Arkansas River: Voluntary flow program renewed — The Pueblo Chieftain

Caddis fly hatch photo via http://ValiValleyAnglers.com
Caddis fly hatch photo via http://ValiValleyAnglers.com

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Flows on the Upper Arkansas River support the most rafted river in the country and gold medal fisheries on a 102-mile reach.

A large part of that is the voluntary flow management agreement that has been in place for 25 years among Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and other water users.

The Southeastern district board unanimously renewed the agreement [April 21].

“Some of us have concentrated on the rafting, but there’s an awful lot of fishing going on,” said Jim Broderick, executive director.

The agreement maintains flows at Wellsville, just outside Salida, at 700 cubic feet per second from July 1 to Aug. 15 to support rafting. That’s achieved by timing the release of up to 10,000 acre-feet of Fryingpan- Arkansas water from Turquoise and Twin Lakes in Lake County.

“What a backyard we have here!” said Bob Hamel, an outfitter representing the Arkansas River Outfitters Association. “July is our busiest month, so the help you can give us is much appreciated.”

The program also helps fish by stabilizing flows during late summer, winter and spring.

For instance, during the caddis fly hatch which began this week, the flows on the Arkansas River are kept lower than they might naturally be, and even though it might be advantageous to move water in April.

“It’s an amazing balance. All these things are benefiting from the way you’ve been operating,” Hamel said.

Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org
Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org

Mark Pifher and Dallas May join the Southeastern #Colorado Water board of directors

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District
Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two new board members from opposite ends of the water spectrum joined the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.

Dallas May, 58, a farmer and rancher from the Lamar area, and Mark Pifher, 65, a former director of Aurora water, were appointed to the board by 10th Judicial District Chief Judge Deborah Eyler and sworn in Thursday.

Eyler consults with district judges from the areas where appointments are made, because the Southeastern district covers a nine-county area. Terms are for four years.

May is a fourth-generation farmer who owns water shares on the Fort Lyon Canal, Amity Canal, Lower Arkansas Water Management Association and other ditches in the area. He replaces Leonard Pruett, who served one term on the board.

“I’ve been passive and always thought someone else would make the decision,” May said. “But given some of the controversial issues going on, I decided it was time to get involved.”

May said he is most concerned with protecting the water rights of those who choose to continue farming.

“My concern is that irrigation water does not depart the valley and leave it a wasteland,” May said.
He also would like to see the completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit, the top priority project of the Southeastern district.

“It’s ironic and absurd that Rocky Mountain snowmelt flows past us and we have to buy bottled water,” May said, regarding the need for the conduit. “It’s absurd that people try to buy it and pipe it into another water basin.”

Pifher, 65, of Colorado Springs, replaces Harold Miskel on the board.

Miskel, a retired Colorado Springs Utilities executive, had served since 2002.

Pifher four years ago left Aurora water to work on the Southern Delivery System for Colorado Springs Utilities, retiring last year. He continues as a consultant on SDS and water quality issues. He is the former executive director of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.

His expertise on state water issues and additional time on his hands since his retirement led him to apply.

“I hope to continue the work already started by the district on the Arkansas Valley Conduit, the use of water resources and the opportunities for storage,” Pifher said. “I will give a municipal point of view to the board.”

Reappointed to the board were: Gibson Hazard of Colorado Springs, who has been on the board for 28 years; Kevin Karney, an Otero County rancher and commissioner, now in his eighth year; and Vera Ortegon of Pueblo, a former City Council and water board member, who has been on the board for 12 years.

Officers were elected as well. Bill Long of Las Animas is president; Gary Bostrom, Colorado Springs, vice president; Ortegon, secretary; and Ann Nichols, Manitou Springs, treasurer.

Southeastern #Colorado Water board meeting recap

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Full reservoirs in the Arkansas River basin point to the need for even more storage when dry years return, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District learned Thursday.

“I don’t think people realize how close we were to spilling water this year,” said Jim Broderick, executive director. “This is the reason you need more storage. People think of storage only during drought and when it’s flooding. We need to get past that and look at additional storage to capture more water.”

The storage situation may not be entirely settled, because heavy rain in May could mean some water safely stored may be released.

“Unless we have another Miracle May, we’ll be all right,” said Phil Reynolds, of the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

To get to “all right,” however, water users have cooperatively released water from Lake Pueblo to meet flood control requirements.

Capacity in Lake Pueblo was decreased by 11,000 acre-feet, to a total of 245,000 acre-feet, this year because of sedimentation. Space for 93,000 acre-feet is reserved for flood control after April 15. That was complicated this year because of high residual storage from 2015.

Aurora, whose water would be first to spill, leased its stored water to farmers last year. The Pueblo Board of Water Works used early leases to move some of its water out of storage, but still has higher than usual levels in reserve.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District moved about 1,500 acre-feet into the permanent pool at John Martin. Colorado Parks and Wildlife moved 5,000 acre-feet of water it leased into Trinidad Reservoir.

But the valley may be running out of places to store water.

“Moving forward in how we move and manage water, storage is a key component,” said Alan Hamel, who was president of the Southeastern district board when the Preferred Storage Option Plan was developed and now represents the basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “This basin needs water storage in the upper basin, more in Pueblo and below Pueblo.”

PSOP, which developed in the late 1990s, was abandoned by the district after multiparty negotiations broke down in 2007, but certain elements moved ahead. One of those was how excess capacity in Lake Pueblo could be better used.

Right now, there are about 27,000 acre-feet of water in the so-called if-and-when accounts that might be vulnerable to spills. Another 57,000 acre-feet of winter water likely would not spill this year, unless more water than expected is collected through the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

About 65,000 acrefeet of Fry-Ark water is expected to be brought into Turquoise Lake through the Boustead Tunnel, if conditions remain average, said Roy Vaughan, manager of the project for the Bureau of Reclamation.

“But that’s a moving target,” Vaughan said.

"Miracle May" -- Upper Colorado River Basin May 2015 precipitation as a percent of normal
“Miracle May” — Upper Colorado River Basin May 2015 precipitation as a percent of normal

SECWCD and Reclamation sew up master storage contract

lakepueblomarinanearpueblowest

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

In the world of water it happened in the blink of an eye.

Terms for a master contract for excess capacity storage in Lake Pueblo were negotiated between the Bureau of Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District in January in a four-hour session.

“That’s unheard of in recent history,” attorney Lee Miller said.

The negotiations for Aurora’s storage contract in Lake Pueblo, Southern Delivery System and the Windy Gap project by the Northern Water Conservancy District took weeks or months to complete and were hotly contested.

The Southeastern district used those negotiations to streamline its own process. The district had the advantage of preparing for the meeting for 13 years, Miller added.

The terms are essentially the same as SDS gained during its negotiations with the Bureau of Reclamation in 2010. The storage rate will be $40.04 cents per acre-foot (325,851 gallons) in 2017, and increase in subsequent years.

Colorado Springs Utilities, which led SDS negotiations, was stunned in 2010 when Reclamation announced it would use a market rate rather than cost of service in determining storage charges for long-term contracts.

Southeastern avoided the surprise.

“We worked hard for the last four years to determine the factual basis for the rates,” Miller said.

The contract potentially could be used by water providers from Salida to Eads. In its environmental impact statement, Reclamation modeled impacts for 37 water providers who would need nearly 30,000 acre-feet of storage through 2060.

Many of the participants are planning to use the Arkansas Valley Conduit, while others (Fountain, Security and Pueblo West) also have a contract through SDS.

“Now that we have a contract, we will begin working on subcontract with the participants,” Miller said. “Once we get a contract with an actual number (for storage), Reclamation will put it out for public review.”

“…eventually land use planning and water planning will have to come together” — Alan Hamel

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Nearly 20 years ago, Alan Hamel was fretting about the need for more water storage in the Arkansas Valley.

He’s still on the case.

“This is a good year to talk about water storage, as we did in 1999,” Hamel told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board this week. “If we had built it, we would have an additional 75,000 acre-feet of storage.”

At the time, Hamel was president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which had come up with the Preferred Storage Options Plan. The plan proved unworkable because of disagreement among water users over the future purposes of storage.

Today, the need for storage in the Arkansas River basin is closer to 100,000 acre-feet, and most likely will be found in smaller projects, repairs that remove restrictions, better use of existing structures and aquifer storage, Hamel said.

The retired executive director of Pueblo Water is now a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which in November approved Colorado’s Water Plan. The plan was ordered up by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2013 and developed after hundreds of meetings throughout the state.

It built on the 2004 Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which identified a municipal gap in future supply, and the 2005 creation of the Interbasin Compact Committee and Basin Roundtables. Those activities drew thousands of Coloradans into a conversation about water.

“Going on 56 years in water, I have never seen an effort like this,” Hamel said. “It includes protection of agriculture, and watershed health is a critical component that wasn’t envisioned when we began.”

Hamel credited the Lower Ark district, itself created by voters during the drought of 2002, and its General Manager Jay Winner as constant advocates for protection of Arkansas River water.

“I see Jay in every corner of the state,” Hamel said.

But the Lower Ark board is not entirely convinced the state water plan does enough to protect agriculture.

“As long as growth is the highest and best use for water, you can’t see any way ag can sustain itself, can you?” asked Beulah rancher Reeves Brown, a Lower Ark board member.
Without a plan, Colorado stands to lose 700,000 acres of farmland, Hamel replied. He commended the Lower Ark board for pioneering solutions like the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to find ways water without permanent dry-ups.

“Agriculture was one of the many forces that drove the discussion,” Hamel said. “Some cities are growing on to ag land, but eventually landuse planning and water planning will have to come together.”

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth
Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

Pueblo West official tells Pueblo County to renegotiate the SDS 1041 permit

Pueblo West
Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A Pueblo West Metropolitan District board member wants Pueblo County commissioners to renegotiate the 1041 agreement for the Southern Delivery System.

“There are numerous, fatal flaws in the present 1041 agreement; too many to mention,” Pueblo West board member Mark Carmel told the Pueblo Board of Water Works this week. “I respectfully suggest that the 1041 permit must be renegotiated to create a true agreement.”

It’s a significant development because Pueblo West is a partner in the SDS water pipeline project, and has already benefited from an emergency use of SDS last summer.

The metro board took a position on Jan. 12 that its water should not be held hostage during the current SDS discussions, but Carmel made it clear that he was speaking as an individual at Tuesday’s water board meeting. The metro board will meet with Colorado Springs Utilities at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to address Carmel’s concerns.

Both the water board and Pueblo City Council are pondering resolutions requiring more action on stormwater in relation to SDS. Pueblo County commissioners are in the process of determining 1041 compliance on stormwater and other issues in the permit.

The Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District has requested action by the Bureau of Reclamation under the federal SDS contract and by the Pueblo County commissioners under the 1041 permit to delay SDS until a stable source of stormwater funding is found.

Carmel, a former Pueblo County engineer, said he has seen firsthand the damage Fountain Creek causes in Pueblo. He wants to make sure Colorado Springs has adequate stormwater control measures in place.

“As Colorado Springs’ partner in the SDS project, I believe perhaps Pueblo West bears the most local responsibility to ensure SDS is implemented in such a way that the city of Pueblo does not get wiped out by floodwaters, in our name, if we stand by and do nothing,” Carmel said.

He said politicians’ current assurance of $19 million in annual funding for stormwater improvements in Colorado Springs is not adequate because future councils could easily reverse the action.

“A 10-year intergovernmental agreement is not worth the paper it is written on under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, because it may be canceled at any budget cycle,” he said.

Carmel said the 1041 agreement should be renegotiated to avoid future misunderstandings.

“Now is the time to ask Colorado Springs to cooperatively renegotiate the terms of the SDS 1041 permit to ensure that it is a win-win deal for both communities,” Carmel said. “Any deal that fails to prevent flooding in Pueblo — through a permanent funding mechanism that cannot change with each election — is not a win for Pueblo.”

#ColoradoRiver: The latest newsletter from the Water Information Program is hot off the presses

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

Connor: Find a Fix or We Will

At the 70th Annual Conference of the Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA), Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor implied that if the lower basin states of Arizona, California, and Nevada can’t find a fix for their Colorado River’s problems, the interior secretary will find it for them. In an Arizona Daily Star article, Connor referenced the need to prevent Lake Mead from falling to dangerously low levels. Should this be the case there would be huge cutbacks in water deliveries to the agricultural sector, cities, and Indian tribes.

According to the Star, the lake has dropped more than 120 feet since 2000. It’s expected to close 2015 at 1,082 feet elevation. The first shortage in the river would be declared at 1,075 feet and Connor indicated that the risk is now up to 30 percent that Lake Mead will drop to potentially dangerous levels in five years. The article also indicated that by next year’s CRWUA conference, Connor hopes the states will have reached agreement and that Interior Secretary Jewell will come to celebrate, either that or contingency plans will need to be implemented.

The Colorado River Basin is divided into upper and lower portions. It provides water to the Colorado River, a water source that serves 40 million people over seven states in the southwestern United States. Colorado River Commission of Nevada
The Colorado River Basin is divided into upper and lower portions. It provides water to the Colorado River, a water source that serves 40 million people over seven states in the southwestern United States. Colorado River Commission of Nevada