#ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan: “Having this additional storage enables that flexibility” — Jim Lochhead #COriver

Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS
Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

This formal backing completes the state’s environmental reviews for the Moffat project, 13 years in the making, clearing the way for construction — if remaining federal permits are issued. Denver Water and opponents from Western Slope towns and nature groups reached a compromise aimed at enabling more population growth while off-setting environmental harm.

It is a key infrastructure project that will add reliability to public water supplies and protect the environment, Gov. John Hickenlooper wrote in a letter to Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead.

It “aligns with the key elements of Colorado’s Water Plan,” Hickenlooper wrote. “Denver Water and its partners further our shared vision for a secure and sustainable water future while assuring a net environmental benefit in a new era of cooperation.”

Denver would siphon 10,000 acre-feet a year, on average, more water out of Colorado River headwaters, conveying it eastward under the Continental Divide through a tunnel for more than 20 miles to an expanded Gross Reservoir southwest of Boulder. By raising that reservoir’s existing 340-foot dam to 471 feet, the project would increase today’s 41,811 acre-feet storage capacity by 77,000 acre-feet — more than doubling the surface area of the reservoir…

For more than a decade, Denver Water has been seeking permits, including federal approval for construction affecting wetlands and to generate hydro-electricity at the dam.

“During dry years, we won’t be diverting water. It is a relatively small amount of water. … It is a water supply that Colorado is entitled to develop,” Lochhead said in an interview.

The increased storage capacity “allows us to take water in wet times and carry it over through drought periods. It gives us operational flexibility on the Western Slope. … Having this additional storage enables that flexibility.”

Colorado leaders’ formal endorsement follows a recent Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment decision to issue a water quality permit for the project, certifying no water quality standards will be violated. Hickenlooper has directed state officials to work with federal water and energy regulators to expedite issuance of other permits. Denver Water officials said they expect to have all permits by the end of 2017, start construction 2019 and finish by 2024…

…Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups call the project a realistic compromise considering the rapid population growth along Colorado’s Front Range.

“If the state needs to develop more water, they need to do it in a less-damaging, more responsible way — as opposed to going to the pristine headwaters of the South Platte River, which is what the Two Forks project was going to do,” TU attorney Mely Whiting said.

“We’ve put things in place that will make Denver Water be a steward of the river,” Whiting said. The agreement hashed out between Denver Water and conservationists “does not specifically say they have to tweak the flows to help the environment. It does say they have to monitor, for water temperature and macroinvertebrates. And if there’s a problem, they are responsible for figuring out why and they need to do something about it. It does not say exactly what they have to do but they have to fix any problem.”

Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water
Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

From The Colorado Independent (Marianne Goodland):

Gov. John Hickenlooper has officially endorsed a project to expand Boulder County’s Gross Reservoir, a move he hopes will improve Colorado’s water capacity for the next several decades.

The endorsement was considered a formality; Hickenlooper wrote to President Barack Obama four years ago, asking for the president’s help in speeding up the process for Gross and other water projects.

Colorado is predicted to face a gap of more than one million acre-feet of water by 2050, according to a 2010 estimate that many believe may be on the low end. One acre-foot of water is the amount of water it would take to cover the field at Mile High Stadium from endzone to endzone with one foot of water. That’s 325,851 gallons of water. The average family of four uses about half an acre–foot of water per year.

Hickenlooper couldn’t give his formal okay for the expansion of the reservoir, which is northwest of Eldorado Springs, until the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment had completed its review that certifies the project would comply with state water quality standards.

At 41,811 acre feet, Gross is among the state’s smallest reservoirs. It’s operated by Denver Water, supplied by water coming from the Fraser River on the west side of the Continental Divide through the Moffat Tunnel.

The expansion would allow the reservoir to collect another 18,000 acre-feet of water, enough to supply 72,000 more households per year. The estimated cost is about $380 million, which includes design, management, permitting, mitigation and construction.

The Gross expansion has been in the works for more than 13 years, with its first permits applied for in 2003. If all goes according to plan, the permitting process will be completed in 2017,with construction to begin in 2019 or 2020. The reservoir could be fully filled by 2025, according to Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson.

In his letter to Denver Water, Hickenlooper called the Gross project key to serving more than 25 percent of the state’s population. It will “add reliability to our public water supply, and provide environmental benefits to both the East and West Slopes of Colorado,” he said.

Aye, there’s the rub: the Western Slope, whose residents fear that anything that will divert more water from the Western Slope to the Eastern Slope will cut into their water supplies. They also worry that more diversions of Colorado River water will make it more difficult to satisfy multi-state compacts with southwestern states that rely on water from the Colorado River, of which the Fraser is a tributary.

But Jim Lochhead, head of Denver Water, told The Colorado Independent that any further diversions will require buy-in from folks on the Western Slope.

It’s part of an arrangement between Denver Water and 17 Western Slope water providers that has been in development for the past six years, Lochhead said. “We’ve worked extensively with the West Slope to develop the Colorado River cooperative agreement,” which will make the environment and economy of Western Colorado better off, he said.

The agreement addresses impacts of Denver Water projects in Grand, Summit and other counties, all the way to the Colorado-Utah border.

Lochhead hopes the Gross Reservoir project will be a model for cooperation, with benefits for both sides of the Continental Divide.

And the cost? The budget for the agreement starts at $25 million and goes up from there. That first funding goes to Summit and Grand counties for enhancement projects, which includes improved water supply for Winter Park, Keystone and Breckenridge ski areas. Lochhead said the locals will figure out exactly how to spend the money, and that Denver Water isn’t dictating what those counties will do with it beyond setting some parameters for protection of watersheds, the area of land that drains to a particular body of water.

Denver Water has also committed to making improvements to the Shoshone Power Plant on the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs, and improvements to wastewater treatment plants all the way to the western state line to enhance area water quality.

“We have an extensive list of commitments to partner with the Western Slope, to do the right thing,” Lochhead said.

The Gross Reservoir expansion is critical to Denver Water’s future needs, as Lochhead sees it, because its improved capacity will allow the water utility to operate its system with more flexibility. That’s most important for Denver Water’s attention to environmental concerns, both on the Western Slope and for South Boulder Creek, which flows out of Gross Reservoir.

“The state’s responsibility is to ensure we do the right thing for Colorado’s future, and this project is vital infrastructure for our economy and the environment,” Hickenlooper said in a statement today. “The partnerships and collaboration between Denver Water, the West Slope and conservation organizations associated with this project are just what the Colorado Water Plan is all about.”

Added Lochhead in a statement Wednesday: “The Denver metropolitan area is tied to the economic and environmental health of the rest of the state, and Denver Water is committed to undertake this project in a way that enhances Colorado’s values.”

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

#ColoradoRiver: Gov. Hickenlooper endorses Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — @DenverWater #COriver

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has officially endorsed Denver Water’s proposed Gross Reservoir Expansion Project as a model for achieving a balanced approach to environmental protection and water supply development through an inclusive and collaborative public process.

The endorsement follows the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s issuance of a Section 401 Water Quality Certification on June 23, 2016, which ensures compliance with state water quality standards. The certification confirms that Denver Water’s commitment to extensive mitigation and enhancement measures for the project will result in a net environmental benefit.

“The state’s responsibility is to ensure we do the right thing for Colorado’s future, and this project is vital infrastructure for our economy and the environment,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “The partnerships and collaboration between Denver Water, the West Slope and conservation organizations associated with this project are just what the Colorado Water Plan is all about.”

The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — also known as the Moffat Collection System Project — will strengthen Denver Water’s system against drought and climate change by nearly tripling the capacity of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County.

“Colorado is a growing and dynamic state,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. “Denver Water has the critical responsibility to sustain over 25 percent of the state’s population and the majority of our economy for decades to come.”

Since 2003, Denver Water has been involved in federal, state and local permitting processes to evaluate the proposed project and develop ways to not only mitigate identified impacts, but also to enhance the aquatic environment and the economy of Colorado. The 401 certification — one of the major regulatory requirements — recognizes and builds upon other existing Denver Water agreements such as the landmark Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, Learning by Doing cooperative effort and the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan.

“The Denver metropolitan area is tied to the economic and environmental health of the rest of the state, and Denver Water is committed to undertake this project in a way that enhances Colorado’s values,” said Lochhead.

Denver Water expects to secure all of the major permits for the project by the end of 2017. The estimated cost of the project is about $380 million, which includes design, management, permitting, mitigation and construction.

Visit http://grossreservoir.org to read more about the project and http://denverwaterblog.org for videos with voices from a few of the many project supporters including, Gov. Hickenlooper, Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Here’s a post from Brent Gardner-Smith (Aspen Journalism) dealing with the subject but with a West Slope angle.

#COWaterPlan: Dealing with the “gap”

Clear Creek Reservoir
Clear Creek Reservoir

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

This is the first in a continuing series about how Colorado’s Water Plan will be put into action.

New sources of water are unlikely, so the Arkansas River basin’s focus should be on which crops or landscapes are irrigated, because irrigation is the largest use of water.

Pueblo Water plans to increase storage in key locations above, in and below Lake Pueblo.
Although we won’t find the water supply we want, wise use and efficient water management can stretch the supply we have.

That’s the outlook from Alan Ward, water resources manager for Pueblo Water.

Ward has been involved with filling municipal water needs during the severe drought of 2002 and the more prolonged drought of 2011-13.

He oversees a complex water leasing program that allows Pueblo to make the fullest use possible of its water portfolio.

Ward was part of Pueblo Water’s team that purchased more than one-quarter of the Bessemer Ditch water rights to secure future supply, and as a result is now a member of the canal company’s board of directors.

Colorado’s Water Plan was unveiled last year as an evolving way to meet water needs for the state for decades to come.

The process to develop the document was exhaustive, with hundreds of meetings, thousands of comments and 10 years of effort. It will take even more work to implement the plan and to focus activities that are in line with the plan’s objectives.

To gain a better understanding of how policymakers view the plan, The Pueblo Chieftain and Arkansas Basin Roundtable is asking key individuals three basic questions: How the gap will be filled, what projects are anticipated and what actions can be taken to prevent the gap from getting bigger.

Here are Ward’s answers:

How do we fill the gap in the Arkansas River basin within Colorado’s Water Plan and the Basin Implementation Plan?

“Since the water of the Arkansas River basin is already completely appropriated, the ‘gap’ is really the difference between the water supply we have and the water supply we’d like to have.
I am not optimistic about the prospects of increasing supply. There is no currently unused supply to develop locally within the Arkansas River basin, so an increased supply would have to be imported from elsewhere.

“I think that the expense along with the political and environmental hurdles make importation of new water supply into the Arkansas River basin very complicated and climate change may lead to even less supply on both the Eastern and Western slopes.

“As an alternative, I believe the focus in the Arkansas River basin should be on adapting to having less water than we would like. Storage is key to making the most efficient use of the available water supply.

Storage allows for some control of the timing and location of the limited water supply so that it can be used when and where it is most needed.

Storage also provides the flexibility to move water in ways that can enhance recreational opportunities and minimize environmental impacts.

“Irrigation, whether for crops and livestock grazing or lawns and urban landscapes, is the primary consumptive use of water in the Arkansas Basin (and most of the western United States). I believe that there just isn’t the water capacity to increase the amount of irrigated land, so there needs to be some difficult discussions about what gets irrigated. If urban irrigation increases, then agricultural irrigation will have to decrease or vice versa. It is important to note that urban irrigation has been on a downward trend so there is probably room for some urban growth without an overall increase in the amount of urban irrigation.

“Determining where water should be used for irrigation is a complex problem.

Because water rights are a private property right that can be transferred to new uses, there can be tensions about what role government should play in shaping the free-market movement of water rights and what involvement local communities should have in the transfer of water rights. Finding the right balance between the rights of individuals to use their property as they wish and achieving the desired outcomes of the broader public will be difficult.

“Other water uses such as domestic (including indoor urban), environmental, recreational and industrial are extremely important, but they are so small relative to irrigation use that changes in these water uses will only have minor impacts on the ‘gap’ at a basinwide scale.”

What projects do you plan to fill the gap?

“Pueblo Water is looking to add storage capacity at three key locations for its operations.

“Clear Creek Reservoir can be enlarged to provide additional storage in the Upper Arkansas River basin, which may facilitate better management and optimization of Pueblo’s water imported from the Western Slope.

“Pueblo Reservoir is ideally located in that it is low enough in the basin that a significant amount of water flows into it from upstream.

Many of the largest water users can take delivery of water from the reservoir either by pipeline or by release down the Arkansas River. Enlargement of Lake Pueblo could provide flexibility and water management efficiencies to Pueblo Water and many other urban, rural and agricultural water users.

“Storage located a short distance downstream of the city of Pueblo would allow for more efficient reuse of Pueblo Water’s fully consumable water supplies while at the same time optimizing the timing of flow on the Arkansas River through Pueblo for recreational and environmental benefits.

“Pueblo Water has committed to partner with Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fountain, Pueblo West and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District in developing this type of storage in order to recapture water that the parties could have captured at Lake Pueblo if not for the Pueblo Flow Management Program (recovery of yield storage).”

How do we keep the gaps for agriculture and municipalities from becoming bigger?

“Keep expectations for water supply in line with actual water supply, plus encourage wise use and efficient water management, including expansion of storage.”

#ColoradoRiver: Ruedi Reservoir expected to fill next week #COriver

Sunrise at Ruedi Reservoir October 20, 2015. Photo via USBR.
Sunrise at Ruedi Reservoir October 20, 2015. Photo via USBR.

From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Releases from Ruedi Reservoir are anticipated to remain at 125 cfs throughout the weekend. It is expected to fill next week. If the basin gets any significant rainfall, the reservoir may fill sooner and releases may have to be increased.

You may check the releases and reservoir elevation at http://www.usbr.gov/gp-bin/arcweb_rueresco.pl.

Twin Lakes Tunnel opens for more transmountain diversions

The east end of the Twin Lakes Tunnel on May 16, 2016.
The east end of the Twin Lakes Tunnel on June 6, 2016.
A graph showing the level of water flowing through the Twin Lakes Tunnel this week. The tunnel began diverting water, after being closed for two weeks, on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
A graph showing the level of water flowing through the Twin Lakes Tunnel this week. The tunnel began diverting water, after being closed for two weeks, on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.

ASPEN – The unnatural order of things was restored Tuesday as the Twin Lakes Tunnel began diverting water to the east again from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River, after having been closed for two weeks.

The tunnel was closed temporarily after constraints in water rights required that it stop diverting from the Fork, Lost Man and Lincoln creeks, and other tributaries in the headwaters.

The tunnel under the Continental Divide had been diverting about 620 cubic feet per second (cfs) before diversions were stepped down over a three-day period from June 14 to 16, when the tunnel closed.

The reintroduced native flows down the Fork and Lincoln Creek added noticeable intensity to the river as it made its way through the Grottos, Stillwater and Slaughterhouse reaches near Aspen.

One of the constraints on the legal rights of the tunnel is that when the Colorado Canal in Ordway can divert freely because there is plenty of water in the lower Arkansas River, it cannot demand water from the Roaring Fork.

But the spring runoff has slowed, pinching the supply of water available to the canal from the Arkansas. As such, it can now legally call for water from the Roaring Fork.

“The Colorado Canal is being called out, so we can start diverting the tunnel under the direct flow portion of the right,” wrote Kevin Lusk, the president of the board of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. and a principal engineer at Colorado Springs Utilities, in an email Tuesday.

The other constraint was that the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. had filled its storage allotment of 54,452 acre-feet of water in Twin Lakes Reservoir.

With that “bucket” filled, and the Colorado Canal still in priority, the tunnel had to be closed.

Not all of the water diverted from the Fork’s headwaters goes to the Colorado Canal, however, as the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System, of which the Twin Lakes Tunnel is the key component, now also helps meet water needs in several Front Range cities.

The diversion system is technically owned by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., which is based in Ordway. But Aurora, Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, and Pueblo own almost all of the shares in the company.

On Tuesday, the Twin Lakes Tunnel, which begins at Grizzly Reservoir on Lincoln Creek, was opened back up and about 200 cubic feet per second began flowing east, primarily from Lincoln Creek and the creeks in Brooklyn, New York, and Tabor gulches.

In response, levels in the Roaring Fork River near Aspen fell sharply.

The river at Difficult Campground, for example, was flowing at 390 cfs at 6 a.m., Tuesday morning, but had fallen to 244 cfs by 8 p.m.

And the measuring gauge on Stillwater Drive, just below the North Star Nature Preserve, showed the river flowing there at 510 cfs at 6 a.m. and at 311 cfs by 8 p.m.

On Wednesday, Lusk said that new calls for water from various shareholders in the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. mean that water from Lost Man Creek and the main stem of the Fork would soon be added to the flow of water being sent east through the tunnel.

Lusk said he expected the tunnel to continue diverting water through the summer.

This marked the second year in a row the Twin Lakes Tunnel was forced to cease diverting due to wet conditions on the east side of the pass.

During most of the time the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed, diversions continued to flow as usual through the Bousted Tunnel, which sends water east from the headwaters of the Fryingpan River, as well as from Hunter, Midway, and No Name creeks near Aspen.

Around 800 cfs has been flowing through the Bousted Tunnel for most of June.

And according to the Pueblo Chieftain, the total diversion from the Fry-Ark project so far this year is about 51,000 acre-feet of water.

Add that to the approximately 25,000 acre-feet diverted so far by Twin Lakes, and it means about 76,000 acre-feet has been diverted from the Roaring Fork River watershed so far this year, not counting what may have been sent through the Busk-Ivanhoe Tunnel, which also diverts from the upper Fryingpan.

Ruedi Reservoir, by comparison, can hold 102,373 acre-feet.

Editor’s note:
Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Daily News, and Coyote Gulch are collaborating on coverage of rivers and waters. The Daily News published a version of this story on Thursday, July 30, 2016.

#ColoradoRiver: The June 2016 eNews is hot off the presses from Northern Water #COriver

View of the Granby Hydropower Plant with Granby Dam in the background. Photo via Northern Water.
View of the Granby Hydropower Plant with Granby Dam in the background. Photo via Northern Water.

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

Granby Hydropower Plant dedication ceremony

Northern Water’s second hydropower plant is operating and producing clean, renewable power. The Granby Hydropower Plant located at the base of Lake Granby Dam began producing hydroelectric power in May. On June 3, Northern Water hosted a dedication ceremony at the plant. Attendees included Colorado water leaders, state representatives, Grand County commissioners and representatives from Mountain Parks Electric (recipient and distributor of the hydroelectric power). Speakers included Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson, Northern Water President Mike Applegate, Colorado Water Conservation Board Director James Eklund, Mountain Parks Electric General Manager Tom Sifers, Grand County District 2 Commissioner Merrit Linke and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Area Manager Signe Snortland.

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