Fort Collins launches mountain tunnel project — Fort Collins Coloradoan

Photo via https://www.herrenknecht.com
Photo via https://www.herrenknecht.com

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

A custom-built tunnel boring machine has been “launched” into a mountain side near Cameron Pass as part of Fort Collins Utilities project aimed at restoring and protecting Michigan Ditch.

As of Friday, the tunneling machine built by Akkerman of Brownsdale, Minnesota, had dug 91 feet into the mountain, said Diana Royval, spokesperson for Fort Collins Utilities.

“Everything is going very well and is even a little ahead of schedule,” Royval stated in an email to the Coloradoan.

Last year, a slow-moving landslide heavily damaged a piped section of Michigan Ditch, which carries water to city-owned Joe Wright Reservoir.

To ensure delivery of the ditch’s water, city officials decided to bore an 800-foot-long, 8-foot-diameter, slightly curved tunnel into bedrock and run a pipe through it.

When the tunnel is complete, a 60-inch pipe made from a fiberglass-type material will be installed and connected to the ditch, which originates in the upper Michigan River basin.

The tunnel boring machine is 27 feet long and weighs 58,000 pounds. It is “driven” by an operator who sits inside the machine. A conveyance belt and ore cars run out the back of the machine carrying material generated by a rotating cutting head.

Construction on the project is expected to be finished by fall with the ditch back in operation for spring runoff in 2017, city officials say.

Michigan Ditch photo via AllTrails.com
Michigan Ditch photo via AllTrails.com

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.

Greeley leaders express concern about Weld County water pipeline regulations — The Greeley Tribune

pipeline

From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):

Greeley leaders are leery of the county’s proposed water rules.

The Board of Weld County Commissioners is working to regulate water pipeline construction. The board discussed the proposed rules during a meeting Monday morning, and a handful of Greeley officials expressed their concerns.

As they are written now, the proposed rules would make many organizations get a special permit before they start building. This permit requires a lengthy application process and two public hearings.

There are exemptions, though. One of them says municipal users don’t have to go through the process.

That’s not specific enough for Greeley leaders, said Mayor Tom Norton.

“The fact of the matter is there’s a lot of legal language in there that allows for attorneys to argue and debate,” he told the board.

Future commissioners might take advantage of the vague wording to fight the city’s water development, he said. So could water project opponents, like the ones northern Colorado saw during the public hearings for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP.

NISP aims to help cure the region’s water woes by diverting from the Cache la Poudre River via pipeline into two newly constructed reservoirs. Fifteen organizations, including towns and water districts in Weld, will benefit from the addition if it gets approved.

Most opponents are in Larimer, but the infrastructure would cut through both counties.

“I’d hate to see them use your own rules against you,” Norton said.

He proposes naming all organizations that are exempt by name.

“It seems to me it would be a lot more straightforward and simple to say, ‘city of Greeley is exempt,’ ” he said.

The county commissioners said they found the recommendation confusing. The current language excludes all Weld County municipalities, including Greeley, just not specifically by name.

“That’s exactly what this says,” said Commissioner Mike Freeman. “The way it’s currently written, you don’t have to get any kind of permit.”

Greeley leaders might be predisposed to getting nervous about water pipeline regulations after the snags they hit during the Bellvue project.

They’re working to build a 30-mile, 60-inch pipeline from the city’s water treatment plant in Bellvue, north of Fort Collins, down to Greeley. Residents near the pipe’s path have been fighting the project for years in various creative ways, including getting parts of the proposed site listed on historic registers.

Greeley got permission for the project before Larimer County adopted its water pipeline rules, and some say the rules were only adopted because of the Greeley project. Residents wanted Larimer to get Greeley to go through the new process, retrofitting the rules, in an attempt to block Greeley’s project.

“As commissioners are supposed to do, they responded to their constituents,” said Jon Monson, who was the water and sewer director at the time.

In the end, Greeley didn’t have to go through the process.

Situations with disgruntled residents like these have put the Bellvue pipeline project years behind. Originally, planners said it would be finished in 2013. It’s still under construction.

The Weld County commissioners didn’t seem on board with Mayor Norton’s idea.

They said the current exemption is already clear enough, and that exempting only Greeley by name wouldn’t be fair.

“I think the exemption he’s seeking is already there,” said Commissioner Sean Conway.

As for future county leaders, Commissioner Julie Cozad said they would have an arsenal of tools to interpret the law, not just the law’s language.

“If there’s ever a question on the intent, there’s always the public record to go back to,” she said.

In #Colorado, Farmers and Cities Battle Over Water Rights — NPR

Flood irrigation -- photo via the CSU Water Center
Flood irrigation — photo via the CSU Water Center

From NPR (Liz Baker):

The City of Thornton is one of many growing suburbs of Denver, Colo. On a day without much traffic, it’s only a 20-minute commute into the state capitol, and its new homes with big yards make it an attractive bedroom community. Nearly 130,000 people live there, and the population is expected to keep booming.

All that big growth comes with a big need for water. In the 1980s, Thornton placed its hopes in the Two Forks Dam project, which would have provided the city with enough water well into the future. But when that project started to seem uncertain, Thornton started looking for another source.

“We essentially embarked on a plan to purchase a large quantity of water rights associated with irrigated agriculture in Larimer and Weld Counties,” Water Resources Manager for the City of Thornton, Emily Hunt says…

That town’s mayor, Butch White, says the town was outraged when they found out that Thornton, an urban city, was behind the purchases. Some of that anger was because of property taxes — since Thornton is a municipality, it is exempt from paying taxes on all that land surrounding the community — taxes that used to support the local school and fire districts.

There was also a deeper reason for Ault’s hard feelings: According to Colorado water law, once a water right is converted from agricultural to municipal use, that land is permanently dried out. Irrigation, and therefore agriculture, can never return to that property. And agriculture had supported the town of Ault for a century.

This process called “Buy and Dry” is the result of the West’s Gold-Rush era water laws that follow a simple rule: first in right, first in use. That means people with longer links to a property, for example, a farmer whose family has been on a piece of land since pioneer days gets water priority over someone who hasn’t been there as long…

Thornton got approval [ed. a water court decree] to divert its water shares from Ault, but that came with a lot of stipulations which make the conversion a slow process. And for its part, Thornton believes it has done a fair job of managing the situation. It pays Ault a voluntary payment in lieu of property taxes, and plants native grasses on the dried up farms…

Eventually, Thornton will build a pipeline to divert water from Ault to their city 60 miles away.

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.

Organizers expect record attendance at Poudre RiverFest — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

From the Fort Collins Coloradan (Jacy Marmaduke):

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.

Here’s the Poudre River Fest website with all the inside skinny.

#Runoff news: Cache la Poudre streamflow = 2,310 cfs yesterday

Cache la Poudre River
Cache la Poudre River

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The more than an inch of rain that fell over the last 24 hours in parts of Fort Collins has helped push the Poudre River to its highest flow of the season.

At 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, the Poudre was flowing at 2,310 cubic feet per second in Fort Collins, which is about five times the average flow on this date. The flow was slightly higher overnight.

Fort Collins is expected to pick up additional rain, but 9News is forecasting less than .10 of an inch of additional rain [May 18].