[IBCC] committee endorses revised transmountain diversion document — The Aspen Times #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism
Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Aspen Times:

A recently revised framework on how to evaluate a future potential transmountain diversion in Colorado was endorsed by most of the members of a statewide water-supply planning committee on Monday.

Known informally as the “seven points,” and officially as the “draft conceptual framework,” the revised document was reviewed by the Interbasin Compact Committee – which was created to negotiate agreements between various river basins in the state – and then sent on to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, or CWCB, which oversees statewide water planning.

In turn, the CWCB’s directors are expected on Wednesday to add “the seven points” to the second draft of the Colorado Water Plan, which was released on July 7.

The seven points, or now, the seven “principles,” are also expected to be the main topic at a “Summit on the Colorado Water Plan” called by the Garfield County commissioners for Saturday, July 25 in Rifle.

The commissioners have invited all the county commissioners from 22 Western Slope counties to attend.

“Of particular interest to Garfield County is the proposed, draft conceptual framework for transmountain diversions and the seven principles for negotiating a future transmountain diversion in Ch. 8 of the draft plan,” says an invitation to the water summit. “Garfield County’s desire is that the end result would (be) a unified voice from the Western Slope that no more water is diverted.”

The seven principles, according to the revised document, are “to guide future negotiations between proponents of a new transmountain diversion and those communities who may be affected were it built.”

For example, one principle is that a new diversion of water under the Continental Divide to meet the needs of growing Front Range cities shouldn’t exacerbate the potential for California, Arizona and Nevada, which rely on water from the Colorado River, to demand that more water be sent downstream. As such, a new diversion may have to stop diverting in low-water years.

And, for example, a new transmountain diversion shouldn’t be applied for by a city or other entity that has not yet adopted aggressive water conservation efforts. And, any new diversion project would have to address the ecological needs of the river it seeks to divert, which has not typically been the case.

On Monday, the members of the Interbasin Compact Committee, or IBCC, reviewed, and tweaked slightly, the work done by a sub-committee over the last few months to better explain the seven principles.

Most of the IBCC members, most of whom represent one of nine regional water-supply planning groups, or “basin roundtables,” voted on Monday to accept the revised “draft conceptual framework,” which was first adopted last year by the IBCC.

But the effort by the IBCC to send on the revised document with a unanimous endorsement failed when the representative from the Metro roundtable, which meets in Denver, abstained from voting because the members of that roundtable do not support the levels of conservation as currently defined in the document.

And the revised seven principles failed to gain positive votes from the two members of the IBCC who represent the Colorado River Basin roundtable, Stan Cazier and Carlyle Currier.

Cazier and Currier voted against endorsing the document because the Colorado roundtable has not had a chance to review the revised document, and because the that roundtable to date has taken the position that the seven principles should not even be included in the draft Colorado Water Plan.

However, both men said they thought the document had in fact been improved by the subcommittee’s work.

“It presents a lot of requirements for someone to do any kind of transmountain diversion,” Currier said. “So I think it’s beneficial for the West Slope to have it in there.”

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Twenty of the West’s Leading Water Managers Raft Colorado’s Yampa River — Smithsonian

Yampa/White/Green/North Platte river basins via the Colorado Geological Survey
Yampa/White/Green/North Platte river basins via the Colorado Geological Survey

From Smithsonian.com (Heather Hansman):

We had come to the canyon that the Yampa carved through ancient Weber sandstone on a raft trip, to talk about the future of wild rivers, and rivers in general. Advocacy groups Friends of the Yampa and American Rivers decided that the best way to talk about water issues was on the water. So they pulled together 20 people who have been making decisions about water in Colorado, and in the West, for the past 30 years—the head of Denver Water, former Deputy Secretaries of the Interior, ranchers, power plant managers and environmentalists—and a few journalists like myself. They tempted them with the idea of running an untapped river, and then stuck everyone in boats for five days so they had to talk to each other.

The Yampa flows from the high country near Routt National Forest, past power plants and ranchlands, into Dinosaur National Monument where it joins the Green River at Echo Park. It hits the main stem of the Colorado just over the border in Utah. Even though it’s not dammed anywhere, it’s used by almost all the major groups who depend on river flows: farms, fish, cities, industry, recreation and power. The coal-fired Craig Power Plant is its major consumptive user. Endangered fish like the Colorado pikeminnow depend on its flow. Along the way it irrigates pasture lands and provides flows for kayakers. And, if it continues to run free—hence the flow-dependent bathtub ring—it can be a model for fish habitat and smart agricultural use…

On the river, as we floated through the folded geology of the canyon and stopped to scout rapids, we talked about those questions. At night, people pulled up chairs around the fire, cracked beers and tried to explain their priorities. We talked about risk management and sharing the burden of drought. The most heated topic was transmountain diversions of water across the Continental Divide, and how to avoid them.

The Yampa, and with it the state of Colorado, is a microcosm of river management. Colorado has to send almost half of the water that falls in the state downstream. To complicate things, the state’s water law is legally layered and hard to change. This spring, a bill that would allow Colorado residents to collect rainwater failed to pass, because it was argued that it could injure downstream water rights.

“It’s just like balancing a checkbook,” says Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “Based on the last 16 years, nature has provided a flow of about 13 million acre feet of water at Lee’s Ferry [just below Glen Canyon Dam], and our estimate is that we’re using about 15 million. Since then, we’ve overused the system by 30 to 32 million acre feet, which we know because we’ve drawn down storage by that amount. We started with 50 million in the bank, now we have about 18. The system is heading for zero.”[…]

Water rights are also based on a use-it-or-lose-it principle of beneficial use. In theory, or maybe in the 1920s, that sounds good, because it implies that if you’re using a lot you must need a lot. But now it means that senior rights holders—corporations, irrigation districts, water departments and others with earlier and higher priority rights that get their share of water first—are unlikely to use less water than they’re allotted, for fear they’ll never get it back. It makes conservation unappealing, because by using less, you could be selling your security blanket down the river.

“Everybody is trying to pressure dreams from the past,” says Jay Gallagher, from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, after the boats were pulled up on the beach one day. “They want security for today and something left over for tomorrow. That’s the root of the emotion around water, the fear of losing it.”

That’s particularly true on the Yampa, which feels like the last of a dying breed. The Colorado itself has been so allocated that it no longer flows to the Pacific, and other western rivers, like the Dolores, in southern Colorado, are considered dead, because only a trickle flows past the dam. The Yampa is the only one that has remained untouched despite proposals to siphon off or dam up its flow.

Conservation across all facets of the water system, from farming to lawn watering, could stanch the bleeding, but it’s tricky to ask people who have a legal right to a certain amount of water to give it up. To change both perspective and use patterns, you have to make the greater good also good for the individual. Kuhn says that basically comes down to money—you have to make it financially smart for water users to conserve…

Kuhn is trying to outline the clearest ways to make conservation financially appealing. There is talk of setting up a water market, where willing sellers and buyers can trade water rights. “Those plans are moving at a snail’s pace, but the conversations are happening,” he says. People on the trip are also working together on smaller, creative projects. Blakeslee is fallowing parts of the ranch he manages to try to conserve, while American Rivers is working with ranchers to create manmade riffles—small rapids where fish can find food—on streams to build trout habitats without diverting any water.

On the Yampa, despite the disparate intentions, there was more teamwork than infighting. “Overall the average amount of water we recieve each year is still below our needs,” Kuhn says. “What we need to figure out how to do is live within our means.”

One evening on the banks of the river, Matt Rice, the director of American Rivers’ Colorado River Basin Program, brought out a bottle of beer he’d been saving. “It’s called ‘Collaboration Not Litigation,’” he said. “And I think we should all have some.”

More Yampa River Basin coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Springs, Walker settle for $7.1M — The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities and Gary Walker have reached a $7.1 million settlement for the damage to Walker Ranches from the Southern Delivery System pipeline.

The pipeline crosses 5.5 miles of the 63,000-acre property on its route from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. The $841 million SDS project is scheduled to go online next year and will supply water to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West.

On May 6, a jury awarded Walker $4.75 million, which included a $4.665 million judgment beyond the $82,900 stipulated value of the easement across Walker Ranches. Damages plus interest would have brought the total payment to $5.78 million, according to a joint press release.

Utilities disputed the amount, and filed an appeal on May 7. Walker Ranches appealed the decision on May 14. Those appeals were dismissed as part of the settlement reached June 16, but announced on Thursday.

The final agreement resolves all claims for $7.1 million, the press release said.

Utilities will also install fencing on Walker Ranches to prevent cattle from entering the area of the SDS pipeline scar that is being revegetated, and will work with Walker to erect berms on the property to reduce erosion.

The agreement also commits both parties to work together in the future to protect the right of way.

Utilities said the settlement provides more certainty about the ultimate cost of the project, reducing the possibility of an expensive appeals process.

“It has always been our intent when working with property owners to use the court process as a last resort,” John Fredell, SDS program director, said in the news release. “By successfully resolving these issues with Mr. Walker, we can focus on completing the required revegetation on his property and finishing the SDS project on time and under budget.”

Walker, when contacted by The Pueblo Chieftain , declined to comment because of the conditions of the settlement.

During the trial, Walker claimed the SDS project had compromised a $25 million conservation easement on 15,000 acres he was negotiating with the Nature Conservancy. He has used about $13 million from past easements to expand the ranches, which is part of a long-term plan to prevent further urban sprawl in northern Pueblo County.

Ray Petros, Pueblo County’s special counsel, said he has not seen the settlement agreement, so he is uncertain about how the county’s 1041 permit for SDS would be affected. The county is teeing up compliance hearings later this year on revegetation and Fountain Creek flood control, which are referenced in conditions that are part of the 1041 permit.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Aspinall Unit operations update: Releases from Crystal to be lowered to 2000 cfs #ColoradoRiver

Aspinall Unit
Aspinall Unit

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be decreased from 3700 cfs to 2000 cfs between July 2nd and July 6th. Releases will be decreased by 200 cfs today, and then by 400 cfs each day over the next 3 days, with a final decrease of 300 cfs on the morning of July 6th. This reduction is in response to the continuing decline in runoff to the Aspinall Unit reservoirs. The current forecast for April-July unregulated inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir is now 700,000 acre-feet which is 104% of average.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1500 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1500 cfs for July.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are around 1000 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are 2800 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be around 1000 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 1100 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

UGRWCD: Morrow Dam spilling — beautiful

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Thank God we have a #colorado because we have a chance to have a snowpack above 8,000 feet — Greg Hobbs #martz2015

Greg Hobbs at the 2015 Martz Summer Conference (Of course there is a projected image of a map -- this one was the division of Colorado into water divisions heeding the advice of John Wesley Powell)
Greg Hobbs at the 2015 Martz Summer Conference (of course there is a projected image of a map — this one was the division of Colorado into water divisions heeding the advice of John Wesley Powell to organize by watershed)

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In Colorado we have prior appropriation, the anti-speculation doctrine, and a long-lived and active water market, that have managed to keep the wolf at bay. Maximizing shareholder value is the wrong goal for the public’s water. Most water in Colorado is provided by local government entities.

Municipal use is a small part of the overall pie but large amounts of water are necessary for agriculture and the environment. You don’t want to squeeze either one too much. We’re not that good at forecasting the consequences of our engineering.

I asked Brad Udall if he thought the Colorado River Basin was in collapse. He said no, even in the worst case we should have 80% yield from the system. He said we have to use the water more wisely.

That is the definition of collapse: There is not enough water to stay status quo in the basin. This is at the same time that the environment requires that we undo some of our damage and share some water.

Click here to read my notes (Tweets) from the conference. (Scroll down to the bottom and read up from there. Tweets are published in reverse-chronological order.)

2015 Martz Summer Conference #martz2015

I’ll be live-Tweeting the 2015 Martz Summer Conference today @CoyoteGulch. I’ll try to keep up but it is a full agenda.

2015martzsummerconference