The Urban Drainage and Flood Control District has applied for a 404 permit for portions of the South Platte River

From @USACEOmaha:

The District Engineer, U.S. Army Engineer District, Omaha, Nebraska is evaluating a Department of the Army Section 404 Permit application from Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, 2480 West 26th Avenue, Suite 156-B, Denver, CO 80211. Permits are issued under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (Section 404) which regulates the placement of dredged or fill material in the nation’s waters. Urban Drainage and Flood Control District (District) is requesting authorization for river channel work along approximately 3,000 linear feet of the South Platte River. The channel improvements are proposed to improve aquatic, wetland, and riparian habitat; provide boat passage through this section of river; and maintain flood conveyance and grade control. This reach of the South Platte River is part of a Flood Risk Reduction Project implemented by the Corps in the 1970s following the devastating flood of 1965. The reach has been channelized because of encroachment by development.

Click here to read the whole notice.


Colorado Springs: Mayor Suthers’ budget calls out stormwater needs

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From (Alyssa Chin):

Mayor Suthers released his proposed 2016 budget Monday. The big focus will be on storm water. A problem that’s plagued Colorado Springs for years.

“Several years ago, we had a storm water enterprise,” Suthers said. “With the demise of that, defunding of the storm water enterprise, for the most part we’ve been spending minimal amounts [of money] over the last several years in terms of storm water.”

The city is setting aside $16 million, with an additional $3 million from Springs Utilities for a total of $19 million.

That plan had some tax payers wondering why isn’t that money going toward the roads.

“There were times I felt like I was going to get pulled over for swerving so much even though it was just because of the pot holes,” Mackenzie Tennison said.

The mayor said through all their surveys, roads were the top priority for voters so he expects them to pass the proposed tax increase of 0.62 percent in November. That will give the city the money it needs to fix our roads.

“I don’t agree with, you know, us getting taxed more,” Leafner Tan said. “I’m pretty sure there’s enough money there, and I’m pretty sure there’s also money going somewhere we don’t need to spend money on.”

“You cannot do storm water and roads,” Suthers said. “Storm water is within reach because it’s a relatively less amount of money.”

Suthers added, that unlike previous years, he’s been working with city council on this budget and that nothing about it should surprise them.

There will be a meeting at City Hall on October 20 from 5-7:30 p.m.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

The $268.1 million general fund budget is up $9.4 million, or 3.6 percent, but Suthers said that when adjusted for inflation, the city today spends $86 a year less on each resident than it did in 2000…

Suthers’ priority remains the city’s infamously atrocious roads, most of which need overlays or complete reconstruction. But the mayor is banking on passage of a Nov. 3 ballot issue to provide $50 million a year for five years through a 0.62 percent sales tax increase.

The other overriding need is stormwater projects to ameliorate Fountain Creek flooding effects on downstream Pueblo. Past city stormwater funds have been eliminated, and a federal lawsuit has been threatened by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

If the issue isn’t addressed, it also could threaten the 1041 permit Colorado Springs Utilities got for its $829 million Southern Delivery System, soon to pump water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Fountain and Security.

So Suthers is squeezing $16 million out of the budget, which would be augmented by $3 million from Utilities, for stormwater projects…

In order to make ends meet, staffing requests, raises and capital projects were left unfunded, Suthers said.

Click here to read the Mayor’s news release and letter to City Council — via Pam Zubeck and the Colorado Springs Independent.

Fountain Creek: Kansas is keeping a watchful eye on potential dams

Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District
Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Kansas has concerns that the effects of a large dam on Fountain Creek are not adequately modeled in a study of flood control and water rights that is nearing completion.

But comments from Kevin Salter of the Kansas Division of Water Resources indicate the modeling done by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District is “reasonable” when it comes to side-detention ponds.

Kansas is an important player because its 1985 federal lawsuit over the Arkansas River Compact raised storage issues along with wells. The Supreme Court ruled in Colorado’s favor on the storage questions, but new dams would be untested waters.

“The methodology in this draft report appears reasonable to protect water rights below the confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River for the scenario involving side-detention facilities,” Salter said.

“As for the scenario to construct a multipurpose reservoir on Fountain Creek; Kansas is concerned.”

In an email to a committee looking at engineer Duane Helton’s draft report, Salter said more study is needed to look at the full impact of a 52,700 acre-foot reservoir that would include a 25,700 acre-foot pool for recreation and water supply and 27,000 acre-feet for temporary flood storage.

“Should the actual implementation of detained flood flows on Fountain Creek impact compact conservation storage Kansas would fully expect that those flows be restored,” Salter said.

Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek district, said a more complete evaluation would be made of water rights if a large reservoir is pursued.

“The district will complete a full evaluation of alternatives and a feasibility study of the preferred alternative in the future before any decision is made on flood control facilities, to include multipurpose facilities,” Small said in an email reply.

Helton’s study shows there would be little impacts on water rights if flood control structures allowed a flow of 10,000 cubic feet per second to flow through Pueblo during large floods. Water would be released as quickly as possible following the peak flow.

The study discounted extremely high flows, such as the 1999 or 1965 floods, saying there would be little damage to water rights because the high volume would fill John Martin Reservoir, creating a free river.

Division Engineer Steve Witte said Kansas concerns must be treated carefully, so a new round of litigation isn’t triggered.

Witte would like the 2015 flooding to be studied. Flows on Fountain Creek exceeded the 10,000 cfs mark on three occasions during six weeks of elevated flows. John Martin Reservoir did not fill, so it would be an ideal opportunity to explore how flood storage could be administered, he said.

“I think we need to be careful in any scenario to make sure there isn’t some material depletion,” Witte said.

After the 1999 flood, when Kansas and Colorado were in litigation over the Arkansas River Compact, Kansas raised questions about how such large flows should be divided. Those issues have not been resolved, Witte said.

Another downstream party, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association which owns half of the Amity Canal in Prowers County, said more study is needed to determine the damage if water is detained at lower flows and how water would be allocated after a flood.

The committee looking at the report, which includes some downstream farmers, Kansas, Colorado Springs Utilities, Tri-State and others, will meet again at 10 a.m. Oct. 14 at the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District offices.

#COWaterPlan: Pueblo County files comments


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County commissioners say the state should be a referee, rather than a sponsor, in future water projects and they want to emphasize local regulation.

“The county’s experience has been that federal and state regulations and enforcement alone have been inadequate to protect against local impacts of water projects,” the commissioners wrote in comments on the state water plan filed last week.

The deadline for comments was Thursday. Commissioners Liane “Buffie” McFadyen, Terry Hart and Sal Pace jointly signed the letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Water Conservation Board, who are working to finish the plan by December.

The commissioners want to make sure that the state water plan does not undermine the authority of the state’s counties and cities to regulate water projects under laws such as HB1034 and HB1041, both passed in 1974 to provide local regulation of statewide activities, including water projects.

Pueblo County has used the 1041 process most notably in obtaining mitigation for the Southern Delivery System, an $840 million project that is designed to bring water from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs.

SDS is scheduled to go online in 2016, and under the 2009 permit for the project, Colorado Springs has been required to spend an additional $75 million to fortify sewer lines, $50 million for Fountain Creek flood control, $15 million for roads, $4 million for wetlands restoration and $2.2 million for Fountain Creek channel dredging, among other conditions.

“To avoid confusion as to the local government’s authority to deny a permit for a specific project, we recommend that the following sentence be added: ‘A permit may be denied for a specific water project that does not meet the standards or criteria of the local regulations,’ ” the commissioners wrote.

The county also wants the state to remain neutral in water projects.

“Pueblo County does not believe that it is appropriate for the state of Colorado to endorse or become a sponsor of a water project in most cases,” they said.

The board also wants to include stormwater control in the state definition for watershed protection. Most of the efforts in the last three years in watershed health have focused on mitigating the damage from large wildfires, but Pueblo County said equal attention has to be given to the effects on water quality from increased stormwater caused by development, such as what has occurred on Fountain Creek.

Stormwater has been a key issue in regulation of SDS as well. A recent study for the county by Wright Water Engineers found that 370,000 tons of sediment are deposited each year between Colorado and Pueblo, decreasing the effectiveness of Fountain Creek levees.

Finally, the county wants water reuse to get more emphasis in the state water plan.

“The benefits to Pueblo County of promoting reuse are twofold,” commissioners said. “First, municipal reuse would reduce the need for dry-up of agricultural lands and transfers of agricultural water rights to municipal use. Second, reuse in El Paso County would reduce and control damaging flows in Fountain Creek through Pueblo County.”

Public review for new floodplain maps for Aspen and Pitkin County

Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy
Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy

From Pitkin County via the Aspen Daily News:

Pitkin County and the city of Aspen will roll out preliminary floodplain maps to the public at an open house next week.

The new maps, also known as flood insurance rate maps, had not been updated since 1987. The latest effort was the result of an extensive, multiyear study of the Roaring Fork watershed, and surrounding creeks and drainages, according to a Pitkin County press release.

“Floodplains change over time, and with that the risk of flooding can change for people who own property in floodplains,” said Lance Clarke, the county’s assistant director of community development.

The unveiling of the maps is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Plaza 1 meeting room, 530 East Main St. in Aspen.

At the public event, participants will be able to see their properties online using GIS technology with a floodplain map overlay. Property owners will have the opportunity to review the maps with advice and counseling by FEMA, Colorado Water Conservancy officials and flood insurance experts.

The new maps are preliminary, and FEMA has not yet adopted them. Officials want local residents and business owners to review the drafts to identify any concerns or questions.

Experts will be available to explain what should be done if properties are located in a floodplain and what property owners can do to protect their home or business from the consequences of a flood.

“This is a rare opportunity for local property owners to meet one-on-one with FEMA officials and insurance experts to find out how these new maps may affect their property,” Clarke said.

In 2009, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommended the new study to the city and county. FEMA contributed 75 percent of the $517,220 price tag. The remainder of the cost was funded by grants from Pitkin County Healthy Rivers, the city of Aspen, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and an in-kind contribution from the Pitkin County GIS Department.

The public can access the preliminary maps on FEMA’s website:

2016 Colorado legislation: Another showdown over precipitation harvesting?

Rain barrel schematic
Rain barrel schematic

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

A legislative committee Tuesday approved drafting a bill that would legalize rain barrels. Colorado is the only state where they are illegal.

The Water Resources Review Committee won’t officially vote on whether to introduce the measure as a committee until October. If the committee approves the bill, then it would be introduced at the start of the next session in January. There’s also the option for a lawmaker to carry the measure separate from the committee, or run a completely separate bill.

While the legislation signals that the issue is far from dried-up, certain caveats in the measure could cause an outcry. For one, the bill would require users to register their barrels with the state. Another provision would require water providers to replace water taken from rooftops.

Rain-barrel supporters worry that the current proposal is burdensome to water providers, and that would result in failing to approve barrel collection. They point out that rain barrels help with conservation, and that 97 percent of water falling on residential property never ends up in a river or stream.

But it may be their best shot after a similar effort drowned during the previous legislative session. That legislation was stalled in committee after concerns from Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, over water rights. Had the bill received a floor vote, it likely would have passed thanks to support from Republican Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango.

Just when it looked like the bill had a chance to receive a late floor vote in the Senate, sponsors and legislative leaders agreed to let the bill die so that discussions could continue for future compromise legislation. Enter Sonnenberg’s current proposal.

“This is more about process,” Sonnenberg said Tuesday during the committee hearing. “This is more about honoring the prior appropriations system and saying, ‘If we’re going to have rain barrels, the right thing to do is to figure out how we replace that water.’”[…]

Under Sonnenberg’s proposal, Coloradans would be allowed to use up to two containers with a maximum capacity of 55 gallons each. A consumer’s residence would need to contain four or fewer residential units.

Rain-barrel supporters say legislation should make it easy.

“Numerous studies have consistently shown that rain barrels have no impact on downstream users,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “Any proposals to put additional red tape and bureaucracy on a rain-barrel program disregard these studies and will only serve to dissuade and burden Coloradans.”