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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loveland to work with CDOT on US 34 repairs — the Loveland Reporter-Herald

The Big Thompson River September 14, 2013 via The Denver Post
The Big Thompson River September 14, 2013 via The Denver Post

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Saja Hindi):

For the Colorado Department of Transportation to be able to move forward with its first phase of construction on permanent repairs to U.S. 34, the agency will have to come to an agreement with the city of Loveland.

Part of the construction work for repairs after the 2013 flood will require crews to use some of the Loveland-owned properties, right-of-ways and easements in the Big Thompson Canyon.

Loveland City Council members will vote at their meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday on whether to allow CDOT to move forward with its work before the two entities come to a formal intergovernmental agreement in the next 90 days.

The meeting will take place in the Council Chambers in the municipal building at 500 E. Third St.

City Manager Bill Cahill said this will also be another chance for Loveland residents to ask any questions they may have about the permanent repairs on U.S. 34.

Cahill said although the city’s most commonly-known property in the canyon is Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park, it also owns land to the east and west of the park.

The first phase of the U.S. 34 reconstruction will first require rock blasting for a new roadway alignment at the horseshoe curve, west of Viestenz-Smith, where the city owns land.

“The Agreement will permit CDOT to move forward with construction prior to a final agreement on the value of the required Loveland right of way,” a City Council memo states.

Additional city property that CDOT will need to use as well as compensation to the city will be discussed at the July 5 City Council meeting.

Staff members have been working with CDOT officials for the past year on the best road alignment possibilities, according to the council memo.

“One key goal for road reconstruction is to create a safer and more resilient roadway alignment that works in harmony with the Big Thompson River. Eliminating the horseshoe curve west of the Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park (“VSMP”) is one of the greatest opportunities to accomplish this goal,” it stated.

The new alignment will cross through the Rosedale property, west of Viestenz-Smith, which the city owns.

Additionally, CDOT will need to move excess rock out of the canyon during the three-year reconstruction period, Cahill said, and is looking for a staging area and site to dispose of the rock spoils on the east edge of Round Mountain, south of U.S. 34 and Viestenz-Smith

Cahill said as more of the permanent plans are made for the roadway, there could be more possibilities near the city-owned properties for recreational opportunities along the river, falling in line with a longterm vision for the Big Thompson Canyon among Larimer County, its municipalities and CDOT.

For more information, go to http://cityofloveland.org.

Fall River Hydroplant And Upper Fish Hatchery Reaches Stabilization Project — Estes Park News

From the Town of Estes Park (Tina Kurtz) via The Estes Park News:

The Town is currently working with Otak and Flywater on a streambank stabilization and channel restoration project on Fall River from the Rocky Mountain National Park boundary to approximately 550 feet downstream of the western Fish Hatchery Road Bridge.

The September 2013 flood caused significant erosion of the streambanks and channel scour in this reach, which resulted in the loss of aquatic habitat and posed safety concerns for visitors to the Town’s historic Hydroplant museum. In addition, the mobilized sediment during the flood event and subsequent runoff events resulted in significant deposition downstream.

The project is being conducted in two phases. Phase I, which was completed on March 1, 2016, consists of streambank stabilization, channel restoration and aquatic habitat improvement for the reach between the RMNP boundary and the pedestrian bridge at the Hydroplant. Phase II will occur during the summer of 2016 and will continue the Phase I work downstream of the pedestrian bridge to the downstream project boundary and include revegetation of the entire project reach.

Phase I of the project was funded through a Community Block Development Grant – Disaster Recovery Round 1 Infrastructure grant administered by the Colorado Office of Emergency Management through the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Phase II is anticipated to be funded through Senate Bill 14-179 funds administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

If you would like more information on this project, please contact Tina Kurtz, Town of Estes Park Environmental Planner at tkurtz@estes.org or 970-577-3732.

#ColoradoRiver: Northern Water increases 2016 quota to 70% #COriver

Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District:

Northern Water’s Board of Directors increased the Colorado-Big Thompson Project quota allocation to 70 percent at its April 14 meeting. With snowpacks that feed the C-BT Project system being above average and storage reservoirs in good shape, the Board chose to make available an additional 20 percent as a supplemental quota for 2015.

The approval increased available C-BT Project water supplies by 20 percent, or 62,000 acre-feet, from the initial 50 percent quota made available in November.

The Board considered input from farmers and municipal water providers, demonstrating the varying demands and complex circumstances directors must consider when setting the quota. The C-BT Project supplements other sources of water for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million-acre service area.

Directors carefully considered streamflow forecasts and snowpack in the South Platte and Upper Colorado watersheds that contribute to C-BT Project inflow. The snowpack in these watersheds has increased during the past month and March precipitation throughout Northern Water’s boundaries was 132 percent of average.

“The Board set an average quota of 70 percent based on this being as close to an average year as you can get,” said Andy Pineda, Water Resources Department Manager. “Snowpacks in the Upper Colorado and South Platte basins are in better shape today than a year ago.”

Directors based their decision on the need for supplemental water for the coming year while balancing project operations and maintaining water in storage for future dry years.

From The Greeley Tribune (Nikki Work):

When Northern Water’s Andy Pineda hinted at a 70 percent quota for users of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project at the company’s Spring Water Users meeting Wednesday, the room was all smiles and nods.

The farmers and municipal water representatives in the room predicted that would be the magic number, and on Thursday, Northern Water’s board of directors voted to make that number official.

The 70 percent quota is about as average as it gets, said Northern Water’s Brian Werner. He knows the old saying ‘There’s no such thing as an average water year,’ but so far, 2016 is proving that statement pretty much wrong.

In fact, when C-BT users were asked for input on the projected quota at the Spring Water Users meeting — the reason the meeting is called every year — the room was quiet until a couple people were goaded into taking the microphone.

“I think this is what we were expecting,” Werner said, and that’s why there was so little input. “Most water users are comfortable with a 70 percent quota in a year like this (where it’s) not too dry, not too wet.”

The C-BT quota sets the percentage of water from the project each participant can use for the year, Werner said. This year, each water user can use 7/10 of each acre-foot of water they own. For example, if someone owns 100 acre-feet of water, they can use 70 of those acre-feet over the year.

“This gives the farmers who are making decisions on planting and other things a good idea of what water they’re going to get,” he said.

Werner said the Colorado-Big Thompson project is basically an insurance policy for water users in northern Colorado. He explains it like a pie cut into three pieces.

The first two pieces of the water pie are snowpack and storage, and this year, both of those slices are falling in line with historic averages, if not exceeding them. The C-BT project, which collects and delivers water from the West Slope over to the East Slope and northern Colorado, is the third piece, and it fills in the rest of the pie. When the first two pieces look normal, so does the third. If the first two pieces are lacking, the third makes up for it, like in 2012 when the C-BT quota was set to 100 percent.

That said, if the water year goes up in flames and the state dries up, Northern Water’s board might raise the quota closer to 100 percent to help water users supplement the shrinking snowpack and storage slices, Werner said.

Werner said 33 cities and towns, 120 ag irrigation or ditch companies and about 1,500 individual farmers rely on C-BT water as a additional water source during the summer…

OTHER NORTHERN WATER PROJECTS

At the Spring Water Users meeting this week at The Ranch in Loveland, both the Northern Integrated Supply Project and Windy Gap Firming Project unveiled new development plans:

» The Northern Integrated Supply Project, which is in the permitting and planning process, unveiled a new plan for downstream water conveyance. Plans for NISP include the construction of two reservoirs — the Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and the Galeton Reservoir east of Ault. Northern Water initially planned a system of linking pipelines to pump water to users further south, but instead, unveiled a new, more eco-friendly plan at the meeting. The new plan would entail releasing 44,000 acre-feet of water per year into the Poudre River from the Glade Reservoir, letting it flow a 12-mile stretch through Fort Collins, then catching it again at a pipeline that would flow it down the Weld/Larimer County line to the Southern Water Supply Project, another Northern Water project that serves communities from Broomfield to Fort Morgan. In case of poor water quality in the Poudre due to runoff or wildfires, the plan contains a redundancy pipeline.

This new strategy for conveyance of water southward should improve the flow of the Poudre eight months out of the year on a normal year, said Carl Brouwer of Northern Water at the meeting. On a dry year, that number is even better.

» The Windy Gap Firming Project, which is one step away from getting its final permit and authorization, unveiled a new plan at the meeting to divert water out of the existing Windy Gap reservoir into a bypass channel. This would make the actual reservoir about half its size and create a freeflowing stream for most of the year. A stream rather than a reservoir would create more natural conditions for the reservoir’s wildlife, like a better flow of water and sediment and more temperature control.

The Windy Gap Firming Project also recently joined the Learning by Doing cooperative effort, in which they work with other water stakeholders to monitor and improve aquatic health and habitat on the Colorado River, said Jeff Drager, deputy manager of engineering at Northern Water.

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

#ColoradoRiver: Windy Gap Firming project gets Gov. Hickenlooper’s endorsement #COWaterPlan #COriver

windygapparticipantmapnorthernwater

Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

Gov. John Hickenlooper today formally endorsed the Windy Gap Firming Project, a water project that will serve cities and farmers on the northern Front Range as well as provide environmental benefits on the Western Slope.

The project expands the existing Windy Gap system built in the 1980s and includes the planned Chimney Hollow Reservoir southwest of Loveland to ensure more reliable supplies for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and other project participants. It also includes several protective measures for fish and waterways on the Western Slope.

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

The Windy Gap Firming Project has been in the process of obtaining federal, state and local permits and certifications since 2003, including the required Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plan approved by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and, most recently, the Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“Colorado moves the needle today with endorsement of a project that makes gains for the environment and water supply together,” said James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the agency that facilitated development of Colorado’s Water Plan. “Grand County, environmental stakeholders, and Northern Water set an excellent example of the collaboration necessary to achieve the bold measurable objectives of Colorado’s Water Plan and the Colorado and South Platte Basin Implementation Plans.”

The Windy Gap Firming Project includes several measures to mitigate environmental impacts to protect fish, ensure stream protection, and reduce water quality impacts to Grand Lake and the Colorado River. These and other agreements were key to building support for the project across a spectrum of interests and for earning endorsement from the state. [ed. emphasis mine]

“Northern Water worked closely with state biologists to ensure that impacts on streams and rivers – and the fish and wildlife that depend on them – were identified and addressed through mitigation for the benefit of the environment, wildlife and recreation,” said Bob Broscheid, director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “This was a thorough and unified process and shows what we can accomplish when we work together to reach shared goals.”

With necessary permits and certifications for the project in hand, Hickenlooper also today directed his staff to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the federal agency’s issuance of a Section 404 Permit, the final federal regulatory step for the project.

Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):

Chimney Hollow Reservoir close to reality

Today the State of Colorado officially endorsed the Windy Gap Firming Project and Chimney Hollow Reservoir.

John Stulp, Governor John Hickenlooper’s Water Policy Advisor, made the announcement at Northern Water’s Spring Water Users meeting in Loveland. Reading a letter signed by Gov. Hickenlooper, Stulp told the 200 attendees that this is the state of Colorado’s first endorsement of a water project under the Colorado Water Plan, which was finalized last November.

“Further, the WGFP aligns with the key elements of the Colorado Water Plan…” Hickenlooper wrote.
Hickenlooper continued, “Northern Water and its many project partners have worked diligently, transparently and exhaustively in a collaborative public process that could stand as a model for assessing, reviewing and developing a project of this nature.”

Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict President Dennis Yanchunas spoke for the project’s participants in saying, “It’s really exciting to have that endorsement, the first ever by the state.” [ed. emphasis mine] Colorado’s endorsement came on the heels of state water quality certification in late March.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued its 401 water quality certification for the Windy Gap Firming Project on March 25, bringing the project permitting process nearer to completion.

“This is the next to the last step in getting the project permitted,” said Project Manager Jeff Drager.

“The final step is the federal 404 wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which we believe will be forthcoming in the next few months.”

The state’s endorsement of the WGFP culminates 13 years of diligent effort and lengthy negotiations to permit and authorize a project that will assure a reliable water supply for more than 500,000 northern Front Range residents.

The federal permitting process began in 2003 under the National Environmental Policy Act. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation served as the lead federal agency and issued a final Environmental Impact Statement in 2011 and a Record of Decision in 2014 for Chimney Hollow Reservoir.

In addition, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission and Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a fish and wildlife mitigation plan in 2011. The following year the Grand County Commissioners issued a 1041 permit and reached an agreement with Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict on a mitigation and enhancement package.

A wide variety of organizations, including Trout Unlimited, support the CDPHE’s long-awaited ruling.

“This permit is another step toward fulfilling the Windy Gap Firming Project’s potential to be part of a balanced water supply strategy for Colorado Front Range,” said Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water and Habitat Project.

“Through a balanced portfolio – including responsible supply projects like WGFP – along with stronger conservation and reuse programs and ag-urban water sharing — Colorado can meet its diverse water needs…” Peternell added.

The Windy Gap Firming Project is a collaboration of 12 Northern Front Range water providers and the Platte River Power Authority to improve the reliability of their Windy Gap water supplies. Windy Gap began delivering water in 1985.

The participants include 10 municipalities: Broomfield, Erie, Evans, Fort Lupton, Greeley, Lafayette, Longmont, Louisville, Loveland and Superior; two water districts: Central Weld County and Little Thompson; and one power provider: Platte River. They currently provide water to 500,000 people.

The current cost estimate for WGFP is $400 million. To date the participants have spent $15 million on associated permitting costs.

From The Greeley Tribune (Nikki Work):

The Windy Gap Firming Project is one step closer to being more than just big dreams and big dollar signs. The project, which would allow for the construction of the Chimney Hollow Reservoir southwest of Loveland, received the first endorsement a water project has ever gotten from the state of Colorado.

Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference
Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference

John Stulp, special policy adviser for water to Gov. John Hickenlooper, read a letter from the governor at the Northern Water Spring Water Users meeting Wednesday at the Ranch in Loveland. In the letter, Hickenlooper applauded Northern Water for the Windy Gap Firming Project’s ability to bring communities together, protect fish and wildlife, and make Colorado’s water more sustainable, along with other ideals outlined in the Colorado Water Plan, which was adopted last November.

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

While the endorsement from the state doesn’t advance the plan in earnest, it does give it credibility in the next and final step to getting its building permit completed.

“This is the next to the last step in getting the project permitted,” said Windy Gap Firming Project manager Jeff Drager in a release from Northern Water. “The final step is the federal 404 wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which we believe will be forthcoming in the next few months.”

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considers the project for the permit, it will want to know if the state approves of it. Now, with an official recommendation from the governor, the path should be smoother for the Windy Gap Firming Project and the Chimney Hollow Reservoir, Stulp said.

“I think this (project) is being done right,” Stulp said. “Now, we have the state’s endorsement and I think that will inform the fed agencies, the Corps at this point, that this has got strong support in Colorado.”

The city of Greeley was one of the original six cities to invest in the existing Windy Gap Reservoir. Now, the city is a participant in the Windy Gap Firming Project. Once the Chimney Hollow reservoir is built, Greeley will receive 4,400 acre-feet of water per year. An acre-foot of water is roughly the equivalent of one football field filled with a foot of water — that’s almost 326,000 gallons of water, or more than 8,000 bathtubs full.

Evans, Fort Lupton and the Central Weld County Water District are also participants in the Windy Gap Firming Project.

The project is estimated to cost about $400 million and participants have thus far spent $15 million, according to the Northern Water release. The reservoir will store 90,000 acre-feet of water and will be located near Carter Lake and parts of Northern Water’s Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

The Windy Gap Firming Project’s participants are primarily municipalities, but also include two water districts and one power company. The purpose of the project is to create an alternative water source for cities and companies to purchase water from instead of resorting to tactics like buy-and-dry or competing with agricultural land for water resources.

During his presentation at the Northern Water Spring Water Users Meeting, Metropolitan State University of Denver professor Tom Cech talked population growth. He said right now, Colorado is home to more than 5 million people. By 2030, that number’s projected to rise to more than 7 million after having already grown about 30 percent since 1990. In the South Platte Basin alone, that kind of population growth will equal a shortage of about 410,000 acre-feet of water, or about 134 billion gallons. Between 133,000 and 226,000 acres of irrigated land in the South Platte River Basin are expected to dry up by 2030.

With the rapid population expansion and resulting urban sprawl happening in Colorado, projects like these are more important than ever, said Eric Wilkinson, Northern Water’s general manager.

“People need water and we’re going to grow. Obviously people like this area, people move to this area and people will continue to come and we have to find ways to provide that water supply,” Wilkinson said. “This is a good way of doing it.”

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday weighed in formally backing the long-delayed and controversial $400 million Windy Gap project to divert more water from the Colorado River to the booming Front Range.

Hickenlooper ordered state officials to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to obtain a final federal wetlands permit needed for work to begin. His endorsement is expected to aid that effort.

Northern Water would expand its existing river diversion system built in 1985 by installing a new reservoir southwest of Loveland to hold diverted Colorado River water. That 29 billion-gallon Chimney Hollow Reservoir would supply farmers and growing cities.

“This is the first time he has endorsed this project. We were certainly hoping for it. We were pleasantly surprised,” Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said.

“This means that construction, starting in 2019, is a reality.”

Northern Water has been planning the project, working with state and federal officials on permits, since 2003. A mitigation plan, approved by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board, lays out measures to protect fish and off-set environmental harm including altered river flows.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials, responsible for ensuring water quality, signed off on March 25.

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

Front Range users would would siphon additional west-flowing water — up to 8.4 billion gallons a year — out of the Colorado River and pump it back eastward under the Continental Divide. That water, stored in the new reservoir, is expected to meet needs of 500,000 residents around Broomfield, Longmont, Loveland and Greeley.

Environment groups on Wednesday reacted with fury.

“This project will further drain and destroy the Colorado River and imperil endangered fish,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save the Colorado River. “We’ve registered 23 complaints with the Army Corps of Engineers. The federal government should deny the permit. This project is reckless.”

From the Fort Collins Coloradan (Kevin Duggan):

Colorado officials endorsed a long-sought water storage project that would include construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir southwest of Loveland.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday voiced his support for the Windy Gap Firming Project, which would divert water from the Western Slope to the Front Range to shore up supplies for municipalities and farmers…

Participants in the water-storage project include Loveland, Longmont, Greeley, Broomfield, Platte River Power Authority and two water districts.

The project recently received a key water quality certification from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The certification is needed to receive a final permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the project…

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

If the expected permits come through, final design on Chimney Hollow Reservoir would begin later this year with construction beginning in 2018-19, Werner said.

Chimney Hollow Reservoir would hold up to 90,000 acre feet of water. An acre foot is enough water to meet the annual needs of three to four urban households.

Larimer County would build and operate recreational facilities at the reservoir, which would be built west of Carter Lake. Carter Lake holds up to 112,000 acre feet of water.

The Windy Gap Firming Project has been under federal, state and local review since 2003. It has been challenged by environmentalists over the years because of its impact on the Colorado River’s ecosystem through increased water diversions.

In a recent email to the Coloradoan, the group Save the Colorado stated it would scrutinize the 404 permit decision from the Corps to ensure the project adheres to the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Supporters say the Windy Gap Firming includes measures that would mitigate its environmental impacts and protect fish, streams and water quality in Grand Lake and the Colorado River.

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

The project — formally called the Windy Gap Firming Project — calls for the construction of a new reservoir, called Chimney Hollow Reservoir southwest of Loveland. The reservoir will be designed to hold up to 90,000 acre feet of water, and reliably deliver about 30,000 acre feet of water every year, enough to support the needs of 60,000 families of four people.

It’s an expansion of the existing Windy Gap system built in the 1980s to divert water from the Colorado River to the Front Range. But the construction of a new reservoir is crucial, said Brian Werner, a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the lead agency on the project.

Because of the Windy Gap project’s relatively junior water rights, water cannot be diverted in years when the snow pack is low. And during wet years, there’s not enough storage space in Lake Granby to store the Windy Gap water, which means it runs down the river.

“Windy Gap right now doesn’t have any firm yield,” Werner said, meaning that the system can’t be counted on to have water available for customers every single year.

“In wet years there’s no where to put it [the water], and in dry years there’s nothing to pump,” Werner said.

About 500,000 people live in the water districts that would be served by the Windy Gap Firming Project, including Broomfield, Lafayette, Louisville, Loveland, Erie and Evans. To date, the cost of planning and permitting the project has risen to $15 million, according to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

And with population numbers expected to jump in coming years, this project and others will be needed to ensure there’s enough water for the communities to grow, Werner said.

The project’s leaders have worked on agreements to mitigate environmental impacts to protect fish, ensure stream protection and reduce water quality impacts to Grand Lake and the Colorado River.

Last month, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment this week released its final “401 water quality certification,” meaning that the state had signed off on the plans to mitigate the environmental impact of the project on the Upper Colorado River.

Trout Unlimited, said the conditions imposed by the state health department put the “threatened river and fishery on road to recovery.

“We firmly believe these permit conditions establish a strong health insurance policy for the Upper Colorado River,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited, in a statement.

It took a long time to get here. Click here to take a trip back in time through the Coyote Gulch “Windy Gap” category. Click here for posts from the older Coyote Gulch blog.

No “Buy and Dry” and sprawl for Berthoud area farm

Berthoud Auto Storage back in the day
Berthoud Auto Storage back in the day

From the Berthoud Surveyor (John Gardner):

The property will continue to be farmed by a lease agreement with proceeds going back to the county’s Open Lands Department. This deal satisfies the sister’s dream of keeping the property a working farm.

“We just couldn’t stand to see it developed,” [Peggy] Malchow Sass said. “Knowing that it’s going to stay a farm is really satisfying to us.”

The water for the property fills the Handy Ditch that gets water from the Big Thompson River, Malchow Sass said, adding that it’s positive to keep the water with the land, not only for the farm, but for all the other nearby ranches and farms that utilize the Handy Ditch water.

“By leaving the water in the ditch enables many farmers along the way to get their water more easily; the more water there is in the ditch the more easily it is for farmers to get their water,” she said. “That’s a benefit directly to the Berthoud area.”

Per the agreement, the water will continue to be used on the property seven out of 10 years but will also be available to local municipalities during times of drought. Acquiring the water rights is an innovative aspect of the purchase, according to Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly.

“I think this is a great opportunity to really talk about what we want to do with water and how we want to see water addressed,” Donnelly said. “The last thing we want to see is a lot of irrigated farm land bought then dried up. We want to make sure that we keep some of those resources with the land so that they can be used in perpetuity.”

Craig Godbout, program manager for the Colorado Water Conservancy Board’s Alternative Transfer Methods grant program, agreed with Donnelly, saying the CWCB’s mission is to help preserve irrigated Ag land. And this is one of the first agreements that will have the water available for use by municipalities during time of drought.

“[Agriculture] is our second biggest industry contributing to our economy here in the state, and this project fits in really well with the state water plan because it helps close that municipal-industrial gap without permanent Ag dry-up,” Godbout said.

This is only the second alternative transfer of water agreement that’s been completed, according to Godbout, and it also creates a new mechanism that can be used as a model for future projects. It’s also an innovative way for the county to explore partnerships with municipal partners and some local farmers, Donnelly said.

“I think we’re doing some groundbreaking work here,” Donnelly said.

The property consists of high quality agricultural soils, with approximately 188 irrigated, 18 pastures and five farmstead acres, according to a natural resources department report. Two homes remain on the property; one built in the 1860s and the other built in 1947. There’s also the scenic red barn, once used to milk cows, located at the farm’s entrance, and a beat shack that was built in the late 1800s.

This land adds to the county’s open space catalog. The county’s interest in this particular parcel grew from its updated 2015 Open Space Master Plan that included citizens’ request for preserving irrigated farm and agriculture land according to Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Program manager.

“When we looked at our inventory across the board, we’ve done a whole lot of ranchland, we’ve done a really good job with ranchland; we’ve bought a few irrigated farms and conservations easements that we own, but they are certainly much smaller,” Rollins said. “So this opportunity happened to come along at the right time and at the time of updating our master plan. We’re excited to be moving forward with it.”

Donnelly credited the county’s Agricultural and Natural Resources Department for its work on making this deal happen and said that this deal has a wealth of opportunities. One of those opportunities could include an educational site for the Thompson School District’s resurrected Future Farmers of America program, where students who could use the land for a hands-on approach to agriculture, or using the farm as an incubator for organic farmers.

The Malchow family has worked with the Berthoud Historical Society to preserve some of the property’s historic features, including the beet shack and a pioneer grave.

One of the oldest ditches in Larimer County, the Eaglin Ditch, is located on the property. And the property also is located within the medium-to-high regional trail priority area for the Berthoud to Carter Lake Regional Trail Corridor…

The county’s Open Lands Department is actively pursuing grant funding to reimburse a portion of the county’s investment to the conserve this property and has already received a $178,425 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop the Alternative Transfer Mechanism and water-sharing agreement.

The county will pay $8.4 million for the land and its water shares with the intent of keeping it an active farm and making the water available to municipal providers in drought years. The land is valued at $1.6 million while the water rights are valued at nearly $6.9 million.

Rollins attended Tuesday’s Berthoud Board of Trustees meeting and requested a $100,000 contribution from the town’s Open Space Tax Dollar fund to help pay for the land acquisition. Trustees advised town staff to see what could be done to participate in this partnership.

The county is also seeking contributions through Great Outdoors Colorado and a private foundation, according to a report from the Department of Natural Resources. The land purchase will be finalized in April.

Town’s drinking water is safe, high quality — The Estes Park Trail-Gazette

Estes Park
Estes Park

From The Estes Park Trail-Gazette (David Persons):

If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking.

Additional information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800.426.4791 or at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.

For more information about Estes Park’s water, go online to http://www.colorado.gov/pacific/townofestespark/consumerconfidencereport.

The water that Estes Park residents drink is among the cleanest, highest quality water in the state, according to town officials.

Recent testing seems to confirm that.

That’s comforting to know since a regional newspaper story last Sunday – citing test results of high levels of lead found in drinking water at four sites in the Estes Valley – had many people around town wondering what might be coming out of their tap.

“We’re very proud to remind the community that the town works around-the-clock to provide high-quality water to our customers,” said Estes Park Town Administrator Frank Lancaster. “We continually surpass strict federal and state standards to provide the very best drinking water possible.”

[…]

So what’s being done to ensure that the town’s drinking water is clean and rid of contaminants like lead?

According to Estes Park Public Information Officer Kate Rusch and Estes Park Laboratory and Water Quality Supervisor Diana Beehler, the town, as a water utility, is required by federal law to have a corrosion control program to minimize lead in drinking water and is required to do annual testing.

The corrosion control program began in the late 1980s and involves adding a chemical which coats pipes and plumbing fixtures to prevent water from corroding the metals. This program includes on-going monitoring of the treatment chemicals, the distribution system and households in our community to ensure that the corrosion control is effective.

The most recent annual testing of town drinking water occurred in 2015. The town sampled 23 homes that were built between 1982 and 1986. Homes were tested, instead of businesses, because lead poisoning is a chronic condition that occurs over long periods of time, and most people are drinking water from their homes daily.

Federal requirements mandate that the town reports the value at the 90th percentile, which was 2.3 parts per billion (ppb) of lead. The highest value in all the homes tested in 2015 was 6.5 ppb, Rusch and Beehler said. On the other hand, 14 of the 23 homes sampled were below the detection limit of 1 ppb.

The federal action level for lead is 15 ppb.

The local samples were taken after the water sat undisturbed in the plumbing for at least six hours to give the water an opportunity to react — allowing a “worst case” scenario for our testing, they said.

So, how safe are the town’s current and older water lines and pipes?

“The town’s main distribution lines are made of ductile iron, cast iron and galvanized steel, which are not a concern when it comes to lead,” Rusch and Beehler said. “The town has no lead main lines and is unaware of any lead service lines on private property. In addition, our corrosion control program is designed to coat the pipes and lead solder to reduce the amount of lead, anywhere in the system that is able to leach into the water.”

If concerned about the possibility of lead in drinking water, homeowners or business owners can test and mitigate the concerns themselves, Rusch and Beehler say.

A licensed plumber can inspect fixtures to determine if any lead sources are present, and a state-approved laboratory can test private water services to determine if lead is present in the water. When the levels are 15 ppb or higher, the EPA recommends taking precautions like flushing the tap for 15-20 seconds, using only cold water for drinking and cooking, and considering purchasing bottled water or a water filter. Flushing the tap is the easiest and most cost effective way to reduce lead if the customer is concerned.

While the town’s water and water system is closely monitored for quality, even the four sites cited by the Fort Collins Coloradoan in its Sunday story — the YMCA of the Rockies, Covenant Heights Camp and Retreat, Prospect Mountain Water Company, and Ravencrest Chalet — have each taken measures to ensure the quality of their drinking water is up to the levels required by state and federal agencies.

According to documents that the Coloradoan was able to obtain, each of those sites had test results that equaled or exceeded the federal action level of 15ppb in recent years.

Wwater samples tested at the YMCA of the Rockies, 2515 Tunnel Road, were found to have exceeded 15ppb four times since 2012, the Coloradoan reported. Those tests involved 10-60 samples taken around the property. The Coloradoan also reported that at least one sample each year since 2012 has tested at or above 15ppb.

YMCA of the Rockies collects water from the Wind River Stream diversion, not the Town of Estes Park. It then disinfects the water, and distributes it to guests and staff.

Martha Sortland, the Communications Director at the YMCA of the Rockies, told the Coloradoan that she believed the elevated levels of lead in drinking water were caused by water left in pipes too long.

When contacted on Wednesday, Sortland told the Trail-Gazette that providing safe drinking water for guests was a high priority, one that the business takes seriously. She added that a lot of time and money is invested in the operation of the water system to ensure water quality.

“The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provides regulations for safe drinking water,” Sortland said. “Our water falls within those regulations and always has.

“We are committed to adhering to Colorado state water regulations and we will continue to do so unequivocally.

“We have five full-time certified water treatment operators on staff at Estes Park Center, and we have partnered with the experts at JVA Consulting, an independent, third party contractor with expert credentials and experience in water quality management.”

The Coloradoan also reported that lead in drinking water at the Covenant Heights Camp and Retreat, 7400 Colorado Highway 7, tested 117ppb and 143 ppb in 2015, the highest levels of lead in Colorado drinking water recorded since at least 2012.

The high lead levels were attributed to lead soldering in staff cabins. Retreat officials told the Coloradoan that they quickly relocated staffers who had been in the cabins and have retrofitted the water pipes with PEX plastic piping.

Prospect Mountain Water Company (PMWC), also mentioned in the Coloradoan story, is a private community water system that serves about 124 residents.

The company has struggled for years and is now in bankruptcy. It has had lead levels in its drinking water that ranged from 91 ppb (in 2012) to 28 ppb (in 2014) to 15 ppb (in 2015).

Lead pipes and lead soldering are being blamed for the high lead levels.

The water company recently signed a temporary intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the Town of Estes Park to provide water and run the water system until a new company can be contracted.

Rusch and Beehler said upgrades to the PMWC water system are being planned. They include distribution lines, water tanks and water pumps. The cost of these upgrades will be absorbed by fees paid by the PMWC customers.

In addition, Rusch and Beehler point out that PMWC lead tests have vastly improved since the Town of Estes Park began providing treated water including corrosion control.

Ravencrest Chalet, a bible school located 501 Pole Hill Road, had a high lead test of 16 ppb in 2013. However, that dropped to 4ppb in 2015.

Officials at Ravencrest could not be reached for comment to explain what measures they took to lower their lead level.