Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

Urban Drainage and Flood Control District

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

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Live Science is runnning the The 10 worst U.S natural disasters.

Category: Colorado Water

5:36:39 PM    

Take a look at the most prosperous rural counties in the U.S. from The Daily Yonder. Colorado counties listed are, Chaffee, Cheyenne, Delta, Grand, Kiowa County, Kit Carson, Mineral, Phillips, Routt, Sedgwick, Washington.

Thanks to New West for the link.

In other small town news, Ed Quillen writes about the effects of fuel and climate change on small town economies going forward. He writes:

Then there's global warming. I remain somewhat skeptical on just how much humans contribute to this, but it does appear to be happening. Ski areas worry about shorter seasons, while water managers wonder how to refit a system that was designed to store most moisture in mountain snowpacks.

Such was the talk at this conference; resort communities worry about everything from food and water to having too many gazillionaires in town. But for a while, I felt encouraged. You always hear people saying, "We don't want to be like Vail or Aspen." This time around, there were other towns on the disapproval list: Telluride, Crested Butte, Breckenridge.

But nobody said, "We don't want to be like Salida," which made me feel better until I mentioned this to Paul Snyder of Westcliffe. "I hate to tell you this, Ed," he said, "but I was at a meeting a couple of weeks ago, and somebody said that if we didn't do things right, we might turn into another Salida."

Then again, that might be a matter of some comfort, since the other mountain towns that are held up as bad examples are thriving and prosperous, with people giving some serious thought to the challenges of a changing world.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

8:52:29 AM    

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Don't miss the joint Arkansas, South Platte and Metro session on Tuesday. The Rio Grande roundtable meets the same day.

We're fairly sure the Rio Grande basin will have someone down in Douglas County keeping their eyes on the Front Range.

Category: Colorado Water

8:23:00 AM    

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From, "The last load of dirt has been dumped atop a 273-foot-tall dam for the Animas-La Plata water project in southwest Colorado. Crews celebrated with a topping-out ceremony Friday. The dam will hold a reservoir capable of storing 120,000 acre-feet of water, about 39 billion gallons. It's scheduled to start filling in 2009. It will supply water to the Ute Mountain Ute, Southern Ute and Navajo tribes, and Durango, Colorado and Farmington, New Mexico. The reservoir will store water pumped from the Animas River. Water will be returned to the river as needed. The project will include a pipeline to carry water from Farmington about 22 miles to Shiprock, on the Navajo Nation."

More coverage from The Durango Herald. They write:

The dam stands 273 feet high and consists of 5.22 million cubic yards of clay, rock and sand. It is the largest earthen structure of its kind currently under construction in the United States, said Rick Ehat, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation engineer overseeing construction of the project...

Work continues on other aspects of the $500 million project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2012. The reservoir is scheduled to start filling in 2009. At the topping-out ceremony, a large dump truck dumped the last load of dirt atop the dam. Among those in attendance was former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Ignacio, who helped to secure federal funding for the project. The 120,000-acre-foot reservoir will be named Lake Nighthorse. "A lot of years of work for today," Campbell said. "A lot of roadblocks from the environmental community and a lot of redoing it and downsizing it and changing it and everything else. It finally happened."

Fred Kroeger, a longtime advocate for the project, said he attended his first meeting to discuss future water needs in 1947, and in numerous subsequent meetings, the idea for the A-LP was born. "I think it's wonderful," Kroeger said. "It is tremendous for our community." A groundbreaking was held in 1991, but because of delays due to environmental impacts, work did not start until 2002. In addition to the dam, other major components of the project include a 2[product]-mile, 76-inch pipeline between the pumping station next to the Animas River and the reservoir, and the Navajo Nation municipal pipeline from Farmington to Shiprock, a distance of about 22 miles.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:01:41 AM    

Bill Richardson stirred up a hornet's nest when he mentioned that a national water policy would be enacted under his administration. Here's an opinion piece about keeping the Great Lakes water in the lakes drainage and out of pipelines to the drier areas of the nation. From the article:

Anyone who wants to be elected president in 2008 should make protection of the Great Lakes a priority, governors of the lake states declared Thursday. Good idea. It's not just that the lakes contain the largest supply of fresh surface water in the world, it's that people in drier regions of the continent -- especially rapidly developing ones -- look with great longing at it. Presidential candidate Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, cast a covetous eye this way while campaigning recently in Nevada. "Wisconsin is awash in water," he said. The suggestion of a pipeline to the southwest may seem a pipedream, but it is not new.

It's only a matter of time until someone proposes seriously to siphon Great Lakes water to areas of the country where local rain and water resources supply can't sustain development that has already occurred. The Colorado River, which cut the Grand Canyon, once emptied into the Gulf of California. These days -- its water impounded and siphoned off for arid cities and agriculture in California, Nevada and Arizona -- the river doesn't reliably reach the "Sea of Cortez." Agriculture and urban California fight over water.

The current great drought in the Southeast also has politicians and business interests there licking their cracked lips about Great Lakes water. Two congressmen from Michigan made a hands-off declaration just this week. Two weeks ago, the Sunday Chicago Tribune warned at the top of Page 1: "Great Lakes key front in water wars -- Western, Southern states covet Midwest resource."

The letter from the Council of Great Lakes Governors, including Illinois' Rod Blagojevich, asks Richardson and 16 other presidential aspirants for their plans to save the lakes threatened by low water levels and increasing pollution. "The next president must share our vision of protecting the Great Lakes," said Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, chairman of the council. "We need federal partners who share our vision." Voters of the lakes states, with 35 million residents, are likely to " play a pivotal role in the 2008 presidential race," he said.

Legislatures in Illinois and Minnesota have already approved a new Great Lakes Basin Compact proposed also to include Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Among other things, the compact would attempt to restrict the use of Great Lakes water outside the drainage areas of the lakes. Actually, since 1985, diversions have been prohibited by an international agreement between the eight U.S. states and the Great Lakes provinces of Canada -- "The Great Lakes Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement."

Coyote Gulch commends Governor Richardson for starting the conversation, we just hope that the other candidates don't use it as a noose around his neck.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

7:52:51 AM    

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The city of Pueblo is planning for flood control along Fountain Creek in the event of a 100 year flood, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Downtown, East Side largely protected by levees, unless something has changed. If a flood like the one on June 17, 1965, were to occur again on Fountain Creek, where would the water go? Hopefully, down the channel and into the Arkansas River, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers intended when it built a system of levees along the normally sluggish creek in the 1980s. The current Federal Emergency Management Agency map, drawn in 1986 as the levees were being constructed, shows there is little development in the 100-year flood plain. But a wider area likely to flood in a more severe storm event is drawn to include many areas of the East Side and much of the Downtown area.

However, more silt and trees are filling the channel every year, as flows continue to eat away at the reaches of Fountain Creek above Pueblo, said Dennis Maroney, Pueblo stormwater utility director. The Army Corps of Engineers rated the city's plan to clean out the channel on a regular basis as one of the highest priorities in a preliminary assessment of alternatives recently. "It would be a continual job, almost an annual thing," Maroney said. The tamarisks and other trees growing in the area south of Eighth Street were cleared in 2005, but already have returned and the city has not attempted any dredging. A large sandbar accumulating at the confluence of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River was scoured out by heavy rains in 2006, however. Meanwhile, the city is awaiting a new map from FEMA to see how much the capacity of the channel to contain a flood has diminished. Preliminary results of the Corps watershed study prepared by the URS engineering firm prompted the city to fortify parts of the levee with concrete blocks last year, using money from fines assessed on Colorado Springs for past sewage spills. URS found the channel might no longer have the capacity to contain peak flows at the southern end of the levee, threatening railroad and road crossings.

Here's an article from The Pueblo Chieftain asking the question, "Is the Fountain Creek levee system enough?". From the article:

A series of small reservoirs on Fountain Creek would provide additional protection to Pueblo from large floods, Pueblo city and county officials say. Despite that assessment, the Army Corps of Engineers said recently it will give only cursory mention of a dam on Fountain Creek priority in the Fountain Creek Watershed Plan to be released next year. The Corps still is working with Pueblo and El Paso County officials to prioritize the final report of a $3 million study that began after flooding caused serious damage to both counties in 1999. Teller County also is part of the study.

At a Nov. 2 meeting, Charles Wilson of the Corps said a dam on Fountain Creek was too expensive to meet benefit-cost ratio criteria. Several wetlands restoration projects or small projects to protect structures like bridges were rated higher. The one flood protection project that passed muster was dredging and removing trees in the Fountain Creek channel through Pueblo. The levees that protect Pueblo from flooding, completed in 1989, have lost some of their ability to protect the city from a 100-year flood, like the one which wreaked havoc on the city in 1965, preliminary engineering reports by URS done as part of the watershed study show. The Federal Emergency Management Agency still is completing its assessment to determine how the channel has changed since the levees were completed...

The city has been working with the Corps on projects within the channel, including shoring up areas of the creek near the North Side King Soopers and at the railroad tracks near 13th Street and Interstate 25. There are also projects the Corps recommended that have been rejected. "The Corps was looking at a wetlands project between Fourth and Eighth and we told them 'no,'" Maroney said. He explained the impact of the project on flood protection was unknown. Maroney often preaches about the need for other measures in the entire watershed, not just along the creek, and said containing more frequent smaller floods should be emphasized. After a small flood last May drenched the Trollsville neighborhood near the Pueblo Mall, a large low-lying area was inundated with water until an embankment was breached. The site is an example of the type of area that could be developed for off-channel storage, Maroney said.

"The dam concept could be off-line," Maroney said. "The thing I think has the most promise is a large number of off-channel facilities." The facilities could siphon off flows, even from more frequent smaller flood events, and allow transported sediments to settle out. The transported sediments are more likely to contain harmful micro-organisms, and settling them in a pond could improve water quality, Maroney said...

A mapping project by a consultant hired by Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District could identify potential sites where off-channel storage could be developed. During a helicopter flyover of Fountain Creek last month, Merle Grimes was able to visually identify 20 to 30 sites that might be suitable candidates for off-channel storage. He stressed there's nothing scientific about the work yet, especially since he's only been on the job a month. Working with the detailed database collected during a Corps of Engineers study, he hopes to identify the sites where smaller reservoirs could be based on elevations. The advantage of side detentions it that they are less disruptive, less expensive and can meet other needs like creating wetlands or recreation sites, Grimes said...

Petros points to the system of dams that the Corps constructed near Denver -- Cherry Creek, Chatfield and Bear Creek -- as a way that flood control, water supply and recreation needs on Fountain Creek could be satisfied. "I think the water supply component will increase the benefit," Petros said. "We know it's going to cost a lot of money." But so would the $1 billion to build SDS, or the $1 billion to enlarge Lake Pueblo, Petros said. "I think they're missing the point," he said. Storage would not have to be on-channel, and could be on tributaries along the same lines as Jimmy Camp Creek and Williams Creek reservoirs already proposed under SDS...

Petros agrees the South Platte restoration project, which improved the river through Denver, should serve as a model for Fountain Creek. "None of that would have been possible unless they had Cherry Creek, Chatfield and Bear Creek," Petros said. "Ultimately, the people of Pueblo have to care. If the water can't flow in the Fountain, it's going to back up and flood the Downtown area. It's going to fall on City Council when the big one comes." When. Petros pointed out that the really big Fountain Creek floods seem to come every 20 to 30 years and the creek is overdue.

Here's a look back at the 1965 Fountain Creek Flood and the idea of a dam on Fountain Creek from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

As reporter Jerry Skelton summed it up at the time: "The Fontaine qui Bouille (fountain that boils) lived up to its French name Thursday night as it boiled through Pueblo, ripping houses from their foundations, tossing automobiles and house trailers about like toys, straining bridges to the breaking point and spreading a coat of slimy mud over everything in its path." The photos that day and over the next few weeks showed the dramatic destruction of floods in Pueblo and the surrounding area. A lumber yard shed lodged itself in the center of the Fourth Street Bridge. The Pinon Bridge was photographed as it was literally swept away. A train made a nose-dive into the Purgatoire River. The flooding on Fountain Creek was just a part of a week of storms and flooding that caused $500 million in damage in the South Platte Basin, largely in the Denver metro area, and $37 million in the Arkansas Basin, much of it to cities and farms east of Pueblo. While Pueblo's East Side was hammered, the flood was less devastating to the city than the June 3, 1921, flood.

Considered a 100-year flood (a storm that has a chance of occurring once in a century) on Fountain Creek, the 1965 storm dumped 4.7 inches in six hours, centered on the Jimmy Camp Creek area, or what is now the Banning-Lewis Ranch development in eastern Colorado Springs. That particular storm did not cause much damage to Colorado Springs, because Jimmy Camp Creek joins the Fountain south of the city. The peak flow at Jimmy Camp Creek was 124,000 cubic feet per second. Flows through Pueblo crested at 80,000 cfs, and further downstream at the Catlin Canal headgate, the Arkansas River topped out at 43,200 cfs. Flows decreased as the floods moved downward because the channels became wider. While John Martin Dam captured the entire flow of the river - with levels going from almost nothing to more than 230,000 acre-feet overnight. It was fed by torrential flows on the Purgatoire River and other tributaries below Fountain Creek as well, with a peak flow of 104,000 cfs. Below John Martin, there were even worse storms - at Holly 11 inches of rain fell in just six hours.

Nearly lost in all the accounts was the fact that most of Pueblo was protected by measures put in place after the 1921 flood. While storms were not as severe on the mainstem of the Arkansas River, a levee and a dam built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prevented more rain from compounding the damage to Pueblo. But the project only rated a mention in 1965 news accounts. The levee is still there, covered with painted murals that serve as urban scenery along a kayak course. But the second part of the project, the Rock Canyon Barrier Dam, held back much of the flow from the Arkansas River during the storm. Built to withstand flows of 100,000 cfs, the dam channeled water safely through the levees. The dam was replaced in the early 1970s by the Pueblo Dam, which included a flood control component in addition to water storage. During the 1965 flooding, peak flows on the Arkansas River above Fountain Creek were estimated to be 7,500 cfs, with much of the accumulated water flowing from behind the containment in the days following the storm. With disaster in every other direction, the protections already in place received brief notice - one paragraph - in the columns of the Chieftain...

Damage reports from the flood also began coming in. On the first day, Pueblo County reported losses of $500,000 to its shops in the Fountain Creek channel. Damage to homes was $200,000, with up to 3,000 people dislocated because of the flooding. A total of 5,500 acres of farmland were washed away with losses to agriculture at nearly $1 million.

The need for a dam north of Pueblo was included in a 1970 report by the Corps, which called it the "Best Plan of Improvement." The Corps at the time said levees were effective only in protecting area with high-value development, but not for overall flood control. "The flood problems of the Arkansas River cannot be solved or avoided by a plan that does not include flood control structures," the report stated...

In subsequent years, as Colorado Springs and other communities in El Paso County grew, they began releasing more water into Fountain Creek. In 1987, Colorado Springs obtained a water court decree that allows the city to exchange treated wastewater into Fountain Creek for fresh mountain water. In 1989, six levees were completed and dedicated in Pueblo at a cost of $8.6 million...

No one mentioned the possibility of the Fountain Creek dam - publicly, at least - until Pueblo County land-use attorney Ray Petros proposed it as an alternative during a technical meeting in 2005 hosted by the Bureau of Reclamation as part of an environment impact statement for the proposed Southern Delivery System. Petros suggested combining water supply with flood control and recreation in a dam. Reclamation did not include the idea as an alternative. This year, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar proposed study of a Fountain Creek dam or flood control project as part of an Arkansas River storage bill that would also study enlargement of Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake. Affected parties are still negotiating over the bill, and at a meeting last month, Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera suggested breaking out Fountain Creek in a separate bill. This month, at a meeting of a technical advisory committee looking at a $3 million Fountain Creek Watershed Plan, Charles Wilson of the Corps said a dam still fails to meet cost-benefit criteria, but would be mentioned in the plan. He said the Corps would give it more detailed study if instructed to do so by Congress.

We love a good flood story. More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:13:30 AM    

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Bonny Reservoir is a victim of the Republican River Compact, drought, and over-pumping in the alluvial aquifer. Here's an article about the reservoir and its last days, from The Denver Post. They write:

In a matter of short weeks, perhaps days, the tap again will be running at Bonny Reservoir, continuing an inexorable process that ultimately will remove virtually all of the water, every one of the fish. In an ongoing effort to meet a compact obligation with Kansas and Nebraska, the Colorado Division of Water Resources will mandate the release of whatever rainwater accumulated in the reservoir during the summer, further depleting a water reserve already dangerously low. Doug Krieger, principal Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist for the southeast region, estimates a maximum depth of just 8 to 10 feet in the aftermath, with depths barely half that spread across the rest of the dwindling reservoir. Once among the state's most popular warm-water fisheries and a haven for migrating waterfowl, Bonny also is the site of a popular state park whose attraction has shriveled along with the water. Only hand-launched craft have been able to reach the water for most of the season...

With no storage potential in sight because Colorado remains substantially in arrears of its delivery obligation in the Republican River system, the impoundment almost certainly will go dry. Ken Knox, chief deputy state water engineer, estimates the end will come in two years. "Without a great amount of rain, Bonny will continue to decrease through evaporation and seepage," Knox said of a situation that also impacts area farmers through a curtailment of crop irrigation from high-capacity wells. Krieger points to next spring, when fish still are alive and small craft access remains, as the time for salvage. He hopes the wildlife agency can capture many fish for transfer to other eastern Colorado waters, while anglers catch the rest...

The problem on the Republican is much the same as with other water compacts under which downstream states were granted guarantees at a time when precipitation fell in far greater volume. A drought that began late last decade and peaked during 2001-03 left Colorado and other upper basin states holding the bag in several river drainages, with less water than they are obliged to deliver and almost none for themselves. A similar situation caused giant John Martin Reservoir on the Arkansas River to shrink to just 2 percent of maximum volume in 2005. DOW then leased water from irrigators to keep fish alive, water that simply doesn't exist on the Republican. Buoyed by improved snowfall and local rain, the Martin reservoir since has recovered substantially - a revival not anticipated for the much more limited Republican watershed.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:04:56 AM    

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