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.
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 email@example.com or 970-221-6231 or V/TDD 711.
The third annual Poudre RiverFest will combine music, food, beer and environmentally focused activities at Fort Collins’ Legacy Park on Saturday, June 4.
The free event will take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Festival organizers are still seeking volunteers.
The festival, a revamped version of the annual Poudre cleanup that took place in the ’90s and ’00s, will include activities that highlight the river’s role as a habitat for wildlife, a recreation area and a source of clean drinking water. Educational and volunteer activities are planned throughout the day, and a celebration with live music, food and a beer garden will begin at 11 a.m. Performers will include Justin Roth, Grant Farm, and Mama Lenny and the Remedy.
Organizers anticipate an attendance of about 5,000 people, up from about 2,000 last year.
Eight area organizations are putting on the festival: Save the Poudre, Sustainable Living Association, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, Synergy Ecological Restoration, National Association for Interpretation, Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed, CSU Environmental Learning Center and Wildlands Restoration Volunteers.
Anyone interested in volunteering at the festival should visit poudreriverfest.org/volunteer. Volunteers receive a T-shirt, one free beer at the event and a $5 Avogadro’s Number gift card. Volunteer orientation will take place at New Belgium on June 1 at 5:30 p.m.
Greeley water officials are continuing to push a new water rate system that would provide residents with incentives to cut their consumption, and local leaders are warming up to the idea.
The Water and Sewer Board went over the plan again during its meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Today, Greeley residents pay a flat rate for water that doesn’t take into account how much they use, and regionally, that’s rare.
“Really, Greeley and Loveland are the only cities left in northern Colorado that have uniform rates,” said Eric Reckentine, the department’s deputy director of water resources.
A few cities, such as Aurora and Colorado Springs, charge their residents in uniform blocks for usage.
Greeley officials find the blocks arbitrary. Someone who irrigates a lawn that’s 1,000 square feet obviously will use more water to do so than someone who owns a 500-square-foot lawn.
Greeley is opting for a tiered water rate based on a water budget, or calculated allowance, water planners give residents. Planners use the number of people in a household and the amount of land the resident could irrigate to decide how many gallons a month each home should use. They allot 55 gallons per person per day. They give a little more than two gallons per square foot of irrigable land.
A four-person family on an average lot would get 21,000 gallons per month.
Under the new plan, the family would pay $3.88 per 1,000 gallons within the budget, and the rate would increase incrementally as the water usage exceeded the budget.
There are four tiers. If residents are within budget, using 100 percent or less of the allotment, they get the reduced rate. If use falls between 100 and 130 percent of the allotment, it’s considered inefficient use, and it will cost $4.74 for each 1,000 gallons in that range. If residents keep overusing and get into the 130-150 percent of their allotment range, they’ll pay $6.04 for that segment. If they get past 150 percent of their allotment, that will cost $8.62 for every 1,000 gallons.
The extra cost didn’t come in increments when city officials first heard the plan in February. Anything outside the budgeted water was charged at the highest tier a resident hit.
“You paid that amount for all of it,” Mayor Tom Norton said during an interview. “It was kind of more of a punishment.”
Greeley and water department officials said the goal was to recover costs for overuse, which is about 300 acre-feet every year. An acre-foot of water is how much an average family uses in a year.
“That’s several million dollars worth of water,” Water Board Chairman Harold Evans said.
LOVELAND – Mike King, the new director of planning for Denver Water, said at a recent meeting that beyond additional transmountain diversions through the Moffatt Tunnel into an expanded Gross Reservoir near Boulder, Denver Water doesn’t have other Western Slope projects on its radar.
King served as executive director of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources from 2010 until January of this year, when he took the planning director job with Denver Water.
After speaking to a luncheon crowd of close to 200 at the Northern Water Conservancy District’s spring water users meeting in Loveland on April 13, King was asked from the audience “How much more water does Denver Water need from the Western Slope?”
“I think if we get Gross Reservoir approved, the answer is for the foreseeable future, you know, we need to do that first,” King said.
King is a native of Montrose, son of a water attorney, and has a journalism degree from CU Boulder, a law degree from the University of Denver, a master’s in public administration from CU Denver and 23 years of state government experience.
“And I can tell you that the reality is, whether it is from a permitting perspective or a regulatory perspective, the West Slope is going to be a very difficult place,” King continued. “If there is water available, it is going to be a last resort. And I so think that the answer is, that won’t be on our radar.”
Denver Water is seeking federal approval to raise the dam that forms Gross Reservoir, in the mountains west of Boulder, by 131 feet. That would store an additional 77,000 acre-feet of water and bring the reservoir capacity to 118,811 acre-feet. Ruedi Reservoir, by comparison, holds 102,373 acre-feet.
The $360 million project would provide 18,000 acre-feet of firm yield to Denver Water’s system and result in an additional 15,000 acre-feet of water being diverted from the West Slope each year. On average, Denver Water’s 1.3 million customers use about 125,000 acre-feet of West Slope water each year.
The water to fill an expanded Gross Reservoir would mainly come from tributaries of the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers, via the Moffat Tunnel, near Winter Park.
Beyond the Gross Reservoir project, King explained that any future Denver Water projects on the West Slope would need to fit within the confines of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, signed by Denver Water and 17 West Slope entities in 2013.
The CRCA, says that “if there is more water, it only comes after the West Slope says they agree with it and it makes sense,” King said. “That sets the bar so incredibly high and gives them the ultimate ability to say, ‘This is good for the West Slope.’
“And so I just don’t think Denver Water is going to be looking to the West Slope,” King continued. “I think anybody who manages natural resources, and water in particular, will never say ‘never’ to anything, but I think it is certainly not on our radar.”
Not on Denver Water’s radar, perhaps, but it is worth noting that Denver Water is the only major Front Range water provider to have signed the cooperative agreement with the West Slope.
When asked what he thought of King’s remarks about West Slope water, Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the Colorado River District said he thought the comments reflect “the concept that if Denver takes more water from the West Slope it could undermine the security/reliability of what they already take.”
Kuhn’s comment relates to the possibility that if Denver Water diverts too much water from the Western Slope, it could help trigger a compact call from the lower basin states, which could pinch Denver’s transmountain supply of water.
Editor’s note: Above is a recording of Mike King, the director of planning for Denver Water, speaking after lunch in front of about 200 people at Northern Water’s spring water users meeting, a public meeting held at The Ranch event center in Loveland on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. The recording, made by Aspen Journalism, begins shortly after King had begun his remarks. It is 26:34 in length. At 8:20, King discusses the development of the Colorado Water Plan. At 22:40, King answers a question about the governor’s endorsement of the Windy Gap project and another phrased as “How much more water does Denver Water need from the Western Slope?”)
A buoyant crowd
Earlier in the meeting engineers from Northern Water — which supplies water to cities and farms from Broomfield to Fort Collins — told the mix of water providers and water users from northeastern Colorado that they could expect an average spring runoff this year, both from the South Platte and the Colorado Rivers.
They were also told that Northern Water was making progress on its two biggest projects: the Windy Gap Firming Project, which includes construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir near Berthoud; and NISP, the Northern Integrated Supply Project.
NISP includes two new reservoirs, Glade and Galeton, to be filled with East Slope water from the Cache La Poudre River, which runs through Fort Collins and into the South Platte River.
Just before lunch, John Stulp, the special policy advisor on water to Gov. John Hickenlooper, read a surprise letter from the governor endorsing the Windy Gap project, which would divert an additional 9,000 acre-feet of water each year, on average, from the upper Colorado River and send it through a tunnel toward Chimney Hollow.
Windy Gap is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which diverts on average 260,000 acre-feet a year from the Western Slope.
The Windy Gap project does include environmental mitigation measures for the sake of the Colorado River, and has approval from the required state agencies and Grand County, but it still needs a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A political risk
After lunch, King shared some insights from his old job as head of the state’s department of natural resources.
“I think it’s important that you understand what the development of the state water plan looked like from the governor’s perspective and the state’s perspective,” King told his audience.
As head of DNR, King had oversight over the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which was specifically tasked by the governor in late 2013 to produce the state’s first-ever water plan, and to do so in just two years.
King said that he, Stulp and the governor knew that a water plan in Colorado could be “the place where political careers went to die.”
“So the thing we had to make sure that came out of this, knowing that we weren’t going to solve the state’s water issues in two years, was that we had to do this in a manner that politically, this was viewed as a big win, and that future governors and future elected officials would say, ‘We need to do this again and we need to continue this discussion,’” King said.
“Not because the governor needed a political win,” King added, “but because to have the next stage of the water plan, to have the discussion in five years, you can’t have an albatross around this, and I think we were able to do that, and so we’re very proud of that.
“If we had a political mushroom cloud, no one would have ever touched the Colorado Water Plan again,” King continued. “That meant we aimed a little bit lower than maybe we would have liked, and I’ve gotten this at Denver Water, talking about lost opportunities in the Colorado Water Plan. Maybe we did aim just a little bit lower than we should have.”
King said the state was not able to “reconcile the inherent conflicts” in the various basin implementation plans, or BIPs, that were put together by regional basin roundtables as part of the water planning process.
And he acknowledged that the plan has been criticized for not including a specific list of water projects supported by the state, and for reading more like a statement of problems and values than a working plan.
“One of things that has been driven home to me time and time again in the two months that I’ve been at Denver Water is that planning is not something you do every five or six years,” King said. “Planning is a continuous process.”
King also said that there were some “tremendous successes” in the water plan, including the basin implantation plans, or BIPs, even though they sometimes conflicted.
“We got BIPs from every single basin,” King said. “The basins turned over their cards and said ‘This is what we need.’ So now we have a major step forward.”
Other plan elements
King said other successes in the Colorado Water Plan include the stated goal of conserving 400,000 acre-feet of water by 2050 and a nod to changing land use planning in Colorado.
King said tying land use to water availability “was something we never discussed in Colorado because it infringed on local control and it was just kind of a boogieman in the room.”
But he pointed out that “the vast majority of the basin implementation plans said, expressly, ‘We need to have this discussion’ and ‘We need to start tying land use to water availability,’” King said. “That’s a good thing. That’s a major step forward.”
When it comes to land use and Denver Water, King said driving down the per capita use remained a high priority and that if Denver proper grows, it is going to grow up through taller buildings, not by sprawling outward.
King also said Denver Water was working to manage, and plan for, the already apparent effects of climate change, especially as spring runoff is now coming earlier than it used to.
“We know that the flows are coming earlier, we know that the runoff is coming earlier,” King said, noting that reality is causing Denver Water to plan for different scenarios and ask questions about storage and late summer deliveries of water.
“For us, the most immediate thing is, is that we know it’s getting warmer,” King said. “In the last 20 years we’ve seen that, the way the [run offs] are coming earlier. We know we’ve had catastrophic events that are incredibly difficult for us to manage. And so we’re trying to work through that.”
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 Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):
The passage will allow many fish species to migrate upstream to expand their habitat and seek refuge from predators — a move that will counteract habitat destruction without affecting agricultural use and water rights.
“We saw this as a win-win to work with North Poudre,” said Jennifer Shanahan, watershed planner with Fort Collins Natural Areas Department.
“Our goal is, over the next decade or two or three, to improve the river by creating more fish habitat.”
North Poudre Irrigation Co. was willing to work with the natural areas specialists and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to build one such diversion into the structure that pulls water from the Poudre River to fill Fossil Creek Reservoir.
The original diversion structure was constructed between 1902 and 1910 and was rebuilt in the 1980s. Then, the 2013 floods took out the entire structure.
The North [Poudre] Irrigation Co. built a new diversion structure in the same location, next to the Environmental Learning Center, last month.
Included in the $860,000 project, completed with a loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board was the fish passage, designed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“This is the first true fish passage to be constructed into an operation (on the Poudre) that has been a truly agricultural operation,” said Scott Hummer, general manager of the irrigation company.
Fort Collins Natural Areas Department, excited to cooperate on the project, pitched in $30,000.
The passage is designed with specially placed rocks that allow the fish to migrate upstream, stopping and resting behind the rocks when needed, Shanahan explained. Also, the pool at one side of the passage was crafted with rocks to create a specialized effect for the benefit of fish.
“Fish passage is only one piece of the puzzle,” said Shanahan. “It’s opening the door to get to the next level, sustained low flow.”
This means that there would always be a certain level of water in the river, which sometimes runs dry in areas depending upon how much water is being diverted for agricultural and domestic water use.
Natural areas officials understand the importance of water rights and are in no way wanting to challenge or limit those uses, Shanahan said.
What they hope to do, and what has been happening through a local coalition called The Poudre Runs Through It, is to bring those water users together with environmentalists, rafters, researchers and farmers to find creative ways to meet all needs of the river. That effort is underway.
“It’s a creative way that is not stepping on anyone’s water rights,” Shanahan said, stressing that it is important for water users to realize the goal includes maintaining their water rights.
Added Hummer, “It’s new ground for some people, so people are cautious.”
The group, and river specialists, hope to find a unique solution that will continue to improve the fish habitat in the river, which will benefit the health or the river as well as the recreation and habitat that surround the Poudre.
Get ready you flows from mountain snows!
Get ready you host of high mountain reservoirs,
who stores last year’s melt into the golden leaves
who releases life-giving flows to trout over-wintering,
beneath the ice you Poudre Wild and Scenic!
At your mouth, out into the high plains, a Heritage Corridor
forges the old Union Colony into the newer Greeley/Ft. Collins,
who bears the work of the farming and the laboring peoples
who lifts a White Pelican along a bikeway throughout her flyway,
into the gathering communities of we the young Centennial state!
Peterson Reservoir, Tributary to the Poudre Wild and Scenic River,
Flows into Poudre River National Heritage Corridor
Along the fence at Greeley’s Centennial Village Island Grove Park
The Poudre a working and singing river
Of soaring White Pelican
Of an onion farmer preparing to drip-irrigate a greening field
Kristin, Colorado Foundation for Water Education, welcomes the 2016 Water Fluency Leadership Class to a lunchtime BBQ
Nicole convenes the group on the grounds of the 1870 Union Colony
Mayor Tom Norton addresses
Learning and centering
Seaman Reservoir, upstream on the North Fork,
Readies to receive and deliver fresh-melt waters of the Great Divide.