#ColoradoRiver: The latest “e-Waternews” is hot off the presses from Northern Water #COriver

Graph showing historical total active storage for Sept. 1. The green line indicates average storage, which is 492,333 AF via Northern Water.
Graph showing historical total active storage for Sept. 1. The green line indicates average storage, which is 492,333 AF via Northern Water.

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

C-BT Project Update
Going into September, C-BT Project storage continued to be above average. On Sept. 1, 2016, total active storage was 619,418 acre-feet, which is approximately 128,000 AF above average for this time of year.

For the 2016 water year, 142,579 AF has been delivered with 42 percent of the deliveries 0 from Carter Lake and 49 percent from Horsetooth Reservoir. The remaining nine percent is delivered from the Big Thompson River and the Hansen Feeder Canal.

Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water
Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

MWH gets $11.9 million contract to design Chimney Hollow Reservoir

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

From BizWest (Doug Storum):

Engineering and consulting firm MWH Global Inc. in Broomfield, a division of Canada-based Stantec Inc., has received an $11.9 million contract to design the Chimney Hollow Reservoir dam that will be located between Loveland and Longmont.

The Municipal Subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District hired MWH to design a 360-foot-tall dam, spillway and outlet works for the 90,000-acre-foot reservoir near Loveland.

Officials said on Tuesday that the Chimney Hollow Reservoir dam, located on the west side of Carter Lake, will be the largest dam built in Colorado in 50 years. It will provide water storage for growing communities in Northern Colorado, including Broomfield, Longmont, Loveland and Greeley. The subdistrict estimates that its communities could see a water-supply shortage of 64,000 acre feet, or approximately 29 billion gallons, by 2030.

The design for the Chimney Hollow Reservoir Project is expected to be completed in 2018, with construction completed in 2021. The engineering services provided by MWH will include evaluating alternatives, final design and support during bidding.

Michigan Ditch tunnel bore slows, new cutters for boring machine on order

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

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

A stretch of unusually hard rock inside a mountain near Cameron Pass has slowed a tunneling project aimed at shoring up Fort Collins’ water supply.

Progress on a 760-foot tunnel that will carry Michigan Ditch water to the city-owned Joe Wright Reservoir was stopped as of Thursday.

Crews are waiting for the arrival of replacement parts for the cutting head of a tunnel boring machine, or TBM, that was custom built for the project, said Owen Randall, chief engineer for Fort Collins Utilities.

Bearings on cutting disks on the rotating head have repeatedly burned out while dealing with a wall of pegmatite, a type of granite that can have various minerals and be exceptionally hard, Randall said.

Project managers are “literally looking around the world” for replacement disks, he said. When some will arrive at the work site is not known.

Rock conditions have varied tremendously during the course of the tunneling, which began in late June. Some layers of rock have been fractured and relatively easy to cut through, he said. Others have been difficult.

“We went 300 feet on the first set of disks,” Randall said. “We used up two sets going the next 8 feet. It’s just been very variable.”

Before the TBM was shut down, the cutting wheel was grinding out clouds of powder rather than chunks of rock, he said.

The machine was 482 feet into the mountain as of Thursday. Time and weather are becoming concerns as crews want to have the TBM off the mountain before heavy snow comes.

Randall said crews still expect to finish the project this fall.

Once the tunnel is cut, a 60-inch pipe made of fiberglasslike material will be put in place to carry Michigan Ditch. Randall said he wants to have water flowing through the pipe before the onset of winter.

“We are going to get through,” he said. “But safety will dictate how long we keep people working up here.”

Crews have been working seven days a week, 12 hours a day. That will increase to 24 hours a day Sept. 12. About 1,000 feet of pipe is expected to be delivered that week, Randall said.

The project is in response to a slow-moving landslide that has been affecting the ditch for several years. Damage was especially severe in 2015.

Longmont councillors want rate payers to weigh in on paying for Windy Gap supply

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonucci):

The Longmont City Council has opted to participate in the Windy Gap Firming Project, which would construct a reservoir in order to hold some of the water produced by Longmont’s water rights.

There are three options to finance Longmont’s projected $47 million portion of the Windy Gap Firming Project — one using all cash and two using variations of debt.

If the council chooses to pay the $47 million in cash, it would mean initial water rate increases of 13 percent in 2017 and 12 percent in 2018, above the 9 percent increase in both of those years that has already been approved, for totals of 22 percent and 21 percent.

Or, the council could choose to use $41 million cash and $6 million in debt. This would mean initial rate increases of 8 percent in both 2017 and 2018 above the already approved 9 percent increase in those years. With this option, the city would spend $50.1 million total, including interest, on the project.

Finally, the council could choose to finance the project with $30.3 million in cash and $16.7 million of debt, it would mean initiative water rate increases of 5 percent in both 2018 and 2019 above the 9 percent increase in both those years. This option would ultimately cost the city $55.8 million.

For the cash option and the $6 million debt option, the rate increases over 10 years would be similar. The $16.7 million debt option would result in the highest total rate increase over a decade.

Longmont spokeswoman Holly Milne said that the council asked for the survey and the online comment form because they wanted resident feedback before they make a decision.

Residents can visit http://longmontcolorado.gov/departments/departments-n-z/water/water-resources-supply/windy-gap-firming-project and fill out an online form with their opinion of what the city should do.

The city is also surveying 3,000 randomly selected Longmont households with a postcard survey. The households chosen will be different than the households that will receive the city’s separate customer satisfaction survey.

Historic McElmo flume awarded final funding — The Cortez Journal

McElmo Creek Flume via the Cortez Journal
McElmo Creek Flume via the Cortez Journal

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

A recently constructed interpretive pullout off U.S. Highway 160 east of Cortez showcases the wooden irrigation flume, which was built in the 1890s to deliver water to the Ute Mountain tribe and pioneer farms.

The restoration grant requires a $60,000 match, and a fundraising effort is underway. Once that is raised, the flume’s main wooden trough structure will be repaired and restored, completing the multiyear project.

“Right now, people will stop at the interpretive pull-off and see that the flume needs repair, and that is what this grant will be paying for,” Towle said, adding that as much original wood as possible will be used in the restoration.

Repairing the foundation was the priority. In 2014, a $123,000 state historical grant was awarded to the county to rebuild the foundation and stabilize the structure to withstand flows in McElmo Creek. That foundation work was completed in February.

The paved highway pullout, parking lot, interpretive panels, information, kiosk, sidewalk and flume overlook were made possible by $250,000 in funding allocated by the National Scenic Byways Program in 2013.

The historic flume is an agricultural artifact that symbolizes the beginning of the city of Cortez and surrounding communities, Towle said.

“Cortez would not be here without these first irrigation systems,” she said. “It is important for visitors coming through to learn the story about how the efforts of early farmers and ranchers grew the town and got us to where we are today.”

Final interpretive panels on water history are still being created for the flume overlook. Also a regional tourism map will be installed at the kiosk highlighting local attractions.

Throughout the project, contributions have been made by many agencies and organizations, including Montezuma County, Southwestern Water Conservation District, Southwest Roundtable, Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company, Dolores Water Conservancy District, and the Ute Mountain Tribe. The Colorado State Historical grants awarded for the project are derived from a portion of gambling revenues in Cripple Creek, Central City, and Black Hawk.

#ColoradoRiver: “Killing the #Colorado” spotlights new solutions — American Rivers #COriver

killingthecoloradotrailerscreenshot

From American Rivers (Sinjin Eberle):

I have noticed a lot of chatter lately about the situation at Lake Mead. Dramatic overuse, prolonged drought, and the effects of increased temperatures have led to a historically low volume of water stored in the largest reservoir on the Colorado River. One of the most critical components of water in the west is less than 40% full. Yet while some people scramble for a quick fix or point fingers, others see the long game and note the optimism that working together for smart, sustainable solutions can bring. There is hope, there is a roadmap, and together we have the knowledge, skill, and foresight to make it happen.

Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam December 2015 via Greg Hobbs.
Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam December 2015 via Greg Hobbs.

The Discovery Channel recently produced a new documentary, Killing the Colorado, a made-for-TV version of the lengthy ProPublica series of the same name. The show is excellent, comprehensive, and features a number of voices that you may not expect to be featured in a film about the environment. Imperial valley agricultural producers, water managers, a red-state Senator and a blue-state Governor – all identifying problems facing the basin, and most putting forth an optimistic view that a human-caused predicament can be solved with human-inspired ingenuity.

One quote in particular is poignant – there is a scene with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper in his office flipping through a binder full of historic water compacts. Upon his observance of the generations of water agreements, he remarks “The thing you realize when you go through these [water] compacts, is that everyone is in this together.” Given the situation facing Lake Mead, a growing chorus of voices around Lake Powell, the birth of the Colorado Water Plan, and a recognition that heathy rivers support healthy agriculture and sustainable economies, we truly are all rowing the same boat together in the Colorado Basin.

Lake Powell via Aspen Journalism
Lake Powell via Aspen Journalism

But, how can Lake Mead affect Colorado from a thousand miles downstream? Well, due to the Colorado River Compact of 1922, headwaters states like Colorado must send a certain amount of water to the Southwestern states of Arizona, Nevada, and California – it’s the law of the river, and the law of the land. And since when the Compact was developed, California was a fast growing destination, it has priority and can “call” for water if needed. For years, California has had the luxury to get much of the surplus of water that Colorado and Wyoming have sent downstream to be stored in Lake Powell and Lake Mead. But now with prolonged drought, a fast-growing population across the entire Southwest, and a substantial agricultural economy (especially in the Imperial Valley), the era of surplus water is over. As such, Lake Mead is directly connected to Colorado, whether we like it or not, and that connection is the Colorado River.

Killing the Colorado does a fantastic job over nearly an hour-and-a-half of highlighting a variety of colorful characters who have recognized that shortage and a lack of water will change everything in the future – that future is now. But while both the show and the written article are excellent at highlighting the situation, they don’t delve deeply into what I think is most important – that real solutions do exist, and we know how to implement them, it simply takes our collective will to get them moving. Solutions like urban and agricultural conservation and efficiency, like reuse and recycling, like innovative water banking and flexible management practices, like continuing the shift towards renewable energy (solar and wind don’t devour cooling water like natural gas and coal plants require). But while these efforts all seem daunting and out of an individual’s control, there are actions that each of us can take every day that together, make a huge difference. Like buying and installing your own rain barrel for your outside plants and flowers, like supporting your local farmer at the farmer’s market – small things that have a great impact, especially when we all do them together.

Solutions do exist, and as Arizona Senator Jeff Flake said “The drought over the past couple of years has awakened all of us to the future we have if we don’t do better planning. There are many things that are out of our control…Planning is so important. Conserving. Recharging. Water banking. Water markets. These are all important things that have to take place.

Let’s get started!

The Yampa River flows through the Carpenter Ranch. Photo courtesy of John Fielder from his new book, “Colorado’s Yampa River: Free Flowing & Wild from the Flat Tops to the Green.” -- via The Mountain Town News
The Yampa River flows through the Carpenter Ranch. Photo courtesy of John Fielder from his new book, “Colorado’s Yampa River: Free Flowing & Wild from the Flat Tops to the Green.” — via The Mountain Town News

CFWE: Collaborative Water Management Tour, Roaring Fork Watershed September 12, 2016

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

Click here for the inside skinny and to register. Draft agenda. From the website:

Join the Colorado Foundation for Water Education for a one-day tour of the Roaring Fork Watershed that will showcase exemplary collaborative water management projects. Gain an understanding of how multiple public and private entities are working together on water quality, water quantity, and riparian habitat improvement projects. The itinerary will showcase collaborative stream management plans and water management projects with municipalities, landowners, state and federal agencies, recreationists, watershed groups, and the local community. Tour attendees will get an in-depth look at how water managers and leaders are putting the Roaring Fork Watershed Plan into action.

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