#ColoradoRiver: The June 2016 eNews is hot off the presses from Northern Water #COriver

View of the Granby Hydropower Plant with Granby Dam in the background. Photo via Northern Water.
View of the Granby Hydropower Plant with Granby Dam in the background. Photo via Northern Water.

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

Granby Hydropower Plant dedication ceremony

Northern Water’s second hydropower plant is operating and producing clean, renewable power. The Granby Hydropower Plant located at the base of Lake Granby Dam began producing hydroelectric power in May. On June 3, Northern Water hosted a dedication ceremony at the plant. Attendees included Colorado water leaders, state representatives, Grand County commissioners and representatives from Mountain Parks Electric (recipient and distributor of the hydroelectric power). Speakers included Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson, Northern Water President Mike Applegate, Colorado Water Conservation Board Director James Eklund, Mountain Parks Electric General Manager Tom Sifers, Grand County District 2 Commissioner Merrit Linke and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Area Manager Signe Snortland.

RMNP, Roosevelt Forest scars slow to heal from fire, flood — Fort Collins Coloradoan

High Park Fire June 14, 2012
High Park Fire June 14, 2012

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Stephen Meyers):

Scorched by the High Park Fire and washed out by the historic 2013 flood, Poudre Canyon’s once popular Young Gulch Trail remains closed to Northern Colorado hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.

The one-two fire-flood punch has left scars that haven’t yet healed and outdoor lovers with fewer places to play, which has frustrated some recreational groups.

The natural disasters scoured away the first half-mile of the Young Gulch Trail, one of the most popular trails in the Poudre Canyon.

It is one of about 20 Northern Colorado recreation areas still closed nearly three years after the flood wiped out trails, roads and fishing access in Roosevelt National Forest, Rocky Mountain National Park and Big Thompson Canyon.

The damage is so severe, some areas may never reopen.

“I think people understand that this was a pretty dramatic change to our landscape,” U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Reghan Cloudman said. “This is a long rebuilding process.”

Long and expensive.

While a $329,000 project has begun to rebuild Young Gulch Trail, the best case scenario is for the trail to reopen in late 2017. A more realistic goal is 2018.

The U.S. Forest Service estimates it will take $6.3 million to rebuild the recreation areas damaged on Roosevelt National Forest’s Canyon Lakes Ranger District west of Fort Collins.

The deluge caused approximately $10 million of damage in Rocky Mountain National Park, which bounced back from the flood and 2013 government shutdown to post back-to-back record visitation totals in 2014 and 2015. The park is on pace this year to beat its 2015 visitation record of 4.1 million visitors. But the park may take a massive hit to visitation this fall when repairs begin on flood-ravaged U.S. Highway 34 in Big Thompson Canyon, the gateway to the popular park.

As the U.S. Forest Service’s budget continues to dwindle, Canyon Lakes Ranger District must rely even more on Northern Colorado volunteers who last year dedicated more than 50,000 hours to trail projects. Only the Red Rocks District in Arizona received more volunteer hours in 2015.

“With the fire and then the flood, it’s definitely been a challenging time for us,” Cloudman said. “We’re adapting to how we do things. Cost-saving where we can, looking at creative ways to expand what we can do and move forward in the recovery efforts.”

One example: Working with partners like Wildland Restoration Volunteers and Great Outdoors Colorado, which helped secure funding for the Young Gulch Trail rebuild project through Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s State Trails Program.

With help from several volunteer organizations like Poudre Wilderness Volunteers, USFS has restored 63 percent of the 370 miles of flood-damaged roads on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grasslands, and 33 percent of the 157 miles of damaged trails, as of last year.

Fifteen campgrounds, day-use and river access facilities have been rebuilt, while 12 others have been decommissioned across the Canyon Lakes and Boulder ranger districts.

More than $100,000 and 10,000 hours have gone into reopening a portion of the North Fork Trail in Glen Haven. About as much money and work has been dedicated to the still-closed Lion Gulch Trail, which could open as early as September or as late as the summer of 2017, Cloudman said.

In Big Thompson Canyon, several fishing access areas were washed away and won’t be restored, including the North Fork and Glen Haven picnic sites and Idylwilde rest stop. Fishing access has been restored to Sleepy Hollow Park.

Cloudman said Canyon Lakes Ranger District hopes to offer more fishing access on the Big Thompson, one of Colorado’s premier fly-fishing destinations. Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates the Big Thompson sees 2,559 angler days per month, totaling an annual economic impact of $2.37 million.

But the forest service’s plans to add more fishing access won’t be finalized until the Colorado Department of Transportation’s rebuild of U.S. 34 from Loveland to Estes Park is complete in 2018 or 2019.

Construction of the highway poses an economical and ecological impact to the Big Thompson’s fishing industry.

The first part of CDOT’s massive rebuilding project on U.S. 34 begins after July 4, with rock blasting in the horseshoe area of the canyon, near milepost 78.4.

The brunt of the work begins in October, after tourist season. Road crews will blast away the mountainside near the defunct Idylwilde Dam, a once-popular area for anglers. It remains to be seen if CDOT will completely close the highway for five months or enact temporary closures, allowing access during peak hours.

“If our guides don’t have access to the river, then obviously it’s going to affect business,” Christiansen said. “I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but it’s not like we have anything in our control.”

The same impact is happening on already popular hiking trails such as Greyrock and Hewlett Gulch, which are near Young Gulch Trail.

Cloudman said both trails have seen an uptick in visitors since the Young Gulch closure. In 2012, the trails averaged 44 and 33 people a day, respectively, with 70-80 visiting on the weekends.

But during last week’s Memorial Day weekend, more than 100 cars parked at Greyrock and along the shoulder of Colorado Highway 14 each day while passengers hiked the 7,513-foot peak.

Prior to its closure, Young Gulch averaged 37 daily visitors, with 75 on the weekends. Thanks to its close proximity to Fort Collins, the multiuse trail was popular with hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.

But the 4.9-mile trail that meanders up Young Gulch and Prairie Gulch — crossing a stream about 20 times — was scoured by the flood, cutting 2- to 3-foot-deep ruts in the gulch and rerouting the stream channel.

The trail requires an extensive rebuild, essentially a move out of the floodplain.

“A monumental task,” Cloudman said.

In 2014, the forest service debated whether to even rebuild the trail. The agency held public meetings to gather feedback and developed an environmental analysis of the sustainability of the trail.

“It came down to, if we can find a good place and a good way to build a new, sustainable trail, then we absolutely will do it,” Cloudman said.

The new trail design will reduce the number of stream crossings by almost one third, move more of the trail out of the flood zone and provide a more sustainable route, Cloudman said. It will remain open to all users.

Working in a steep, constrained canyon won’t be easy for trail crews, which include Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, Overland Mountain Bike Club, Poudre Wilderness Volunteers and the Larimer County Conservation Corps.

Until the new trail is completed, hikers must endure the trail closure, marked by the closed gates, barricades and cones that have become a common site in the forest since flood and fire changed the landscape.

Construction will close US 34 from October 2016 to June 2017 — CDOT

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

From the Colorado Department of Transportation via The Estes Park Trail-Gazette:

The Colorado Department of Transportation announced today that beginning in late October and continuing through early June of 2017, travel on U.S. Highway 34 between Estes Park and Loveland will be limited to Big Thompson Canyon residents only seven days a week.

Permitted residents will be allowed access between the hours of 6 to 8:30 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.

The highway will remain open this summer to traffic in both directions, but when work begins in July, there will be short-duration lane closures for general construction activities and traffic stops for rock blasting work between Mile Points 77 and 81 (from just east of Drake to the Cedar Cove area). People driving through this area should plan for up to 20- to 30-minute delays throughout the summer.

This fall when travel is restricted to canyon residents, only drivers displaying the requisite vehicle permit will be allowed to follow pilot cars in either the eastbound or westbound direction between Drake and Cedar Cove. With the closure area being about 3 ½ miles long, canyon residents will encounter some delays as each pilot car completes its passage through the work zone and is ready to make the return trip in the opposite direction. This phase of work, which will focus on the east end of the canyon between mile markers 77 – 80, will start in October and continue through early June 2017.

“We took into consideration all the public comments received in several public meetings, emails and phone calls, conversations with emergency service provides, school bus drivers, city agencies and various other project partners, when we developed this traffic management plan for the first phase of work between Drake and Loveland,” said James Usher, U.S. 34 Big Thompson Canyon Project Director.

The only access to U.S. 34 from late October through June 2017 will be canyon residents, emergency services and people doing business in the canyon (i.e. waste haulers, propane companies, package delivery, etc.) through permits. In September, CDOT will distribute detailed information on how to obtain permits and how this process will work.

All others will need to use U.S. High 36 and Colorado Highway 66 to travel between Estes Park and Loveland.

“We realize that while this traffic control schedule accommodates most of the concerns we heard from the community, it won’t address every concern and cater to everyone’s personal schedule. In the interest of maintaining safe access to canyon residents and completing this first phase of rock blasting work as quickly as possible, it was determined that this was the best option available,” said Usher.

This traffic control schedule also enables most of the stringent travel restrictions to occur during the tourism “off season” to minimize the impact on area businesses. While there will be traffic impacts in subsequent summers that include sections of one-lane travel through the canyon, this summer there will only be short-term traffic stops when blasting work is done. Through travel will be maintained in the canyon this summer and all businesses will be open and accessible.

U.S. 34 Big Thompson Canyon was heavily damaged during the 2013 floods with many homes damaged and more than 100 air-lifted evacuations performed. The canyon and its residents also suffered from flooding in 1976. As a result of these two events, CDOT has been studying the hydraulic flow of the river in the canyon and its impact on the road and bridges along its path while looking for safety improvements and resiliency solutions to prevent/protect against future flood events.

CDOT Project Information

For updates to this project, the public may call (720) 263-1589 or visit http://www.codot.gov/projects/floodrelatedprojects/us-34-big-thompson-canyon-1. To sign up for “CDOT Alerts” on projects in your chosen area, visit CDOT’s website http://atwww.codot.gov and choose the envelope icon at the bottom of the page. Or, to see CDOT’s lane closure reports for projects statewide, visit http://www.codot.gov/travel/scheduled-lane-closures.html. Major CDOT project updates are also available via CoTrip.org, Twitter @coloradodot or Facebook.

#Runoff news: Bureau of Reclamation increases water releases at Lake Estes — Loveland Reporter-Herald

Olympus Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation.
Olympus Dam photo via the US Bureau of Reclamation.

From the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth) via the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

With the warmer weather and more snow melting, runoff is increasing, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

In a press release Sunday, a Reclamation spokesman said the agency planned to increase releases from Olympus Dam in Estes Park on Sunday from 125 cubic feet per second to 175 cfs.

“Please be safe around the river,” spokesman Peter Soeth said.

The dam at Lake Estes is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

For updates on water releases from the dam, visit http://www.facebook.com/LakeEstesandOlyDam.

Fort Collins: Area’s First Regional Water Collaboration Workshop, May 31

stopcollaborateandlistenbusinessblog

Here’s the release from the City of Fort Collins:

The City of Fort Collins is hosting a regional water collaboration workshop for water providers serving the City’s Growth Management Area (GMA), including Fort Collins Utilities, East Larimer County Water District (ELCO) and Fort Collins-Loveland Water District (FCLWD), Tuesday, May 31, 4-8 p.m., Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins.

This workshop is focused on recognizing opportunities and discussion will identify needs over the next 20 to 50 years that can be cooperatively addressed. Plans show Fort Collins is expected to grow to approximately 250,000 people in that timeframe, offering a compelling reason to address water needs of the entire area.

The City anticipates approximately 25 attendees, including Fort Collins City Council, professional staff from Fort Collins Utilities, and board members and professional staff from ELCO and FCLWD. This is a public listening session.

Meeting attendees may submit comments at http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2710179/Regional-Water-Collaboration-Comment-Form until June 14, or via a written form at the workshop.

Note: Because members of City Council may attend this event, it is being regarded as a meeting of the City Council and is open to the public. While no formal action by Council will be taken, the discussion of public business may occur.

For more information, contact Water Resources and Treatment Operations Manager Carol Webb at cwebb@fcgov.com or 970-221-6231 or V/TDD 711.

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.