Mead: 13.75 shares in the Highland Ditch, 276 units of Colorado-Big Thompson water on auction block

For nearly 30 years, Mead was a bustling community. At its peak, Mead had three general stores, a hotel, a combination grocery store and meat market, two saloons, butcher shop, filling station, two auto garages. Photo via HistoricHighlandLake.org.
For nearly 30 years, Mead was a bustling community. At its peak, Mead had three general stores, a hotel, a combination grocery store and meat market, two saloons, butcher shop, filling station, two auto garages. Photo via HistoricHighlandLake.org.

From The Denver Post (Danika Worthington):

“Water is the new gold,” said Scott Shuman, a partner in Hall and Hall, the auction house that will sell 411 acres of the Reynolds Farm and 13.75 shares in the Highland Ditch, along with the big-ticket item: 276 units of Colorado-Big Thompson water.

As Colorado’s population has grown, so has demand for water. Shuman said he expects farmers, cities and developers to try to get a piece of the Reynolds Farm portfolio…

High demand means prices are already high. C-BT shares have sold for between $25,000 and $28,000 each, according to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency that manages the C-BT system — which conveys water from the headwaters of the Colorado River to the Front Range and plains.

This means the C-BT water alone could bring in $6.9 million to $7.7 million, compared with the auction house’s estimate for the land of $5,000 to $15,000 per acre, or $2 million to $6.2 million…

These particular water rights are especially attractive because they can be used for multiple purposes — agriculture, development and industrial processes, including fracking — and can be easily traded as long as they stay within C-BT boundaries, said Reagan Waskom, director of Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute…

The Reynolds farmland, which is northeast of the intersection of Interstate 25 and Colorado 66, is bounded by Weld County roads 9 1/2, 32 and 13, and another property.

It is not annexed into a town, although it is in Mead’s growth area. Town manager Mike Segrest said he assumes it will be annexed in the future…

“The price of water is out of reach and the price of land is out of reach.” Waskom said. “Those are development prices.”

He said a farmer would need to have deep pockets and be willing to work the land without making much profit. He added that a young farmer could buy the land and the ditch rights and not the C-BT shares, shifting to dryland farming of crops such as wheat. But that’s a difficult transition and profits would be minimal, especially compared with an irrigated farm.

“Bankers are not going to go there with him,” Waskom said.

It’s more likely that a developer will buy the land, Waskom said. A developer could build on the land or transfer the water rights to a water provider that supplies an area where it has a project.

“I feel like it is inevitable,” Waskom said about the possibility that the water will be separated from the land. “I wish we could plan it better so that our best agricultural lands could stay in working lands. To me, it’s all being driven by the market, which I’m not saying is bad, but it may not end up with the kind of Front Range Colorado we want in 10 to 20 years.”

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

How healthy is the Poudre River? — The 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 (Jacey Marmaduke):

Citing low flows in the winter and insufficient flushing flows in the spring, river experts give the health of the Cache la Poudre River moderate marks. Ken Kehmeier, senior fishery biologist at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, gives it a “C-plus.” Ellen Wohl, a Colorado State University geosciences professor, prefers “needs improvement.”

“It’s not going to catch on fire like the Cuyahoga River did in the ‘60s, but it’s a very different river than it was in say, 1858,” she said. “I’d never give up on the Poudre. It’s ailing in health, but it can recover, and it’s not anywhere near being done.”

What does the future hold for the Poudre? That interpretation depends a lot on who you ask. It also will depend on how Northern Colorado leaders respond to potential obstacles raised by climate change, urban development and the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

Climate change

Colorado’s in a weird spot when it comes to climate predictions.

While it’s clear temperatures will increase — they already have — there’s no consensus on whether climate change will bring more, less or the same precipitation to Colorado.

Regardless, warmer temperatures are an issue for the Poudre and its aquatic life and water users. The Poudre is fed primarily by mountain snowmelt, and as Colorado’s average temperatures rise, the spring pulse — the onset of higher spring flows fed by snowmelt — will come earlier than usual.

John Stokes, Fort Collins Natural Areas director, said he already sees it happening on the Poudre.

“Our snowmelt is getting earlier and earlier. It’s probably about two weeks earlier now than it used to be,” Stokes said. “As that accelerates, what does that do to our storage in the mountains, which is snow and ice? We rely on the timing of that storage.”

Not everybody agrees with Stokes. Poudre River Commissioner Mark Simpson said flows have varied so much during the last 50 years that he doesn’t see a shift in the peak, which generally occurs around the first week of June.

[Ellen Wohl] said she hasn’t necessarily noticed that trend on the Poudre — the system is so meticulously managed that it can be hard to tell when high flows are the work of Mother Nature or water engineers, she added…

Development

The biggest protection — literally — is a development buffer zone of 300 feet on either side of the river through most of Fort Collins. That’s nearly the length of a football field. The buffer zone, which is enhanced by city ownership of most of the land along the river, quells any fears that the Poudre will one day turn into a built-out river walk. It also mitigates flood risk.

“Maybe In a perfect world we would have had quarter- or half-mile setbacks from the river,” Stokes said. “This river used to go all over the place. It would change its course frequently. But now, it’s pretty much locked into its location because of the way we’ve developed around it.”

[…]

NISP

Proponents say Northern Colorado needed NISP yesterday. Opponents argue that the project will irreversibly damage the river that has long been a lifeblood for the region.

Reservoirs are “exhibit A” for the future of Western water, said Brian Werner, spokesman for NISP initiator Northern Water.

“We’re going to need reservoirs for the next 200 years,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out where to store that water in the wet times so you can use it in the dry times.”

It’s easy to reduce NISP to a lengthy timeline and a lot of bureaucratic jargon, but it’s more than that. The project has become symbolic of a major question about the future of water use: How do we meet the water needs of staggering population growth without harming our rivers?

NISP would divert from the Poudre during peak springtime flows. That causes concern for many because the river needs flushing flows to thrive.

“As the water moves, it has the power to carry things,” Kehmeier said. “When you take that power away from it, then all those sediment pieces drop out and deposit on the (river bed).”

Sediment buildup can make the river dirtier, smellier and fill it with algae and non-native, potentially invasive, species.

Wohl is skeptical of NISP, partially because of the flushing flows issue and partially because the river already lacks a natural flow regime.

Downstream, “the volume of the water isn’t really natural,” Wohl said. “That has a cascade of effects. If you change the amount of water in a river, you change the energy available for processes like picking up and moving sediment, you change the shape and size of the river, you change the habitat available for organisms.”

But it’s possible for NISP to coexist with a healthy river if Northern Water plans accordingly, Kehmeier said.

“With these flushing flows, you’re looking for a recurrence interval,” he said. “Every one-and-a-half to two years, you should have a flow that’s considered bank-full.”

NISP could also boost historically low winter flows on the Poudre by releasing reservoir water into the river during dry times, Kehmeier said.

“From a fisheries standpoint, the Poudre is as limited by low flows, probably more so, than it is by flushing flows,” he said. “Fish don’t survive very well without water.”

Wintertime releases are a component of Northern Water’s recently unveiled conveyance refinement proposal, which is basically a plan to run 14,000 acre feet of the diverted water through most of the Poudre’s stretch in Fort Collins. The move was partially intended to address some of the city of Fort Collins’ issues with NISP, but the city, which is not a NISP member, has yet to respond to the new plan…

What’s next for NISP:

The Army Corps of Engineers says it will release a final environmental impact statement for the project sometime in 2017. After that must come a 401 permit and a record of decision, which NISP opposition group Save the Poudre Executive Director Gary Wockner anticipates will come in 2019. If the record of decision approves the project, Save the Poudre is prepared to challenge it in court, setting off a legal battle which could take years.

#Runoff #Snowpack news: Clear Creek closed to tubing, South Platte pretty much melted-out

Clear Creek at Golden gage April 1 through June 12, 2016.
Clear Creek at Golden gage April 1 through June 12, 2016.

From KWGN (Drew Engelbart):

Park Rangers were enforcing and informing visitors of the tubing and swimming restriction along Clear Creek on Saturday.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office announced the restriction on Thursday, citing dangerous conditions because of high water.

These temporary restrictions apply to Clear Creek in unincorporated Jefferson County, as well as those portions of Clear Creek within the City of Golden, including Vanover Park.

Colorado’s Own Channel 2 spotted two people with tubes ready to hop in the water were stopped short by onlookers who informed them tubing was restricted.

Water activities prohibited by the order include all single-chambered air inflated devices such as belly boats, inner tubes, and single chambered rafts, as well as “body-surfers” and swimming.

Kayaks, paddle boards, whitewater canoes and multi-chambered professionally guided rafts and river boards are exempt, but are encouraged to observe extreme caution due to the safety concerns surrounding swift moving water and floating debris.

Arkansas River at Moffat Street Pueblo April 1 through June 12, 2016.
Arkansas River at Moffat Street Pueblo April 1 through June 12, 2016.

From The Pueblo Chieftain:

Authorities said the water of the Arkansas River where the rescue happened [ed. 3 young people rescued from the Arkansas River Tuesday, June 7] was flowing fairly fast. Earlier in the day, it was measured at 4,300 cubic feet per second — fast but not unusual during the annual spring runoff.

Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs gage April 1 through June 12, 2016.
Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs gage April 1 through June 12, 2016.

From The Aspen Times (Erica Robbie):

Rapids on the Roaring Fork River are expected to peak this weekend, said Aspen Fire Department Chief Rick Balentine, citing information from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center.

Balentine said the currents are “dangerously high” now and cautioned those on the water to wear some form of safety flotation device.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 88 percent of people who drown in boating accidents are not wearing a life vest, Balentine said.

He cited another Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stat noting alcohol is a factor in 70 percent of water-recreation accidents.

“These are pretty stark facts,” Balentine said. “If you see somebody about to do something stupid, say something…

On Thursday, the river flow hit around 1,640 cubic feet per second, Ingram said.

River officials often draw a parallel between one cubic feet per second and one basketball — meaning 1,640 cubic feet per second is the equivalent to about 1,640 basketballs rushing down a river at once.

Ingram expects the Slaughterhouse area, one of the faster, more thrilling sections of the river, to reach between 1,800 and 2,200 cfs this weekend.

Cache la Poudre at Canyon Mouth water year 2016 through June 12, 2016.
Cache la Poudre at Canyon Mouth water year 2016 through June 12, 2016.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

The National Weather Service in Denver extended a flood advisory for the Poudre in Larimer County and Weld County. The river isn’t projected to reach flood stage through early next week, but residents can expect minor flooding of low-lying areas along the river, according to the advisory.

South Platte River Basin snowpack sat at 194 percent of its historical average on Friday morning and was even higher earlier this week thanks to remnants from spring snows. That’s significant for the Poudre, which is fed by mountain snowpack in addition to water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project.

As temperatures soar into the 90s this weekend, snowmelt will push the river to 6.7 feet at the canyon mouth by Sunday morning, the advisory said. Flood stage is 7.5 feet, and the river stood at 6.2 feet Friday morning.

At 6 feet, water covers the bike path and trail along the river in and near Fort Collins.

southplatteriverbasinhighlo06112016

From The Greeley Tribune (Katarina Velazquez):

Colorado has twice as much snowpack than normal for this time of year, according to the latest snowpack report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The cool, wet weather in May contributed to the exceptional water supply Colorado appears to have heading into the summer. According to the report, as of June 6, the state was at 201 percent of the average for snowpack, compared to last year’s 95 percent.

“This should be a good year waterwise for cities and for farmers; that’s the bottom line,” said Brian Werner of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The fact that snow is still visible in the mountains at this time of year means the runoff should last longer than it usually does, which in turn means less water will be pulled from reservoir storage later in the year, he said.

And the snowpack is especially good in the northern Colorado area. The majority of remaining snowpack in Colorado exists in the northern mountains, especially in watersheds such as the South Platte and Upper Colorado, which are above 10,000 feet.

As of June 6, both river basins that feed into northern Colorado — the Upper Colorado River Basin and the South Platte River Basin — were above 200 percent of the median snowpack.

As for reservoir storage, the state is currently at 108 percent of average, according to the June 1 update from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This is exactly where the state was last year, as well.

The Upper Colorado River Basin is at 110 percent of average for reservoir storage and the South Platte River Basin is at 112 percent of the average.

Werner said the Colorado-Big Thompson project is 20 percent above normal, which is promising at this point in the year. The Colorado-Big Thompson project is a series of reservoirs, pipelines, diversions and ditches that provides water to municipalities, farmers and other water users throughout northeastern Colorado.

Werner said going into summer, farmers and cities should be in good shape if nothing drastic occurs within the upcoming months.

“We shouldn’t have any major water worries this year,” he said.

#ColoradoRiver: Say hello to Grand County Learning by Doing #COriver

Here’s an introductory video.

Click here to go to the website. Here’s an excerpt:

The Grand County Learning By Doing Cooperative Effort (LBD) is a unique partnership of East and West Slope water stakeholders in Colorado.

LBD emerged from the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, a five-year negotiation that became effective in 2013 and will be fully implemented with the successful construction of the Moffat Collection System and Windy Gap Firming Project. The agreement establishes a long-term partnership between Denver Water and Colorado’s West Slope, including several water utilities, nonprofit organizations and government agencies.

A Governance Committee oversees the LBD activities, with one voting member from each of these organizations:

  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  • Colorado River District
  • Denver Water
  • Grand County
  • Middle Park Water Conservancy District
  • Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District
  • Trout Unlimited
  • A Technical Committee, made up of representatives from the Governance organizations, as well as government agencies, regional water utilities and other partners, advises on LBD efforts and activities.

    Northern Water Conservation Gardens Fair set Saturday —

    Weather station at the Conservation Gardens at Northern Water
    Weather station at the Conservation Gardens at Northern Water

    From Northern Water via The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    Residents can learn about water conservation and native plants at Northern Water’s Conservation Gardens Fair on Saturday.

    The free event will be held 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Northern Water, 220 Water Ave., in Berthoud. It will feature seminars, tours of the conservation gardens and advice on water saving measures and technology.

    Expert advice will come from Associated Landscaper Contractors of Colorado, Fort Collins Utilities, Colorado State University Extension Office, Colorado master gardeners, Colorado Vista Landscape Design, High Plains Environmental Center, HydroPoint, L.L. Johnson, Loveland Water and Power and Plant Select.

    The first 400 people will receive a perennial and a chance to spin the prize wheel.

    Starting at 11 a.m., a limited number of free sandwiches will be available.

    More information, including a schedule of seminars and activities, are available at http://www.northernwater.org.

    The May 2016 E-Waternews is hot off the presses from Northern Water

    Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
    Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

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

    State endorses the Windy Gap Firming Project
    During Northern Water’s April 13 Spring Water Users meeting, Mr. John Stulp, Governor Hickenlooper’s water policy advisor, read a letter from the governor endorsing the Windy Gap Firming Project.

    The governor said, “Northern Water and its many project partners have worked diligently, transparently and exhaustively in a collorabitve public process that could stand as a model for a project of this nature.” Hickenlooper continued, “This is precisely the kind of cooperative effort envisioned for a project to earn a state endorsement in Colorado’s Water Plan.”

    The state’s endorsement followed the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s March 25 issuance of a 401 water quality certification for the WGFP. Project Manager Jeff Drager said, “This is the next to last step in getting the project permitted. The final step is the federal 404 wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which we believe will be forthcoming in the next few months.”

    This is the State of Colorado’s first endorsement of a water storage project.

    NISP proponents plan to release 14,000 acre-feet per year from Glade through Fort Collins

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

    From The Fort Collins Coloradan (Kevin Duggan):

    Proponents of building Glade Reservoir as part of a massive water storage project have devised a different way of moving its water to thirsty Northern Colorado communities while putting more water into the Poudre River through Fort Collins.

    The proposal from Northern Water and participants in the long-sought Northern Integrated Supply Project calls for releasing about 14,000 acre feet of water each year from Glade Reservoir into the Poudre and running it through Fort Collins.

    The goal would be to put more water in the river to benefit its ecosystem and aquatic life, said Brian Werner, Northern Water spokesperson. It would ensure minimum flows of 18 to 25 cubic feet per second, or cfs, in the river throughout the year.

    The proposed change is in response to comments received from the public and local entities, including the city of Fort Collins, about a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, for the project being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    “A lot of what we’ve heard was about having a healthier river,” Werner said. “This benefits the river.”

    The move would do away with “dry up” spots on the river downstream from where irrigation companies divert water. Passage structures would be built near the diversions to allow fish to move up and down the river.

    Water would still be taken from the Poudre River during times of peak flow and stored in Glade Reservoir, which would be built north of Ted’s Place at the intersection of Colorado Highway 14 and U.S. Highway 287. But the proposed release plan would address concerns about maintaining flows in the river, especially during dry years.

    There is no “magic number” for flows that translates to a healthy river, said Jerry Gibbens, water resources engineer with Northern Water, but what’s proposed would be an improvement over current conditions.

    “Eliminating these dry-up points and having a minimum flow above 20 cfs would have tremendous benefits to the aquatic habitat, and that’s really what we were going after,” Gibbens said.

    NISP would yield 40,000 acre feet of water a year to participants. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, enough to meet the water needs of three to four urban households for a year.

    Northern Water announced the new conveyance plan during its annual water users meeting April 13. Conversations with local entities about the proposal have begun, Werner said.

    Fort Collins officials are aware of the proposal but have not had time to evaluate it, said John Stokes, director of Natural Areas for the city.

    Among the city’s concerns about the draft EIS was projected reduced flows on the river and the impact to aquatic life. Water temperature variations in the river was another issue.

    The environmental group Save the Poudre, which has been fighting NISP for years, plans to carefully scrutinize Northern Water’s proposal before stating an opinion, director Gary Wockner said.

    Adjusting plans for NISP is part of the EIS review process, Werner said. The Army Corps of Engineers, which has permitting authority over the project, is expected to release the final document for NISP in 2017. The EIS process has been delayed numerous times over the years.

    Ken Kehmeier, a senior aquatic biologist with the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife, said the proposed operational change would improve conditions for aquatic life along the Poudre through Fort Collins.

    “This is just one step, but it’s a big step,” he said.

    More needs to be done to address conditions downstream, Kehmeier said, where water quality is a major issue.

    Under the plan, water released from Glade would be diverted from the river near Mulberry Street to a pipeline that would connect with another pipeline from the reservoir carrying water to NISP participants.

    The refined conveyance method is expected to add $30 million to $40 million to the price of NISP, Werner said.

    But the 15 communities and water districts participating in, and paying for, the project told Northern Water to “go for it if it gets us closer to the finish line,” Werner said.

    Find more information at Northern Water’s website, and the Army Corps of Engineers’ project page.

    nisp