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 15, 2008

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Here's a look at efforts to list the Rio Grande cutthroat as endangered, from The Environmental News Service. From the article:

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is declining and its conservation status is "cause for concern" the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today. After a review of this native fish's situation, the Service is recommending that the subspecies be formally proposed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. But the agency will not provide federal safeguards at this time. Instead, the trout has been added to the list of candidate species for protection under the Act. It is number 281 on the candidate list...

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout occupies the southern-most habitat of all the cutthroat trout, and the Service acknowledged today that the cold, high elevation streams preferred by this subspecies make it vulnerable to global warming. "The threats it faces are exacerbated by the effects of climate change," the Service said. While the extent to which climate change will affect the trout's cold water habitat is not fully understood, the Service said, but warmer water temperatures, decreased stream flow, and a change in the timing of runoff could, singly, or in combination, have a negative effect on the subspecies. The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is one of 14 subspecies of cutthroat trout and is found in high elevation streams in the Rio Grande, Pecos and the Canadian river basins in New Mexico and Colorado. The species currently occupies a little less than 10 percent of its historical habitat in Colorado and a little more than 10 percent in New Mexico. The Service found several changes had occurred to Rio Grande cutthroat trout populations since its last review in 2002. In 2002, there were 13 core populations of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout considered sufficiently secure so that federal protection was not considered necessary. This latest review shows only five core populations still meet that definition. Of the 120 "conservation populations" of Rio Grande cutthroat trout range-wide, 112 exist as isolated fragments with no genetic mixing between populations. The majority of populations, 71 percent, are in short stream segments of five miles or less, which support a limited number of fish.Although barriers protect most Rio Grande cutthroat trout populations from downstream populations of nonnative trout, 38 percent of Rio Grande cutthroat trout conservation populations share habitat with nonnative trout...

As a candidate species, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout receives no statutory protection under the Endangered Species Act, but its inclusion on the candidate list promotes cooperative conservation efforts. For example, the Service provides technical assistance and competitive matching grants to states, private landowners, tribes and pueblos undertaking conservation efforts on behalf of candidate species. The Service also works with landowners to develop Candidate Conservation Agreements. These voluntary agreements allow people to manage their property in ways that benefit candidate species. The Service uses five factors to determine if a species merits Endangered Species Act protection. If the species meets one of the factors it is eligible for inclusion on the list of threatened and endangered species. The factors are: the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; disease or predation; the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

Category: Colorado Water
6:01:57 PM    

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb): "We continue to pump water to Carter Lake. Today's elevation is 5715 and slowly climbing. That means the water is about 44 feet down from full capacity, but all boat ramps are in the water and accessible. Horsetooth has started to go down, slowly. Beginning this week, irrigators have started taking water from Horsetooth Dam. About 132 cfs is currently going out of the reservoir. Inflow is around 50 cfs. The reservoir elevation is at about 5412 and is very slowly dropping. I'm not sure how long to expect this rate of draw. As always, we'll have to see what the weather does."

Category: Colorado Water
5:52:58 PM    

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From The Trinidad Times-Independent: "The City of Trinidad lifted its moratorium on selling water taps last week with the signing of an amendment to the 2002 resolution banning their sales. The moratorium on water tap sales was originally put in place as a conservation effort during a lengthy drought. Resolution 1327 modifies the 2002 ban by allowing Trinidad's city council to consider the granting of taps on a case-by-case basis."

Category: Colorado Water
7:28:29 AM    

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From The Durango Herald: "Bayfield town trustees will not expand the area served by the Gem Village sewage system until next year when the unincorporated community's sewage-treatment lagoon is decommissioned and the effluent is routed to Bayfield's new treatment plant. Town trustees curbed any expansion of the now defunct Bayfield Sanitation District last week because the Gem Village system violates state discharge levels about 50 percent of the time, calculated on either a seven-day or 30-day average. Fewer than 200 customers, including the development along U.S. Highway 160, use the Gem Village system, Town Administrator Justin Clifton said Tuesday. Anyone with property within the old sanitation district boundaries can discharge into the system, he said. The only exception would be a proposal for a major residential or commercial project, Clifton said. Then the town would consider projects on a case-by-case basis. As it stands now, the only property owners who don't have a chance to connect to the lagoon system are those outside the boundaries of the defunct sanitation district."

Category: Colorado Water
7:24:58 AM    

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Work to enlarge a monitoring well in the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel to enable pumping of the mine pool has started, according to the Region 8 EPA office. From the press release:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began drilling a relief well into the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel today, an important step towards the removal and treatment of large volumes of metals-contaminated water that have accumulated in Leadville's historic mining district in Lake County, Colo. An EPA contractor, the Layne Christensen Company, began drilling the well this morning with a 40-foot truck-mounted drill rig and a 24-inch drill bit...

"Drilling the relief well is an important step towards addressing any risks that this water may present," said EPA regional administrator, Robert E. Roberts. "We continue to work towards the day when we begin pumping water out of the tunnel and sending it to the treatment plant." EPA has been taking action to relieve the pressure associated with water trapped in the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel since February. To date, efforts to remove the water blocked in the tunnel have included constructing a road to the site of the relief well, constructing the drill pad, securing access from property owners, and clearing and trenching a route to place more than one-half mile of pipeline from the well site to the water treatment plant. The Agency began pumping water from nearby mine workings at a location known as the Gaw Shaft on February 27. The Gaw Shaft pump will remain operational until pumping from the tunnel begins...

For more information on the Leadville Mine Drainage Response:

We asksed EPA representative Stan Christensen about the water level in the mine pool. Here is his email response, "It's down about 13' from it's highest point--high water level for bedrock water ocurrs in November and drops over the winter, we usually see the water start rising in June."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:09:16 AM    

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Douglas Bruce has Colorado Springs' stormwater fees in his gunsight, according to From the article: "The controversial storm water fee in Colorado Springs is the latest target for anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce. Bruce is gathering signatures to get two initiatives on the November ballot. One challenges the storm water fee in Colorado Springs, which Bruce called a hidden utility tax. He has only four weeks to gather 16,000 signatures...The second petition would phase out over 10 years other utility and enterprise taxes that have not been approved by the voters."

Category: Colorado Water
7:01:02 AM    

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From The Rocky Mountain News: "Gov. Bill Ritter will testify before a U.S. Senate committee today to urge a slowdown of plans to lease 2 million acres of public land for oil-shale development. Ritter accepted the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's invitation to speak about the future of oil-shale development in Colorado, spokesman Evan Dreyer said. 'He is supportive of continuing with the oil-shale R&D process, as there are many unanswered questions,' Dreyer said, referring to ongoing research. 'He does not see a need for the federal government to rush ahead at this time with the commercial development of oil shale.'"

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
6:55:54 AM    

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Here's some runoff news from The Aspen Times. From the article:

Aldis Strautins of the National Weather Service said temperatures will heat up starting this weekend, creating the potential for the Crystal River to flood low lands. Then it will cool back down for most of the rest of May, unfortunately saving the bounty of snow until June. Long-range forecasts call for warm, dry months in June and July, Strautins said...

The snowpack east of Aspen at the 10,600-foot elevation is at 95 percent above average for this time of year, according to measurements by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Strautins said streamflow projections indicate the "most likely" peak flow on the Crystal River at Redstone will hit 2,500 cubic feet per second this year, only 50 cfs below flood stage. The most likely peak flow on the Roaring Fork River near Aspen will be 1,500 cfs, only 80 cfs below flood stage. The peak at Glenwood Springs is supposed to be a more comfortable margin below flood stage. Unfortunately, he said, no forecast point exists in the Basalt area, the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers.

More runoff news from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

Arkansas River flows through Pueblo have doubled in the past week, as water is being moved out of storage in anticipation of a large spring runoff. However, the bulk of runoff has not yet occurred, with snowpack well above average. Streamflows are at about average levels below Pueblo. With moderate temperatures so far this spring, there also are not major concerns about flooding. "If the cool spring continues, we should be able to let the runoff come down," said Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer...

After testing at Twin Lakes dam last week, the Bureau of Reclamation ramped up flows in the Upper Arkansas River again beginning Friday. Reclamation is moving water out of Turquoise and Twin Lakes to make room for more than 100,000 acre-feet expected to move later this year through the Boustead Tunnel under the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. For the past week, Reclamation has added 350 cubic feet per second to flows above Lake Pueblo, in addition to about 800 cfs already in the river, as measured at the Wellsville gauge east of Salida. Because Lake Pueblo is storing water nearly at capacity, winter water accounts in the reservoir are being emptied to avoid spilling. Some of the water is being stored in downstream reservoirs, but many farmers are using it to irrigate land that is dry from lack of moisture...

Streamflows are still at average levels at most river gauges, however. Natural river flows are at about 850 cfs below Pueblo, but during the past week, an additional 390-690 cfs have been in the river for the last week as farmers move water out of Lake Pueblo accounts. The increase in the river has been dramatic, however, going to 1,840 cfs at Avondale Tuesday, up from 648 cfs a week earlier. Without the additional water from accounts, the streamflow would be close to average and is still within "normal" river parameters as calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey. Up in the high country, snow is still abundant - Leadville reported another 8 inches Tuesday - and temperatures remain cool. Stream gauges on tributaries in the Upper Arkansas are not yet showing diurnal patterns that indicate snow melt, Witte said...

Still, snow water is at 98 percent of the average peak fairly late in the season and the snowpack was listed at 144 percent of the average. Reclamation's latest estimate of imports for the Fry-Ark Project this year are 100,600 acre-feet, said Roy Vaughan, head of the local Reclamation office. Runoff has not started on the West Slope. The Thomasville gauge on the Fryingpan River, above Ruedi Reservoir, has not yet reached minimum levels that trigger Fry-Ark diversions. So far, only minimal flows have moved through the Boustead Tunnel and the snowpack at higher elevations has not begun to melt, Vaughan said.

More runoff news from The Chaffee County Times. From the article:

The water content average in the Arkansas Valley is 110 percent to 124 percent above average, according to Colorado Division of Water Resources. According to another source, Natural Resources Conservation Service, the snowpack in the Arkansas River basin was 131 percent of average in April. One of the interesting facts on this year's snowpack is the density is much higher, said Bill Gardiner, district conservationist in the Salida office for the United States Department of Agriculture-Salida office of Natural Resources Conservation Service. The St. Elmo snow course shows a 42 percent increase in water equivalency compared to the same time last year, he said. He said that on April 29, the average snow depth for St. Elmo was 49 inches, compared to 40.5 for 2007...

Mike Graber, a dam safety engineer for Colorado Division of Water Resources, said the Rainbow Lakes Dam, a privately owned dam west of Buena Vista on CR 306, was inspected July 11, 2007. There were no significant deficiencies, he said. It is a unique dam in that it is an embankment dam with a concrete/rock top for overflow protection. It has a primary spillway on the south side but in the event there is more water then it can handle, it can flow over the top, Graber said. If there is a large flow, this slows it down a little, Graber said. Graber said that the estimated snow/water in the basin above Clear Creek Reservoir is 60,000 acre-feet, which is more than the storage for Clear Creek Reservoir. The percentages are significant but not a real flood hazard, Gertson said. When it is melting for 24 hours a day, that's when there is a major, peak melting season. If the temperatures are huge, it could come off in a boom, he said...

Cottonwood Creek peaks the second week of May and the Arkansas River the second week in June, said Gertson. He said he has seen the Cottonwood Creek flows at 300 to 600 cubic feet per second. On May 5, it was running 4.4 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources. On May 9, it was 29.1 cfs. Buena Vista Public Works Department is monitoring temperatures and flows daily on Cottonwood Pass. They check the floodgates in Town Lake and keep them open. They watch for sediment levels and debris washing down. The inmate work crews from Buena Vista Correctional Complex have made 1,000 sandbags for low-lying areas and The Town has made arrangements for BVCC crews to be available if more are needed. For emergency plans, emergency notification goes to Chaffee County Dispatch who uses reverse-911 notices. Notification would probably be called in to radio stations, Gertson said.

Category: Colorado Water
6:44:11 AM    

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Here's a look at Broomfield's recent purchase of Colorado Big-Thompson water, from The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The city paid about $10,000 for each of the 766 shares or a little more than 525 acre-feet, which is enough water for a year's supply of slightly more than 1,000 homes. Harold Evans, chairman of Greeley's Water and Sewer Board, said the sale did not surprise him, noting Broomfield has been actively trying to buy water through Craig Harrison, a water broker, from Fort Collins. Evans said Greeley, which is the largest municipal owner of C-BT water, could not buy the shares from Western because the city already owns the maximum amount allowed...

The district's board of directors approved the sale at its last meeting, said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water. Greeley, he added, owns 22,522 units of C-BT water.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:39:10 AM    

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Here's an update on the battle against tamarisk including everyone's favorite beetle, the tamarisk leaf beetle, from The Grand Junction Free Press. From the article:

The flowering tamarisk trees have a 150-year head start, but by next year, there's a good chance that tiny insects will have made "significant impact" in Mesa County in eliminating the nonnative trees, said John Heideman of the Tamarisk Coalition -- a group formed in 1999 to combat the proliferation of tamarisk trees...

Volunteers with the Tamarisk Coalition have hiked into Flume, lower Devil's and Pollock Canyons 15 times in the last three years to cut down and haul out tamarisk trees. Stumps are treated with herbicides to prevent the trees from growing back. Another form of attack are leaf-eating beetles that have been introduced to the National Conservation Areas Knowles, Flume and Horsethief Canyons. Beetles, imported from China, were first released in Utah four years ago, where land managers have seen success in combating tamarisk growth in several Utah counties. "Biological control is reuniting the insect pest with the host plant," Heideman said. Heideman seems frustrated that it took so long to get approval to use the bugs to tackle the tamarisks. "Most biological control agents take five to six years to be approved by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)," Heideman said. "The tamarisk leaf beetle took 20 years to get approved." When willow trees lost habitat to tamarisk, the southwest willow flycatchers, an endangered species, started nesting in tamarisk, and so tamarisks were declared critical habitat for the birds. But "common sense would tell you if you get rid of the tamarisks, the willows will grow," Heideman said...

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:32:58 AM    

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Colorado is looking to deal with Reclamation for 200,000 acre feet or so from the Gunnison Basin to help protect against a call on the Colorado River, according to The Gunnison Times. From the article:

A possible water deal between the State of Colorado and the federal Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) for 200,000 acre feet of water from Blue Mesa Reservoir recently has come to light. Proponents say it could protect the state in the event of a "compact call" on the Colorado River. It could also potentially drown local fears of Blue Mesa water being used to quench Front Range thirst in a trans-basin diversion scenario. However, local water officials and county leaders say they still have numerous questions about what such a contract might look like, its ramifications and what it could mean for the Gunnison Basin.

In a telephone conference last Friday, Gunnison County Commissioners questioned Alexandra Davis, assistant director for water with the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR), about the potential contract under consideration. Davis confirmed that a letter is being prepared from the DNR to the BOR that would initiate talks over the possible water deal. "The idea essentially is, the State of Colorado would contract for 200,000 acre feet in Blue Mesa Reservoir, and it would be able to use that water to meet its obligation to help Colorado water users with whatever comes up," Davis told the commissioners Friday. On Monday Davis said the decision for whether the letter will actually be sent has not yet been made -- and wouldn't be until a Colorado Water Conservation Board meeting in Glenwood Springs Tuesday, May 20. For that reason, she declined to go into further detail about the concept...

There is currently 240,000 acre feet of "marketable yield" in Blue Mesa Reservoir. Many on the Front Range have long viewed that water as being available for some type of elaborate transfer to the Front Range. Davis, however, assured the commissioners that such a trans-basin diversion was not the state's intention. "Director (Harris) Sherman (of the DNR) is committed to ensuring that the water in Blue Mesa that we have a contract on, when we get there, would go downstream and downstream only," Davis acknowledged. "The state of Colorado ... would not use that water in any way by putting it in a pipeline and over the basin." That's something the county commissioners would like to see in writing...

One example of the how the deal could be used in the event of a compact call, Davis explained to the commissioners, could be that the water from Blue Mesa would be released downstream to the Colorado River, allowing the Front Range to continue diverting water from elsewhere in the Colorado River Basin. "So, water would come out of the Aspinall Unit (which includes Blue Mesa Reservoir) so it doesn't have to come out of another unit on the Front Range?" asked Starr. "Yes," Davis responded...

Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD) attorney John McClow says that the water district still has numerous questions about the potential contract "that the representatives of the DNR have not been able to answer to our satisfaction." One of which is how the other upper basin states might feel about such a contract. If, in fact, such a contract is being considered, UGRWCD board member Steve Glazer believes there should be some local involvement. "I can't see any of the stakeholders in this basin sitting still for contract negotiations that may be taking place for water in Blue Mesa that don't involve us," he said...

Likewise, County Attorney David Baumgarten suggested to Davis Friday that to ensure that the contract is upheld, "there actually be built into the contract ... a third-party beneficiary -- somebody who could enforce the term on the West Slope ... that that water, once purchased, can't be used legally, contractually for trans-basin diversion." "We can keep that thought out there," Davis responded, "but I think it's a detail we'll have to address much later."

Category: Colorado Water
6:21:03 AM    

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