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, June 12, 2008

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

The Stream and Lake Protection Section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board will hold three public meetings to discuss proposed revisions to the Rules Concerning the Colorado Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program. A link to the proposed revised Rules and information on the exact location of the Gunnison meeting will be sent out in a subsequent notice.

June 24, 2008, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m., 1313 Sherman Street, Room 318, Denver, Colorado

June 25, 2008, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Location to be announced, Gunnison, Colorado

July 7, 2008, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Southwestern Colorado Water Conservation District, 841 E. 2nd Avenue, Durango, Colorado

Questions may be directed to Linda Bassi at 303-866-3263 or

Category: Colorado Water
6:14:01 PM    

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From The Ouray News: "Officials from the U.S. Forest Service issued a closure advisory Friday, June 6, for boating on the Silver Jack Reservoir, located on the Ouray Ranger District of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest. Boaters are advised not to access the reservoir due to hazardous conditions near the dam, related to water release. Due to the heavy snow levels and the increasing rates and amount of snowmelt, the reservoir has reached the level where water is being released to prevent over-topping of the dam. The Silver Jack Reservoir does not have a spillway; instead the "morning glory" (a vertical culvert-like device) provides release of water from the reservoir. The morning glory creates a strong vortex/whirlpool of water which pulls debris, water and potentially small boats and people into the vortex and powers it downward to release on the downstream side of the dam."

Category: Colorado Water
6:13:17 PM    

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Here's a look at runoff up in northwestern Colorado from The Steamboat Pilot & Today. From the article:

The record snowfall of 489 inches on Mount Werner last winter didn't translate into record peak flows in the river. The Yampa has begun a steady slide this week, after nearly reaching 4,000 cubic feet per second on June 5. The river was running at 2,530 cfs Monday afternoon and was treading water at 2,740 cfs Tuesday afternoon...

The all-time highest peak on the Yampa in Steamboat was recorded at 6,820 cfs on June 14, 1921. The record low peak was at 1,080 cfs on May 15, 1977...As recently as June 1, 2003, the Yampa peaked at 5,190 cfs. The river hit 5,310 cfs on Jun 3, 1997...The peak of runoff on May 30, 2002 - the year of Routt County's worst drought in 90 years and the Hinman Fire - was just 1,290 cfs.

Category: Colorado Water
6:12:36 PM    

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Here's a list of boating restrictions -- due to zebra mussel worries -- on Colorado lakes, from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

Jefferson Lake is open, although a bit of ice remains. But the city of Aurora, which stores water there, has joined with the U.S. Forest Service in ordering boats with gasoline motors to stay off the lake, at least temporarily. The rule allows hand-carried vessels, including kayaks, canoes, belly boats and small aluminum boats, but no trailered craft. Electric trolling motors are OK, if they have 55 pounds of thrust or less. Nonmotorized boats are allowed because they have no bilge, livewell or water-cooling systems, which can trap and transport mussel larvae...

The Forest Service also has closed Rampart Reservoir, which stores water for Colorado Springs, to motorized craft. Sara Mayben, Pike National Forest district ranger, said the Forest Service wants to resume motorized boating. But a long-term strategy must be developed first, to prevent the destructive mussels from invading waters...

...boat inspections are mandatory before boats can launch at Elevenmile or Spinney state parks. But Lake Pueblo State Park conducts inspections of boats leaving the lake. Denver Water allows only hand-powered craft at Antero and Williams Fork reservoirs, but it has opened Dillon Reservoir to motorboats and sailboats that launch at Dillon or Frisco marinas. Denver Water's zebra mussel-prevention rules can be found at Click on "Zebra Mussel Update."

Aurora inspects boats upon entering Quincy and Aurora reservoirs. When leaving, it seals them with tags to their trailers. If the seal is broken on the return trip, the boat must be inspected again.

Blue Mesa Reservoir, which is managed by the National Park Service, requires boat owners to wash their craft at one of three self-serve cleaning stations, but there are no routine boat inspections.

The toughest rules are in force at Standley Lake, which stores water for Westminster, Thornton and Northglenn. At Standley, clean boats are inspected and tagged, as they are at Aurora. But if they have traveled to other lakes, they must be quarantined for five to 10 days before they are allowed in.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:12:00 PM    

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree): "Due to the cooler weather, Blue Mesa Reservoir isn't filling as rapidly as was predicted. Consequently Reclamation will be reducing releases from Crystal Reservoir starting tomorrow, June 13th. We will be decreasing releases by 50 cfs on June 13th, and 100 cfs each day on June 14th and 15th. These changes will result in a total decrease from Crystal of 250 cfs and a total Crystal Dam release of 3,900 cfs. The flows downstream from Crystal Dam should be approximately 750 cfs through the Gunnison Diversion tunnel and 3,150 cfs through the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge." Category: Colorado Water
6:11:16 PM    

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From The Environmental News Network: "In a bid to control greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, the European Union has been operating the world's first system to limit and to trade carbon dioxide. Despite its hasty adoption and somewhat rocky beginning three years ago, the EU 'cap-and-trade' system has operated well and has had little or no negative impact on the overall EU economy, according to an MIT analysis. The MIT results provide both encouragement and guidance to policy makers working to design a carbon dioxide (CO2)-trading scheme for the United States and for the world. A key finding may be that everything does not have to be perfectly in place to start up similar systems. 'This important public policy experiment is not perfect, but it is far more than any other nation or set of nations has done to control greenhouse-gas emissions-and it works surprisingly well,' said A. Denny Ellerman, senior lecturer in the MIT Sloan School of Management, who performed the analysis with Paul L. Joskow, the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor in the Department of Economics."

Category: Climate Change News
6:09:12 PM    

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So what do people up in Gunnison County think about last week's agreement on minimum flows in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park? Here's a report from The Gunnison County Times. They write:

A group of more than 60 representatives came to a tentative settlement Friday about a water question that has loomed over the Upper Gunnison Basin for decades. "It's been quite a journey," said Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (BCNP) Superintendent Connie Rudd. "I think the best part of it is that all the parties at the table have found some success in the resolution of this water right. "I don't think anyone walked way having lost something that was critical or important to their mission." After nine months of intense negotiations with mediators, the proposed agreement will likely end a seven-year lawsuit about flows in the BCNP.

The water right has been fiercely battled by many interests -- including conservationists, National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ranchers, hydropower producers, boaters, anglers and downstream communities concerned about flooding. Those involved say the mediation process resulted in a win-win for everyone. "Nobody got everything they wanted and everybody got something they wanted, so it turned out alright," said Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD) attorney John McClow. But he acknowledge that "working through the details was extremely complicated."[...]

The Black Canyon water rights case dates back to 1933, when the federal government preserved the canyon as a national monument and reserved Gunnison River water for its preservation. The NPS, however, never sought to quantify its water right until 2001. At that time, it made a proposal that closely mirrored the natural water flows that historically swept through the canyon, in hopes of returning the canyon to a more natural state below the three dams of the Aspinall Unit (Blue Mesa, Marrow Point and Crystal). That proposal, however, led to an outcry from nearly 400 objectors, and a lawsuit ensued. Many of the parties claimed that water right would leave them high and dry in drought years...

While parties to the case say the tentative settlement brings balance to the competing interests for water, some stakeholders have come out of the mediation process ahead -- and others behind -- in comparison to their current operations and interests. "The agreement will have some impact on hydropower, and when I say impact, I don't mean that in a positive way," said Colorado River Energy Distributors Association Director Leslie James.

The largest difference in the proposed settlement from historic releases at the Aspinall Unit is that the BCNP will receive annual peak flows in the springtime to mimic natural flooding. As a result, less water will be available to meet peak electricity demands in July and August. "The bottom line is that there will be ... a large benefit to the Black Canyon, the visitor experience and the biological processes that goes on in the canyon," said Bart Miller, an attorney who represented five conservation groups in the case, including High Country Citizens' Alliance. According to him, the Bureau of Reclamation's (BOR) operations of the dams have historically been "driven more by hydropower interests than the biological needs of the park."[...]

Both the City of Gunnison and Gunnison County Electric Association are clients -- either directly or indirectly, through Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association -- of Aspinall Unit hydropower. James said she can't definitively say whether the settlement will cause an increase in electricity rates for these customers, because the rate structures are complicated. But she said the proposed deal will likely result in power providers having to buy more power on the open market, which is more expensive than hydropower. While James isn't pleased about the impact to hydropower, she said the deal is "reasonable."[...]

The tentative water decree is similar to the NPS' original water right application in 2001 -- the one that sparked the lawsuit. It provides the NPS with a year round baseline flow of 300 cubic feet per second (cfs), with a peak flow between May 1 and June 30 during spring runoff and a "shoulder" flow between May 1 and July 25. The main difference is that the peak and shoulder flows will be smaller in the proposed deal, to cater to competing interests. The flows will be deciphered via formulae based on the forecasted inflow into Blue Mesa Reservoir, so that they are smaller during dry years and bigger during wet years. The deal also has provisions weaved in to protect various interests, including "drought recovery provisions" to ensure adequate levels at Blue Mesa Reservoir (for the recreational economy) and water for hydropower during dry times; protection for current and future water users of the Upper Gunnison Basin from a Black Canyon water right "call"; flexibility to allow for adequate flows for endangered fish; and planning to minimize flooding at Delta. To make the tentative agreement final, all representatives who were involved in mediation, now need to get approval from their clients and bosses. The deal then needs to be filed in water court and approved by the judge...

If all goes as the mediation participants hope, the settlement will be a done-deal around September. This would relieve the parties from entering a lengthy trial, where the ultimate decision would no longer be in their hands, but in the hands of a judge.

More Coyote Gulch coverage Colorado Water
6:35:17 AM    

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From The Denver Post: "An effort to force the federal Bureau of Reclamation to take responsibility for a clogged drainage tunnel in a Leadville mine advanced Wednesday but has several hurdles left before it can become law. The House Resources Committee unanimously approved legislation on the tunnel from Reps. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, and Mark Udall, an Eldorado Springs Democrat. It now must get to the House floor for a vote. The calendar is crowded and time is short, Udall said, but he added, 'I'm optimistic.' The bill requires the federal agency to shore up the structure and prevent future buildups of mine runoff. Lawmakers and residents of the area fear the tunnel could spew a river of mine water into the Arkansas River and potentially into homes."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:21:43 AM    

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Here's a recap of yesterday's meeting of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday reviewed a needs assessment prepared by the Applegate Group that shows another 31,500 acre-feet - about 10 billion gallons - will be needed annually compared with 17,400 acre-feet a year identified by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative in 2004. Most of the gap - 22,600 acre-feet per year - would be in El Paso County. In SWSI, El Paso County represented about half of the gap, but is fully two-thirds in the new report.

The roundtable also sent three major grant requests to the Colorado Water Conservation Board: $1.65 million for a basinwide integrated water decision support model by Colorado State University; $800,000 for a state demonstration project that includes La Junta to completely recover water from reverse osmosis; and $285,000 for a plan to add lake and stream gauges in the Upper Arkansas River.

SWSI looked at municipal water needs throughout the state following the drought of 2001-02 and determined the Arkansas Valley would need another 98,000 acre-feet per year by 2030, but projects already in the works and conservation programs would meet only 82 percent of that need. Current water use by Arkansas Valley cities is about 260,000 acre-feet annually, according to SWSI. The updated report presented Wednesday showed current estimates are greater than that because of needs overlooked in Lake County, where a molybdenum mine is expected to reopen and expand, and El Paso County, which is growing more quickly than anticipated, said Bill Warmack of the Applegate Group. Additionally, the ability of the Denver Basin aquifers to support rapid growth was overestimated in SWSI, Warmack said. The needs assessment also looks at technological, legal and storage hurdles, and estimated a need for 70,000 acre-feet of storage that is not already planned for.

Every county in the basin was looked at, with varying results. Pueblo County, for instance, showed no additional needs despite the fact that the Pueblo Board of Water Works is exploring future water acquisition as part of its 100-year plan. Most of the counties in the basin will actually need less water than reported in SWSI, with the exception of El Paso, Lake and Otero, the report stated...

Rick Brown, the architect of SWSI when he was with the CWCB (he left the board Friday), said the water needs projections in the report were based on state demographer's projections and the per-capita use as stated by water providers. Roundtable Chairman Gary Barber, who also represents the El Paso County Water Authority, defended the projections for El Paso County in the report. Barber said he provided technical data that backstops the report and the need is real because of continued growth and Fort Carson expansion. In the end, the roundtable approved the report, which will be incorporated with a report on recreation and environmental needs before the end of the year.

Click through and read the whole article. They've included a table of comparing the report numbers to SWSI.

Category: Colorado Water
6:17:03 AM    

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Operators of Halligan Reservoir hoping to perform some repairs to hydraulic systems on two of the five gates after draining the reservoir have had to postpone the project to a future date, according to The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

A mechanical problem at Milton Seaman Reservoir is behind the recent surge of mud and silt in the Poudre River, officials say. The reservoir along the North Fork of the Poudre is owned and operated by the city of Greeley. Seaman was drained to allow repairs to hydraulic systems on two of the facility's five gates, said Randy Gustafson, manager of the reservoir. With the North Fork running high, silt from the bottom of the reservoir was expected to go into the river but dissipate without causing significant damage, Gustafson said. "We really try to not mess up the river," he said. "It looked bad on the North Fork; but with the high flows, the silt won't set up on the bottom of the stream."

But once the reservoir was down, crews found they could not reach the gates because of the amount of tree limbs and other debris packed against enclosures that shield the gates, Gustafson said. Equipment capable of removing the material is not stationed at the reservoir. A contractor will have to be found to remove the debris, Gustafson said. Repairs to the gates might have to wait a number of years until flow conditions are right again. Gates on the reservoir will be closed and the reservoir allowed to refill, he said.

On Monday, sediment from the reservoir muddied the stream all the way past its confluence with the main stem of the river, said Bill Sears, a Poudre Canyon resident.

Category: Colorado Water
6:09:35 AM    

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