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 18, 2007

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According to The Valley Courier time is running short for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District's groundwater management sub-district #1 to get on the 2008 tax rolls. From the article:

Steve Vandiver, manager for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District that is sponsoring the water management sub-districts, told members of the Rio Grande Roundtable this week that the first part of December is the latest that the sub-district can get its fee structure to the Valley counties to make it on the 2008 tax rolls. "So the push to try to get something done for this next tax year is going to be mighty close," Vandiver said. He said the water district is trying to work something out with objectors to the first sub-district's management plan to allow at least the basic fee portion of the plan to go forward so the sub-district would begin seeing revenue next year to get on its feet...

"That process is ongoing to get the objectors to allow a portion of the plan to go into effect while the issues remaining could be brought to the court," Vandiver said. He said he hoped the court would schedule a hearing on the objectors' concerns the week of November 26. November 26 is the deadline for objections to be filed with water court regarding the state engineer's approval of the first sub-district's management plan. District Judge O. John Kuenhold would preside over both the water and district court objections and could opt to hear them at the same time, Vandiver said. "Those two cases may be considered simultaneously by Judge Kuenhold," Vandiver said.

Vandiver reminded the roundtable members that the goal of the sub-district is to reduce well pumping to stabilize the Valley's aquifers and minimize or eliminate injuries to senior water rights. "It will be done through a reduction in pumping by reducing the number of acres that are being irrigated at the present time." The first sub-district lies in the closed basin area of the Valley. Vandiver said other water management sub-districts are in various stages of formation including sub-districts on the Conejos, Trinchera, Saguache Creek and one south and west of Alamosa.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:19:34 AM    

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A final decree for the lawsuit between Kansas and Colorado over the Arkansas River may happen this year, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

It would set up a system to allow the two states to work out differences through arbitration rather than through a contentious battle in the U.S. Supreme Court that has flared since Kansas filed a lawsuit in 1985. The decree would be submitted to the court by a special master for final approval. "A lot of work has gone into the decree and appendices," said Dennis Montgomery, the lead attorney for Colorado in the case. "We've reached agreements to resolve issues."

The main point of contention for the past three years has been how a 10-year rolling average of deliveries to Kansas is calculated. The first year of the model was 1997, and the states disagreed on whether Colorado owed water to Kansas. It was finally agreed that Colorado earned a credit for deliveries over the 1997-2006 period. The good news is that the states agree on the other years and Colorado will not owe water, Montgomery said. "In the end, it shows we're in compliance for the 10-year period," Montgomery said...

The Supreme Court rejected Kansas claims that the construction of Lake Pueblo and Trinidad Reservoir harmed Kansas, but found wells that were sunk after the compact depleted deliveries to Kansas. Kansas originally asked for damages of $300 million, but the amount was reduced to $34.7 million in 2005, representing only damages after 1985. The ruling resulted in well rules that led to the effective dry-up of about 20,000 acres in the Arkansas Valley and forced well user associations to buy or lease alternative sources of augmentation water.

Colorado has drafted surface irrigation efficiency rules designed to guard against reduced return flows as farmers make improvements like canal lining, sprinklers or drip irrigation. Public meetings on the proposed rules should begin in January. One of the most significant agreements is accounting for transit loss and timing delays as water is released from John Martin Reservoir to the Arkansas River. John Martin, located near Las Animas, regulates storage through a system of accounts, giving Kansas the ability to call for water when it is needed...

Another major point of contention was determining guidelines for arbitration, which would be outlined in a final decree, Montgomery said...

The Arkansas River Compact Commission will meet Dec. 10-11 in Lamar.

Category: Colorado Water

8:03:44 AM    

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The Colorado Water Conservation Board has increased the instream flow right on Badger Creek, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board expanded a flow on Badger Creek this week, an unusual but not unprecedented action. The board agreed Wednesday to increase the in-stream flow water right to 5.5 cubic feet per second (about 3.5 million gallons a day) from the current 3 cfs (about 1.9 million gallons a day). Expanding the protection on Badger Creek, a 30-mile-long stream that joins the Arkansas near Howard, was supported by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Division of Wildlife, as well as Trout Unlimited and other environmental groups.

The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District settled its opposition to the change because the CWCB committed to placing a stream gauge one mile upstream from the confluence on Badger Creek. The district was unable to set aside flows of 0.25 for future development in a proposed "variable decree," however. Upper Ark General Manager Terry Scanga said he is concerned that the conservation board could seek to expand more decrees in the future. "It's like they're asking for a second bite of the apple," Scanga said.

The CWCB is the only entity in the state that can hold an in-stream flow water right, which preserves flows for fish, wildlife and habitat. Since 1973, more than 8,500 miles of streams and 486 natural lakes have been protected by the program. Only 20 of the in-stream flow rights have been expanded, and Badger Creek is only the second case in the Arkansas Valley. The in-stream right has been expanded when scientific evidence shows the existing flow may not be sufficient for wildlife, said Harold Miskel, CWCB representative for the Arkansas River basin...

The increase to flow is actually treated as a new appropriation, since increasing a water right is not allowed under Colorado water law, according to a legal analysis by the Colorado attorney general's office. A memo to the CWCB from Jeff Baessler of the stream and lake protection staff, explained recent research has shown timing of flows, or a "natural flow regime," is more important to fish life cycles than simply maintaining a minimum flow. That has meant some flows have been re-evaluated. "Over the years, DOW biologists observed that self-sustaining fish populations or aquatic life require more than a single 'minimum' flow during months when they are moving through the channel and spawning," Baessler said...

Most of the expansions of in-stream flows have been on small streams in the Colorado River basin. However, the largest change came on a 15-mile reach of the Colorado River above the confluence with the Gunnison River. In 1994, the CWCB increased the 581 cfs decreed in 1992 by an additional 300 cfs, to meet requirements for endangered fish determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:56:10 AM    

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The southwestern corner of Colorado looks to be slipping into drought conditions, according to a report from The Cortez Journal. From the article:

When weather guru Jim Andrus looks to the east at the La Plata mountains, he is not happy. "There is not a flake of snow on those mountains. They look like great big, gray tomb stones pointing at the sky," Andrus said. Andrus reports that the area hasn't seen a drop of rain or snow since Oct. 17. "That is a very ominous sign," he said. Andrus, a local weather observer for the National Weather Service, said that so far this year, the Cortez area has received 10.51 inches of rain, and the normal rainfall is 12.31. That puts the area at 85 percent of normal, down from 106 percent of normal in September...

Dan Fernandez, of the Colorado State University Dolores County Extension Center, said the dry weather is becoming a concern with area farmers. Fernandez said he recently dug some holes, about 5 feet deep, and he was shocked at how dry the soil was. "We have about 60 to 70 percent field capacity," he said. "We would really love to see it in the 80 to 90 percent ranges." The ground, which is not frozen because the weather has been so warm, will be able to absorb moisture that does come, Fernandez said.

Category: Colorado Water

7:41:09 AM    

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From The Loveland Reporter-Herald, "A dispute between Larimer County's largest funeral service and its new neighbors hinges on the dental health of the recently departed...Residents in the neighborhood nearby the cemetery at Larimer County Road 30 and U.S. 287 have protested the move, saying the crematorium will pump unhealthy amounts of mercury vapor into the air. They also say the vapor will hurt students at nearby Cottonwood Plains Elementary School and water sources such as Donath Lake."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:26:32 AM    

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Here's an article about last week's combined Arkansas, South Platte and Metro roundtable meeting in Douglas County, from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

Front Range water users are growing impatient over the slow pace of study of whether any plan for bringing water from the Colorado River watershed to the Front Range could work. Members of three roundtables - the Arkansas, South Platte and Metro - gathered last week in a joint session to look at common water issues. After hearing reports on two plans that would bring more water to the Front Range and reviewing the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, the group came close to asking the state to begin a study of relative merits of several competing plans. Weighing the need for Western Slope roundtables to reach consensus against a more risky go-it-alone approach, the group finally backed down. It was abundantly clear, however, that most thought a study of some sort is overdue. "For every year we delay, there are farmers in Morgan and Otero counties going out of business," said Jeris Danielson, a La Junta water consultant and former state engineer. One of Danielson's clients is Aaron Million, who proposes building a pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir across Wyoming to the Front Range.

Late in the day, a stampede of sorts was started when Eric Wilkinson, executive director of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, pointedly removed his Northern district lapel pin and spoke as a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, sponsors of the SWSI plan. Wilkinson had been presenting Northern's idea to bring water from the Yampa River basin in the northwest corner of the state to the Front Range through a pipeline. "The three roundtables have to let it be known that they want these projects to move forward when SWSI II is presented to the conservation board," Wilkinson said.

Dan Birch, deputy general manager of the Colorado River District, who had presented a reconnaissance study on a plan to pump water upstream on the Blue River - either from Green Mountain Reservoir or another site - into Dillon Reservoir for Front Range use, said there is a range of opinion on the Western Slope about any project. Some say "not one drop," while others would welcome a new reservoir as part of the project. "There's some, and that would probably include me, who are in the middle and would not be in support of a project unless there is some benefit (to the Western slope)," Birch said. At one point, he downplayed the Blue River plan he had just outlined. "There is no consensus on the Western Slope to proceed with this as a project," Birch said. Wilkinson was also reluctant to endorse the Yampa pump-back as a solution, and in effect asked if there were a champion for the project in the room...

The newest report on SWSI includes five potential pump-back projects - Flaming Gorge, Green Mountain, Colorado River Return (similar to one promoted as the Big Straw a few years ago), Yampa and Blue Mesa. Rick Brown, the CWCB staffer who has shepherded SWSI, said he is looking for direction from the board on which way to go. Several CWCB members were on hand, and said they had intended to look at the projects, but were directed by the Legislature to stop such studies...

Dan McAuliffe, acting CWCB director, cautioned the group that a request from three roundtables without the blessings of the four Western Slope roundtables would not be effective. He said a request through the roundtables for a complete study would take time, with funding a couple of years out, but would demonstrate the type of consensus envisioned when the roundtables were formed by the Legislature in 2002. Still, the roundtable members were impatient. "Some of us don't have until 2010 to start to plan," said Frank Jaeger, manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District. "I started planning Reuter-Hess in 1985 and it's still not done." The Reuter-Hess reservoir has never held water and is being enlarged to serve the needs of several South Metro communities, but so far there's not much water to put in it. Parker has paid Colorado State University $1 million to study agricultural water sharing as part of its own plan to pump back South Platte River water.

Category: Colorado Water

7:20:16 AM    

Here's a recap of Thursday's Democratic debate from a western perspective, from The Denver Post. They write:

Nevada's caucuses on Jan. 19 position the state as a likely third in the national lineup and relevant for the first time in presidential politics. The early slot on the primary calendar has prompted candidates - mostly Democrats - not only to show up, but finally to speak out on water shortages, growth, mining, wilderness protection and other challenges facing the Interior West. "We are on message about the things the voters of the West care about," party chairman Howard Dean said Tuesday in Denver. But, if the candidates' performances two days later were any indication, that message is hardly resounding.

But, if the candidates' performances two days later were any indication, that message is hardly resounding. In the first presidential debate ever in Nevada, Democrats addressed the dangers of Chinese toys, possible war with Iran and immigration, but touched only on one specifically Western issue - a proposed nuclear waste dump here, which the pack of seven all oppose. Democrats' motivation to win the region is obvious this election cycle. But questions remain about how seriously they are taking Western issues and whether their interest will fade in the 10 months between Nevada's caucuses and the election in November 2008. "On one hand, it's a major deal that they're coming here at all," said Reggie Luck, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, computer specialist who volunteered at the debate on campus Thursday. "On the other hand, I wonder if it's just lip service before they pack up tomorrow and head for the airport."

Galvanizing voters here, they're learning, means addressing the role the federal government plays in the West as a resource manager and landlord. It means understanding the tensions between farmers and urban water users, environmentalists and the ATV crowd, and land owners and the companies mining and drilling beneath them. Talking Western means knowing the names of obscure desert critters threatened to near extinction. It means discussing fire prevention in national forests and snowmobiles in national parks. And it means striking difficult balances everywhere in the region. "The West is crying out for help. We've got massive natural-resources issues that aren't getting solved," said Peter Binney, who manages water for the sprawling city of Aurora. "The next president is going to have to make a very conscious decision to be either a Henry Ford or a Nero on Western issues. The question for the candidates is, will he or she be truly committed to reinventing the role of the federal government in the West?" Nowhere has that role been more contentious than in Nevada, where the feds own almost 90 percent of the land. Once described in a Defense Department training manual as "a damn good place to dump used razor blades," the state long has been Washington's preferred spot to practice war games and test its nuclear weapons. For almost 30 years, officials here have butted heads with the Energy Department over plans to bury the nation's high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain. Most recently, Las Vegas finds itself at the mercy of the federal government in securing enough water to quench its hemorrhaging growth.

Politcal Wire: "The Los Angeles Times reports that Giuliani promised 'that if he reached the White House, he would appoint future Supreme Court justices who are like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.'"

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

7:05:50 AM    

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U.S. Senator Ken Salazar introduced a bill to fund a study for a dam on Fountain Creek on Friday, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

"This bill is the first step in implementing a vision to restore Fountain Creek as a crown jewel in Colorado," Salazar said. "Fountain Creek has the potential to provide unmatched recreational opportunities, healthy habitat for wildlife to flourish and continued productive agricultural lands." The bill calls for the Army Corps of Engineers to study one or more multipurpose dams on Fountain Creek within two years of enactment of the legislation. The proposed legislation spells out that a dam, or dams, would be used for flood control, sediment control, water supply, water quality and wildlife habitat. It also directs the Corps to incorporate a 1970 study of Fountain Creek and the ongoing Fountain Creek Watershed Plan in the new study. It would not impact any other studies relating to Fountain Creek, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project or the Southern Delivery System...

At a June meeting with groups that had been negotiating over the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District's Preferred Storage Options Plan, Salazar floated a bill that would have combined a feasibility study of enlarging Lake Pueblo, Turquoise Lake and a possible dam on Fountain Creek. Some of the negotiators at an October meeting said the Fountain Creek proposal unnecessarily complicated the Arkansas River storage projects bill, and Salazar indicated at the time he might split the two ideas. Enlargement of Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake would involve the Bureau of Reclamation, rather than the Corps, since they are both part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. A bill for the Fry-Ark Project enlargements is still possible, but is not ready at this point, said Ken Lane, Salazar's chief of staff.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:58:28 AM    

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