mostly on Idarado’s land and is overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, San Miguel County has limited oversight of the project. But, the county gave Idarado development permits and county staff visited the site.

“In general the county supports clean energy, and we think the hydroelectric plant does that,” county planning director Mike Rozycki said. “We look at it as an essential regional facility.”
At the site, reminders of the miners who once inhabited the basin below Blue Lake remain, in the form of dilapidated wooden structures and rusted pipes half-buried in the ground. Those miners are ever-present in the minds of those who now inhabit the flat, grassy campsite.

“We’re surrounded by historical flumes, and when we have to work around them and are not allowed to move them, we respect that because we understand how long they took to build,” Jullien said. “I love to see those old pieces of steel.”

Guglielmone has a more practical respect for the memory of the miners. She said that the fact that they built the pipe in the first place is reason enough to reconstruct it.

“Think about the miners living in those kinds of conditions. Would they really have built it if they didn’t believe that water was necessary in Blue Lake?” she asked. “They weren’t frivolous. They didn’t build infrastructure unless they felt strongly that they needed it.”

Fort Collins City Council opposes NISP — Fort Collins Coloradoan

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water
Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to support a resolution stating the city “cannot support NISP as it currently described and proposed” in a supplemental draft environmental impact statement, or EIS.

The recommendation from city staff to conditionally oppose the massive water-storage project, which would draw water from the Poudre River, was based on what the city describes as inadequate information and scientific analysis in the 1,500-page EIS document.

The staff’s comments will be forwarded to the Army Corps of Engineers, which is developing the EIS for the project.

Council members said staff did an “excellent” job of analyzing the document and highlighting its deficiencies, such as describing the project’s impact to water quality if it were built.

John Stokes, director of the city’s Natural Areas Department, said the resolution “leaves the door open” for continuing to work with the Corps and NISP’s proponents, including the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and 15 participating municipalities and water districts…

Council tweaked the language of its resolution to hint that the city might support NISP if it were changed in the ways proposed by city staff. The modified alternative would have water drawn from the river farther downstream, leaving flows through Fort Collins relatively intact.

Rather than Glade Reservoir, water would be stored in a reservoir near Cactus Hill, near Ault.

The council’s vote came after members heard more than two dozen speakers, with opponents of NISP outnumbering supporters about five to one…

But the city plays a role in the state of the Poudre River, said Mike DiTullio, general manager of the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, which serves much of the southern third of Fort Collins.

The district is a participant in NISP, as is Windsor. Other participants are in Morgan, Weld and Boulder counties.

The city draws 12 million gallons a day from the river, he said.

“We’re all partners in this area, and Fort Collins is as much responsible for the condition of the river today as anybody else,” he said. “I hope you would take that into consideration …”[…]

The supplemental draft EIS looks at four alternatives for the project, including a “no action” alternative. The version of NISP preferred by Northern Water would build Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins…

Differing views

Fort Collins city staff members and consultants who reviewed the supplemental draft environmental impact statement, or EIS, for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project took issue with several elements of the 1,500-page document.

Below are some of their concerns as noted in a report to City Council and the response from Northern Water, which has proposed NISP in cooperation with 15 participating municipalities and water districts, in a letter to city officials.

Fort Collins: The absence of a water quality and stream temperature report that quantifies the water-quality impacts of the project. Many of the potential impacts to Fort Collins hinge on the report’s findings.

Northern Water: The draft document describes findings from the first phase of a two-phase water-quality analysis. The second phase will be included in the final EIS, and will include modeling for sensitive parameters such as water temperatures.

Fort Collins: The project has the potential for water quality degradation that could affect the city’s treatment facilities for drinking water and wastewater.

Northern Water: A study done by Black & Veatch, an international water and wastewater treatment engineering firm, concluded NISP would have negligible impacts to Fort Collins’ facilities.

Fort Collins: Flawed analyses and conclusions related to the project’s reduction of peak flows, which are likely to harm the environment and potentially increase flood risk.

Northern Water: NISP participants are developing a mitigation plan that would improve habitat along the river and guarantee flows during winter months.

Fort Collins: The project would have significant negative impacts to the recreation values of the river.

Northern Water: Glade Reservoir, which would be about the size of Horsetooth Reservoir, would offer residents increased recreational opportunities.

What’s next

Comments on the supplemental draft environmental impact statement on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project are due Thursday. Comments may be emailed to nisp.eis@usace.army.mil.

Meanwhile the Larimer County Board of Commissioners reaffirmed their support for the project. Here’s a report from Nick Coltrain writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Here’s an excerpt:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will receive a Larimer County advisory board’s concerns about the Glade Reservoir project, but county commissioners want to make sure their support of the proposal isn’t questioned.

Commissioner Steve Johnson rewrote a neutral cover letter to the Environmental and Science Advisory Board’s findings — the board’s chief concern was that it lacked all the analysis needed to fully weigh the Northern Integrated Supply Project — to say that the concerns shouldn’t jeopardize the project moving forward. The other two county commissioners signed off on the new letter Tuesday.

“We believe NISP to be very important to the future of Northern Colorado and we appreciate the input and concerns that many have shared,” Johnson wrote in the letter. “We believe that by working through these concerns collaboratively and constructively, NISP can and will be an even better project.”

All three commissioners have publicly voiced their support of the project to build Glade and Galeton reservoirs, which would add more than 215,000 acre-feet of water storage in Larimer and Weld counties.

From the Rocky Mountain Collegian (Rachel Musselmann):

NISP was originally proposed in 2008 by the Army Corps of Engineers and was unanimously opposed by city council. It was re-proposed this year with an updated environmental impact statement, and was opposed again, although conditionally…

Concerns about the program include economic loss due to lower river levels and water quality. According to Environment Colorado, the state of Colorado saw $18 billion spent on tourism in the past year, with over 16 million visitors, 662,601 fishing licenses sold and 83,683 registered boats.

Vivian Nguyen, an organizer with Environment Colorado, said in a press release that water levels and quality are central to Fort Collins culture.

“Our rivers and lakes are a big part of what makes summer fun,” Nguyen said. “There’s nothing quite like rafting down the Cache La Poudre River or fishing at Horsetooth Reservoir to cool off on a hot day.”

A lack of moderate water flow, called “flushing flows,” was also discussed by the council. Director of the Natural Resources Department John Stokes said he believes low water flow could be detrimental to the health of the river and lead to flooding.

“John Stokes is an incredible diplomat, and he is very kind to NISP, but as it stands the project is unacceptable,” Speer said. “It appears the updated environmental statement is not an improvement on the original.”

The council passed the motion to oppose NISP as it stands, under the condition that it may be revisited if modified.

Stokes said in his closing remarks he hopes for a more sustainable water use plan in the future.

“We need to be asking ourselves if a vision for Poudre River health is possible,” Stoke said.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

While Fort Collins staff members have criticized Northern Integrated Supply Project for its potential harm to the Poudre River, the Larimer County commissioners have reiterated their support for the reservoir project.

“We believe NISP to be very important to the future of Northern Colorado, and we appreciate the input and concerns that many have shared,” the commissioners state in a letter written by Steve Johnson and approved Tuesday by all three elected officials.

“We believe that by working through … concerns collaboratively and constructively, NISP can and will be an even better project,” it states.

Their letter, which will be forwarded to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with a report from the county’s Environmental and Science Advisory Board, stressed that Glade and Galeton reservoirs are needed to provide future water supply for a healthy and prosperous region and to prevent that needed water from being taken from farmers.

They compared NISP to the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, on which the entire region relies today for a clean and abundant water supply.

“It’s impossible to imagine a healthy and prosperous Northern Colorado without it,” the commissioners’ letter states. “We should do no less for our children and their children.”

This is the opposite stance from the one released by Fort Collins staff members, who reported extreme concerns about what the project would do to the Poudre River. Echoing the concerns of long vocal opponents of the project, city staff members worry in the report that the project would degrade habitat, affect stream flow and even increase the potential for flooding.

These factors would kill the river and the community’s economy, including recreation, tourism and other businesses that are tied to the river corridor, according to opponents of the project, including three residents who spoke before the commissioners Tuesday. Also mentioned was the millions of dollars invested in natural areas and habitat along the river.

“The expected harmful impacts upon the Poudre River … are significant,” said Gina Janett, Fort Collins resident, calling the Poudre a “beloved resource.”[…]

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is wrapping up public comment on its supplemental draft environmental impact statement. Between this step and the final decision, the Corps has said it will complete additional technical analysis on stream flow and on mitigations to other concerns.

When that happens, those reports, too, should be open for public comment, according to the report created the Larimer County’s Environmental and Science Advisory Board…

The county commissioners forwarded that report to the federal agency despite two of the three commissioners (Tom Donnelly and Lew Gaiter) saying they did not want to cause more unnecessary delays in the final decision on NISP.

Donnelly said he is comfortable that the experts from the corps will complete the plan and make the right decision without public comment that could delay the permitting decision.

“This isn’t about whether you support the reservoir or not support the reservoir,” Donnelly said. “This is about if the reservoir gains support, this is what we need to do to mitigate these issues.”

“It’s a technical matter, it’s not a political matter,” he said. “We should leave the technical things, the scientific things in the hands of the experts.”

The third member of the board, Johnson, agreed that the remaining environmental concerns regarding the proposed reservoir project can be addressed by Northern Water. However, he noted that the project has been underway for eight years, so what is another 30-day to 90-day comment period.

Durango: Councilors hope to get $68 million wastewater funding issue on fall ballot

Wastewater Treatment Process
Wastewater Treatment Process

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

Durango city councilors plan to finalize ballot language Tuesday that will ask voters in November to approve spending $68 million on moving the sewer plant, but councilors haven’t decided where to put it, and voters likely will not know, either.

The deadline for completing the ballot question is a week away. If councilors agree Tuesday on what to ask, it will keep the timetable for construction intact while giving councilors time to consider options for moving the plant out of Santa Rita Park.

“We’re not in a hurry to pick a site,” Mayor Dean Brookie said.

If councilors don’t approve the question by Friday, it can’t be placed on the November ballot, and the project would be delayed by at least a year. Brookie is hopeful councilors will have a location identified before the debt question goes to voters.

City officials say they have looked at every possible parcel where a new sewer plant could go without finding a viable alternative to its current location in Santa Rita Park, and they are on a tight timeline to build a new plant that will meet state regulations.

But critics say there must be other options that haven’t been pursued.

Councilors considered a resolution earlier this month that would have formalized their intent to remodel and slightly expand the existing plant. But after hearing extensive public testimony, they decided to wait to pick a site to see if other options could be found. The same resolution could be back on Tuesday’s agenda.

Without knowing where the sewer plant will be located, it may be difficult to tell voters how much it will cost.

The Santa Rita Park plant remodel would require an estimated $58 million, and the city plans to ask for an additional $10 million in contingency money that could be used for the plant or other infrastructure projects.

If the city finds the ideal site for a sewer plant after the ballot language is approved, the city would have to go back to the voters if the project were to cost more than the $68 million, City Manager Ron LeBlanc said.

“The political will comes only when there is a crisis” — Mike DiTullio

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art
Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Developers accustomed to Fort Collins Utilities’ relatively inexpensive water service face the other districts’ unfamiliar requirements and exponentially higher costs — as much as $32,000 per lot — that some say will drive up the city’s already escalating housing prices.

And water delivery costs in Colorado are expected to rise as Front Range population growth further taxes systems that provide the lifeblood of Colorado industry, agriculture, recreation and modern living…

Combining forces to focus on the water supply needs of the [Growth Management Area] — land that is expected to eventually be within Fort Collins city limits — would be a departure from long-standing practices. But such an approach is “absolutely the way to go” to manage the area’s water resources, said Mike DiTullio, general manager of the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, which serves much of the southern third of Fort Collins.

“We’ve got to figure out a method in which we can get water where it’s needed without jeopardizing the ownership of it,” he said. “We need to [wheel] it around like you do electricity.”

But DiTullio, who has managed Fort Collins-Loveland for 34 years, said interest in taking a new approach to managing local water resources will take time to develop.

“The political will comes only when there is a crisis,” he said. “We don’t have a crisis yet.”

Roaring Fork Conservancy District Independence Pass diversion system tour recap

Independence Pass Diversion
Independence Pass Diversion

From The Aspen Daily News (Collin Szewczyk):

The Independence Pass transmountain diversion system shut down for more than a month this year around the June peak runoff due to ample water supplies in the Arkansas River basin, only the fourth such time this has happened for these reasons since the 1930s.

Seeing rivers in this more-natural state has reinvigorated local interest in the health of the Roaring Fork watershed and how it is managed.

Recently, a group of more than two dozen interested locals and tourists met up at the Lost Man trailhead parking lot near Independence Pass to learn more about how water is diverted east from the watershed. The sold-out event was hosted by the Basalt-based Roaring Fork Conservancy, and was led by both its employees and those of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., which manages water flows through the transmountain diversion system…

Medved noted that there are 24 major diversion tunnels in Colorado, and two of the five largest are in the Roaring Fork watershed.

The fifth largest is the 3.85-mile-long Twin Lakes tunnel, which diverts water from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River to the Arkansas River basin. It is a bit over nine feet wide and boring began in November of 1933, with the workers “holing out” in February 1935.

The Boustead Tunnel is the third-largest diversion tunnel and is located on the headwaters of the Fryingpan River. It stretches 5.5 miles, and empties into Turquoise Reservoir near Leadville.

Scott Campbell, general manager of the nonprofit Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., which is privately owned and based out of Ordway, has worked with water for about 40 years and explained that the Twin Lakes diversion was originally a supplemental water right in the 1930s. He added that when water from the Arkansas River was coming up short on the eastern side of the Continental Divide, Twin Lakes Reservoir water would help to fill the gap.

Each year, the transmountain diversion system collects water from the Roaring Fork River, as well as the Lost Man, Lincoln, Brooklyn, Tabor, New York and Grizzly creeks, and moves it through the Twin Lakes Tunnel into the Arkansas basin. From there much of it aids agricultural pursuits near Pueblo and Crowley counties…

The Twin Lakes Reservoir is owned and operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, but the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. retains ownership of 54,452 acre-feet of space within to store water…

More storage on East Slope needed

When asked why Eastern Slope reservoirs aren’t being expanded to store more water, Campbell replied, “That’s a very good question.”

Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the Pueblo Board of Water Works, explained that many of the reservoirs on the Front Range are under federal purview, and changes would require an act of Congress.

“As it turns out, we’ve been trying to do that for almost 15 years,” he said. “It’s not easy to get Congress all together and actually passing legislation that would allow us to study the enlargement of that.”

Ward added that while some potential reservoir sites may be good from an engineering point of view, they don’t always make sense environmentally.

“It’s just a challenge to be able to find a spot that you can get permitted, that you can afford to build on, and that you can get permission to build on, if it requires an act of Congress,” he said. “But something I think is very much in the forefront of the minds of water planners on the East Slope, is where and how can we build more storage to be able to better manage the limited supply [of water] we have.”

Into the Styx

Following a bumpy Jeep ride up Lincoln Creek, care of Blazing Adventures, to see the opposite end of the tunnel through Green Mountain, Campbell concluded the tour by leading people on a subterranean descent into the Twin Lakes Tunnel.

The concrete “road” dropped down quickly into the darkness, and constant seepage water dripped from above, creating the feeling of being caught in an underground monsoon.

Campbell noted that the site’s caretakers, Kim and Glenn Schryver, use the underground route in the winter to reach the outside world while Independence Pass is buried under the snowpack.

He explained that the workers boring the tunnel converged on each other from either side and averaged just under 50 feet in progress a day. When they met up, the holes were six inches apart, Campbell said, adding that the route was determined with a line of mirrors shot over Independence Mountain.

The latest Northern Water “E-Waternews” is hot off the presses

Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water
Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

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

<blockquoteThe Northern Water Board of Directors set 2016 water assessments during an Aug. 6, 2015 public hearing. Assessments for open-rate irrigation contracts increased from $10.90 per acre-foot unit to $17.60, and assessments for open-rate municipal, industrial and multipurpose contracts increased from $30.50 per acre-foot unit to $35.90.

The Board followed its general rate-setting objectives, which are outlined in its 2014 forward guidance resolution. Among other objectives, the resolution proposed a 2-year step increase in assessments beginning in 2016, and moving irrigation assessments towards a cost-of-service based rate. Both of these objectives are represented in the 2016 assessments.

The Board will consider forward guidance that provides an estimated range for 2017 and 2018 water assessments at its Sept. 3 Planning and Action meeting.

For information on water assessments, please contact Sherri Rasmussen at 970-622-2217.