#Colorado Springs: “Sustainable stormwater funding and management is not optional” — John Suthers


Click here to read the plan.

Here’s the release from the City of Colorado Springs:

The City of Colorado Springs today released the draft Stormwater Program Improvement Plan designed to dramatically improve the city’s infrastructure and meet federal requirements.

City Public Works Director Travis Easton provided this statement.

“Today the City of Colorado Springs has released a draft Stormwater Improvement Plan. This is significant for our stormwater program, our citizens, and our City. The draft Stormwater Program Improvement Plan reflects strong leadership by the Mayor and City Council. We began this effort last fall and we reached a preliminary draft in January. Today’s release includes updates through July 2016.

“The City’s Public Works Department would appreciate the public’s comments and suggestions for improvement of the plan over the next 60 days. We will take public input into account and release the Plan in final form shortly thereafter.

“Thank you in advance for helping to shape this plan, and being a part of the process.”

Individuals wishing to provide feedback on the plan can contact Richard Mulledy, the City’s Stormwater Division Manager at stormwater@springsgov.com or by mail to: Richard Mulledy, Stormwater Division Manager, City of Colorado Springs, 30 S. Nevada Avenue, Suite 401, Colorado Springs, CO 80901.

The City of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities have committed to investing a total of $460 million over 20 years, beginning this year. The commitments essentially replace the city Stormwater Enterprise that was defunded in 2009.

“Fixing the stormwater issues that we inherited stemming from the dissolution of the stormwater enterprise has been a top priority for me and the City Council,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers. “Sustainable stormwater funding and management is not optional – it is something that we must do to protect our waterways, serve our downstream neighbors, and meet the legal requirements of a federal permit.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs this week released its draft stormwater plan, which was spurred earlier this year by negotiations with Pueblo County commissioners over permits for the Southern Delivery System.

The 305-page implementation plan mirrors the terms of an intergovernmental agreement, outlining at least $460 million in expenditures over the next 20 years and restructuring the city’s stormwater department. It was released Wednesday on the city’s website (http://coloradosprings.gov).

It’s important to Pueblo because work within Colorado Springs is expected to reduce damage along Fountain Creek.
Work already has started on some of the projects that are expected to benefit Pueblo County as well as Colorado Springs. A total of 61 of the 71 critical projects have downstream benefits to Pueblo and other communities, in a March assessment that included input from Wright Water Engineers, which has been hired by Pueblo County as consultant for Fountain Creek issues.

That list can change, depending on annual reviews of which work is needed, according to the IGA.

The plan also attempts to satisfy state and federal assessments that the existing stormwater services failed to meet minimum conditions of the city’s stormwater permits. An Environmental Protection Agency audit last year found Colorado Springs had made no progress on improving stormwater control in more than two years.

This year, Colorado Springs formed a new stormwater division and plans on doubling the size of its stormwater staff.

The plan includes a funding commitment of $20 million annually by the city and $3 million per year by Colorado Springs Utilities to upgrade creek crossings of utility lines.

The plan acknowledges that Colorado Springs significantly cut staff and failed to maintain adequate staffing levels after City Council eliminated the city’s stormwater enterprise in 2009. Pueblo County suffered significant damage, including the washout of part of Overton Road and excess debris in the Fountain Creek channel through Pueblo, during prolonged flows last May.

Other parts of the Pueblo County IGA expedited funding for flood control studies and projects by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, as well as providing an additional $3 million for dredging in Pueblo.

SECWCD seeks $17.4 million for Pueblo Dam hydroelectric project

Hydroelectric Dam
Hydroelectric Dam

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A hydropower project at Pueblo Dam has been given a green light by the Bureau of Reclamation and is in line for a $17.4 million state loan.

A finding of no significant impact was issued last week for the project being spearheaded by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Other partners in the project are Pueblo Water and Colorado Springs Utilities.

The Southeastern district will seek a $17.4 million loan for the project from the Colorado Water Conservation Board today. The loan would be for 30 years at 2 percent interest.

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

A 7 megawatt hydropower facility is anticipated at the north outlet works, which was constructed by Utilities as part of the Southern Delivery System.

“A hydropower plant and associated facilities will be constructed at the base of Pueblo Dam, utilize the dam’s north outlet works and immediately return flows to the Arkansas River downstream of the dam,” said Signe Snortland, area manager of Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado Area Office.

The next step will be negotiation of a lease of power privilege contract.

About 1.4 miles of new power and fiber optic lines also will be constructed to connect the hydropower plant to Black Hills Energy’s substation at Lake Pueblo.

Construction is expected to begin later this year, with the first power generation to begin in 2018.

Lake Pueblo: Reclamation sets comment deadline on excess capacity water storage contract

Pueblo Dam
Pueblo Dam

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Negotiations are continuing with participants in a master contract for the excess capacity storage of water in Fryingpan-Arkansas Project facilities, primarily Lake Pueblo.

The Bureau of Reclamation released a public notice in The Pueblo Chieftain on Saturday seeking comments on its draft master contract with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The deadline for comments to the Eastern Colorado Area Office in Loveland is Sept. 15.

The contract was negotiated in January, but did not include storage amounts. The district is in the process of meeting with each of the participants on the details of subcontracts, which will be submitted to Reclamation in order to finalize the contract, said Jim Broderick, executive director of the district.

“We’ll be meeting with all the participants in August,” Broderick said.

In the environmental impact statement for the master contract, there were 37 participants seeking nearly 30,000 acre-feet (9.7 million gallons) annually.

More than half of those were participants in the Arkansas Valley Conduit, but others included several communities in the Upper Arkansas Valley, Pueblo West and El Paso County communities.

@USBR Releases Finding of No Significant Impact for Pueblo Hydropower Project

Pueblo dam releases
Pueblo dam releases

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Patience Hurley):

The Bureau of Reclamation has completed the environmental study process and released the necessary documents for the Pueblo Hydropower Project to move forward.

“Final Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) were completed to address a request from Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Board of Water Works of Pueblo, and Colorado Springs Utilities to develop hydropower at the federally-owned Pueblo Dam,” said Signe Snortland, Area Manager for Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado Area Office.

The next step for Reclamation is to enter into a contract called a Lease of Power Privilege. This contract authorizes the use of federal lands, facilities, and Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water to construct, operate, and maintain a 7 megawatt hydropower facility at the Pueblo Dam. The project utilizes a “run of river” design that harnesses water releases from Pueblo Dam to generate power and provide a clean, renewable source of energy.

“A hydropower plant and associated facilities will be constructed at the base of Pueblo Dam, utilize the dam’s north outlet works, and immediately return flows to the Arkansas River downstream of the dam,” said Snortland.

About 1.4 miles of new power and fiber-optic lines will also be constructed to connect the hydropower plant to the existing Black Hills Energy’s Pueblo Reservoir Substation. Construction is anticipated to begin in late 2016 with power generation anticipated in 2018.

The EA and FONSI are available online at: http://www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao/nepa/pueblo_hydropower.html

For additional information or to receive a printed copy of the EA/FONSI, please contact Terence Stroh at 970-962-4369 or TStroh@usbr.gov.

SDS opens the tap for Security — The Pueblo Chieftain

All that was left at the end of 75 minutes of speeches was to have a sip of SDS water. Photo via the Colorado Springs Independent.
All that was left at the end of 75 minutes of speeches was to have a sip of SDS water. Photo via the Colorado Springs Independent.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Security will be able to use increased capacity in the Southern Delivery System pipeline to deal with contaminated well water in the Fountain Creek aquifer.

Security Water District reached an agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities to increase the amount of water transported through SDS in order to eliminate perfluoralkyl substances, or PFASs, in drinking water.

“The start of SDS could not have come at a better time,” said Roy Heald, Security Water general manager. “We always said SDS was being built to improve reliability to the existing water systems and the situation with PFASs in drinking water underscores that.”

SDS went online in April.

The cause of the PFAS contamination is unknown, but it typically finds its way into water systems through manufacturing processes or deicing at airports.

When contaminants were first detected, Security stopped using some wells and initiated voluntary watering restrictions.

Security, located south of Colorado Springs, historically blended equal parts well water and surface water. The majority of customers are not affected by PFASs, but in some parts of the district increased use of groundwater normally would be needed to meet summer watering demands.
Security also gets some of its water from the Fountain Valley Conduit, which, like SDS, pumps water from Lake Pueblo to El Paso County.

“We are pleased to work with our longtime SDS partner Security Water to help resolve the water contamination issues,” said Dan Higgins, Colorado Springs Utilities chief water services officer. “SDS is already showing how critically important it was for all the communities who partnered to build it.”

Meanwhile, here’s a report about the public meeting held yesterday about the problem from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

More than 1,000 people south of Colorado Springs packed a high school Thursday night and buffeted government officials with questions and concerns about an invisible toxic chemical contaminating public water supplies…

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials repeated recommendations — especially for women and children, because they may be more vulnerable to the perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) — to switch to other water as a precaution.

“You may or may not be getting your tap water from an area of concern,” CDPHE water-quality official Tyson Ingals told residents. “We have about 60,000 people in the areas of concern. We estimate 10,000 to 15,000 may be receiving water with PFCs above the level of the heath advisory.”

What about schools? residents asked. How long have people here been drinking water tainted with PFCs? What about property values? Should pets be drinking different water? Could organically home-grown vegetables be tainted?

Local utility officials in Widefield, Security and Fountain — all partially dependent on municipal wells drawing from tainted groundwater — assured residents they are intensifying efforts to dilute supplies by mixing in cleaner water piped from Pueblo, 40 miles to the south. A CDPHE preliminary health assessment has found elevated cancer in the area, but officials emphasized no link to PFCs has been established…

Officials from El Paso County, the CDPHE and the military now are looking more closely at contamination in the Widefield-Security-Fountain area. Of 43 private wells tested recently, county officials have received results from 37 tests, with PFC levels in 26 exceeding the EPA limit, spokeswoman Danielle Oller said.

In Security, all 32 municipal wells are contaminated, and water officials ranked the wells based on levels of contamination. One well where the level was nearly 20 times higher than an EPA health advisory limit has been shut down. Security officials urged voluntary cutbacks in lawn watering to reduce the need to use contaminated groundwater.

Security Water and Sanitation District manager Roy Heald has divided the city into three zones and said about 25 percent of residents live in a zone receiving water from contaminated wells. The residents in two other zones “are supplied water mainly from surface water sources,” Heald said…

Next week, utility officials plan to begin re-plumbing, installing new pipelines, trying to blend in more water from Pueblo into that zone and other areas…

Air Force representatives at the forum, where residents filled an auditorium, adjacent cafeteria and stood in hallways at Mesa Ridge High School, said the Air Force will pay $4.3 million to set up temporary treatment systems — while local utilities address the long-term implications of contaminated groundwater and a possible fix. Military airfields are suspected as a source of PFC contamination, and a broad investigation is planned, with drilling in October at Peterson Air Force Base east of Colorado Springs.

“Our short-term to mid-term solution is to use more surface water, which is not affected by these contaminants. Our mid-term to long-term solution will be to treat the groundwater,” said Heald, who met with Air Force officials and will continue those discussions. Security also has requested financial help from the EPA, CDPHE and elected officials.

“Security Water is a relatively small water district, and the costs of managing this issue is expensive for our customers,” Heald said.

Security residents typically pay about $25 a month for their water.

Widefield officials said they’ll set up a free bottled water distribution station — limiting residents to 10 gallons a week. They’re relying as much as possible on water from Pueblo, although they may draw from contaminated wells to meet peak demands during summer as temperatures rise.

Fountain utility officials planned to notify residents about PFCs in notices mailed along with July water bills. Fountain normally draws from eight municipal wells, all now contaminated with PFCs above the EPA limit, and has shifted to water from Pueblo while contract engineers search for a solution.

Yet Ingals from CDPHE pointed out that these cities “cannot function on surface water alone. … There are groundwater wells that are being pumped. … The wells kick on and off at different intervals. … Because it is not predicable, we cannot tell you that it always is safe…

CDPHE experts in February began a preliminary assessment of cancer rates in the area south of Colorado Springs and on June 30 completed a report showing elevated cancer rates. The CDPHE team found lung cancer rates 66 percent higher than expected, bladder cancer up 17 percent and kidney cancer up 34 percent. CDPHE officials emphasized there’s no clear link to PFCs…

The assessment looked at births from 2010-14 and all cases of 11 types of cancer from 2000-2014 in 21 census tracts covering Security, Widefield and Fountain. CDPHE researchers compared these with birth and cancer data from the rest of El Paso County.

They found no spike in low birth weights in the areas where water is contaminated with PFCs. But there were a higher-than-expected rates of lung, kidney and bladder cancers.

“Of these types of cancer, only kidney cancer has been plausibly linked to PFC exposure in human and laboratory animal studies,” Van Dyke said.

The increases may be explained by higher rates of smoking and obesity in the area. Smoking and obesity, CDPHE officials said, may be factors explaining the increased kidney cancer.

More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

Residents from across Security, Widefield and Fountain flocked to hear more than a dozen federal, state, local and military officials hold a town hall about the work being done to clean the water in the Widefield aquifer.

As the evening wore on, one question rose above the rest: Why must residents have to incur more costs for bottled water and home filters because of a problem that wasn’t their fault?

“Why does the consumer have to pay more?” one man asked, to applause. He received no answer…

Roughly 60,000 people are served by water districts pulling from the contaminated Widefield aquifer, most of whom are in Security, Widefield and Fountain, officials said Thursday.

However, the majority of those people receive clean surface water pumped in by the Pueblo Reservoir. About 10,000 to 15,000 people receive contaminated water from wells tapped into the aquifer – and even they sometimes receive clean surface water, depending on daily water usage, a state health official said.

In general, those affected homes are along the western portions of Security and Widefield. Fountain has switched to clean surface water…

Throughout the meeting, officials stressed they are doing all they can to fix the problem.

Within a month, the Widefield Water and Sanitation District plans to set up a water dispensing site, allowing residents along the western portions of Widefield to receive up to 10 gallons of water a week. It is also working on a construction project to pump in more surface water.

Security officials announced a deal Thursday with Colorado Springs Utilities to increase the amount of Southern Delivery System water it will receive.

The project, which could take three months to complete, will likely end the community’s reliance on well water until a more permanent solution can be implemented. It might, however, come at the cost of higher water rates next year, the district’s water manager said.

Fountain officials also are working on a treatment plant.

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

Pitkin County awards contract for Basalt whitewater park

Looking up the Roaring Fork River where Pitkin County intends to build a whitewater park with two wave features. Two Rivers Road is to the left in the photo, taken the first week of July, 2016.
Looking up the Roaring Fork River where Pitkin County intends to build a whitewater park with two wave features. Two Rivers Road is to the left in the photo, taken the first week of July, 2016.

By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

BASALT – Pitkin County has awarded a construction contract worth $770,000 to a company in Durango to build a whitewater park in the Roaring Fork River near Basalt’s Elk Run subdivision.

The in-channel work, to be completed by next February, includes extensive rock work in the channel and on the riverbank and the installation of two wave-producing concrete structures anchored into the riverbed.

The upstream wave is designed to appeal to kayakers, while the downstream wave should also be suitable for stand-up paddlers at some water levels.

After a recent bid process, the county awarded the contract to build the in-channel features of the whitewater park last week to Diggin’ It River Works Inc. of Durango, according to Laura Makar, an attorney with Pitkin County who is overseeing the project. The whitewater park is being managed by the county attorney’s office, as it started as a water-rights effort.

The company has recently built whitewater parks in West Glenwood and Durango. River Restoration of Carbondale, which designed the West Glenwood wave, has designed the Basalt project and its two wave-producing features.

The in-channel work for the Basalt project includes:

constructing temporary coffer dams to channel the flow of the river into a 60-inch bypass pipe to expose the riverbed for construction;

the placement of boulders in the river to form five grade-control structures above the features;

the anchoring of the two wave structures themselves; and

installation of stabilizing boulders along the toe of a steep section of riverbank.

See drawings.

Looking down the Roaring Fork River at the location where Pitkin County intends to build a whitewater park. Two Rivers Road is to the right. The county is planning to build a ramp, a set of stairs and a pedestrian corral between the river and the road.
Looking down the Roaring Fork River at the location where Pitkin County intends to build a whitewater park. Two Rivers Road is to the right. The county is planning to build a ramp, a set of stairs and a pedestrian corral between the river and the road.

To the river

The county plans to build a modest level of access features and public amenities as part of the project, consistent with approvals for the project granted by the town of Basalt in 2015.

(See “Exhibit A” from town of Basalt ordinance number 18-2015).

The amenities, for example, do not include viewing platforms on the riverbank as shown in some conceptual renderings by the county during public meetings on the project last year.

The riverside improvements, to be completed by May 1, 2017, include a new ramp, or path, down the riverbank from Two Rivers Road to the downstream end of the whitewater park and a metal stairway down the riverbank across from the entrance to the Elk Run subdivision, at the upper end of the whitewater park.

The downstream ramp is to serve as both a public access path and as an emergency ramp big enough to drive an ATV down if necessary.

The stairway, to be built on the riverbank across from the entrance to Elk Run, may or may not be open to the public and might be used for emergency access only, according to James Lindt, a planner with the town.

The county’s plans also include the creation of five or six parallel parking spaces just downvalley of the whitewater park, on town land on the south side of Two Rivers Road, and the addition of four more parking spaces at Fisherman’s Park, which today can hold about eight vehicles in a small dirt lot next to a picnic pavilion and a bathroom.

The town has also required that the county delineate parking spaces for two or three vehicles with trailers near Fisherman’s Park and resurface the small boat ramp across Two Rivers Road from the park. The county also plans to add boulders in the river to enlarge the eddy at the bottom of the modest boat ramp.

In an effort to make it safer for kayakers and spectators heading to and from the whitewater park, the roadside improvements include a path on the south side of Two Rivers Road, just above the whitewater park, to be formed by two sections of split-rail fence running parallel to the road and the river.

The “pedestrian corral” is designed to safely guide people from the downstream end of the whitewater park back up Two Rivers Road toward Fisherman’s Park, which the county is viewing as the primary put-in for boaters to access the two play waves.

It’s a short float around the corner from Fisherman’s Park to the whitewater park location, but it’s a difficult paddle back up the river, especially in higher water, from the whitewater park location to Fisherman’s Park.

So if a boater parks at Fisherman’s Park and floats down to the park, they will likely need to walk back up through the “corral” when they get out of the river, cross the road at the Elk Run intersection, and then walk on the sidewalk on the north side of the road back to the parking lot at Fisherman’s Park.

Looking up Two Rivers Road as a truck turns into the Elk Run subdivision. The whitewater park is to be built to the right of the view. Fisherman's Park is beyond the entrance to Elk Run, on the left.
Looking up Two Rivers Road as a truck turns into the Elk Run subdivision. The whitewater park is to be built to the right of the view. Fisherman’s Park is beyond the entrance to Elk Run, on the left.

Flashing lights

In an effort to increase pedestrian safety along the busy roadway, the county is also required to install three crosswalks across Two Rivers Road, each with flashing cautionary signs to warn and stop motorists.

The crosswalks are to be located at Fisherman’s Park, at the entrance to the tree farm property about a block down the road, and on the downvalley side of the entrance to Elk Run, at the upstream end of the walking corral. There are currently no marked crosswalks on Two Rivers Road in those locations.

The town intends to discourage accessing the whitewater park from the other side of the river, at the end of Emma Road, past Subway and Stubbies, although there is technically public access to the river from that location on town property. Emma Road is a private road, but it does have a public access easement on it, according to Lindt.

It’s also possible to access the whitewater park from Ponderosa Park, on the south side of the bridge by the 7-Eleven store, where there is public parking and a riverside trail leading up to the whitewater park location.

“The main access to be encouraged is off of Two Rivers Road,” Lindt said.

Construction staging for the project is slated to take place on the Emma Road side of the river, however, and the county is required to leave a dirt roadway for emergency vehicles to use to access the whitewater park when it’s finished.

Exhibit A to the Town of Basalt's ordinance approving Pitkin County's whitewater park.
Exhibit A to the Town of Basalt’s ordinance approving Pitkin County’s whitewater park.

Still Planning

The location for the Basalt whitewater park is not ideal, either in terms of the roadside access or its place on the river, just below a low highway bridge and hard against a steep bank on river-right.

But the choice of location, just above the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers and the Pitkin County line, has been driven more by a water rights consideration than the location in the river itself or in Basalt, where the town is working on a riverfront park downstream of the county’s whitewater park location.

Pitkin County officials have consistently stressed that their primary motivation in pursuing the whitewater park is to establish the water rights associated with the park’s wave-producing features, but they also think it will be a good recreational amenity.

“I think that this is going to be a water park that people will use, people will enjoy, and people will be safe while using,” Makar said.

The county is eager to move forward with construction of the in-channel work associated with the whitewater park, and is doing so before a “river recreation plan” and a master plan for Two Rivers Road have been completed by the town. Both plans are cited in the town’s approvals of the whitewater park, but there is not a requirement that they be complete before the county moves ahead.

“Pitkin County doesn’t have control over those planning processes, or control over when those planning processes are complete,” Makar said. “That’s why Pitkin County has gone forward with the instream work and the minimal improvements out of stream. If there were recommendations and changes made by the town of Basalt pursuant to those planning processes, certainly the park could adjust in the future to work with recommendations made by those planning processes.”

For example, there has been discussion of moving Two Rivers Road to the north to create more space to access the river. Lindt said a third public meeting on the river recreation plan will likely be held in August.

A graphic presented at a county meeting held on February 6, 2016 at Basalt town hall. Three variations of the proposed Basalt whitewater park were shown that night. This is the Keep It Simple version that shows the access trail/ramp but no other streamside improvements.
A graphic presented at a county meeting held on February 6, 2016, at Basalt Town Hall. Three variations of the proposed Basalt whitewater park were shown that night. This is the Keep It Simple version that shows the access trail/ramp but no other streamside improvements.
This is Middle of the Road variation of the whitewater park and shows a split-rail fence, but not in a parallel configuration showing a pedestrian corral. (A drawing of the corral has not yet been made public).
This is the Middle of the Road variation of the whitewater park and shows a split-rail fence, but not in a parallel configuration showing a pedestrian corral. (A drawing of the corral has not yet been made public.)
The most elaborate of the three variations, this is called the Events Space variations and shows viewing stands hanging over the riverbank next to Two Rivers Road.
The most elaborate of the three variations, this is called the Events Space variation and shows viewing stands hanging over the riverbank next to Two Rivers Road.

Final plans coming

The county still has to submit a final site plan for the project, which will provide additional details to the parking and pedestrian aspects of the plan, which are being worked on by Loris, a planning firm in Denver. The county must also obtain a construction management plan and a floodplain development permit from the town before construction begins.

Gregory Knott, the chief of police in Basalt, expressed concerns last year during the review process about public access and safety, given the location of the whitewater park along Two Rivers Road.

“Two Rivers Road is not suited to provide parking for individuals utilizing the whitewater park,” Knott said in a referral-comment letter dated Aug. 27, 2015, emphasizing that “parking along Two Rivers Road is not a safe or viable option.”

On Friday, Knott said he is comfortable that the safety measures ultimately included in the town’s October 2015 approval of the park will address his concerns, but also said he still needs to review the final site plan from the county.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates changes to rivers and waterways, issued a 404 permit for the county’s work in the river in 2010, but the initial deadline to complete the work under the permit has expired and the county is currently seeking an extension until February 2018.

Funding for the project has come from the county’s Healthy Rivers and Streams board and was approved by the county commissioners. The $770,000 worth of work awarded last week does not include the cost of roadside amenities. Makar said an estimate for the final project is forthcoming as design work continues.

The steep riverbank on the Roaring Fork River where Pitkin County intends to build a whitewater kayak park. Looking upstream, early July, 2016.
The steep riverbank on the Roaring Fork River where Pitkin County intends to build a whitewater kayak park. Looking upstream, early July, 2016.

Flow rights

After an expensive water court process the county obtained a conditional water right for the whitewater park and it carries a 2010 priority date.

The right is known as a “recreational in-channel diversion,” or RICD, and county officials see the water right as a way to keep water in the river in the face of future potential transmountain diversions from the upper Roaring Fork.

From April 15 to May 17, the county could call for 240 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water to flow through the park.

Then, from May 18 to June 10, the county could call for 380 cfs.

And during peak runoff, from June 11 to June 25, it could call for 1,350 cfs of water to flow through the kayak park and create the biggest surf waves of the season.

After June 25, the water right steps back down to 380 cfs until Aug. 20, and then back to 240 cfs until Labor Day.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Daily News, and Coyote Gulch are collaborating on coverage of rivers and water. The Daily News published this story on Monday, July 4, 2016.

#COWaterPlan: Dealing with the “gap”

Clear Creek Reservoir
Clear Creek Reservoir

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

This is the first in a continuing series about how Colorado’s Water Plan will be put into action.

New sources of water are unlikely, so the Arkansas River basin’s focus should be on which crops or landscapes are irrigated, because irrigation is the largest use of water.

Pueblo Water plans to increase storage in key locations above, in and below Lake Pueblo.
Although we won’t find the water supply we want, wise use and efficient water management can stretch the supply we have.

That’s the outlook from Alan Ward, water resources manager for Pueblo Water.

Ward has been involved with filling municipal water needs during the severe drought of 2002 and the more prolonged drought of 2011-13.

He oversees a complex water leasing program that allows Pueblo to make the fullest use possible of its water portfolio.

Ward was part of Pueblo Water’s team that purchased more than one-quarter of the Bessemer Ditch water rights to secure future supply, and as a result is now a member of the canal company’s board of directors.

Colorado’s Water Plan was unveiled last year as an evolving way to meet water needs for the state for decades to come.

The process to develop the document was exhaustive, with hundreds of meetings, thousands of comments and 10 years of effort. It will take even more work to implement the plan and to focus activities that are in line with the plan’s objectives.

To gain a better understanding of how policymakers view the plan, The Pueblo Chieftain and Arkansas Basin Roundtable is asking key individuals three basic questions: How the gap will be filled, what projects are anticipated and what actions can be taken to prevent the gap from getting bigger.

Here are Ward’s answers:

How do we fill the gap in the Arkansas River basin within Colorado’s Water Plan and the Basin Implementation Plan?

“Since the water of the Arkansas River basin is already completely appropriated, the ‘gap’ is really the difference between the water supply we have and the water supply we’d like to have.
I am not optimistic about the prospects of increasing supply. There is no currently unused supply to develop locally within the Arkansas River basin, so an increased supply would have to be imported from elsewhere.

“I think that the expense along with the political and environmental hurdles make importation of new water supply into the Arkansas River basin very complicated and climate change may lead to even less supply on both the Eastern and Western slopes.

“As an alternative, I believe the focus in the Arkansas River basin should be on adapting to having less water than we would like. Storage is key to making the most efficient use of the available water supply.

Storage allows for some control of the timing and location of the limited water supply so that it can be used when and where it is most needed.

Storage also provides the flexibility to move water in ways that can enhance recreational opportunities and minimize environmental impacts.

“Irrigation, whether for crops and livestock grazing or lawns and urban landscapes, is the primary consumptive use of water in the Arkansas Basin (and most of the western United States). I believe that there just isn’t the water capacity to increase the amount of irrigated land, so there needs to be some difficult discussions about what gets irrigated. If urban irrigation increases, then agricultural irrigation will have to decrease or vice versa. It is important to note that urban irrigation has been on a downward trend so there is probably room for some urban growth without an overall increase in the amount of urban irrigation.

“Determining where water should be used for irrigation is a complex problem.

Because water rights are a private property right that can be transferred to new uses, there can be tensions about what role government should play in shaping the free-market movement of water rights and what involvement local communities should have in the transfer of water rights. Finding the right balance between the rights of individuals to use their property as they wish and achieving the desired outcomes of the broader public will be difficult.

“Other water uses such as domestic (including indoor urban), environmental, recreational and industrial are extremely important, but they are so small relative to irrigation use that changes in these water uses will only have minor impacts on the ‘gap’ at a basinwide scale.”

What projects do you plan to fill the gap?

“Pueblo Water is looking to add storage capacity at three key locations for its operations.

“Clear Creek Reservoir can be enlarged to provide additional storage in the Upper Arkansas River basin, which may facilitate better management and optimization of Pueblo’s water imported from the Western Slope.

“Pueblo Reservoir is ideally located in that it is low enough in the basin that a significant amount of water flows into it from upstream.

Many of the largest water users can take delivery of water from the reservoir either by pipeline or by release down the Arkansas River. Enlargement of Lake Pueblo could provide flexibility and water management efficiencies to Pueblo Water and many other urban, rural and agricultural water users.

“Storage located a short distance downstream of the city of Pueblo would allow for more efficient reuse of Pueblo Water’s fully consumable water supplies while at the same time optimizing the timing of flow on the Arkansas River through Pueblo for recreational and environmental benefits.

“Pueblo Water has committed to partner with Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fountain, Pueblo West and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District in developing this type of storage in order to recapture water that the parties could have captured at Lake Pueblo if not for the Pueblo Flow Management Program (recovery of yield storage).”

How do we keep the gaps for agriculture and municipalities from becoming bigger?

“Keep expectations for water supply in line with actual water supply, plus encourage wise use and efficient water management, including expansion of storage.”