Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

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beSpacific: "Research Finds That Earth's Climate is Approaching Dangerous Point, May 30, 2007: 'NASA and Columbia University Earth Institute research finds that human-made greenhouse gases have brought the Earth's climate close to critical tipping points, with potentially dangerous consequences for the planet.'"

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:13:09 PM    

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From email from the Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb): "We have dropped our releases down twice more from Green Mountain Reservoir to the Lower Blue. Today, flows in the Lower Blue should be around 550 cfs."

Category: Colorado Water

5:58:47 PM    

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The Will-O-Wisp 1041 permit has been delayed again, according to the Fairplay Flume. From the article:

The Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District still has a couple of hurdles to overcome before receiving a water project 1041 permit from Park County. Park County's Board of County Commissioners deferred the permit approval on May 29 until the district can prove it has the property rights needed to complete the project. The permit is needed before the district can divert water from Elk Creek to provide water and sewer service to Tanglewood Reserve Planned Unit Development near Pine Junction. The commissioners conditionally approved that development in the early part of 2006. At the May 29 hearing, the metro district was given the opportunity to rebut testimony from the public at the last hearing date earlier this spring. The district's water counselor, Lee Johnson, addressed most of the rebuttal. The public was also given an opportunity to rebut the district's rebuttal...

Two main issues still concerned the commissioners. One was whether the project's mitigation proposal for diverting water from Elk Creek would adequately provide a healthy habitat for aquatic life in the stream. The other was whether the district had all the property rights to construct the project. The necessary property rights include the water rights' diversion point as well as land to construct the project. The district's water rights for the project are the junior 1981 rights, not the senior 1913 decree that is being challenged in court...

On May 24, the county received an answer from Colorado Water Division One of the State Water Engineer's Office to questions raised by Park County Special Water Counsel Jeff Kahn. He had asked if the state would administer the district's decreed water rights on Elk Creek at a diversion point that was proposed 330 feet from the point decreed by water court. The letter, signed by Assistant Division Engineer David Nettles, said that a diversion point had to be within 200 feet of the decreed point to be considered legal. The letter outlined two options. Either the Will-0-Wisp district could move the diversion point to within 200 feet of the decreed point or ask water court to change the diversion point. The district's general counsel, Richard Toussaint, said the point would be moved to comply with the 200 feet limit. That may put the point on Woodside Park Unit 5 Lot 133 instead of Lot 134. The district testified that the new diversion point has yet to be determined and surveyed.

Regardless, a condemnation case filed to gain land on Lot 134 to construct facilities needed to divert and pump the water from Elk Creek now needs to be amended because that parcel is not the land the district needs for diversion. Toussaint said the pumping station will stay on Lot 134 and the district will continue with the condemnation of that portion of the lot. Once the locations of a legal diversion point, pipline to the pumping station and maintenance road have been determined, the condemnation case will be amended to include that land...

The case will be rescheduled for approval once the county receives a letter from the Colorado Division of Water Resources or the State Water Engineer's Office stating that a new proposed diversion point is within 200 feet of the decreed point and can be administered under Colorado law. The district must also provide evidence that all land property rights have been obtained through permission or a condemnation suit for the district to construct the needed facilities to transport water from Elk Creek to serve Tanglewood Reserve...

The district must also provide evidence that a lawsuit filed by Woodside Homeowners Units 5 and 6 for violation of covenants has been settled in the district's favor before a permit would be approved. That lawsuit claims lots in the subdivision may only be used for residential purposes, and it claims construction of water diversion facilities is a commercial use that is not allowed...

The proposed mitigation reduces the amount of water that can be withdrawn from Elk Creek by the district, depending on the amount of flow in Elk Creek. The district's water rights allow .7 cubic feet per second withdrawal. The mitigation will reduce that amount incrementally down to .15 cfs when the actual flow in the creek is at .4 cfs. The district will begin reducing the amount it diverts when flows are 2.1 cfs...

To address concerns regarding adequate aquatic habitat mitigation, the commissioners required additional mitigation involving creating instream pools, ripples and runs to maintain healthy fisheries during low flows in Elk Creek. Director of Tourism and Community Development Gary Nichols testified that stream resoration projects he had administered over the last four years cost between $80,000 and $150,000, depending on identified appropriate restoration techniques...

Conditions imposed by the county commissioners to address issues other than property rights include: If the change in diversion point location results in different impacts than addressed by the applicant in the proposal, the commissioners reserve the right to impose additional mitigation when the hearing is resumed; All wetlands disturbance mitigation will be accomplished with water from Wisp Creek or the wastewater facility, not withdrawals from Elk Creek; The district will implement the proposed operating procedures that limit withdrawals from Elk Creek based on instream flows; Every other year, the district will provide Park County with a summary of actual water usage on a single-family-home equivalent. The hearing may be reopened to address impacts if projections do not correspond with actual usage; Prior to any construction of the project, the district will implement a water quality monitoring program; If quality decreases 15 percent or more and can be attributed to the project, the district will mitigate sufficiently to increase the water quality; The district will provide a wetlands mitigation plan as described in a February memo that states all disturbed wetlands on Elk Creek will be replaced on a one-to-one basis in Wisp Creek; The district will provide $50,000 to improve aquatic habitat on Elk Creek from the diversion point to the county line, a length of approximately one mile; If landowners in that area do not agreed to stream restoration on their property, the funds will be returned to the district.

Category: Colorado Water

6:52:33 AM    

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Commerce City is officially opening their Wetland Park, according to From the article:

On June 2nd, 2007 at Commerce City Wetland Park citizens, local government and business leaders will officially open the Wetland Park and the final segment of offroad trail with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The event will be held at Commerce City Wetland Park located on 52nd Street, east of Ivy in Commerce City. Fun events and tours for both the young and old will start at 9 am. The ribbon cutting ceremony will begin at 10:00 am...

The Commerce City Wetland Park used to be desolate abandoned sand and gravel quarry and illegal dumping ground, but is now a thriving 19-acre natural park with extensive wildlife habitat. This wetland area and all of the Sand Creek Greenway serve a vital function in water control, cleaning the water naturally and carrying away stormwater runoff. The last off-road segment of Sand Creek trail was completed in the winter of 2006-2007 from 47th Avenue to the Commerce City Wetland Park. This paved off-road trail will take hikers, bikers, equestrians, bird watchers and commuters through cottonwood stands and thriving wetlands. Trail users can now travel 14 miles along the Sand Creek from the Commerce City South Platte River Greenway through Stapleton, Denver to the Highline Canal in Aurora. Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership is a non-profit organization responsible for managing the development, operation and use of the 14-mile public greenway along Sand Creek. The Greenway links the High Line Canal to the Platte River Greenway, completing a 50-mile loop of off-street urban trails in the northeast metro area. Sand Creek Regional Greenway is a cooperative project of the cities of Aurora, Denver and Commerce City and non-profits Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership and Stapleton Development Corporation...

For more information visit

Category: Colorado Water

6:33:54 AM    

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The Summit Daily News (free registration required) is running an article about the possible cleanup of the Pennsylvania mine and Peru Creek. They write:

Zinc and cadmium oozing from the mine taint the creek all the way to its confluence with the Snake River and beyond - creating a dead zone, where trout don't survive for long. The collaborative Snake River Task Force has been working for years to develop a cleanup plan for the drainage, and will meet today for an update. The biggest question marks include what sort of technology is best suited for the remote site, how to fund construction and operation, and how to deal with potential Clean Water Act liability of taking action, said Summit County environmental planner Brian Lorch.

Along with treating the water coming out of the mine, state experts will also try to determine other ways of improving water quality in Peru Creek and the Snake River, maybe by moving some of mine waste material or re-routing surface flows away from the polluted tailings piles. Similar tactics were used at the Shoe Basin Mine last summer, where the county completed a remediation project that will reduce the amount of zinc reaching the water...

Along with site-specific projects, the task force will also get an update on a watershed approach to stream health in the Snake River Basin, as well as the potential for re-evaluating water quality standards in the basin. The task force meetings are the best way for citizens in the Snake River Basin to find out the latest on the status of the cleanup plans. Information is also available at Snake River Watershed Task Force Meeting: Today, from 1-4 p.m.; The Keystone Center, 1628 Sts. John Road, Keystone.

Category: Colorado Water

6:22:01 AM    

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Here's an opinion piece about tomorrow's meeting of the [U.S.] House Natural Resources Committee in Pueblo, from the Colorado Springs Gazette. They write:

Pueblo will be hosting a congressional field hearing Friday, ostensibly meant to mark the 45th anniversary of the Fryingpan-Arkansas water project. But it also seems to have an ulterior purpose, judging from the panel's onesided make-up and the fact that it's been organized at the behest of 3rd District Rep. John Salazar, a Democrat who panders to the anti-Colorado Springs crowd in Pueblo. We worry, therefore, that the hearing could devolve into a forum for airing the usual litany of anti-Colorado Springs complaints. There are many water projects in the West. Their anniversaries come and go largely unnoticed. Why the chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power, California Rep. Grace Napolitano, who represents part of Los Angeles County, would choose to celebrate this anniversary, at this particular time, is not too hard to discern. Like a lot of traveling congressional hearings, this one obviously has a political purpose. Napolitano's chief of staff, Daniel Chao, confirmed to us that she's holding the hearing in response to a request from Salazar, who serves with her on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (but does not actually serve on the subcommittee). He also said the selection of witnesses was inclusive and fair, though we know it's common for the party in control to stack the deck in its favor. Salazar wouldn't have requested the hearing if he and his allies didn't see some advantage in it...

This hearing, depending on how the issues are spun, could help tilt public opinion in Salazar's favor and lend support to those trying to deny Colorado Springs the full use of our water rights and Fry-Ark assets. That's why it's been organized. The panel is stacked with people hostile to Colorado Springs' interests. Mayor Lionel Rivera will be testifying, but no other witness will speak on behalf of the people of El Paso County, who have paid more than 70 percent of local project costs, totaling $65 million to date. Pueblo Countians, by contrast, have paid $17.4 million into the project. The people who pay most for Fry-Ark have too little representation, in short, while the anti-Springs contingent, and the people who pay relatively less, are over-represented. Bill Thiebaut, the grandstanding Pueblo County district attorney who is suing Colorado Springs for alleged water quality violations in Fountain Creek, will testify. As will Wally Stealey, who's listed in the program as an "Arkansas Valley rancher" but who's also a political operative who carried water for Pueblo interests on the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Another participant, attorney Sandy White, has ties to Denver water attorney Ray Petros, whom the obstructionistin-chief, Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings, uses as a "water policy advisor."

No one has a greater claim to Fry-Ark project assets, and no one is being more proactive on water quality issues and building regional consensus around win-wins on water, than Colorado Springs. To turn a congressional hearing into another excuse for Springs bashing is a misuse of taxpayer money and congressional staff time. Those hungry for anti-Springs propaganda can get it a lot cheaper by buying a copy of The Pueblo Chieftain. Perhaps we'll be surprised and the hearing will serve a broader and beneficial purpose. But we're betting it's a political dog-and-pony show. Those wanting to judge for themselves should attend -- the hearing begins 9. a.m. Friday at Pueblo Community College's Fortino Ballroom.

Here's an article about Terry Scanga's appearance at tomorrow's hearing from the Mountain Mail. They write:

Terry Scanga will have the attention of several U.S. Congressmen Friday when he testifies about benefits of the 45-year-old Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and pushes for reservoir expansion in the Upper Arkansas River basin...

His appearance will benefit residents of the Upper Arkansas River basin, Scanga said, because his message will be aimed at increasing storage capacity from Lake County to Pueblo Reservoir. The first part of Scanga's testimony will focus on benefits the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project brought to the valley -- from drinking water to irrigation to recreation-level flows in the river. "My message to the committee will be I think the project was very successful. Now we need to move forward to the next phase," he said. The next phase is known as the preferred storage option plan, or PSOP. It's federal legislation that would create enlargement of Pueblo Reservoir and Turquoise Reservoir for storage of non-Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water. The storage plan would potentially benefit Buena Vista, Salida and Poncha Springs in addition to larger municipalities east of Chaffee County. Scanga explained storage option has been in the works for 10 years, and the first step would be Congressional approval for a feasibility study of the enlargements...

Scanga plans to argue against future diversions from the upper basin via an Otero Pipeline-type system that feeds Front Range growth.

Category: Colorado Water

6:13:47 AM    

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Here's a nice historical look at the Fryingpan-Arkansas project and it's effects on the Arkansas River Valley in the context of Aurora, Pueblo, Pueblo West and Colorado Springs drying up farmland to meet the needs of unbridled growth, from the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

For nearly 40 years, Crowley has provided a vivid portrait of the difference water makes to agriculture on this edge of the Great American Desert. In the midst of construction of the Fry-Ark project, Crowley farmers rolled the dice on selling water they already had in the expectation of water they were going to get - and they lost. Almost 90 percent of the once-rich cropland in the county has gone out of production...

The widespread drought of the 1950s also gave impetus to area leaders promoting a Bureau of Reclamation project to direct a large amount of water from the Western Slope to the Arkansas River basin - the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. After 10 years of rejection in Congress, the Fry-Ark bill finally passed in 1962, and President John F. Kennedy came to Pueblo to sign the legislation. But the water sales from Crowley continued. Alan Hamel of the Pueblo Board of Water Works has said that the farmers approached the cities - Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Aurora, as well as the infant Pueblo West - to sell their Twin Lakes water because they thought the Fry-Ark water would water their fields...

Kenneth Weber of the University of Colorado published a study of the Crowley water sales in 1989. He said the cities owned 94.3 percent of Twin Lakes shares by 1980, and in the mid-1980s, the Colorado Canal water started selling too. By 1988, Colorado Springs had acquired 56.4 percent of the canal shares and Aurora held 28.7 percent. Aurora held a smaller percentage of the Twin Lakes shares, only about 2,400 shares of almost 47,000 that were sold to the cities. The Crowley County water system was allotted at one share per acre, so the sales of water to the cities dried up about 47,000 acres. Some of it was successfully revegetated, but other portions went to weeds that still plague the few farmers in business in the county. Heimerich said Crowley now has 6,000 to 7,000 acres in production, mostly in forage crops...

Almost all of Aurora's water holdings in the Arkansas Valley - and with a combination of purchases and leases it is the third biggest water user in the valley, according to the division engineer's statistics - flow through the Otero pipeline near the headwaters of the river. In recent years, since Aurora purchased almost all the Rocky Ford Ditch shares in adjacent Otero County, Arkansas Valley interests have debated whether the city should be allowed to store water or make any other use of Fry-Ark facilities, since it is not in the service area of the project. The issue still smolders in dueling Fry-Ark bills now sponsored by two Colorado congressmen: Rep. John Salazar's bill would specifically deny storage contracts to Aurora, while Rep. Doug Lamborn's bill would specifically permit them...

Here are the major water sales from Crowley County in the Lower Arkansas Valley: Early 1970s - 94 percent of Twin Lakes water sold to Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Pueblo West and Aurora; 1986 - Colorado Springs buys 56 percent of Colorado Canal, 52 percent of Lake Meredith and 77 percent of Lake Henry shares; 1986 - Aurora buys 29 percent of the Colorado Canal, 32 percent of Lake Meredith and 13 percent of Lake Henry.

Be sure to read the whole article.

Category: Colorado Water

6:00:43 AM    

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