HB 12-1178 groundwater dewatering project update

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

From the South Platte Sentinel (Forrest Hershberger):

The Logan County Commissioners Tuesday received a report on an effort to lower the water level in the Pawnee Ridge and Country Club Hills subdivisions…

The legislature approved HB 12-1178 which was authored to address the rising ground water in the three communities.

In November 2015, the Logan County Commissioners agreed to act as the fiscal agent for a grant application for projects to correct the problem.

Tuesday the commissioners met with a geologist from the Colorado [Division of Water Resources].

Andy Horn, a geologist, is working with homeowners in the subdivisions who have been affected by high water. In some places, the water table is within inches of the ground surface. Horn approached the commissioners Tuesday about acting as the fiscal agent for a grant application.

He said there will be two applications, one for Pawnee Ridge and the second for the Country Club Hills subdivision.

“The issues in each subdivision are different,” Horn said.

He said HB 12-1178 allocates grant funding for two fiscal years. The Sterling subdivisions will be competing with Gilcrest and LaSalle communities for a share of the $290,000 budgeted.

The plan for the Pawnee Ridge subdivision includes piping water from dewatering wells and discharging it into the Gentz pond. Two wells will be manifold together and a flow meter installed. Horn expects about 400 gallons per minute to be discharged from the wells.

Another area of Pawnee Ridge, near Dakota Road and Westwood Drive, have only a couple of houses with issues, he said. The proposal includes installation of a subsurface drain along Westwood Drive.

He said there is one area that in December had water about six inches below ground level.

“We’ve got applications and also prepared right of way requests for Dakota Road,” he said.

The project in Country Club Hills could involve easements on land under the trust of the board of county commissioners, according to Horn.

The project will also include excavating and installation of a sump by Cottonwood Lane under Forest Road. The pipeline would be four to six inches and move about 100 gpm, he said. Horn said the pipe is bigger than needed. The design is to decrease the resistance.

“The water table doesn’t seem to be rising as much as Pawnee Ridge,” Horn said.

Power for the pump will be paid the first couple of years by a grant, according to Horn.

The Commissioners and County Attorney Alan Samber expressed concern with leaving the cost of the pump’s energy to individual landowners. Samber said a special tax district.

Horn said he would like applications completed and submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation District board by the end of February. The board meets in March.

Urban Waterways Restoration Study: Upcoming Alternative Meetings – Public Meeting #2

From email from the Urban Waterways Restoration Study:

Open House #2
for the
South Platte River:
Wednesday
January 20th, 5:30 – 7:30 pm,
R.E.I.
1416 Platte St.

2 hrs of Free Parking available for this meeting in R.E.I’s underground parking structure.

Open House #2
for
Weir Gulch:
Tuesday
February 2nd, 5:30 – 7:30pm,
Barnum Rec Center
360 Hooker St.

Give us your feedback on alternatives

  • Open House Format from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Formal Presentation of the preliminary alternatives’ range of options will be from 6:00 – 6:45 p.m for South Platte and from 5:45 – 6:30 for Weir Gulch.
  • This is a family-friendly event. Light refreshments will be provided. Spanish language interpretation will be available. Other language interpretation can be provided by contacting us at our website.
Denver City Park sunrise
Denver City Park sunrise

The latest e-News from Northern Water is hot off the presses

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

Snow accumulation season looks promising
Colorado’s 2016 snowpack is off to a good start. Most of the state’s river basins have above normal snowpack, and more importantly, above normal snow water equivalent readings. Northern Water monitors two river basins for forecasting – the Upper Colorado and the South Platte – which are at 99 percent and 105 percent of average, respectively, as of Jan. 14, 2016. Colorado’s statewide snowpack is 104 percent of average.

Precipitation in the mountains over the next few months will help determine the 2016 water supply. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a higher probability of above average precipitation for Colorado over the next three months. Beginning in February Northern Water will release monthly streamflow forecasts and which will be available here.

precipitationoutlook1217thru03312016cpc

Rio Grande Basin Roundtable meeting recap

Basin roundtable boundaries
Basin roundtable boundaries

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Some folks were a bit wary of a request this week from a Denver metro group for financial assistance with a water project that local water leaders were concerned might facilitate water exportation from the San Luis Valley to the Front Range.

Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, asked members of the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable water group this week for $10,000 from the roundtable’s basinallocated funds for the WISE (Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency) Project.

Hecox made his initial presentation this week and will return next month with the formal funding request. He told local roundtable members he had already visited the other eight basin roundtable groups throughout the state and they had been supportive of putting $10,000 each into this project in an effort to show cross-basin cooperation and support for local projects.

Hecox said the basin support would help leverage money from other sources and serve as a cash match. He said while most of the basin roundtables committed to $10,000 each, the metro basin committed $40,000 and the South Platte roundtable $15,000 towards the WISE project.

Hecox explained that the South Metro Water Supply Authority is made up of 13 independent water providers that serve areas like Highlands Ranch, Parker and Castle Rock.

What brought these groups together, Hecox explained, was their common issue of having non-tributary nonrenewable groundwater as their water supply. The group has been working together towards a better water source solution since the 1960’s and 1970’s , Hecox said, and had participated in the Two Forks Project, a dam project that never materialized . “Two Forks going away didn’t change the need for storage,” he said. To roundtable member Charlie Spielman’s comment that Two Forks was being built one gravel pit at a time, Hecox said rather than one big bucket, there are lots of smaller buckets filling that same need, and there are a lot of gravel pits being used for water storage.

“That’s not a component of our project,” he said. The authority has tried to reduce water use through significant conservation efforts , he added, and the per capita water use in their communities has decreased by 30 percent since the 2000’s .

The latest idea prompting the WISE project is to partner with Denver and Aurora water providers, which do have renewable supplies, to reuse their municipal effluent , Hecox explained. The WISE project will encompass a treatment facility that will treat that water so it can be distributed to participating communities through existing pipelines. The authority purchased the pipeline for $34 million, Hecox said, which is being changed from its original use to be used for this project.

The authority will pay Denver and Aurora $5.50 per thousand gallons to use their water supplies, pipe the water, treat it and distribute it to about two million people in the South Metro Water Supply Authority area.

Groundwater and surface water will be comingled in the pipeline, Hecox explained . He said the funding being requested from roundtables as a local match will help build a treatment plant for the groundwater, which will cost about $6.4 million.

The authority is combining $5.4 million in matching funds and will submit a grant request for $915,000, according to Hecox.

Hecox said the Rio Grande Roundtable should support this project because it addresses the statewide gap between supply and demand and because it would support the new approach of regional partnerships to address water issues throughout the state.

Hecox said that the communities in the South Metro authority have, much like many water users in the Rio Grande Basin (San Luis Valley), relied on groundwater resources, so they are trying to become mores sustainable, and the option of reusing Denver/Aurora effluent is one method of accomplishing that. The WISE project will allow area water resources to be reused multiple times, Hecox explained.

The water that the authority will be buying from Denver and Aurora was previously going down the South Platte, Hecox said.

“This will use water that was going downstream,” he said.

He added that Aurora had a few short-term leases on its water previously, but this would be a permanent one.

The authority is guaranteed supplies from Denver and Aurora until 2030, he said.

Roundtable member Steve Vandiver, general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, said this seemed to be opening up a new distribution system for the entire metro area that would make it easier to import water from other parts of the state, such as the Valley. He added that there is an export project currently proposed in the northern part of the San Luis Valley, and there have been continuous overtures over time from water speculators wishing to benefit from exporting water out of the Valley. It would seem that the WISE project would fit right into their plans, he said.

Hecox admitted the WISE project would not meet all of the metro water needs in the future, and the authority is looking at other water sources such as a cooperative project with Denver and the West Slope as well as an alternative agriculture transfer program in the South Platte Basin.

He said when the authority began the WISE project it was looking at a need for 60,000 acre feet of reusable supplies. With the WISE project, the authority is now looking in the 15,000-30 ,000-acre-foot range “above and beyond this,” he said.

He said some of Aurora’s water supply is coming from the Arkansas Basin “but none from the San Luis Valley/Rio Grande Basin.”

He said, “To my knowledge Aurora is not looking at any supplies in the Valley or the Rio Grande.”

Vandiver said the likely plumbing for any export from the San Luis Valley would be through the Arkansas Basin.

The plan we have seen would come out of here to the Arkansas,” Vandiver said. “This completes the pipeline from us to south metro ” The concern for us is that’s not necessarily a good thing for the Valley.”

Hecox said when this project began, Denver water leaders were concerned their water would be used for additional growth in Douglas County, and there are areas that are zoned, platted and designated for development, but the houses have not yet been built. He added that developers in Douglas County had not yet approached the metro water authority or its members to use the WISE project water.

He said the purpose of the WISE project would be to reuse existing water supplies for existing communities.

The roundtable took no action on Hecox’s request this week but may do so next month.

Iliff: FEMA dough on the way for emergency repairs to waterlines

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art
Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Bryson Brug):

At Iliff’s town board meeting Wednesday night the board got some long awaited good news. Jim Raymond, a representative of FEMA, and Dennis Freeman, a representative of Highline Electric, were on hand to give the board updates on the funds for the town’s much needed water line repairs.

According to Raymond the emergency work, which involved putting in a temporary pipeline and weatherizing it, has already been completed. He explained that a check for 90 percent of the cost of the emergency repair will be sent to the town, while he wants to get the request through a cursory review before the permanent work can begin. But he stressed that this was the first request they received for 2016 and as fast as it is moving, the permanent work, which involves putting in the permanent pipe and increasing the size of the overall water mains, will be done by the spring runoff.

He also explained that FEMA paying for 90 percent is not the normal rate. Normally they would cover 75 percent of the price and the town would be responsible for the other 25 percent. Raymond explained that FEMA understands that with the size of the job, 25 percent is still more than the town can pay, which is why they are covering 90 percent.

“This is the right thing to do to help out,” Raymond said.

Big Thompson Canyon permanent repairs from 2013 flooding = $129 million, projected start this spring

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):

Construction on U.S. 34 permanent repairs in Big Thompson Canyon could come as early as spring, and initial estimates show it could cost much more than anticipated.

The total corridor project cost is set at $129 million, which comes from the $450 million of federal money allocated to all 2013 flood repairs, according to Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Jared Fiel.

CDOT Project Leader James Usher spoke to the Board of Larimer County Commissioners Tuesday morning about the project and education planned for residents — town meetings are planned for Loveland and Estes Park a month prior to construction, though no firm dates have yet been set. Agency officials will also host a telephone town hall, neighborhood meetings and update residents and business owners via a newsletter.

Engineers initially split the construction plans into 10 segments to be completed in packages, or phases, Fiel said, which could include several segments at a time.

They estimated that the first package, east of Idylwilde, would cost about $15 million, but the price estimates from the industry came in closer to $40 million, Usher said. That phase would cover about 150,000 cubic yards of rock work.

The main reason the price came in so high, Usher said, is because all the material that would be generated for repairs was going to have to be trucked in and out of the canyon.

But Usher said the project team is looking at potential solutions and reducing some of those risks, which will lead to a significant price drop…

Usher said CDOT is aiming to minimize the inconvenience to the public and residents along the corridor while maximizing safety.

Much of the design work was completed in the past six months, he said, and now the focus is on prioritizing work while conducting public outreach. The project itself could take about two years.

Cache la Poudre update: NISP could diminish spring streamflow

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott) via Newser.com:

A picturesque Colorado river with a peculiar French name is the latest prize in the West’s water wars, where wilderness advocates usually line up against urban and industrial development.

This showdown has a new force: City dwellers who say a vibrant river flowing past their streets, parks and buildings is essential to their community’s identity and well-being.

The Cache la Poudre — pronounced KASH luh POO-dur — got its name in the early 1800s, when French fur trappers cached gunpowder on its banks. Long a vital source of water for drinking and irrigation, it has become a treasured slice of nature in the booming towns and cities along Colorado’s Front Range corridor…

A group of 15 cities and water districts wants to divert water from the lower Poudre, below the mountains, when the river is running highest and pump it into a new reservoir. The $600 million Northern Integrated Supply Project would capture water Colorado is legally entitled to keep but has no place to store, backers say.

Since 2009, Colorado could have kept another 1.3 trillion gallons from the South Platte and its tributaries, including the Poudre, but it flowed east to Nebraska because there was no place to put it, said Brian Werner, a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is overseeing the project.

This debate has all the elements of a traditional Western water fight.

Backers say they need to lock up future sources of drinking water for Colorado’s fast-growing population amid the recurring droughts and uncertainty of a changing climate.

Opponents want to prevent any more losses to the “in-stream flow” of the river, already so drained by irrigation and municipal systems that short stretches run dry nearly every summer.

River advocates also want to preserve the annual spring surge that comes from melting snow, which keeps the streambed healthy by flushing out sediment and provides a thrilling ride for kayakers. They say the reservoir project could reduce the kayaking season from an average of 54 days to 35 days a year.

Rising to the surface is the argument that a vibrant urban river flowing through Fort Collins, Greeley and the towns between them is an essential part of the coveted Colorado lifestyle, where even urban residents can connect with nature.

“This is like in-stream flow for human organisms and for the replenishment and well-being of the soul,” said Patty Limerick, Colorado’s state historian and faculty director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado.

Rivers have long been guarded as cultural assets around the United States and beyond, said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a nationwide network of local advocacy groups.

“It’s an argument we’ve been making for a long time,” Kennedy said. “It’s a longstanding recognition of the relationship between wilderness and free-flowing waters and America’s cultural and political institutions.”

…sections of the river are lined with parks and pathways, including the 20-mile Poudre Trail upstream from Greeley. Restoration programs are in the works, and Fort Collins plans a kayak course on the river in the city.

A big change came in 1986, when 76 miles of the upper Cache la Poudre were designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, protected by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service from changes that could harm its cultural and recreational importance. In 2009, Congress designated the river as a National Heritage Area, formally encouraging a community-driven approach to preserving its natural, cultural, and historic resources.

But preserving water resources is a challenge in the arid West, even for the most beloved river, and cultural arguments have no easy path through Colorado’s complex legal system, which includes a separate water court to settle disputes.

Colorado lawmakers established a narrowly defined recreational water right for kayak courses in 2001, but experts say setting aside water for cultural values would have to be negotiated among the state and owners of water rights.

Environmental reviews of the reservoir project continue and obtaining the necessary state and federal permits could take years. Lawsuits are probably inevitable, and no construction date has been set…

The project’s backers recognize the river’s cultural value and are working to protect it, Werner said. The new reservoir might even be able to release enough water to avoid the periodic dry-ups, he said.

“We’re trying to do right by the river, we really are,” he said.