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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Saturday, May 24, 2008

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Here's an update on efforts to drain the Leadville mine pool by drilling into the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel, from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Legislation requiring the federal Bureau of Reclamation to take responsibility for fixing the collapsed Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel was approved Thursday by a House subcommittee. Colorado Reps. Doug Lamborn and Mark Udall praised the fast action by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power, saying the decision was keeping pressure on the bureau to fix the tunnel problem, which includes the danger of heavily polluted water leaking into the Arkansas River. The mine tunnel is in Lamborn's 5th Congressional District and the Colorado Springs Republican said the legislation would end the dispute over which federal agency must take the lead in fixing the collapsed tunnel and cleaning up the contaminated water inside it.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:24:34 AM    

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Bayfield is inching closer to moving dirt for their new treatment plant, according to The Pine River Times. From the article:

Bayfield town trustees approved a complicated series of resolutions and ordinances Tuesday evening to get toward the start of actual construction on a new sewage treatment plant. Town Manager Justin Clifton advised actual construction should start in June and is likely to take 12 months, which is longer than originally estimated. The board approved two ordinances vacating a part of South East Street, and two resolutions to buy rights-of-way on two parcels to get an access to the new plant from South East Street. The current access requires going south on the Buck Highway and then coming back up across tribal and private land. "This access is very inconvenient and the road is unable to support heavy construction traffic," Clifton said in a memo to the board. And that easement expires in 2014. By vacating existing easements and creating new ones on the East Street lots, the landowners actually end up with more useable land, Clifton said. And the town is paying each owner $10,000. Logistics have been very complicated to get to where actual construction can start.

Clifton reported that contractor bids will be opened on May 28 as planned, but the contract can't be awarded until sometime in June. And the town can't complete purchase of school district land where the new plant will be built. The reason is a $300,000 Colorado Community Development Block Grant that is part of the project funding. It requires an environmental assessment. In a memo on this Clifton said, "We received some very bad advice from our consultant working on our CDBG grant. There were some notices that needed to take place but didn't, so now we will have to wait until mid-June to get that contract underway. If we are to use the $300,000 CDBG grant, we cannot award a contract or make any other financial commitments (including closing on the school property) until our contract is in place."[...]

In addition, the town can't start actual construction until LPEA installs 3-phase power to the site. Clifton indicated all the currently available power is needed to operate the current sewage lagoons and assorted enhancements the town and former sanitation district have added to improve performance until the new plant is built. Trustees approved an agreement with LPEA to bring the 3-phase power in from the west, and an easement agreement with the owner whose land it will cross. The LPEA agreement says the town will pay for things the landowner wants LPEA to do as part of bringing the power through. "The day the easement agreement is signed, we'll lobby LPEA to bump this up on their schedule," Clifton said...

"Our compliance schedule with the state says we have to award the contract by May 31, but these (CDBG) people say we can't until we have the CDBG contract," Clifton said. In addition, he said, "The contractors are asking for more time than is in the compliance schedule, so we may have to make some significant adjustments." He continued, "We've revised the (compliance) schedule a couple times. The engineer and contractor said (previously) we should be able to build the plant in 244 days. We started this current process in August 2007. I don't know how to plan ahead more than that." Now, Clifton said, "The contractor is saying 244 days isn't realistic. They want more like 12 months. This schedule was done in November last year. This will be the more significant issue[per thou] compared to having the construction contract awarded by May 31. He concluded, "I think we will start in June and it will take 12 months. I don't want to rush the project. It needs to be done correctly. At the same time, we have to play by the state's rules."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:05:39 AM    

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From "The Colorado Health Department is advising people to stay away from two rivers because partially-treated sewage may be in the water following Thursday's tornadoes. The health department says the contamination happened because of power failures and damage to wastewater treatment systems. The treatment systems have since recovered, but the health department warns the Cache La Poudre River south of Windsor and the South Platte River below where the Cache La Poudre flows into it are likely contaminated."

Category: Colorado Water
6:40:21 AM    

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Here's an in-depth piece on Colorado's fight against zebra mussels from The Denver Post. They write:

Colorado is preparing to fine boaters and spend more than $7 million to keep the thumbnail-size creatures from taking over local reservoirs "I think this is one of the major issues we are dealing with right now," said Tyler Baskfield, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Colorado cities also are spending thousands on mitigation measures -- inspections and cleaning -- and implementing tagging and quarantine programs for everything from high- priced speed boats to weekend fishing tubs. The city of Westminster, for instance, will spend up to $500,000 and hire 12 new park rangers to manage its zebra-mussel program at Standley Lake Regional Park. The city hopes to keep the mussels at bay because Standley Lake is not only a top recreational stop in the north metro area but also the drinking-water supply for a quarter-million residents. "The price we are paying now is really a drop in the bucket to what we could be spending in cleaning up our shoreline later on down the road," said Ken Watson, Westminster's regional parks and golf manager. "It would be in the millions."[...]

A Colorado law passed this year allocates $7.2 million to beef up education campaigns as well as inspections at reservoirs and lakes. Also, Colorado State Parks and Denver Water, as well as individual recreation areas, are spending money to stop the spread of the alien aquatic life. The law also establishes criminal penalties for bringing zebra mussels into local waters. A first-time offense can result in a $150 fine. A second offense will cost $1,000, while a third can land someone in jail for a year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:33:04 AM    

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Here's a look at the Pueblo flow program from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Nearly 27,000 acre-feet of water - roughly 1 percent of all annual flows - has been made available at critical periods for recreation events in Pueblo during the first four years of the Pueblo flow program. "It's extra water at key times," said Alan Ward, water resources specialist for the Pueblo Board of Water Works, pointing out that most of the water was recaptured downstream and later moved back into Lake Pueblo by exchange. Ward manages the recovery of yield program under the 2004 Intergovernmental Agreement among the City of Pueblo, the water board, Colorado Springs, Fountain, Aurora and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District...

While Colorado Springs and Aurora share the brunt of mandatory curtailment of exchanges under the program, Pueblo has contributed the most water voluntarily. About 80 percent of the water was subsequently recaptured at Holbrook Reservoir under an agreement with the Holbrook Canal, or was simply timed to move when it was most beneficial for flows through Pueblo. In all, the cities lost about 5,800 acre-feet, although by summer of 2007, their available storage accounts were essentially full. Under the IGA, the partners agreed to curtail exchanges when levels in the river failed to meet seasonal minimums. To date, Colorado Springs has curtailed about 9,000 acre-feet, Aurora 6,100 acre-feet and Pueblo 27 acre-feet under the mandatory provisions of the agreement. Colorado Springs recovered 7,000 acre-feet; Aurora, 3,600; and Pueblo 8. During dry winters in 2005 and 2007, the level of water dropped below the minimum flow for fish. In 2007, the flow was supplemented by an emergency lease to the Division of Wildlife. This year, a proactive program made water available if there were shortfalls. However, flows met the minimum amounts through February this year and have been well above the threshold since March. They have been further bolstered this spring by releases from agricultural accounts in Lake Pueblo.

The partners also have released water for special events on the Pueblo Whitewater Park along the Arkansas River from Fourth Street to Santa Fe Avenue. Under that part of the program, which is strictly voluntary, Pueblo has curtailed or released 6,900 acre-feet, but recovered 5,600 acre-feet. Colorado Springs released 4,700 acre-feet to Lake Meredith, but only changed the timing of when the water was moved, so did not really lose anything, Ward said.

Category: Colorado Water
5:57:18 AM    

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From The Pueblo Chieftain: "The Pueblo Board of Water Works has fallen into the ownership of seven additional shares of the Bessemer Ditch through a deal in which it agrees to provide water to the Chain of Lakes, former gravel pits that have been added to Lake Pueblo State Park...Tuesday, the water board learned it now has seven shares in Bessemer Ditch that were formerly owned by Transit Mix, which obtained them in its earlier court decree to quantify augment its rights in the Hamp-Bell Ditch. In a cooperative agreement with the state, the City of Pueblo, Transit Mix and Valco, the water board's role is to augment water used in the Chain of Lakes, seven ponds west of Pueblo. The lakes are already popular fishing holes, said Alan Ward, water resources specialist. Accounting for the water in them is a tricky business, however, since they don't flow directly back into the river. Instead, the lakes largely capture some of the river's aquifer and seep the flows back into the stream...The water board will also file for a storage right on the Hamp-Bell rights, which will allow it to keep water in Lake Pueblo as well as diverting from the dam. The seven lakes in the Chain of Lakes project are located on 270 acres of land at the site of the old Valco gravel yard west of Pueblo. Transit Mix bought the Valco operation in 1996, and the lakes were deeded to the state in 2004."

Category: Colorado Water
5:45:36 AM    

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Aaron Million was on hand at a recent meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board to pitch his plan for a pipeline from Flaming Gorge to the Front Range, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado's Front Range could be developed in less than five years, its sponsor told the Colorado Water Conservation Board Wednesday. The project anticipates bringing 165,000-250,000 acre-feet annually - enough for 330,000-500,000 homes - to serve communities from Fort Collins to Pueblo, with additional benefits to Wyoming, the West Slope, the environment and agriculture, Aaron Million told the CWCB. "This is a regional solution to the state's need," Million said...

The environmental review is expected to be complete in less than three years and should begin this summer, said Million, who has funded the project on his own so far. Construction would take another two years. "We have focused on looking for fatal flaws or snake bites and have found none," Million said. "Unlike other water projects, this one has gotten easier as time moves along." Million is still negotiating with the Bureau of Reclamation for a contract to move the water, but is also looking at obtaining a Colorado water right on the Green River that would provide for diverting the water above Flaming Gorge. Reclamation has done an environmental analysis on the Green River below Flaming Gorge that shows that the contract would have no impact, Million said. Flaming Gorge is a federal reservoir built to protect the interests of Upper Basin states under the Colorado River Compact. It stores 3.8 million acre-feet, and its levels rarely fluctuate...

CWCB Director Jennifer Gimbel said she asked Million to make a presentation at the meeting because some board members were curious about the project. The CWCB did not take a position either supporting or opposing the plan. "Even though the water would be taken out in Wyoming, would it still be accounted for against Colorado?" Gimbel asked. Million's water attorney Bill Hillhouse said there are already arrangements on a smaller scale by which the two states account for shared water resources. Wyoming could benefit from the plan by using 30,000 to 50,000 acre-feet, Million said. Wyoming had been interested in building a pipeline from the Green River system to serve the more populous eastern part of the state, but it was cost-prohibitive, he said...

Million plans to provide up to 20,000 acre-feet to agricultural water directly in exchange for agricultural efficiency. He would also look at requiring cities to release, rather than reuse, return flows, making more water available to farmers. Finally, the plan takes pressure off future acquisition of ag water by cities. Million said bringing new water into the state also would take pressure off future water raids on the West Slope. "This is taking surplus water in a system and moving it through a pipeline," Million said. Board member Reed Dils asked whether Million's plan would diminish the need for other projects. "We hope it will be beneficial to other projects," Million answered. Board Chairman Travis Smith asked Million how much of the project would be developed in the first phase. Million replied that about half of the eventual capacity would initially come online through two pipes, mainly to provide redundancy. He is anticipating there would be full demand, despite "unnecessary pressure" from some of the state's biggest water interests. Last summer, the Front Range Water Council - Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Twin Lakes and the Northern and Southeastern conservancy districts - asked Reclamation to delay Million's contract until a study of West Slope water supply is complete.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
5:44:14 AM    

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The Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District board elections are next month. Here's an update from The Crested Butte News. From the article:

The Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District board elections are coming up next month, and there are three members whose terms are expiring: Bob Drexel, Diane Lothamer, and Ken Spann. Spann has informed the board of his intent to re-apply for his seat, but according to UGRWCD manager Frank Kugel, as of last week no other interested applicants have come forward. Drexel and Lothamer are retiring from the board. UGRWCD board members are appointed by Colorado Division 4 Water Court judge Steven Patrick and serve four-year terms. Board appointments will be made during the annual UGRWCD meeting on June 23, but the deadline for applicants is this Friday, May 23. Applicants for Drexel's and Lothamer's seats must reside in the city of Gunnison, and applicants for Spann's seat must reside in the Taylor River Basin The UGRWCD is a local water conservation group dedicated to developing local conservation and storage projects, and is an advocate for recreational water uses, water quality and flood control.

Spann is a longtime rancher who represents UGRWCD Division 4, the Taylor River Basin. According to the UGRWCD, Spann is a member of the Colorado Bar, and is involved with the Gunnison County Stockgrowers Association and several other water-related committees, such as the Gunnison Basin Roundtable Committee. Spann has served on the UGRWCD board since 2001. Drexel has served on the board since 1996. According to the district, Drexel is a retired school teacher and former Gunnison water commissioner. Drexel was board president between 2003 and 2007. Lothamer has served on the board for 14 years. A local public accountant in Gunnison, Lothamer has also been serving as the board's treasurer. Both Lothamer and Drexel represent UGRWCD Division 8, the city of Gunnison...

UGRWCD manager Frank Kugel said, as of last week, he had not heard of any applicants sending in letters of interest for a board position. Lastly, UGRWCD attorney John McClow informed the retiring board members that, according to a UGRWCD bylaw he had just re-checked, board members cannot vacate their seat until a successor is appointed. Drexel laughed, and said he had never heard of that bylaw. Letters of interest should be sent to The Honorable Steven J. Patrick, Water Judge, Montrose County Justice Center, 1200 N. Grand Ave., B in A, Montrose, CO 81401. For more information, call the UGRWCD in Gunnison at 641-6065.

Category: Colorado Water
5:39:18 AM    

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Here's an update on Crested Butte's watershed ordinance, from The Crested Butte News. From the article:

An updated ordinance designed to protect Crested Butte's water supply from the effects of development will go into effect this week. After hearing some final comments from the public, the Crested Butte Town Council approved the 52-page document during its regular meeting on Monday, May 19...

Crested Butte town attorney John Belkin and special counsel Barbara Green were on hand to present the final version of the document, which took into account some comments the town had received from Irwin Lodge owners and U.S. Energy Corp. earlier this month. Specifically, the attorneys deleted sections that covered aquatic animals and habitat, after U.S. Energy Corp., which is proposing to develop a molybdenum mine in the watershed, brought up the tenuous connection between the standards and water quality. Green said she felt other standards in the document would protect the watershed and said she supported deleting the sections. The attorneys also made changes to the runoff and drainage standards to accommodate concerns brought forward by Irwin Lodge.

The watershed protection ordinance will allow the town to take advantage of a state statute that permits towns to prohibit and mitigate impacts to their water supply within a five-mile area. The town first adopted a protective watershed ordinance in 1978 and revised it in 1996. The town has been working on this version for the past year, during which time it adopted a temporary moratorium in August 2007, preventing development within the town's watershed. The ordinance essentially requires a permit for land use change activity within the town's watershed, with varying degrees of overview, depending on the project. During the meeting on May 19, attorney David Leinsdorf, representing Scarp Ridge LLC, which plans to develop the existing Irwin Lodge property, said his clients supported the ordinance overall but had some lingering concerns. Specifically, he questioned the difference between a major and minor impact project, saying he could find no definition in the ordinance. "I do feel that this is a glaring part of the ordinance," he said. "I think it subjects the town to vulnerability it doesn't need." He asked how a single family home would be classified. Green said the ordinance relies on town staff to determine in which category a project falls on a case-by-case basis. She said she couldn't answer Leinsdorf's question because a single-family home could have a variety of impacts depending on its size and location. Belkin added that the impact classifications were different because the watershed ordinance is an environmental regulation, not a land use document. "It has a different flavor," he said. Leinsdorf argued that the town should give parameters that would give the applicant some idea of what category their project falls into. He also drew the Town Council's attention to a section that forbids the council from conducting a public hearing prior to the issuance of permits from the federal, state and county governments. Leinsdorf pointed out that many issues are brought up at public hearings and it seems unfair to wait until the last minute to hold a hearing. "Public hearings raise lots of issues that haven't been raised before," he explained...

The Town Council voted to pass the ordinance 5-0, with mayor Alan Bernholtz and Town Council member Dan Escalante absent. The ordinance will go into affect on Wednesday, May 28.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:38:46 AM    

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Here's a look at the runoff on the Dolores River from The Cortez Journal. From the article:

The peak of the Dolores River was at 4 a.m. Friday, at about 4,800 cubic feet per second in the town of Dolores. It would take 8,600 cfs to cause a flood, said Lori Johnson, Montezuma County emergency manager. She contacted Dolores officials on Tuesday to inform them of expected river levels. Tuesday the National Weather Service had issued a flood advisory for Dolores, to put people on alert, but had not predicted a flood...

Snotel sites tell the picture of the danger being mostly over for the spring runoff, Johnson said. The Lizard Head Snotel site southwest of Ophir, which had 17 inches of snow-water equivalent in April, now has 5.6 inches. The El Diente Snotel site west of Lizard Head, which had 25 inches of snow-water equivalent in April, now has 4 inches. The snow-water equivalent measures how much moisture is in the snow as it melts, and not the actual depth of the snow. Warm winds blew off some of the moisture and helped ease the flood danger, Johnson said...

The peak flow for the Dolores River is earlier than usual. According to figures from the National Weather Service, in the past 30 years, the historical high crests were at 8,940 cfs June 11, 1980; at 9,490 cfs on May 31, 1983; and at 6,840 cfs on May 28, 1993. The Mancos River is expected to peak this weekend but is not in danger of flooding because of the smaller area it drains, Johnson said.

More runoff news from The Crested Butte News. From the article:

Warm temperatures and a record snowpack in the high country have combined to make many people nervous, especially those living near the valley's rivers, and has the Town of Crested Butte and Gunnison County making plans for its response to an emergency. "Last week we met with the National Weather Service (NWS), so we kind of knew that we would get a rise coming our way. We've been preparing since February, making the flood plan and organizing all the different people we'll need in an emergency," says Crested Butte town manager Susan Parker. Then Monday morning the NWS issued a river flood watch "because our forecast model showed that the East River at Almont was ripe for going over its banks in the middle of the week," says Jim Daniels, a meteorologist with the NWS in Grand Junction. Just after midnight Tuesday morning, May 20, the river level at the USGS gauging station on the East River, just below Cement Creek, rose to 2,530 cubic feet per second, breaking the old record of 2,470 cfs set during the runoff of 1996. The overnight conditions on Coal Creek, which cuts through the heart of Crested Butte, saw a similar rise. By Tuesday morning, the East River flood watch that had been issued for Almont was elevated to a river flood warning for a large portion of the East River corridor, says Gunnison County emergency manager Scott Morrill. "A watch means that [a flood] could happen and a warning means that it's going to happen," Morrill says...

Because Coal Creek is unregulated above Crested Butte, there is no way to dampen the effects of what comes down the mountain. "The creek above town runs wild and free and there is really nothing we can do to slow it down if it comes in a hurry. We're happy to have it rise in inches this time of year, not feet," says Parker. "If a log jam lets loose or a beaver dam breaks up there we could be in a lot of trouble, so we need to be prepared."

From The Vail Daily: "A flood advisory has been issued for the Eagle River in Red Cliff and below Gypsum and the Colorado River near Dotsero."

Here's an update on runoff from The Durango Herald. They write:

The Animas River was running madly and muddily Wednesday - fed by rapidly melting snow - but far from the pace that overwhelmed low-lying areas of the valley in May 2005 or October 2006. The Animas River's spring flows provided this rice-paddy look just east of Animas View Drive on Wednesday. The river peaked at 6,340 cubic feet per second on Wednesday, enough water to overflow banks in the river's north valley. The 6,340 cubic feet a second of water carried in the Animas just after noon Wednesday was well off the 8,500 cfs mark registered May 25, 2005 - the highest flow in at least five years. But there was enough water to overflow the banks of the river in the Animas Valley.

Overall, the snowpack in the Animas, San Juan, Dolores and San Miguel basins stood at 93 percent of average Wednesday, said Mike Gillespie with the National Resources Conservation Service in Denver. "It's been melting out pretty quickly down there. We've lost more than one-half of the maximum pack reached in mid-April, which was the equivalent of 28 inches of water," Gillespie said. "We have the equivalent of 11 inches of water now." Hal Pierce, the dam superintendent at Vallecito Reservoir, said Wednesday that the water level there is increasing nicely. "I did winter releases, so I'm not looking at any big releases now," Pierce said. "As of today, we're at 67,277 acre feet - about half of capacity. We should top off at 125,000 acre feet about mid-June." Vallecito Reservoir feeds the Pine River, which in turn supplies water for hundreds of miles of lateral ditches downstream used by farmers, ranchers and others, including the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Vallecito Creek, which feeds the reservoir, was running at 1,500 cubic feet a second at midnight Tuesday, the result of the day's hot weather, Pierce said. Residents along the stream get antsy because that level of flow eats slightly at the banks, but there should be no major problems, he said. Pierce noted the falling barometer and said that the predicted cooling should reduce the flow in Vallecito Creek around 25 percent.

Mike Preston, manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District that operates McPhee Reservoir on the Dolores River, said the reservoir is at about 90 percent of active capacity, the amount of usable water. As a result, the district began releasing 2,000 cfs on Friday and will maintain the level of flow through Memorial Day. The level of release will provide "optimal" conditions for rafters, Preston said, noting that rafters can make do with 800 cfs. McPhee Reservoir water is managed for three purposes - rafting, crop irrigation and enhancement of the environment.

Jackson Gulch Reservoir is an off-river holding basin, unaffected directly by river flow, said Gary Kennedy, manager of the Mancos Water Conservancy District. The reservoir is filled by canals from the West Mancos River, with the water destined for Mancos residents, residents of the unincorporated area, irrigation and Mesa Verde National Park.

The inflow to Navajo Reservoir is 133 percent of average, said Pat Page with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. But before the recent spate of dry weather, the outlook was for as much as 180 percent of average, he said. The spring release of water from Navajo, which started Friday with a flow of 2,000 cfs, will relieve pressure. The rate of flow will increase gradually to 5,000 cfs on May 28 and remain there for three weeks, Page said. "We try to manage the flow to mimic the pre-dam hydrograph," Page said. "That means high flows in the spring and lower flows the rest of the year."

Here's a look at the runoff on the Colorado River from The Aspen Times. They write:

According to [Dave] Eckhardt, this year's surge will not only mean great paddling, but the rise of an anomaly on the Colorado River: Big Sur, a monster standing wave at the mouth of Debeque Canyon. The spring of 1995 was the last time the wave rose from the silty flow for any period of time, Eckhardt said. Big Sur happens at sustained flows of more than 20,000 cubic feet per second, or cfs, and on May 22 the meter in Debeque topped that mark. Eckhardt first encountered Big Sur by chance on a four-day whitewater trip from Aspen to Moab, Utah, during the big water year of 1995, the same year he first published his guidebook...

The wave stands about 6 feet high with a long, flat trough stretching 100 feet across the wide mouth of the canyon, enough room for as many as 10 kayakers and even surfers on surfboards, Eckhardt said. Plus, a train of two or three smaller waves also good for surfing usually follows the main Big Sur wave, and just below the wave is what he called a "baby pool" where kayakers wash out. The biggest danger: broken ribs from kayakers slamming into one another, Eckhardt said...

In its first year after construction, the new man-made play wave in Glenwood Springs is also rising high out of the Colorado, Eckhardt said. And other popular sections are running a torrent. On May 22, a national river database listed the Colorado River through the Shoshone section in Glenwood Canyon as "crankin" at 13,000 cfs; it was closed to commercial rafting because of high water levels. The Roaring Fork River, now at just more than 1,000 cfs at the Maroon Creek Gauge (just above the class IV Slaughterhouse section west of Aspen) can run as high as 7,000 cfs in mid- to late-June, Eckhardt said.

More runoff news from The Grand Junction Free Press. From the article:

State highway officials say a stretch of Interstate 70 west of Grand Junction will be reduced to a single lane east and west through Memorial Day weekend because of flood worries with the Colorado River. The closed lanes will be used by crews to monitor bridges and water levels and maintain debris-clearing operations around-the-clock, the Colorado Department of Transportation said in a news release...The impacted areas stretch from Skipper's Island Bridge (mile 16.7) between the west end of Grand Junction (exit 22) and Loma (exit 14). Westbound traffic was closed Thursday night with high waters. The restrictions arrive as Mesa County officials on Friday said the worst of the flooding may be over. "Barring any significant changes in the weather, local officials are predicting that water levels will continue to drop over the next couple of days," the county said in a news release.

Here's some runoff news from the Roaring Fork Valley from The Aspen Daily News. They write:

The stream below the confluence of Dry Woody Creek and Red Canyon Creek on the Aspen Valley Ranch property was overflowing a culvert that normally diverts it under the road. As the water cascaded down the hillside towards the culvert, some of it was backed up and washing up onto the road...

The stream, known mainly as Dry Woody Creek, has recently been described as an "irrigation ditch" by the owners of Aspen Valley Ranch, who are seeking approval to change the stream's path through the lower portion of the property. The stream typically stops running in the late summer months, but is also known to run high in the spring, as it was Thursday...

Thompson said he had also received reports Thursday about flooding in low-lying areas along the Fryingpan River and along Snowmass Creek. The flooding had not caused any property damage and was limited to meadows adjacent the rivers. Rivers, streams and creeks all suddenly increased in volume this week after a spell of warm weather began to melt the unusually deep snowpack. The Roaring Fork River hit 1,300 cubic feet per second late Wednesday night below its confluence with Maroon Creek. A week ago, the river in that section was flowing at under 400 cfs per second. The river is now running more than 5,400 cfs at its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs.

Here's an article about the spill this week at the Crystal Dam from The Montrose Daily Press. From the article:

The last time water spilled over the top of Crystal Dam was in 2001. Even then, that incident didn[base ']t reach the extent it has this week, as warm temperatures melt away above-average snowpack. The ground and walls around the dam shook from the force of the massive movement of water Thursday. Water splashing and spraying toward the bottom of the dam created storm-like conditions. The spillover has been a spectacle for those visiting and working in the area. Bureau of Reclamation staff have been preparing for weeks in anticipation of the spill, said Ted Dunn, Crystal Powerplant supervisor. About 2,500 cfs began spilling over Crystal's top Wednesday and is expected to last the next eight days to two weeks, said Dunn. To put that into perspective, each cubic foot per second is equivalent to about 7.48 gallons of water each second or 449 gallons each minute. In addition to the spillover, another 4,200 cfs came out of the plant, with about 1,000 cfs taken by East Portal Tunnel, he said.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured water flowing around Confluence Park at about 10,600 cfs. By Thursday, the flow increased to 13,000 cfs. For the next three days, flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge will gradually increase by about 800 cfs each day. This high release is scheduled to continue through May 31 but will be assessed daily. Crabtree said the releases will help increase space for anticipated runoff and also flush out the canyon and gorge. This flushing helps "enhance the environment" by cleaning silt off the gravel bars and maintaining the river channel, Crabtree said. He added that cleansing these gravel bars helps fish by making conditions more conducive for spawning. When debris clogs up the channels, it restricts the flow and capacity of the channels, he said.

Be sure to click through for the whole article and the photos of the spill.

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree): "Reclamation is continuing to increase releases as generally described in our May 21st notice. Releases from Morrow Point will increase 800 cfs today, May 23rd and 700 cfs on May 24th. Due to the cooler temperatures, side inflows are dropping off so flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge will probably only rise to the 7,000 cfs range. We will continue to monitor flows at Delta for flooding issues."

Category: Colorado Water
5:38:13 AM    

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From The Brush Tribune: "In order to maintain a safe water supply and resource for the future, residents are encouraged to become involved in helping the City of Brush! develop a Source Water Protection Plan. According to Williams, a series of planning team meetings will be held over a period of four to six months with the first scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28, to be held in the City Council Chambers at Brush! City Hall, 600 Edison Street. In this meeting, said Williams, the proactive process of developing a plan will be explained, with those attending having the opportunity to review the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's assessment for Brush."

Category: Colorado Water
5:37:32 AM    

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From The Pueblo West View: "Utility consultants last Tuesday presented a preliminary rate study report that recommends raising monthly water rates by 7.9 percent this year and the next two years, as well as increasing the monthly sewer charge every year through 2015 by 3.2 percent...The study, based on estimated annual growth of 460 new water accounts each year and 230 new sewer accounts, estimates the need for $77.3 million in improvements to the water treatment and distribution system through 2018, and $23 million in improvements or expansions to the sewer system. Among those projects is a proposed storage reservoir to ensure that Pueblo West doesn't risk losing water from Lake Pueblo during wet years, when entities with permanent storage contracts have more rights than the community's contract, which allows for storage only when Fryinpan-Arkansas Project members don't need all of their storage space."

More from the article:

In total, the plan projects roughtly $100 million in revenue needs, including repayment of current bond debt and debt service on recommended new bond issues as well as repair and expansion projects. Expansion costs would be paid by proposed increases in the the water plant investment fee and new tap fees, continuing a current policy intended to ensure that new growth pays for its added demand on both systems. Red Oak's planners recommend raising the water plant investment fee for a three-quarter-inch meter from the current $5,223 to $8,540 and from $10,579 to $14,230 for a one-inch meter. The wastewater plant-investment fees would rise from the current $1,601 to $3,640 for a three-quarter-inch meter and from $3,202 to $6,067 for a one-inch meter Planner Todd Cristiano said some of the projected costs, and therefore the projected revenue needed to pay those costs, could go down if the current slowdown in housing and commercial development continues. But increases of some sort are inevitable if the metro district hopes to repair aging pipelines and update both plants to meet new federal and state health guidelines for both the water and sewer operations...

There will be a work session to discuss proposed water and sewer increaes at next Tuesday's regular meeting at 6:30 pm. in the metro board room at 109 E. Industrial Blvd.

Category: Colorado Water
5:36:14 AM    

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Pueblo West is considering forming a stormwater utility, according to The Pueblo West View. From the article:

More than 75 residents learned last Wednesday that this community of more than 33,000 residents spread across 26,641 acres relies on three miles of storm-sewer pipe, 18 storm-water inlets and one manhole to contain and direct storm runoff from homes, businesses and roadways. Those statistics probably came as no surprise to many who attended because their yards or homes have received extensive flood damage at least once in the past four years. Even they were surprised to learn that the price tag for the first 70 improvement projects recommended in a draft report by NorthStar Engineering is $22 million, with the top 11 projects pricing in at $5.3 million. NorthStar and R.W. Beck drainage consultants hosted an open house at Skyview Middle School to explain the progress and findings of a three-year study of the community's drainage problems and potential solutions.

The primary solution that will be recommended to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors in the near future is the proposed creation of a storm-water utility that would be funded by fees charged to property owners based on the percentage of their property that is impermeable to rain and snow runoff...

Jeff Schulz, a representative of R.W. Beck and the designer of the storm-water utility model that metro district board members will consider later this summer, said that many of the recommended improvements are needed to meet requirements of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. The metro district's NPDES permit is regulated by the state health department's Water Quality Control Division, and requires communities that fall under the guidelines to make drainage improvements aimed not only at minimizing damage from flooding, but to control erosion and contain pollutants found in storm runoff, or direct the runoff away from water sources above and below the ground. Many small communities, and special districts such as Pueblo West that have limited revenue streams or taxing powers, have turned to storm-water utilities as a way to finance improvements to drainage and detention basins as well as underground storm-water transport systems. The fees collected from property owners also pay operating expenses for the utilities, Schulz said...

Similar fees charged in certain areas of Pueblo are $2 monthly for every 2,000 square feet of property that deflects precipitation away from the property instead of into the ground beneath it. The fees that may be recommended in Pueblo West likely will be higher - from $3.50 to $7.50 per 2,000 square feet. The $3.50 monthly fee would raise an estimated $1.52 million a year, while a $5 fee would raise $1.9 million. The rate structure will be reviewed further before a final proposal is presented to the metro board in late October or early November. The data gathered over the summer, and revisions to cost estimates, will be presented to the public during another meeting set for Sept. 22 at a time and location yet to be decided.

Category: Colorado Water
5:35:08 AM    

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