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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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

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Here's an excerpt from an opinion piece written by Drew Peternell (Colorado Trout Unlimited) to the powers that be arguing for a large flushing flow down the Gunnision this year, from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

This spring, for the first time in more than a decade, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has an opportunity to provide the Gunnison River with a large flushing flow like those that occurred periodically prior to the construction of Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal reservoirs.

Thanks to the most significant snowpack in the Gunnison Basin in years, the bureau [~] the agency that manages the Aspinall Unit, as the three reservoirs are known [~] should have ample water to release a large flushing flow this spring to re-create more natural conditions downstream in the Gunnison River.

The bureau is hesitant to seize the opportunity. In fact, in anticipation of a sizeable spring snowmelt, since January the bureau has been releasing more water out of the Aspinall Unit than the river has seen for the better part of 10 years.

At 2,000 to 3,000 cubic feet of water per second, the higher-than-usual winter and early spring flows are far smaller than the flush the river requires. But, by releasing more water early in the year, the bureau is limiting the extent to which it will need to make larger releases later this spring and summer that exceed the capacity of the hydropower turbines at Crystal Dam. The Gunnison River may experience a flush in May or June despite the Bureau's fondness for hydropower, but the unusually high releases this January through April have diminished the amount of water available for the flush.

With current estimates of April through July inflow to the Aspinall Unit of over 1 million acre-feet of water, the Bureau should develop a plan now to provide a flushing flow down the Gunnison River in late May in as large an amount as is possible, perhaps approaching as much as 10,000 cfs.

Prior to the construction of Aspinall, the Gunnison River periodically experienced spring flows well in excess of 10,000 cfs. But due to drought, low snowpack and the management of the upstream reservoirs, the river has not experienced a flush anywhere near 10,000 cfs for more than a decade. In fact, aside from the past several months, the Gunnison River downstream of Aspinall has experienced flows above 2,000 cfs only once in the previous 10 years.

Category: Colorado Water
5:46:57 PM    

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Here's some snowpack news from The North Forty News. From the article:

The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which manages the Colorado-Big Thompson project, set its quota for the year in April. The quota is 70 percent, up 10 percent from the initial quota set last November. "The 70 percent quota gives us the opportunity to continue building our reserves," said NCWCD Director Jerry Winters. Still in recovery from recent years of drought, C-BT storage is below normal at 84 percent of average. Lake Granby, the system's largest reservoir, is at 43 percent of capacity, down slightly from the same time last year. Water storage in the northern part of Larimer County is looking better than last year, according to Steve Smith, manager of North Poudre Irrigation Co. The NPIC reservoirs currently hold about 5,000 acre-feet more water than at this time last year, he said. In April NPIC set its annual appropriation at 4 acre-feet per share, up from last year's 3.5 acre-feet. Also in April, Fort Collins made a decision on how much water it would rent back to farmers in northern Larimer County. The city is a principal shareholder in NPIC. When it does not need all of its water, it rents some back to farmers and other landowners in the NPIC service area. This year, Fort Collins will rent back 12,000 acre-feet of water, up from last year's 8,400 acre-feet. The price was set at $35 per acre-foot, up from $30 last year.

Category: Colorado Water
5:43:19 PM    

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Environment News Network: "Greenpeace and more than 100 other environmental groups denounced projects for burying industrial greenhouse gases on Monday, exposing splits in the green movement about whether such schemes can slow global warming. Many governments and some environmental organizations such as the WWF want companies to capture heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the exhausts of power plants and factories and then entomb them in porous rocks as one way to curb climate change. But Greenpeace issued a 44-page report about the technology entitled "False Hope" [pdf]. "Carbon capture and storage is a scam. It is the ultimate coal industry pipe dream," said Emily Rochon, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace International and author of the report."

Coyote Gulch hopes they're wrong.

Category: Climate Change News
5:40:41 PM    

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Here's a recap of yesterday's water forum at the Pueblo Convention Center, from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

Fountain Creek issues should be addressed in evaluating the Southern Delivery System, several speakers said at a water forum Monday at the Pueblo Convention Center. While Colorado Springs officials claim they are addressing Fountain Creek issues, Pueblo County's attorney said the city to the north should be putting more money into addressing the problems. Puebloans had a chance to either sound off or ask questions about water at the forum. About 75 attended the three-hour forum, with about 20 speaking and dozens submitting questions. The meeting was organized by Pueblo City Council after last month's Bureau of Reclamation open house on the draft environmental statement for SDS. Some council members and other officials were concerned there was not adequate opportunity to comment on water issues at an April 2 open house...

Monday's forum was designed to be broader in scope than just addressing concerns with SDS, a $1.1 billion proposal for a pipeline from Pueblo Dam by Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West. Reclamation will host a meeting to hear comments on the project on May 29. But the conversation quickly gravitated toward SDS and how it will affect Fountain Creek. Colorado Springs and Pueblo have different views of SDS, said County Attorney Dan Kogovsek, who used his introductory remarks to explain the legal conflict over the project. For Colorado Springs, it's a one-legged project: the pipeline north. Pueblo County sees it as a two-legged project: a pipeline north that doubles return flows down Fountain Creek, Kogovsek said...

Another project is before the county and proposes using gravel-pit storage downstream from Pueblo Dam to help reduce salinity in water. Colorado Springs ignored that option and dismissed any alternative east of the confluence out-of-hand as too expensive because of the cost of reverse osmosis, Kogovsek said. "You're just passing your problem on to your neighbors to the east," Kogovsek said. Kogovsek continued throughout the forum to ask Colorado Springs to make more of a financial commitment to improving Fountain Creek. Colorado Springs officials repeated their contention that they have spent millions on fixing sewage problems and in creating a stormwater enterprise...

[Mark] Peulen called for Colorado Springs to look at recycling its return flows, rather than taking clean water from Lake Pueblo and replacing it with contaminated flows down Fountain Creek. Others agreed. "It should not be a money issue. It should be a moral issue," said Pueblo City Councilman Ray Aguilera. "We need to keep Fountain River clean and find a location for a small dam." Jane Rawlings, assistant publisher of The Pueblo Chieftain, said the questions of flooding, sedimentation, erosion and water quality on Fountain Creek all need to be addressed as part of the SDS evaluation.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:44:10 AM    

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette: "The city's J.D. Phillips Water Reclamation Facility, Colorado Springs' second wastewater treatment plant, began discharging treated sewage into Monument Creek on Monday. The plant, south of Garden of the Gods Road on Mark Dabling Road, started operations last summer. Since then, it's pumped sewage through an interceptor line to the city's 69-year-old Las Vegas Wastewater Treatment Plant, where it was treated to meet water quality standards. Colorado Springs Utilities officials delayed discharging from the Phillips plant into the creek to allow time for biological processes upon which sewage treatment is predicated to fully develop, which takes months, Utilities spokesman Steve Berry said. Also, crews wanted to monitor the plant to be sure everything worked properly before discharging into the creek, he said."

Category: Colorado Water
6:31:15 AM    

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Here's some snowpack news from The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

Reservoir storage throughout the state is near or slightly below the long-term average, said Allen Green, state conservationist in a press release. The state's snowpack dropped to 115 percent of the long-term average by May 1, when the final surveys were completed. That's the lowest since Jan. 1, when the statewide snowpack was 110 percent of average, Green said. The highest the state reached came March 1 when it reached 135 percent of average. But even with the decreasing snowpack percentages, Colorado's water supply outlook remains in excellent condition across the state...

Basin Snowpack: Gunnison 136; Colorado 120; South Platte 103; North Platte 109; Yampa/White 108; Arkansas 131; Rio Grande 117; San Juan, Animas, Dolores 103; Statewide 115.

More snowpack news from The Craig Daily Press. They write:

The Yampa and White River basins are at 108 percent of their 30-year snowpack averages set between 1971 and 2000, according to Conservation Service reports. Conservation Service reports depict a starker contrast between this year's snowpack and last year's, showing there is 2 1/2 times more on the ground as of May 1, 2008, than May 1, 2007. With higher snowpack numbers, Gillespie said officials predict higher stream flows. For the Yampa River near Maybell -- where the Conservation Service has a flow measurement station -- Gillespie said officials forecast about 1.2 acre-feet of water, which is 117 percent of its 30-year average. For the Little Snake River near Lily, Gillespie said officials expect 475,000 acre-feet of water, or about 130 percent of its 30-year average. Looking at the numbers, how ever, reservoir water storage amounts for the Yampa and White River basins is below the 30-year average -- at 92 percent -- and below last year's figure -- at 81 percent.

Category: Colorado Water
6:27:19 AM    

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Fort Collins is considering hiring consulting to sift through the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, according to The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

The city is doing its homework on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project and reservoir building. City Council will discuss tonight whether to use $225,000 of prior year financial reserves to pay consultants and legal advisers to comb through the 702-page draft Environmental Impact Statement released last week on the proposed water storage project and the impact it will have on Fort Collins...

"This is a pretty big deal and I think it's very important that we get a thorough analysis and good data on what this really means for Fort Collins," Mayor Doug Hutchinson said. "I mean, look at the time and money the Corps spent doing the EIS. This is not a trivial issue. We need to have the facts right and be firm in our knowledge before taking a position as a city."

Meanwhile the Army Corps of Engineers briefed Larimer County on the draft EIS on Monday, according to The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Chandler Peter of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers briefed the county commissioners and representatives of several county boards and commissions on the recently released draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project and the summer-long process that will determine whether permits will be granted to build the project. The county is a cooperating agency in the EIS, and its comments will have an impact on whether the project and its various components are built and how they would be operated, Peter said.

To reach this point in the EIS process, the proposal by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, or Northern Water, to build the reservoir has to have met regulatory requirements, Peter said. Its overall environmental impacts can be mitigated. But its approval is not a foregone conclusion, he said. Issues could come up during the public comment period on the document that could require a change of course. "Something could come up that we didn't think of," Peter said in an interview following the meeting. "When that happens it means digging a little deeper and putting more time and money into it."[...]

...the project's water would not be enough to meet the region's projected future needs, Peter said. That is a concern, said Commissioner Randy Eubanks following the meeting. "Really this is quite a project that may only provide a short-term fix for the applicants," Eubanks said. "We'll have to look really closely at approving something or recommending something that will change the landscape so significantly in Larimer County."

More coverage from The Fort Morgan Times. They write:

Fort Morgan officials will be mounting an educational campaign to inform residents of the city and surrounding areas of the critical need for NISP and the advantages of the project over other potential water supply ventures. The Morgan County Quality Water District is also a participant in the project. The timing of this effort concides with the release last week of the draft environmental impact statement on the project, which is not without controversy...

In a letter sent last week with Fort Morgan City Council approval to Colorado Congressional representatives, area state lawmakers, Gov. Bill Ritter and other state officials, Mayor Jack Darnell calls NISP "an essential opportunity to secure water supplies to meet current and future needs of the city."[...]

Public hearings will be held on the draft EIS for NISP next month in Fort Collins and Greeley, and the city will be voicing its support for the project as the 90-day comment period that follows the release of that document unfolds. Already, city Utilities Director Gary Dreessen has been speaking on radio shows, to community groups and "anybody who will listen" about the value of NISP. The NISP project would not deliver any water to the participants until 2015 at the earliest, and the far-off nature of the project, along with the estimated $36 million cost to the city, are among the likely objections the city and others will have to overcome to foster support for the plan. Water is expensive, and it is becoming scarcer and more costly every day. As city officials and Water Advisory Board members noted in a meeting last week, the kind of foresight that NISP embodies is what keeps cities like Fort Morgan out of dire water shortages and other crises. These same officials have also said many times that if NISP and its partners were to falter, plenty of Front Range cities and towns are lined up and ready to grab for the very same water NISP proposes to capture.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:18:39 AM    

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HB 08-1161 is on its way to Governor Ritter's desk for his signature, according to The Loveland Reporter-Herald. From the article:

House Bill 1161, requiring in situ mining companies to restore water to previous conditions or state standards, passed the Colorado Senate on Friday and the Colorado House again Monday. The next step belongs to Ritter, who can sign it into law, allow the bill to become law without his signature, or veto it. Fort Collins Rep. John Kefalas, who sponsored the bill, said he expects Ritter to sign it "in the near future...This is a significant victory for protecting our groundwater," said Kefalas. Four Larimer County lawmakers -- Reps. Kefalas and Randy Fischer, both Democrats, and Sens. Steve Johnson, a Republican, and Bob Bacon, a Democrat -- introduced the bill after area residents expressed concern about a potential mine near Nunn...

"If companies like Powertech are true to their word that they can do this without affecting groundwater, they should have no difficulty with this," said Kefalas, noting that the law was not to stop uranium mining but to make sure it is done safely. Officials with Powertech said they will comment on the legislation after it is signed into law...

Senate Bill 228, which also passed Monday, makes information on prospective mines public. It strikes a balance between protecting companies' proprietary rights and alerting residents of potential mines, said Johnson. "These can have significant impact on the landowners, their environment, their land, their communities, their way of life," said Johnson. "We've seen in our area that citizens are concerned. The citizens have a right to impact the process ... If they don't know what's going on, they are denied their rights to be players in the process."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:03:58 AM    

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Here's an article about Fort Collins based Water Supply and Storage, the Grand Ditch and the record amount for damages the ditch company is paying to clean up after the breach of the ditch in 2003, from The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

The payment is the largest for natural resources damage in the history of the Park System Resource Protection Act, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which announced the settlement Monday with the National Park Service. Rocky Mountain National Park officials said the settlement clears the way for restoring wetlands that were severely damaged when more than 60,000 cubic yards of sediment were washed down a mountainside by water pouring from the breach...

Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said plans for the restoration will have to go through a National Environmental Policy Act review. Restoration efforts are likely to include flying in heavy equipment to the isolated location in the northwest corner of the park where the damage occurred, Patterson said. Work to restore the wetlands could take years, she said...

The ditch was built in the 1880s and predates the formation of the park in 1915. The ditch and the company's liability has been a sticking point for federal legislation introduced last year that would formally designate Rocky Mountain National Park a wilderness area. The proposed bills would limit the company's liability to paying for damages caused by negligence, which is opposed by the Department of Interior and the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. The settlement may help the stalled legislation move forward, said Joe Brettell, communications director for Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo...

The ditch breached May 30, 2003, about 2 miles south of La Poudre Pass at an elevation of more than 10,000 feet. Water poured through the break at a rate of 100 cubic feet per second, carving a gully into the mountainside that was 167 feet wide and 60 feet deep. The flood caused heavy damage to an old growth spruce/fir forest, Lulu Creek, the upper Colorado River and the Lulu City wetlands, park officials said.

More coverage from The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

The park, in its lawsuit, alleges snow, ice and debris backed up the ditch. However, other reports have blamed the breach on a falling rock. "Our indications were it had been a heavy snow year, and the ditch had not been cleaned out to allow it to flow through," said Baker. "They disagree with that. The settlement was to pay for the damage. We didn't get into the cause."[...]

The $9 million settlement will allow the National Park to begin a lengthy and public process to determine exactly how to clean up the silt and debris. Likely, crews with heavy equipment will begin removing the debris and returning it to its original location in about two years. A representative of the Fort Collins Ditch Co. did not return a phone call about the settlement or whether it will affect Larimer County agriculture. Water Supply and Storage Co. provides water to farmers in the region.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:55:32 AM    

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