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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Friday, May 9, 2008

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Here's a recap of a recent briefing on Fountain Creek to the Pueblo County Commissioners, from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo County Board of Commissioners on Thursday received a brief update on the Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan. The commissioners heard from Jay Winner, general manager for the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, and Colorado Springs Utilities' Carol Baker on the progress of the master plan, which could provide solutions to the creek's propensity to meander, flood and disperse sediment downstream. Baker said there are five goals to the plan. The first is to improve the watershed's health and reduce erosion and sedimentation. Baker showed the commissioners a photograph of a healthy portion of the creek that includes a wide floodplain to allow the creek to meander and plenty of trees and brush to slow the flow of water when the creek floods. She also showed a slide of an unhealthy portion of the creek, where its flow is blocked on one side by a wall, which speeds the water and forces it into new channels, causing more erosion. One possible solution to that portion of the river is to build oxbows, or small dams, to handle flooding, create a more meandering pattern to the creek and slow the water, Winner said. The other goals of the plan are creating riparian and wetland systems, providing productive agricultural lands, building a trail system with educational opportunities and gaining public and private support for the eventual solutions.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:25:28 AM    

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Here's an update on the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel from From the article:

Two Colorado lawmakers made another push to get the Bureau of Reclamation to find a permanent fix to the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel (LMDT) problem. U.S. Rep Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) and Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) want to force the Bureau of Reclamation to implement a permanent fix to alleviate the possibility of a catastrophic blowout at the LMDT. The Bureau of Reclamation said it wants to wait for study results, expected in June, before they decide on a permanent solution to blowout concerns...

Peter Soeth, spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation, told 9Wants to Know on Thursday, that any legislative move requesting or forcing the Bureau of Reclamation to take immediate action is premature. "The risk assessment is not delaying any actions. The risk assessment will identify, if any, conditions that may need action. Once we know what those conditions are, if any, we can then proceed with looking at the most effective long-term solution," said Soeth. But Udall said he worries the Bureau of Reclamation may choose not to act. "We are going to continue to push [for action,] if they are going to stall now, maybe they are going to stall further," said Udall. Soeth has noted previously that the EPA is already pumping trapped water from the Leadville Mountain at the Gaw shaft. The EPA also plans to drill a new vertical well into the LMDT and begin pumping water from a second location by mid-June. The EPA agreed to pump trapped water out of the tunnel to alleviate building pressure that some worry could cause a blowout at the tunnel's opening.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

Like tag-team wrestlers, Colorado Reps. Mark Udall and Doug Lamborn took turns working over the federal Bureau of Reclamation on Thursday for opposing legislation to force that agency to take responsibility for fixing the collapsed Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. Lamborn, the Republican whose 5th Congressional District includes Leadville, said his bill would settle the question of which federal agency must take charge of fixing the blocked mine tunnel and controlling the contaminated water that has threatened to leak into the Arkansas River. "I don't see how the Bureau can claim it has title to the mine tunnel but not take responsibility for clearing the blockage," Lamborn said in a telephone press conference with Udall, the 2nd District Democrat who is also running for the Senate...

Udall was particularly critical that Reclamation officials said they needed to wait until June to complete a study of the tunnel's conditions and whether interim steps, such as drilling a second channel, were relieving the environmental danger. Robert Quint, the bureau's director of operations, testified that a relief well is being drilled under the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency. "Once the EPA relief well is completed in June and water can be pumped from (the tunnel), any immediate risk should be alleviated and more information about the needs for ensuring the safety of the tunnel and long-term options can be assessed," Quint said...

Of course, Congress usually moves slowly, too, and it is more likely Reclamation will get to complete its tunnel study this June, undisturbed by the Lamborn-Udall legislation. Asked how they intended to get their bill through the House and Senate in the next 30 days, Udall said, "Any way we can. We believe there is bipartisan support for this measure and we will attach it to the first bill going through the House that we can."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:19:31 AM    

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Here's some runoff news from The Summit Daily News. They write:

The Colorado River Basin is in good shape this year. Runoff will fill all reservoirs in the upper basin in the next few months. Green Mountain Reservoir should fill by mid-July and hold steady through the summer recreation months, said the Bureau of Reclamation's Ron Thomasson, outlining summer water operations during Wednesday's state of the river meeting in Frisco. Dillon Reservoir will also fill. In fact, Denver Water is facing a potential problem of very high inflows during peak runoff. Combined, the Blue River, the Snake River and Tenmile Creek could pour as much as 3,000 cubic feet per second into the reservoir during peak runoff, although odds are the peak flows will stay a bit lower than that, at around 2,200 cfs, according to resource engineer Bob Steger. Even at that rate, Denver Water will be challenged to maintain a balance between maintaining water for boating levels in Dillon Reservoir, meeting downstream demand and trying to limit flooding downstream of the reservoir, Steger said. To make room for the runoff, Denver Water started dropping the level of the reservoir earlier than usual. The Roberts Tunnel, which diverts water from the West Slope to the South Platte drainage, was just turned on a few days ago, and Denver Water is currently letting about 500 cfs flow out of the reservoir and into the Lower Blue.

Category: Colorado Water
6:06:12 AM    

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From The Rocky Mountain News: "President Bush gave final approval for a Platte River recovery plan on Thursday when he signed a massive natural resources bill into law [S. 2739: Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008]. The recovery plan, backed by Sens. Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar, of Colorado, and their counterparts from Nebraska, is meant to protect endangered or threatened species while allowing continued water use and development along the river. It sets aside $157 mdillion as the federal share of implementing the agreement, first signed by the governors of Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming with the Interior Department in 2006."

More coverage from The Grand Island Independent. From the article:

Following a decade old struggle to address Platte River problems with endangered and threatened species, President Bush on Thursday signed into law legislation to implement the federal share of the Platte River recovery implementation plan. The plan is part of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which was sponsored by Nebraska U.S. Sens. Ben Nelson and Chuck Hagel...

The bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to proceed with the program and includes $157 million to carry it out. The cost will be shared 50/50 by the states and federal government. Through the program the states will provide benefits for the endangered and threatened species as well as land, water, and scientific monitoring and research to evaluate benefits of the program. Now that the bill has been signed into law, Ron Bishop, manager of the Central Platte Natural Resources District, said the next step is to "start building projects...That will open them up to start acquiring the land and water that they need," Bishop said. Two of the big goals of the recovery plan are to increase flows in the Platte River and create new habitat to benefit the four endangered and threatened species the program is designed to protect. The species are the endangered interior least tern, whooping crane, pallid sturgeon and the threatened piping plover...

The plan proposes to acquire 10,000 acres of new habitat. The proposed area is between Lexington and Chapman, which is within the Central Platte NRD. Bishop said once that land is acquired, the project will still pay property taxes on the land to lessen the impact on local governments and school districts. The plan also proposes to acquire between 130,000 to 150,000 acre feet of water. Bishop said they have already lined up 80,000 acre feet of water, which will be needed to accomplish the goal of increasing river flows to benefit the threatened and endangered species.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:01:00 AM    

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From The Boulder Daily Camera: "Federal legislation [s. 1116] to explore putting groundwater pumped out during oil and gas production to use was signed into law Thursday. The bill signed by President Bush directs the Interior Department to assess the feasibility of recovering and cleaning up the millions of gallons of water that are reinjected into the ground or disposed of during oil and gas development. The water's fate has become contentious as natural gas development has increased in the Rockies. Large volumes of water are pumped out during coal-bed methane production. Pumping groundwater relieves the pressure that traps the gas in the coal seams. 'Every day, 2 million gallons of produced water are wasted in this nation, unfit for any use,' said Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Denver, one of the bill's sponsors. New Mexico Sens. Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat, and Pete Domenici, a Republican, and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., were the other sponsors."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:57:06 AM    

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The Greeley Tribune editorial board is in favor of building Glade Reservoir and the Northern Integrated Supply Project. They write: the West, water is more valuable than gold -- and particularly, stored water. Without it, major metro areas like Phoenix and Los Angeles wouldn't be able to exist like they do today, and closer to home, much of the Eastern Slope of Colorado wouldn't be able to accommodate the population and agricultural practices vital to the region's economy. It just doesn't rain enough, and regularly enough, from year to year for us to live and farm without a water reserve (even with groundwater aquifers, the allocation of which is another story altogether). And that brings us to Glade Reservoir, a massive, $426 million proposal that, if built, would provide 40,000 acre-feet of water each year, enough for 80,000 families. This is no small undertaking...

Such a project isn't without consequences -- at times the river's flow could slow to a trickle through Fort Collins and farther downstream -- and thus isn't without critics. The fight to get the Glade Reservoir built may create as much ill will as with the doomed Two Forks Dam proposed on the South Platte River in the 1980s. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on April 30 issued the draft environmental impact statement for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which includes Glade and another reservoir, Galeton, east of Ault. The 700-page draft is a required step in the process, and it did nothing to sway either proponents or opponents of the project, which wasn't unexpected. Critics of the project have called it a Band-Aid, because the 40,000 acre-feet the Glade Reservoir would supply is just the bare minimum of water we'll need in the future. If that's the case, what will our future be like without it?

Conservation alone is not enough. And it strikes us as disingenuous for critics -- many of whom reside Fort Collins and are fairly new to the state -- to look down their noses downstream and tell Colorado natives and other third- and fourth-generation farmers they need to change their lifestyles and conserve more. Farmers are the ultimate conservationists -- their survival depends on it. Stricter water-use policies are worth considering, but low-flow toilets and xeriscaped yards won't help irrigate corn fields or provide water for the growing population, which is expected to be more than 500,000 in Weld County come 2035. Much of the region's prosperity can be credited to the visionaries in the 1930s who pushed for and built the Colorado-Big Thompson water project, which brings water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. It's time -- past time, actually -- for us to do something to provide water for future generations. It just doesn't make sense for us to watch so much "gold," particularly in years like this when the mountain snowpack is so great, flow downstream to Nebraska and beyond, when instead we could hang on to some of it for a non-rainy day.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:47:25 AM    

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