Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Thursday, March 2, 2006

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Several groups are trying to hammer out a management plan for the Dolores River, according to the Cortez Journal. From the article, "For more than two years, a multi-stake effort to discuss the flow management of the lower Dolores River - called the Dolores River Dialogue - has been ongoing.

"The intent of the dialogue is to examine the management of river flows, primarily below McPhee Reservoir, and to determine how the river might best be managed to serve various human, natural and agricultural needs of the basin and region.

"Dialogue co-coordinator John Porter said the process has been more positive than the past few efforts, which seemed to focus always on 'more water, more water, more water.'

"'This time, I've been encouraged that everyone's been willing to look at the science and what the water will do for all of us,' Porter said.

"Members of the group are looking at flexible management options, according to dialogue facilitator Mike Preston. Scenarios include timing of spills, base-flow enhancements (more water to the fish pool) and in-channel restoration, such as tamarisk removal and placement of gravel bars.

"'What you want is to try to get the river to meander,' said Preston, who added that participants are talking about implementing science monitoring sites along the river to measure any results of these activities...

"Members of the discussion represent farmers, irrigators, rafters, fish and wildlife enthusiasts and state and local government.

"Wanner, who also serves as a water issues leader for the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said the three main keys of the dialogue include downstream habitat restoration, additional water and improved river management.

"In its early stages, the dialogue focussed some on managing environmental and rafting releases in a more timely fashion. The process also touched on efficiency and infrastructure improvements to McPhee, while looking at new storage options, reallocated supply scenarios and weather modification techniques...

"Groups participating in the Dolores group are the DWCD, Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., Montezuma County, Dolores County, Colorado Water Conservation Board, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Colorado Division of Wildlife, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service (San Juan National Forest), The Nature Conservancy, Colorado Water Trust, the Dolores River Action Group and Dolores River Coalition."

Category: Colorado Water

7:09:55 AM    

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Here's an opinion piece from the Vail Trail urging rejection of SB37 - Concerning the Adjucation of Recreation In-Channel Diversions. From the article, "Some people just cannot abide change. There are folks who simply abhor the idea of water being left in a stream, even if it is water with a sound right for a recognized and valuable beneficial use. I'm talking about water for Recreational In Channel Diversions, or RICDs. This is the water right for recreational purposes, like whitewater parks...

"The Colorado Constitution holds that anyone has the right to put water from our native streams to a recognized beneficial use. With the doctrine of prior appropriation, the most senior rights are guaranteed water during times of scarcity, even if it's the last drop in the river. Junior rights, which RICDs are, must accommodate the senior rights.

"But as time passes even a RICD right could become senior to any future upstream, as a yet undefined and unappropriated water right. That's the way it's always been with any water right, until now.

"Senator Isgar, from Hesperus (between Durango and Cortez) would like to change that by creating a new thing in Colorado water law; a second class water right. Senate Bill 37 would do just that...

"It would limit RICDs to kayaks only. Angling and rafting don't count as legitimate water recreation. There would also be severe restrictions based on flow. If there isn't enough water for 90 percent of the RICD right, the RICD gets none at all, although upstream diversions junior to the RICD would still be allowed to completely dry up the stream. In drought years the whitewater parks would have to shut down, even though they would not injure senior rights downstream. It's the potential and speculative future needs upstream that Isgar is concerned about. As long as they aren't for recreation, they must be more valid, more 'real.' Play just doesn't fit into the mythic yeoman farmer or yeoman developer image.

"If we were really concerned about how a water right might hinder future development than we would make trans-basin diversions a restricted second class right as well. These are the water rights and diversions that keep the Front Range cities and farms green and hydrated. Trans-basin diversions have compromised future growth and development in Grand and Summit Counties, and there are plans for taking a lot more. Restricting trans-basin diversions would only be fair, using the philosophy for limiting RICDs."

Category: Colorado Water

6:51:03 AM    

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Snowpack is down from the first of the year, according to the Rocky Mountain News. From the article, "Mountain regions critical to Front Range water supplies are seeing plenty of snow this winter, but statewide, snowpacks shrank slightly last month, registering about 88 percent of average March 1, down from 99 percent Feb. 1...

"Snow percentages in Colorado river basins, measured Wednesday and March 1, 2005: Gunnison 81; Upper Colorado 117; South Platte 103; North Platte 110; Yampa/White 115; Arkansas 88; Rio Grande 40; [Dolores]/ San Juan/ San Miguel 46."

Here's the snowpack news for southwestern Colorado from the Cortez Journal. They write, "As of Monday, automated weather or 'snow-tel' sites in the Dolores River Basin appeared well below normal. El Diente Peak was at 69 percent of average with 10.8 inches of snow-water equivalent, Lizard Head Pass came in at 77 percent and 10.5 inches, Lone Cone had 76 percent and 12.5 inches, and Scotch Creek was around 64 percent with 9 inches. The new Sharkstooth station reported 11.7 inches of moisture. The site was constructed last year and does not yet have an average-percent listing available for precipitation."

Category: Colorado Water

6:33:13 AM    

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The Southeastern Water Conservancy District is reviewing the plans for the Arkansas Valley Conduit project, according to the Pueblo Chieftain. They're trying to determine if they can pull it off financially.

From the article, "Costs for a proposed drinking water supply conduit for communities east of Pueblo were reviewed Wednesday by the committee spearheading the project.

"The Arkansas Valley Conduit advisory committee is trying to answer by July 1 the basic question: 'Will it fly?'

"Arriving at the answer has been a complicated process that is only beginning with a $150,000 study led by Black & Veatch about water availability and costs of the project. The July 1 deadline was set last week by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., as the date when Congress will need some consensus from the 42 communities affected by the conduit to make a decision about whether to proceed.

"The study is attempting to give those towns and water districts enough information to make a decision...

"The committee is hoping to get an 80 percent federal share of funding for the conduit, which is authorized under the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but which was never built because communities could not afford it on their own.

"Black & Veatch has come up with cost estimates between $1.50 and $2.20 per 1,000 gallons for raw water delivery.

"By comparison, Pueblo residential water users pay a base rate of $1.76 per 1,000 gallons of treated water. Water hauled on trucks costs $2.64 per 1,000 gallons. Pueblo has the lowest rates among major Front Range cities.

"The cost doesn't take into account additional improvements to water systems, blending and treatment. But it also doesn't reflect cost savings that could come from things like reduced energy costs associated with pumping, testing costs or potential changes in water systems required to meet federal water quality standards."

Category: Colorado Water

6:26:22 AM    

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