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

Central Colorado Water Conservancy District

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

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From The BBC: "A new computer model developed by German researchers, reported in the journal Nature, suggests the cooling will counter greenhouse warming. However, temperatures will again be rising quickly by about 2020, they say...The key to the new prediction is the natural cycle of ocean temperatures called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), which is closely related to the warm currents that bring heat from the tropics to the shores of Europe. The cause of the oscillation is not well understood, but the cycle appears to come round about every 60 to 70 years. It may partly explain why temperatures rose in the early years of the last century before beginning to cool in the 1940s."

The Island of Doubt:

Why climate change is so tricky to cover:

Climatologists probably need to take a stiff drink before they open the papers (or fire up their web browsers) the morning after their studies appear in print or online. Two if the studies involved say anything interesting about global warming. Today's coverage of a Nature paper that predicts a decade-long, regional cooling trend for Europe and North America is sure to give the authors the jitters.

Noel Keenlyside of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel, Germany, and his co-authors laced their letter with caveats. They call their attempt to model the effects of meridional overturning circulation "a simple approach" and note that they are working with surface temperatures when what they really need are subsurface records. But most observers seem to think they are at least giving the climate science community lots to think about when they conclude that global average surface temperatures could stop rising until the end of the next decade thanks to natural ocean cycles.

Category: Climate Change News
5:33:17 PM    

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Go here and vote for your favorite project in the "Tapping Local Innovation: Unclogging the Water and Sanitation Crisis" competition sponsored by Now.

Thanks to Water for the Ages for the link.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
5:32:12 PM    

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From The USGS: "The largest flood on the lower Mississippi River since 1973 was measured on April 22 in Vicksburg, Mississippi by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The flow measured 1.8 million cubic feet per second. That is enough water to fill more than 20 Olympic size swimming pools in one second, or more than 1.75 million pools in a day. The flood was caused by intense rainfall throughout the central plains and Ohio River valley in March and April that has now reached the lower Mississippi River basin. According to the National Weather Service, the Mississippi River is expected to remain above flood stage at Vicksburg, MS until May 20. Find current flood and high flow conditions across the country at the USGS WaterWatch website"

Category: Colorado Water
5:30:54 PM    

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Denver Business Journal "The growing southern suburbs, so reliant on the finite water pumped from underground aquifers, are working toward an agreement of who pays for what share of projects to bring renewable, mountain runoff to the area. The South Metro Water Supply Authority includes 13 towns or districts in Douglas and Arapahoe counties serving the water needs of homeowners and businesses from Parker to Roxborough and Highlands Ranch to Castle Rock. The authority said Thursday the members expect to have an agreement by the second quarter of 2008 outlining each provider's share of a series of infrastructure and water rights projects."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:30:02 PM    

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From The Denver Business Journal: "Xcel Energy Inc.'s 98-year-old Shoshone power plant on the Colorado River, which uses water to generate electricity, has returned to operations nearly a year after a pipe burst and flooded the plant. The power plant's repair and continued operations also means that the balance of water rights between the Front Range and Western Slope will continue as it has for years...The plant was shut down June 20, 2007, when one of two nearly century-old pipes that deliver water to the plant burst. About eight feet of water and tons of rock and dirt were washed into the plant."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:23:56 PM    

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Here's a report from Wednesday's Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Growth impacts, water quality and climate change will continue to drive water decisions in Colorado for decades to come, State Engineer Dick Wolfe told the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum on Wednesday. "In some parts of the state ... they're finding it's more profitable to grow houses than to irrigate," Wolfe told the group of about 125 water professionals, board members and others interested in water issues. "Wells in some areas are going dry as water is converted." Alluvial aquifers recharged by return flows are being depleted as water changes use from agricultural to urban areas.

Meanwhile, some are seeking to expand senior water rights - the water first appropriated, usually for agricultural use - through water change cases, especially in the South Platte River basin, Wolfe said. That concerns Wolfe because the effect will be to reduce the return flows on which downstream water users, either surface or groundwater, depend. Well rules in Colorado are tied to interstate compacts and vary for each basin. In the Arkansas River basin, well pumping must be augmented with surface supply. As water moves from irrigation to domestic use, depletions in wells will also put more pressure on the surface supplies which backstop the pumping...

Wolfe said the state needs to continue to put emphasis on remote sensors to monitor streams, and is forming partnerships with other agencies to install and maintain stream gauges. The state also is trying to deal with a steady stream of increasingly complex court cases, Wolfe said. "There are 1,200 new applications to water court each year," Wolfe said. "It's the 80-20 rule: We spend 80 percent of our time working on 20 percent of the cases." A state Supreme Court committee is looking at ways to streamline court cases, but in the meantime, it's a daunting problem for the Division of Water Resources, which competes with other state agencies for general funds, Wolfe said...

Wolfe said the impacts of water quality are increasingly important in monitoring state water use. A 2007 bill makes water quality a prime consideration in water court change cases and will begin creating more of an impact. "Water quality is one of the bigger issues we face," Wolfe said. "The standards are getting tougher and making it harder to comply."[...]

Climate change will also present uncertainty in future water decisions, Wolfe said. Water decrees are based on historic use of water, and the supply could diminish in the future. Wolfe briefly touched on agricultural efficiency rules in the Arkansas Valley. The state is still meeting with water users up and down the river in an attempt to craft rules that account for increased irrigation because of physical improvements like sprinklers, drip irrigation, gated pipe and ditch lining. There could be a problem on water-short ditches, but just because sprinklers have been added does not mean there will be a depletion, Wolfe said. "It has the potential to cause more consumption ... and impact water users in Colorado and Kansas alike," Wolfe said.

Category: Colorado Water
7:17:00 AM    

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From The Vail Daily: "The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District is holding an election Tuesday for four open spots on its board of directors. The board is charged with making major decisions concerning how water is treated, used and acquired in Eagle County. "

Category: Colorado Water
7:02:17 AM    

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The U.S. House of Representatives has approved funding for the Platte River Recovery Program, according to The Grand Island Independent. From the article:

The Platte River recovery implementation plan has passed the House and is now headed to President Bush for signing. On Tuesday, the House passed legislation to implement the federal share of the Platte River recovery implementation plan as part of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008. The bill has passed both houses of Congress and will now go to the president for signing...

The Platte River recovery program was first passed by the House last October, but was consolidated by the Senate into another bill and had to be passed again by the House. Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., was a co-sponsor of the bill. Smith said the legislation is designed to implement a multi-state cooperative approach to assist in the conservation and recovery of habitat for the Platte River's endangered and threatened species and to help prevent the need to list more species under the Endangered Species Act. "The bill would also provide regulatory certainty to the cities and industries which rely on flows of the river," Smith said. He said as implementation of the program now moves forward, positive and negative economic impacts must be assessed and considered in order to minimize adverse effects of the recovery efforts...

In late 2006, the governors of Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming and the U.S. Department of the Interior signed the final program agreement after working together since 1997 to develop a recovery plan that benefits certain species yet allows continued water use and development along the Platte. The legislation authorizes the secretary of interior to proceed with the $157 million program.

More coverage from The Greeley Tribune:

Gov. Bill Ritter has praised Tuesday's passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of legislation authorizing the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program...

"This is a major step toward assuring that the Platte River Recovery Program succeeds," Ritter said in a press release Wednesday. He said water providers, environmentalists and Colorado citizens should be proud that Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., and Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., took leadership roles to support the passage of the legislation. "This step allows us to move immediately to take direct actions to recover the whooping crane, least tern, piping plover and pallid sturgeon," Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said in the press release. "The whooping crane is North America's largest bird species, and through our actions we have been able to bring this species from the brink of extinction to the highest recorded numbers in decades." In 1979, there were just 56 whooping cranes in the wild flock that uses the Platte River. In 2007, 257 whooping cranes were counted in the flock.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:51:29 AM    

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There is still hope for some legislative relief for farmers in the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, according to The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

Legislation that could provide some relief to irrigation well owners in the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District may yet make its way through the legislature before the end of this year's session. The measure could provide 10,000 acre-feet of Colorado-Big Thompson Project water from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District this year. The measure will be heard in the Senate Ag Committee today at 1:30 p.m. The C-BT water could only be used to make up for water the wells pumped prior to Jan. 1, 2003, Northern Water officials said. Tom Cech, executive director of Central Colorado, said negotiations are ongoing on the exact wording of the measure but confirmed there "could be a substantial quantity of C-BT water for multiple years," that the district could use for its augmentation -- water replacement -- plan...

The state engineer's office shut down several hundred irrigation wells in 2002 in Adams, Weld and Morgan counties for fear pumping those wells would result in injury to senior water right holders downstream on the South Platte. Central then filed a water replacement plan with the Division 1 Water Court in Greeley. Details of that plan have not been announced by Weld District Court Judge Roger Klein. That plan drew a number of objectors while in court last year, and the legislation is doing the same, said Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, one of the co-sponsors of the measure. To gain approval, any measure must be introduced by today to be heard by the full legislature before the end of this year's session next week. Brophy, a member of the Senate Ag Committee, said he couldn't understand any opposition to such a plan, adding those objections have come from many of the same entities that oppose the augmentation plan filed with the court that went under 45 days of testimony before Klein last year. "It is just unfathomable to me why anyone would object to putting water in the river," Brophy said. With that in mind, Brophy said the measure introduced today would make any C-BT water available this year only, in hopes objections would be minimal. The bill also could be reintroduced in subsequent years.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:16:53 AM    

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From The Sterling Journal Advocate: "Mike Bennett, state director for Colorado Rural Development, was in northeast Colorado recently to present ceremonial checks totaling more than $8 million in loan and grant funding to several Northeast Colorado entities, including $7.9 million to replace the existing Brush wastewater treatment facility built in 1965...Under the Water and Environmental Program (WEP), USDA Rural Development provides loans, grants and loan guarantees for drinking water, sanitary sewer, solid waste and storm drainage facilities in rural areas and cities and towns of 10,000 or less."

Category: Colorado Water
6:05:02 AM    

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The Corps of Engineers Projections of stream flows in the Poudre River -- contained in the draft EIS -- should Glade Reservoir be built surprised many on both sides of the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, according to The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Projected reductions in the Poudre River's flow through Fort Collins in a federal analysis of a new reservoir took both sides of the debate by surprise. A draft environmental impact statement on the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which includes Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins, indicates the reservoir's draw on the river could result in a 71 percent drop in flows through the city during May in year with average precipitation. The projections show the reservoir, which would be built north of Ted's Place, would reduce flows through the city nearly every month of every year, with the largest volume of water taken in June during the height of the spring runoff. The potential magnitude of the drawdown on the river raised eyebrows with long-standing opponents to the project, who say it would only take more water from an already beleaguered Poudre. "With the modeling that we've been doing, we expected it would be substantial but less than that," said Mark Easter of the Save the Poudre Coalition. "That caught us a little by surprise.

The numbers may not reflect what would truly happen to the river if Glade is built, said Carl Brouwer, project manager for Glade and an engineer with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District...

The projections were based on computer modeling that took into account decades of data, but not the district's pledge to not take water during the winter, Brouwer said. The numbers reflect "a worst-case scenario" for how much water would be taken. "We see those numbers as being conservative, as in high," Brouwer said. "The actual reduction when everything we plan to do is in place will probably be lower in terms of percentages." Plans for the project call for drawing water every year from the Poudre in an exchange with two irrigation companies. Glade also would be filled with water taken during periods of peak flow, primarily May through August. When Northern Water officials saw the projections in early versions of the draft document from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, they agreed to maintain minimum stream flows through the city if the project were built, Brouwer said.

The final environmental impact statement for the project would call for mitigation to offset its environmental impacts. Steps that would ensure enough flow to provide habitat for fish and potential recreation include moving the intake for the Lake Canal, which pulls water from the river just west of College Avenue. Lake Canal superintendent Don Magnuson said the company would be open to discussing moving its diversion structure, possibly near Mulberry Street and east of Lemay Avenue. "We think something can be worked out," he said...

Glade opponents say they still need time to dig into the draft EIS. Save the Poudre expects to challenge many elements of the document, said spokesman Gary Wockner. The project will only further degrade the river, he said. Reaching a compromise with the Corps and Northern Water may not be possible. "The Poudre River is already wildly out of balance and severely compromised," he said. "Our goal is still to stop the project."

Brouwer said mitigation would be required if a permit is issued for the project. All opinions will be considered in coming up with those requirements. Save the Poudre's "all-or-nothing" attitude doesn't take into account all the possibilities, he said. "They are not the only players at the table," he said.

Here's a look at the NISP timeline from The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The timeline of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which includes the South Platte Water Conservation Project.

2000 -- Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District completes assessment of municipal and domestic water needs within its boundaries to a point east of Greeley.

2003 -- Second phase alternative evaluation conducted.

2004 -- Permitting process for NISP begins.

2007 -- Participant contract negotiations complete.

2008 -- Environmental impact statement released by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

2009-2011 -- Glade Reservoir design, construction.

2011-2015 -- Glade construction.

2016-2020 -- Galeton Reservoir, key of South Platte Water Conservation Project design/construction.

2016-2017 -- Pipeline from South Platte River to Galeton Reservoir constructed.

2020 -- Galeton completed.

2020 -- NISP completion goal.

More coverage of the draft EIS for NISP from The Greeley Tribune. They write:

Project supporters say it is needed to shore up water supplies for future population growth and continued agricultural use. Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which hopes to build the $426 million project, acknowledged the 71 percent number would have to be addressed as the project was planned. "Yeah, it's there," he said. "We're going to have to look at how we reduce the impacts and do mitigation. We think by having a big reservoir above the river, we ought to be able to manage flows a little better. There are a number of things that will be negotiations as this moves forward -- where can we make improvements?"[...]

According to the environmental impact statement, a four-year, $6 million study, the greatest changes in river flows would take place in May, June, and July of wet and average years. The flow reduction would occur on a roughly 23-mile span of the river from the Poudre Valley Canal, a diversion canal near the canyon mouth, all the way to the New Cache Canal diversion two miles south of Timnath. In addition, because of water exchanges, the Poudre might run higher in August -- even extending the boating season, according to the Corps -- so long as there is enough water in the Colorado-Big Thompson project to make the exchange...

Werner said much of the data bolsters the water district's argument that the plan will not dry up the Poudre. "By and large, I think we're pleased," he said. "I think it shows that the aesthetic impacts are much less than I think people thought, and there is going to be less impact to the riparian areas and the wildlife that people had some concerns about. This should alleviate some of those concerns."[...]

Several groups, including the Poudre coalition and the city of Fort Collins, are considering asking for even more time given the document's technicality and length -- about 700 pages, with hundreds of supplemental reports and data. The Fort Collins City Council is expected to approve spending another $410,000 to study the project at its meeting next Tuesday; so far, Fort Collins has spent $350,000 studying Glade. Wockner would not confirm whether there would be a lawsuit to stop the project, but he said preventing it is the end goal...

Regardless of any litigation, the project still has a fight ahead. Werner said he hoped the Corps' final report would be ready by the end of the year, and even then, the reservoir would not be completed until 2014.

Providing water for agriculture and preventing more transfers of ag water to municipal use is one of the goals of the Northern Integrated Supply Project. Here's a report from The Greeley Tribune. They write:

The preferred alternative in the draft includes two off-channel reservoirs -- Glade Reservoir, northwest of Fort Collins, and Galeton Reservoir, east of Ault. The project is designed to provide 40,000 acre-feet of reliable firm yield annually to 15 Front Range water providers, which are funding the $426 million project. Eric Wilkinson, general manager of Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said Wednesday in a press release from the district that it is "very important that everyone understands the consequences if this project is not built...We can't operate under the false assumption that if we don't build NISP, the region will not change. If NISP isn't built, a lot more farmland will be dried up, which has significant environmental and economic impacts. And if we do not build NISP, that certainly does not mean someone else won't take the Poudre River water," Wilkinson said in the release...

One of the 15 participants in the project is the Central Weld County Water District, which supplies water to 11 communities from Dacono in southwest Weld to Kersey in east central Weld County. Jim Miller of La Salle is president of the board of that district, which is one of the larger participants in NISP. The district would get 3,500 acre-feet of water per year from the project...

"We've got to do everything we can to build more (water) storage," Miller said. "If we had built the projects Hank Brown wanted to build back in the 1980s, we wouldn't be facing near the problems we're facing now." Brown, who served in the U.S. House and Senate, was a proponent of Two Forks Reservoir on the South Platte southwest of Denver as well as other water storage projects being proposed at the time.

The project won't work without the cooperation of two major irrigation companies in the region, said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water. Those include the Larimer & Weld Reservoir & Irrigation Co. and the Cache la Poudre Irrigation & Reservoir Co. They use Poudre River water to irrigate several thousand acres of cropland in Larimer and Weld counties, but under NISP, they would give up that water in exchange of South Platte River water that would be stored in the new Galeton Reservoir east of Ault. Barry Anderson of Eaton, president of Larimer and Weld Reservoir & Irrigation Co., said the project is a benefit to agriculture in the region. "If we have to dry up ag in this area, it wouldn't be good for anybody. We need this project. There's a lot more good than there is harm with it." Two water rights would be used to fill the reservoirs -- one on the Poudre River to fill Glade and one on the South Platte to fill Galeton. There would be no new structures on the Poudre River as a result of the project. Glade Reservoir is an off-stream reservoir, which means it is not a dam on the Poudre River...

If NISP is not built, an additional 62-100 square miles of agricultural lands will be dried up as those water suppliers accelerate the acquisition of farmers' water. The water supplies NISP participants will have to acquire if NISP is not built will cost more than twice as much as building the new water storage project.

More coverage from The Rocky Mountain News:

Habitat for the Preble's meadow jumping mouse and endangered birds, as well as some wetlands, likely would be harmed if a proposal to build a reservoir northwest of Fort Collins is approved, according to a preliminary federal report released Wednesday. Those environmental concerns will be weighed against the soaring demand for new water supplies in fast-growing communities in northern Colorado, such as Erie, Lafayette, Fort Morgan and Dacono, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will decide whether the reservoir should be built...

Many of the problems identified in the draft environmental impact statement could be corrected by creating wetlands, restoring habitat and re-timing stream flows below the reservoirs, said Eric Wilkinson, manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. "Obviously, those impacts have been noted," he said.

Another key concern is that the project will take more water from the Poudre, a stream that is already dry at certain times of the year. Wilkinson said that the district already has agreed not to divert water when the river is too low, and that it would be willing to discuss releasing extra water to improve flows, though no agreements have been reached...

The Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled two public hearings to gather comments on the proposed Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins:

* 6 p.m. June 17 at the Fort Collins Senior Center, 1200 Raintree Drive in Fort Collins.

* 7 p.m. June 19 in Greeley at the University of Northern Colorado's University Center, 2045 10th Ave.

Those who wish to submit comments on the proposal can do so at the hearings or by e-mailing them to Chandler J. Peter at

Here's the link to Northern's press release on the draft EIS.

Here's a list of key findings in the draft EIS from The Greeley Tribune:

- Reduced flows through Fort Collins because of NISP will not significantly alter the aesthetics of the river. It will still be bank-to-bank during most times NISP diverts.

- Glade Reservoir will add about $17 million annually in recreational values to the region.

- The project will not reduce river flows within the Poudre Canyon and has the potential to increase flows in the lower part of the canyon and extend the rafting season into late summer.

- Segments of the Poudre River have historically dried up during the winter months. NISP will not increase the dry periods in the Poudre River through Fort Collins.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:59:54 AM    

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