Northern Water’s 2013 Annual Report is hot off the presses

April 21, 2014
Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

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

In April when the Board considered the quota, forecasts indicated below average runoff. Because the C-BT Project delivered more than 300,000 acre feet in 2012, storage reserves were significantly below normal in early 2013, and inadequate to provide the higher quota many would have preferred.

As this roller coaster year progressed, mountain snowpack and resulting runoff increased. The Board felt it prudent to not increase the declared 60 percent quota, hoping to build C-BT reserves and be better positioned for future years.

The September record-breaking rains and devastating floods will be forever remembered. Our hearts go out to all who were impacted. In addition to the personal and public property devastation, water supply infrastructure suffered severe damage. In many areas streamflows exceeded maximum levels recorded since the advent of South Platte Basin irrigation in 1859.

Rebuilding has been the region’s focus since the floods. Some efforts have succeeded, some will require more time. The Colorado Water Conservation Board stepped up and provided

As this roller coaster year progressed, mountain snowpack and resulting runoff increased. The Board felt it prudent to not increase the declared 60 percent quota, hoping to build C-BT reserves and be better positioned for future years.

The September record-breaking rains and devastating floods will be forever remembered. Our hearts go out to all who were impacted. In addition to the personal and public property devastation, water supply infrastructure suffered severe damage. In many areas streamflows exceeded maximum levels recorded since the advent of South Platte Basin irrigation in 1859.

Rebuilding has been the region’s focus since the floods. Some efforts have succeeded, some will require more time. The Colorado Water Conservation Board stepped up and provided $2.55 million in grants to help those in need. Northern Water was honored to act as CWCB’s agent, administering over 100 grants in accordance with CWCB criteria and direction.

Northern Water suffered relatively light flood damage compared to many. We are blessed with a very dedicated and talented workforce that aggressively took on the challenge of flood recovery. As a result, Northern Water completed flood repairs by early January.

Reclamation repaired additional C-BT Project facilities damaged by the floods. The exception is the Dille Tunnel Diversion on the Big Thompson River, which will likely not be fully operational until the beginning of the 2015 irrigation season.

In 2013 Northern Water successfully finished refurbishing the original Carter Lake outlet. This past year also marked the culmination of a 13-year effort to meet the annual water delivery requirements of the Colorado River Endangered Species Recovery Program. Through a unique solution that does not diminish C-BT Project yield, water was released from Lake Granby for beneficial uses in the Grand Valley while also meeting endangered species needs. This effort, implemented by Northern Water, was funded by East Slope entities that divert water from the Colorado River.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Northern Water board sets C-BT quota to 60% #ColoradoRiver

April 11, 2014
Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR

Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

Northern Water, which manages water stored throughout a massive system of linked reservoirs in Northern Colorado, set its annual water quota at 60 percent, despite customer requests to receive 70 percent of their full potential water allotment.

Since 1957, Northern Water has issued the water quotas, which dictate the amount of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects that will flow to cities, industrial complexes and farmers in Northern Colorado. The city of Fort Collins typically gets half of its water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, and has been particularly dependent on the system after High Park Fire debris polluted the Poudre River.

Fort Collins was among customers who lobbied Northern Water for a 70 percent quota on Wednesday, during a stakeholders meeting held to discuss this year’s quota. Despite those requests, Water Resources Manager Andy Pineda recommended that Northern Water’s board opt for a 60 percent quota.

A few factors went into Pineda’s recommendation, including Colorado’s above-average snowpack, high reservoir levels, and the general absence of drought in Northern Colorado. Spring runoff this year is expected to release an extra 100,000 acre feet of water down area streams and rivers, which should limit the region’s need for supplemental water from the Colorado-Big Thompson.

Pineda’s opinion was not shared by all. A few farmers asked the board for a 70-100 percent quota to help them plan for the growing season. Fort Collins wanted 70 percent to help offset troubles with Poudre River water quality. There is also a chance that Lake Granby reservoir will spill over this June, and a few stakeholders were concerned that water would be wasted with a reduced quota.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Northern Water hears from C-BT customers about this year’s quota #ColoradoRiver

April 10, 2014
Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

City officials, farmers and industry representatives Wednesday urged the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to significantly raise the amount of water the district allocates from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project this year…

The meeting comes as Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoirs contain an average amount of water. Officials say that water storage will swell with higher than average snowpack in the Colorado and South Platte river basins.

Farmers such as Steve Shultz, who farms corn, sugar beets and other crops, advocated a 100-percent quota at Wednesday’s meeting. Shultz said he needed the added water to finish his crops later in the growing season when he runs out of other water supplies.
“We still depend on that late season storage water,” he said.

Beth Molenaar, water resources engineer for the city of Fort Collins, said the city would support a quota of at least 70 percent this year because it has received multiple requests from farmers to rent water. The city rented very little water to farmers last year because of shorter supply of water related to poor Cache la Poudre River water quality caused by fires. Fort Collins gets about half of its water from the Poudre River and the other half from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Much to their relief, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District officials aren’t in the same predicament now that they were a year ago. During presentations on Wednesday, Northern Water personnel — tasked with overseeing the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, the largest water-supply project in the region — explained how they now have nearly enough water to meet full quotas for two years.

Since the C-BT Project went into use in 1957, the Northern Water board has set a C-BT quota every April to balance how much water could be used through the upcoming growing season and how much water needed to stay in storage for future years. In nearly all years, the board can set a quota of 100 percent, although it rarely does, and still have some in storage for the next year.

That wasn’t at all the case a year ago. Snowpack in the mountains and reservoirs were so low that a quota of 87 percent would have depleted everything in the C-BT system. It was only the second time in the 57-year history of the project that the board had been so limited in the quota it could set. The board last year settled on a 60 percent quota, falling short of the historic average of about a 70 percent quota.

“The outlook is much brighter this year,” said Andy Pineda, water resources manager for Northern Water, referring to his numbers, some of which showed snowpack in the South Platte Basin, as of April 1, rivaling that of 2011 — one of the best snowpack years on record (although a sizeable chunk of that year’s historic snowpack came after April 1).

As part of Wednesday’s meeting, C-BT shareholders and the public — about 225 people altogether — provided input as to what they think the quota should be set at this week. While good snowpack typically calls for a low C-BT quota (the C-BT was built to serve as a supplemental supply, with high quotas usually set in dry years, Northern Water officials stress) the majority of input from the crowd called for the typical 70 percent quota. Agricultural users said that while there’s plenty of snowmelt expected to fill their irrigation ditches this spring, they’d still like to see a higher quota set to make sure water is still available later on — especially if things turn dry in the middle of the growing season, in July or August.

Water officials from the city of Fort Collins and other communities also asked for a 70 percent quota on Wednesday — not to meet their own needs, but because they’re getting a lot of inquiries from farmers in the region wanting to rent extra water this year. A number of city officials said in recent days they’re waiting to see where the quota is set before deciding how much water they’ll have to lease to farmers this year. Most cities leased little or no water to ag users last year, forcing some farmers to cut back on how much they planted.

A 70 percent quota means that for every acre-foot of water a C-BT shareholder owns, they’ll get 70 percent of an acre-foot to use throughout the year. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons of water.

While cities and ag users were seeing eye-to-eye at this year’s water users meeting, it was a different story in 2013. Last year, farmers wanted a quota of 70 percent, stressing that with little snowpack in the mountains at the time, they would need the supplemental C-BT water to get them though the growing season. But cities, for the most part, wanted the quota set at 50-60 percent, worried about using too much water in storage last year, because of the shortages and uncertainty.

A 10 percent difference in the C-BT water quota amounts to about 31,000 acre-feet of water — or about 10 billion gallons.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Northern Water books $40.3 million in revenue in 2013

March 29, 2014
Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Revenue increased about $10.5 million for the year ended Sept. 30 primarily because Berthoud-based Northern Water received nearly $9 million from Front Range water entities, including Denver Water, Aurora Water and the Pueblo Board of Water works, for water releases from Granby Reservoir.

Northern Water provides water to portions of eight Colorado counties with a population of 860,000 people and serves more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land.

Last year, Northern Water completed several contracts and agreements related to the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. The goal of the program is to recover four unique fish species listed as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Because they divert water from the Colorado River, Northern Water and other water users have made a permanent commitment to release 10,825 acre-feet of water annually. Northern Water releases more than 5,400 acre feet from the Granby Reservoir to support the project. An acre foot equals 326,000 gallons and is enough to serve 2.5 households annually.

The one-time compensation paid to Northern Water for the project came this year, according to the annual report. Northern Water’s expenses for the project came in previous years, said John Budde, financial services department manager for Northern Water…

Northern Water ended 2013 with $241.6 million in assets compared with. $231.4 million in assets in 2012. The organization also had $26.5 million in liabilities last year compared with $29 million in liabilities the prior year.

The organization had expenses of $29.2 million in 2013, down from $31.2 million in 2012.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


The downside of a Twitter fest: You were out of line Wockner #COWaterPlatform

January 31, 2014

I’m really uncomfortable writing this post in a public forum, but Gary Wockner chose a public forum…

Today Gary Wockner retweeted one of my Tweets from the Colorado Water Congress’ Annual Convention. The Twitter UI allows you to edit the retweet.

Gary Wockner called Brian Werner a liar in the retweet. That was out of line.

First, he should clarify his charge. He is wrong about Brian being a liar.

Second, he should of used his own website — bare ass and all — or his own Twitter feed, and not piggybacked on mine. Brian Werner is my colleague and my friend. Anyone reading the Tweet could easily think that I typed the word liar and I would never characterize Brian in that way.

Here’s the offensive retweet:

Gary Wockner calling Brian Werner a liar piggybacking on @CoyoteGulch

Gary Wockner calling Brian Werner a liar piggybacking on @CoyoteGulch

I wish Gary hadn’t chosen such a public place to vent. I believe that he lives in a world without context.


CSU Sponsors First Poudre River Forum Feb. 8

January 21, 2014
Cache la Poudre River

Cache la Poudre River

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

The Cache la Poudre River is life-blood for Northern Colorado. In recognition of its importance to the area, the community is invited to the first Poudre River Forum, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8 at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland. The forum, “The Poudre: Working River/Healthy River,” will focus on all of the river’s stakeholders, representing perspectives from agricultural, municipal, business, recreational and environmental backgrounds. Topics to be discussed include:

• The water rights of agricultural and municipal diverters;
• Where the water in the Poudre comes from and what it does for us;
• Ecological factors such as flow, temperature, fish and sedimentation.

The forum will feature presentations and dialogue, including remarks by State Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs about how the Poudre itself was the site of early conflict and cooperation leading to the development of the doctrine of prior appropriation in the West, and how water law has evolved in recent years.

Following the event, a celebration of the river will be held until 6 p.m. with refreshments and jazz by the Poudre River Irregulars.

Pre-registration is required by Jan. 31. The cost is $25; students 18 and under are free and scholarships are available. To register, visit http://www.cwi.colostate.edu/thepoudrerunsthroughit

The event is sponsored by The Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group facilitated by CSU’s Colorado Water Institute.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


Fort Morgan councillors pony up $90,000 in 2014 for NISP

January 9, 2014
Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The Fort Morgan City Council on Tuesday night approved spending $90,000 in 2014 to continue funding work toward getting the Northern Integrated Supply Project built.

The expenditure further ensures the city’s 9 percent stake in the massive water storage project would remain in place. NISP would involve building two reservoirs to hold water for 15 participants, including Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District, which has a 3.25 percent share…

The money the city is giving to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District for 2014 participation will go toward providing more information to the Army Corps of Engineers by consultants from Northern Water, as well as to administrative costs for Northern Water, “continuing engineering efforts” and “a fair amount” of public relations work, Nation explained.

“We’ve been working with the various members that are participants in the NISP project, and our latest report was actually one of the most positive reports that I think we’ve heard in a long time,” City Manager Jeff Wells said. “The’ve actually come up with a date when we’re going to get the supplemental (environmental impact statement)back for public comment,” likely in July.

He said that once public comment is opened, it gets closer to ending that portion of the study and moving toward a decision about permitting the project from the Army Corps of Engineers.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


NISP: Fort Morgan is planning (and budgeting) for new supplies from the project

December 18, 2013
Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

From the Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

Fort Morgan’s stake in NISP is 9 percent, with the city having invested around $1 million so far. And much more would need to flow from city coffers toward the project before it is all built, according to Nation.

The city has budgeted $90,000 for that purpose for 2014, and planned water rate increases are likely this year and in 2015 to start preparing for needing to contribute even larger amounts toward the project in coming years, he said.

“That’s just kind of where we’re at,” Nation said. “We need to be prepared for when we’re ready for construction.”

Right now, the plan calls for preliminary construction activities to start in 2018 and 2019, he said.

And while the costs to the city may seem astronomical, Nation quickly puts the numbers in perspective:

• Each unit of C-BT water that the city buys right now costs $18,500, a number that keeps rising.

• One C-BT unit is 7/10 of an acre foot of water, and each acre foot is going for $26,000 currently.

• But because of the city’s participation in NISP, the city will have water for about $12,500 per acre foot.

“We’re investing in something that will give us water at $12,500 an acre foot versus $26,000 an acre foot,” Nation said…

Getting the project built is a complicated process, and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, aka Northern Water, is working its way through that process, according to Nation.

During the environmental review process, the engineers for Northern Water have been gathering up data for technical reports, which they soon will pass on to the Army Corps of Engineers for the project’s updated draft environmental impact statement.

The Corps is the lead federal agency for the Northern Integrated Supply Project’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, which aims “to help public officials make decisions based on understanding of environmental consequences, and take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the environment,” according to a press release from Northern Water.

The process of putting together the environmental impact statement helps the Corps make a final decision ultimately on whether to issue a permit to build NISP.

The environmental impact statement process for NISP started in August 2004, which led to an initial draft being released for public comment in April 2008, according to Northern Water.

In February 2009, the Corps had announced they would move forward with a supplemental draft environmental impact statement “to include additional studies primarily centered around hydrologic and flow modeling,” the press release stated.

Also helping with the environmental impact statement process are the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Larimer County, according to Northern Water…

With all of the technical reports due to the Corps by Dec. 23, Nation said work on the supplemental draft environmental impact statement could begin “right after the first of the year.”

Once the Corps has all the updated technical data, both from the project’s supporters and objectors, a draft report is put together and then made public. Then there would be public hearings and comment periods.

“We should be getting the draft environmental impact statement taken care of yet this coming calendar year, possibly by summer 2014,” Nation said.

The final environmental impact statement would then be completed in spring 2015 with a final permit decision “due in fall 2016,” according to Northern Water.

But just getting further into the environmental impact statement process shows progress, Nation said.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


‘Denver-West Slope water agreement finally final’ — Glenwood Springs Post Independent #ColoradoRiver

December 4, 2013
Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Denver can take a little more water from the Colorado River’s headwaters to increase the reliability of its system, but won’t develop any new transmountain diversions without West Slope agreement and will help repair damage from past diversions.

Those are some of the key provisions in the Colorado Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and 42 West Slope water providers and local governments from the Grand Valley to Grand County.

The Colorado Cooperative Agreement covers a whole suite of issues related to Denver’s diversion of water from the Fraser and Blue River drainages, tributaries to the Colorado River. In October, with little fanfare, this historic agreement received its final signatures and was fully executed. It took five years of mediation and nearly two years of ironing out the details with state and federal agencies, against a backdrop of decades of litigation, to get to this point.

According to material from the Colorado River District’s latest quarterly meeting, the agreement, “is the direct result of Denver Water’s desire to expand its Moffat Tunnel transmountain water supply from the Fraser River in Grand County and to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County.” This project is expected to divert, on average, approximately 18,000 acre feet/year of water beyond the average of 58,000 acre feet/year it already diverts, which amounts to about 60% of the natural flow in the Fraser River at Winter Park.

Under the agreement, the West Slope parties agreed not to oppose the increased Moffat Collection System diversions, and Denver Water agreed not to expand its service area and not to develop new water projects on the West Slope without the agreement of the resident counties and the Colorado River District. The agreement also includes dozens of other provisions designed to limit water demands in Denver and address water quality and flow conditions in the Colorado River and its tributaries. Here’s a sampling:

Denver will contribute both water releases and several million dollars for a “learning by doing” project to improve aquatic habitat in Grand County. The project will be managed by representatives from Denver Water, Grand County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited and other water users.

Denver will not exercise its rights to reduce bypass flows from Dillon Reservoir and its collection system in Grand County during droughts unless it has banned residential lawn watering in its service area.

Diversions and reservoirs operated by both Denver Water and West Slope parties will be operated as if the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon were calling for its (very senior) water right, even at times when the plant is down. This is important for recreational and environmental flows in the river, as well as for junior water users downstream from plant.

Denver Water will pay $1.5 million for water supply, water quality or water infrastructure projects benefiting the Grand Valley, and $500,000 to offset additional costs for water treatment in Garfield County when the Shoshone call is relaxed due to drought conditions.

A similar agreement is under development between West Slope entities and Northern Water, which currently diverts about 220,000 acre feet/year of water from the Upper Colorado River to the Front Range through the Colorado Big Thompson Project. Like the Colorado Cooperative Agreement, the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement trades West Slope non-opposition to increased transmountain diversions for mitigations to address the impacts of both past and future stream depletions.

Both the Colorado Cooperative Agreement and the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement have been hailed as models of cooperation. Meanwhile, East Slope – West Slope tensions continue to mount over how the Colorado Water Plan, currently under development, should address the possibility of additional diversions of water from the West Slope to meet growing urban demands on the Front Range. These agreements demonstrate that such tensions can be overcome, but also that it could take more time than allowed by the 2015 deadline Gov. Hickenlooper has set for completion of the Colorado Water Plan.

Full details on the Colorado Cooperative Agreement can be found on the River District’s website, under “features” at http://www.crwcd.org/. More information on the Colorado Water Plan can be found at http://coloradowaterplan.com/.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.


Text of the Colorado Basin Roundtable white paper for the IBCC and Colorado Water Plan

December 3, 2013
New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

Here’s the text from the recently approved draft of the white paper:

Introduction
The Colorado River Basin is the “heart” of Colorado. The basin holds the headwaters of the Colorado River that form the mainstem of the river, some of the state’s most significant agriculture, the largest West Slope city and a large, expanding energy industry. The Colorado Basin is home to the most-visited national forest and much of Colorado’s recreation-based economy, including significant river-based recreation.

Colorado’s population is projected by the State Demographer’s Office to nearly double by 2050, from the five million people we have today to nearly ten million. Most of the growth is expected to be along the Front Range urban corridor; however the fastest growth is expected to occur along the I-70 corridor within the Colorado Basin.

Read the rest of this entry »


‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

December 3, 2013
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

“Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

“We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

“The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

“There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

“It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[...]

The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

“This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

“Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


The Windy Gap Firming project moves closer to implementation #ColoradoRiver

November 26, 2013
Chimney Hollow Reservoir site -- Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post

Chimney Hollow Reservoir site — Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post

Here’s a guest column written by Jim Pokrandt that is running in the Sky-Hi Daily News:

The Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP) intergovernmental agreement (IGA) is in final form but has not been totally wrapped up because two important preconditions have not been completed, General Counsel Peter Fleming reported to the Colorado River District Board of Directors at its October meeting.

Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and the West Slope, the Windy Gap Firming Project IGA is a package of mitigation enhancements that would be part of the Windy Gap Firming Project once it is permitted for the Municipal Subdistrict of Northern Water by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The preconditions for the River District’s execution of the agreement are that the United States (1) makes a satisfactory finding that the WGFP can be operated consistent with Senate Document 80 — meaning no impact to the United States’ obligations to the beneficiaries, including West Slope beneficiaries, of the Colorado Big Thompson (C‐BT) Project, and (2) adopts an enforceable provision recognizing that if the River District does not challenge the WGFP permitting decision, that it does not waive any legal rights regarding federal decisions involving the same or similar legal issues.

Fleming anticipated that that these conditions will be satisfied in the context of Reclamation’s final record of decision on the WGFP, which is expected in the first part of 2014. In the meantime, Fleming said the River District has worked extensively with Grand County on matters related to the WGFP and the operation of the C-BT Project — including the Grand Lake Water Clarity Agreement and the upcoming initiation of the WGFP Carriage Contract negotiations.

With respect to the Grand Lake clarity issues, Fleming reported there have been several meetings with Reclamation and Northern to help ensure that a workable solution can be reached to meet the Grand Lake water quality standard. An important goal in that regard has been to avoid a stalemate over a massively expensive “fix” that could require a separate congressional authorization and appropriation.

With regard to the WGFP carriage contract negotiations, the River District has assisted Grand County in efforts to secure the best possible negotiating position in Reclamation’s negotiation process.

Fleming said the River District believes Grand County’s specifically identified role in Senate Document 80 entitles the county (and its advisers) to a more involved position in the negotiations than Reclamation’s standard “sit and‐observe” role for members of the public in its contract negotiation process.

Another goal is to ensure that the Windy Gap water that Grand County is entitled to use pursuant to the IGA can be stored in Granby Reservoir for no charge or at a very affordable rate.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Northern Water to host meeting about reporting requirements for oil and gas production and exploration, November 18

November 16, 2013
Wattenberg Oil and Gas Field via Free Range Longmont

Wattenberg Oil and Gas Field via Free Range Longmont

Here’s the release from Northern Water via The Greeley Tribune:

A meeting in Greeley next week will focus on water-reporting procedures for users providing water to oil and gas operations. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy is hosting the meeting, which will take place at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Columbine Room A at the University of Northern Colorado’s University Center, 2045 10th Ave.

As Northern Water officials explained in a press release, the significant increase in oil and gas activity in northern Colorado requires a portion of the region’s water supply. In response to the water needs, the Northern Water board adopted rules governing the use of its Colorado-Big Thompson Project water and Windy Gap Project water for such purposes.

The rules require water users providing project water to oil and gas development to periodically report usage information to Northern Water.

To further describe the reporting requirements, Northern Water officials developed water-use reporting and accounting procedures that became effective June 1, 2012. Northern Water officials are now proposing modifications to those procedures. The purpose of Monday’s meeting is to discuss the proposed modifications.

For more information, go to http://www.northernwater.org, or contact Brian Werner at (970) 622-2229, or bwerner@northernwater.org.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


The November 2013 issue of Northern Water Water News is hot off the presses

November 14, 2013

nov2013northernwaterwaternewscover

Click here to read the newsletter.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Colorado-Big Thompson Project is in much better shape than last year thanks to September rains

November 8, 2013
Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

It’s still several months away, but Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District officials already know they’ll have a better water situation for next year’s growing season than they did this year. Northern Water’s Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which is the region’s largest water-supply project, took in far more water than normal during September and October, thanks to the abundance of moisture that fell on the region.

The C-BT’s four West Slope reservoirs (there are 12 reservoirs all together, stretching from the West Slope to the Front Range foothills) took in about 31,000 acre-feet of water during those two months. That’s the second-best water intake for those four reservoirs (which make up about half of the C-BT’s total storage capacity) during September and October in the 56-year history of the project, according to Andy Pineda, the Water Resources Department manager at Northern Water, who spoke at Northern Water’s Fall Water Users Meeting on Wednesday. That recent abundance of moisture leaves the C-BT’s collective reservoir levels much better than they’ve been in recent months, and that’s good news for the region.

C-BT water flows to more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land, and to about 860,000 people in portions of eight counties in north and northeast Colorado, according to Northern Water numbers. Since the C-BT Project went into use in 1957, the Northern Water board has set a quota every year in April to balance how much water in the system could be used by cities and farmers through the growing season and how much water needed to stay in storage for future years. In nearly all years, the board can set a quota of 100 percent — although it rarely does — and still have at least some water in storage for the following years. However, this past April, a quota of 87 percent would have depleted everything in the C-BT Project’s reservoirs. C-BT reservoir levels were historically low after stored water had been used heavily to get through the 2012 drought. Additionally, snowpack in the mountains was limited at the time. The only other year the board had been so limited in setting its April quota was in 2003 — following the historic drought year of 2002.

But next April, the Northern Water board won’t face such a predicament. Pineda said Wednesday the Northern Water board right now could set a quota of 108 percent before depleting the system — and that’s before snow rolls into the mountains this winter and spring. That snow will eventually melt and dump even more water into the reservoirs.

Each year, winter and spring snowpack plays the biggest role in determining how much water will be available for farmers and cities during the next growing season. The historic average for the C-BT quota has been just above 70 percent. A 70 percent quota means that for every acre-foot of water a C-BT shareholder owns, they’ll get 70 percent of an acre-foot to use throughout the year. An acre-foot is approximately 326,000 gallons of water.

Last year, with supplies limited, the Northern Water board set its quota at a below-average 60 percent.


Northern Integrated Supply Project survey shows 72% support for the project

October 25, 2013
Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post

Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post

Update: Here’s the release from Northern Water about the Ciruli poll showing strong support for NISP in Weld, Larimer and Morgan counties. Here’s an excerpt:

After five years of extended Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) studies, public support for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) remains steady. A survey conducted in July 2013 with 900 voters in Larimer, Weld and Morgan counties shows voter support for the project at 72 percent. The 2013 survey follows a survey conducted in August 2008 with 800 Larimer and Weld county voters that showed NISP had combined county support of 70 percent.

From Northern Water via The Greeley Tribune:

Public support for the Northern Integrated Supply Project remains steady after five years of extended Environmental Impact Statement studies, according to a recent survey. The survey was conducted in July 2013 with 900 voters in Larimer, Weld and Morgan counties, and shows voter support for the project at 72 percent. The 2013 survey follows a survey conducted in August 2008 with 800 Larimer and Weld county voters that showed NISP had combined county support of 70 percent.

The NISP project would build two new reservoirs, along with necessary pump stations and pipelines in Larimer and Weld counties. The project would store runoff from the Poudre River.

A draft supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is due in 2014.

Ciruli Associates conducted both surveys for the consortium of water providers proposing the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

The latest telephone survey, conducted in July 2013 with 900 registered voters in Larimer (400), Weld (300) and Morgan (200) counties, has a statistical range of accuracy of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for the entire sample.

More coverage from Ryan Maye Handy writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Here’s an excerpt:

The recently completed survey is the second the company has commissioned since 2008. The first survey was released when the first Environmental Impact Statement — a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers examination of the project’s potential environmental damage — was finished. Although 70 percent of Larimer and Weld county participants in the first survey said they were in favor of the NISP project, outcry at the environmental study’s results convinced the Corps of Engineers to do a supplement study, to be completed in 2014.

The second survey, completed in July, showed participants slightly more in favor of NISP — 72 percent said they support the project, according to Denver-based polling and consulting company Ciruli Associates.

Cirulli, which also did the 2008 survey, called 900 registered voters in Larimer, Weld and Morgan counties and asked them two questions. One asked if residents were basically in favor of the project, while the second asked if the decade spent studying the environmental impacts of the project is sufficient time…

The project still has several hurdles to clear before it can become a reality. Once the new EIS is released, Northern Water must settle legal disputes.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


‘We [NISP] are mired in the environmental permitting process’ — Brian Werner #COflood

October 6, 2013
Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

Here’s a report about the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project from Ryan Maye Handy running in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Here’s an excerpt:

…whatever the contentious Northern Integrated Supply Project might be to Northern Coloradans, at least one thing is (mostly) certain: Despite numerous claims to the contrary, the Poudre River-fed reservoir could have done little to stem the tide of the Poudre during the September floods.

“As much as I’d like to say ‘Glade would have had a big impact on the flood,’ it really wouldn’t have,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water, the water managers organizing the NISP project…

The project to build Glade Reservoir is roughly 30 years in the making, since President Ronald Reagan declared the Poudre a National Wild and Scenic River in October 1986. Then, the declaration was a victory for environmentalists — it limited where the river could be diverted for water conservation but set aside a portion of the river, at the bottom of the canyon, for projects such as the Glade Reservoir.

In theory, the reservoir would divert water off a swollen Poudre River when flows were high, conserving it in the reservoir for dry years, such as 2012, when extra water would be desperately needed, Werner said. The system would hypothetically pull up to 1,000 cubic feet per second from the river; typically, a Poudre flow peak reaches up to 3,000 cfs, Werner said.

But during the early September floods that pushed record levels of water down the Poudre, a loss of 1,000 cfs would have done little to mitigate the water’s power, Werner said. Glade’s ability to help Northern Colorado would be in its ability to hold water in reserve for dry times, Werner argued, not in its capacity to control a 500-year flood event…

Until it gets the results of the 2014 assessment, Northern Water is checking off the necessary boxes to put the project in order — checks that mean nothing until the project gets the go-ahead. Re-routing portions of U.S. 287, which currently runs through the center of the reservoir’s footprint, is one of those “checks.”

For the re-route, CDOT has chosen a 7-mile “rock cut route” through a hogback ridge just north of the current intersection of Overland Trail and U.S. 287, northwest of Fort Collins. It would mean new passing lanes at Ted’s Place — the intersection of U.S. 287 and Colorado Highway 14 — and would cost between $40 million and $50 million.

In the project’s early days, the highway re-route was one of its more contentious aspects. Public meetings were held to address residents’ concerns about the road changes; diverting water from the Poudre wasn’t “the overriding issue” that it has become, Werner said.

“We used to joke in the early days of this project that it was a highway reclamation project, with a reservoir on the side,” Werner added…

“We are mired in the environmental permitting process,” Werner said…

“The CDOT decision is irrelevant. Because NISP would drain and destroy the Poudre River and violate the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, the project will never get built,” he said in an email to The Coloradoan. “So, where CDOT proposes to put a road that will never be built for a project that will never be built is irrelevant.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Windy Gap Firming Project update: Analysis paralysis #ColoradoRiver

September 6, 2013

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Joshua Zaffos):

Begun in 2003 and scheduled to be up and running by 2011, the project, known as the Windy Gap Firming Project, like many others across the state, still is mired in regulatory delays. Whether or when Windy Gap will be built is still unclear 10 years after the first regulatory review took place.

Three other major water projects face similar delays and uncertainty…

Northern is working with 13 Northern Colorado water providers to develop the latest phase of Windy Gap, which is designed to serve 60,000 households.

Northern Water initially submitted the project for environmental he project for environmental review to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 2003. Through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a project’s environmental impacts are reviewed during several stages of technical analysis and public comment. A 2005 Northern Water fact sheet projected a final “record of decision” could come by the end of that year, meaning construction could start soon after and the reservoir would be ready by 2011.

That forecast was wildly optimistic. The bureau didn’t issue a final environmental impact statement, a key step in NEPA, until late 2011. Reviews by federal and state scientists, environmental groups and western Colorado interests each triggered calls for mitigation and changes that added months and then years of delay…

Project partners have spent $12 million to date just on permitting, agreed to pay millions more than expected for environmental mitigation and watched the cost estimate jump nearly 28 percent, from $223 million to $285 million. That’s roughly $1,033 per household.

Similar delays and cost overruns have plagued nearly every other major Colorado water-development project that has sought regulatory approval since the 1990 defeat of Two Forks Dam. Proposed by Denver Water, the $1 billion Two Forks project passed through NEPA with government approval before the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed the decision because of study inadequacies and unresolved water-quality impacts.

After more than a decade of drought and a new wave of growth, water utility planners believe the project review system is broken and must be fixed. Legal experts and environmental watchdogs say the projects themselves are outdated in concept and that utilities need to rethink how they obtain, store and deliver water…

Drager has had to ask Windy Gap Firming Project partners for an extra $1 million four separate times in the past five years to pay for unexpected mitigation. Consideration of the upper Colorado River as a federally designated wild and scenic river triggered additional analysis. State fish and wildlife managers required further mitigation plans, including a study for a fish bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir. Northern Water also had to agree to enhance river habitat and operate water diversions to support endangered fish in the Colorado River. The EPA filed comments that led to further changes. When an end seemed near in June 2012, Grand County exercised its “1041 powers,” requiring a new permit and an agreement from partners to improve clarity for Grand Lake, which has deteriorated in part because of Northern’s water diversions. Now mostly settled, the Grand Lake revision marked the fifth major project stoppage.

“It’s not just NEPA,” Drager said. “There are a whole bunch of federal requirements – the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act – and then you’ve got a group of state laws which don’t always work well with the federal laws. So, it’s very hard to know when is the last step. When are you done?”

Communities and water districts that are footing the bill have weathered the delays and tacked-on costs so far. The Little Thompson Water District in Berthoud has avoided charging existing customers extra, said district manager Jim Hibbard, because one developer is shouldering the district’s share of the costs and adding those dollars to the cost of new homes he is building. “Probably the most significant impact is the costs of the project keep going up,” Hibbard said.

The city and county of Broomfield, another project partner, has used money from water tap fees for its share of the project and paid the additional costs with reserve funds stashed away for such purposes, said public works director David Allen. But even with the added mitigation and expenses, both managers say the project remains an inexpensive and preferred alternative to purchasing shares in existing water projects, such as the Colorado-Big Thompson system or buying out farmers’ water rights and drying up local agriculture…

Since Two Forks, federal agencies involved with NEPA reviews are “gun shy,” said Dave Little, planning director for Denver Water, which also has spent more than 10 years seeking approval for its own major water project, the Moffat Collection System…

Cost overruns may look excessive, but initial estimates often come in low to ease early acceptance of a project, [Western Resource Advocates Drew Beckwith] said, adding that some delays are squarely on the shoulders of project managers who haven’t adequately analyzed certain impacts or mitigation actions. “I don’t think anyone is really happy with the way the process works right now,” Beckwith said. “Utilities think it takes too long. Conservationists would say there’s not enough good input.”

He said he would like to see a more open-ended, upfront approach to water-supply challenges instead of a water agency selecting a preferred solution and then following a “decide and defend” strategy.

The changing pressures from environmental organizations also have factored into delays. The proposed $140 million Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation southwest of Denver, another storage expansion project under consideration, has received support from several conservation groups, including Western Resource Advocates, because it avoids building an entirely new reservoir, but the Audubon Society of Greater Denver opposes the development because it would flood wetlands and other bird habitat…

The plodding pace of regulatory review may remain an annoying reality – unless a water utility can devise ways to provide water without massive new storage or delivery pipelines.

Aurora did just that. A decade ago, facing water shortages and drought, Aurora Water planners recognized the need for swift action to protect system reliability and service for existing customers. The utility decided to build its Prairie Waters Project, an $854 million pipeline and treatment facility that would allow the city to reuse 50,000 acre-feet of water annually and meet its water demands through 2030. Since the project didn’t include new storage, managers avoided prolonged federal review, said Darrell Hogan, the project manager, and Aurora Water further expedited its work by tunneling under waterways. To have disturbed the waterways otherwise would have required Clean Water Act 404 permits. Hogan said the project didn’t evade environmental protections; planners still consulted with government scientists and conservationists, and had to acquire more than 400 permits for local construction and operations. However, working around the federal system facilitated progress. Prairie Waters went from concept to completion in less than six years, delivering water in October 2010 on time and under budget.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


Cache la Poudre River: Fort Collins Utilities tour recap

August 3, 2013

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From the North Forty News (Dan MacArthur):

Sponsored by Fort Collins Utilities Services, the July tour took participants through forests scorched by the High Park Fire to learn about the special challenges of treating water laden with ash and sediment flowing from charred slopes.

From there it moved to the top of Cameron Pass, where the Upper Cache la Poudre River watershed begins. A stop at the Gateway Natural Area on the return trip offered the opportunity to identify the microscopic bacteria in the river that could make one dance a more frantic jig were they not intercepted before flowing from our taps.

“Basically the reason (Fort Collins) was founded was water,” explained Clyde Greenwood. The utility and water supply supervisor serves as the utility’s resident historian.

Greenwood said Fort Collins was fortunate in that there were no mines in the Poudre Canyon watershed. A watershed is the territory that drains into a body of water.

“Fort Collins is a unique town with pristine water,” he said…

Fort Collins takes half of its water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project’s Horsetooth Reservoir. The other half comes from the Poudre. As a result of quality problems caused by the fire, water supply engineer Adam Jokerst said last year the city took no water from the Poudre for 100 days and depended solely on Horsetooth. This helped the city avoid water restrictions, but reduced the amount of reservoir water it could carry over to this year.

This year, last-minute heavy snows in the high country, the availability of more C-BT water, and the ability to once again take water from the Poudre allowed the city to avoid restrictions, he said.

The main problem plaguing the city’s water supply, he said, is the lack of flexibility with limited reservoir space. “We kind of live from year to year. If we get storage, our system is pretty robust.”

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.


Northern Water ponies up dough to keep NISP on schedule

May 31, 2013

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Keeping the Glade Reservoir environmental review on schedule is worth $139,254.95 to Northern Water. That’s how much the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District is giving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to pay for a project manager who will help complete the supplemental environmental review for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP.

A draft of the review, part of the yearslong permitting process for NISP, had been expected to be released to the public sometime this year, but now the Army Corps is saying it’ll be sometime in early 2014, said Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner. Northern Water and the Army Corps signed an agreement May 17 for the Army Corps to take Northern Water’s money to pay for a part-time project manager for two years. The money is coming from all the cities and water and irrigation districts that are participating in NISP…

In the Army Corps’ May 23 announcement that it had decided to take the money, the agency said it would take numerous steps to prevent the permitting process from being biased toward the approval of NISP. Northern Water’s money will not pay for any work done by people high up in the Army Corps’ chain of command who will be making final decisions on NISP, the announcement said. Franklin said the Army Corps will be unbiased in its decision-making process regardless who pays for the NISP permitting process.

Environmentalists opposing NISP said the money creates the appearance that the Army Corps will have a conflict of interest when decideing whether to give final approval to Glade Reservoir and NISP.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Granby: State of the Colorado River meeting recap #ColoradoRiver #COdrought

May 24, 2013

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Leia Larsen):

A panel of water experts spoke at the public State of the River Meeting on Wednesday at the SilverCreek Convention Center to discuss the quality and quantity of the Colorado River Basin and its relationship to Grand County. Among the discussion topics were Wolford Mountain Reservoir, background on the Windy Gap Firming Project and wildfire planning. But benefits to Colorado’s water supply following April’s precipitation events dominated much of the discussion…

Current data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s SNOTEL sites places the Upper Colorado River Headwater Basin’s snow water equivalent at 106 percent of its median levels. Total precipitation is at 93 percent of average for the area. The recent influx of precipitation comes as a relief, especially after shortages in the 2012 season. According to [Don Meyer], last year’s water demands on Wolford Mountain Reservoir, located north of Kremmling, dropped its levels by 38 feet. But Meyer now feels optimistic. “We hope to fill the reservoir this year,” he said. “We had a ton of demands because of the drought, but this year is looking a lot better.”[...]

Granby Reservoir is projected to be at 90 percent of average, according to Andrew Gilmore of the Bureau of Reclamation…

Releases from Granby Reservoir to the Front Range will be at normal levels, Gilmore said. The water is transported via the Colorado-Big Thompson project…

The Windy Gap Firming Project continues to move forward. The Bureau of Reclamation is deliberating modifications to the current Windy Gap carriage contract. The carriage contract specifies the procedures and fees for water moving through the Colorado Big Thompson Project. The Bureau of Reclamation’s next step will be to issue a Record of Decision, then Northern Water and its participants will begin hashing out design plans for the project. According to Northern Water’s Eric Wilkinson, the design process will take at least two years. Actual construction will take around three years. “So the earliest we would see the Windy Gap Firming Project placed into operation is 2018 or 2019,” Wilkinson said…

While the recent influx of precipitation will provide relief to Grand County and the Front Range, especially after snowfall shortages last year, areas downstream remain in drought. SNOTEL data for the entire Colorado River Basin above Utah’s Lake Powell indicates that the year’s precipitation remains low, at 81 percent of average. Lower Colorado users below Lake Mead project mandatory shortages as early as 2015, said Eric Kuhn, general manager for the Colorado River District.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


Runoff news: Northern Water decides to wait see how the runoff shapes up regarding C-BT quota #COdrought #ColoradoRiver

May 3, 2013

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District board members met Thursday to discuss whether to raise the 60 percent quota that they issued last month. The quota means that farmers and cities will receive 60 percent of water units allotted to them under the project. The board members said they will wait at least until their next meeting before deciding whether to adjust the amount of water distributed from the project.

Northern Water employees told board members that although state snowpack levels had risen after recent storms, concerns remained about low water-storage levels.

Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson cautioned that raising this year’s quota could limit the organization’s flexibility when it determines how much water to distribute next year. “I’m not willing to say that the drought is over,” Wilkinson said. “We’re still water short.”

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


Northern Water plan in conjunction with NISP could restore streamflow in a section of the Cache la Poudre

April 19, 2013

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Northern is discussing raising flows in the stretch that runs from the mouth of Poudre Canyon to an area near Gateway Park. The river normally runs at a trickle in that section, but Northern Water says it could increase flows 30 to 40 cubic feet per second from June to September. That would amount to10,000 to 20,000 acre feet running through the five-mile section…

Northern Water is exploring the possibility as part of its $490 million Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP)…

As part of the reservoir project, Northern Water has proposed that the irrigation company leave the water in the stream through the five-mile stretch and allow Northern to divert it farther down and pump it back up to the proposed Glade Reservoir, where it would be stored for the irrigation company’s use.

Under this scenario, Northern Water would receive credit from the Corps of Engineers for adding water to the river as it draws from the river during spring runoff to fill Glade.

However, the irrigation company believes it would lose out on credit from the Corps of Engineers if Northern Water moved the diversion downstream. It wants credit for its Halligan-Seaman Water Management Project, which involves expanding Fort Collins’ Halligan Reservoir and Greeley’s Milton Seaman Reservoir.

Northern Water and North Poudre Irrigation Co. value those credits because they give the water companies standing to remove water from other places of the river at various times for storage in reservoirs.

“We’re not going to give up potential mitigation credits on our project,” said Steve Smith, operations manager for the irrigation company. “They actually would be in competition with ours.”

Both the irrigation company and Northern Water said they intend to keep negotiating to see if mutually acceptable terms can be reached.

More Cache la Poudre River Watershed coverage here and here.


Snowpack/drought news: Northern Water sets a 60% quota, others pray for rain #COdrought #ColoradoRiver

April 13, 2013

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Water officials say they did their best Friday to find middle ground in the differing requests of city representatives and farmers and ranchers. But in the end, it’s “a situation where we don’t have any water,” Jerry Winters said after he and the rest of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District board of directors set a 60 percent quota for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

Northern Water board members said they set the quota at that mark to help meet the water demands of the region but also keep at least some of its limited water in storage for the future. The 60 percent quota struck a balance between the 50-60 percent quota some city officials had asked for and the 70 percent quota many farmers and ranchers had requested during Thursday’s water users meeting in Loveland. After hearing those suggestions from water users, the 12-member Northern Water board set its C-BT quota Friday morning to determine how much water will be released this year from the system — which, with its 12 reservoirs, is the largest water supply project in the region.

Since the C-BT project went into use in 1957, the Northern Water board has set a quota every year in April to balance how much water could be used through the upcoming growing season and how much water needed to stay in storage for future years. The historic average for the C-BT quota has been just above 70 percent, according to Northern Water officials. A 60 percent quota means that for every acre-foot of water a C-BT shareholder owns, they’ll get 60 percent of an acre-foot to use throughout the year. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons of water.

The C-BT Project collects water on the West Slope and delivers it to the East Slope through a 13-mile tunnel that runs underneath Rocky Mountain National Park. Northern Water’s boundaries encompass portions of eight counties, 640,000 irrigated acres and a population of about 860,000 people.

LaSalle-area farmer Frank Eckhardt said he had heard earlier in the week that the C-BT quota could be set as low as 50 percent, so he was relieved to hear it was set at 60 percent. “We’re going to need every bit we can get,” said Eckhardt, who sits on the board of directors for the Western Mutual and Farmers Independent ditch companies.

Eckhardt said his two ditch companies don’t own C-BT water, but like many other ag-water providers, depend heavily on leasing C-BT water from cities who own it. In last year’s drought, Eckhardt said, C-BT water “provided great relief” for his family’s farm.

Last spring, the Northern Water board puts its C-BT quota to 100 percent to help farmers, and could do so at the time because there was plenty of water in storage. But even with the C-BT quota set at 100 percent, the Eckhardts still had to leave about 500 acres of farm ground fallow due to water shortages, and diverted water away from about another 500 acres of planted acres to save other crops.

With the C-BT quota set at just 60 percent this year, Eckhardt said he and his family will likely leave even more acres unplanted this year. “Hopefully we can find some water to rent somewhere else,” Eckhardt said. “But I’m not sure where that’s going to come from. There’s just not much water out there.” For only the second time in 56 years, the quota set for the C-BT Project was limited this year by how little water is available, rather than based on the demands of the region.

In nearly all years, the board can set a quota of 100 percent — although it rarely does — and still have at least some water in storage for the following years. But this year, a quota of 87 percent would have depleted everything in the C-BT Project’s reservoirs, according to Brian Werner, a spokesman and historian with Northern Water. And the limited runoff from this year’s meager snowpack in the mountains isn’t going help much, Werner added.

The only other year the board has been so limited in the quota it could set was 2003 — following the historic drought year of 2002, said Werner, who’s been with Northern Water for more than 30 years.

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

It was a different approach to “irrigation.”

Bishop Fernando Isern, accompanied by an entourage of more than 100 people, sprinkled holy water on a field near Blende on Friday as a symbolic way to bless all Pueblo County farms. And he prayed for rain. “We have to come back to basics,” said Isern, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo. “Our forefathers for generations worked the land and did not have as much technology. But they had their faith.”

With the Arkansas Valley in the third year of drought, the event was staged at Milberger Farms on the kind of bright sunny morning that has become too typical lately. Statues of St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers, graced a table on the patio at Milberger’s as the bishop addressed the crowd. “We can give thanks to God for meteorologists and all of our technology, but all of that is useless if we don’t have rain,” Isern said. “It’s about giving all to the Lord and trusting in God.”

His prayer for rain was brief: “We seek God’s blessing on our land, seed and crops that it will produce. Unless the seed is planted, it will not yield fruit.”

His comments later were more informal: “In the three years I have been here, I have learned that moisture is an important issue.”

The Rev. Joseph Vigil, pastor at St. Joseph’s Church, and the Rev. Matthew Wertin, pastor at Sacred Heart in Avondale, along with altar boy Antonio Valdez, assisted in the ceremony. “St. Isidore ore was born in 1070 and died in 1130. He was the patron saint of farmers, and he was married to Maria, who is also a saint,” Vigil said. “People said that when he worked in the fields, they would see angels by his side.”

Those who attended pledged to be faithful, or at least willing to believe prayers for rain can work. “It’s so true, what the bishop said about getting back to basics,” said Lucille Corsentino. “Intervention does happen, although sometimes we are too proud or arrogant to see it.”

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District decided in a board meeting Friday morning that they will distribute only 60 percent of water shares from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project in response to a second year of drought. Local farmers had pleaded at a meeting earlier this week for 70 percent of their share. Farmers contend that the 60 percent quota will mean planting fewer fields with crops that use more water, such as corn. That will have consequences for Weld County’s dairy industry, they say…

The decision to distribute 60 percent of shares this year should keep the city of Fort Collins from having to pass further water restrictions, according to Donnie Dustin, the city’s water resource manager. A quota of 50 percent or less would have overextended the city’s resource.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecasted the drought will persist or intensify in most of the state through June.

From The Mountain Mail (Lonnie Oversole):

Water restrictions for the 2013 irrigation season will again be on a voluntary basis. Salidans are encouraged to follow the same restrictions that have been in place in past years: Even-address numbers water on even calendar days, odd-address numbers water on odd calendar days. Also, the city recommends no watering between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and no one watering on the 31st day of the month. Should you choose not to follow voluntary water restrictions, there will be no enforcement or penalty.

Keep in mind if you water during the heat of the day, you will lose 50 percent of the water you apply to evaporation, which is the reasoning behind not watering between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The even/odd-day system has half the city watering on one day and the other half on the next day. This provides better water pressure for all customers and firefighting personnel.

The snowpack throughout Colorado is well below the normal average for this time of year, at 74 percent of average statewide on April 1. The Arkansas basin also was at 74 percent of normal April 1. In terms of snow totals, it would take an additional 6 feet of snow on average in Colorado to catch up to normal snowpack levels.

If the hot summer days yield little moisture in the form of afternoon showers, there is a good possibility that mandatory water restrictions could be implemented by summer’s end.

At their April 2 work session, city council decided to leave water restrictions voluntary with the ability to change to mandatory if conditions worsen. Water restrictions have been voluntary for the last 2 years. When comparing water totals to years prior when water restrictions were mandatory, there is little difference in water usage.

Buena Vista has implemented voluntary watering restrictions as well. Many Front Range towns and cities have instituted mandatory watering restrictions, with Lafayette allowing no outdoor watering until April 16 and after that only between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. After May 1, the city of Louisville will limit watering to only 2 days a week with no watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. In addition, the cities of Denver and Aurora have instituted similar mandatory restrictions, citing the worst drought in Colorado since 2002.

I would also like to take this opportunity to talk about routine bacteria sampling that occurs within the water distribution system. We are required, based on population, to take seven bacteria samples per month.
The samples are taken at sites predetermined by a sampling plan. The plan contains 21 routine sampling sites with seven alternate sites. If for some reason the routine site is not accessible, then an alternate site is used. The sampling each month is spread throughout the system rather than being concentrated in a certain area. Each site by year’s end will have been tested four different times.

The water distribution system contains many miles of piping to get the treated water to our customers. Chlorine residual is maintained throughout the distribution system to assure a level of water quality.
Chlorine levels are tested every time a bacteria sample is collected. Chlorine levels are also measured at every treatment point daily and at the surface water plant continuously. A predetermined site within the distribution system is also tested daily.

Another important aspect to good water quality is maintenance of the distribution or piping system. The key element is a good flushing program. This part of system maintenance is often mistaken by the public as a waste of water. Flushing rids the system of accumulated sediment and discolored water. Flushing also gets rid of old water or water that’s been in the system for periods longer than normal. This can occur in areas with lower usage or dead-end lines. Getting old water out of the system reduces the potential associated with the formation of disinfection byproducts. The city is currently flushing hydrants twice per year, in the spring prior to peak water usage, and again in fall when usage begins to drop off. Based on data recorded during flushing in past years, less water is being used to flush twice per year than was used when hydrants were flushed annually. Due to the current conditions we will not be flushing this spring. Last month, several hydrants were flowed and data collected to create a water model for the distribution system. Once a working model is in place, one of the many benefits will be to fine-tune the city’s flushing program.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan, an article titled “Northern Water gives Fort Collins the water it asked for,” written by Bobby Magill. Here’s an excerpt:

With below-average snowpack in the mountains and ongoing drought conditions in Northern Colorado, the board voted to give farmers and cities obtaining water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project 10 percent more water than the board previously said it would provide for 2013.

Last year, the board agreed to give C-BT water users 50 percent of the available water in the system. On Friday, the board increased that amount to 60 percent.

Fort Collins water resources manager Donnie Dustin said Thursday that if the amount of C-BT water, or quota, the city would receive stayed at 50 percent, the city might have to go to Level 2 water restrictions, which would mean Fort Collins residents would be allowed to water their lawn only once each week.

Dustin said the city was advocating for the 60 percent quota the board decided to provide, which would likely prevent Level 2 restrictions from going into effect.

Fort Collins gets nearly half of its water supply from the C-BT system, which pipes Colorado River water from Grand Lake on the Western Slope to Front Range reservoirs, including Horsetooth and Carter Lake. The C-BT system supplements the water supplies for 30 Front Range cities and towns and 120 irrigation companies.

At a meeting of Northern Water water users on Thursday, farmers asked to get more water than cities, but the board decided to give everyone the same amount.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Tom Hacker):

Board members of Northern Water, the agency that sells the water from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation project, made their decision Friday, a day after hearing from Eastern Colorado farmers they needed more, and from utility managers in Front Range cities they should hold the line…

The 60 percent quota declaration reflects concern from city water providers about low reservoir storage levels in this, the second year of Northern Colorado drought. At the same time it grants farmers an additional slice of the C-BT pie to get crops of corn, beets, onions and other water-intensive crops through the summer.

Members of the Northern Water board said their decision was not as simple as balancing city and agricultural needs. “It’s not as much of an agricultural versus municipal issue, it’s a situation where we don’t have any water,” Weld County board member Jerry Winters said. “If I spend my money and I’m broke that’s not good financial management. It’s the same with water.”

From The North Forty News:

Directors said they approved the 10 percent increase because it offers additional supplies and flexibility for all types of water users, but will still help keep water in reservoirs for next year. Although many farmers and ranchers asked for higher quotas than municipal water providers, this year’s quota decision comes to a simple formula, said Director Jerry Winters from Weld County. “It’s not as much of an agricultural versus municipal issue, it’s a situation where we don’t have any water. If I spend my money and I’m broke that’s not good financial management. It’s the same with water,” Winters said.

Director Bill Emslie from Larimer County also stressed that prudent quota-setting includes a range of considerations. “This is a decision that needs to have balance between demand and availability, as well as a consideration of the facts,” Emslie said. “We are all in this together, and we need to find middle ground.”

Directors have the option to increase the 2013 quota in subsequent meetings.

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

An April 9 blog post by Denver Water was headlined, “It’s raining, it’s snowing, the drought is still going.” The post notes that it would take about 6 feet of new snow over the next couple of weeks in the mountain watersheds Denver relies on to have a normal snowpack — and even if the snowpack were normal, they would still be in drought because of low reservoir levels left over from last year.

So … what did this past storm bring us? Practically nothing in the Grand Valley. 14.5 inches in Boulder. Over a foot in some mountain locations, but way less than six feet. Statewide, the storm bumped the total snowpack from 69% of the average for this time of year to 71%. So it’s safe to say that Denver’s drought is still on.

Why do we on the Western Slope care about Denver’s water supply situation? We share a reliance on the Colorado River and its tributaries — their water supply situation mirrors our own. Also, the implementation of an agreement over how to share Colorado River water has already affected management of the river.

In March, dismal snowpack data and low reservoir storage levels triggered an agreement between Western Slope interests, Denver Water and Xcel Energy to “relax” the senior water rights call on the river exercised by the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon. This will reduce water demanded by the power plant in order to allow junior rights upstream to fill Denver Water’s Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir.

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

The Northern Water board decided Friday to provide water users with a 60 percent quota, about 10 percent less than is usually allotted. Board members said the amount of water being given out from the Colorado-Big Thompson project is meant to strike a balance between cities that want to remain conservative in their water use and farmers who say they need a higher amount to keep from fallowing acres of farm land this growing season.


[Drought] ‘It’s this slow, creeping death by 1,000 cuts’ — Chris Kraft #COdrought #ColoradoRiver

April 12, 2013

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

A record crowd of 250 people attended the spring meeting of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District at the Ranch in Loveland. Farmers pleaded with Northern Water officials for at least 70 percent of their share of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project…

“The worst thing in the world for agriculture is a drought, which we’re in right now,” said Chris Kraft, a Fort Morgan dairy farmer. “It’s this slow, creeping death by 1,000 cuts.”

Northern Water board members are scheduled to decide Friday how much water they will distribute. Northern Water provides water to portions of eight counties with a population of 850,000 people and serves more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land. Farmers use about two thirds of the water coming from the project while cities use one third, while cities use one third, Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said…

…Eric Wilkinson, Northern Water’s general manager, said that this year would mark the second time in the water wholesaler’s history that it would base its quota on “availability” of water rather than “need.”

Officials from several Northern Colorado cities argued at Thursday’s meeting that a quota of any more than 50 or 60 percent would overextend the already scarce resource. Donnie Dustin, the city of Fort Collins’ water resources manager, believes the city will face having a lower quota in future years if Northern Water adopts more than a 60 percent quota. However, Fort Collins doesn’t want Northern Water to go too low. The city would have to pass further water restrictions if Northern Water adopted a 50 percent quota, Dustin said…

Farmers contend that a 60 percent quota will mean planting fewer fields with crops that use more water, such as corn. That will have consequences for Weld County’s dairy industry, they say. “We got so many dairies in this country,” said Bill Markham, who farms corn, barley and sugar beets in Berthoud. “I don’t know where they’re going to get their feed.”

Kraft said a lower water quota would lead him to downsize his dairy farm. “If we don’t get the feed we need, we have to sell animals,” he said. “We’ll be shrinking down.”

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

For only the second time in 56 years, the quota set for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project will be limited by how little water is available, rather than based on the demands of the region. After hearing suggestions from its water users Thursday, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s board of directors will set a quota for the C-BT Project today to determine how much water will be released this year from the system — which, with its 12 reservoirs, is the largest water supply project in the region. But, because reservoir levels are low and snowpack in the mountains is limited, the board will be restricted in how much water it can allow farmers and cities to use in 2013.

In nearly all years, the board can set a quota of 100 percent — although it rarely does — and still have at least some water in storage for the following years. But this year, a quota of 87 percent would deplete everything in the C-BT Project’s reservoirs, according to Brian Werner, a spokesman and historian with Northern Water. And the limited runoff from this year’s meager snowpack isn’t going help much, Werner added. The only other year the board has been so limited in the quota it could set was 2003 — following the historic drought year of 2002, said Werner, who’s been with Northern Water for more than 30 years.

Although C-BT water is limited this year, it’s still needed — particularly by farmers, many of whom cut back on production last year while battling drought, and fear they’ll have to plant even fewer acres this year because of the water shortages.

The historic predicament now facing the 12-member Northern Water board was brought on by the combination of continued drought, the board setting a historically high C-BT quota last year, the expectation of more dry weather, and because the region’s water demands are continually growing due to increased population, according to some of the experts who spoke at Thursday’s water users meeting. And, as water demands have increased, the availability of stored water hasn’t kept pace, added Werner.

Since the C-BT project went into use in 1957, the Northern Water board has set a quota every year in April to balance how much water could be used through the upcoming growing season and how much water needed to stay in storage for future years. The historic average for the C-BT quota has been just above 70 percent, according to Werner. A 70-percent quota means that for every acre-foot of water a C-BT shareholder owns, they’ll get 70 percent of an acre-foot to use throughout the year. An acre-foot is approximately 326,000 gallons of water.

Differences of opinion

Before setting its quota each year, the board takes suggestions from its water users. Thursday’s water users meeting drew about 250 people — a record-high attendance for Northern Water’s April meeting, Werner said. At the meeting, officials from local cities generally pushed for a quota of about 50-60 percent, wanting to keep it relatively low and save as much water as possible for the future. However, many farmers in attendance — who either are or will soon be planting crops, and need to know soon how much water they’ll have for the growing season — asked for a quota of about 70 percent.

The difference between a 50 percent water quota and a 70 percent quota amounts to more than 20 billion gallons of available water to northern Colorado.

Farmers said they’ll need as much water as possible to raise their crops and the feed needed by the region’s many dairies and feedlots. Many are worried that cutting back on planting again this year will have a negative trickle-down impact on the region’s overall economy — especially in Weld County, where agriculture is a $1.5 billion contributor. Each year, about two-thirds of the C-BT Project’s water goes to agriculture uses, but farmers and ranchers only own 34 percent of the water. To make up that gap, farmers and ranchers lease water from cities. However, because of the water shortages, many cities have said it’s unlikely they’ll have any extra water available in 2013.

Water officials from Greeley and Fort Collins said this would be the first time in about 10 years — dating back to 2003 — that they wouldn’t be able to lease extra water to local agricultural users. “You can get a flavor for the dilemma our board is in,” Eric Wilkenson, general manager of Northern Water, said to the crowd after hearing comments from concerned water users. But, with the C-BT’s overall reservoir levels 27 percent below average as of April 1, and snowpack in South Platte Basin 29 percent below average on Thursday and 24 percent below average in the Colorado River Basin, the Northern Water board can only do so much.

C-BT water flows to more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land and about 860,000 people in portions of eight counties, according to Northern Water numbers.

Last April, concerns for farmers led the board to declare a 90 percent quota for C-BT water, the highest set in April since 1977. As drought persisted, the Northern Water board increased the C-BT water quota to 100 percent in May. The board could set that quota then because reservoir levels were high, due to above-average snowpack in previous years. With last year’s heavy water usage, reservoir levels dropped and are now expected to stay low since little snow has accumulated in the mountains.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy coverage here and here.


It will be standing room only at the Northern Water board meeting Thursday #ColoradoRiver

April 10, 2013

Permitting water projects: ‘…maybe we’re having the federal government check too many boxes’ — Randy Ray

April 8, 2013

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

New water-supply projects could come to fruition much faster if a Colorado congressman has his way in Washington. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is piecing together a bill aimed at speeding up the federal permitting process for new water endeavors, if they are endorsed by the governor of that state.

Many regional water projects have been in the federal permitting stages for years, with participants having spent millions of dollars along the way, and they still have no guarantee the projects will be built.

Brian Werner — a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is overseeing efforts to build the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP — said the project has been in its federal permitting phase since 2004, with the 15 participating cities and water districts having already spent about $12 million. He suspects the process will go on for yet another year. Gardner said it’s taking “way too long.”

The details of his bill aren’t finalized, but Gardner said it could call for federal agencies to say “yay” or “nay” on a proposed water project within six to nine months after a governor puts his support behind it.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has yet to endorse NISP, which would supply its partners with 40,000 acre feet of new water supplies annually, if ever built.

Opponents say water-storage projects like NISP could interfere with river flows and impact wildlife, fisheries, forests and recreational use.

Gardner and others say that — with future water shortages expected for a number of regions — new water-supply projects must get a “yay” or “nay” quicker, so those projects can get built or participants can go back to the drawing board. Agriculture, the biggest user of water, will suffer the most if these lulls continue, Gardner added.

Participants of large-scale, water-supply projects must work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and others to make sure all needed wildlife-, habitat- and environmental-protection measures are taken before dirt is moved. “No doubt; mitigation efforts need to be taken,” said Randy Ray, executive director with the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley. “But maybe we’re having the federal government check too many boxes.

“I’d like to see the federal government have more faith in the state, the local water districts and the engineers who are working on these projects.”

Without new water-supply projects in the region, farmers and some water experts worry that growing cities will continue buying up farmland and agricultural water rights in the future to meet their growing needs.

The Colorado-Big Thompson Project, the largest water project in northern Colorado, has seen its water go from 85 percent owned by agricultural users, to now 34 percent owned by agricultural users. Many farmers have sold rights in times when farming wasn’t profitable. Farmers who need water today now depend on leasing it from the cities who own it. But in dry times, like this year, cities say they don’t have enough water in storage to lease to agriculture.

If Colorado had NISP-like projects in place already, Werner and others say, the above-average snowpacks of recent years would have filled those reservoirs, local cities and farmers would have more water in storage now and they would be in much better shape to endure the ongoing drought. Instead, during 2009, 2010 and 2011, a total of about 1.4 million acre-feet of water above what’s legally required flowed from Colorado into Nebraska, according to Werner. “Even if we could have captured just some of that in new reservoirs, how much better off would we be right now?” Werner asked.

Colorado’s ag industry has a $40 billion impact on the state, the second-largest contributor to Colorado’s economy, behind oil and gas.

But according to the 2010 Statewide Water Initiative Study, the South Platte River basin in northeast Colorado could lose as much as 190,000 acres of irrigated farmland by 2050 due to water shortages. Farmers and water experts agree that conservation and water-sharing projects could help Colorado meet its growing water needs, but they say new water-storage projects will also be needed.

Ray didn’t want to comment specifically on Gardner’s bill, but he stressed the need to speed up the federal permitting process for new water projects. He explained that the Central Water and others have been discussing the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project since the 1980s, but are still working with the federal government to get all permitting in order. “It needs to change,” he said “Because we’re not getting anywhere.

“And we really need to get somewhere.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


‘The unpredictable nature of snowpack and rainfall…underscores the need for more water storage’ — Cory Gardner

April 4, 2013

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From the Denver iJournal (J.D. Thomas):

With Colorado cities facing austere watering restrictions and farmers unable to plant crops this year, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, believes the wait for a decision on the Northern Integrated Supply Project has gone on too long.

“The unpredictable nature of snowpack and rainfall in Colorado underscores the need for more water storage in good years, so we are better prepared for the bad ones,” said Garner who is hoping to hurry along a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision regarding the project. “NISP would provide the water storage we need to support northern Colorado’s growing communities and provide protection to farmers and families when the weather turns dry.”

An Environmental Impact Study process conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project has already taken nine years and cost the participants about $11 million. The congressman is currently drafting water-storage legislation to streamline the approval process for projects like NISP, according to a statement from his office.

“This will ensure that these projects don’t drag on for decades and waste millions of dollars,” said Rachael Boxer-George, Gardner’s spokeswoman. “We are going to set a deadline on when the initial application needs to be approved or denied. The length of the EIS process is being discussed as we draft this bill, but so far we’re focusing on just the permits.”

Ten-year waits on an EIS are certainly not unprecedented, for instance the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District has gone through a similar wait on the Windy Gap firming project. But as growing municipalities on the Front Range seek new quality water sources, the undammed Cache-La Poudre is a natural place to look, and participants in NISP includes not only Weld and Larimer county water districts and municipalities, but also Erie, Lafayette and the Left Hand water district in Boulder County.

Though the two project elements will not actually dam the Poudre, the project has also attracted substantial opposition, including Western Resource Advocates of Boulder. That organization has suggested a program of water conservation, reuse of municipal water and transfer and coordinated use of agricultural water could provide the same amount of water while maintaining the riparian ecosystem of the Poudre.

“I certainly hope the congressman doesn’t believe that he can cut out public input on this process,” said Laura Belanger, the water resources engineer with the Boulder environmental organization.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here. More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here.


Drought news: The drought has dried up municipal leases to farmers #codrought

March 26, 2013

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

It’s been a bone-dry search this year for the many farmers and ranchers who depend heavily on leasing water from their municipal neighbors. Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland and Longmont — each typically leasing thousands of acre-feet of excess water per year to local producers — have all said it’s unlikely they’ll have any extra water available in 2013. Dismal snowpack in the mountains and not having city water as a back-up option is putting farmers in a tough spot, local crop growers say.

With spring planting beginning in the upcoming weeks, many predict they’ll cut back on production even more than they did in a drought-stricken 2012. “There’s just nothing out there to lease,” said Randy Knutson, who farms south, east and north of Greeley, explaining that, on one of his 160-acre farms where he fallowed about 30 percent of his ground last year, he’ll likely fallow about 50 percent of that ground this year.

Knutson — who sits on the board of directors for the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Greeley No. 3 Ditch and Western Mutual Ditch companies — said, based on his conversations with farmers, there will be fallowing aplenty this year.

Water officials from Greeley and Fort Collins said this is the first time in about 10 years they haven’t been able to lease extra water to agricultural users, and for Loveland and Longmont it’s been even longer, officials from those two cities said.

Agriculture uses about 85 percent of the state’s water, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources, but the ag industry doesn’t own nearly that much of the state’s supply — at least not anymore.

In 1957, when the Colorado-Big Thompson Project first went into operation, 85 percent of the water in the project was owned by agricultural users, according to numbers from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, that oversees operations of the C-BT Project. But today, only 34 percent of the water in the C-BT — the largest water-supply project in northern Colorado — is owned by agricultural users.

For years, when there was limited money to be made in ag, growing cities along the northern Front Range bought water rights from farming and ranching families that were getting out of the business. Also, some producers who stayed in business thought it could be more profitable to sell some of their water rights at a certain price to growing cities, and then rent extra water as needed. “I can’t condemn anyone at all for selling their water rights,” said Lynn Fagerberg, an Eaton-area farmer. “Times were tough for a long, long time. “It’s just led to a complicated situation now.”

A lot of producers today — while owning some of their water rights — play the rental market heavily, according to Brian Werner, the public information officer and historian for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. While only one-third of the water in the C-BT Project is now owned by agricultural users, about two-thirds of C-BT water in most years still goes to ag users, who lease much of that C-BT water from cities who own it, Werner said. Despite the shift of ownership, the C-BT remains the largest, supplemental water supply for ag in the state, he added. But playing the rental market, Werner noted, can make life difficult in dry years when cities are reluctant to lease water — like this year.

In 2012, the drought forced cities and farmers to use up water in reservoirs, but they did so in hopes that this year’s winter and spring would produce at least average snowfall, or better. But through Monday, statewide snowpack was only 79 percent of average, and only 71 percent of average in the South Platte River basin — not enough to replenish reservoirs back up to levels where cities are comfortable with their supplies. According to the most recent report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, statewide reservoirs were filled to level about 30 percent below-average at the beginning of March.

Additionally, last year’s wildfires, which took place around many high-mountain reservoirs, caused additional complications.

Fagerberg and other farmers and ranchers have expressed frustration in that cities which aren’t leasing water to agriculture this year aren’t putting additional lawn-watering measures in place that could save water — water that could then be leased to ag.

Jon Monson, water and sewer director for the city of Greeley, said the city’s water board will continue looking at potential watering restrictions as the year goes along.

Monson, Fagerberg and others were quick to point out the economic impact agriculture has on Weld County — amounting to about $1.5 billion agricultural goods, which ranks Weld eighth in the nation, according to the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture. In 2011, the city of Greeley leased 25,427 acre-feet of water to agricultural users, but this year, only has enough available to honor its long-term ag-lease agreements of about 5,000 acre-feet, Monson said.

Many ag water users are tying to decrease their dependency on leased water form cities. The board of directors for the North Weld County Water District nearly a year ago increased water surcharges in order to buy more water down the road. The board cited concerns that dairymen who are customers of North Weld Water don’t own very much of the water they use; collectively, the 20 largest dairies in the district owned only about 7 percent of the water they use, according to their numbers.

The Central Colorado Water Conservancy District passed a $60 million bond issue last fall to purchase water needed by many of its ag users.

None of those efforts, though, will help this year.

In recent years, commodity prices have made farming more profitable, and since 2009, the percentage of CB-T water owned by agriculture has stayed steady at 34 percent — after gradually dropping nearly every year for decades. But the percentage of ag ownership isn’t increasing, and that’s because the water rights agricultural users sold years ago are too expensive for farmers and ranchers to buy now, Werner said. And water rights are certainly pricey in times of drought, Werner added. He said the price of a C-BT share has increased from about $9,000 last year to about $13,500 to $14,000 now. “We’re basically seeing the price increase by about $1,000 per month so far this year,” Werner said, noting that most of that water today is being bought for municipal and industrial uses. “It’s certainly not the farmers who can afford it.”


Northern Water’s Spring Water Users Meeting will be held Thursday, April 11 #codrought

March 24, 2013

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From email from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District:

Northern Water’s Spring Water Users Meeting will be held Thursday, April 11 at the Thomas M. McKee Building at The Ranch, Loveland, CO. starting at 8 a.m.

The Spring Water Users Meeting is a forum to discuss the current water situation and water-related issues. The 2013 meeting will include updates on the current water year, the Northern Integrated Supply Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project. Go to the
April Calendar page for more information and to register online. Business group registration is now available. The last day to register online is April 9.

Spring Water Users Meeting Agenda

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here and here.


The Greeley Tribune editorial staff comes out in favor of NISP

February 11, 2013

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From The Greeley Tribune via the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):

We agree with Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar when he said last week that a combination of conservation and new water storage are needed to solve an impending catastrophe for farmers and
ranchers.

Salazar was referring to a projected 600,000 acre-foot water shortage that is expected to hit Colorado by the
year 2050.

Speaking at last week’s Colorado Farm Show, Salazar said municipal users, including those of us who apply a
vast amount of water to our Kentucky bluegrass, must get smarter about water consumption. He also said
farmers and ranchers must take better advantage of technology to do a better job of conserving water. And he
said, too, that water-storage projects (can you say Northern Integrated Supply Project?) must be part of the
state’s 50-year water plan.

We agree on all three accounts.

Salazar’s message hits home with extra impact this winter. Statewide snowpack is sitting at 67 percent of
average, and many of the state’s reservoirs already range from near empty to two-thirds full. Unless the final
three months of the winter provide bountiful snow, Colorado could very well be facing the reality of a water
shortage starting this summer.

Salazar pointed out that Coloradans consume about 120 gallons of water every day. Australians, by
comparison, use 36 gallons per day. That stark difference points out that more can, and must, be done to
conserve the water we use on an everyday basis. Those who grow crops certainly must be participants in that,
and we know from previous coverage that some Weld County farmers already are converting to drip irrigation
systems, which save a considerable amount of water compared to the conventional flood irrigation. Residential
water users must do a better job of embracing xeriscaping and reducing other household water consumption,
and we know that Greeley has been among the state’s leaders in securing significant water savings over the
past few years.

But we must do more.

And that includes building more water storage. The NISP project in northern Colorado is one of the most
responsible, common-sense water storage projects this state has seen in decades. It has to win the approval
of federal regulatory agencies, but we would expect that to happen within a few years and hopefully
construction can start soon thereafter.

Salazar said “massive cooperation” must occur for the state to meet its future water needs. We would agree,
and if we don’t, we’re likely to encounter a massive water problem.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


South Platte River Basin: ‘We have to have an oversupply along the whole system’ — Bob Sakata

January 9, 2013

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s meeting about the South Platte River Basin groundwater study authorized last session by the legislature [HB12-1278], from Grace Hood writing for KUNC. Groundwater levels are rising, some say, due to the alluvial wells that have been shutdown and augmentation. Here’s an excerpt:

Reagan Waskom is director of the Colorado Water Institute, which hosted the event. He framed the issue this way:

“Are these the only areas in the basin? Is this beginning of a trend toward higher groundwater levels? Are we at the end of something? Was it a blip in time?”

Waskom is working with dozens of scientists, and aggregating data from as far back as the 1890’s to find the answer.

It’s something that matters to farmers like Robert Sakata. Speaking in a facilitated dialogue, Sakata explained he used to own and use wells connected to the South Platte. In the ’70s, he and other junior water rights holders were required to replace the water they used.

“We just felt like it wasn’t economically viable for us as a vegetable farmer to do that,” he said. “Our returns are usually between .5 to 1 percent. That additional cost we just couldn’t justify. So we ended up unhooking the wells.”

Fortunately for Sakata, he also owned surface water rights he could use to irrigate his crops. But other farmers weren’t as lucky. The drought of 2002 and a subsequent state Supreme Court decision in 2006 resulted in thousands of wells being curtailed and about 400 being shut down completely.

“That’s almost the analogy that I see in the state right now is that to make sure we’re not injuring every person along the way, we have to have an oversupply along the whole system,” said Sakata.

Meantime, Joe Frank with the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District spoke of another reality: some of his water rights owners aren’t getting all the water they’re entitled to.

“Going into this next year, if we continue this drought, we’re going to see severe curtailment,” he said. “So ultimately it comes down to water supply. We’re water short in this basin. We need to work together to develop that supply.”[...]

The meeting raised a lot more questions than it answered for the more than 100 who attended. But Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said it was a good beginning.

“Everyone who spoke here today said the big problem was we aren’t taking advantage of our compacts to capture the necessary water that we’re going to need as a state over the next 50 years for agriculture, municipal use.”

Conway is referring to the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), which would build two water storage reservoirs in the region. In recent years it’s become a hotly contested project in the area. Despite the intractable nature of these water debates, the Colorado Water Institute’s Reagan Waskom said he’s determined to make the South Platte River study meaningful.

More meetings are planned, click here.

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here. More South Platte River Basin coverage here. More coverage of the shutdown of irrigation wells in the basin here.


Fort Morgan bumps water rates 5% to cover costs associated with NISP

December 22, 2012

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The increase, which will be effective Jan. 1, 2013, means that someone whose water bill had been $67.52 per month in 2012 would start seeing water bills around $70.65 in 2013. Yearly, the increase means about $37 more for the average residential customer…

The increase is part of a multi-staged plan to increase water rates gradually to keep up with coming large costs of infrastructure replacement and investment in water storage through the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP).

“We want to be ready for NISP,” City Manager Jeff Wells said.

Because of the city’s commitment to NISP, a number of large payments will come due for it in coming years, especially if the project gets the go-ahead from state and federal regulators.

“NISP will have significant impacts on the revenue requirements for the city’s water utility,” Water Resources and Utilities Director Brent Nation stated in a memo to the council. “Currently, the city pays for minor NISP expenses mostly involved in permitting the project, but construction is anticipated to begin within the next five years. Once construction begins, so does the city’s larger financial obligation to the project.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Western Resource Advocates releases a new report — ‘A Better Future for the Poudre River’

December 15, 2012

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Here’s the link to the webpage where you can download the report. From the executive summary:

A Better Future for the Poudre River Alternative is a solution for meeting future water demands in northeastern Colorado. This report outlines a better approach than the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), a proposal by Northern Water that would cause significant harm to the Poudre River. A Better Future provides a strategy for meeting the water needs of 15 towns and water districts while also preserving the Poudre River and the communities and businesses that depend on a healthy river.

Planning for and meeting the water needs of NISP participant communities is critical, as is ensuring the health of the Poudre River and the numerous benefits it provides. Through the recommendations outlined in the Better Future report, Northern Water and NISP participants can chart an innovative path forward that differs from the traditional approach of building large reservoirs. The Better Future for the Poudre River Alternative (“Better Future Alternative” or “Better Future”) relies on a combination of supplies from conservation, reuse, water transferred as a result of growth onto irrigated agricultural lands, and voluntary agreements with agriculture. We encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate elements of the Better Future Alternative into its No Action Alternative when completing the NISP Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which is anticipated sometime in 2013. Western Resource Advocates (WRA) offers the following key recommendations that Northern Water, NISP participants, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should consider carefully in planning for the region’s future water needs:

  • Meet projected demands with balanced strategies that are the least environmentally damaging, in contrast to large traditional reservoir and pipeline projects.
  • Use reliable and up-to-date population data and projections
    from the State Demography Office.
  • Implement more aggressive water conservation strategies. Conservation is often the cheapest, fastest, and smartest way to meet new demands; NISP participants have significant opportunities to boost their existing water conservation efforts.
  • Integrate conservation savings—passive and active—into water supply planning.
  • When calculating future water supply projections, include all existing supplies, supplies from growth onto irrigated lands, as well as NISP participants’ water dedication requirements.
  • Maximize the role of water reuse in meeting future needs. Include NISP participants’ existing and planned reuse—as well as additional Better Future reuse supplies—in any analysis.
  • Include increased cooperation between agriculture and local communities in the form of voluntary water sharing agreements that benefit both NISP participants and the agricultural community—without permanently drying up irrigated acres. Alternatives to “buy and dry” transfers present excellent opportunities for meeting future municipal demands.
  • More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


    Grand County Approves Windy Gap Firming Project Permit, Agreements #CORiver

    December 11, 2012

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    From Westword (Alan Prendergast):

    Last week, Trout Unlimited and the Upper Colorado River Alliance, plus county and water conservancy district officials, announced an agreement that commits cash and conservation measures to the project. The permit approved by the Grand County commissioners includes a host of conditions that should help improve river health (and water quality in Grand Lake), including a $2 million bypass channel to reconnect the river and periodic “flushing flows” to cleanse the river and remove sediment.

    “For years, those of us living in Grand County have seen the once-mighty Colorado in a state of serious decline,” said Kirk Klancke, president of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado River Headwaters Chapter, in a prepared statement. “This agreement will provide protections and new investments in river health that can put the Colorado River on the road to recovery.”

    While the deal doesn’t give the activists everything they wanted, it does avoid the worst-case scenario some had feared. The headwaters defenders can now turn their energy to another looming threat: Denver Water’s plans to expand its Moffat Tunnel diversion system, sucking the life out of the much-besieged Frasier River, as well as the Colorado.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


    Reclamation releases Supplemental Information Report to Windy Gap Firming EIS

    November 15, 2012

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    Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    The Bureau of Reclamation announces the availability of a Supplemental Information

    Report and related errata to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which analyzed impacts of the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project. Both the SIR and the errata are available at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

    “A SIR analyzes new information received after the completion of the Final EIS to determine if there are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns on the proposed action or its impacts,” said Michael J. Ryan, Regional Director for Reclamation’s Great Plains Region.

    An errata is a list of corrections to a publication.

    After publication of the Final EIS in December 2011, Reclamation received new information regarding the Multiple Metric Index methodology for aquatic invertebrates in the Colorado River. Invertebrate values were updated and rerun based on this new information.

    The findings in the SIR explain that the revised aquatic invertebrate values did not change the conclusions in the Final EIS.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.


    Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Adams Tunnel deliveries off November 5, to resume after maintenance period

    November 10, 2012

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    From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

    Maintenance season for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project begins this November, with water diversions through the Adams Tunnel stopped on Nov. 5, according to Kara Lamb, spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation.

    “This will temporarily slow the draw on Granby Reservoir because we will not be pumping up to Shadow Mountain Reservoir and the tunnel,” Lamb wrote in an email to interested parties. “Releases from Granby to the Colorado River should remain at or above 20 cfs at the Y gauge for the rest of the calendar year.”

    All annual maintenance projects scheduled for this fall on the C-BT Project on the eastern side of the Divide start to wrap up the week of Dec. 7 through Dec. 14. At that time, diversions through the Adams Tunnel are scheduled to resume.

    More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


    Northern Water’s fall water users’ meeting — November 7

    November 3, 2012

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    Here’s the pitch:

    Northern Water’s Fall Water Users’ Meeting will be held Wednesday, Nov. 7 at the University of Northern Colorado, University Center Ballroom, 2045 10th Avenue in Greeley starting at 8 a.m.

    Go to the November Calendar page to register for meeting. The online registration deadline is Monday, Nov. 5. Business group registration is now available.

    The meeting is a forum to discuss the current water situation and water-related issues. The 2012 meeting will include
    updates on the current water year, the Northern Integrated Supply Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project. Other
    presentations will be a video of Northern Water’s 75th Anniversary celebration and a discussion of the impact of wildfires on water supply. See the meeting agenda.

    More coverage from the North Forty News:

    Northern Water’s fall water users’ meeting on Nov. 7 will feature two panel discussions on Colorado wildfires’ impacts to water supplies. Panelists include Lisa Voytko, water production manager for City of Fort Collins, and Jon Monson, director of the water and sewer department for Greeley.

    Northern Water hosts the meetings each spring and fall to discuss the seasonal water supply and other important water-related issues. The Nov. 7 meeting will include a review of the drought-ridden 2012 water year and updates on the Northern Integrated Supply and Windy Gap Firming projects.

    Patty Limerick, Center of the American West director, is the keynote speaker over lunch, which is provided for pre-registrants. The meeting will be at UNC’s University Center Ballroom, 2045 10th Avenue in Greeley, and starts with check-in at 7:30 a.m. and speakers at 8 a.m.

    Members of the public may register through Nov. 5 using the calendar link at http://www.northernwater.org or by leaving a voicemail at 970-622-2220. The voicemail should include attendees’ names and affiliations and whether they will be eating lunch.

    Northern Water is a public agency created in 1937 to contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to build the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which collects water on the West Slope and delivers it to the East Slope through a 13-mile tunnel that runs underneath Rocky Mountain National Park. Northern Water’s boundaries encompass portions of eight counties, about 640,000 irrigated acres and a population of about 850,000. For more information, visit www.northernwater.org.

    More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Colorado River: Water managers manage to keep 500 cfs in the river at Palisade for endangered fish #CODrought #coriver

    October 23, 2012

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    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    While the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program wasn’t able to meet its dry-year flow goals of 810 cubic feet per second at Palisade, Grand Valley and upstream water managers worked cooperatively to maintain an average flow of 500 cfs this summer, well above the flows during Colorado’s last significant drought in 2002.

    And warm temperatures in the river, while not optimal for non-native trout, may have helped some of the young endangered fish like the Colorado Pikeminnow put on a bit of extra weight, a key factor to surviving their first winter, said Tom Chart, director of the interagency recovery effort.

    “Everybody breath a sigh of relief when September came around,” Chart said. “We were in a better position with upstream reservoir storage … and we managed to limp through.”

    First results from late-summer monitoring in the Lower Colorado River and the Green River suggest that spawning numbers and initial survival rates for Colorado pikeminnow were near average, despite drought conditions, Chart said, adding that the size of the young fish was above average — good news for the fish going into the winter…

    “After two decades of effort by Recovery Program partners to construct these fish screens, fish passages and water management facilities, it was gratifying to see all water users working together collaboratively to minimize the impacts of the extreme drought conditions,” said Brent Uilenberg, technical services division manager for Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office.

    From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is praising the voluntary efforts of several private water organizations in the area for their efforts in helping endangered fish during a year of drought.

    The agency has sent letters of acknowledgement to entities that have assisted in the efforts of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

    On the Colorado River, three private organizations helped boost flows to support endangered Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail and humpback chub in 15 miles of critical habitat from Palisade to the confluence of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, Fish and Wildlife said in a news release.

    The Orchard Mesa Irrigation District operated a check structure in the Grand Valley Power Plant discharge canal to make water available for the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, an action that preserved stored water in the upstream Green Mountain Reservoir for future use.

    The Orchard Mesa district also continued work to implement an automation project that will help conserve water when completed in 2015.

    Fish and Wildlife also recognized the Grand Valley Irrigation Company for taking advantage of low flows to remove a cobble bar that was deposited in the river during last year’s high flows. The cobble bar prevented operation of a screen that keeps fish from becoming trapped in the irrigation canal.

    Fish and Wildlife credited the Grand Valley Water Users Association for managing to intermittently operate a fish screen on its canal despite low flows. In addition, the association operated the Grand Valley Water Management Project, a collaborative project with the Recovery Program that improves the efficiency of the canal system to conserve water.

    While Fish and Wildlife wasn’t able to meet its recommended dry-year flow target for endangered fish of 810 cubic feet per second at Palisade this year, Grand Valley and upstream water managers worked cooperatively to maintain an average flow of 500 cfs this summer. That compares with just 171 cfs on the same stretch of river during the drought of 2002.

    Fish and Wildlife also credited the Palisade Irrigation District for taking advantage of low flows to repair extensive 2011 high-water damage to the fish passage at the Price-Stubb Diversion Dam.

    In addition, it recognized the Redlands Water and Power Co. for operating its fish passage and fish screen from April through September, with the help of the Bureau of Reclamation’s operations of upstream dams on the Gunnison River. As of early August, more than 9,000 fish had used the passage, Fish and Wildlife Service said. Of those, 90 percent were native fish, including 10 Colorado pikeminnow.

    More endangered/threatened species coverage here.


    ‘Water Wranglers’ is George Sibley’s new book about the Colorado River District #coriver

    October 10, 2012

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    Here’s the link to the web page where you can order a copy. Here’s the pitch:

    Water Wranglers
    The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District:
    A Story About the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West

    The Colorado River is one of America’s wildest rivers in terms of terrain and natural attributes, but is actually modest in terms of water quantity – the Mississippi surpasses the Colorado’s annual flow in a matter of days. Yet the Colorado provides some or all of the domestic water for some 35 million Southwesterners, most of whom live outside of the river’s natural course in rapidly growing desert cities. It fully or partially irrigates four-million acres of desert land that produces much of America’s winter fruits and vegetables. It also provides hundreds of thousands of people with recreational opportunities. To put a relatively small river like the Colorado to work, however, has resulted in both miracles and messes: highly controlled use and distribution systems with multiplying problems and conflicts to work out, historically and into the future.

    Water Wranglers is the story of the Colorado River District’s first seventy-five years, using imagination, political shrewdness, legal facility, and appeals to moral rightness beyond legal correctness to find balance among the various entities competing for the use of the river’s water. It is ultimately the story of a minority seeking equity, justice, and respect under democratic majority rule – and willing to give quite a lot to retain what it needs.

    The Colorado River District was created in 1937 with a dual mission: to protect the interests of the state of Colorado in the river’s basin and to defend local water interests in Western Colorado – a region that produces 70 percent of the river’s total water but only contains 10 percent of the state’s population.

    To order the book, visit the Wolverine Publishing website at http://wolverinepublishing.com/water-wranglers. It can also be found at the online bookseller Amazon.

    More Colorado River District coverage here.


    Grand County Commissioners continue Windy Gap Firming Project hearing to October 30

    October 4, 2012

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    From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

    Grand County commissioners on Tuesday, Oct. 2, continued the hearing for the Windy Gap Firming Project permit to Oct. 30. The decision to continue the hearing was made during the Board of Commissioners regular weekly meeting.

    More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.


    The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy celebrates its 75th anniversary

    September 21, 2012

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    From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

    The Northern Water Conservancy District formed on Sept. 20, 1937, specifically to build the Colorado-Big Thompson water project to bring water from the Colorado River to what is now the growing, vibrant Front Range.

    A small group shared that idea during the country’s greatest financial crisis and during a time of unparalleled drought.

    Residents were out of work, families starving during The Great Depression.

    Walls of dust were swirling enough to cause pneumonia, to kill cattle to smother crops, to cause havoc during what is now known as the Dust Bowl.

    Yet residents had a vision and pushed through opposition, through financial roadblocks to create a then unprecedented contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, to build the $164 million tunnel, reservoir and canal system, and to turn what seemed like an impossible feat of the imagination into the foundation of our region.

    “They gave this region the future, a priceless gift that many of us take for granted,” Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the water district, told hundreds at a celebration Thursday — 75 years to the day that the district, now known at Northern Water, was formed.

    Just less than 10 years after the district formed in 1937, crafted an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation and convinced voters to support the project by a 17-1 margin, the first drops of water flowed through the Adams Tunnel over the continental divide and into the Big Thompson River.

    That foundation of the project still exists with water stored in reservoirs on the west side and throughout Larimer County, including Carter Lake, Horsetooth, Flatiron and Pinewood Reservoirs.

    From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

    Former U.S. Rep. Hank Brown, historian Dan Tyler and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director Mike Ryan were all taking part in the event.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    Northern Water was established in 1937 as the first water conservancy district in the state and was tasked to work with the federal government to contract for and then build and operate the C-BT Project.

    That project is made up of 11 reservoirs that collectively divert about 260,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Colorado River headwaters on the Western Slope to the Big Thompson River, which is a South Platte River tributary on the Eastern Slope, for distribution to lands and communities in eight northern Colorado counties, including Weld.

    When constructed in 1937, the C-BT project — the brainchild of a group of Greeley residents — was then the largest transmountain water-supply project in the state. Its 13.1-mile tunnel at the time was the longest in the world dug from two headings, and in the 75 years of its existence, it’s responsible for much of the economic and population growth in northern Colorado, according to those who spoke Thursday…

    Today the C-BT Project — completed in 1957, and spreading over 250 square miles — supplies about 850,000 residents and about 640,000 irrigated farm acres. C-BT water was collectively worth about $500,000 at the time the project was built. Today, it’s worth about $3.1 billion.

    More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District 75th Anniversary bash September 20

    September 17, 2012

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    Here’s the link to the 75th Anniversary webpage from Northern Water:

    The public is invited to come celebrate Northern Water’s 75th anniversary at its Berthoud headquarters on Sept. 20.

    The celebration kicks off at 1 p.m. with an open house and tours of Northern Water’s award-winning Conservation Gardens and an interpretive model of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project – the reason for Northern Water’s creation on Sept. 20, 1937.

    The Sept. 20 celebratory remarks will begin at 2 p.m. Speakers include former Congressman Hank Brown, historian Dan Tyler and Mike Ryan, regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    After the program, Conservation Gardens tours will continue, along with the opportunity to walk through the Berthoud campus, 200 Water Ave., and learn more about Northern Water’s operations and activities from employees firsthand. Refreshments will be provided.

    More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Grand Lake: Reclamation lays out alternatives to help restore the lake’s historical clarity

    September 2, 2012

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    From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Tulley):

    Some of the alternatives for improving the clarity of Grand Lake that are discussed in the report include: Stopping pumping at the Farr Pumping Plant in July, August, and September; modify pumping at the plant during these three months; bypass Grand Lake with a buried pipeline and pump flows directly to Adams Tunnel; or bypass both Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir with a buried pipeline and pump flows directly to Adams Tunnel…

    Two standards for the clarity of Grand Lake were adopted by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission in 2008.

    The first standard is a narrative clarity standard requiring “the highest level of clarity attainable, consistent with the exercise of established water rights and the protection of aquatic life,” according to the report.

    The second standard is a numerical clarity standard of a 4 meter Secchi disk depth that will be assessed by comparing 85 percent of available recordings from the months of July, August, and September. That means at least 85 percent of the measurements taken during those three months must meet the 4 meter Secchi disk depth standard, while 15 percent can be below the minimum requirement.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Windy Gap Firming Project: Larimer County offerred tours of the site for the proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir this summer

    August 31, 2012

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    Here’s a report from the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman). Click through for the photo slide show. Here’s an excerpt:

    Four times this summer, the county and Northern Water have opened the land — 1,847 acres purchased in 2004 by Larimer County with open space sales tax and a Great Outdoors Colorado grant and by Northern Water — to residents through a tour.

    The trek winds past two old homesteads, through meadows and into mountainous areas, through protected ground and sunny slopes. The scenery ranges from cottonwoods to pines with grasses and wildflowers filling the gap. A lone deer, wild turkeys and a rattlesnake made appearances during a recent tour, but signs of larger creatures abound — scat, areas where bear have snuggled down under a tree and the bones of large prey.

    Much of the beauty will be covered with water, but the western edge will be open to recreation and improved for the wildlife that call the habitat home.

    More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.


    Morgan County dairy tour highlights importance of water to agriculture

    August 30, 2012

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    From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

    Lawyers, Front Range city council members, a grain elevator operator, water purification company executives and a power company representative were among the others making the trip.

    The group also heard from Joe Frank of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District about efforts by people from Kersey to the Colorado-Nebraska state line to work together and better manage water, particularly augmentation plans.
    The group would like to partner with some Front Range municipalities to do some leases and exchanges of water instead of the “buy and dry” philosophy some Front Range entities are pursuing…

    Morgan County Quality Water District started in the mid-1970s from efforts by dairy farmers Paul McDill and Bob Samples to get better water for their cattle, Kip Barthlama of the district’s board of directors said.

    Water quality gets worse as one moves downstream along the Platte, it was noted. Frank pointed out that Sterling is in the process of building a $30 million reverse osmosis plant.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


    Final Preliminary Alternatives Development Report on Grand Lake Now Available

    August 24, 2012

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    Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    The Bureau of Reclamation has finalized its Colorado-Big Thompson Project West Slope Collection Preliminary Alternatives Development Report that addresses concerns of water clarity at Colorado’s Grand Lake. The report is available at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

    “The Department of the Interior is prioritizing efforts to improve water quality conditions in Grand Lake,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. “The Bureau of Reclamation, Interior’s water management agency, is committed to protecting the aesthetic values of Grand Lake and maintaining a secure water supply for its customers. We recognize the problem and are working hard with state and local leaders to understand the causes and find appropriate solutions.”

    Grand Lake is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project’s West Slope collection system, which diverts water under the Continental Divide to Colorado’s East Slope and Front Range. A proposed state of Colorado water standard for the lake is scheduled to take effect in 2015. The Preliminary Alternatives Development Report is the first step toward improving water quality in Grand Lake in an effort to meet this state standard and improve this resource for its many uses. Four alternatives are considered in the report ranging from ceasing pumping during the summer season to building a bypass for project water to be delivered to the East Slope. The viability of each alternative is evaluated for a number of measures.

    Reclamation continues to collaborate with water and power customers, stakeholders in and around Grand County, citizens groups around Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir, recreation managers at affected water bodies and other local, state and federal agencies.

    The final Alternatives Development Report has been provided directly to stakeholders and posted to Reclamation’s website for the general public. Next steps include the Technical Review, which begins this fall and completes in fall 2013, and will examine the technical and financial feasibility of the alternatives presented in the Alternatives Development Report.

    To download the report in PDF, please visit www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

    More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.


    Northern Integrated Supply Project: Supplemental Draft EIS due Fall 2013

    August 22, 2012

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    Here’s an excerpt from a recent Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District eNews email:

    Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May requesting an expeditious conclusion to the National Environmental Policy Act study being conducted by the Army Corps for the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

    In a response to the governor, Corps of Engineers Colonel Robert Ruch, responded that his agency anticipates the Supplemental Draft EIS for NISP will be released to the public in the Fall of 2013. “The size of the proposals, types of analyses, and the amount of interest they have generated has resulted in substantial reviews,” Colonel Ruch wrote. “Please be assured that I have made the review of all ongoing water supply actions in the Omaha District’s purview a high priority for my Regulatory staff.”

    This was positive news on many fronts. First, is that a definite date for the release of the SDEIS has been given. The SDEIS process began in February 2009. Second, having Gov. Hickenlooper weigh in on the project is enormous. While not an endorsement, his insistence that the studies be brought to conclusion and his affirmation that wise water development, including projects like NISP, are a necessity in Colorado, was welcome indeed.

    The Governor also referenced the ongoing drought in Colorado and the pressing need for water for NISP water providers. He also committed the State to moving through their approval process in a timely manner.

    Governor Hickenlooper also wrote a letter to President Obama where he addressed Denver Water’s Moffat Enlargement Project and its ongoing permitting process.

    In the letter he states, “Colorado is at a critical juncture in forging a more secure future for the development and management of water supplies critical to both our economy and the natural environment that makes our state so great.” Governor Hickenlooper added, “Therefore, we urge you to exercise your authority to coordinate your agencies and bring an expeditious conclusion to the federal permitting processes for this essential project, in order that we can have certainty moving forward as a state.”

    More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here


    Governor Hickenlooper requests speedier reviews for Moffat Collection System and NISP

    August 15, 2012

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    A letter to Obama seeks help spurring decisions on Denver Water’s diversion of 18,000 acre-feet of Colorado River Basin water from the west side of the Continental Divide to an expanded Gross Reservoir west of Boulder. A separate letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asks that the Northern Integrated Supply Project — which would siphon the Cache la Poudre River into new reservoirs storing 215,000 acre-feet of water — be given a high priority.

    Colorado faces “a significant gap in our supplies to provide water for future growth — a gap that cannot be met by conservation and efficiencies alone,” Hickenlooper began in a June 5 letter sent to the White House and copied to cabinet secretaries and agency chiefs. “We urge you to exercise your authority to coordinate your agencies and bring an expeditious conclusion to the federal permitting processes for this essential project, in order that we can have certainty moving forward as a state,” he wrote.

    Click here to read the letter to President Obama. Click here to read the Governor’s letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here. More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here.


    NISP: ‘…from 2009 to 2011, more than 1 million acre-feet of water left the state’ — Hank Brown

    August 14, 2012

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    Here’s a guest column arguing the necessity of the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) to keep Front Range cities from drying up more irrigated agricultural land, written by Hank Brown, running in The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

    Taking water used by agriculture for new homes involves drying up thousands of acres of our most productive irrigated farms. The result will be higher temperatures in the summer, more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, and the loss of food and fiber production in Colorado.

    What is the answer? The Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) is being proposed by northern Colorado cities and water districts to save for Colorado thousands of acre-feet of water that is now being lost to Nebraska. The water belongs to Colorado under the federally recognized interstate compact, yet from 2009 to 2011, more than 1 million acre-feet of water left the state — water the state had rights to use.

    What will the project do for our environment? It will improve minimum stream flow, protect against flood and drought, and help prevent the drying up of our farm land. Without NISP, environmental studies estimate that an additional 100 square miles of northern Colorado farmland will be dried up.

    More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


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