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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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

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Instream residents of the Rio Grande River are doing backflips over the habitat enhancement project at the Coller State Wildlife Area. Here's a report from The Monte Vista Journal. They write:

An extensive project to enhance trout habitat on the Rio Grande River is nearing completion on Coller State Wildlife Area (CSWA). Sponsored by The San Luis Valley Trout Unlimited (SLVTU) Chapter, The Division of Wildlife (DOW) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the project has taken countless hours to initiate and complete on the expansive stretch of the popular, publicly accessed area. This project involves forming structures that create habitat for the Brown Ttrout, as well as Rainbow Trout, and includes adding 300 Boulders in various shapes and clusters. Some 80 structures have been added in a 2.3 mile stretch of the Rio Grande River in the CSWA. The project's goal was to build additional rock structures where trout can feed and rest, while making these structures accessible to both boat and wading fishermen.

John Alves of the Colorado Division of Wildlife said they didn't just place the boulders, but explained that it was a combination of art and science including hydrology and fish biology. "All those things come together," Alves said regarding creating the structures. "We won't put them in places where they'll do harm." The strategically placed boulders were moved around with a large excavator by Tom O'Rourke of O'Rourke Excavating and Trucking, who won the local bid for the project. Each is placed with the help of plans drawn up by Laurie Clark of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Monte Vista. When completed, there will be around 51 clusters and 18 veins (long lines of rocks that run upstream to help in creating habitat pools, as well as diverting the water away from the shoreline, helping to keep the river more narrow), as well as several "J Hook" formations which will create deeper, bigger pools in a couple of different areas of the river. The formations are made to be as natural looking and non-intrusive as possible, and the crescent and diamond shaped formations are formed with a hole in the middle to create a deep pool for fish. Some of the existing rock formations will be lowered, moved around and repaired. The boulders provide overhead cover for brown trout, which are very sensitive to movement, and the new habitat will create that cover close to feeding areas. "This will provide opportunities for anglers in this popular fishing area," Alves explained. A gravel bar was added to one small stretch to allow for a deeper, more narrow part of the river and, hopefully, attract Rainbow Trout, which like deeper waters. Alves said creating a diversity of habitat was important for fish, and explained that having a combination of riffles, shallow water and runs (deep water) will make the fish more apt to stay in that part of the river, as well as adding numbers to that strip of the river. This is a double-edged approach, which will create a better habitat for the fish while making the area more diverse for anglers.

The Courier is running a photo gallery of the work in placing the boulders. Thanks to SLV Dweller for the link.

Category: Colorado Water

8:01:07 PM    

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Here's an update on the Rio Grande Water Conservancy District's groundwater sub-district #1 from The Valley Courier. From the article:

Several Valley groups filed objections on Monday in water court to the state engineer's decision to approve the Valley's first water sub-district management plan. Colorado Division of Water Resources Division III Division Engineer Michael Sullivan said he was aware of seven responses filed with the court regarding Acting State Engineer Ken Knox's decision. He said District Judge O. John Kuenhold would now schedule one hearing or a joint hearing to consider the protests to the state engineer's decision and the Rio Grande Water Conservation District's decision to approve the first sub-district management plan.

Some groups filed objections to both the state and local approvals. Objectors generally based their protests on statutory violations and concerns that the plan did not adequately protect surface water users. Some stated they supported the sub-district concept but believed the management plan still needed work. In addition to objectors, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District entered a document in the court record in support of the plan. The district is the sponsor of the sub-district. In addition, the Conejos Water Conservancy District headquartered in Manassa filed a statement with the court supporting the state engineer's decision to approve the water management plan.

Thanks to SLV Dweller for the link. More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:34:43 PM    

From The Denver Post, "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday reversed seven rulings that denied endangered species increased protection, after an investigation found the actions were tainted by political pressure from a former senior Interior Department official. In a letter to Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the agency acknowledged that the actions had been "inappropriately influenced" and that "revising the seven identified decisions is supported by scientific evidence and the proper legal standards." The reversal affects the protection for species including the white-tailed prairie dog, the Preble's meadow jumping mouse -- found in Colorado and Wyoming -- and the Canada lynx. The rulings came under scrutiny last spring after an Interior Department inspector general concluded that agency scientists were being pressured to alter their findings on endangered species by Julie MacDonald, then a deputy assistant secretary overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service."

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:22:27 AM    

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From The Greeley Tribune (free registration required), "The 2007 Northeastern Colorado Crops Clinic, planned by Colorado State University Extension specialists and Northeastern Colorado Extension agents, will focus on limited irrigation issues. The clinic and workshop will be at Island Grove Regional Park in Greeley, Dec. 12-13. Registration is $100 per participant for both days or $60 for either single day. Registrations are due Dec. 5. For a registration brochure e-mail or call (970) 304-6535."

More from the article: "The clinic will focus on management options farmers have when faced with limited or reduced water supplies -- reduction of irrigated acreage, reduction of irrigation amounts to a field, or different crops that require less irrigation. The options will be addressed by sessions on an overview of the economic impact of limited irrigation, agricultural pptions for limited water strategies, weed shifts and strategies, managing major changes in an operation, long range weather outlook for Colorado, cropping systems planning and genetic advancements for drought tolerance."

Category: Colorado Water

6:10:36 AM    

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Here's a report on yesterday's day long meeting about the proposed Super Ditch, a project being pushed by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A daylong meeting Tuesday at Otero Junior College explored the details of a Super Ditch - a land fallowing, water leasing program that would allow farmers to control their water rights - being promoted by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. The workshop attracted 115 people, mostly ditch shareholders or officers. Besides sharing the latest legal and engineering studies by the Lower Ark, the workshop invited experts on state water law as well as some potential customers to talk about the potential consequences of the Super Ditch. None of the seven potential ditch companies envisioned as participants - Bessemer, Catlin, Fort Lyon, High Line, Holbrook, Otero and Oxford canals - have yet met or voted on the proposal. The Lower Ark has funneled more than $500,000 into studies so far, but eventually plans to have shareholders own and run the Super Ditch.

The change of the traditional use of water rights to municipal uses from agriculture envisioned under the Super Ditch also would require an application in Division 2 water court - in what several people already have termed "the mother of all court cases." Still, it's a cause worth pursuing, one of the state's most respected water lawyers said. "The cities have the people and the votes," said water attorney David Robbins, whose clients range from Colorado Springs to the Rio Grande Water Conservancy District. "I hope you continue to work with the Lower Ark to find a way that lets you take control, yet keep control of your resources." Robbins said any water leasing program such as the Super Ditch would have, as its primary obligation, to maintain the level of water use to fulfill Arkansas River Compact obligations. He explained how changing the use of a water right could not increase the amount of water the right has historically yielded. "The measure of a water right is the amount beneficially consumed, not the amount diverted," Robbins explained. Robbins, whose firm also is handling Kansas v. Colorado Supreme Court litigation, was emphatic about meeting the needs of the compact, at times passionate. He joined Division 2 Water Engineer Steve Witte in defending the need for proposed water efficiency rules, a favorite topic for many of the farmers in attendance Tuesday...

The Super Ditch also would require acreage to be dried up and farmers would not be able to pick and choose which ground to put in the program without giving up some legitimate cropland, Witte said, saying credits on a High Line Canal lease in 2004-05 were adjusted according to the actual dry-ups. "Folks, you can't make a change without effecting a change. There has to be a dry-up to liberate water for additional uses," Witte said. Witte also outlined state substitute water supply laws that would allow the Super Ditch to operate until a water court decision is made...

The group also heard from two potential customers of the Super Ditch, although any deals are still a long way off. Gary Barber, of the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, said the group of El Paso County communities is dependent on Denver Basin Aquifers for its supply and wants to cooperate with the Super Ditch once it is formed. The group has launched a study that includes a reservoir at Stonewall Springs near the Pueblo Chemical Depot and a pipeline north. "We continue to mine groundwater," Barber said. "Working with the Super Ditch requires a lot of infrastructure, and that's a challenge for us." Mark Harding, president of Pure Cycle - both a water provider in the Denver Metro area and the largest shareholder on the Fort Lyon Canal - said Front Range communities no longer can come into agricultural communities and scoop up water rights as they have in the past. He said collaboration is the only answer. "If you can't find a solution that protects all the interests in the basin, it's going to get harder and harder to find a water supply," Harding said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:00:31 AM    

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Aurora's water storage is in good shape heading into winter, reports The Denver Post. From the article:

[Aurora's] water-storage facilities are at 83 percent capacity and should be full by spring if there is an average spring runoff, officials said. Snowpack statewide already is well below normal, and forecasts call for a dry winter, possibly leading to drought conditions next summer, similar to 2002. But with the Prairie Waters Project coming along and a new water-rate structure that encourages conservation being designed, the city is in good shape for the future...

Aurora owns or stores water in 12 reservoirs and lakes that provide the city with more than 155,000 acre-feet of storage capacity from the Arkansas, Colorado and South Platte river basins. Aurora gets about 95 percent of its water from those basins, said Melissa Elliott of Aurora Water. Conservation also has been key. Aurora residents are using 20 percent less water than they were in 2001, the year before the drought, Elliott said. The city also is drafting a new water-rate system that will reward those who conserve the most water, and it will be in effect by next spring. Officials came under fire this year for a rate structure that punished extensive water users, even though they had conserved during the prior year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage of Prairie Waters here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:47:03 AM    

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Here's a look at worldwide water consumption and some of the predicted problems from The New Statesman. From the article:

Water is rapidly becoming one of the defining crises of the 21st century. Climate change is making its availability increasingly uncertain. And we are using ever more of the stuff. In the past three decades the human population has doubled but human use of water has tripled - largely because, tonne-for-tonne, modern 'high-yielding' crop varieties often need more water than the old crops.

Many parts of the world, notably the Middle East, are running out of water to feed themselves. In response, a vast global trade is emerging. Not in water itself, but in thirsty crops like grains and sugar and cotton. Effectively the UK imports 45 cubic kilometres of water every year embodied in such crops - much of it from poor and arid lands. Economists call this the 'virtual water trade'. Many countries would starve without it...

The 1947 partitioning of India split control of the River Indus. Now India and Pakistan are at odds over a new Indian hydroelectric plant that, Pakistan claims, threatens its British-built irrigation schemes, which supply most of the country's food. India's control over the Ganges causes both floods and droughts in downstream Bangladesh. In Africa, Britain left behind a Nile treaty that gives all the waters of a river that flows through ten countries to the two most downstream: Egypt and Sudan. Egypt now threatens to wage war on anyone upstream -- such as Ethiopia -- who takes so much as a pint pot of water from the river. Other festering disputes concern Chinese dams being built on the Mekong in Southeast Asia, and complex conflicts in central Asia, where upstream hydroelectric dams that keep the people of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan warm in winter disrupt water supplies for the huge cotton plantations of downstream Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. One of the first items on the agenda of a future functioning Iraqi government will be to contest Turkish dams upstream on the Tigris and Euphrates. A major problem in many of these disputes is that there are no internationally agreed ground rules for how nations should cooperate over shared rivers.

Category: Colorado Water

5:41:36 AM    

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