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 8, 2008

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From email from The North Side Croquet Club: "Big winner last night was John...Also winning their games were Dave S, Shane, Kevin and Doug. Jess and Eric got Wicket kills.

6:43:33 PM    

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USGS: "USGS is providing Landsat satellite imagery to aid rescue and recovery efforts in Myanmar in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis's landfall on May 3. International emergency response teams are using the Landsat images to assess the extent of flood damage caused by the cyclone in the affected region. The first maps of the area derived from the Landsat satellite were provided to waiting agencies within hours of the initial request. The USGS provides Landsat imagery to other participating agencies under an agreement known as the International Charter Space and Major Disasters (Space Charter)."

Category: Climate Change News
5:49:14 PM    

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From The Summit Daily News: "Anglers, rafters, landowners and wildlife biologists will form a nonprofit group to help develop a management plan for the lower Blue River, but commercial raft operators feel left out of the process. The 15-mile reach downstream of Green Mountain Reservoir is considered to be a relatively pristine stretch of water, although flows are mostly dependent on releases from the reservoir. Overcrowding and competition between different user groups, along with trespassing and conflicts about access, are affecting natural resources and the user experience, according to County Commissioner Tom Long. At the latest in a series of meetings aimed at developing a management plan, the major stakeholders agreed to formalize their involvement with formation of a nonprofit."

More from the article:

Early talks have included ideas like permits and overall caps on river use. Once it's formed, the nonprofit group will "hang some meat on the bones of the plan," Long said. As envisioned, the group's role would be advisory to the Bureau of Land management and the U.S. Forest Service. Those agencies wouldn't be obligated to accept the recommendations, Long said. A nonprofit organization could also be set up to accept donations and disburse the funds to provide needed signage and perhaps even pay for a patrol officer, Long said. "Doing nothing is not an option. There will be a plan," Long said. "This is the only way locals really get to have a say in local management," he added. Working toward a management plan along the Lower Blue hasn't been without controversy. At a late winter meeting in Silverthorne, some local residents said the entire effort is skewed toward protecting private landowner interests at the expense of public access. That section of the Blue River was also recently identified as possibly qualifying for the federal Wild and Scenic River program. Long said the push toward local management is on a separate track, but the potential for wild and scenic designation certainly looms as a factor in the discussions.

Here's the link to the Draft Lower Blue River Cooperative Management Plan.

Category: Colorado Water
7:05:18 AM    

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Mt. Princeton Geothermal LLC briefed Chaffee County residents on potential plans to tap geothermal energy to produce electricity on Monday, according to The Mountain Mail. From the article:

About 80 people, including residents and investment bankers, attended a presentation Monday about generating electric power in Chaffee County using geothermal energy. Mt. Princeton Geothermal LLC personnel want to use new technology to access abundant geothermal resources in the area...

The process pumps naturally heated water to the surface where it is used to heat fluid that in turn drives a turbine generating electricity. The spring water is returned to the ground. "The size and scope of the facility depends on the reservoir of hot water we find," [Fred Henderson III, local property owner and chief scientist for the company] said. "We are thinking a 10 megawatt facility is a reasonable objective."[...]

Henderson continued, "This is a nonconsumptive resource. We can go to extreme depth to get water with little or no impact to existing water." Mount Princeton Hot Springs, a partner in the venture, is considering installation of one of the generating units for its use. As a first step, Colorado School of Mines students will conduct geophysical surveys. "This is completely non-invasive research," Henderson said. "They will produce useful data for water studies of the area." The group, based at Deer Valley Ranch, will be in the Buena Vista area beginning May 11, and will remain about two weeks. Questions and inquiries may be addressed to Henderson at

Category: Climate Change News
6:51:29 AM    

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Say hello to the Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company. An agreement forming the company was signed Wednesday reports The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Shareholders from six Arkansas Valley ditches joined forces Wednesday to market a portion of their water through the Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Co. About 40 water rights owners - some of whom own thousands of acres of farmland - signed on to the new venture, incorporated with the secretary of state's office and selected officers Wednesday at the offices of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which has pushed the Super Ditch for nearly two years. The Super Ditch will negotiate water leases - one time sales of water that do not change water rights ownership - between shareholders in the company and water users.

[A] steering committee...traveled to Palo Verde Irrigation District in Blythe, Calif., last year to look at the possibilities of forming a water marketing cooperative. Palo Verde has a long-term deal with the Metropolitan Water District, leasing water gained by leaving a portion of the farm ground fallow. The same concept will be applied in the Arkansas Valley under the Super Ditch, which will be able to pool water from a large selection of water rights in the Catlin, Fort Lyon, High Line, Holbrook, Otero and Oxford canals. The Super Ditch will not own or control any water, but serve to negotiate leases between water rights owners and users. Bessemer, which sent members to steering committee meetings, did not have anyone on hand to sign up, so was removed from the articles of incorporation. The High Line Canal board of directors, who signed on to a long-term lease agreement with Aurora last month, have not endorsed the project, but several shareholders from the canal signed up Wednesday. The Super Ditch bylaws require that individual ditch boards approve all leases. In some cases, that means bylaws will have to be changed...

The Lower Ark district, which has spent $600,000 in legal, engineering and economic studies has offered its staff to remain in place to serve the Super Ditch. The district has also received a $150,000 grant through the Arkansas Basin Roundtable to study certain aspects of the project and has applied for a $450,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to look at alternative water leasing programs. "The Lower Ark district is the only reason we got this done," said Dale Mauch, a Lamar farmer on the Fort Lyon Canal. "We had to have someone bring us together. The Fort Lyon was started in 1860 and has fought with every other ditch company ever since." While not the first cooperative venture among ditch companies - the Arkansas Valley Ditch Association binds together to protect water rights in court and the winter water storage program was created through the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District - it is one of the most ambitious. Studies envisioned between 14,000 and 45,000 acre-feet of water per year available for leasing, depending on water conditions, generating between $10 million and $15 million annually for farmers. One of the goals of the program is to get a better price for the water, rather than leasing at terms dictated by cities. "It's a chance to keep the valley whole by adding another crop," said Frank Milenski, who farms between Rocky Ford and Swink. "You look at what the High Line did with the lease to Aurora, and it really helped some of those guys. The whole goal is being able to keep the water in the valley."[...]

The diversity of the initial members of the Super Ditch is striking. For instance on the Fort Lyon Canal, Mark Harding, president of Pure Cycle, and members of the Independent Shareholders Group joined shareholders who fought an attempt by High Plains to buy control of the canal just five years ago. Pure Cycle, a Thornton corporation, bought High Plains's interests on the Fort Lyon...

How soon can water be leased? Right now, no one can be sure. Questions include how winter water fits into the program and what conditions would have to be met for an administrative plan to be put in place until a water court change application can be filed and a decree reached. There must also be end users for the water, and while some preliminary agreements have been signed, there is nothing final. There is also the matter of how water will be delivered, either through exchanges or new pipelines. "I don't think anything is happening yet, and it may be 15-20 years," said Donny Hansen, Holbrook Canal president. "We're going to be in this for the long haul. People always say the cities are going to eventually get the water, but somehow we needed to find a way for them to negotiate with the ones who own the water."

Eight board members were chosen Wednesday to lead the newly formed Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Co. One member from each of the six canals included in the company was chosen, as well as two at-large members. The board will meet for the first time next week.

Catlin: John Schweizer, Rocky Ford; Fort Lyon: Dale Mauch, Lamar; High Line: Joel Lundquist, Rocky Ford; Holbrook: Donny Hansen, La Junta; Otero: Lee Schweizer, La Junta; Oxford: Ray Smith, Fowler; At-large: Frank Milenski, Rocky Ford; At-large: Burt Heckman, McClave

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:32:50 AM    

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From The Mountain Mail: "Sewer tap costs in Salida will double for single family residences and basic commercial structures if city council members approve a proposed fee hike on second reading. During their meeting Monday, council members approved the proposal on first reading and set May 19 for a public hearing. If passed on second reading, rates will increase at the end of June. Sewer tap cost is based upon the size of the incoming water line. Taps cost $2,000 for single family residences and will increase to $4,000. Water line sizes for residential taps are 3/4-inch and 5/8-inch. Basic commercial rate for a 3/4-inch line will go from $3,000 to $6,000. Connections for 1-inch and 1 1/2 inch lines will double to $13,000 and $23,200, respectively. People outside city limits who want to connect to the Salida sewer system will pay 1.5 percent of the established rate. Rates will subsequently increase 5 percent per year starting Jan. 1."

Category: Colorado Water
6:17:18 AM    

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Here's a recap of this session's legislation from From the article:

- A bill requiring developers to prove there is a sufficient water supply before building subdivisions with 50 or more houses (House Bill 1141).

- Two bills aimed at increasing water flows in Colorado rivers and streams to help fish flourish and boost kayaking, rafting and fishing. One (House Bill 1280) would protect the water rights of people who agree to leave extra water they don't need in the river. The other (House Bill 1346) gives $1 million to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to buy or lease rights to water in order to keep it in a river.

- A bill that would prohibit bringing aquatic nuisance species, like zebra mussels, into Colorado and allow authorities to inspect vehicles, boats and trailers for them if they have a "reasonable belief" such a species is present (Senate Bill 226). The mussels are now confined to Lake Pueblo State Park but it could cost millions of dollars to control them if they spread.

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

Category: Colorado Water
6:13:25 AM    

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The Central Colorado Water Conservancy District is increasing their quota over last year, according to The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The signing of a three-year water lease with the city of Thornton will allow irrigation wells in the South Platte River basin to pump more water this year. The deal means Central Colorado Water Conservancy District has been able to increase the quota that 1,000 irrigation wells will be able to deliver to farmers this summer.

The quota for wells in the district's groundwater management subdistrict has been increased to 35 percent, up from 18 percent after the district's board agreed to rent 5,000 acre-feet of water annually from the city of Thornton. The water comes from the Water Supply and Storage Co. of Fort Collins and is delivered through the Poudre River and ultimately to the South Platte River east of Greeley. Thornton owns about 50 percent of Water Supply and Storage, which supplies irrigation water to Larimer and Weld counties. The north Denver suburb bought that water along with several farms in Larimer and northern Weld counties about 20 years ago...

The groundwater management subdistrict of Central was formed in 1973 with its principle mission to keep 1,000 irrigation wells in operation from Brighton east toward Wiggins along the South Platte River. Those wells, without the addition of surface water, could irrigate about 39,000 acres at a 100 percent quota. Using surface water only, those farmers could irrigate about 18,000 acres, or about a third of the total land within the subdistrict, according to Central officials. The 35 percent quote means more acres will be planted and irrigated this spring and summer. A significant part of the lease agreement is that Central will be able to include that water in future projections, said Randy Ray, Central's operations manager. Because of that, the district was able to increase its quota for the wells. Ray said that while there are no immediate signs that the 35 percent increase might further be increased further, there may be other water supplies and extended wet periods going into the spring months that could change that.

From The Cañon City Daily Record:

No one could agree about what to do with the water tap fees during Monday night's Florence City Council meeting. "If it isn't completely broke, don't fix it," said City Manager Tom Piltingsrud. The council will put the issue of inside and outside water taps on the agenda for the next water committee then vote on it at the next council meeting. "The proposal was tabled until such time the other entities had a chance to read it," councilman Paul Villagrana said. "By addendum, the fees would have to be added to the agreement." The issue came up when Kevin Bradley requested the outside tap fee be lowered at the last council meeting. "I proposed an $8,000 water fee to the entities just to get discussion," Piltingsrud said. "The consensus of Coal Creek, Williamsburg and Rockvale is they wanted to raise the tap fees by $400 from $5,600 to $6,000 because the entities are more likely to sell inside taps than they are to sell outside taps." Outside tap fees is the other issue discussed. "Some entities said they would like to see it left where it is," Piltingsrud said. "The argument for the entities is nonexistent because they do not have outside tap fees." The agreement specifies that 51 percent of the outside water tap fees would go into the Regional Water Plant Investment Fund, he said. Rockvale insisted Florence needs to "capture more money for the fund" in case of emergencies, Piltingsrud said. The next Regional Water Committee meeting is at 6:30 p.m. May 26 to discuss what to do.

From The Sky-Hi Daily News:

Faced with the cost of several large water projects in the next few years, the Kremmling Board of Trustees is trying to economize where it can...

...Town Manager Ted Soltis pointed out that the town is trying to economize in anticipation of the estimated $5 million that will be needed over the next few years to handle its water-system problems. He said the board had already cut down on the number and size of its grants to various county organizations during budget discussions late last year. "I strongly recommend that we accumulate funds for these water projects," Soltis said...

Also during Monday's meeting, Public Works Director Doug Moses reported on the pre-bid meeting held last Friday, May 2, for this year's main transmission water line replacement project. He said there was a "good turnout" with 14 contractors attending. The bids will be opened May 16. The town's main transmission water line project is being funded in part with a Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant of $478,500. It is a 50-percent matching grant with the town paying for the other half of the project. The project will replace the main water transmission line from the town's water plant, located more than two miles west of Kremmling, to the town's western edge. As part of the project, the water line must be placed across both DeBerard Ditch and Muddy Creek. The project also includes a 125-foot bore under U.S. Highway 40. Kremmling's main transmission water line, which supplies all of the town's water, has been badly leaking and sections of it have failed in recent years due to the heavy corrosion of its steel pipes. The line was installed in the early 1970s. This year's project is the first stage of the needed repairs to the town's water system. Town officials estimate that 24,000 feet of steel water pipe, which is 30 percent of Kremmling's in-town water system, has corroded to the point that it must be replaced in the next few years. Those steel pipes were installed in the late 1940s and early '50s.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

From The Telluride Watch: "The water level in the Ridgway Reservoir just keeps getting lower and lower, as water managers draw down the water in order to make room for spring runoff... On Monday, May 5, water in the reservoir was at an elevation of 6,838 above sea level, or 33 feet from full. Mike Berry of Tri-County Water Conservancy District, the agency in charge of managing water levels in the reservoir, said that current levels leave about 30,000 acre feet of storage available to accommodate runoff, out of a total storage capacity of 84,410 acre feet. Flows from the dam are holding steady at 500 cubic feet per second. Releases from the Ridgway Reservoir go to provide irrigation in the region. Water levels in the lake and below, on the Uncompahgre River, must be managed with an eye to dam safety, minimum stream flows and downstream water rights."

Category: Colorado Water
5:57:40 AM    

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With the $9 million settlement over the Grand Ditch wilderness designation for Rocky Mountain National Park is closer, according to The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

A decades-long effort to formally designate Rocky Mountain National Park as a wilderness area took a major step forward Wednesday. The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee unanimously approved legislation granting wilderness status to the park and portions of adjacent national forest. The measure will go on for consideration by the full Senate, a move the park's superintendent called significant. "This is as far as it has gotten in 34 years," said Vaughn Baker, superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park...

The legislation would designate 249,339 acres in the park as wilderness. It would not affect efforts to control bark beetles or fight fires within park boundaries. The designation also would not affect water rights connected to the Colorado-Big Thompson Project or the Grand River Ditch, which carry water from the Western Slope to the Front Range.

Operation of the ditch and the liability of its owner - the Fort Collins-based Water Supply and Storage Co. - was a sticking point for the legislation. The Department of Interior and the National Park Service opposed language that would have limited the company's liability for damage caused by ditch operations to cases of negligence. The revised bill removes the wilderness designation from a 200-foot setback along the ditch, but applies stricter liability requirements, said Cody Wertz, a spokesman for Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo. "It treats the ditch the same as operators within other national parks," he said. The Senate version of the bill, which was introduced a year ago, is sponsored by Salazar and Sen. Wayne Allard, a Loveland Republican. Hearings have been held on the House version of the bill but it has yet to advance. Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, whose district includes Larimer County, is a cosponsor of the bill. The state's congressional delegation will continue working with the Park Service to get the legislation passed, said Joe Brettell, spokesman for Musgrave's office.

More coverage from The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved the bill on Wednesday in what Sean Conway, chief of staff for Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said was merely a move to keep the bill from dying in committee. Conway said that Allard and Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., allowed the bill to move past committee with the stipulation that no further action would be taken without an agreement over the Grand River Ditch -- a hotly contested issue in the designation process thus far. "I think what happened today was more necessitated out of keeping the legislative process alive as opposed to resolving the issues that still surround designating Rocky Mountain National Park a wilderness area," said Conway in telephone interview.

At issue is an operations and maintenance agreement between Water Supply and Storage Company, which operates the ditch, and an "Act of God" provision that would protect the company when it is not at fault for an incident that damages the park. Such a provision would have kept Water Storage and Supply Company from having to pay $9 million to help restore the park after an incident that Conway said was not the company's fault. Conway said that if another such incident occurred without an "Act of God" provision in place to protect the company, the company could be forced to move out of the ditch. The company diverts water from the Colorado River to east of the Continental Divide, thus supplying Larimer and Weld Counties with about 20,000 acres-feet of water a year, which is used to irrigate about 40,000 acres of land. Conway said the region could risk losing such a valuable resource, especially at a time when the region faces a drought and wells continue to close in Weld County. "The grand ditch provides an irreplaceable supply of water to our communities and our farmers and although there is unanimity within the Colorado congressional delegation that Rocky Mountain National Park should be protected as a wilderness area, we must do it in the right way," Conway said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:49:10 AM    

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