#Drought news: D0 expanded in SE #Colorado for second week in a row

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

Summary

A westerly flow of Pacific weather systems pummeled the west coast this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week, bringing much-needed rain and snow to northern California and the Pacific Northwest and improving the drought situation. An upper-level low cut off over Mexico early in the period, funneling tropical moisture into the Lower Mississippi Valley and causing widespread heavy rains and flooding. Meanwhile, upper-level ridging brought above-normal temperatures to much of the country. Precipitation largely missed the Southwest, central to northern Plains, and Southeast. Windy conditions coupled with temperatures well above normal were drying out soils across the Plains. Light to moderate showers fell across Puerto Rico, while Alaska and Hawaii saw another warmer- and drier-than-normal week…

Southern and Central Plains

The upper-level low pressure system funneled saturating rains into the eastern sections of the Southern Plains, but the rains mostly missed the western sections. As noted earlier, extreme eastern Texas received over 10 inches of rain this week, with 2+ inches stretching from southeastern Oklahoma to the lower and mid Rio Grande Valley. D0 and D1 in eastern, central, and southern Texas were eliminated. But rainfall amounts dropped off the further west you went in the region, with virtually no rain measured in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles into southeast Colorado and southwest Kansas and across most of Nebraska. D0 expanded from the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles into these parts of Colorado and Kansas and also adjacent parts of New Mexico, and D1 was added to the Oklahoma panhandle. USDA NASS reports from March 13 had 45% of the topsoil and 37% of the subsoil in Kansas short or very short of moisture, statewide, with conditions worse in the southwest to central sections, and USGS streamflow was quite low in central Kansas. This was early in the growing season, so only 7% of the winter wheat crop was rated in poor to very poor condition. Even though an inch or more of rain fell locally in western Oklahoma, the D0-D1 was left unchanged there to reflect continued low lake levels. In southeast Colorado, hot temperatures & strong winds were drying out soils and sending crops downhill fast, and numerous range fires were also occurring…

Northern Plains

Where it rained, less than half an inch fell but most locations had little to no rain this week. With dryness for the last 7 days to 6 months, and temperatures 16-20 degrees above normal the past 7 days accompanied by strong winds, soils are drying quickly. Local reports from McIntosh County in North Dakota indicate ponds and dugouts were very low and many small wetlands completely dry, and winter grain planted last fall was developing slowly. D1 expanded in North Dakota to extend from McIntosh/Dickey counties in the south to Eddy County in the north, and D0 expanded further into northeast North Dakota. D0 expanded in northwest and southwest South Dakota, with some expansion into adjacent Wyoming, to reflect dryness at the 7-day to 6-month time scales…

The Far West

A steady stream of Pacific fronts brought precipitation to parts of the Far West every day this USDM week. The precipitation fell as rain at the lower elevations, with 1 to 2 feet of new snow measured at the higher-elevation SNOTEL sites in the Cascades and parts of the Sierra Nevada. Mountain snowpack was near to above average at most of the high elevation SNOTEL sites across the Far West. Ten inches or more of precipitation occurred in favored upslope areas of northern California to Washington, with 2 inches or more from central California to Washington. Precipitation amounts dropped off to the lee of the mountains and in Southern California, with essentially no precipitation falling along the California-Arizona border. This week’s precipitation, coupled with last week’s, totaled over 20 inches in the favored upslope locations. While it improved mountain snowpack and reservoir levels, significant precipitation deficits remained across California from the state’s 4 to 5 year drought.

D1-D4 were pulled back in northern to central California and along the coast based on several criteria. Improvements were made where 6-month precipitation deficits were erased and reservoir levels were restored to average for this date. As of March 14, near-average reservoirs included Shasta Reservoir (106% of average), Folsom Lake (120%), and Lake Oroville (101%). Napa County reservoirs are all full, apart from Berryessa. But most of the other California Department of Water Resources (DWR) reservoirs were still below-average, including Trinity Lake in the north (at 60% of average). The surface soils were saturated due to the recent rains, but the deeper groundwater levels had not recovered. Wells were still going dry in Tuolumne County and deficits continued in groundwater and reservoir levels supplying areas such as San Joaquin County. DWR March 14 statistics showed mountain snowpack snow water content (SWE) at 100% of the April 1 average in the Northern region, 90% in the Central region, and 77% in the Southern region. With a near to below-normal mountain snowpack, streamflow is expected to be near to below normal during this summer at current projections…

Rockies, Intermountain West, and Southwest

Two inches or more of precipitation fell in the northern Rockies, improving SWE to near to above normal. Details are discussed in the Pacific Northwest section of The Far West section. Precipitation amounts dropped off considerably to the south, with little to no precipitation falling across much of the Southwest. Mountain snowpack was effectively melted out already in Arizona and New Mexico, having dry implications for spring and summer streamflow. SWE was near to above normal at many SNOTEL sites in Utah and Colorado and further north. WYTD precipitation was below normal across western New Mexico and much of Arizona. New Mexico was seriously drying out now with back-to-back days of red flag fire warnings and wind advisories. Some of the wildfires were large in southwest New Mexico. D0 and D1 expanded in western New Mexico, with a bit of D1 enlargement in adjacent eastern Arizona.

D4 was removed from western Nevada east of Lake Tahoe in Washoe, Storey, Carson City, Lyon, and Douglas Counties. Even though this area was in a rain shadow and didn’t benefit much from the systems of the last 2 weeks as did California, the area shows up as wet at 6-24 months, is benefiting from the above-normal SWE in the Sierra Nevada to the west, and has improved water supply along the Truckee and Carson rivers. D3 should be adequate to reflect the ongoing drought status.

In the Pacific Northwest, D0 was pulled back in eastern Washington-northern Idaho-northwest Montana to reflect above-normal precipitation for the water year-to-date (WYTD) and near to above-average reservoirs and SNOTEL SWE. The D1 in southeast Idaho was removed due to above-normal precipitation for the last 7 days to 12 months, and near to above-average reservoirs. In southwest Oregon, soils were saturated and producing sustained flow of water in draws where there is rarely water, higher elevation snowpack was above normal, and reservoirs have responded well. Crater Lake reported 120 inches of snow on the ground March 13, which compares to an annual peak daily value of 149 inches. D2 was pulled back in southwest Oregon to reflect these improved conditions. In eastern Oregon, the large Owyhee, Warm Springs, and Phillips Reservoirs were still below average, but the smaller reservoirs were near to above average (Bully Creek, Thief Valley, Beulah, Unity). In northeast Oregon, McKay Rerservoir was near normal but Cold Springs was still below normal. In central Oregon (Deschutes Basin), Wickiup was still below average but Prineville, Crescent Lake, Crane Prairie, and Ochoco were above average. SNOTEL SWE percentiles were a mixed bag in central to eastern Oregon (some above average and some below), but SNOTEL WYTD precipitation was mostly above average. D2 shrank in northeast Oregon to reflect improved reservoir and SWE conditions, but D1-D2 in southeast Oregon were left alone to reflect precipitation deficits which show up at many time scales…

Looking Ahead

During the next 5 days (March 17-21), a ridge will develop over the western U.S., bringing warmer-than-normal temperatures, and a trough over the east with colder-than-normal air masses. Up to 2 inches of precipitation may fall along the northern California to Washington coast, with a tenth of an inch to an inch further inland over the interior Northwest and central to northern Rockies. But most of the West to Great Plains will see little to no precipitation. Coastal lows will spread up to an inch to 2 inches from central Texas, along the Gulf of Mexico Coast, and up the Atlantic coast, and an inch to 2 inches may fall over the western Great Lakes. But precipitation is expected to be less towards the Ohio Valley with less than a quarter inch falling from the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys to the Mississippi Valley.

For days 6-10 (March 22-26), the odds favor below-normal precipitation in northern Alaska, in the Southwest to southern Plains of the CONUS, and along the Southeast coast, and above-normal precipitation across the northern tier states and along the Mississippi to Ohio Valleys. Above-normal temperatures are expected everywhere except northern Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and southern Florida.

Water from Ruedi may again be released for endangered fish in 15-mile reach

Holding water. The Ruedi spillway and dam on the Fryingpan River above Basalt.
Holding water. The Ruedi spillway and dam on the Fryingpan River above Basalt.

BASALT – The Colorado Water Conservation Board is poised to approve a second round of water releases from Ruedi Reservoir for the benefit of endangered fish in a 15-mile reach of the Colorado River above Grand Junction.

Like last year, the CWCB wants to release up to 12,000 acre-feet of water from Ruedi and send it down the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers to help struggling populations of Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, ponytail, and humpback chub.

The CWCB signed a lease with the Ute Water Conservancy District in August to release the district’s 12,000 acre-feet, a back-up supply of water that it owns in Ruedi.

In September, 6,000 acre-feet of water was released from Ruedi, and another 3,000 acre-feet of water was released in October.

In an effort to maintain both fishing in the Fryingpan and hydropower production at the Ruedi dam, the flow rate did not exceed 300 cubic feet per second during the two months of releases, or cause the Fryingpan to go above 350 cfs.

The CWCB paid Ute Water $64,800 for the 9,000 acre-feet of water it actually used against its 12,00 acre-feet lease agreement. The price offsets what the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation charges Ute Water for managing the water in Ruedi.

Ute Water provides water to over 80,000 people in Palisade, Clifton, Grand Junction, Fruita, Loma and Mack. The district’s main water sources are on the Grand Mesa.

It paid $15.6 million in 2013 to the Bureau of Reclamation for the 12,000 acre-feet in Ruedi. It’s a back-up or emergency water supply for Ute Water that can also be used for instream flow purposes.

Concluding in a March 17 memo that last year’s release program “by most accounts, worked very well for everyone involved,” CWCB staffers are now proposing entering into a second one-year lease for Ute Water’s 12,000 acre-feet of Ruedi water.

At a CWCB board meeting Thursday in La Junta, CWCB staffers will seek approval for a lease with the same terms as last year, or 12,000 acre-feet for $86,400. The agency has $435,000 to spend for instream flow purposes from its Conservation Species Trust program.

The 2016 lease between CWCB and Ute Water includes the same release limit of 300 cfs and the same river-flow cap of 350 cfs below Ruedi.

CWCB staffers are set to meet with local stakeholders in the Eagle County Building in El Jebel on Monday, March 21, at 4 p.m. to talk about this year’s “lease and release” program.

The meeting is, somewhat awkwardly, four days after the lease is to be considered by the CWCB board of directors.

Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, which is coordinating Monday’s meeting in El Jebel, said it wasn’t possible to schedule a meeting before this week’s CWCB meeting.

Ruedi Water, Pitkin County and the city of Aspen have all told the CWCB they have concerns about the release program, including that it might set a precedent for higher flows in the lower Fryingingpan, which could crimp recreation.

Higher flows in the river make wading trickier for anglers, and releases drop the water levels in the reservoir, making it harder to launch and take out boats.

The lower Fryingpan River in March.
The lower Fryingpan River in March.

CWCB pleased

In their March 17 memo, CWCB staffers said last fall’s release of 9,000 acre-feet “resulted in higher flows in the 15-mile reach and provided some operational flexibility for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and operators of other reservoirs that release water in late summer to benefit the endangered fish habitat.”

The CWCB, a state agency charged with both water-supply planning and environmental protection, holds an instream flow right of 581 cfs in the 15-mile reach, which starts at the river-wide roller dam in lower DeBeque Canyon above Palisade.

“This reach is sensitive to water depletions because of its location downstream of several large diversions,” a CWCB memo from May 2015 states. “It provides spawning habitat for these endangered fish species as well as high-quality habitat for adult fish.

“Due to development on the Colorado River, this reach has experienced declining flows and significant dewatering during the late summer months, and at times, there are shortages in the springtime,” the memo adds.

The CWCB’s release program has the support of the Colorado Water Trust, Western Resource Advocates, The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited.

But Ruedi Water also expressed concern about how the program may change long-standing water management practices on the lower Fryingpan.

The authority, in a May 2015 letter to CWCB, said the benefits of helping endangered fish “must be balanced with protection of existing economic, recreational and environmental values that have been fostered by Ruedi Reservoir management practices over the last 40-plus years.”

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on coverage of rivers and water. The Daily News published this story on Monday, March 15, 2016.

New fish passage project underway on the Cache la Poudre

Crews put the finishing touches on a new diversion structure on the Poudre River near the Environmental Learning Center just west of Interstate 25 [February 2016]. Specialists used rocks to create just the right shape and size of pool, at right, at the edge of a passage for native fish species. (Fort Collins Natural Areas / Special to the Reporter-Herald)
Crews put the finishing touches on a new diversion structure on the Poudre River near the Environmental Learning Center just west of Interstate 25 [February 2016]. Specialists used rocks to create just the right shape and size of pool, at right, at the edge of a passage for native fish species. (Fort Collins Natural Areas / Special to the Reporter-Herald)

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

The passage will allow many fish species to migrate upstream to expand their habitat and seek refuge from predators — a move that will counteract habitat destruction without affecting agricultural use and water rights.

“We saw this as a win-win to work with North Poudre,” said Jennifer Shanahan, watershed planner with Fort Collins Natural Areas Department.

“Our goal is, over the next decade or two or three, to improve the river by creating more fish habitat.”

[…]

North Poudre Irrigation Co. was willing to work with the natural areas specialists and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to build one such diversion into the structure that pulls water from the Poudre River to fill Fossil Creek Reservoir.

The original diversion structure was constructed between 1902 and 1910 and was rebuilt in the 1980s. Then, the 2013 floods took out the entire structure.

The North [Poudre] Irrigation Co. built a new diversion structure in the same location, next to the Environmental Learning Center, last month.

Included in the $860,000 project, completed with a loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board was the fish passage, designed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Scott Hummer, general manager of North Poudre Irrigation Company, talks about how his agency worked with Fort Collins Natural Areas and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to include a fish passage when the irrigation company replaced a diversion structure on the Poudre River that was destroyed by the 2013 floods. Work was completed [in February 2016]. (Pamela Johnson / Loveland Reporter-Herald)
Scott Hummer, general manager of North Poudre Irrigation Company, talks about how his agency worked with Fort Collins Natural Areas and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to include a fish passage when the irrigation company replaced a diversion structure on the Poudre River that was destroyed by the 2013 floods. Work was completed [in February 2016]. (Pamela Johnson / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

“This is the first true fish passage to be constructed into an operation (on the Poudre) that has been a truly agricultural operation,” said Scott Hummer, general manager of the irrigation company.

Fort Collins Natural Areas Department, excited to cooperate on the project, pitched in $30,000.

The passage is designed with specially placed rocks that allow the fish to migrate upstream, stopping and resting behind the rocks when needed, Shanahan explained. Also, the pool at one side of the passage was crafted with rocks to create a specialized effect for the benefit of fish.

“Fish passage is only one piece of the puzzle,” said Shanahan. “It’s opening the door to get to the next level, sustained low flow.”

This means that there would always be a certain level of water in the river, which sometimes runs dry in areas depending upon how much water is being diverted for agricultural and domestic water use.

Natural areas officials understand the importance of water rights and are in no way wanting to challenge or limit those uses, Shanahan said.

What they hope to do, and what has been happening through a local coalition called The Poudre Runs Through It, is to bring those water users together with environmentalists, rafters, researchers and farmers to find creative ways to meet all needs of the river. That effort is underway.

“It’s a creative way that is not stepping on anyone’s water rights,” Shanahan said, stressing that it is important for water users to realize the goal includes maintaining their water rights.

Added Hummer, “It’s new ground for some people, so people are cautious.”

The group, and river specialists, hope to find a unique solution that will continue to improve the fish habitat in the river, which will benefit the health or the river as well as the recreation and habitat that surround the Poudre.

Flint-level lead numbers found in water at 4 area sites — Fort Collins Coloradoan

Roman lead pipe -- Photo via the Science Museum
Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

From the Fort Collins Coloradan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Lead comparable to levels in Flint, Michigan, has contaminated drinking water sources in a place you might least expect: the picturesque mountains near Estes Park, known for its spectacular views of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Documents show four locations clustered near Estes Park since 2012 have met or exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level for lead in drinking water.

The results catapulted Larimer County to a tie for the most sites in the state with drinking water test results of 15 or more parts of lead per billion parts of water between 2012 and 2015. Clear Creek County, west of Denver along Interstate 70, also had four sites with lead contamination during that period.

Fort Collins tested well below federal lead standards.

The Estes Park sites are:

  • YMCA of the Rockies, which sees thousands of guests annually and has flirted with the action level for lead since at least 2012.
  • Covenant Heights Camp and Retreat, which in 2015 saw lead levels in two staff cabins comparable to the highest levels documented in Flint.
  • Prospect Mountain Water Company, which supplies water to about 120 Estes Park residents and as recently as 2014 displayed an average lead about equal to Flint.
  • Ravencrest Chalet, a bible school and retreat that just exceeded the action level for lead in 2013.
  • Officials with the town of Estes Park water system, which supplies water to Prospect Mountain Water Company and Ravencrest Chalet but operates independently from all four sites, said Estes Park water sources aren’t to blame for the lead contamination. The Estes Park water system tested 2 parts per billion for lead in 2015, and none of its 23 samples exceeded the EPA’s action level of 15 ppb.

    “They have their own distribution systems,” Estes Park water distribution supervisor Cliff Tedder said of the contaminated sites. “Whatever they’re doing isn’t working.”

    ‘Fully compliant’

    YMCA of the Rockies, located just southwest of Estes Park, supplies drinking water to more than 3,700 guests and staffers. It is the largest water system in Estes Park that has seen elevated lead levels. YMCA collects water from the Wind River Stream diversion, disinfects it and distributes it to guests and staff independently of Estes Park’s water system. YMCA uses a corrosion control system, spokeswoman Martha Sortland said.

    YMCA’s lead levels tested from 10 to 60 water samples around the property, has been 15 ppb four times since 2012. Every year since at least 2012, at least one drinking water sample from the property has tested at or above 15 ppb.

    Sortland said at least one of the samples that contained lead higher than the EPA’s action level came from a guest cabin. But YMCA didn’t take action because “we were, and are, fully compliant with Colorado drinking water regulations,” Sortland said.

    She’s right.

    A water system’s 90th percentile lead value, which means 90 percent of test sites will have levels below the threshold, has to be more than, not equal to, 15 ppb to trigger action such as mandatory treatment plans and public water quality warnings. But the facility’s water contained more than seven times the amount of lead present in Town of Estes Park water.

    From USA Today (Trevor Hughes) via the Fort Collins Coloradan:

    [Firestone] officials repeatedly notified all water customers of the high levels and distributed information explaining how to reduce the risk. But the town, about 30 miles north of Denver, has taken no direct action to help residents replace the aging faucets and fixtures blamed for leaching lead into their drinking water.

    The town’s testing found lead contamination only in homes built before 1986…

    The town’s water provider installed a system in the fall to inject a phosphate coating agent into the water to help reduce the corrosive effect that leaches lead from plumbing. That’s the solution required by state regulators, who say Firestone is making progress in bringing down lead levels.

    “It is our hope that this additive to our water supply will continue to reduce the lead levels inside these older homes,” Mayor Paul Sorensen said in a prepared statement.

    Like many fast-growing towns on Colorado’s Front Range, Firestone is a small, old-town area surrounded with new suburbs. The town has a few blocks of old homes amidst nearly 3,500 newer ones.

    In Firestone’s case, testing never has found lead in the municipal water supply or in any of the newer homes. That means the bulk of the town’s 12,000 residents face almost no risk.

    CWCB board meeting recap

    La Junta back in the day via Harvey-House.info
    La Junta back in the day via Harvey-House.info

    From The Fowler Tribune (Bette McFarren):

    Engineers, attorneys and those who explain the complications of the world of water control in Colorado met on Tuesday in La Junta at the beginning of a three-day conference of the Colorado Water [Conservation] Board, the first in 10 years to be hosted here.

    Tuesday was a day of touring projects currently sponsored in part or in whole by the CWCB, including The Catlin Canal Pilot Project, the North La Junta Flood Mitigation project, and the Fort Lyon Canal Horse Creek Flume Replacement.

    The Catlin Canal Pilot Project was explained by Jack Vogle, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy Board engineer. He gave a rundown on the Super Ditch, a program introduced three years ago to help both municipalities to get water and farmers to gain income. He explained that farmers can fallow up to 30 pecent of their cultivated land (that is, not irrigate), giving their water right portion of water to municipalities. In return, they are paid $1,020 per acre for the water that would have gone to the irrigation of the fallowed acres. The farmers may plant a cover crop to prevent weed invasion and blowing dirt, but they may not irrigate the land. Six farms are engaged in the Catlin Canal Pilot Project, which is now in its second year. So far, the results have been good for both the cities and the farmers.

    The CWCB group met at the recharge pond on the Schweizer property. This is a plowed shallow area to gather water and allow the water to seep back into the ground to replace water that would historically have been returned to the river by the irrigated fields. This recharge pond will seep into Timpas Creek, which flows into the Arkansas River near La Junta. The other recharge pond is located on the Hanagan farm at Swink, visible from Highway 50 on the north side of the road.

    The second site visited was the North La Junta Flood Mitigation project, where Gary Harper, the project’s grant writer, Jeanette Myers, LAVWCD Manageer Jay Winner and Otero County Commissioner Kevin Karney explained the difficulty, the improbability and the success of the project so far. At this time, five islands which created a pinch point on the Arkansas River at North La Junta have been removed, with the result that, although a record flow may be spilled down the Arkansas from the Pueblo Dam this year in April, the water will flow on down the stream without flooding North La Junta. It is a win-win situation for North La Junta and water users downstream. CWCB members could be heard discussing how economically the project has been managed so far. Phase I is complete, but Phase II will be up for approval on Wednesday afternoon at the CWCB meeting, open to the public at Otero Junior College Student Center.

    The third site visited was the Fort Lyon Canal Flume project site. The Fort Lyon Canal, largest ditch in Colorado, is 140 miles long. The flume project is a gigantic pipe which replaces a previous flume which had failed after seven years. Last year the new pipe filled up 31 times, with an average of 220 acre-feet of water transferred each time. “Money well spent,” commented Travis Smith, representative from the San Luis Valley Irrigation District and representative to the CWCB from the Rio Grande Basin.

    CWCB/DWR: The next Water Availability Task Force meeting is March 24

    From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

    A Joint Water Availability & Flood Task Force meeting will be held on Thursday, March 24, 2016 from 9am-12:00p at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Headquarters, 6060 Broadway, Denver in the Bighorn Room.

    mountprincetonfrommtprincetonorg

    Trout Unlimited honors Denver Water with River Stewardship Award

    Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Schofield):

    Trout Unlimited has awarded Denver Water, the Denver metro area’s largest water utility, its 2016 River Stewardship Award, recognizing the utility’s leadership in urban water conservation and its collaborative efforts with Trout Unlimited and other stakeholders to promote river health in the Upper Colorado River and South Platte basins. TU presented the award at its annual River Stewardship Gala http://coloradotu.org/2016/02/2016-river-stewardship-gala/ Thursday evening at Mile High Station in Denver.

    “We’re recognizing the fact that, 25 years after the divisive Two Forks Dam battle, Denver has engaged former adversaries as partners in a shared 21st Century effort for river stewardship,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “That’s a remarkable and encouraging sign of progress in protecting the rivers that help sustain Colorado’s wildlife, communities and recreation economy.”

    Denver Water provides water supply to approximately 25 percent of Colorado’s population with less than 2 percent of all the water used in the state and has been a leader in advancing water conservation, with customers reducing water use by more than 20 percent over the past 10 years, despite a 10 percent increase in population.

    Denver has also established new collaborative relationships with the West Slope and with conservation groups, including TU, to help improve river conditions in the Colorado River headwaters through “Learning By Doing https://denverwaterblog.org/2016/01/27/ending-a-rocky-mountain-family-feud/,” a monitoring and adaptive management program with the goal of maintaining, and where possible, improving the health of Colorado River headwater streams in Grand County http://coloradotu.org/2014/07/moffat-agreement-whats-in-it-for-the-river/. Under LBD, Denver has agreed to promote flexibility in their operations to deliver flows when and where they are most needed to minimize river impacts, as well as invest in restoration projects to help improve stream habitat and water quality.

    The LBD partnerships follow similar collaborative efforts in the South Platte River through the South Platte Protection Plan, which emerged as a locally developed alternative to Wild and Scenic designations being considered for segments on the South Platte River upstream of Denver. For nearly 12 years, the Plan has promoted collaboration among water suppliers, local governments, recreationists and conservationists – including flow management, an endowment to support investment in
    river-related values, and partnerships for water quality and watershed health. Development of the Plan also inspired the creation of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, a group that has helped direct millions of dollars into watershed restoration efforts including post-Hayman fire recovery projects.

    stoptwoforksdampostcardfrontcirca1988

    “In the years since the Two Forks veto, Denver Water has truly changed its culture,” said Nickum. “Rather than looking at conservationists and the West Slope as enemies to be defeated, they have engaged those parties as allies in conserving the watersheds we all share. Colorado TU is pleased to recognize Denver Water for its leadership in promoting partnerships that not only supply water to Denver citizens, but also promote stewardship of Colorado’s rivers as well.”

    “Part of what makes Colorado an amazing state are our great cities, variety of recreational opportunities and beautiful natural environment. Denver Water is committed to continuing to collaboratively work together with partners from all sectors to keep our rivers healthy,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/manager. “We’re honored to receive the 2016 River Stewardship Award from Trout Unlimited and look forward to continuing our work with them in the future.”

    Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead, left, receives award from CTU executive director David Nickum
    Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead, left, receives award from CTU executive
    director David Nickum

    The Upper Colorado River system and the Fraser/Williams Fork rivers
    provide important aquatic habitat and serve as a critical municipal,
    agricultural, recreational and industrial water supply for the state as
    a whole. A substantial percentage of the native flows of the Colorado,
    Fraser and Williams Fork rivers is currently diverted for Front Range
    water supply projects, and as a result, the health of the rivers has
    declined over the years. Two projects will divert additional native
    flows from these rivers across the Continental Divide to meet growing
    municipal needs of the Front Range: the Windy Gap Firming Project and
    the Moffat Collection System Project. Although these two projects
    triggered conflicts between West Slope and East Slope entities, years of
    negotiation produced the 2012 Colorado River Cooperative Agreement
    (CRCA), which establishes a long‐term partnership between Denver Water
    and the West Slope. The CRCA is a framework for numerous actions to
    benefit water supply, water quality, recreation, and the environment on
    both sides of the Continental Divide. The LBD Cooperative Effort emerged
    from the CRCA.