Snowpack news: Good bump for most of the mountains from the recent storms, sorry San Juans

November 25, 2014


The Lower Ark District is scoring Colorado Canal shares to keep the water in the Arkansas Valley

November 25, 2014
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is purchasing Colorado Canal water rights from the Ordway Feedyard.

“We’re purchasing the shares within the next 30 days to make sure the water stays in the Arkansas Valley,” said Jay Winner, Lower Ark general manager. “It’s about a $4 million package.”

The Colorado Canal once irrigated 50,000 acres in Crowley County, but has largely fallen into the hands of Colorado Springs and Aurora through purchases made in the 1980s.

Earlier, in the 1970s, canal shareholders began selling off shares of Twin Lakes to Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Later Aurora and Pueblo West also bought big blocks of Twin Lakes shares.

The Lower Ark purchase from Ordway Feedyard includes 276 shares paired with Lake Henry storage, and 282 shares paired with Lake Meredith storage.

The feedlot has other sources of water to meet its own needs, most significantly a 15-year lease signed in 2012 with the Pueblo Board of Water Works to supply 700 acre-feet of augmentation water annually for a pipeline completed last year.

In another matter, the Lower Ark board last week accepted two conservation easements on the High Line Canal for Jason and Jennifer Stites. The easements are for a total of 224 acres with 18 shares of High Line water, for a cost of about $360,000. The easements were split for estate planning purposes, according to Lower Ark Conservation Manager Bill Hancock.

More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Mayor Bach outlines new proposal, no new taxes, no new fees, not enough dough

November 25, 2014
Flooding in Colorado Springs June 6, 2012

Flooding in Colorado Springs June 6, 2012

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach Monday presented his proposal to City Council to address the backlog of high-priority, unfunded capital improvement projects including stormwater control.

Voters in El Paso County turned down a regional drainage district fee that would have raised $37 million annually to address a $700 million backlog in projects.

The issue of stormwater control on Fountain Creek has become central to a pending lawsuit by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District in federal court over Colorado Springs’ violations of the Clean Water Act.

Pueblo County commissioners are looking into whether Colorado Springs is in violation of its 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System.

Bach wants to place a proposal on the April municipal ballot that would extend tax revenue bonds funded by sales and use taxes over the next five years. Voters would be asked to approve up to $160 million in Sales and Use Tax Revenue bonds to succeed the maturing Springs Community Improvement Program bonds. Bond proceeds will provide funding of $145 million to complete more than 70 capital improvement projects, which includes $75 million in neighborhood streets, $40 million for stormwater, $20 million for public safety and $10 million in parks. The balance of the proceeds would provide for the required bond reserve fund and the costs of issuance, according to a press release from Bach.

“This is a holistic approach to address all capital improvement needs in our community without raising taxes or imposing a new fee,” Bach said. “Specific projects are planned in each of the five years based on professional staff recommendations as well as input by the community and City Council.”

The $40 million over five years would address only about one-fourth of the $162 million in high-priority stormwater projects identified in a Colorado Springs study earlier this year. The city’s total backlog is $534 million.

At $8 million per year, the amount dedicated to stormwater would be just half of the estimated $17 million generated by a stormwater enterprise fee abolished by City Council in 2009.

More stormwater coverage here.

CWCB: Drought update

November 24, 2014

January 1, 2015 SWE forecast via Klaus Wolter

January 1, 2015 SWE forecast via Klaus Wolter

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

Warm and dry conditions persisted throughout October and early November, with October 2014 the sixth warmest on record. However, recent precipitation and below average temperatures have resulted in improved snow accumulation across the state. The Arkansas basin, which has been the hardest hit by the drought, has received significant beneficial moisture this fall, and is no longer classified as experiencing extreme drought conditions; however severe conditions remain. Along the Front Range, water providers indicated that storage levels are at, or near, record levels, the South Platte basin is experiencing the largest positive departure from average in storage since records began in 1992.

  • Year-to-date precipitation at mountain SNOTEL sites, as of November 18th, was 82% of normal statewide. The Arkansas basin had the highest snowpack at 99% of normal, while the Yampa/White basin had the lowest at 73% of normal. This time of year it does not take much to increase snowpack levels and below average numbers are not of great concern.
  • The short term forecast calls for the mountains to get a good snowstorm this weekend into early next week. The plains will remain mainly dry, with a chance of snow on Thanksgiving.
  • Reservoir Storage statewide is at 105% of average at the end of October 2014. The lowest reservoir storage statewide continues to be the Upper Rio Grande, with 59% of average storage. The South Platte has the highest storage level at 147% of average.
  • In the South Platte Basin, Halligan Reservoir is spilling, which is unprecedented. While Carter Lake, Lake Granby and Horsetooth Reservoir have the highest combined November 1 levels that Northern Water has ever seen. Flows along some portions of the Poudre River are forty times higher than average.
  • The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) for the state is near normal or abundant across much of the state. The lowest values in the state reflect very low reservoir levels in Green Mountain and Platoro reservoirs.
  • A weak El Nino is expected to continue into early next year. If the event continues into spring, more widespread moisture is possible, starting in March. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts slightly favor a wet late winter for Colorado.
  • For Colorado River runoff, the end-of-season snowpack on the ground in the Gunnison basin will be the best indicator for the runoff next spring.

  • Water wise: Book explores culture of irrigation-dependent communities

    November 24, 2014


    From the Sante Fe New Mexican book review of Enduring Acequias: Wisdom of the land, knowledge of the water:

    “Few people have learned to use water as wisely as those who rely on the acequias,” writes Juan Estevan Arellano in his new book, Enduring Acequias: Wisdom of the Land, Knowledge of the Water. Released by the University of New Mexico Press, the book examines acequias — those gravity-driven, open-air irrigation systems of reservoirs, channels, and locks — that are found all over the dry regions of the world. Acequias include the ancient water-sharing systems of the Romans, Incans, and Toltecs and the newer sustainable-agriculture communities in Spain and Mexico. Fittingly, the narrative begins with a personal account of Arellano’s upbringing in Northern New Mexico, where he was steeped in acequia culture.

    “I’ve been in acequias since I was a little kid, even before I was allowed to be in the river,” Arellano told Pasatiempo.

    More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.

    Say hello to the Headwaters Pulse newsletter from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education

    November 24, 2014
    Headwaters Pulse cover November/December 2014

    Headwaters Pulse cover November/December 2014

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s the introduction from Nicole Seltzer:

    CFWE is proud to bring you our new e-newsletter, Headwaters Pulse. We’ve been working hard to find new ways to deliver engaging, balanced content on water. CFWE doesn’t just do print anymore! This is where we will pull together our latest great content in a modern, readable, online format. While this will never replace Headwaters magazine, we have a limited printing and mailing budget, so sharing stories electronically will grant more people easy access to relevant coverage of Colorado water issues.

    In this monthly e-news, you’ll find features from Headwaters magazine; recent content from our blog, our members and our staff; upcoming events from CFWE and its partners; radio stories; and eventually interviews, videos and much more. We’ll share not just news stories, but our other important programs such as tours, Water Leaders, online instruction, as well as the good work of our partners and members.

    CFWE recently invested in our website to make it easier to sign up online and manage your communication preferences. This allows you to tell us what kind of information you want, and how often. Feel free to share Headwaters Pulse with your peers and encourage them to sign up so they, too, can begin to “speak fluent water.” CFWE aims to be the first stop for balanced, accurate information and education on Colorado water issues. I hope you agree this is a step in the right direction.

    More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

    Proposed improvements along the #SouthPlatte in Englewood

    November 24, 2014

    From the Englewood Herald (Tom Munds):

    “The open house tonight was held to let people know about the proposed river improvements,” said Jerrell Black, parks and recreation director. “We invited representatives of all the businesses adjacent to the river along the area so they will see the river improvements that are planned.”

    He said the proposal is made possible by a partnership of the cities of Englewood, Littleton and Sheridan, the Army Corp of Engineers, South Suburban Parks and Recreation District and the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District.

    John Kent’s family owns Oxford Recycling, located on Oxford Avenue adjacent to the west bank of the river.

    He said he attended the session because he wanted to see what improvements were planned along the river near his business.

    “I think these are great plans,” he said. “I particularly like the plan to add an additional bike path on the east side of the river. I walk and ride a bike on the bike path on the west side of the river, and it gets quite busy.”

    Kent said the family-owned business allowed developers to use some of the company property to build the Mary Carter Greenway Bike Path, which runs along the west bank of the river from Chatfield Reservoir to downtown Denver.

    “The land south of Oxford sloped to the river and we didn’t use it, so we leased it to South Suburban for $10 a year for 10 years and is automatically renewable,” he said. “We also worked with the officials on the 10,000 trees project. Planting those trees improved the whole area.”

    Laura Kroeger, project manager for Urban Drainage, said River Run is part of the proposed project, involving major work to revitalize a seven-mile stretch of the South Platte River from the southern border of Littleton to the northern border of Englewood.

    One aspect of the proposal is to extend the pedestrian-bike path on the east bank of the river and to create a trailhead just north of Oxford Avenue. The new east-side trail would lead into the trailhead that would be adjacent to the Broken Tee golf course. Improvements would include expanded parking, a 125-seat pavilion and a playground.

    Kroeger said the Army Corp of Engineers has given permission to soften the banks of the river in that area by planting landscaping and create a handicapped-accessible path leading down from the trailhead to the river amenities.

    “The plan is to start work in the fall of 2015 and complete the improvements by the spring of 2017,” she said. “Of course, everything depends on obtaining the financing for the project, and that is a major challenge.”

    The entire project is an expensive proposal, with a price tag of about $12 million. The funding got help when Arapahoe County pledged $5 million toward the project.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


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